Saturday, January 7, 2012

Cell Snaps - Day 2 - Colors

Sometimes I see an object/scene/person/situation and I just want to take a picture.  Oftentimes, I can't even figure out why I want to take a snap of it and mostly it is something ordinary like leaves on the ground or the shadow of a fence. But one thing I definitely am drawn to are bright colors - and shiny objects - don't make fun :/ 

Por ejemplo: Out in Julian today I saw this (rather creepy) five-winged cardinal windcatcher.  Even though it was a gross mutation of bird anatomy, the vibrant color was so beautiful against the bare branches and clear sky.  Mountain air makes everything seem crisper.  I love the mountains!

Also, the other day I was making a stir-fry seasoning in a mortar and pestle (what do you call that? pounding? crushing? pwning?) out of garlic, cilantro, peppercorns and kosher salt. When I scooped the finished product into a spoon and set it aside on my cutting board I spied another colorful vignette:

(Also, please don't let the texture mislead you, this seasoning is yummilicious! It's pungent and peppery and herby all at once.  I stir-fried it with some shredded left-over roast chicken for a quick and easy week-day dinner.)

Am I alone in this (aside from the magpies)? What everyday objects catch your fancy?

Friday, January 6, 2012

New Year, New Project(s)

Let me just say I am not a good photographer.  Sure, I wish I was, and I see the beautiful photographs that other people take and I seethe (I mean seethe) with jealousy.  But I am just not patient enough to learn about aperture and focal distance and how to work all the whatchamacallit settings and doodads on even my point-and-shoot -- so I guess my below-amateurish skill level is on me.

In addition to being impatient, I'm also very lazy.  Even though I carry my little point-and-shoot with me (in a purse that seems to be a bottomless pit) I rarely use it.  When I take a spontaneous picture, its usually on my cell phone.  There is something about cell-phone camera pictures that I love.  Maybe it's their inherent spontaneity, or the slightly fuzzy "real-life" quality of them.  But I find that those images capture the moment so much better than I am able to do with a "real" camera.

Anyhoodle, I've decided to start a new project based on my love of my lil' cell phone camera!

The rules:

(1) Photos must be taken with my cell phone camera.

Actually, that's the only rule. Sometimes I like to edit the pics with filters from Snapbucket, and the phone itself has a few setting, but they are - for the most part - SOOC.

I'm going to try to do this everyday for a year! (sort of a pseudo New Years resolution)

And since this is the first post in my little project - BONUS PIC:

What do you think? Will this project keep me busy and the cabin-fever blues at bay? I always feel a little funky when I'm between teaching jobs.

What about you? What passions (hover small) do you have? What projects will you begin this year?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Summer, schbummer

I don't like summer.  Where I live, in southern California, this can be a sacrilegious statement.  Aside from a few perks - the 4th of July and the local fair - I detest this season.  This sentiment has little to do with the weather.  Rather, as a wanna-be teacher for the last three years and a student for the 20 years before that, summer - for me - is the season of absence.

When I was a little girl, my grandmother took care of my sister and I while my parents were at work.  My parents were extremely protective; and as a result, we were extremely sheltered.  Summertime meant long days of staying in the house, constantly being reminded that we were not to stray beyond the gate.  Although those long afternoons instilled in me qualities I cherish - a love of books, self-sufficiency, creativity, and an irreplaceable closeness to my sister - they also taught me to yearn for fall.

Fall, the season of crisp breezes and the excitement of school and life beyond the picket fence that bordered our little yard.  Fall meant change, and change meant adventure.  Paradoxically, adventure and change also meant fear. I am a very shy person.  Although, shy is probably an understatement.  I have an intense aversion to meeting new people or for any kind of social interaction with people whom I haven't known for over 10 years.  This kinda puts a crimp in my social life (actually, in my whole life).

I don't like being this way.  Oh, I know that lots of people are "shy" but my shyness was crippling.  I was lucky, however, that one of my favorite activities was reading.  Specifically, reading fantasy novels.  I am of the firm belief that fantasy novels can teach you everything you need to know to be happy (I'll save the psychoanalytical implications of that for another post).  So, I found the answer to my social anxiety in a common trope of fantasy novels:

Fantasy Novel Lesson #24:  You've got to face your demons (literally - don't turn your back) and smack 'em down using your magical knobby stick that sprays glittery rainbow light and turns everything into teddy bears and unicorns!

Or in real world lingo: you've got to face your fears. Easier said than done.  But as I've aged (to the ripe old age of 26), I've come to realize that the more you face your fears, the less scary they become.  My quavering 16 year old self, vomiting her nerves out in the girl's bathroom before a three-minute class presentation could never have imagined that I would want to stand in front of 150 people a day for eight hours and talk.  I could never have imagined that what I've been most afraid of in my life could be the foundation of a career that is rewarding and fun.  

I still get anxious around people I don't know, but little by little I've faced and fought my fear.  I'm glad that people can grow and change, even if the change takes years and comes in tiny increments.  Although it's still a work in progress, improving at this is one of the things I'm proudest of.

What about you? What are you most proud of in your life? Do you think people can change? Or do you feel like it's fighting against nature? Also, what is your favorite season?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Chronic Beginningitis

I have a problem. I've termed it chronic beginningitis. This is where I begin things and then fizzle out once the novelty or my initial drive has worn out.

I'd never make it!
Case in point: this blog.  A few posts and a recipe under my belt and all the sudden, kaput! My engine's run out of steam. But I don't want this to become one of the myriad hobbies that I've started, invested in, and then given up on.  I want to succeed at something for once, damnit!!!

And since I began this thing with the intention of improving myself, I'm writing about the only thing I can at this point in time: I am blogging about my bloggers-block.  How meta!

Because I can't seem to put two thoughts together coherently right now, I'm posting a slideshow of my various weekend activities.  Consider it a preview of what I'll be writing about once I get over the hump.  Here goes:

Vote for what you'd like to read about first!  Maybe it will help me get motivated to write.

How about you? Do you ever want to do something but just can't find the motivation? What are some of your strategies for getting going?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Oh Pickle, My Pickle

Here are my favorite pickles:

If you're thinking "hey! those don't look much like pickles!" you'd be right.  These are nothing like those super-sour, limp pickle slices/wedges you find in hamburgers across the country.  These are REAL pickles!

Actually, these are Asian-style refrigerator pickles.  Which - while sharing the same basic concept as those oh-so-not-crispy Claussen's - are worlds apart in terms of taste and texture.  First off, refrigerator pickles are exactly what they sound like: pickles kept in the fridge.  Unlike cooked and pasteurized monster dill pickles, these darlings have to be kept in the icebox or they will go bad.  The result of this type of pickling is pickles that - instead of boiled and vinegary - taste refreshingly light and slightly sweet.  And, they're super easy to make! 

Here's how:

You need some veggies. I used three pounds (I love pickles!) of a mix of carrots, cucumbers, cauliflower and onions. The carrots were sliced thinly and the other veggies should be diced to about the same size. Any vegetable that holds it's shape will work well, just don't use anything too leafy!

In a large stock pot combine 1 cup white vinegar, 1/2 cup sugar, and 1 tablespoon salt. Simmer over medium heat until dissolved. At this point you can adjust the sugar and salt to taste. Be careful though! This stuff is potent.


In go the veggies! Avalanche!

My Dad and 3 lbs of veggies!
If the pickling liquid seems paltry compared to the amount of veggies in the pot, don't worry!  You have to let the vinegar mixture work its magic.  Stir the mixture over medium heat for 5 minutes.  Then turn off the stove and keep stirring occasionally.  After about 15 minutes you will see the pickling liquid is drawing out the veggie juices.  Yay! that's exactly what we want.

After the mixture is cooled you can transfer it into a container. Mason jars and old pasta jars work great.

Stow it in the fridge overnight to let the flavors do their magical meld (or dig right in if you're like me).  The pickles will keep in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.  

I love these pickles with just about anything: hamburgers, grilled chicken, broiled fish, or just on their own. Make them today; I promise you'll be hooked!

Refrigerator Pickles
3 lbs diced veggies*
1 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon salt

*Note: this amount of pickling liquid will work for anywhere from 1 to 4 pounds of veggies

1. Combine vinegar, sugar and salt in a large pot over medium heat.
2. Simmer until salt and sugar are dissolved.
3. Add veggies.  Stir over medium heat for 5 minutes.
4. Turn off heat. Stir occasionally for an additional 15 minutes.
5. Cool completely and transfer into a jar. Store in fridge for up to 3 weeks.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Episode IV: A New Hope (name that movie!)

When I was younger, I was an unrivaled optimist. Not only did I look for the silver lining, it was always there, clear and shining. Although, perhaps optimist doesn't cover it – I was unabashedly filled with wonder. A swirl of leaves in a phantom breeze or the splendor of a cream-and-gold sunset could send me into paroxysms of joy. And small acts of kindness, like a smile from a stranger, gave me comfort.

I'm not sure when I lost that sense. Maybe it was in my teens, after my first heartbreaks. Maybe when my parents got sick, and I became their primary caregiver. Or perhaps it was only recently, after graduating from college and pursing a teaching career, only to find there are no jobs. I became a cynic. And slowly I stopped feeling that tingle when I saw a beautiful work of art. Nature's vistas failed to move me, and I looked for ulterior motives in the kindest of acts.

Whenever it was, and however it happened, I miss my wondering, optimistic self.

I used to journal religiously. I would write about my corner of the world and its small miracles and surprises. If I felt I'd been handed the short end of the stick, I poured my heart out onto paper and it made me feel free. I stopped journaling gradually, as hope and optimism faded. Perhaps the two were causal, or maybe just symptomatic. Either way, I want to begin again.

Somewhere along the way, I lost my idealism, my certainty that right-minded people could re-shape the world into a just and beautiful place. Instead, I let the hardships of life dampen my joy, and I fear, sometimes, that I've hurt not only myself, but the people I love with my negativity.

One day at a time, one interaction at a time, my goal is to become a more positive person. The kind of person that, one day, I can look back on and be proud of.

Have you ever looked back at a period of time in you life and realized you were in a funk? How did you deal with it? Do you think people can change just by wanting it?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Open for Business

Welcome to the Cave & Hollow Inn and Tavern.

I've always wanted a quirky place like this to call my own. Blame it on too many fantasy novels when I was younger, but the idea of a warm, cozy pub with friendly locals, cold beer and delicious food is my idea of a perfect home.

Home is a funny word. It encompasses so much more than a physical place.  Home means to me: love, acceptance, humor, hard work, compromises, disappointment, community, laughter and crusty-warm bread.  I'm still working to build that place in my life, and I'm hoping that writing this blog will help me. Wish me luck!

How about you? What's your ideal home? Is it someplace you've been before? Or, are you like me, and is it all in your head?