Monday, December 29, 2008

Ode to 2008



I realize I'm jumping the gun on this silly little thing by three days, but since I did it for 2006 and 2007, I thought I would make it a tradition by honoring 2008. I also figured nothing too noteworthy would happen in the next three days that would change my answers. Happy New Year!

1. What did you do in 2008 that you’d never done before?
I moved to Michigan to live with the boy I adore beyond all reason.

2. Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions?
I do not believe I made any last year.

3. What countries did you visit?
Ecuador

4. What would you like to have in 2009 that you lacked in 2008?
I would like a job and a very large emergency fund.

5. What dates from 2008 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
March 4th because Sly came to Ecuador and make my world there tremendously better
July 2nd because La Liga won the Los Libertadores Championship and I was in Quito to celebrate
July 3rd because I arrived home to the US after 10 months in Ecuador
September 10th because Peter asked me to move in with him
October 4th because I arrived in Michigan, which became "home"
November 17th and December 14th because I realized how much he cares about me.

6. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
I completed my service in Ecuador. I also painted my parent's front porch red with my dad. It looks gooood.

7. What was your biggest failure?
Not having realistic expectations about my return and reintegration into life back home after spending 10 months living in South America. It has been much harder than I anticipated.

8. Did you suffer illness or injury?
I had amoebas, parasites, and an upper respiratory infection while in Ecuador. I also had a rash on my stomach that refused to go away, even when I came home. Hot huh? It eventually healed.

9. What was the best thing you bought?
The only thing I bought for myself this year was pants in May. Nothing else all year. So I have to say I did not succeed in this category.

10. Whose behavior merited celebration?
Peter's, Erin's, and Sunshine's

11. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
no one really

12. Where did most of your money go?
What money? This was the worst financial year to date. I'd rather not talk about it.

13. What song will always remind you of 2008?
Anything by Celine Dion, a plethora of reggaeton songs, "I'm Yours" by Jason Mraz, and Beyoncé's "Single Ladies (Put a ring on it) ~ I just started bouncing in my chair.

14. Compared to this time last year, are you:
a) Happier or sadder? the same
b) Thinner or fatter? thinner
c) Richer or poorer? drastically poorer. Hence the desire for a VERY LARGE emergency fund.

15. What do you wish you’d done more of?
I wish I wouldn't have worried as much. As my aunt says, "You can't get blood from a turnip." I wish I would have spent more time doing things I wanted to do like reading books, baking, watching movies, writing letters, volunteering, etc. I know my parents, aunt, and Peter all encouraged me to spend my captive "free" time doing productive things because I probably won't have time like this again, but I just couldn't get out of my head. I am working on it.

16. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Worrying and wasting time

17. How did you spend Christmas?
In the candle light with Peter's family. It was an old fashioned Christmas because we didn't have power. Lots of card games, snacking, and just hanging out.

18. Did you fall in love in 2008?
It was more like rekindled love. Cheesy I know, but I'm happy.

19. How many one-night stands?
That would be zero.

20. What was your favorite TV program?
Burn Notice, NCIS, Iron Chef America, The Martha Stewart Show, and The Rachael Ray Show, Anything on Food Network really

21. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
nope

22. What was the best book you read?
"A Thousand Splendid Suns" by Khaled Hosseini

23. What was your greatest musical discovery?
Jason Mraz and whatever my love sent my way

24. What did you want and get?
Well, I finally managed to win the affections of a boy I've had my eyes on for a very long time. I also lost all the weight I gained in Ecuador. That was awesome.

25. What did you want and not get?
A job

26. What was your favorite film of this year?
Wall-E

27. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
Peter sang to me at midnight and then my mom sang after him. I had a quiet day with my parents. Mamita made me blueberry bread and they bought me some awesome sneakers I really wanted. It's was my "golden birthday".

28. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Finding a job

29. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2008?
There's always next year.

30. What kept you sane?
My people. The cats and Peter.

31. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Bobby Flay

32. What political issue stirred you the most?
The elections

33. Who did you miss?
My friends and family

34. Who is the best new person you met?
Wil and Kate

35. Tell us some valuable life lessons you learned in 2008.
Have a back up plan.

36. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
"Maybe this year will be better than the last." Counting Crows, Long December

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Quotations

"It took a long time, but I've finally figured it out. When it comes to men who are romantically interested in you, it's really simple. Just ignore everything they say and only pay attention to what they do."
~ a Colleague of Dr. Pausch and the advice he leaves to his daughter, Chloe.

The Last Lecture

Friday, December 12, 2008

Quotation, "The Witch of Portobello"


"Learn, but always learn with other people by your side. Don't be alone in the search, because if you take a wrong step, you'll have no one there to help put you right."

~ Liliana

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Congratulations!!

This little boy:


and his older brother Ke'ano now have a little sister:



If she looks big, that is because she is. She was 10 lbs and 21 inches long. I also believe she was early. Whoa! Aren't they cute? (I need a picture of Ke'ano too. I'll work on that.)

Congratulations to Kate and David and their family :)

Wine Quiz

Every day, I check to see what the titles are on MSN.com so I can chat with my dad about them. He likes to look too. Today they featured an interesting wine quiz. I did fairly well but I include studying wine as part of my daily personal curriculum, which I developed to keep myself somewhat sane while looking for a job, still.

How much do you know about wine? Find out HERE.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Interesting take on the Auto Industry

My auntie sent me this in an email last night. I thought I'd share:


"A Modern Parable

A Japanese company (Toyota) and an American company (Ford Motors) decided to have a canoe race on the Missouri River. Both teams practiced long and hard to reach their peak performance before the race.

On the big day, the Japanese won by a mile.

The Americans, very discouraged and depressed, decided to investigate the reason for the crushing defeat. A management team made up of senior management was formed to investigate and recommend appropriate action.

Their conclusion was the Japanese had 8 people rowing and 1 person steering, while the American team had 7 people steering and 2 people rowing.

Feeling a deeper study was in order, American management hired a consulting company and paid them a large amount of money for a second opinion.

They advised, of course, that too many people were steering the boat, while not enough people were rowing.

Not sure of how to utilize that information, but wanting to prevent another loss to the Japanese, the rowing team's management structure was totally reorganized to 4 steering supervisors, 2 area steering superintendents and 1 assistant superintendent steering manager.

They also implemented a new performance system that would give the 2 people rowing the boat greater incentive to work harder. It was called the 'Rowing Team Quality First Program,' with meetings, dinners and free pens for the rowers. There was discussion of getting new paddles, canoes and other equipment, extra vacation days for practices and bonuses. The pension program was trimmed to 'equal the competition' and some of the resultant savings were channeled into morale boosting programs and teamwork posters.

The next year the Japanese won by two miles.

Humiliated, the American management laid-off one rower, halted development of a new canoe, sold all the paddles, and canceled all capital investments for new equipment. The money saved was distributed to the Senior Executives as bonuses.

The next year, try as he might, the lone designated rower was unable to even finish the race (having no paddles,) so he was laid off for unacceptable performance, all canoe equipment was sold and the next year's racing team was out-sourced to India .

Sadly, the End.

Here's something else to think about: Ford has spent the last thirty years moving all its factories out of the US , claiming they can't make money paying American wages.

TOYOTA has spent the last thirty years building more than a dozen plants inside the US. The last quarter's results:

TOYOTA makes 4 billion in profits while Ford racked up 9 billion in losses.

Ford folks are still scratching their heads, and collecting bonuses... and now wants the Government to 'bail them out'.

IF THIS WEREN'T SO TRUE IT MIGHT BE FUNNY"

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Quotations - Charlie Brown


"Peppermint Patty: What do you think love is, Chuck?

Charlie Brown: Well, years ago, my dad owned a black 1934 two-door sedan.

Peppermint Patty: What's that got to do with love?

Charlie Brown: Well, this is what he told me: there was this really cute girl, see? She used to go for rides with him in his car. And whenever he'd call for her, he would always hold open the car door for her. After she got in and he had closed the door, he'd walk around the back of the car to the driver's side, but before he could get there, she would reach over and press the button, locking him out. Then she'd just sit there and wrinkle her nose and grin at him. That's what I think love is."

Monday, November 24, 2008

Feliz Compleaños!!


Happy Birthday to you!!! May you have a wonderful day in Quito and drink lots of conelazo and Pilseners until you dance atop the bar at Hot n' Sweaty and end the night in a furry!!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Turkey Day Sushi???

On the front of Budget Travel's webpage, they had a story about a restaurant in LA that is serving Thanksgiving sushi:

(Budget Travel Photo)

I kind of want to try it... Tamaki anyone?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Monday, November 10, 2008

Quotation, music

"platforms

life knocked me off my platforms
so i pulled out my first pair of boots
bought on the street at astor place
before new york was run by suits
and i suited up for the long walk
back to myself
closer to the ground now
with sorrow
and stealth"

~ ani difranco, 'educated guess'

(photo borrowed from westcoast flotation)

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Interesting Facts About Recycling

Did you know....

this article contains 20 things you didn't know about recycling. Enlightening in a different way.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Quotation

"I think you can also escape suffering through...love. When you really love someone and they really love you, you have desire, but not in the sense of wanting things that you can't get or shouldn't want in the first place. It's not even that your desire has been satisfied. It's not satiety. You lie in that person's arms and you aren't thinking about what's next or what's wrong or what you want. You aren't trying to get someplace. Rather than doing or proving or striving for something, you just sort of are, as a lyric poem or work of art is supposed to be, or like a big boulder that's really just there. And again, it's not that you've gotten what you desire and so are satisfied; it's that there is no doingness or provingness or strivingness. To my mind, this sounds a little like nirvana and I'd say you are emptied of your self. The difference, maybe, is that in my scheme you aren't just emptied, you are also filled- but filled with one big thing that replaces all the ten million nettlesome, egotistical things that are inside you as a rule. And with that one thing comes a feeling of joy - not no feeling. You're like a big boulder that somehow has levitated six feet off the ground. Then there is one more thing, which is wanting to make the person you love happy, to give yourself to him or her, but this wanting is not a feeling external to love or the result of any incompleteness; it is one component of that big single thing. And serving the person you love isn't something you 'do'. It is entirely natural. It's guided by the same part of your brain, whatever it is, that controls your heartbeat and your-oh-kidney function or whatever. If you love someone, then you feel about them the way I've described, and if that person shares that feeling and you are together, then that is the highest state of being, and the happiest."

Holly Speedwell, Beginner's Greek

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Out Walking


There isn't any part of your streets I do not know. Everything from the smell of the ocean to the sights, sounds, and happenings is always in my mind sitting smugly next to Quito.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Monday, November 03, 2008

Quality Entertainment

I spent some time with BigStar recently, which resulted in quality time with the muchachos. Emily was sitting at her table and putting stickers from the fire department from preschool on her dolls. I wasn't sure exactly what she was doing or why.



Each doll had her own sticker.



When I asked what was going on, she told me very matter of factly that she was giving her dolls 'pirate patches'.

Ryan and I stared at her in disbelief.



How does a four year old go from "stop-drop-and-roll" to pirate patches?

Sunday, November 02, 2008

As Is

One reason why I adore Mr. Brownie Sundae is because he enjoys me just as I am and never tries to curtail my silliness. We went to the mall on Sunday to pick his pants up at Nordstrom and to use some of his (OLLLLDDDDD) gift cards. While perusing Restoration Hardware, I came across this glorious headband:



which I wore while we shopped. He ended up buying it for me, and he would have let me wear it all around the mall without judging or shaking his head but I refrained from embarrassing him. And when we got home, he made no negative comments when I put the headband on-lights and all (it lights up!)-and ironed the clothes while we played a game of Scrabble. I could wear the thing the entire year inside or outside the house and he wouldn't make fun of or laugh at me nor would he make me put it away. This is why I keep him around because he's pretty awesome like that.

I look forward to this holiday season.

(I will also think fondly of Ashleycita and the days we paraded around the streets of Ecuador in sparkly Christmas ball headbands Mrs. B sent me.)

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Leftover Pumpkins



I made this arrangement for P's mom for her birthday. If you have leftover pumpkins, just put a small plastic container full of water in the bottom of the pumpkin, then fill it will flowers. The vase is super easy to make and looks nice. No need to let them go to waste!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Quotations - "Nineteen Minutes"



"Alex, she realized, could fit anywhere. Here, or with Lacy's family at dinner, or in a courtroom, or probably at tea with the queen. She was a chameleon. It struck Lacy that she didn't really know what color a chameleon was before it started changing."

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Good Old Days

The other day, Slice of Pink had the "Face Time" campaign posted on her blog, which she borrowed from Good Girl Gone Blog. (And consequently, I've borrowed it from both of them.) I LOVE IT. I remember the good old days...I'm so glad I grew up without text messaging, facebook, myspace, instant messenger, and all the other technological crap that disintegrates real communication and conversation.


If you wanted to talk, you called the house line. If you had to tell your friends something, you passed notes. If you wanted to talk to your friend in the middle of the night, you threw pebbles at her window....it was all so authentic. There is nothing quite like a real phone call, a face to face conversation, or a hand written letter. This nostalgia is making me think maybe I'm getting old....

What a clever campaign.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Homemade Gnocchi

On Saturday, I had the wonderful privilege of homemade gnocchi lessons from my friend Kate and her step-mom. Kate picked me up around 9 a.m. and we traveled to her parent's house where her step-mom was awaiting our arrival for a fun filled day of gnocchi making. I do not have picture of the process (next time), so I apologize. Lots of potatoes were boiled, riced, refrigerated, rolled into dough using maybe four ingredients, refrigerated, rolled into gnocchi with a fork, frozen-during which time her step mom and I managed to drink a bottle (well, half a two liter bottle) of wine over lunch while the three of us were waiting. Lunch was an amazing pasta dish that made me excited to try our gnocchi. I had a wonderful time chatting and playing with pasta. I have to say, it is the best way to spend a Saturday afternoon and I look forward to more of them. Once the gnocchi were frozen, Kate and I said our thanks and departed with our goods.

I do have pictures of the final product. On Monday night, I boiled the gnocchi, which took maybe three minutes, and served it with a hearty red sauce:



It was delicious and I was kind of proud of myself. There were leftovers so I ended up refrigerating them and pan frying them in olive oil the next day for lunch:


I wanted mine super crispy so I cooked them longer, which means they look very brown. Let's just say they were awesome.


I covered them with Parmesan cheese while they were still warm.

Voila! Some red sauce and I ate the entire plate and when I finished, I was a little bit sad there wasn't any more.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

"The Live of Others" a.k.a "Leben der Anderen, Das"

If you have a decent amount of time to sit down and watch this German flick, I recommend you do. Make sure you are cozy and have everything you need, then settle in to be slightly captivated by the lives of these East Germans. This movie was intriguing, really well acted, and beautifully concluded. It takes place in 1984 Berlin where the Stasi was controlling lives, especially those of artists. The film is described as a "political thriller and human drama" during which the life of a secret agent becomes indirectly intertwined with that of a writer. "The Lives of Others" is slow at times but the stories are interesting enough for you to stay with it. I truly loved the end and think it's well worth your patience despite the length.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Caramel Candy Apples

This website has some awesome ideas for caramel candy apples covered in all sorts of goodness. I am dying to make some. Don't they look delicious?

Friday, October 24, 2008

"10 Places to See Before You're 10"

Today on MSN, there was an article about 10 Places you should see before you're 10. I've been to Disneyland and the Griffith Observatory. Despite my age, I think I want to go to the rest of the places...

I love travel lists. Ideas often stem from the suggestions they provide. Strict adherence to them is not necessary but I find they make a great building block for my own lists. A little inspiration never hurt anyone...

i am hiding



no really, i am...

Thursday, October 23, 2008

For all you foodies and winos



So, if you like to throw dinner parties, talk about food, drink and discuss wine, and share all things related to such activities, then I think you should check this online community out.

Who doesn't enjoy a dinner party on Friday??? (or Tuesday, Wednesday, really any day that ends in 'y' :))

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

First Love Shiraz & Their Very Clever Marketing

I recently wrote a post about First Love Shiraz wine from Austraila. Here are the very deft labels they use to get you to buy their delicious wine. Careful, you'll need more than one bottle.





Some Ideas for those Halloweeners



So Halloween is right around the corner and you want to do something but aren't exactly sure what. I have some ideas for you.

1) Martha has this lovely slideshow for "25 Eerie Edibles". Pick one or a few and go to town.

2) Are you nostalgic for candy from days of yore? Check out Groovy Candies to order a few blasts from the past that will spice up your candy dish.

3) Pumpkin carving is fun. Grab some tools, a fat pumpkin, and a pan for the seeds and make an orange mess.

4) Pumpkin chocolate chip cookies are a fall favorite of my family. I cannot share the secret family recipe with you, but I'm certain there plenty from which to choose on the internet or in a cooky book.

5) Or be creative with Halloween Cookie Cutters and some delightful frosting and candy decorations.

6) You could always decorate your home , watch a scary movie, read ghost stories, or find a favorite treat to make.

Happy Halloweening!!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Wedding Favors - Vermont's finest

I can't believe it has been a month already.

Where were you Saturday when I needed to cover my first ever batch of bad pancakes with something so I could choke them down...

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Saturday, October 18, 2008

habits

I have this habit of picking pennies up when I'm running. I put them in my running sneakers and leave them until there are too many to run with. When I was walking about Portland a few weeks ago, I found this penny. Only I couldn't pick it up because it was cemented into the sidewalk. Probably a good thing though, cause my shoes were holey and I wasn't running.

i miss you



only all of you.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Sparkling Wine



I rather enjoy sparkly things, as mentioned before, but I'd have to say my favorite sparkling thing after stars is champagne or wine. I cannot get enough of the bubbly stuff. I find it fabulously delicious. I had the pleasure of dining with P's parents the other night because he is out of town. His mom introduced me to this lovely new bottle of Martini & Rossi Asti sparkling wine. The fruity, bubbly liquid just slips down the hatch all too easily. I recommend you give it a swirl.

Flashback Ecuador



My host mom sent me an email two days ago that reminded me of Quito...This was the view from our rooftop. The expansive green space is the airport. I can finally see it all in my mind.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

An Article on Longevity


I was perusing the Internet this afternoon and came across an interesting article about how certain habits can determine if you'll live to be old. I've always had a hunch I might make it to my 90s because most of the woman (if not all of them) in my family live to be old ladies. This article just confirmed my suspicions. Will you be joining me on the porch?

Monday, October 13, 2008

"On the Road" ~ Jack Kerouac



"Most of the time we were alone and mixing up our souls ever more and ever more till it would be terribly hard to say goodbye."

~ Sal Paradise

Friday, October 10, 2008

My Advice for Those of You Worried about the Stock Market

Stop looking. Stop torturing yourself. Put all your money in some kind of fixed income fund/account and wait it out. Or do as Warren Buffet would and find an opportunity, but whatever you do, just stop checking your portfolio, CNN, WSJ, Moneycentral, Forbes, or whatever your poison is. Just don't do it. What goes down must go up according to Newton and go up it will just not any time soon. You are in it for the long haul not for right now, this year, next year or the year after that. You're in it for the next 5 to 45 years at least, so please, pretty please, do yourself a favor take a bath, drink some whiskey (responsibly), watch a comedy, eat dinner with friends, and relax. Just stop the incessant looking and fretting. This behavior will get you no where. Remember: It won't always be like this.

(You might ponder what the hell my credentials are to even administer this advice. I have a degree in Accountancy. I have a degree in Economics. I worked for Merrill Lynch as an intern in 2001 right through 9/11. The adviser with whom I worked had clients who earned more than 36% that year. I have seen positive come out of negative. I happen to know this woman's father lost MILLIONS in the crash of '87. He survived. Other than that, I have none. I am a normal person like you who reads the paper and watches the news and tries to be responsible with finances. You will survive, too.)

Thursday, October 09, 2008

My New Dream Job

This morning I received an email from my dearest Megan, who is currently studying for two degrees at Yale. Being that Yale is in New Haven, she came across The Cupcake Truck on the way into the hospital today (for school not because she was hurt) and quickly sent me an email to tell me about it.

Um, baking delicious cupcakes and driving around like an ice cream truck, only a cupcake truck, all day selling them kind of sounds awesome right now. I wonder if there is a market for that here...

I've had a trip to New Heaven on my list of place to go soon, this might bump it just below Fallapalloooza. Can you imagine how awesome that would be???

I might just go start working on a business plan...and a menu of course. I bet brownies would go well with cupcakes, too. Oh dear...

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

"The Slant"

"...i am a work in progress
dressed in the fabric of a world unfolding
offering me intricate patterns of questions
rhythms that never come clean
and strengths that you still haven't seen..."

~ ani difranco

Some Conversation Pointers

Today, Gretchen of The Happiness Project posted helpful tips on conversation skills. There are only eight so I recommend you take a few minutes to check them out.

I personally strive to be a good listener. It is a top ten in my list of essential skills. Conversing is an art and a quality I admire in other people. More and more, I find myself frequently trying to improve in this arena. I usually do my best to anticipate and understand what is not being said, as I feel it is just as important as the words being spoken. As I discovered today, working on this craft requires perpetual effort, yet not effort in a negative way. I think the effort is worth it in order to be better. I appreciate her tidbits and could not think of a better time they could come in handy.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

My adventure with pumpkin ravioli

Yesterday, Mr. BS (hehehe) and I were discussing dinner plans. I volunteered to make Pumpkin Ravioli and he offered to make the Stuffed Chicken Caprese. I've worked with wontons before and I've made egg rolls before so I thought it would be comparable.

I made my grocery list, grabbed my canvas bags from Whole Foods (they were only 99 cents and are super cute. I was suckered by more marketing but at least it was good for the environment), and walked up the street to the store to purchase our dinner items.

There was an awkward moment in the Kroger when I had to ask the lady at the customer service desk where the wontons were and she happened to be Asian. Otherwise, all went well. I carried the items home and began my adventure.

In anticipation of the task at hand, I opened a Sam Adams Cherry Wheat beer and I dove right in. Instead of a real fleshy pumpkin for which the recipe called, I used Libby's canned pumpkin. One can is all you need if you are attempting this. I also used Parmesan and Romano cheese, which were already in the fridge because I couldn't find the Locatelli suggested in the recipe. Nutmeg was replaced with cinnamon because I thought there was nutmeg here. Mistaken kitchen identity is bound to happen when you've spent as much time in other people's homes as I have. Green beans sauteed in garlic and eeoo were the side dish. Thank god.

Every thing started smoothly. I learned the best way to stuff a wonton wrapper with filling is to use a little bit and then start on the longer edges making sure the flour sides are outside and finish closing the ravioli on the sides. I was proud of them until I threw the squares in the pot to cook. I knew it was going to be a challenge so I thought I'd use a little pot of boiling water and cook only five at a time. This did not work. Actually, it was a huge disaster that made me drink more and curse the recipe. Only two of the five survived. I adjusted my game plan by using the largest pasta pot in the kitchen which I could fill with the most water and in which I could let the raviolis float freely. This worked- kind of. I ended up really only blanching the suckers for fear they'd fall apart like the ones before. I was making a huge mess and cursing heavily when Mr. BS walked in talking on the phone. He made the comment into the telephone, "Guess what we're having for dinner?" to which I laughed and said "I am not so sure." I had thought about calling for pizza a 45 minutes before.

I should have asked him when he was coming home so I could have planned it better because they were kind of rubbery due to sitting in a warm stove for half an hour. I had him finish the cream sauce because I'd had enough and I needed another beer. So I left him to his phone call and went into the other room to play my turn at scrabble.

The raviolis were good but not worth the effort. The pumpkin filling was rich and flavorful but almost too much with the butter sauce. I could only eat like five of them, which kind of pissed me off after spending 2 hours in the kitchen. I think I am going to learn to make REAL ravioli and not wonton ravioli. I might not give up just yet...

then again, frying them might have been better...

So things are going really well.... if you don't mind quality entertainment and mediocre dinner.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

First Love 2006 Southeastern Australia Shiraz-Grenache-Barbera

Last Thursday night I had the pleasure of dining with my friends, Whit & Linz. The food was organized by Linz and the wine was assigned to Whit and Me. We headed to the corner market where we both were seduced by the marketing of First Love Shiraz. The label on the bottle and the description:

"Rich, lush and seductive. Seriously tempting!"

plus some notes about berries, convinced us to include it in our dinner plans. I can be a sucker for clever marketing in some instances depending on the product. This was too clever to overlook. Usually, I find Shiraz a bit sour and tart, but I have to say we were all surprised by how delicious this wine was. It wasn't too sweet but the hints of berries were enough to take the edge off. The best part was Whit only paid $10 for the bottle.

Definitely a wine to keep on hand for nights with friends.

(As soon as my box of cds comes, I can show you the pictures of the labels I took.)

Friday, October 03, 2008

Recycle, Recycle, Recycle

Friends, who knew?!?! You can recycle your own sneakers with Nike who then uses them to build playgrounds and courts. Just drop them off at a participating store or send them here:

Nike Recycling Center
c/o Reuse-A-Shoe
26755 SW 95th Ave.
Wilsonville, OR 97070


To find out more about their awesome "Let Me Play" Campaign, check out their website.

Also, did you know you can recycle your Sonicare toothbrush's battery at Radio Shack? According to the company, these brushes only last 3 to 5 years depending on the model. When yours kicks the bucket, take it to Radio Shack for recycling.

If you don't have a sonicare toothbrush, I HIGHLY recommend them. Best toothbrush ever. You'll never go back.

For more tips on being green, check out my friend Eden's blog here.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

My Thoughts on Notebooks

I love notebooks. I love to write in them, receive them as gifts, decorate them, create projects in them... I cannot think of a good reason not to have lots of notebooks in which to express yourself in some creative way (preferably with something crayola). That is until today.

Yesterday, I re-packed two suitcases, a carry-on bag, and a "personal item" all according to the airline's policy. I am bitter I have to pay $40 to take them on the plane but I'll get over it. Luckily, my aunt is sending me two boxes that include some sweaters, college sweatshirts, and my winter coat. (It is nice having a relative who works for a shipping company.) Because of my method of travel (and lack of personal transportation for the moment), this is all I can take with me to my new destination. I've become an expert packer who's learned to discern the necessary from the frivolous. I am taking only what I need for now and will decide on the rest later. In my discrimination of items, I did not bring any notebooks. They are heavy & since I cannot bring my box of creativity, I thought it would make me sadder instead of happier. (Yet I chose to bring the famous ceramic "hugs & kisses" jar because sharing my savings habits seemed important to me. Plus, I really really like the jar.) I woke up this morning trying to figure out the best way to write. I write every day. I have on and off for years. There is a container full of words in my parent's basement. (Actually two, mine & my sister's. She lives on an island. We're quite the duo.) I discovered the emotionally overpowering ways of writing in a hidden document online. I had to stop writing because the words flashing across the screen made me uncomfortable because I would never write them in a notebook. It never occurred to me writing in a document and writing in a notebook would be different. My only reasoning is there is almost zero potential for anyone to "find" your notebook and delve into the closets of your mind. It also never occurred to me I was subconsciously censoring my writing out. Apparently I have been doing just that. Gosh, it is overwhelming to let the words pour out and messily spill all over the page without a care. They are so honest it is blinding. My dad always says some things are better left unsaid. I wonder if that includes unwritten?

I think I might miss the colors, pictures, and glitter too much to give up my notebooks completely. We shall see...

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Meet Anna Banana


Today has not been a good day. So in an attempt to distract myself, I started deleting photos from my dad's computer to free up some space and will it to stop crashing. I came across this photo that made me smile. Isn't she cute? Gosh my friends make nice looking babies.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

A Genuine History Lesson for Women

This morning, I received this forward from my Sensei (yes she is a woman) and thought I would share:

"This is the story of our Grandmothers and Great-grandmothers; they lived only 90 years ago.

Remember, it was not until 1920 that women were granted the right to go to the polls and vote.

The women were innocent and defenseless, but they were jailed nonetheless for picketing the White House, carrying signs asking for the vote.

And by the end of the night, they were barely alive. Forty prison guards wielding clubs and their warden's blessing went on a rampage against the 33 women wrongly convicted of 'obstructing sidewalk traffic.'

(Lucy Burns)
They beat Lucy Burns, chained her hands to the cell bars above her head and left her hanging for the night, bleeding and gasping for air.

(Dora Lewis)
They hurled Dora Lewis into a dark cell, smashed her head against an iron bed and knocked her out cold. Her cellmate, Alice Cosu, thought Lewis was dead and suffered a heart attack.

Additional affidavits describe the guards grabbing, dragging, beating, choking, slamming, pinching, twisting and kicking the women. Thus unfolded the'Night of Terror' on Nov. 15, 1917, when the warden at the Occoquan Workhouse in Virginia ordered his guards to teach a lesson to the suffragists imprisoned there because
they dared to picket Woodrow Wilson's White House for the right to vote. For weeks, the women's only water came from an open pail. Their food--all of it colorless slop--was infested with worms.

(Alice Paul)
When one of the leaders, Alice Paul, embarked on a hunger strike, they tied her to a chair, forced a tube down her throat and poured liquid into her until she vomited. She was tortured like this for weeks until word was smuggled out to the press.

So, refresh my memory. Some women won't vote this year because- -why, exactly? We have carpool duties? We have to get to work? Our vote doesn't matter? It's raining?

Last week, I went to a sparsely attended screening of HBO's new movie Iron Jawed Angels. It is a graphic depiction of the battle these women waged so that I could pull the curtain at the polling booth and have my say. I am ashamed to say I needed the reminder.

All these years later, voter registration is still my passion. But the actual act of voting had become less personal for me, more rote. Frankly, voting often felt more like an obligation than a privilege. Sometimes it was inconvenient.

My friend Wendy, who is my age and studied women's history, saw the HBO movie, too. When she stopped by my desk to talk about it, she looked angry. She was--with herself. 'One thought kept coming back to me as I watched that movie,' she said. 'What would those women think of the way I use, or don't use, my right to vote? All of us take it for granted now, not just younger women, but those of us who did seek to learn.' The right to vote, she said, had become valuable to her 'all over again.'

HBO released the movie on video and DVD . I wish all history, social studies and government teachers would include the movie in their curriculum I want it shown on Bunco night, too, and anywhere else women gather. I realize this isn't our usual idea of socializing, but we are not voting in the numbers that we should be, and I think
a little shock therapy is in order. It is jarring to watch Woodrow Wilson and his cronies try to persuade a psychiatrist to declare Alice Paul insane so that she could be permanently institutionalized. And it is inspiring to watch the doctor refuse. Alice Paul was strong, he said, and brave. That didn't make her crazy.

The doctor admonished the men: 'Courage in women is often mistaken for insanity.'

Please, if you are so inclined, pass this on to all the women you know.

We need to get out and vote and use this right that was fought so
hard for by these very courageous women. Whether you vote democratic, republican or independent party - remember to vote.

History is being made."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The only woman in my family who would remember this would have been my great-great grandmother. Like most of the women in my dad's family, she was a rockstar. That woman loved baseball and had no problem using her freedom of speech by swearing at the radio when the Sox made a stupid play. She also enjoy hockey, especially the checking part. I could always count on homemade cookies and dollar bills when I went to her house. My Nana and I would take her to the IGA to get her groceries when I was a child. I can still see Nana holding her arm as they slowly and steadily went up the aisles to gather her favorite things. She died at 98 in a nursing home I swear out of boredom. I was 15. It seems to be I'm the only person I know who has enjoyed great-great grandmothers, great-grandmothers (three!!), and grandmothers. This makes me feel very lucky.

Friday, September 26, 2008

This Day Last Year in Ecuador

It is election weekend in Ecuador. Voting is mandatory and it's illegal to talk about politics or to drink the two days leading up to the vote on Sunday. My birthday was on Friday last year (Sunday this year due to the leap) and therefore fell into the 'two day' rule. It was the first time in my life I was of age to drink but it was illegal. I spent the day with Ashley, Jefe, and the other Quito volunteers exploring our new city. The crew bought brownies and Kraft mac & cheese to make for lunch. After a month of chicken and rice, I welcomed the blue box of fake cheesy goodness. I received Monopolio for a gift and we played all afternoon at Jefe's house until my host dad called to let me know they were ready for me. The party that evening included a phone call from my parents (never just dail Ecuador from your land line without talking to the appropriate people who offer you calling plans. They paid $98 for a 20 minute phone call. Yikes!), my host family, and a bunch of friends celebrating in the living room with a box of wine Brookie smuggled in and some games of Cuarenta (an Ecuadorian card game). All of my host mom's brothers attended and at one point it is possible I was pulled aside to see if I wanted to do shots of Espiritu Del Ecuador. The night was relaxed yet fun. I remember sitting with a glass of wine watching everyone play Cuarenta and thinking, "how amazing is all of this?" Then some dancing took place before everyone left for the night. There is always dancing in Ecuador, which is one thing I love about the country.

The day of the elections I went to vote with my host parents. The five of us piled into the car to drive to a school in the appropriate district according to where my hdad and hmom were born. The school was teeming with people and national guards with large rifles. I wish I'd brought my camera to capture the moment but I didn't want to stand out. Politics are very delicate in a country that has had 10 presidents in 10 years. Plus the star of the show was the rewriting of the Constitution, which was circled in gossip the President would resign if he did not receive the vote he wanted. I decided to be an observer instead. It was not so dissimilar to the way we vote only their ballots were gigantic and shaped like newspapers. Everyone was running around trying to figure out in which room to vote and where to get a ballot. Children were scurrying around everywhere either at their parent's heels or up and down the halls. I sat near a railing and took it all in....

Once the ballots were cast, we headed to the grandparent's house where we all sat at the table and might have had a few glasses of wine...

Thursday, September 25, 2008

random note

sometimes i wish i could read all this to you personally so you could hear it as i intend the words to sound....

The Reasons Why I'm breaking All My Personal Rules About Boys and Moving to Michigan...

I've been waiting to type this up and post it for weeks now but wanted to make sure most people didn't find out my current life plan via my blog. I apologize to those I haven't told yet who are reading this and finding out for the first time.

So, Miss Cupcake is moving to Michigan to be with Mr. Brownie Sundae. Turns out she adores him and he kind of likes her too. She's very excited the "who" and the "where" have been sorted out so she can focus on the "what" and the "how" and can start saving for vacations & wine.

To answer the questions about the story of Mr. Brownie Sundae and Miss Cupcake, I think it is easiest to just say it all started one night in July a little over six years ago at a diner with ... ta-dah! a brownie sundae. The in-between was complicated, messy, and is difficult to explain. Frankly, I don't know how and don't think it's important. What matters is the here and now. I said yes and am packing my bags because he makes me laugh - like the belly hurting kind of laughs - a lot. We always have fun together, and he is the only person who indulges my ridiculous questions. He can tell by the sound of my voice whether or not I will be awake all night or if I'll fall asleep the second we get off the phone. When I told him I wanted to buy the Crayola Telescoping 50-Marker Pip Squeak Tower but bought the 16 pack instead, he looked at me and very seriously asked why I didn't buy the tower. And when I got my manicure at the Swissotel Quito (for only $10!), I immediately found a computer to tell him they had Fireflies polish by OPI. His response was "oh boy did they make that for you or what?" instead of something scornful. We have egg rolls, cheesy salsa, beignets, and onion rings to prepare and devour. There are pumpkins to carve, apples to pick, candles to make, vacations to plan, movies to watch, books to read, and there is wine to drink. The list grows and grows every day in our excitement. Saying yes was easy because the thought of indefinitely finding comfort in the nook of his arm & shoulder makes me smile and because of the way he looks at me.

Sometimes you just wake up and smell the frosting. I look forward to all the fun filled adventures to follow.



"life is a b movie
it's stupid and it's strange
a directionless story
and the dialogue is lame
but in the he said she said
sometimes there's some poetry
if you turn your back long enough
and let it happen naturally
oh, yeah
hell yeah..."
~ ani difrano, 'hell yeah'

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Bad Habits Currently Invading My Life

I kind of feel like a refugee. That comment is exceptionally ignorant, but I cannot think of another way to describe how I feel. Like the only thing I have is the people in my life. I've spent the last 25 days traveling about the country spending countless hours alone during the day in my friends' houses. All of this time by myself is not good for my re-entrance into the American world. I haven't had to integrate at all yet and that scares me a little. The ample structure-less space making up my days has allowed me the unfortunate ability to develop some startling new habits I am trying to zap:

1) For awhile there last week, I was eating Cape Cod Salt and Vinegar chips for breakfast. I don't even know how to explain this.

2) I currently need a Whatchamacallit candy bar every day. Or at least something comparable. Yesterday it was french fries fried in duckfat from Duckfat. Again, unexplainable.

3) I stay up all night and sleep until 10. This is not going to help me transition into the Career World if I ever get a job.

4) I ate an entire green bean casserole today. I am very glad I made it with reduced fat cream of mushroom soup. So much for fat girl Sundays... they are now creeping into every day. I might put an end to the poor nutrition today before I hit the pavement for a run.

5) My ability to keep track of time has vanished ~ completely dissipated. I have no idea where my days go or what I do with them because I have absolutely nothing tangible to show for them. And they are passing extremely fast.

6) Reading books used to be an afternoon affair. Now it takes weeks to read one book. I would blame it on the non-fiction I am reading but it might be more fair to say I am a slacker.

7) I've developed the uncanny ability to feel two distinctive emotions opposite each other on the spectrum at the same time: genuine excitement and heartfelt sadness.

8) Whenever my bank account shows the numbers only to the right of the decimal, I just close my eyes and pretend it will get better. Somehow magically overnight, three places to the left of the decimal appear. Some would call this a blessing, but I just think it is another notch in the IOU spreadsheet.

9) I bought a magazine, Psychology Today. Don't judge or be mad. I had hours to kill and it was about personality. I couldn't help myself. But it was only that one and I totally forgot about it until I found it in my L.L. Bean back pack today. Oops.

10) I am a food nagger. Mr. Brownie Sundae and my parents are serious victims of my food nagging. I only do it because I care but tonight I realized I am a hypocrite (see one and two) and no one likes a nag. At least it is the only thing about which I nag. I think.

I know there is more but I cannot find my notebook. Besides, I think this is enough for today. I have to say though, one perk of all this traveling about the country is I get to explore everyone's iTunes. I have half a notebook full of new music to be downloaded on the computer I hope to get as soon as I get a job.

P.S. In case you were wondering, I have awesome friends.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

happy birthday nana :)
HAPPY ANNIVERSARY LINDSAY AND ANDREW!!!

(i have more to write about my favorite married couple but i'm lazy and tired so i will do it later.)

Monday, September 22, 2008

"In sickness and in health...til death do us part..."

Five years ago, one of my best friends met the love of her life. They slowly intertwined their lives together and have been inseparable since in the most wonderful fashion. Unfortunately, their lives were shaken tremendously on a cold day in January of 2006 when my friend's boyfriend had a seizure that led to the discovery of a brain tumor. Two months later they were engaged and set a date tentatively in the future because life seemed so fragile. He courageously carried on and recovered to a remarkably normal life nearly a year later. Their wedding date became final for which friends and family began planning. He spent 2007 in great health with no seizures, no extraordinary health problems, and no tumors. Everyone was counting the days in eager anticipation of their celebration, which we all had been patiently and happily awaiting. I had the privilege of witnessing the lovely marriage of my friends, Lo & Mikie, as a bridesmaid on Saturday afternoon, September 20th. This wedding was more intimate than any other I've attended. I'm assuming it's because I know both parties very well and have the honor of being his friend too. He even let me help him with one of his groom duties; something I've never gotten to do before. I think of her family as an extension of my own, as her mom is a woman I truly admire and adore and let's not forget how I have adopted Lo's grandparents because Grandma is the coolest and Grandpa is the cutest. Mikie & Lo mean a lot to me, and I could not be happier for two people.

The celebration following their sweet ceremony was grand. "The dinner, dancing, fun, and merriment" commenced without a problem. There were no disasters, dramas, or hopelessly messed up business. The day was perfect and everyone joyously celebrated the beginning of their next chapter. The bridal party had the pleasure of staying with the couple in the guest house. We all piled in and spent the remainder of the evening in delightful revere until it was time for bed.

At 7 a.m. my friend had a seizure and his wife calmly took care of business.

I do what I think needs to get done in times of crisis. My emotions head straight into the shell and my brain starts working on how to help. In this case, it lead me to the dishes. I headed straight for the kitchen to clean up the mess from the night before. In the midst of the frenzied organizing, I shared one private moment with the bride before she headed out for the hospital. In that one instant I realized what "in sickness and in health" meant. After watching Lo and my dad deal with different circumstances of partners with health issues, this promise signifies something distinctive to me. Many people stand on the altar the glorious moment they utter those words looking stunning, vibrant, and fresh yet they lack the knowledge of what it means to make a promise that big. Lo is the only one I know who did not. She knew, and she accepted it and valiantly embrace the one she loved. May we all be so lucky to find someone whose love reaches depths beyond our comprehension and into the abyss of our unknown. I do not believe she realizes what an amazing woman she is.

I now wonder if people ever consider the density of the words they exclaim on their jubilant grown up day... I have seen three people, two up close and very personally, interpret the "in sickness and in health" vows they have made. I will never forget standing in the kitchen Sunday morning watching one of my dearest friends live her promise. Nor will I ever forget the luminated solo picture of a smiling Lo on his cellphone background as I plugged it into the wall to charge. They have the best kind of love: the no matter what kind.

You'll be happy to know he's ok and she's ok and they are currently snuggled up somewhere enjoying being married. I am with Bethany in wishing them "a lifetime full of as much happiness as two people can stand."

"There is nothing more noble or admirable than when two people who see eye to eye keep house as husband and wife, confounding their enemies and delighting their friends."
- Homer

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Think twice before you vote for Mr. McCain and Mrs. Palin, especially if you're a woman

I read Mrs. Janet's blog every day and today's post was exceptionally eye opening. It appears Mr. McCain and Mrs. Palin don't believe women deserve equal pay.... check out the story HERE. If that doesn't make you think twice before casting your ballot, I'm scared.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

HAPPIEST BIRTHDAY

FELIZ COMPLEANOS ASHLEYCITA!!! I hope you have the bestest day. I am sending you Corfu and Lemon Doritos :) VIVA QUITO.

P.S. In a very thick British accent, "I'm so hot for you Ashley." May we have at least one more chiva ride together during the festivals de Quito. Have an awesome birthday!

Monday, September 15, 2008

VICKY CHRISTINA BARCELONA

Sunday, Amanda picked me up from the airport and we grabbed a quick lunch and headed straight to the Nickelodeon to catch Woody Allen's "Vicky Christina Barcelona". Woody Allen usually isn't my cup of tea, but Javier Bardem is. I've been a huge fan of his since I saw him in "Carne Tremula," which fueled my mission to watch most of the movies in which he's been. This one did not disappoint.


("Hello, you are delicious.")

The film is about two friends who take off to Barcelona for the summer for a nice little adventure, which involves a chance meeting with a crazy artist, Javier Bardem. Mr. Bardem does not displease at all from the second he approaches the table to lay out his proposal to the very end where he soothes the ladies. Both women get caught up in the hysterical drama of the incredibly irresistible Spaniard and his wildly gorgeous ex-wife, Penelope Cruz. As the summer plays out, their lives get more and more complicated until the surprising grand finale. You'll have to go watch to find out...

You'll laugh, shake your head, and drool a little bit. "Vicky Christina Barcelona" is quality entertainment you won't mind spending the money on. At the very least, you get to see Javi shamelessly seduce the women (you will wish you were one). And the gentlemen will admire his straight forward approach (and maybe use it). There's something for everyone!

Quotation from Whit's Fridge

While scanning the snack cupboard of my friend Whit's kitchen, I happened to notice this quotation on the fridge so I thought I'd share:

"I'd rather be a 'could-be' if I cannot be an 'are'; because a 'could-be' is a 'maybe' who is reaching for a star. I'd rather be a 'has-been' than a 'might-have-been' by far; for a 'might-have-been' has never been, but a 'has' was once an 'are.' "

~ Milton Berle, American Comedian (1908-2002)

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The "Film" is still developing...

Lately, I have been kind of sad because I feel as though I am forgetting Ecuador. I spend my days alone looking for a job and a way to make my new life happen as quickly as possible and in this process the past year is eluding me. My friend Ross assures me the "film" is just taking its time to develop. I certainly hope that is the case, yet I cannot help but feel twinges of melancholy at the loss of those memories or the ease with which they have seemed to vanish. Then I had a dream Ashleycita and I were riding the Trole at midnight, which would NEVER EVER happen but it was my first dream about my trip since I've been home. I woke up feeling somewhat relieved I actually remembered the public transportation in my former city. In an effort to latch onto the fleeting feeling of Ecuador in my heart, I found two Latin radio stations on Sirius radio I happen to LOVE. I heard a song constantly played at my favorite Internet cafe in Quito and nearly started crying I was so happy. More and more strange instances have occurred this week that have helped me keep my yellow, red, and blue alive: I received two emails from former students. Joelcito sent me an email from Quito. I talked to Brookie. Sly sent pictures. I talked to Ashley who happened to be hanging out with Katie and Sarah so I was able to reminisce with those girls too. The small events posing as reminders are slowly igniting the pictures in my mind. I can see snippets of my former life, which is enough to send a cool relief breeze over my worrying mind. It's there. Somewhere.

Friday, September 12, 2008

BigStar is kind of a big deal...

Some of you might remember my friend BigStar, also known as my former roommate from many moons ago before Miss Cupcake ran off to South America. Well, we used to sit around drinking margaritas and gin & tonics discussing what we were going to do with our lives. BigStar made an unwavering declaration that she was going to meet Kenny Chesney. I was still aimlessly gathering myself but knew I was going to Ecuador. Many a nights were spent watching "My Father the Hero" and "Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights" in our spacious living room overlooking the Scarborough marsh as we sat patiently waiting in anticipation of what was to come. Fast forward nearly two years later and turns out not only has big star MET Kenny Chesney, but she is now running her very own famous country music blog, Country Music Is Love and interviewing opening acts on Kenny Chesney's tour bus in Indianapolis. Yup, she's kind of a big deal now. After spending many nights yammering away, I kind of thought she would be, so my congratulations to her for making it all happen just as she said :)

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

My awe of all cool things artsy or sciency

If you have not traveled to or through the Detroit airport, I recommend you do just to see this very cool hallway:



The rather lengthy underpass that connects terminals is lit up with various hues and set to funky music. It is one of the coolest things I have ever seen in an airport. I am always enthralled by such displays of imagination. They also have a water fountain that looks kind of like spitting contests. I was not the only person mesmerized by the water shooting up and out, as plenty of passengers were talking pictures.

I have always been fascinated by such marvels. The Boston Museum of Science never fails to amaze me. There is something so cool about how other people think up such creative and quirky things. Another example is the New York City Waterfall Exhibit . Olafur Eliasson was commissioned to do the "art" work. The idea seems pretty neat and the pictures are kind of cool. I wish I could check it out in person.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Lessons learned from my time in Ecuador

I kept a scattered list of the things I learned during my stay in Ecuador. Most of the items are scribbled in various crayola colors on a plethora of random sheets of paper, as I tried to capture my thoughts as they happened. I managed to gather together what I think is the best of my lessons so I thought I'd share.

* During my lesson on modal verbs, I came across a Shel Silverstein poem I used in class for an exercise that left an impression:

Listen to the Mustn'ts

Listen to Mustn'ts, child, listen to the Don'ts. Listen to the Shouldn'ts, the Impossibles, the Won'ts. Listen to the Never Haves, then listen close to me. Anything can happen, child, Anything can be.

I discovered this idea is unique to Americans.

* Everyone has an opinion about your life and what you should do with it. They offer their opinion freely without realizing it's based on their fears, past experiences, and ideas about what would be best if they were you. Well, you are not them and do not have the same personal history riddled with whatever baggage the opinion giver carries. Few individuals are able to offer genuine support without projecting their own bias or personal reaction. (Cherish these people). Ignore the naysayers. As Shel wrote, "ignore the musn'ts." People should learn to keep their mouths shut if they cannot leave their judgments behind.

* In reality, one needs very little to get by and live a good life.

* People will always surprise you, especially when you least expect it.

* One can do anything for a short amount of time.

* While you have absolutely no control over the color of your skin, your gender, or where you were born, people will treat you like you do.

* Watching movies repeatedly is not necessarily a bad thing.

* The seasons are vital for my soul. I can be a victim of the weather.

* Walking a city is the best way to learn it.

* Freedom & privacy are perceived differently by people around the world.

* I need music & exercise every day.

* The people you love are priceless.

* I love vegetables.

* The paradox of choice is a good thing when it comes to clean veggies & fruit.

* One cannot appreciate her country fully until she's spent a significant amount of time away from it.

* It is easy to control one's emotions when one realizes they are only temporary chemical reactions.

* I am my father's daughter in more ways than I knew.

* I like futbol, manicures, CNN International, jewelry but not bracelets, and maracuya margaritas.

* I learned how to light gas stoves and to use gas & electric showers. I prefer neither but I like cold showers even less.

* I am a perfectionist scared of success as well as failure and often find comfort cloaked safely in mediocracy even though I know that is not where I belong ~ no where near it.

* Appreciate everything. APPRECIATION is underrated.

* One can make amazing friends traveling.

* One shouldn't judge or exclude until a thing has been tried, done, or seen (with the exception of weird animal food).

* Proper rain gear is ESSENTIAL. Never ever leave home without it.

* Everything passes.

* You don't have time to waste. Do what you want now.

* I am an emotional eater and drinker when I travel to far away unfamiliar lands.

* Do not say no out of fear.

* Buy diamonds made from a lab. They are better for the Earth and the countries that are ruined by the trade.

* Charity starts at home, as cliched as it might sound. I firmly believe it now.

* How others view America and its citizens is startling & enlightening.

* I sometimes sabotage things as a defense mechanism.

* I can calm myself down.

* A tablespoon of olive oil before drinking prevents a hang over and a cup of oregano tea soothes a stomachache.

* Perceptions & definitions are negotiable. Make sure to clarify as soon as possible.

* When on the road, bring more money and less stuff.

* Lastly, travel, travel, travel even if it is in your own backyard. Everyone needs a great adventure, no matter what one's definition of "great" is.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Splendid Suns Quotations

"Of all the hardships a person had to face, none was more punishing than the simple act of waiting. "

"She would scramble frantically to commit it all to memory, what happened next. Like an art owner running out of a burning museum, she would grab whatever she could - a look, a whisper, a moan - to salvage from perishing. To preserve. But time is the most unforgiving of fires and she couldn't, in the end, save it all."

~ Laila, A Thousand Splendid Suns

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

One Year Ago Today...

One year ago today, I was woken up at 5 a.m. by very drunk friends still in their party attire from the night before. They were carrying a bottle of whiskey and sporting carefree & content smiles. They stumbled into the hotel room to say their farewells, as I was an hour from departing Duke to fly from Durham to Miami to Quito, Ecuador. My hands were shaking and my stomach was in sailor's knots so tight I thought I was going to pass out every time I moved my body. They entertained me while I repacked my suitcase for the 20th time and Whit graciously accepted items I had only brought for the wedding. None of them had gone to sleep yet and most probably would have thought they were slightly obnoxious in their jubilant celebratory state, but I wholeheartedly welcomed them because if it had been any other way, I never would have left the hotel room that morning exactly one year ago today. I had no idea when I was going to see them next or what was going to happen in the next year, but I reluctantly embraced my decision and said farewell to people I would miss something fierce. I rolled my suitcase down the hall & into the elevator then into the opulent lobby. I took a good solid look around and silently walked out into the dark pre-dawn morning. A brief moment of relief overcame me when I settled into the taxi to make my way to the airport. This was it. This one event was something for which I had been patiently waiting for nearly a year. I desperately needed the change but a slight pang of worry rested uneasily on my heart, as I began to doubt what I was about to do. I kept telling myself how much I needed this trip but my efforts came across more like I was trying to convince a child broccoli tastes better than ice cream.

The flight to Miami was unremarkable except for the ever increasingly crippling anxiety, which was starting to make breathing more difficult. What was I doing? Was this escape going to make me feel any better? Why did I need this so terribly? I knew I was one of the few in the group of 40 who would be in the airport when I landed. I sheepishly looked around our designated meeting spot for some others while desperately trying not to vomit. I sat down to take it all in when I noticed a young man with curly hair who could have passed as my brother sitting with two females. One was on her computer and chatting. Her silver laptop had a sticker on it that read, "Eat more broccoli". How appropriate. I noticed the navy blue WT bag on the floor next to their luggage so I made my way over to say hello and to see if they were also part of the early bird crew. The second I introduced myself, one of the females stood up and said her name was Caitlin. She gave me the hugest bear hug, which shocked the hell out of me, then she sat me down like a concerned aunt and said, "Are you overwhelmed?" In that one instant, I was no longer alone. I took a huge deep breath and let out all the anxiety, doubt, and fear because for the first time, I was with people who were in the same game as I was. One year later, I can still see her face and hear the question that changed my entire being. I knew immediately I made the right decision and as the rest of the crew slowly poured into our conference room, I began to form friendships that would sustain me for the year to come and hopefully, for many more.

I sat next to Brookie on the plane ride to Quito. We became friends instantly, which was another relief. When we landed in Quito, the altitude hit me like a ton of bricks the second I walked down the hallway towards customs. My first of many challenges. Our directors greeted us and led us to the waiting bus. I sat with Jefe and chatted the entire way to our hotel where I bunked with Liz for the night...and that was that. The rest is history.

The speed of sound carried the time right by me. I have no idea who the nervous girl trying to escape heart break, boredom, and disappointment in search of a new life was. I know she was trying to help herself by helping others and did not make a mistake because she really did need that year. And if you asked her Sunday, Sept 2, 2007 where she'd be exactly one year later or what she'd be doing or feeling, or how her year in Quito, Ecuador was, she never would have told you the things this girl can nor could she have imagined...

Today a new group of volunteers is venturing into the unknown world of WT Ecuador. They are sitting in orientation at Hotel Embassy wondering what the hell is going to happen to them. One girl in particular will be greeted by Byron, Cristina, Wendi, and Francis who will happily accept her into their home and show her to the lovely green bedroom in the back. I was their first year long volunteer so I hope the new girl isn't tainted by anything I left behind... Tonight, she will crawl into the bed I slept in for nearly a year. She'll unpack all her belongings and put them in the drawers, the closet, and on the bookshelf. The sparkling lights of Quito will greet her in the evening and the glaring Andean sun will say good morning, as Cotopaxi winks from the south. Cristina will show her how to use the shower and how to wash her clothes. The girls will call her 'chica' until she's won them over with markers and drawings. As she sits on the end of her bed quietly thinking about her new world, I want to sit down next to her and give her a hug; let her in on the secrets of her new city and family. The places to eat, drink, dance, find solace, hide out, the telephone numbers of my friends already acquainted with the habits of Quito, and most of all, I want to tell her not to blink because sadly, it will all be over before she knows it. She might not find exactly what she came looking for, but she would have one of the most incredible years...

Some days I feel like it never happened, like I never stepped foot on the streets of Quito, as if it was all a dream I can only imagine, but fortunately, not today.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

In an instant....

Yesterday, I went out to my seamstress' to pick up my bridesmaid dress for Miss Lo's wedding. My unconscious lead me up a familiar street and out of a long dormant habit I turned to look at a house I knew all too well. One of the most amazing women I have ever known was outside tending her garden and in that one instant, I nearly pulled my car over to stop and have a chat with her. The memories came flooding back in spite of the abyss of time that has passed since I last saw her. I could have stopped and she would have given me a warm greeting and invited me to drink a glass of iced tea on the porch where many conversations had already passed between us. She would have read most of the articles about my time in Ecuador, which were published in the newspaper, and she would have asked all the right questions. I would have told her about my experience and how it's been since I've returned. Once I was finished, she would have given insightful wisdom for the future, a boost of much needed motivation, and a side of compassion for my self esteem. We would have chatted about her and what her family has been doing; how time has flown by...

In the instant I saw the little lady in her garden, I thought of the time she sat with me on my front steps trying to console me after she just came back from Connecticut. And how she helped me acquire my first automobile. The snippets of countless holidays and parties I attended with her and her family danced and flickered across my mind. I could picture nearly every inch of her home and how she probably still put the vitamins in little cups on the counter and had blueberries in a strainer. Our trip through New England to look at colleges, all the lovely gifts and useful words of advice & solace washed up out of nowhere onto the beach in my mind right next to the other lost memories. Of all the people I've known, she will always stand out as one of the most amazing, supportive, and influential.

I often wonder if the people for which we are the most tremendously grateful ever really know exactly how much because I find it almost impossible to convey the emotion appropriately, especially with this woman. Words often fail and gifts are never quite good enough for some individuals.

The thought waves washing over my shore lasted for only a few seconds before I passed her home. I know I could have stopped and it would have been a wonderful afternoon, but I didn't. I kept on driving because that was another time and another place, which occurred light years ago...