Monday, December 29, 2014

On Filling the Gaps

Life is a series of gaps.

Gaps between things, gaps in things, gaps around things. Waits from Point A to Point B. Skips and beats from wanting to having. Holes right in the middles of situations and relationships. Vacancies in knowledge and science and faith.

I thought tonight, while watching a movie that was about 5 hours too long (*cough*Into the Woods*cough*), that life really is largely composed of what we do with our gaps.

Irrelevant side note: I am constantly amazed by my unparalleled ability to make messes. My room/kitchen/bathroom/living room/hallway (OK, entire apartment) were clean like......mere hours ago. And now? Hurricane war path. I mean, I might be more amazed than I am upset about it. What HAPPENED? Is there an Olympic event for this? Ima Michael Phelps my way to the top of that podium, I tell you what....

Back to the real topic.

Lately, I'm not sure that I like what I've been doing with my gaps. Maybe I've been trying too hard to fill them, is the thing. When did I get so uncomfortable with all the little spaces? Like sitting at a red light without looking at my phone...or lying in bed in the morning without checking my email (well, work demands that one, but I check personal email as well, etc.) know. Do you ever think about what we all used to do before we had smartphones in our hands, and Netflix on demand, and constant constant constant stimulation and entertainment and input and noise?

This isn't one of those "hey moms, look up from your phones and pay attention to the kids at the park -- your lack of parenting skills is probably ruining their young lives" articles. No. This is just a post about me. Me and my gaps. I'm not about to tell you your business about you and yours. No life coach license over here.

I live with one roommate, but with conflicting schedules and holiday travel and whatnot, lately I've had a lot of alone time in my apartment (uhhh....hence the aforementioned hurricane mess. I'm so much better at cleaning up when other people are around). I think I've run out of things to watch on Netflix.

I used to read more. I used to read more in a month than a lot of people read in a year. I've had a small appetite for books this last year or feels like nothing can hold my attention very well. Did Netflix do that to me? Did the easy entertainment of the screen ruin my library-going ways for me? (No, that was the library fines. But you get my point.)

I'm not into guilt. But I am into constructive....reconstructing......of know what I'm saying. And I think I've got some things to reconstruct, over here.

I want to love my books again. I want to read them like I'm thirsty for their pages and there's never enough words to fill me up. I want to sing more. That used to be my whole life, and now I only ever do it in my car, here and there. I'm going to audition for a choir this month that I really want to be in. I know, right? Haven't done that in about a decade. Speaking of decades off from things, I brought my violin back from Arizona with me after my Christmas trip last week. I played for like 8 years, did you know that? I barely know that anymore. I was pretty damn good at it, too. But muscle memory is a magnificent beast, and I'm going to get that talent back.

And besides filling the gaps more constructively, I want to OK with the gaps. I spent years sitting at red lights or waiting for movies to start or seated in waiting rooms of appointments without having the Internets to fiddle with, and I don't remember being in agony over it. I want that back. I want to wake up in the morning, and, before work emails beckon, just look at my ceiling and the trees outside the window and simply entertain myself with my own garbled morning thoughts and post-dreamworld mental shenanigans. There's so much clarity in the morning when your head is fresh. I want to sit in waiting rooms and at bus stops and in airports and take in the people around me.....when I'm not buried in a book or my latest playlist, that is. Just me, my books, my music and whatever little delights are happening in my world around me.

Maybe this post has wandered into weird philosophical land. I don't know? But it's my blog so I do what I want. And.....thanks for filling one of YOUR gaps with my words. I hope it's felt worthwhile!

(I grew these peas. They are delicious. Pretend it's relevant to this post.)

Friday, December 19, 2014

A Staycation From Problems

Last weekend, I had a visitor!

Something excellent about living somewhere awesome is that people come to visit you. Who doesn't want to come to the Bay Area, you know?? Nobody visited me when I lived in Arizona. Ha. Which is too bad, because Arizona has, hands down, the best sunsets I've ever seen.

But best sunsets or not, it's hard to beat the allure of the beach, the trees, the coastline, the fog, the tech companies (if you're into that kind of thing -- let me tell you, I was blown away when I moved here by all the major companies that just happened to be around the corner from me), and the city adventures in San Francisco.

My Chantal came to visit me last weekend (you can read about her here, when I bridesmaided the crap out of her wedding) (was that an elegant way of putting that, or...?) and I looked forward to her visit for weeks and weeks! She had surgery on her thyroid this week (can we all pause to talk about how much we hate medical junk? especially when it happens to people we love? can we just cure it all right now please?), so with that impending procedure, what she really needed was a vacation from her problems.

So, we had one! A vacation/staycation from problems!

She was only here for approximately 36 hours, so we had a lot to accomplish. Minus a little snafu with a minor migraine on her part and a small freak-out session on my part while driving stick on one of those San Francisco death hills for the very first time (June Cooper and I are doing smashingly at that whole "driving stick" thing, btdubs! six months strong!), the weekend was perfection!

We dined in downtown Palo Alto at Sprout Cafe (it's a toss-up between the blueberry pork sandwich and the autumn salad for which menu item I'm bound to get on one knee and lavishly propose to one of these days -- THEY'RE BOTH THAT GOOD), followed by delicious nutella fro yo at Fraiche and a walk around University Ave with its quaint rows of white-lit trees, then headed back to my apartment, where we watched the first 30 min of Love Actually before promptly falling asleep.

The next morning, Chantal woke up and said she wanted to go to the beach! So we headed to Half Moon Bay, a little coastal town that will always have a special place in my heart because I went there during my soul-searching visit to California in May 2013 when I was quite a bit lost in life and trying to figure out if northern California was the place for me. It had an impact on me.

In Half Moon Bay, we began our morning with, oh you know, THE BEST MASSAGES OF OUR LIVES. Hot stone massages at a Cloud9 Spa -- holy how-now-brown-cow, you guys, it was heavenly. The prices were legit, also, which is why we picked it. Can't believe the quality for the price! It's now officially on my docket of "take people here when they come visit." No selfish motive in that decision, of course :)

With all our troubles all massaged out of our bodies, we lunched on cheesesteaks and sweet potato fries, drove through a nearby parking-lot coffee stand for some warm beverages, and headed down for a walk on the beach. A walk that turned into a whole lot of shenanigans -- all pictured below. (Not pictured: when I led Chantal on a perilous riverwalk that resulted in my knee colliding with a rock while she did the splits to climb over a boulder.)

Then it was off to the city!

After that whole "driving stick on a giant hill" and "Chantal got a minor migraine" hiccup caused us both to need a power nap, we were ready to hit the town. We stayed at an incredibly adorable French boutique hotel, Cornell Hotel de France near Union Square, because Chantal happened to have some points from that made this all possible without making us both very poor. It was charming, and quaint, and a dog greeted us in the lobby. (I love you, San Francisco and your puppies around every corner!!) The hotel had this DARLING old-fashioned elevator where you had to open the outer door yourself, and then a metal grate closed and up you went, while getting to see all the floors passing slowly by. It was magical! (And also pictured below, as best as I could capture it.) Each floor had a different French artist featured (loved discovering the Chagall floor when we went exploring!), and we lucked out enough to end up on a floor filled entirely with nude portraits of French girls! ("Draw me like one of your French girls!")

ANYWAY. The rest of the night was a whirl of dressing up in our fancies, paying a visit to a very Christmasy Union Square, purchasing a picturesque box of macarons from the French patisserie hidden on the 3rd floor of Macy's (thank you, former Ralph Lauren job, for making me EXTREMELY familiar with the Macy's at Union Square!), after which Chantal talked me into buying a bold new lip color at the MAC counter before we took the train over to the War Memorial Opera House to meet up with my roommate Megan to watch The Nutcracker. Did you know The Nutcracker's U.S. premiere was at the San Francisco Ballet? We just participated in something historic! It was my first viewing of The Nutcracker (my first ballet, in fact!) and I was enchanted by the entire thing. Chantal has seen The Nutcracker like eleventy times, and she still said it was the best she'd ever seen. I have nothing to compare it to, but I was duly impressed :)

This got really long. I just didn't want to leave any delicious little piece out, because this is how you record memories, you know! We capped off the night with a late-night visit to an overpriced Italian joint, after which we hobbled (ok I hobbled -- she was smart and didn't wear heels) back to the hotel in our fancy clothes under a sudden onslaught of rain. It was all very magic and city-like. And, of course, we munched on a couple colorful macarons (get the cherry bourbon flavor. GET THE CHERRY BOURBON FLAVOR) (insert rabid eyes and an appropriate amount of drool) before crashing into deep slumber.

Early the next morning, we rolled out of bed and I took Chantal to the airport so Arizona and her husband and three adorable stepsons could have her back. I can share, I guess. (Also, happy to report that she is alive and well after her thyroid surgery! Gosh so grateful.)

It was the perfect escape, and I'm pretty sure I'd like to repeat the whole escapade monthly. Except, I won't wear heels to walk a few city blocks in next time. I'm such a newb.


Monday, December 15, 2014

So turns out I've never cooked bacon before...

....except that one time in junior high when my friend Mindi and I *tried* to cook bacon and mostly just set off the smoke detector.

Maybe it was residual trauma from that experience, but I realized tonight: I don't know how to cook bacon. I mean, I do EAT bacon....but always at the hands of someone else's labor, turns out. I think I've even been assigned to bring bacon to breakfast gatherings, but someone else always ends up cooking it. Shrug?

Fact: I actually BAKE bacon all the time.....wrapped around lil' smokies and covered in brown sugar.

Other fact: Bacon-wrapped lil' smokies are the primary reason people keep inviting me to potlucks.

My friend Chantal came to visit this weekend (pictures/stories to come), and being all hostessy, I was like, "I'll make bacon!"

But then we didn't end up eating bacon, so I still had it in my fridge as of today. I was feeling ambitious about dinner I guess, because I pulled that package o' bacon out of my fridge and set to work. I grabbed a frying pan, I opened the package of bacon, and then.........well, what then? Oil, right? So I grabbed my trusty jar of coconut oil and put a spoonful in the pan. Immediately thereafter, I fretted to my sister via Voxer (more on that below) about whether or not coconut bacon was a) glorious or b) the nastiest idea in the world. I couldn't decide, and the coconut oil was already in the pan, so, westward ho!

I then decided to send my sister a picture of the bacon all laid out in the pan....

....which resulted in the unhinged state of THIS RECORDING. (Have you ever used Voxer? Pretty sure it was originally cool like.....erm, half score and 7 years ago, but I've only recently gotten into it. The point is, it's like texting with little voicemails.......and if you do one thing today, maybe listen to me hysterically losing it about the bacon picture via that link above. Oh, here it is again.)


The raw bacon did ultimately turn into normal-looking cooked bacon....but only after much shrinkage and questionable behavior, including spatting hot oil onto my arm. Bacon, you little jerk.

So, I ate it. And it was delicious and didn't taste a thing like coconut......but man alive it was REALLY salty. Wha? I didn't even add any salt. You'd think you'd get better quality when you buy the cheapest non-turkey bacon available. What does a girl have to do??

Lesson: Bacon is not the time nor place to shop by price. Follow your heart, not your wallet. Teach all the children. Teach 'em good.

I accompanied my salty bacon with two avocado-and-honey sandwiches (Don't even question it, just eat one. Half an avocado all smashed up, and a generous drizzle of honey. It just took me 3 tries to spell generous.) (This sandwich is actually best as an open-faced sammitch with the bread toasted, but the handle may or may not have broken off of my brave little toaster (no seriously, it's a brave little toaster) this weekend, so plain ol' non-toasty bread it was.)

This is my story. Let it be an inspiration to you all. 

Now please excuse me while I drink like a gallon of water to combat that pile of salty bacon I consumed a few minutes ago. I don't want to shrivel up -- I know how dehydration and osmosis works. I'm no fool. (Actually I only have vague memories of learning about salt and water and their relationship with osmosis in 9th-grade biology.....I just know I'm really thirsty. SCIENCE!)

(see how artistically I arranged that??? #pinterest)

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

A Moment of Silence, Please

I don't spend much time with silence.

The main reason being that I love music. In fact, Spotify told me that in 2014 I listened to 42,658 minutes of music.....the equivalent of 29.6 solid days of music listening. Haha! Not surprised. And when I'm not listening to music, I'm usually talking to a friend or listening to a podcast or watching a TV show. I listen to music when I'm running, when I'm driving, when I'm working, when I'm showering (yep), when I'm cooking (hhahahah JOKE -- I never do that),  when I'm.....just always. I'm always filling my silences in one way or another, I guess.

Today I went running after work, out in the Baylands. The Baylands are basically a giant marsh full of....swampiness and....random birds and.....water and.....bay............haha. Well, it's nice and scenic once you get past any of the stagnant puddles and the industrial equipment at the head of the trails.

I'm a staunch believer in listening to music while I run, because it pumps me up and distracts me and......OK real reason, I like that it drowns out my distressed breathing. If I ever hear my own heavy breathing while I'm in the "I want to die" warm-up parts of a run, I am immediately convinced that I must stop because I am, in fact, going to die. So, music with a beat it is. And boots with da fur. (No?)

When I was out among the marshiness at the end-ish of one of the trails today, I paused to take a picture and accidentally switched my music off in the process. I was immediately struck by what I heard because......I heard nothing. I stopped and kept listening, and I did hear some things after all: the water moving, random birds in the distance.....but no cars. No people. No keyboards clattering. And it was beautiful.

I think I need to make a more deliberate effort to spend time in silence. And I realized today that maybe that means physically taking myself to places where distractions aren't immediately on hand -- no work to do, no people to talk to, no chores to be done, and nothing with me but my running shoes/shorts/shirt and my phone in airplane mode.

"The reinvention of daily life means marching off the edge of our maps." 

Friday, December 5, 2014

GIVEAWAY: Canon EOS Rebel T5

Oh heyyy friends!

Giving away something pretty neat. I won't steal an image from the Internets for this post, but here's a link to what the camera looks like. Yay. You have from now until Dec. 19 to enter :) If you already follow me on Instagram, Facebook &'re three steps ahead. Neat-o. Now here's all the infffffo! 

I am pumped to be teaming up with 15 other bloggers to give away a Canon EOS Rebel T5 with two lenses. We decided to mix things up this holiday season -- with so many other cash giveaways, we decided to get a giveaway going that was a special gift just for one of you! Because we know the cash is going to all your other holiday gifts we decided to find a way to treat one of our lucky readers to a gift for themselves. And just in time for the holidays and the new year! You can check out all the ladies joining me on this giveaway by clicking on their images below.

Image Map
So what're you waiting for? It is your chance to make some photo magic with your family. The giveaway will run from December 5th to the 19th and it is open to US and Canada only. All entries will be validated and if there are any issues with your entry all will be voided. So you better be honest because we are going to be like Santa and check it all twice. Good luck! And happy holidays!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

  Disclaimer: This giveaway is open to U.S. and Canada residents only. This blog and any participating blogs did not receive compensation for the published material in this post. No purchase required to enter this giveaway and there is a limit of one entrant per household. Void where prohibited. Odds of winning are determined by the number of valid entries received. Entries will be verified. Winner will be chosen by and will be emailed via the email address used to enter the contest. New winner(s) will be chosen if original winner(s) has not responded within 48 hours of email notification. This giveaway is not administered, sponsored, endorsed by, or associated with Facebook, Twitter, Google, Pinterest or other social media outlet. Disclaimer is posted in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission 10 CFR, Part 255 Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising. I

Thursday, December 4, 2014

A Very Tahoe Thanksgiving

Tahoes before bros!

JK, I don't know where I'm going with that phrase. But I did spend my Thanksgiving weekend at an Airbnb cabin (cabungalow) in South Lake Tahoe with several amazing new friends. I only knew two of them before we headed out, so I was kind of like "ummmm what will this weekend be like" but then it was like seven levels of amazing, so we're good.

We ate a Thanksgiving feast at one of the girl's family's house on the way to Tahoe, we watched important and deep films like Dan in Real Life (from a single perspective, that movie is so relatable it makes me cringe inside but I can't look away) and Pitch Perfect (along with some necessary episodes of Parks & Rec) (which resulted in frequent sing-talking like unto Jean Ralphio) (and also, what is more perfect than viewing Ron Swanson whilst at a cabin in the woods?), we talked about life/love/etc etc etc, we wore flannel and wool socks, we came up with an extremely marketable idea for a tame burlesque show (Burlesque With Borders -- it's a thing) since a couple of the girls missed their younger dancing days (and what is better than a burlesque show with uniforms of capris and turtlenecks??), we hiked up a ridge overlooking the lake (and it was freeeeeezing up there!), and OF COURSE, we spent some time out in the hot tub on the deck amongst the trees and the frigid breeze. We also ate a lot of food. I may have had a handful of peanut butter m&m's as a pre-game for breakfast one morning. Or two mornings....? We also woke up to snowfall the last morning and I was like "it's magical!!" and then we went outside and I was like "I'm freezing and wet, this isn't magical!!" So, typical.

Basically it was all awesome. And I love making new friends. Especially since most of these new friends live up in the city (San Francisco) and I'm always looking for reasons to get up there. Such lovely people, and there's really few things better than a cozy cabin in the woods.

Also on the drive home, a couple of us got hooked on the Serial podcast. I'm now all caught up. Talk to me, fellow listeners!

And now, pictures!