Monday, December 30, 2013

New Year's Intentions

First, a hilarious list of realistic new year's resolutions.

Now, onto a recap of 2013's resolutions:

1. Increase my annual income by $8,000. This did not happen. But I had an okay year with finances without feeling like I had to sell my soul or burn myself out. Still, I know I need to continue working on income-related goals this year.

2. Learn to sew. Not even remotely! But I did a lot of knitting and re-opened my Etsy shop. So there. 

3. Make better use of mornings. Yes! I aced this one beautifully and got into a nice yoga routine. Doing yoga, by the way, was a resolution of the past that I never accomplished, so I should get an extra point for that.

4. Take more photos. Yes! 

I've been thinking about my goals for 2014, and I've been kind of stuck. On the one hand, big changes are coming; on the other hand, I'm not totally sure what they will be and how they will affect my priorities.

Then, just in time for this post, I came across an article about focusing on process, not goals (via Austin Kleon, whose advice is to do something small, every day). It's nothing new exactly, but I needed the confirmation. Comparing myself against where I should be means focusing on what I haven't accomplished; I'd rather look at what I have accomplished and make the most of each day. For that purpose, I'd like to develop some better habits and processes in 2014 regardless of where the current takes me. Here are some of my intentions:

1. Do more stuff with my hands. Writing (on paper!), cooking more, knitting more, etc.

2. Reading more. I'd really like to get into a habit of reading before bed, but however I can fit it in is fine with me.

3. Professional development. I'd like to take some courses and add specific skills to my repertoire.

4. Taking better physical care of myself, including but not limited to: eating better, lifting weights, more yoga, flossing, getting an eye exam (and probably glasses), and visiting the dentist. I also want to take better care of my physical space too. A messy place is a real drag in more ways than one.

How has 2013 treated you? What are your intentions for 2014?

Saturday, December 28, 2013

8 Good Things

I hope you all had a nice holiday! Our weather has been oddly warm and summery, so it's difficult to believe that it's almost time for the new year. Here's what I've been up to lately:

1. Posing like a caution sign by the coast. Oh, and I guess the sunset was nice too. And, while out on that same walk, we saw a hawk on a sign post that was so close you could almost reach out and touch him.

2. A new haircut.

5. A friend and her baby getting a fresh start and the support they need. I wish them the best. Also, she gave me tons of food and a heart-shaped cake pan as she was packing up her things :-)

6. My UFO: Unidentified Finished Object. It's a cowl/snood thing, and the way the pattern turned out reminds me of a UFO from one of the stories on Unsolved Mysteries*. I kind of love it and can't decide if I should keep it for myself or sell it in my Etsy shop. The yarn was re-gifted to me, so it's pretty much great all around.

7. Spending Christmas with my in-laws' in-laws. My sister-in-law's parents cooked an Italian-style Christmas dinner for us. It was delicious.

8. Some general business: getting the dinner table free of mail and junk, dealing with backing up files, making a Goodwill pile. It feels so good to have the time and energy to deal with this stuff.

*To satisfy my curiosity, I googled the image/episode I was thinking of, and it turns out that the UFO story came from Gulf Breeze, FL, which was the neighboring town of Pensacola, FL, where I used to live. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

8 Good Things

1. Finishing the semester. I made it out alive. Phew. I had a really fun semester, but I'm so ready for a break.

2. Star Trek: Into Darkness. I saw it in the theater (of course), but I had forgotten a lot of it. I got it cheap on Black Friday, and and AND I convinced the husband to watch it. He liked it. He has no idea what I'm going to subject him to now.

3. "Eat, Papa, Eat."

4. The Big Sur wildfire being 74% contained as of this evening along with some cooler temperatures today and a chance of rain tonight. Things were pretty nasty yesterday, and a lot of people are losing their homes out there.

5. Dancing! If you had told me 5 years ago that I would be a fan of dancing, in partners, to Latin music one day, I would not have believed it for a second.

6. Where Good Ideas Come From by Steven Johnson. I'm only a few pages into it, but I love it already.

7. A really great meetup with my knitting group. We had a bunch of new faces, and our usual spot was open again after being inexplicably closed. Our group is still going after nearly two years!

8. Watching grown people get really, really excited over raffles, putting games, and tossing sandbags at a holiday party. Adults need play too! 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Story Time: The Professor and the Asshole

The Nutty Professor, by Skley, Flickr

When I was an undergrad, I had a professor who was kind of a jerk--or he pretended to be a jerk anyway. I think he wanted the reputation so that students would work hard and not give him lame excuses, but once you got to know him, he was a good guy. 

At the end of the semester, when it came time for students to evaluate him, he would explain the directions and leave the room as required. We'd work on the surveys in silence for about ten seconds when our professor would stick his head back in and say, "By the way, asshole is one word, not two." 

He was also known for such gems as, "I never understood war. You have to kill someone you don't even know. If I'm going to kill someone, it's going to be someone I know." He once uttered this while co-teaching with his wife. By the look on her face, she had not heard him say this before. 

And his best advice: "When someone gives me a responsibility, I mess it up. That way, they don't ask me to do anything else."

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Giveaway Winner & Some To-Dos

Cariann, you are the winner of the Cyber Monday Cowl giveaway! Woo hoo! Thanks, Pat, Meagan, and Ms. Congo for playing along. By the way, I selected the winner randomly, not based on the quality of your answers. You all gave very high-quality answers :)


Onto other news: These past couple months have been a big, hairy mess. I keep saying, "I just need to get through this week/this day/this month/this semester." And when I get to that point, there's just another big, hairy mess waiting for me. I hope this doesn't sound tragic; I'm in good spirits, really. But I want to get caught up.

I am so looking forward to the upcoming break--first, from teaching, and then from ALL THE JOBS. Yes, you heard me. I'm going to have, like, two whole weeks without working a paid job. For those two weeks, I am planning to relax, and for the entire break that I have off from my main job, I am going to relax as much as possible; however, I still have some tasks to work on to help me set the tone for the new year. 

I promise, these are things I want to do, and if at any point it feels too much like work, I'll stop. 

  • De-cluttering, organizing, and cleaning. Talk about putting something on the back burner (although oddly enough, my burners are actually pretty clean at present). I have things to donate/sell, things that just need to find a place in the apartment, and things that are dirty as all get out. Time to work on all that.
  • Reading. I miss reading. I have books I want to read. I have the time to read said books. Now I just need to put those things together. 
  • Bullet Journaling/Non-Planner Datebook/Workbooking stuff. I want to write on paper. 
  • Running. Oh, it's time. 
  • Making business cards. I've gotten tons of compliments lately on knitted stuff I've worn, and the best I can do is jot down the name of my Etsy shop. I'd like to be able to whip out a business card.

Maybe there are other things, but making the list is starting to feel like work, so I'm going to stop. 

What's on your to-do list lately? 

Sunday, December 8, 2013

8 Good Things

1. Cut-out paper snowflakes. 

2. The job market in the Denver area. We're seriously considering moving there next year, and there seems to be quite a few jobs that I am both qualified for and interested in. Imagine that! 

3. Austin Kleon's weekly newsletter. 

4. Hour of Code. I'm thinking of participating, and it's come right at the time I was thinking I should finally learn how to design some simple sites (although Wordpress makes it very very easy). 

5. Striped socks. I used to have a thing for argyle, but now I've moved on to stripes. Also, we have not one, but two sock shops in the area that sell surprisingly high quality socks.  

6. The husband surprising me with a veggie burrito after I got off work. That was cool. 

7. Hot tea. I'm drinking copious amounts since I came down with a cold a couple days ago. It's soothing.

8. Meeting a really interesting Israeli woman at a birthday party for a friend. She was a like a character from a movie, this wise, well-traveled woman, regaling us with her stories of hearing Mariachi music for the first time and being mistaken for a prostitute. She said that something's wrong with America--we're so wealthy yet we don't really have anything. 

Don't forget to leave a comment on my giveaway post below! I'll be drawing on Tuesday!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Cyber Monday Giveaway!

Ignore the double chin please.

Is it snowing indoors or just a dirty mirror? Also, cat litter.
To commemorate my Etsy store reopening, I'm giving away a one of a kind hand-knit cowl. 

Because this is the story of my life, I of course waited until the last minute to take these photos, and it's quickly getting dark outside--so much for awesome photos. The primary color is a dark plum with several different colors and textures of yarn. It's a combination of wool, acrylic, and cotton yarns. It kind of goes with anything, but looks best with pinks, purples, and grays. 

Want it? Just leave a comment, telling me what you're doing this year to make the holidays merry and bright. That's all. I'll choose a winner next week! 

My etsy shop is just a little blip on the map, but I hope this holiday season, you'll support small businesses and local artisans and encourage your friends and family to do the same. 

Wishing you well!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

8 Good Things

Thanksgiving happened to fall on my Good Things day :)

1. Celebrating our 1-month anniversary yesterday (we went to Zumba and then ate Vietnamese food--the story of our relationship).

2. Really positive feedback from students this semester. The thing is, when they tell me what a great influence I've been on their lives, I don't pat myself on the back. I do what I can to be a good teacher, but it's the students who ultimately have to decide if they want to make the effort and take advantage of the opportunities I present to them. For those that do, I'm just happy to be a part of this important time in their lives.

3. Getting my Etsy shop up and going. I just have a few items right now, but I'm working away at more. I wanted to get the store open in time for Christmas shoppers, but I have a giveaway and a "grand opening" planned for Cyber Monday.

4. Also knitting-related: I found a fellow knitter one evening when I went to a cafe to grade papers. I told her about my group, and she joined and RSVPed to the next meetup right away. Victory!

5. Putting Christmas lights up. Shut up, okay. I don't have a lot of time these days, so I took advantage of a day off last week to put up some lights. And Christmas lights are better than Prozac. See also: Christmas music!

6. No-fuss Thanksgiving. I made a soup with turkey and rice.

7. My sister getting a job she wanted and moving back to our home state of Washington. I'm really happy for her.

8. Living in a small town. I love running into people I know all the time. I used to hate it, but now it's weird if I don't see someone familiar now. 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

DIY Death

NPR posted this story about some new (well, old really) trends in death rituals, such as DIY funerals and alternative burial practices.

Although I'm not really keen on thinking about my own mortality, I don't have a problem talking about the logistics of what to do with me when I'm gone. So, let me lay it out for all the interwebs to see:

1. If my body can be donated for research purposes or if my organs can be given to someone else, by all means do that first. Do not keep me on life support indefinitely hoping for a miracle when you can help me be someone else's miracle.

2. I want to be cremated or buried in such a way that my body will decompose naturally into the soil. My preference is for cremation, but hopefully my death won't be for quite some time, and I might be in circumstances in which the people around me will feel the need for a burial. I understand. Just don't clog up the ecosystem because of my dead body. 

3. Any funeral that takes place on my behalf should be a celebration of my life. Please, no black clothes and somber music. Something like this maybe?

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

8 Good Things

Since taking my hiatus, I'm not quite back in the blogging rhythm, as evidenced by my late posting and lack of photos! Still, there are many good things in my life.

1. A really great car coat from Eddie Bauer. It was a splurge, but I'm tired of bunchy, low-quality coats, and this fits the bill. It's been getting pretty chilly at night here lately, and with night being so long, I need a good coat.

2. A nice meetup with my knitting group. We've had a hard time finding good locations to meet lately, so I suggested the community room at my apartment complex, and it turned out to be cozy and great for our needs. 

3. This video of Madison Kimrey, a 12-year-old with more gumption than you can shake a stick at. 

4. Running again ... sort of. I went for a run recently. It wasn't too terrible. My feet are still in bad shape, but they're coming around. 

5. Continuing to make progress in yoga. I just love moments when I realize that a pose used to be harder. I also feel much stronger in everything I do. I've been taking this class for a little less than a year. The progress has been slow but worth it. 

6. Nearing the end of the semester. Just four more weeks to go. This semester has been fun but exhausting. I'm ready for a break. 

7. Travel plans for January! Speaking of a break, the husband and I are planning to visit Colorado this January. I haven't been out of California in a long time, and for me that's pretty weird. Plus, can you say honeymoon? It'll be so nice to get a way for a while.

8. A new, well-fitting sports bra. TMI and another splurge, I know, but it makes such a big difference! 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

On Hipsterism

How do you define hipster

In 2006, I bought myself a Macbook. It was the first computer I owned that was my very own. Does that surprise you? It surprised me when I thought about it recently. Yes, I used computers before then, but I was happy to share whatever computer was available. When I graduated and had plans to become a teacher, I figured I should have easier access to a computer. I also had the money to buy a good quality product. That was it.

It was around that time I started seeing that I was heading in a different direction than a lot of my contemporaries. It wasn't intentional. I just preferred knitting to playing video games and listening to music via ear buds. I thought it was fun to plant vegetables because I could be outside getting dirty. I didn't know that what I was doing was actually a trend and that there were people calling it "voluntary simplicity" until later.

Which is why when I saw this video some time ago, I was mildly alarmed when I saw a little bit of myself in it.

Don't get me wrong; I love this video. But it got me thinking that maybe those young homesteaders, people obsessed with bicycles, and foodies were all just hipsters trying to be cool and different without genuine appreciation for the things they were doing.

The genuine appreciation is key, isn't it? My dad has a mustache, but he's not a hipster. First, his is not the mustache of a gold miner. Second, he comes from a generation in which mustaches were normal. His mustache isn't ironic. 

I don't knit out of irony either. I don't make things from scratch to be that funny and/or weird person. I don't even do it for bragging rights (usually). I just think it's fun, and it's far more emotionally and financially rewarding than buying everything pre-made all the time.

I kind of doubt anybody thinks I'm a hipster, but I'm concerned that the word hipster has come to mean pretty much anything anyone between ages 16 and 40 does. I look around at the people I like a lot, and I think someone would probably call them hipster because the people I like a lot tend to be passionate about things that don't exactly fit into mainstream pop culture.

While searching for the video above, I came across this excellent explanation of the difference between a nerd and a hipster, which comes down to earned appreciation rather than cultural appropriation. Basically, my friends and I are nerds more than hipsters. Maybe.

He also illustrates that cultural appropriation is a sticky subject, and there's no easy way to determine whether someone is doing something because they understand and embody the philosophy behind it or if they just think it's neat. And, by the way, the people who understand and embody the philosophy behind something might also be doing it because they think it's neat. I might not knit things just to be noticed, but I'm also not doing it for my own survival or to carry on a family tradition. 

The point I've come to is: who cares? Really. There is always a subculture that everyone else hates. Every generation says, "Kids today don't know anything about anything." In 50 years, will we be able to look back and say definitively what a hipster was during this era? Probably not. We won't even care. They'll be absorbed into the amalgam of the 2010s. In fact, given the word's flexible and slippery definition, it's already happening. Hipsters aren't the Harlem Renaissance; there isn't a distinct political or artistic legacy they're leaving behind. 

And if I'm wrong about that, if there is a hipster legacy, then that's even more reason to accept it. I say there are better ways to spend your energy than trying to determine whether or not someone is genuine about their interests and facial hair. If someone loves irony, let them be ironic. Enjoy the things you enjoy and let everyone do the same.

Friday, November 8, 2013

8 Good Things

1. Fall! Monterey's average high in its warmest month is 70, while its average high in the coolest month is 58. Despite this whopping 12-degree difference, we do kind of have seasons. Sometimes they come at the wrong times, but seasons they are, and fall has been crisp and unpredictable, and I'm digging the shorter days.

2. One of the "seasoned" knitters in my knitting group loving a hat I'm working on that I designed myself. She asked me for the pattern, and that's when she found out I was making it up in my head as I went. I take this as a big compliment.

3. A really cute apron given to me by one of my ESL students. She had to go back to Korea, so it was a wedding gift/goodbye present. I'm actually really moved by her gesture. She was a terrific student, so I'm going to miss her, and the apron just happens to be perfect for my taste. I'm still emotional after all the love and good will surrounding my wedding, and the apron was, shall we say, icing on the cake.

4. Um, did someone say cake? Does anyone actually save their cake top and eat it a year later? I can't even keep peas tasting fresh in the freezer for that long. Anyway, the good thing is that my husband and I had no qualms about devouring the cake top within a couple days. I love him. And I love cake.

5. Huaraches from Mexico. My sister-in-law sent me a cute pair of brown ones a few weeks ago, and they're great. Since the weather's been cooler, I've been wearing them with fun, striped socks. Newsflash: I've given up trying to be cool.

6. The Killing. It's a mini-series available on Netflix. It seems I like depressing crime dramas (Netflix recommended it for me because I said I liked Top of Lake--also depressing and it made me feel dirty for having watched it). It gave me bad dreams, which I guess means it's good?

7. Sleepytime Lemon Jasmine Tea. Just really tasty tea and bonus points for the Chinese bear on the box. 

8. Jarrito mugs (ceramic mugs that look like little pitchers). A while back I downsized my mugs to little stackable ones, and I'm kind of over that. I want giant mugs! Sometimes, when I go to a certain friend's house, they serve homemade atole in jarritos, and I love it. (By the way, this is also a quick plug for Etsy. Support local artisans this holiday season.)

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Gratitude to Begin the Month

Our first dance looked something like this. 

I'm not even sure where to start. I think I'll start where everyone should start: by being grateful.

Nearly one week ago, I married my sweetheart in front of 90 dear friends and family. There isn't another word to describe what I'm about to say, and I don't use this word often or lightly, but I truly feel blessed. How else can I describe something that makes me happier than I've ever been, something that is more deliberate than luck, but not something I could ever have planned or expected? 

I shared this sentiment with my friend who flew back to Monterey from the east coast for one day to attend my wedding. She reminded me that it was because of who we are, our kindness, and the joy we bring to others that there were all these people not just coming to the wedding but offering to help and expressing such heartfelt congratulations. In other words, we've earned this attention, although I can't see that for myself. 

I'm grateful I got to spend time with my family and friends, to experience the whirlwind that is my 6-year-old nephew, to meet in-laws, to do Zumba with everybody, to partake in Mexican wedding traditions, and to eat lots of cake. 

I'm also grateful for all the distant friends and family who've shown their support. Most of my in-laws, who've only seen me on Skype and who don't speak much English have long ago accepted me into the family. My students have all expressed their congratulations as well as curiosity. And I can't even begin to count how many Facebook likes and comments I've gotten in the past couple weeks! 

Lastly, of course, I'm grateful that I've found someone so kind-hearted, sincere, and understanding. We had the perfect day to kick off our life together. 

October was a beautiful month. 

Sunday, September 29, 2013

A Short Break

Hey, folks. I'm going to take a little hiatus from the blog for a while. I just can't keep up with consistent, quality posting while I'm planning a wedding, trying to re-launch my Etsy store (and pursue other profitable side jobs), talking about moving, and working my regular jobs. I need a little time off. 

I hope you're all well, and I'll be back soon! 

Thanks for reading,

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

8 Good Things

1. Not taking crap from students (yet). It'll happen, I'm sure, but for now, my reserves of patience are dry.

2. This story about my future husband: When he was taking a class, he was assigned to write an essay about Castroville, a nearby town. Since he didn't know anything about the place, he visited the town and wrote about his experiences there. No Google. No library. He just went and discovered it for himself. That's the kind of man he is.

3. Funny, vivid dreams lately. In one dream, my fiance texted me "LIMES."

4. Pumpkin bread! Why can't every season be pumpkin season?

5. Getting RSVPs in the mail (especially my sister-in-law's who made a point to use an Oxford comma in her response).

6. Some plans to do something with my Etsy shop and try to make some money. Stay tuned!

7. Speaking of, still making progress with my sister's bag. The main bag part is done. I just need to finish the pockets and sew it all together before felting it. I'm really over stockinette stitch! But my brother half-jokingly requested that I knit him some long underwear. I found this pretty hysterical pattern/blog post, and I might actually try knitting it. It's going to take a crapload of yarn.

8. Good food and a hot shower after a long, sweaty day. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Potato Leek Soup with Mushrooms

I made a variation of a potato leek soup this week that turned out really well. It was really easy. It's not much to look at--just kind of a brownish stew actually--but I thought the flavor was excellent. And I only used food that was already in-house, which is a big plus.

Olive oil 
2 garlic cloves (sliced or minced)
2 leeks (just the tube part at the bottom), sliced
4 mushrooms (I used a mix of white and brown), sliced
chicken or vegetable broth
3-4 red potatoes 

  • Saute the garlic, leeks, and mushrooms together in olive oil over medium heat until everything is tender and smells delicious. Add a little salt and pepper if you'd like at this point.
  • Add in as much broth as you want--I used about equal parts water and chicken broth. 
  • While the broth is heating to boil, cut up your potatoes into bite-sized pieces. Add the potatoes and cook until the potatoes break easily. 
  • You can blend some of the soup to make it creamier or leave it as is. 
  • I left my soup without any additional herbs or spices, but it would be good with parsley, thyme, sage, red pepper flakes, or jalapeño. The leeks and mushrooms will give it quite a bit of flavor by themselves.
  • Enjoy! 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

8 Good Things

So, this happened. 

1. Popcorn. I love me some popcorn. There's nothing really special to say about it other than that.

2. Babies everywhere! I visited the hospital three times in a 9-day period for two separate baby girls. I'm so glad the girls and their families are healthy and happy. And I've officially held a newborn.

3. Local grocers. I have a CSA and I visit farmers markets, and this has drastically reduced the time I spend in regular grocery stores, to the point that I really dislike going to grocery stores now. I've taken to going to one of the local grocers in the area. It's surprising how much they pack into such a small store. They have a good section of bulk dry goods (for my popcorn addiction), and their avocados are delicious (Trader Joe's' avocados are inexplicably terrible).

4. Finishing David Sedaris' Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls. I love him so much. He's doing a lecture in San Luis Obispo in November, and I'm considering going. Reading on my Sony Reader is an interesting experience in that, unless I pay close attention to the page count at the bottom, I end up surprised that the book is over. It's a nice feeling for someone who often finds reading tedious and insurmountable, but it's disappointing when I want more!

5. Summer in Monterey! Really rethinking the whole moving thing right about now. Then again, nice weather always makes me feel optimistic and adventurous, so I'm ready for whatever.

6. Lots of Zumba! It's so nice to see old friends and just be back in the swing of things. My feet are slowly recovering from plantar fasciitis, enough to feel I can move again.

7. DIY wedding invitations. I'm happy with how they turned out, and it was pretty easy.

8. The Bullet Journal. I haven't started using this technique yet, but I like the idea of it. I've gotten away from my lists lately, and this would be a good way to get back on track.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

8 Good Things

Oh em gee. I blew right past this post yesterday! It's the first week of classes at my college, and I'm trying to plan a wedding. You get it, I'm sure. That's also the reason for no photos (again). 

1. A really great ESL class this semester. I can feel it! It's just a much better vibe than the section I taught in the spring, which was kind of a disaster. 

2. Being able to take Zumba from my favorite instructor again, even if it's only once or twice a week. My schedule is not quite so wonky this semester.

3. Walking to work. It's nice to get my thoughts together. I usually get to campus early anyway, but thinking while moving is a good experience. The walk home is a different story unfortunately. 

4. Naps. Need I say more?

5. Running into former students. I love it when I walk across campus and get to say hello to several people along the way. It makes me feel important :) Although I'm a big proponent of year-round schooling, it makes me a little sad to think that there would be no more back-to-school feelings in the fall like this.

6. Compliments! Multiple people have told me I look thinner (again, I don't think it's weight but my posture, but I'm happy either way), and everyone likes my shoes these days. 

7. A baby! Not mine. She's my niece (or technically, my fiance's niece), and she was born last week. I'm not sure I've ever seen a baby just 12 hours old before. She has tons of hair. 

8. Getting a new credit card with a lower interest rate. Although I'm trying not to rely on the credit card at all, I realized that I've been paying a really high interest rate. That's just silly when there are so many other options available. I finally got that worked out. I think there's a post in my future regarding credit cards...

What's new with you guys?

Sunday, August 18, 2013

8 Good Things

I'm sick. I've been sick for nearly a week now. I took Airborne from day one, but a couple days ago, I got hit hard. So, I'm not really thinking too straight and haven't been particularly grateful the last several days. But here we go anyway--I mean, that's the point of having a regular posting schedule, right? I have to break through the hard times with something good. 

1. Coworkers filling in for me at the store so I can get over this bug.

2. Making some progress on a felted bag for my sister (sick day = lots of time to knit).  I'm excited about the colors. If it felts well (you never really know how it'll turn out until it does), I think I'll like it better than my own bag!

3. This Non-Planner Datebook. For now, I'm just linking to it because I like it, but I haven't bought it yet. It looks like something I'd like. Or something I'd buy and not use and give as a gift :) In general, I love little notebooks and notepads for list-making and journaling.

4. Similarly, this annual workbook. Since it's August, it seems a bit late to start it, but I'm considering modifying it to be a teacher/career workbook since I live my life in semesters anyway.

5. I continue liking this recipe for artisan bread. I made another batch recently to take to a friend's dinner party. You can experiment with different types of flour easily enough, and I like having more crust with several small loaves.

6. This basket made from old t-shirts. I'm in progress with something resembling this. Right now, I have one long braid. Photos to come once I assemble it!

7. My pair of Merrell Crush Gloves. I went a little shoe happy a few weeks ago to help deal with my ongoing plantar fasciitis, but this pair is my favorite. My feet feel great in them, and everyone loves the bright yellow color. I bought mine on clearance from REI, but the new Crush Glove colors are even better! 

8. Discovering I'm not the only one who feels compelled to sit on the floor. I'm exploring some options for helping me work and create stuff on the floor without killing my back. More on this later, but I'm actually really excited about giving into this not-so-odd habit of mine. 

What are you guys up to lately? What's good? 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

8 Good Things

1. Knitting lots! I finished up two cowls. One is a linen stitch (stash-busting) cowl and the other was a simple pattern made with yarn I got from a yarn swap with my knitting group a couple weeks ago. I'm also just about finished with a chunky scarf that's also made with yarn I got for free from friends and from the swap. Free yarn is awesome! Now it's time to get started on my sister's felted bag with all that green yarn. 

2. My friends making it safely to Maryland a few days ago. I'm happy their cross-country road trip went smoothly. Now I'm working on a housewarming gift for them. 

3. Ginger tea drink. I add hot water to some ground ginger, cinnamon, and cloves and a slice of lemon and honey for a hot drink that soothes and heals. It's officially "summer" in Monterey, which means it's chilly except between the hours of 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. when the sun decides to come out for a bit. 

4. Making friends with the couple I buy peaches and nectarines from at the farmers market. They're pleasant but quiet, unlike the pushy people at a competing stand, and I think their produce lasts longer, so I always go to them. I guess they've noticed. On Sunday, the woman eagerly greeted me and asked if I spoke Spanish. We proceeded to have an awkward, choppy conversation about my age and marital status, my side job at the nut store, and the history of Mexico. 

5. This awesome knotted neck thing. I haven't made it, but it's on my list!

6. Good samaritans. While carting a bunch of boxes of nuts from the stockroom to the store today, I dumped a couple boxes into the street smack dab in the middle of a busy intersection. Three people came to help me and save me from even greater embarrassment. 

7. Homemade pita chips. The photo above is before they baked (I hope that's obvious). They didn't last long after that.

8. My new jeans. I broke down and bought my first skinny jeans. People say I look cute in them. So be it. I haven't bought much clothing for myself in the past several months, so this was a little treat. 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Keeping Busy v. Making Stuff

Tomorrow, I'll post some photos of recent projects that I'm happy with (or happy to be done with anyway), but I thought I'd take a second to talk about, well, making stuff. 

I'm trying to make a shift in my life from constantly keeping busy--or feeling like I should--to using my time to create something of value.

On the surface, those two things are very similar. They're about using time productively, but keeping busy is often a way to avoid more challenging and rewarding tasks. Just look at how tidy your work space or home becomes when you have something to do that you want to avoid. 

I used to think cleaning my home, buying groceries, clothes shopping, and sprucing up the house with new stuff was a good way to spend my time. Even now, I tend to feel good only when I can list several things that I accomplished each day. And certainly, items need to be checked off lists, but in hindsight, it often seems like I'm running in circles.  

Instead, I'm trying to be a kid again. I want to use my time to make things, learn, and invent. I remind myself that it doesn't have to be the world's greatest ... whatever. It just needs to feel good to do it. In the end, while I might not have a long list of accomplishments for the day (being creative is time intensive), I do have something to show for my time. The bonus is that I get to put my personal touch on things; my life has more me in it, in other words. 

So, what have you made lately? How do you spend your creative energy? 

Sunday, July 28, 2013

8 Good Things

1. Saving money while working less! I chalk it up to not eating out very much. I finally cracked down on that, and even though I'm earning less than I was in the spring, I'm coming out ahead at the end of the month. And I do still eat out sometimes, but there's less reason to eat out between my CSA and delicious summer fruits from the farmers markets.

2. Speaking Spanish. Okay, so I'm pretty bad at it, but I like surprising native Spanish speakers with what I do know, especially since I've picked up a lot of slang.

3. Scoring some great felting yarn from a yarn swap I had with my knitting group. My sister's requested a bag like the felted bag I made here, but I've been putting off buying the yarn. Now I won't need to. 

4. Improved posture. This yoga thing is great, you guys. A friend told me that I was looking different lately (in a good way), and I admit I've been feeling pretty good physically, but I don't think I've trimmed down any. I have, however, noticed that my posture is improving, and I feel that I stand and sit taller. It's a good feeling.

5. A surprisingly good pho/ramen soup I made a couple nights ago. I was inspired by Ashley who recently posted about making vegetarian ramen. Mine wasn't vegetarian because I used chicken broth (I'm almost 100% vegetarian now, but I still have a lot of chicken broth in the house to use up), but everything else was just vegetables and tofu. I added some anise to give it that pho flavor. It was ridiculously easy and good.

6. Twitter. I'm enjoying it far more than Facebook. I tweeted (ugh, I did I just say that?) a message for Austin Kleon, the author of Steal Like an Artist, and he responded! That's exciting. And yes, I'm a dork. I need more followers by the way.

7. Fruity drinks. I've been making smoothies with tangerine juice, nectarines/peaches, strawberries, and a splash of soy milk, and today I tried some infused water (because that's the new thing apparently) with strawberries, cucumber, and basil, which came out great! 

8. The end of the summer semester. I still have grading to do, but the class is finished. It's always a whirlwind experience teaching a 6-week condensed course, but as always it was fun, and I received some nice feedback from students. 

Friday, July 19, 2013

I Am Jan

There's a post I keep wanting to write but never do because it's too personal for this blog and because I'd end up dragging someone else through the mud. Recently a friend shared the article, "When Your Mother Says She's Fat," and there's one part that essentially says all you need to know about my own story. It brings me to tears every time I read it or even think about it.

‘‘Jesus, Jan,’’ I overheard him say to you. ‘‘It’s not that hard. Energy in versus energy out. If you want to lose weight you just have to eat less.’’

That night at dinner I watched you implement Dad’s ‘‘Energy In, Energy Out: Jesus, Jan, Just Eat Less’’ weight-loss cure. You served up chow mein for dinner. Everyone else’s food was on a dinner plate except yours. You served your chow mein on a tiny bread-and-butter plate.

As you sat in front of that pathetic scoop of mince, silent tears streamed down your face. I said nothing. Not even when your shoulders started heaving from your distress. We all ate our dinner in silence. Nobody comforted you. Nobody told you to stop being ridiculous and get a proper plate. Nobody told you that you were already loved and already good enough. Your achievements and your worth—as a teacher of children with special needs and a devoted mother of three of your own—paled into insignificance when compared with the centimeters you couldn’t lose from your waist.

I see myself in Jan, but her story is also not about me. It's about all of us--all the Jans with tiny plates and silent tears as well as those who are complicit in allowing worthy people to be reduced to a number on a scale or a dress size.

It starts with the overreaching idea that Jan must lose weight in order to be attractive or happy and that her value is determined by her size. The belief that she has extra weight is socially constructed and accepted. If Jan's accomplishments, kindness, or career were valued more than her body size, we wouldn't be having this discussion.

Then, it's "You're not only fat but also stupid because you can't figure out how to feed yourself correctly." In other words, fat people are dumb and/or lazy because staying trim is so simple. This belief accuses fat people of not being able to figure this out for themselves and of not being able to execute the necessary actions based on that knowledge.

I mean, it really is simple isn't it? After all, anyone can just subtract the exact number of calories they burn throughout the day from the exact number of calories they take in throughout the day. For that, all someone needs to know is their resting metabolic rate, additional calories burned during structured exercise as well as unstructured exercise like cleaning the house or playing with children, additional calories burned post-exercise, genetic predisposition, all medical conditions or emotional states that affect metabolism, and how all of these factors change daily. Jesus, Jan. It's not that hard. 

But Jan listens to her partner's advice, despite its oversimplification and cruelty. She takes it upon herself to act. She controls what she can; she eats less.

Then comes a breaking point. The silent tears. Even a woman in distress can't make noise, can't disturb others, and certainly can't expect sympathy or concern. Why not? Because this is Jan's problem. She brought it on herself. In this story, there's no room for other possibilities.

And what are those tears about anyway? Jan might have been thinking and feeling lots of things: Why do I have to eat this way? Why can't I just lose this weight? What's wrong with me? This is ridiculous. This isn't fair. I don't know what to do. 

But I can say with certainty that it comes down to this: Loneliness. This is a lonely place to be. She sits with the people she loves most, yet she can't ask them for understanding. At best, they ignore her struggle, and at worst, they participate in it by blaming and insulting her. The people she takes care of don't take care of her. She is alone.

So, here I sit with my own tears. Jan, I'm sorry you had to go through this. You deserved better.

Now, at age 33, after probably 20 years of a tumultuous relationship with my body, I work hard to not be Jan, to not beat myself up. I also try to surround myself with supportive people. I've simplified my life in an effort to get to what's most important, but when it comes to looking at myself in the mirror every day, I have a hard time saying, "This isn't the most important thing in my life." It's true, though. I'm much more than that. We all are.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

8 Good Things

I totally failed at taking photos the past several days. Three jobs will do that to you. Wee! 

1. Root beer float almonds. 
2. A student playing the song from The Fresh Prince of Bel Air today as he walked into class. I rapped along with Will Smith to the delight of all my students.
3. Being able to do a certain modified handstand unassisted the other day. I hated it the last time I tried it a couple months ago, but I forced myself to give it another go. I'm not sure I looked quite like the person in the photo up there, though :)
4. Lotería. 
5. Potato tacos.
6. Salsa dancing with my honey.
7. Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls, David Sedaris' new book.
8. My friend Ruth. She's definitely a good thing who's about to go and do great things in another state far, far away. I'm happysad. My selfishness aside, she's brilliant and charismatic beyond belief. 

Monday, July 8, 2013

8 Good Things

1. Peaches, nectarines, and pluots from the farmers market! I heart summer.

2. A totally unsolicited pun at the store: A woman is perusing the almond flour cookbook, trying to get her husband interested in it. She flips the book open to a photo and says to him, "Look at all the things you can make with almond flour. It's nuts!"

3. Quinoa. I got out of the habit of eating it until recently when I made a couple dishes. It's so versatile. I mix it up with some fruit and maple syrup for breakfast or I mix it with vegetables and treat it like a salad.

4. Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon. It's not really a book--more like a short manual for being creative. So much of what he says is right up my alley. One tidbit: "Make something." As in, get off the couch, away from the screen, and make things with your hands. Hence the t-shirt project in my last post. I've been spending too much of my off-time idle or in front of a computer screen, and this book has reminded me how happy it makes me to create something.

5. Hot baths. I enjoy them anyway, but they also seem to be the only thing that relieves my plantar fasciitis.

6. My summer class. They're rockstars. As I've done with a couple other classes, we have a class blog, which is usually a little bit of a diaster as everyone figures out how to use it. Contrary to popular belief, college students are not all digital natives. Anyway, since the summer class is only 6 weeks long, it's a challenge to get everyone on board quickly, but this class has taken to it pretty well. Just a few bumps and bruises along the way. I even got them to post photos!

7. My future fall class. I've decided to use creativity (or divergent thinking if you want to get all academic) as our course theme, and I'm looking forward to the things we can do as participant observers. I've never planned a class this far in advance. I think I'm going to divide the class into three units: creativity in learning, creativity at work, and living a creative life. Reading Austin Kleon's book is just the beginning!

8. A potential move on the horizon, and I don't just mean to a different apartment. I'm excited! And I'd just like to say that I'm really happy that my fiance and I are able to talk about and plan our future together. For the first time, I feel like I have a true partner.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

T-Shirt to Necklace

I've seen a bunch of tutorials online about repurposing old t-shirts into necklaces and headbands, but when I've tried to do it, I've come up short. Literally. I'm not sure why my neck and head are so much bigger than other people's, but I wanted to find a solution. So, here's a little project I worked on tonight to get a necklace the right length. Also, no sewing!

[Edit Dec. 4, 2013: I've figured out that the length issue is caused by using a shirt that has side seams. With side seams, you can only cut across the shirt from seam to seam. The tutorials I've seen use t-shirts that do not have side seams, so the strips are much longer.]

Warning: Bad lighting ahead. I have a tendency to not only work on the floor but also in the dark. 

Any good craft project begins with a cat. You didn't know that? Kira loved my shirt scraps for about five minutes. Anyway, first things first: I cut off the top part with the sleeves and neckline. Then I cut off the bottom and side hems. I used some of these pieces later when I needed scraps.

From there, I cut from the bottom up, making 1-inch strips. In retrospect, I should have cut across for both color advantages and to get longer strips, but it worked out okay. Pulling the strips makes them curl into tubes and stretch a bit.

Then I tied a knot around three strips and began braiding. I made four of these braids.

When I had my four braids, I retied one of the end knots on each side with an extra long tail. This is used to tie around the back of my neck and give the necklace the longer length. If you try this and your strips are longer, then you might not need the extra tail.

I took some electrical tape and tightly wrapped the four ends together on each side. Then, I covered the tape by wrapping it with some of my leftover scraps (I used the leftover hem) and tucking in the ends. It's quite possible that these wrapped sections will come undone at some point, but I don't care. I just made a necklace from a t-shirt for crying out loud.

 Here's the finished product! And my bra strap!

I really thought I should get an outside shot because that's way more granola and bohemian than yellow lighting in my bathroom, but then I cut off the bottom of the whole subject of this post. I'm such a dork. 

I still had quite a bit of leftovers, so I made a matching bracelet with the same method, minus the longer tails of course. The shorter strips made for really great color combinations, but I always think bracelets look funny on me, so I think I'm going to call this a friendship bracelet and give it to a worthy friend :-)

Friday, June 28, 2013

8 Good Things

1. Birthday breakfast at Katy's Place. What do you mean French toast is not a healthy breakfast? It totally had fruit on it. 

2. The view from my job selling nuts. Not a bad way to spend my summer, right?

3. Happy Herbivore's breakfast quesadilla, which is a misnomer (it's more like a crepe), but as the weird grandpa from Sixteen Candles says, "You don't spell it. You eat it."

4. Finishing up a baby blanket for my future niece. 

5. Um, summer? I think I lost 10 pounds this week in sweat alone. It was pretty uncomfortable all week, but now that I have some days off, I can actually enjoy the warm weather.

6. Pizza and beer. Oh, and getting to have a belated birthday celebration with awesome friends (with pizza and beer).

7. Deciding to give my students my cell number so they can text me with questions. So much better than my school email, and I actually kind of like the more personal nature of using the phone.

8. Having a really great partner in my life. He continues to be my all-time "good thing." 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

On Balance: What It's Not

Balanced by San Diego Shooter, Flickr
Over the past couple years, I've heard people talk about balance in a way that makes me think there is a misconception of this word. They seem to think that balanced people are bland and uncompromising compared to their less-balanced counterparts who are adventurous, passionate, and in the moment. The reasoning goes that if you want to love life and make an impact, you have to be off-kilter.

Let me set the record straight: Balance is not a state of being in which everything is calm, controlled, and in equal proportion.

In recent years, as Eastern influence has become increasingly popular here, the word has popped up everywhere and has been synonymous with mental, emotional, and physical control and evenness. Basically, when we think of balance, we picture meditative yogis in a bamboo hut chanting in lotus. Naturally, people who can't or wouldn't like to be quiet or calm all the time challenge this notion of balance--and they should challenge it because it's boring and unrealistic.

Instead, I offer another way of looking at balance that includes celebrating highs, enduring the lows, and allowing yourself to be pulled in one direction by something you care about deeply.

Let's take surfing. It takes balance to get up and stay up on the board. It does not require an equal distribution of weight but rather an ability to counterbalance. That means a surfer must have a keen sense of self in relation to the environment. Surfers must constantly shift their weight and position depending on the conditions. Of course, surfing wouldn't be much fun if the sea were calm all the time. The waves are the thrill.

People who meditate or seek greater balance aren't necessarily calm or dull. I'd say it's quite the opposite. These are people with full, complex lives who often experience stress, conflict, anxiety, and a lack of focus. They are keenly aware of the ups and downs in life, and they even allow themselves to experience great interest and passion; they just don't want to drown in any one part of their lives.

Seeking balance in life is not about some industrial-age dictum about devoting x hours to work, x hours to leisure, and x hours to sleep each day. It's not about always being evenly distributed.

I don't see myself as being evenly distributed at all! But I do seek balance in my life. Right now, for example, I'm working a lot. In fact, I'm in the middle of a 12-day work week today. But for one, this is a temporary surge in workload. In less than 5 weeks, I'll be working a lot less. Two, my jobs are all part-time, so I have time to rest and renew pretty regularly. I pack a lot into my life, but I'm careful to not overwhelm myself (usually).

Bottom line: life comes in unpredictable waves. Balance is about learning to ride these waves while keeping your head above water.

How do you stay balanced? What do you think about the way we perceive balance in our culture?

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

8 Good Things

I've been slacking in the photography department!

1. Riding my bike to my summer job. I've managed not to hit any slow-moving tourists, although I've come close (seriously). Every time, as I walk away from my locked-up bike, I feel like I should click my car key to lock it. It's a weird feeling.

2. My summer job. It's funny being back in retail, but this shop is vastly different from working at Target or Marshall's. I love our product, for one, and the shop is pretty low maintenance. And I don't feel insulted by the wages.

3. Sparkling water. When I was a kid, my parents would drink flavored sparkling water, and try as I might, I couldn't stand it. Now, on a warm day when I'm feeling extra thirsty, sparkling water is the only thing that'll do.

4. Blended drinks. A while back, I ordered a blended fruit drink at a restaurant that was just orange juice and papaya. It was ridiculously good, so now I make them at home with orange juice and banana. Something about frothy orange juice is delicious. I also recently made a strawberry lemonade by heating some strawberries in a little honey and blending them with fresh squeezed lemon juice and water.

5. The start of the summer semester. I'm excited to get to know everyone, and I love summer classes. Plus, it means the return of my yoga class. The first day back reminded me how far I've come.

6. Rick Guidotti. One evening recently, I saw him on Rock Center, and I was really touched by the work he's doing. Not only is he redefining beauty but he's also helping doctors and med students better understand their patients' conditions from their point of view.

7. Having a rockin' Zumba class tonight. I'm subbing for a woman who's out of the country for a month, and tonight was my first time with this group. Although she and I only get about 3-7 people in our classes usually, tonight I had 12! They were fun too and had nice feedback for me at the end of class. 

8. A great new vegan (you heard me) Mexican restaurant. My friend, who's also a vegetarian, and I were dumbfounded when we saw the menu--so much good stuff to choose from. We've been sad since our two favorite vegetarian-friendly Vietnamese restaurants closed. Now we can rejoice!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Is This Working?

After working on my syllabus for my summer class yesterday, I realized there's a question I ultimately ask myself when I encounter a problem with something I'm doing: Is this working? 

Semester after semester, we teachers complain that students don't pay much attention to our syllabus. So much important information is there! How could they just ignore it? Students never seem to know when things are due, how their grades are calculated, what the policy is on late work, or how absences might affect their grades. 

Well, I ignored my teachers' syllabi in college. Why would I expect my students to react differently? It's not defeatist to assume that students are going to continue ignoring this very important document; it's a reasonable prediction to say that if all conditions are the same, then the outcome will be the same. 

Question: Is the way I'm creating, distributing, and discussing our courses' expectations, policies, and content working? 

Answer: No.

Resolution: If I want students to react differently to their syllabus, then I must significantly alter the conditions. I believe the best solution is to create a more memorable document. I don't know if having a more visually-oriented syllabus will have a drastic effect, but it won't hurt to try. By the way, the real solution might be to do away with the syllabus altogether, but I have to have one.

It's still in progress, but I'm happy to report that repositioning my usual syllabus material made me question a lot of the stuff I usually put in there, and I made a lot of edits. In fact, I'm changing other things about my course as well all because I took some time to ask a simple question.

Is this working? It's a question I've often asked, whether I realized it or not, and sadly, it's a question that sometimes I wait too long to ask. But once I do ask it, the situation usually comes into focus. 

Facebook friend who openly opposes same-sex marriage. 
Is this relationship working? 
Do not reason with this person. Do not insult this person. Unfriend.

Cable TV costs $50+ a month so I can watch three channels I like.
Is this service working for me?
Use low-cost Netflix and HD antenna instead. 

Sometimes the resolutions are difficult to work out. It might take some trial and error, but continuing to act and improve is what's important. You cannot expect different results if you keep the conditions the same. 

Sometimes I feel like a pessimist because I don't believe that other people or systems will change, but the empowering part of this is that I can change. If there's one thing I've learned as an adult, it's that people will change but only when they see the need. If I see a need for change, I start with what I can do about it. 

Have a you ever had a lightbulb moment about something that wasn't working? 

Saturday, June 8, 2013

8 Good Things

1. R.I.P.P.E.D. classes at the gym. If you're into fitness classes and you can find this in your area, check it out. Don't be scared by the name either! My schedule for the past several months hasn't really allowed me to take these classes, but now that the semester is finished, I can start going again.

2. The Happy Herbivore weekly meal plan. I'm not following it exactly, but I like getting a weekly email that basically tells me, "Get your ass to the grocery store and cook your own damned food." I'm just trying it for a short time until I can get into some good habits. Pictured above is the tomato-fruit gazpacho and a bean and avocado mash that's supposed to go on a sandwich, but I decided I liked it better as a dip.

Side note: I'm using the individual plan, which I think complements my CSA share nicely because I can make a salad or a vegetable soup with the CSA vegetables to pair with the single-serving recipes from HH for a 2-person meal.

3. Getting a tour of the Stewart & Jasper operations! Pretty neat.  They took me out to lunch and gave me--what else?--a gift box of almonds to take home. This is how to hire employees, folks. Also, did you know that people in the almond business pronounce it "ammond?" They informed me that it's just like the word "salmon." And the only place where almonds are grown in the U.S. is the area between Chico and Bakersfield. It was an educational day.

4. Getting a break! I'm really in need of some down time, and I'm getting it. I start my nut job (heh) tomorrow, but I'm in the middle of a week and a half vacation from teaching.

5. Finally starting to get over what I think is plantar fasciitis. Lots and lots of massage helps. I'm also using pain relief gel with arnica in it. I'm not sure what caused it--maybe it's been accumulating slowly--but I'm glad it's going away. I want to start running again!

6. A couple knitting projects in progress (photos to come later)

7. Celebrating 2 years with my beau (standing next to what I think is a large boat cleat that totally looks like it has a face).

8. The original Star Trek series. I'd never watched more than a few episodes, and I decided to watch the whole series on Netflix. It's so bad it's good. It's like the poster child for misogyny. If the men aren't treating the women like delicate flowers, they're slapping them around. But I'm surprised by how many actors and story lines in the later series came from the original.