Saturday, December 31, 2011


It's the end of the year, time to be reflective and think about improving oneself. Or not! I'm much more interested in only investing my time in good books next year, instead of "trying to give it a chance" for the first hundred pages and then trudging through it because I had invested the time.

Thankfully, this book wasn't the case at all. Wanderlust, by Elisabeth Eaves combines a travel memoir and romance into a wonderful chronicle on the adventure of ... well, travel and romance.

Eaves bravely lives abroad in the Middle East, Egypt and New Zealand, travels though Papua New Guinea and the Inca Trail, and sails the South Pacific. I want to go with her on her next voyage.

I have not had the luxury of romance abroad, but could identify with Eaves' addiction to freedom and spontaneity that traveling alone provides. I understand the need for independence, and the conflicts surrounding the complexities of the human heart. Navigating the globe is far easier for some than navigating one's own feelings and instincts.

I think it's time to start planning a trip.

Friday, December 30, 2011

The Sharp Talker

I’ve been called a lot of things due to my talking, but never, not ever have I been called a sharp talker.  More often I'm told I have a big mouth, I talk fast, I talk too much, too loud, I talk about boring things, I laugh at my own jokes, I get sarcastic, I gossip, I make awkward small talk, I swear like a truck driver, I make too much idle chatter, I lack eloquence, I’m blunt, I blurt things out, I reveal too much, I don’t say what I mean, I can’t spit it out. 

This guy, he said I'm a sharp talker. 
What he meant was the timbre of my Midwestern accent was sharp, a bit clippier than the drawly southerner or laid back valley girl. It wasn’t an insult, but maybe not quite a compliment, either. 

Yeah, sharp. That got me thinking about how we communicate, how our message is sent and received. It says a lot about us, about who we are based on not only the accent you have, but the way you carry your speech and the emotions you choose to propel your words.
My uncle once told me he thought if your mouth is foul, your mind must be as well. People who use ugly language just show they are consumed by ugly thoughts. That was enough to keep me from using c’s and t’s the rest of the night.
For tonight, a guy my roommate’s boyfriend dragged in, of an undeterminate age, told me San Francisco had an accent, I didn’t believe him and demanded he say the pledge of allegience to me in that language so I could hear it. Somehow that led to him telling me about being in the witness protection program as a result of being caught in the fire of a high profile murder case in the city, as a result of being shot. All I could think was, “how can I be a sharp talker?  I’ve never been shot!”
Then again, when he told me about his son committing suicide and I asked about his relationship with his other son (part of a twin), and asked about how he felt when his friend got shot in front of him. I asked what made him quit smoking, if he had to keep looking over his shoulder since the trial, if he trusted his intuition, who he did business with. I asked all kinds of things like I had known him forever, like I had the right to. I asked as if he had no choice but to answer me the honest truth. And for some reason, he did.
Maybe some of that fluffy chattering I do really does have an edge to it.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Another Great Mini Pumpkin Idea

My roommate Sugar always comes up with the best cooking ideas. Here, she's cooked mini quiches, individual sized in mini pumpkins.

Just mix your favorite quiche, sprinkle cheese on top and bake as normal.

Best part is this bypasses the tedious crust!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Crazy Hen

This little yellow hen may look all cute and innocent, but don't be fooled. She's nuts.

It's been a couple weeks now that she's taken to rooting in the same corner cubby in the chicken coop. When the other ten girls (we used to have 12 total, but lost one around the same time the goats fell victim to a mountain lion when I was in Colorado) go out in the yard to enjoy freedom, dust baths and grazing, she fans herself out to maximum fluff capacity and parks it in the designated egg laying cubby.

There's no doubt, she's onto us. She knows we're after those eggs. Though while assuming the role of the official egg sitter for the flock, she can sit on those eggs till the cows come home- no chicks will ever hatch without a rooster.

I admire her tenacity, I really do. But we have a slight problem. I'm terrified to get near her. When I unlatch the window to expose the cubbies (brilliant coop design credit to my roommate, Sugar), she bristles up her feathers with hate in her eyes and looks at me like she's about to spit nails. Also, she pecks when you reach under her. For a little hen, she's pretty intimidating. It's the crazy look in her eyes that freaks me out. If you ever live in a big city, particularly New York, you learn there's nothing scarier than someone crazy, because they're totally unpredictable. That's how it is with this hen.

Thank goodness Sugar is a firefighter and has way more guts than me. I'll let her be the hero and get those eggs.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Kortum Trail

Today was a day to cross off a trail bookmarked in my hiking queue.  
More of a leisurely stroll along the coast than a hike, the route was an easy 3 miles roundtrip (4.6 if we opted to go to Goat Rock).

I went with my godsister, Laycee, who is home for the holidays from New York.

Isn't she beautiful?

Oh, and by the way. No big deal.

Sappy heart.

This gorgeous view was just after we found our way back on the trail. Not sure how I got derailed from a clearly marked, perfectly flat walk from one beach to another on the most fair weathered day in weeks. I must have been distracted by the scenery.

Next time, tide pools!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Egg Nog Cheesecake

I'm going to a Christmas party tomorrow and was at a loss as to what to bring.  I did the pie thing at Thanksgiving. There are wheat allergies, so gingerbread is out, and I'm tired of the same old chocolatey mousse stuff I bring every year. Sorry, I can't skip the wheat completely for this occasion, but I'll cut it down with a little cheesecake.

In the spring, I made the most delicious cheesecake, from one of the most delicious recipes here. This is my take, with an egg nog twist.  Keep in mind, the secret to great cheesecake is for all the ingredients to be the same temp, so make sure the cream cheese and eggs have the chill taken off before you start.

You need:
- half a stick of butter
- 1 package of Trader Joe's eggnog cookies
- 24 oz. cream cheese (3 packages)
- 4 eggs
- 2 T flour
- 1/2 c. sugar
- 1/2 c. egg nog
- 1 t vanilla extract
- pinch of salt

1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Make crust. I used egg nog cookies instead of graham crackers. Combine entire package with 1/4 c. melted butter (1/2 stick). No need to add any sugar, the cookies are sweet enough.

If you don't have a food processor, a blender works well. (Needs to be quite powerful for cream cheese mixture.)

3. Pack crumb mixture into the bottom of a greased springform pan, pulling the edges up the sides. Chill while you mix the filling.

 4. Mix cream cheese, sugar and flour in a food processor. (I keep my sugar in a jar with dried vanilla pods for more flavor and a heavenly scent.)
 5. Add eggs, egg nog, vanilla and salt. Mix until combined.

6. Pour into prepared crust.  Bake at 350 for 40 minutes or until center jiggles when the pan is wiggled.

Another great piece of advice from the joy of baking- slice around the edge of the pan as soon as you take it out of the oven. It prevents the surface from cracking as it cools. I forgot to do this and my cheesecake has a huge crack in it; too big for me to photograph the final! Luckily, an ugly duckling cheesecake still tastes delicious.

The Christmas Bough

Last night I got invited with my friends Daisy and Trout for a trek in the woods. The goal? To find the perfect Christmas bough.

We went armed with supplies. 

 Initially, we got sidetracked and built a fire out of poison oak sticks. Then we lost the saw, the dog collar and a cell phone.

After getting our bearings, we found the perfect redwood Christmas bough, and with the help of Bing Crosby, Wham, and Mariah Carey, set to work making things jolly. We even managed to make our own ornaments on the spot, with a little band saw and bamboo pole.

Trees shouldn't get to have all the fun this season. The bough is perfect for the minimalist, and cuts down on space, too!

*One redwood tree branch was harmed during the making of this post. We are grateful for its contribution to the Christmas cause.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Ravenous Reader

This was sent to me a few days ago from a reader testing out my shortcut mac and cheese recipe. (No baking required.) Thanks, V! Rock on, you ravenous woman!

Learning No-ga

Last night, my friend and I were philosophizing on why it is so difficult for smart and strong women to say no.

Luckily, she blogged about it with a great exercise to help practice the art of saying no.  She calls it no-ga.

Did I mention she's hilarious?!  Read it here.  Then read the rest of her blog, Boundless Optimism.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Family Photos

I'm back from a hectic two days in Salt Lake City.  I went to see a friend, but plans changed, schedules were busy, and there were boyfriends with priority so I left early.

The night before was an interesting sociological experience with enormous families.  Mine is small, we are more on the quiet side (by comparison), and getting together is a reunion we shoot for every 5-10 years with only half of us showing up (I haven't been to one since I was a teenager).  This family Christmas party was the opposite- there were so many people it was standing room only in the house and I could barely hear when I was talking with someone.  A giant pot of green chili was on the stove and could have fed well over 100.  There were probably close to 70 people there- and that was just aunts, uncle, and cousins.  And only half of them live in Salt Lake.

I felt out of place being a non-relative at such a shindig.  Especially when one of the cousins told me, "The more you try to fit in, the more you'll stand out."  That was about the point when I kept my mouth shut and engaged in conversations with people who wanted to talk and not ask me questions.

That morning while talking about family, the giant Rubbermaid bin came down from the closet and we poured over the old pictures with my friend's mother, who has been organizing the albums little by little over the years when she gets the chance.

Since I had just gone through pictures with my aunt and uncle, I talked about the importance of having a designated family archivist to keep everything together in one place.  In my mother's family, that was my aunt, who had duplicates of everything and an extensive file system full of the genealogy research she had done.  We used to joke that she was the "picture whore" but it's a good thing she took control because it means everything is together.  Since she passed away this last winter, I'm not sure who the next picture whore will be.

On my father's side, I'm determined to fill this role.  My great uncle did most of the dirty work with tracking our family history back to the Revolutionary War.  He was extensive and organized, and since he died, all the carefully reprinted photos, birth certificates and newspaper clippings are sitting in the trunk of my car in a plastic tub one would use to wash dishes in the sink.

I've got to get it together.

I also appreciate that we all need to hash out who's who and what's what with the photos.  It means we have to get together more and consult each other to put it in order.  There is nothing like someone else's family to make you appreciate your own.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Small Wonder

At the preschool where I work, there are often surprises waiting for us in the backyard.  On a chilly, misty morning a couple weeks ago, this is what I found.

This was no ordinary spiderweb, because each strand was strung with tiny water droplets.  It resiliently sagged under the weight until a gust of wind knocked it down that afternoon.

For a few hours, it sparkled from the top of the swing set.  It didn't seem to mind the rain and the cold.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Special Props

I'm on the road today setting out for the next leg of my journey.  It will be so I can see the lovely Bee and her family in Salt Lake.

Did I mention that the inspiration for this trip is my amazing friend, Amanda Rae, who came to visit me a few weeks ago.  This adventuress hit the road to make new memories when her apartment burned down in May and has been traveling ever since.  I'm thinking of her on this mini-trip, when I have the opportunity to try something new, when I take a picture of something I would otherwise ignore (like snow on a piece of grass), when I meet new people, and when I come home at night with the option to write something instead of zoning out.

I'm so glad I have a gal like this in my life to shake things up and get me out on the road.  Thanks, Amanda!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

On the Right Track

Hiking with my uncle is amazing because he can identify animal tracks.  I may need a little help on some of these- the first one stumped us because of the dragged foot, so it was probably from the little pomeranian running ahead of us.  Want to make any guesses?