Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Anywhere But Here

Since my last post where I extolled the virtues of mini carrots over baby carrots, I haven't been able to locate a single mini carrot in any of my local grocery stores.  Lets hope I haven't contracted some weird talent of making things disappear by writing about them.  Although, under the right circumstances, that could be a nifty trick and come in quite handy. 

30 Day Drawing Challenge Day 4: Fav Place
For a few days now, I've had the drawing for Day 4 completed and ready to post.  But the words were missing and maybe still are.  Its that time of year when everyone is leaving for vacation; long cross-country drives, Disneyland (ick), grandma's house.  Any number of tourist spots across the country will be filled with laughing children and smiling parents.  And the 30 Day Drawing Challenge asked me to draw my favorite place.  Facing a long summer with a smattering of odd jobs to pay the bills, my gut response was "anywhere but here."  Yet given any number of different conditions that wouldn't exactly be true.  

In fact, there's a number of places right near here that climb to the top of my list any time I think about a quick get away or an afternoon of fun.  And so, I've sketched together a quick collage of some of my favorite places: 1. Cambria Shores Inn (Moonstone Beach).  If you are looking for a quiet get away along a perfect beach that serves up a picnic basket breakfast of fresh squeezed orange juice and warm croissants outside your door each morning, then look no further.  Free wine and cheese Happy Hour and sunset from the comfortable Adirondack chairs round out this perfect experience.  Not to mention the fresh baked cookies, soaking tubs and raindrop shower heads.  There are times (like now) when my soul aches to spend a long weekend or a few days at this perfect get away.  And lucky for me and other pet owners, they also cater to your VIP (very important pooch).  2.  San Francisco.  There is no end to wonderful tourist attractions and fun things to do here.  But some of my favorites places are those introduced to me by the locals: Carrot's Coffee & Tea, SCRAP, Green Apple Books, and Flora Grubb Gardens.  You pretty much can't go wrong with a day in "the city."  3. Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.  I'm not typically a fan of crowds or noisy carnivalesque places, but give me the peacefulness of a cool fall morning and just the right company and I can be happy nearly anywhere.  This one makes the list more for its memories than for its virtues.  And 4. Portland, Or.  You just can't go wrong with PTown.  Great people, great climate, great culture.  And no matter how far away you go, whenever you return it still feels like home (even if you're just visiting).  

So there you have it, my favorite place(s).  And here's to hoping that they're still around when this post is completed.  If so, I'll hope to see you there sometime.  

Monday, June 20, 2011

Day 3/320: Fav Food

Upon reading my last blog post, a good friend responded in email saying "YO! Day three shouldn’t be that hard …. It’s a carrot! Pull out that orange crayon and have at it." And she's right, about one thing. My favorite food of late is carrots. I can't seem to get enough of them, eating them by the bagful and at one point even consuming to the point that my skin began to turn a certain shade of orange.

But its not just "any" carrot. I've become quite particular about my favorite crunchy vegetable, settling for nothing less than a "Mini Peeled Carrot," preferably organic. You may be wondering why such a narrowing of the many carrot options available to me? Well, first, I like the convenience of a bag of washed and peeled, ready-to-eat carrots. They are good at home, at work, or on the go. Second, I choose the mini peeled variety, because of their flavor and texture.

Don't be fooled by impostors, "baby carrots" are not the same as "mini carrots." Even though they are similar in shape and color. The flavor and the texture is significantly different. And here's why:

Mini carrots are grown to be mini, often picked before they are fully matured to capture the concentrated flavor and sweetness. Baby carrots, however, are created from unsaleable mature carrots. Carrot growers use machinery to cut down carrots that are knotty, twisted, and unsaleable. The process was created in the late '80s by a farmer who wanted to be able to make the most of his full carrot crop, knowing that even though they were unsaleable as whole carrots, the deformed carrots were just as edible.  And so while Baby carrots are equally delicious as full grown carrots, they also have a tendency for woody centers which in my opinion makes them less edible. 

I prefer the organic variety because, like most of our fruits and vegetables, they are washed with a USDA approved blend of organic cleaners versus bleach, to clean them of bacteria and pesticides.  Granted the amount of bleach used to wash non-organic carrots is less than that in our tap water, but it still tends to wash away the carrot flavor.

How can you be sure you are getting mini carrots?  Its tricky, because some baby carrots are actually mini carrots.  And while most true baby carrot labels will read "peeled and cut," some don't.  So the best way to check is to look at the carrots.  If you can see the shoulder and the scar from the heads being lopped off, then you've got mini carrots.  No shoulder and scars? Baby carrots. 

Try 'em...

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Day 315: Fav Animal

Remember this?  I wrote about it way back last year in July and acknowledged even then that it may take me more than 30 days: "its likely that this 30 day challenge could turn into a 43.5 day challenge plus/minus a few days."

Well, welcome to Day 315, otherwise known as Day 2.  

30 Day Drawing Challenge Day 2: Fav Animal
Initially, when I saw that day 2 was an animal, my mind went straight to my little chi, Leila.  Don't tell Henry and Ophelia (the cats), but she has over the past couple years squirmed her way in to the favorite spot amongst domesticated animals.  Acknowledging that many of you have already heard of my adoration for her and/or witnessed her quirky and adorable musings on her own Facebook page (friend her here), I decided to step outside the box and go with my favorite wild animal.  While lately I've been obsessed with the honey badger ("honey badger don't care"), my favorite wild animal is actually the giraffe.  Giraffes are amazing creatures.  Awkward, yet graceful, with their knobby knees and long neck.  I think it's their awkwardness that makes them most beautiful.  Giraffes are the tallest of all land animals and their fur serves basically as a traveling pharmacy of chemical defense with 11 aromatics serving as antibiotics and parasite repellents.  Of course, this doesn't make them all that pleasant to hang out with on a hot summer day.

And so there you have it, Day 2/315 of the 30 Day Drawing Challenge complete.  I can't say for sure when Day 3, 4, and so on will roll out.  As I shared in my last blog, this summer has brought me some unexpected changes/challenges and I'm slowly but surely embracing them.  Challenging myself to read 53 books in 11 weeks, continue the drawing challenge, work 3 part-time jobs and still allow life to happen as it will.  I'm committed to these challenges, taking them day by day and seeing what they and life will bring me tomorrow.

Saturday, June 11, 2011


Remember those summers as children when we spent our afternoons at the pool and the rest of the day playing outside with siblings and friends or reading for the local library's summer reading program?  Well this is how I'm planning on spending this summer, sorta.

It's been an interesting spring with lots of changes.  Mostly for others in my life, but their change has enacted a domino effect of change in my own.  And while I've learned to welcome change and it's possibilities, I've not welcomed any of these. And accepting and adapting to these changes is a slow process.  But as one dear friend recently reminded me, "I know you need to cry...but you need to start getting engaged with your life."

So with a summer shaping up unlike anything I had thought it would be, I'm working on that life engaging thing.  I've managed (with much help from others) to cobble together three part-time jobs for July and August which will pay the rent, put Ramen on my table, and allows for very little in the way of paid entertainment.  With what will still be only a 3-4 day work week, I'll have plenty of free time on my hands.  And so the question of how to engagingly pass the hours has come to mind.

This morning, I counted 53 unread books stacked, piled, cased around my apartment.  Over half are on bookshelves, about six are stacked on my desk, another twelve or so are on a bedside table.  Some have been started and set aside for something new, were are of interest to me to read and yet here they sit.  Also, in the "kindle wars," my inner tech nerd has won out over my inner book nerd and I've decided that I'd really like the flexibility of such a gadget to enhance my reading.  However, I can not justify the expense of one, when I have 53 unread actual books in my house.  And so this summer, I will read.  By the pool, in the grass, at the park.  If you see me, there will be a book near by.  

Some may say, that this isn't exactly engaging with my life, as reading can be an isolating experience.  But I'll still be getting out for work, Second Saturday MeetUps in San Bruno, spend days exploring the city, 3rd Friday Book Club and I plan to fully engage in the reading by blogging about the books, characters, etc.  Its quite likely that there will be connections between the words on the pages and my current life status.  And the reading will hopefully lead to the further engagement of those connections and life in general.  

And so the plan is set.  53 books in 11 weeks is roughly 4-5 books a week.  That is a lot of reading.  I'm not going to force the goal of completing them all.  Instead my hope and plan is to let life happen organically this summer, with few plans other than to read as the time suits, write about what I'm reading and its connections to my life, and get out and have fun.  

First up:  Returning Home by Karen White

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Adventures in Reading

Friends often ask me what I'm reading now. So I thought this year I would keep a running list of what I've been reading (to the best of my ability).  I've just updated it to catch up with my summer reading.
Besides these books, I also consistently read The New York Times Online, The New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, Entertainment Weekly (guilty pleasure), and Writer's Chronicle.

I hope this list will help inspire your own reading adventures.  I'd love to know what's been on your reading list this year.

  • The Distant Land of My Father (Caldwell)
  • A Weekend to Change Your Life: Find Your Authentic Self After a Lifetime of Being All Things to All People (Anderson)
  • Out of Our Past: The Forces That Shaped Modern America (Degler)
  • The Holy Book of the Beard (Brenna)
  • Rock Paper Tiger (Brackmann)
  • Eat, Pray, Love (Gilbert)
  • White Asparagus (Belz)
  • Super Sad True Love Story (Shteyngart
  • The Sweet By and BY (Johnson)
  • The Disappearing Spoon (Kean)
  • A Walk on the Beach: Tales of Wisdom From an Unconventional Woman (Anderson)
  • Father of the Rain (King)
  • Sanctificum (Abani)
  • Medium Raw (Bourdain)
  • You Lost Me There (Schwarzbaum)
  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Smith)
  • Water for Elephants (Gruen)
  • Summer of Firefly Memories (Gable)
  • The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (McCullers)
  • The Help (Stockett)
  • Olive Kitteridge (Strout)
  • The Hole We're In (Zevin)
  • Where the Money Went (Cantry)
  • Revolutionary Road (Yates)
  • The Passage (Cronin)
  • The Rum Diary (Thompson)
  • The Taste of Civilization (Flammang)
  • Rough Country (Sandford)
  • The Ginger Man (Donleavy)
  • The People's Act of Love (Meek)
  • Being Real (Scott)
  • Bright Lights, Big Ass: A Self-Indulgent, Surly, Ex-Sorority Girl's Guide to Why it Often Sucks in the City, or Who are These Idiots and Why Do They All Live Next Door to Me? (Lancaster)
  • Fat! So? (Wann)
  • The Fat Studies Reader (Rothblum/Solovay/Wann)
  • If You Have To Cry Go Outside (Cutrone) - I want to give it to every teenage girl I know. Cutrone is fearless about honesty and living one's truth.
  • Drood (Simmons)

Friday, August 20, 2010

Random Thinks: Creativity, Self Expression, HAES, and Being Alone

Life is full of wonderful, crazy ups and downs.  Mine in particular seems to be feast or famine, rain or shine, without much balance.  As much as I enjoy one of those lovely sunny days where there are moments of rain, there haven't been any of those in my life for some time and I don't foresee any on the horizon. Not that I'm complaining mind you.  This morning however, I'm taking a breather to put some recent thoughts into words in hopes of making some room in my head for more.

I've experienced a surge in creative energy lately.  And with it, a desire to chuck everything and go on the lamb from obligation, responsibility and reality.  I want to draw, paint, write, and create. However, this creativity spree needs a funding source and so my urge to throw caution to the wind and go for it, is tempered by the daily grind of work and meeting life's financial obligations.  Good thing I don't find this daily work a grind at all. 
Along with this overwhelming external creative explosion, I've spent a good deal of thought and energy on internal expression as well.  I, like most people I assume, spend a lot of time inside my own head.  One of the things I think about most often is how to align my external self with my internal view of who and what I am.  Understanding that we have little control over other people's opinions and conceptions of us, I still desire to reconcile these things for myself.  What does this mean?  Well, its not about diets, exercising, and conformity to external expectations.  Its about acceptance, health, and self expression.  OK, those of you who know me might be saying "she conforms?" and you'd be right.  Conformity is not one of the things I'm well known for.  But conform I do.  I'll admit that some conforming to societal norms can seem necessary to navigate through life.  It certainly makes things easier.  But it also stifles the creative energy of the individual and honestly, who are "you" to tell me what's the best way to get through life or to hamper my ability to get through life.  Purple hair, tattoos, and multiple piercings do not prevent an individual from being a productive member of society.  Creative expression of appearance is no indication of one's abilities.  Body shape and size are equally non indicators of an individuals motivation, drive and abilities.  "Societies" general reactions, disinterest, and dislike for anything beyond "normal" or "average" is the real culprit that hampers self expression and self acceptance. 

I recently met a young woman who owns her own small coffee and tea shop, she lets the hair stylist across the street use her as a "hair model," trying new techniques and styles.  On the day I met her, she recently had a small shape shaved into the hairline with a short asymmetrical cut.  It was bold, brave, and beautiful.  And I was inspired.  I'd already been considering a full shave of my head, a clean start and new beginning, and now I was thinking about all the possibilities.  I still have a full head of hair, but each day I'm closer to a change that more fully expresses my true self. 

I'm also fully embracing the health at every size premise (HAES) "that the best way to improve health is to honor your body, adopting health habits for the sake of health and well-being (rather than weight-control)."  The thought of spending any more of my free time at a gym or "working out" is completely distasteful to me.  It's not enjoyable and it doesn't feed my creative spirit.  Instead, I choose to dance (I can't be any more awkward than this guy), to laugh 'til I have to run down the hall to pee, to participate in the famed "balance beam olympics" (water version), and to move around while I'm standing in long lines at concerts (most recently Lady Gaga).  I want to find joy in movement and defy anyone to tell me that they find more joy in going to the gym than in spending time with friends or family laughing and moving naturally and healthily. 

Finally, there is a video that's been circling social networks lately.  Tanya Davis' How to Be Alone.  As someone who long ago embraced the joys of being alone, finding an amazing sense of self and freedom in alone, I'm excited that others are sharing this video.  Too much of society equates alone with lonely and the two could not be further in likeness from each other. "Society is afraid of alone though. Like lonely hearts are wasting away in basements. Like people must have problems if after awhile nobody is dating them. But lonely is a freedom that breathes easy and weightless, and lonely is healing if you make it."  There is another video of Tanya Davis' poetry that hasn't circled quite as widely through my social network (There's a Flower in My Pedal).  There is a line in the poem "just like everyone else, this year I got married", the video then flashes to the words "to myself".  I love this thought and want to embrace it and live it out.  I can't think of a more beautiful thing than to love and honor ones self enough to make the kind of commitment one professes to make when they marry someone.  We live in a time where the meaning and importance of marriage is twisted by groups and individuals mostly concerned about politics and religion.  Some take it for granted, while others are going to the highest court in our nation for the right (a topic for a different blog).

Perhaps all of our energies would be better spent focused inward, accepting ourselves for who we are and committing to living that life to its fullest expression.  And in that practice of learning to accept and respect ourselves and our own differences, perhaps we will learn to accept and respect others.  Perhaps we could learn to stop judging ourselves so harshly and will then be unable to find faults in others as well.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Day 1: Yourself

30 Drawing Challenge Day 1: Yourself
As promised, I'm posting the results of my attempt to tackle the 30 Day Drawing Challenge and as predicted it took me 7 days to actually get to it.  At this rate, I've already stretched my 30 days into 210.  Perhaps I should call it the year-long drawing challenge.  Time however is not really the point.  Its about getting back in touch with my creative energies and flexing those artistic muscles that have grown atrophic from non-use. 

I also am discovering that its about something else this particular exercise gets right to the heart of: self-discovery.  Admittedly, the idea of self portrait was terrifying to me at first.  Over-thinking it as I tend to do, I arrived at the grand scheme of doing something very abstract and esoteric.  As I approached the actual task at hand, I thought differently (or somewhat at least).  I hadn't initially planned an image of myself at all.  Perhaps its because I don't think of myself in terms of what I look like.  I don't own a full length mirror and I put my makeup on with a hand-held compact.  Rarely, when I get a glimpse at me or (e-gads) I see a photo that has somehow snuck by my photo radar and been taken of me, I feel as if I'm looking at a stranger.  I frequently comment on how the body is just a mode of transportation.  And much like a car, it doesn't really matter if its a luxury mobile, sporty compact, or pimped out ride, if it gets you from point A to point B safely then it will do.  However, having recently purchased a brand new sporty compact car myself, I can admit that we probably all feel a bit safer and more comfortable in a newer, younger model.

So my approach was a bit of abstract realism.  When I think about who I am, I consider the young girl buried in books in search of all the possibilities life has to offer.  I'm still that girl, I haven't given up on life's possibilities and I really do believe that everything and anything is possible.  The tree and the dragonfly are symbols I align with and relate to.  The dragon fly has a very complex history. Its etymology derives from the Greek Anisoptera meaning not equal.  Culturally its seen as both good and evil.  Swedish folklore refers to the dragonfly as the one who weighs people's souls for the devil.  But Japanese culture sees it as a symbol of courage, strength, and happiness.  The tree, is mythologized in many cultures.  I view the tree as a symbol of strength and flexibility.  From the elasticity of its branches, the sensitivity of its foliage, and the strength of its massive root system, trees are built to withstand, endure, and regrow from the very ashes of fire and maelstrom.  They hold knowledge from the ages and while they have strong roots, contrary to popular understanding, they actually derive 99% of their mass from the air (really! watch this).  I was raised in a pretty traditional mid-western family (until it became nontraditional), my roots are strong and yet I feel (like most I assume) as if I've derived much of who I am and who I'm becoming from my experiences and surroundings, above and beyond my roots. 

And so, Day 1: Yourself was certainly more of an exercise in discerning more about myself than portraiture can accurately depict (which is almost always the case).  And yet from my abstract and esoteric thoughts of who I think I am to the abstract realism (and still esoteric) depiction of who I actually am, I found it a rewarding and enlightening experience.  So go on, give it a try yourself.