Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Kiss

Warning: this post doesn't really have much to do with anything. It's just an excuse to show you something cute. Namely, my roommate's puppy kissing my friend, Chuck.

That's all.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Cider Speakeasy

It's not often that I get to find the super secret drinking spots in the area, but sometimes you're with the right person with the intel. Unfortunately, no names or photos, since my big mouth and I don't want to be the ones to spoil it. But I still have to share in the excitement.

The evening started with dinner at Barley and Hops, where I enjoyed the lovely Le Merle, a Belgian style with tropical fruit notes. Not my usual pick, but I thought I'd go out of the box a bit from my favorite Death and Taxes, which will one day have a post all of its own.

Next was ice skating, and with no falls! I want to say I'm improving on my technique, but I still seem to prioritize going fast over looking graceful. Is it weird that I found satisfaction in skating faster than all the little kids there? Or just a sign that I'm ridiculously competitive?

On to the speakeasy. This secret spot is by invite only, and involves knowing the top secret code to a gated entry (which I hope I never learn because I would immediately shout it from the rooftops so all my friends could go). I was lucky enough to be in the company of one of the invited friends, so we rolled in for a pint as things were winding down.

The owner let us in, poured us some ciders and we chatted with his buddies beside a charming backdrop of fermenting tanks. Ever notice how the problems of the world manage to easily be solved over a few pints? We sat in a heated tent under the stars, debating if we should play Boggle, pool or backgammon. We chose stars.

Anyone who knows me knows I'm not fancy, and I'm the last person in the world to keep secrets. But for one night, it was nice to do both.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Some Lessons from Whitney Houston

Love will save the day.

Say a prayer with every heartbeat.

Never walk in anyone's shadow.

Sometimes broken hearts can find their way home.

Don't change all your colors for another.

Be every woman.

Take a chance on loving, no matter the price.

Find hope in your heart, and know your own strength.

If that special place you've been dreaming of leads you to a lonely place, find your strength in love.

It's best to dance with somebody who loves you.

Look a little further, and there are even more ....

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Leftovers from the Bday Weekend

The lovely weekend of celebrating continued with shopping at the local tourist traps and a party!

First, the shopping. Right after a stop for tea.

Striking a dorky pose in front of a hidden herb garden in Duncans Mills.

Hours later, I stare down this, with a candle celebrating each lovely Aquarian present. Yep, February's a busy, busy month.

One day I will have to make a princess cake on my own- I think we skipped that in pastry school.

This is my preferred way to sweeten my coffee. Judge all you want, but you can do what you like on your birthday.
I love gifts I can drink and smell. My wine cellar and windowsill garden continue to grow.

Getting the doe eyes from the puppy, Mazzy.

She must have wanted cake, too.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Address the Present Moment

My fabulous aunt introduced me to the blog by Flux Capacitor a couple months ago. I check in when I need sensitive insight and feel starved for rich writing. The other day I stumbled upon this beautiful post from her and I think you should, too.

Some things I learned from her words about the natural rhythm of sadness and how to deal:

-Find something small that is beautiful and carry it with you
-Remember to carry your sadness inside. Do not bury it. Carry it. Remember to let it go occasionally and watch it fall apart at your feet. Remember to dance on its grave.
-Remember to lift the corners of your mouth enough to prevent an entire day of What's wrong?
- Let is be made clear that giggling and ridiculousness are both highly desirable and should be sought after as much as possible.
-Consume as much happiness as possible and is available.
-Better to become a Sickeningly Positive Person than a FSFY (Feeling Sorry For Yourself).
-Help someone else, every day.

Reminders of those things that really matter, and those things that don't.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Best Nightlight Ever

From the Ya-Ya dinner the night before, one of Fairy Godmother's birthday gifts was this original nightlight made by one of her best friends. Honestly, this artist leaves a trail of beauty wherever she goes, and one day I hope to share pictures of her garden with you.

Her latest creation is a nightlight transformed from a sardine tin and adorned with old jewelry, beads and a broken watch. 

Hank really liked it, too.

What's tricky about putting them together is all the drilling and wiring parts together. The gluing has to be minimal, since the lightbulb heats the piece up.

Alas, these are one of a kind treasures are only made on a case by case basis because of all the time they entail, but they're really something, aren't they?

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Dinner with the Ya-Yas

I'm still full from an amazing birthday dinner last night for my Fairy Godmother. So nice to be included with all her friends! In my life, this is the busiest birthday season of the year, which means lots of parties, lots of delicious food, and lots of appreciation that my wonderful people were born.

The table was set with grandmother's china and silver, and we ate Fairy Godmother's favorite foods. After a little wine and lemon drops.

Butternut squash soup was first, garnished with pepitas.

 And then came roasted vegetables: shrimp, artichoke hearts, asparagus, and potatoes blanketed with meyer lemon aioli.

I don't typically eat as a vegetarian, but perhaps I should do it more often. It filled me to the brim, body and soul. I'm happy to be initiated as a junior Ya-Ya.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

A Friend Surprise

This week has been a whirlwind of celebrating birthdays, love, new projects and inspiration. Yesterday, I had my first session of physical therapy. Success! In one five minute exercise of resistance and deep tissue massage, I recovered 10% of lost range of motion in my arm. It was exhausting, but very encouraging- it means I only have 10% to go! My stiff broken wing is on its way to healing and with a little patience, it will get there.

One does get a little blue with injury or sickness. As minor an injury as it may be, being limited can get ya down in the dumps at times no matter how positive you keep your outlook. The good news is that returning to yoga can come before climbing, and with the okay from my doctor, I can return to one of my other "physical therapies" and get back into my regular routine. Just a couple more weeks if all goes well!

As I drove home, I got a text from long-time friend Amber, asking if I was around. I wrote back, half-thinking she had sent it to my by accident, since she lives an hour away and was unlikely to have business at the coast. I turned onto my road, just as she was turning around to find me in town. Surprise!

It had been close to 5 or 6 months since I'd last seen her, but we picked up like it had only been days. We sorted through months of relationship, professional and emotional clutter. We swapped books and laughed. We went to a dive bar and drank beers out of cans while discussing exercise routines and quotes from Portlandia. We filled up on friendship.

Amber is the no-nonsense best friend who calls it like she sees it and respects people enough to give them all honesty, all the time. She will let you know when you have something stuck in your teeth or when you need to be told something you don't want to hear. She gives the best hugs that only a big sister knows how to give. Everyone deserves an Amber in their life.

I'm so lucky I've already got one.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day!

I was this close to feeling the sting of singleness this Valentine's Day until my roommate, Sugar, knocked some sense into me with a reminder of how the love in your life is not dictated by your relationship status.

So instead of getting lonely, we watched Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead (how did I survive childhood without ever seeing that movie?) and made valentines. At last, I found a use for the intricate paper cuts I brought home from China!

Dad, can you guess which one is yours? 

As if Sugar wasn't already one of the most talented and driven ladies I've had the privilege to know, she's also a tremendous artist. This was her valentine to her parents, which moved me to tears. Yep, I'm a gal with a lot of feelings. (Of course, Sugar humbly declares she's had little experience with portraits.) 

Wishing you lots of love today and every day.

Monday, February 13, 2012

31st Year

A lovely birthday surprise to brighten my room, and test my plant-guardian challenges!

The message is clear. I need to wear more red this year.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

I Wanna Dance With Somebody

Yesterday, a good friend told me the sad news that Whitney Houston died in her hotel. My heart broke. I immediately burst into tears and am still fighting them. I'm devastated that such an incredible woman's life had to end so abruptly and tragically. She meant a lot to me as a musician from when I was a little girl- my first purchased CD was her debut album, my first slow dance was to her version of "I Will Always Love You." I don't remember the guy, but I definitely remember swaying to the song.

I never tune in to the Grammy's, but tonight I have to pay tribute to the artist who continues to inspire me. I've had a Lessons from Whitney post brewing in my head for weeks that I plan to publish soon.

In the meantime, one of my all-time favorite songs, from one of my all-time favorite people ever:

Friday, February 10, 2012

How Punky Brewster Changed My Life

It is not uncommon for me to wake up with a random song in my head, and this morning was no exception. As I let the chickens out and sipped my brewed coffee, a flute tinkled in the background of my brain, an accent to the ongoing soundtrack of my life. What was that ditty from? Oh yes, the interlude music to Punky Brewster, my all-time favorite show as a child. Nothing like an odd start to the day.

A few years ago, I Netflixed a few seasons of the show on a whim. I often revert back to childhood themes and corny movies during times of strife. I also thought it would be wildly entertaining for me and my roommate, who happened to be an old friend from camp whom I knew would appreciate the sentiment.

The memories came flooding back- missing my cat having kittens because I couldn't bear to miss a single episode (those were the days before Tevo), standing in front of my closet each day thinking WWPW (what would Punky wear), and of course, the harsh life lessons ingrained in the show. Lessons such as, don't joke around in CPR class because you never know when your friend might get trapped in a refrigerator and need to be resussitated, and you don't want to be the guy who can't do it because you weren't paying attention. Or the importance of literacy in case your little brother drinks poison and you need to read the label. You don't have to do drugs to be popular. And of course, the subliminal messages of our need to buck the system and rage against the flaws of beaurocracy.

The themes were heavy. Maybe a little too heavy for innocent girls everywhere who had never had to dig through trash for dinner or break into a deserted apartment for shelter. When I watched with my roommate, she realized watching Punky Brewster was the reason she suffered so much separation anxiety when her parents went out. If Punky could be abandoned in a grocery store parking lot, how could any of us be safe? In a chaotic, right-wing time of Reaganomics and a national obsession with money and status, the message was clear: if an orphan and her puppy could make it in the school of hard knocks, then so could you.

But there were simpler lessons, as well. It's okay to be weird. Be yourself, and love who you are. Be a devoted friend.

Punky's indefatigable spirit and iron clad moral constitution set in motion for me a lifelong role model of the kind of person I wanted to be. She was a gal who could see the bright side of things and keep it all in perspective. The adoption agency won't approve of an old man becoming her foster parent? Just another administrative hoop to jump through. Bad things will always happen to good people, and all you can do is keep being good and hope for the best. Do things for others and be the best you can each day, and all will turn out right.

A nice reminder from the adorable 80s theme song on my internal loop this morning.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A Nice Little Jaunt

I got another local spot under my belt this weekend when I took a walk around the grounds at Westminster Woods right next to Bohemian Grove. (Technically, it's not open to the public, but I got some connections and seized the opportunity.)

What immediately grabbed me about this place (aside from devastating beauty in the quiet mystery of redwoods), was the lack of conflict between modern science and its Christian belief system. On a walk through the grounds, each step represents a million years. Signs are posted showing the evolutionary development of the planet for that particular time, as well as information about the whys and hows of our own unique ecosystem here in west county. Take note, science and spirituality can mix!

Also a climbing wall with lots of potential. Love that kids get to be exposed to this!

And my personal favorite of the ground features was the outdoor kitchen and herb garden. Not that I'm biased.

A homemade "cob" oven. I wonder why they call it that?

Oh, now I get it. See the cobs jutting out from under the mud and clay?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

How To: Slicing Citrus Supremes

With this cold getting me down, I've been trying to hit the citrus and vitamin C with full force. Then I found my knife bag after 8 months of neglect and decided to see where my knife skills were at. But mostly I wanted vitamin C.

I recommend a mix of citrus for a sassier salad. I have grapefruit, naval oranges, and blood oranges. This is the best time for all of them (but sadly, I hear they're not doing so hot in California).

First, slice off the top and bottom where the stems are so you have a flat bottom to rest the fruit on. It gets slippery, so always cut away from yourself. Then start from the top and shave off the rind- it will mean cutting in a curve with a gentle sawing motion. It is best to do this in eighths or even tenths. If you are losing too much meat, then shave a smaller portion. See picture below for a better idea.

Holding the fruit in your hand, VERY carefully slice between either side of the membrane, removing only the juiciest flesh. Go slowly and carefully. And make sure your knife is very sharp. You can hold the fruit in a towel if you're nervous it will slip. (Sorry, I had to photograph this one-handed.)

The cut-out membranes will start to make a little accordion, just keep going. This is crucial French pastry technique. Your friends will think you're fancy!

When you are all finished slicing all the fruit, don't forget to squeeze all the juice out of the little accordion left over. It's the best part, and you will not need to add even a granule of sugar to the mix.

Enjoy, and laugh in the face of colds and flus.

Monday, February 6, 2012

A Hike Off Bohemian Highway

This weekend, I took my first hike in over a month, and quite possibly my first real exercise since the fall. And all out of the sling! (It's the little things.)

I packed some sandwiches and trail mix and hit the highway. Bohemian Highway. There's a large plot of land being donated to the Sonoma Land Trust and a little bird told me there was a waterfall.

There was.
Here are some things I love: water, rocks, ferns, moss, the smell of churned earth and clean mud ...

... and gnarly, twisted fairytale roots clinging for survival.

Here is me trying to get a shot from the top of the waterfall, but not daring to go any further.

My friend helped me out.

Then we raced sticks in the creek. Mine won half the time and the score will eventually need to be settled.

My dream house:

Yup, it's kind of ugly here.


I changed my mind and decided I want to live here instead: