Friday, June 29, 2012

Friday Favorites

Today I'm taking a page out of my girl The Bargain Blonde's book & giving you some Friday faves, as I sure love seeing other people's.  In fact, several bloggers (including Lindsey) recommended #3, which is why it is now one of my faves!  Run out and get yourself some immediately.  Here are some of my favorite things/discoveries of late:

1. Food
TOMATOES.  I cannot get enough.  It's finally tomato season in these parts & they are basically all I want to eat (unfortunately I like them best with crusty bread).  When I got home from San Quentin on Monday night, Matt had this spread waiting for me . . . and I was in heaven:

sliced & marinated tomatoes, Acme bread, hummus, and wine

I can't wait to go the farmers' market on Sunday and stock up.  Sweet cherry tomatoes, big fat heirlooms, sliceable hothouse tomatoes (like those pictured above) . . . divine.  Also, I made a decadent panzanella salad the other day with these tomatoes, fresh burrata cheese, basil, and thick, grilled bread chunks.  Let's just say it was amazing.  Here are a few tomato recipes for you to try out this summer:

2. Clothing
I pretty much wear maxi dresses all day every day in the summer.  And even though I have plenty, I'm always scoping out more.  Here are some of my favorites:

Source: via Claire on Pinterest

3. Beauty Product
This Dove Argan Oil Detangler is just as amazing as all the other bloggers are saying.  It's only $5, and it makes my long, wavy, frizzy hair SO SOFT and SHINY!

I got it at Target and I couldn't be more pleased.  Plus, it smells yummy, which is a big deal when it comes to hair products.  Thanks to this product, I haven't blow dried my hair all week.  Thank you, Lindsey et. al., for recommending this.  I love it.

Link up with Lindsey and share your faves!  Happy Friday!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Come find me?

First of all, thank you for the very sweet comments & thoughts about yesterday's post.  It means a lot to me that so many of you took the time to read it & share your encouraging words.

Onto more light-hearted things:  Last week, I got to meet up with Kristin and her husband as they road-tripped through California!  She was just as sweet & adorable as I imagined.  We had a few beers & some delicious food at 21st Amendment before they continued on their drinking tour of San Francisco. ;)

She's on a plane back to North Carolina right now, so I'm guest posting for her today about four of my favorite (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) drinks, plus sharing my favorite smoothie recipe.  Come say hi over there?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

6,000 Sad Stories

I was barely 22 when I first started teaching at San Quentin.  I had a fellowship, so I was pretty much there full time, and taught classes in various units.  When November came around, little elementary-school-esque paper cutouts of Thanksgiving paraphernalia started popping up around the Education building.  For some reason, that broke my heart.

Maybe it was because it was my first Thanksgiving away from my family, maybe it was just the cumulative effect of having spent all my days inside a prison for the past 3+ months, but the realization that Education would be closed on Thanksgiving made me cry.  My students and I had all grown pretty attached to our Poetry classes, and the fact that they'd all be alone on Thanksgiving with these depressing paper cornucopias and canned gravy slopped onto their trays in the chow hall--and I couldn't even come in to teach our class--suddenly it was just too much to bear.

The Artist Facilitator at San Quentin, with whom I worked closely, said to me: "Claire, there are 6,000 sad stories in this prison.  You can't carry them all around."  His advice worked--it sort of snapped me out of it--and over the past 8 years, I've kept his advice in mind and been much better about detachment.  It's true: everyone has a sad story.  Especially prisoners.  I wouldn't be able to teach there if every one of their stories lodged into my heart.

And yet, occasionally one does.

I'm pretty tough.  I don't ask my students why they're incarcerated at San Quentin, and frankly, I don't really care.  I'm there to be a teacher.  Of course, given that I'm teaching poetry, their stories often come out.  Still, I take my red pen and mark up their poems just as I would if they were privileged university students.  They're there to learn.

But for the past two years, I've had this one student, O.  He's 23 now, which means he was just 21 when he joined my class.  He's tiny, and he has those you-can-spot-em-anywhere prison tats blotched on his arms, behind his right ear.  And he's a phenomenal poet.  He's especially into the female confessional poets, and his own writing has come so far that he's ready to send his poems off to journals.

O was arrested at 16 for robbery and taken to California's notorious Youth Authority (juvenile prison).  He was incarcerated there until he was 20.  When he was released, he went back to his mom and stepdad's house in Fresno.  His stepdad had recently been laid off from his job at a cattle farm, and was scrambling for jobs to pay the bills.  It wasn't working, so he and O headed up to Napa County to work in the fields during the marijuana harvest season.

Federal agents caught them in the fields and shot his stepfather, who was standing beside O.  His stepfather died immediately, and the agents arrested 21-year-old O for cultivating marijuana and possession of a firearm.

He came to San Quentin.  And he's set to be released later this week.  And I'm nervous as hell.

In California, state prisoners have to parole to the county of their last legal address.  O will go back to Fresno, where his family lives.  His mother has struggled since her husband was killed by federal agents and her son was taken to prison in one fell swoop.  All the kids he got in trouble with in his teens--they still live in that same neighborhood.  And let's not forget how institutionalized O is by this point; he's hardly seen the outside of a prison since he was 16.

Who's going to give him a job?  Rent him an apartment?

There's a part of me that strongly believes that we're all accountable for every decision we make.  Actually, all of me believes that.  But when you grow up with family members in the Mexican cartel, as O did, and you experience the drug trade as a normalcy--how are you supposed to learn otherwise?  At what age do you become responsible for teaching yourself better?

I imagine that it's easy for most people to think of prisoners as sociopathic, manipulative monsters.  And some of them are.  But all of them have stories, and crime doesn't occur in a vacuum.  My hope is that people--citizens, voters--are thinking, deeply and critically, about the problem of prisons in our country.  It seems to me that we'd get a lot further as a society if we focused on healing rather than punishment.

Send some positive thoughts toward San Quentin on Friday as O walks out those big iron gates, if you will.  He's got a tough journey ahead.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Weekend Update

Happy Monday, folks.  I've been a little sad this weekend that I'm not in Panama City, Florida, with the rest of the girls in my family . . . but they've been updating me with text pictures and phone calls, so at least there's that.  Sometimes it's hard living across the country.  Bicoastally, if you will. ;)

Even though I live in California right near the coast, and the view from Baker Beach is astounding (see my blog header, a picture I took with a cheap camera), I'll never stop missing Florida beaches.  They're so laid back and barefoot and warm and humble.  Beachfront stores selling airbrushed t-shirts and bars on the sand blaring Jimmy Buffet?  That's my kind of living.

In any case, onto my meager weekend update:

On Friday evening, Matt and I stopped at Marin Brewing Company (across the street from San Quentin, for you prison enthusiasts) for a quick bite to eat and one of my new favorite beers: Orange & Black Congrats Ale, brewed in honor of the Giants' World Series win:

locally-brewed black ale with orange zest

We spent the rest of the evening in bed, compromising on what to watch (a couple episodes of Prison Break + Tim & Eric's Billion Dollar Movie).  Ladies & gentlemen, I love my boyfriend enough to watch the entire Tim & Eric movie.  And you know what?  Aside from one horrific scene, it really wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.  It even made me laugh a little.

I had Saturday to myself, and for the first time in recent memory, I didn't go anywhere.  Nor did I do much, aside from watching tv, painting my nails, and making veggie pasta.  It was blissful.  I'm so go-go-go by nature that I almost never stay home and RELAX, and man was it good.

On Sunday, Matt and I met up with our friends Diana and Adam at the Thai Buddhist Temple in Berkeley for brunch.  They do it every week as a fundraiser for the temple.  You trade in your dollars for coins, and there are various lines for various foods & drinks.  And if you're lucky, you see lil monks wandering around. :)

if you go, get the yellow curry & the mango sticky rice

In shallower news, I'm totally smitten with Sonia Kashuk nail polish.  Last week, I fell hard for the bright silvery Smoke & Mirrors, and a few days ago I went back for Tango Mango.  I LOVE IT.

So as you can see, my weekend consisted primarily of eating, drinking, and doing stuff like painting my nails & watching mindless tv.  Perhaps next weekend I'll engage in something a bit more substantial.  But till then, back to work i.e. dreaming about laying by the pool.

Friday, June 22, 2012

It's Friiiiiiiiday

I think it's in our blood to be excited when Friday arrives.  Yay, no work for two days!  Yay, the start of the weekend!  And yet, it doesn't really matter for me these days.  My work schedule is all over the place, and frankly I have just as much to do on the weekends as I do throughout the week.  No meetings, though, so that's a plus!

Yesterday Matt and I had to cancel dinner plans with friends because he seems to have contracted a summer cold.  We spent the evening in bed with Season 2 of Prison Break, our current fave.  I'm praying I don't get his cold--I'm far too busy to be sick.  Aren't colds supposed to be reserved for winter???

I'm spending this foggy, overcast Bay Area day with my favorite little mister, Sir Judebug.  Lately, whenever I show him a picture of himself, he proclaims, "That look cute!"  (He's totally right). 

clockwise from top left: rare snuggly boy, TIME OUT!, 
with his favorite person (Matt), and Jude-in-a-drawer

Also, I've finally caught up with the rest of humanity & joined Netflix (thanks to the Prison Break addiction).  Any suggestions for stuff that's streaming?  The possibilities are so exciting.

And while we're talking suggestions, I still need some good ideas for bathing suits.  I don't want to spend a million dollars.  Where have y'all found good ones??  I'm struggling over here.

Here's to a fun weekend for all--may it be filled with sunshine & beer! ;)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

It's Officially Summertime!

With the high temps in the Bay Area lately, I don't need the solstice to tell me summer has arrived . . . but it sure does feel official now!  I can't wait to see what time the sun goes down tonight.  It's been staying light till almost 9 pm!

Some summery things that are on my mind:

my new favorite cover-up;

These Target wedges that are sold out in my size/on backorder :(

This! So yummy.

The only problem with summer is that all I really want to do is lay by the pool, have beers/cocktails on porches with friends, and take day trips to fun places. 

What's on your mind for summer?

Monday, June 18, 2012

Weekend Update

It was so beautiful here this weekend in the Bay Area!  It really felt like summer for the first time.  The only problem with this warm, sunny weather is that I'm finding it increasingly difficult to run.  How do you southern runners do it???  I think I'd have to strap ice packs all over my body.  Or wake up at 5 am . . . and the ice pack idea is more feasible for someone who hates early mornings as much as I do. ;)

The perfect antidote to the heat?  Laying by the pool!  Which is exactly what I did Friday and Saturday.   This was pretty much my view for two days:

Thanks to Jodi for the awesome book recommendation.  Feels so good to read a well-written novel with compelling characters after finishing 50 Shades of Grey, heehee.

On the pool note, two things:

1. I've decided that someone needs to open an adult pool near me.  Complete with swim-up bar and NO KIDS ALLOWED sign.  Any businessy folks out there looking for a new venture??

2. Still having trouble finding a bathing suit.  I pretty much hate everything I try on.  I'm sure it has absolutely nothing to do with my wine belly. ;)  If you've gotten a suit you like this year: WHERE?  I'm thinking of actually going to a department store like Macy's or Nordstrom (which I basically never do) since they seem to have the most selection.

On Saturday night I missed a bachelorette party to have pizza & movie night with Matt and his adorable son, Jasper.  Never thought I'd say that, ha!  It was a sweet prelude to Fathers' Day, where I missed my own sweet daddy, but had a fun cookout with Matt, Jasper, and our neighbors.  And I made this cake for Matt.  I'm pretty much destined for an awesome cake decorating career, don't you think?

What did you do this weekend?  Share via this new linkup!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Miscellaneous Friday Stuff

Hello, Friday!  So lovely to see you.  Particularly since I plan on spending you laying by the pool with a book in hand.  It's been so sunny here!

1.  Speaking of books, I finally finished this atrocity:

It took me so long to get through because the writing was cringe-worthy.  Cliche, repetitive, juvenile, unrealistic, trite as all get out . . . just bad.  So bad that I just can't make myself read the second one.  There are too many well-written books begging to be read.  The only ounce of hope I felt, after reading this drivel, was that maybe this trilogy will inspire other writers to merge erotica with mainstream fiction.  

2. I never really blog about giveaways, but you should enter this one, because it's awesome.  I gotta admit that I've been seriously coveting an Erin Condren life planner since I started hearing bloggers rave about them.  And since presales for next year's planners began this week, it's perfect timing!

3. All week I've been thinking about how to blog about this.  I don't think I have it in me to write the tribute post that he deserves, but in short, our family lost Ignatius this week.  I've been trying to explain to people who hadn't met him that he wasn't just a dog . . . he was a legend.  I've lost other dogs before and it's definitely always sad, but this is different.  Ignatius was the smartest, funniest, most terribly-behaved dog I've ever met, and his antics were the stuff of great novels.

He was nearing 12 years old, arthritic, dealing with Cushing's Disease, and the vet thinks he had developed a brain tumor.  It was time for him to go, but I was never going to be ready.  I've never loved a pet this much, and I still can't really conceive of the Kiefers without him.  It's a sad time for us & the end of an era, for sure.  You can read more about Ignatius's shenanigans here.

4. On a happier note, I'm obsessed with my new nail polish:

Sonia Kashuk, Smoke & Mirrors

I have another silver but this one is far superior.  I love it.  Can't wait to go back and get the gold!  In fact, maybe I should add a gold sparkly top coat . . . 

Linking up with Tara and Vicki for The Nail Files & wishing you a happy weekend.

The Nail Files

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

On Blog Friendships

If you've been reading my blog for any amount of time, you know how blessed I've been when it comes to friendships that began with blogging.  If someone had told me, when I started this blog, that I'd meet some of my best friends through this odd, internet channel . . . I would have laughed.  But oh how true it has been: my life is so much richer than it was two years ago, all thanks to new(ish) friendships.

Don't get me wrong: I treasure my lifelong, old school friends just the same.  I've always been really social, and I am grateful for my friends all over the country (and beyond).  Which is kinda why I never really thought of blogging as a means to collect more friendships--I thought I already had enough!  Nevertheless, the friendships I've gained through blogging are just as valuable as those I've had for years & years.

One of the funniest things is hearing about blog friends' boyfriends'/husbands' reactions to blog friendships.  For the most part, they totally don't get it.  haha!  I'm lucky to have a boyfriend who is super supportive of my blog and blog friends, and he's been eager to meet many of my blog-generated girlfriends himself!  Including but probably not limited to: Sheba, Faiza, Micaela, Marianne, Shelly, Lindsay, and soon-to-be Kristin!

Last weekend, on our whirlwind trip from the Bay to Seattle and back, Matt and I got to stop briefly at Lindsay's house.  Lindsay and I connected via our blogs over a year ago, but have grown much closer in more recent months.  We've poured our hearts out to each other over email, shared pictures and stories, and I swear we'd hang out all the time if we lived anywhere near each other.  Needless to say, I was ecstatic to finally meet her!  But as has been true with all my dear blog friendships, it didn't even feel like we were meeting for the first time.

Lindsay was just as beautiful and sweet as I knew she'd be.  But those twin boys?  OMFG.  I don't know that I've ever seen anything cuter than those two.  They are hilarious and chubby and smart and precious, and I cannot wait to get my hands on them again.  I'm squealing just looking at them now!  I can't stop thinking about them.  Lindsay, ship them down to Auntie Claire for a weekend visit! :)

Now I have some questions for you:

Have you met anyone in person through blogging?
If you could meet anyone whose blog you read, who would it be?

Monday, June 11, 2012

Playing Catch Up in a Major Way

OMG I've never gone this long without blogging.  But I miss it, and my bloggy peeps, and I want to show all of you what's been going on over the past week and a half.  Starting with, most importantly, the whirlwind trip Matt and I took last weekend.

I mentioned in my last post that his car was stolen. :( Oakland police did find it, but it was undriveable (stolen battery, cut cables, screwed-up ignition, etc.), so we surrendered it to the tow lot.  C'est la vie.  The good that came out of it: we got train tickets for the Coast Starlight and headed up to Seattle, where Matt's mom and stepdad live.  They were kind enough to offer their 2002 Subaru to replace Matt's pilfered Honda, which gave us a great excuse for a quick vacation.  I was nervous about the train, as it's a 23 hour ride from Oakland to Seattle . . . but it was amazing!  Such an incredibly memorable experience.  Trains are nothing like airplanes; way more spacious and old-world, and I actually slept in transit which is kinda unheard of for me.

Plus, our train car was chock full of Amish folks.  Exhibits A, B, and C:

Please excuse the poor quality of my pictures, as they were sneaky cell phone pics.  Three of the Amish women had infants, and all three of the babies were in full garb: black tights, wool dresses, bonnets.  We had no idea the train would be such a cultural experience!

The Coast Starlight stopped for an hour in Portland, so we quickly disembarked, ran around for a couple blocks (stretch those legs!), and found a cute bar serving up an awesome happy hour:

A porter & oysters for Matt; greyhound & chocolate sea salt truffle for me!  45 minutes and we were running back for the train.  

Matt's mom and stepdad picked us up in Seattle, and whisked us back to their home in Whidbey Island via the adorable car ferry.  After one of the best night's sleep I've ever had, we awoke to a warm house, locally-roasted coffee, and a parent-made breakfast.  They showed us around the cute, artsy island on which they live, and then right around lunchtime, we were on our way back down south.

First destination: Lindsay's house!  But that's a post of its own, so expect to hear about my PNW blogger date tomorrow. :)

After a brief stop at Lindsay's just outside of Seattle, Matt and I headed back down to Portland, where we stayed with his friends, Joe and Sara, for the night.  It was awesome meeting them, and so sweet watching Matt catch up with old buddies.   When morning came, we commenced the 12+ hour drive back to the bay.  It was a smooth drive (despite a brief encounter with a hailstorm), and we laughed ourselves all the way home.  He did every bit of the driving, and we even stopped for a sushi dinner finale in our 'hood before we got back to our apartment.  It was an incredible trip.  I'm a pretty lucky girl. ♥ ♥ ♥

Suffice to say we were both exhausted at work on Tuesday, but it was totally worth it.  I beseech you: take a train trip!  It was such an amazing experience.  And isn't that what life's all about???