Friday, August 31, 2012

Friday Faves

Friday is becoming my favorite blogging day because I love sharing my current favorite things and reading all about everyone else's.  Lindsey is brilliant for this linkup: I've seriously found so much good stuff via these posts!  So now onto the good stuff:

When my previous black & gold sandals were on their last leg, I bought these Dolce Vita beauts at a DSW in Georgia.  I love them!  They're cute, my favorite color combo, have a protective metal strip at the toe so they don't easily scuff, and best of all?  They are so incredibly comfy.  I've basically been wearing them every day for the past few weeks.

What you see above is currently the 500 point gift at Sephora.  If, like me, you've been saving your points for something awesome, now is the time to cash in!  This set is amazing: the tinted primer works wonders, the eyeshadow is light, shimmery, and a perfect fall color, the lip gloss already has me addicted, and you get an eye pencil (goldy-blackish) and a mascara, too!  They're all half-sizes, but I suspect I'll be hunting down the full products once I go through these.  This gift box confirms my love for Laura Mercier.

Excuse the messy coffee table and note that this is my latest wine fave.  It's only $8.99 and it's so delicious.  I generally like red blends, and this one is the perfect combination of peppery and smooth.  I've bought three bottles in the past few weeks!  If you have a Trader Joe's near you, try it out!

And lastly, I leave you with my favorite Judebug clip ever, in which he says "lessssss goooo.  less do it" while urging me to "make a funny video of him."  HAHAHA!

Happy long weekend!

link up here!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Scar Story

The other day, when I showed you my cheery, neon bracelet from H&M, I realized I'd never written about the gnarly scar running up my right arm/hand.  Here's the story:

When I graduated from Tulane in 2003, I got a fellowship to teach poetry workshops in prisons around the U.S.  My proposal said that I'd travel to three different states, teaching a four-month-long Introduction to Poetry Writing class at each facility.  I came to San Francisco first (drove across the country with my mom in a two-door car), because I wanted to start at San Quentin, where they already have a well-established arts program.  I taught at San Quentin from August-December of 2003, and packed up around Christmastime to head to my next location: the Federal Correctional Institution in Miami, Florida.  

Miami was pretty tough to adjust to after living in San Francisco for four months.  Suddenly, I was lost in a sea of strip malls and tanning beds and big chain stores.  So not me.  So I pretty much threw myself into my work (teaching at the federal prison) and counted down the days till I was done and off to my third and final state: Vermont. 

Because I was sort of nomadic that year, I didn't have much furniture in my room.  So one night, while reading in bed, I had a candle sitting on the floor next to my bed (you can see where this is going). I guess I dozed off at some point, because a cloud of smoke woke me up around 2 am, and I saw that I'd knocked a throw pillow on top of the candle.  The flames were contained between the pillow and the candle itself, but I picked up the pillow and tried to snuff the fire out . . . which didn't exactly work.  The pillow was synthetic, and began to burn into this awful, black, plasticky type substance, which seared into my arm (and little spots on my legs, face, chest, etc.).  

the scar today: 9 years later

I drove myself to the hospital in the middle of the night, where I nearly collapsed from the pain.  The nurses gave me pain meds and anti-nausea meds and sat me in a room with a bucket of saline.  When the doctor finally came in at 10 am, he wrote me a prescription for a crazy expensive burn cream, bandaged me up, and told me not to worry: in two weeks time (when I was a bridesmaid in a wedding), you wouldn't even be able to see evidence of the burns.

Three days later I woke up in agony.  My scar (which was a long blister then) was circled with a dark red line and I couldn't move my right arm below my heart, lest it begin throbbing.  I finally reached a point where I couldn't take it anymore, left my poetry class at the prison's "camp" (white collar criminals) abruptly, and drove straight to the emergency clinic.

The doctor there said I had a serious skin infection and was appalled that the emergency room physician hadn't prescribed me an antibiotic.  And then he did something that caused me more physical pain than anything I've ever endured: he took a metal brush, dipped it in iodine, and scrubbed the hell out of my arm.  I couldn't even scream--I was frozen.

And you know what?  I drove myself home (one-armed) and things started to get better from there.  I felt pretty tough for getting through this whole ordeal by myself, just 22 years old, barely out of college, and with no family anywhere nearby.  For the next couple years, I was embarrassed by the scar (which was much brighter red then), but now I think it's pretty bad ass.  Scars are stories, right?  They give us texture and character and remind us from where we came.  

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Meat Butter

My dad and a couple of his chef buddies flew into San Francisco yesterday for some sort of culinary event.  They're spending today eating amazing food from all over the place.  Now if that doesn't make you question your career choice . . .

Last night, Matt and I met them at what is quickly becoming my favorite Oakland restaurant: Dopo.  Goodness gracious alive, that place is incredible.  I had dinner there once a couple years ago with some girlfriends, and I remember raving about it then . . . last night was no different.

love it when my daddy comes to the bay!

I ordered the ricotta ravioli with cherry tomatoes and basil, and it was absolutely one of the best meals I've ever had.  All the pasta at Dopo is made in house, and these people know what they're doing (I tried to make pasta once . . . didn't turn out so well).  Among the other things we ordered: a platter of their three side vegetables of the day (swoon), a couple pizzas with farm eggs, fennel sausage for Matt, lots of antipasti (pork liver pate, marinated tuna, and the scariest of them all: lardo).  

lardo: our friend Marshall calls it "meat butter," I call it "shaved fat"

Horrifying as that may look, the carnivores loved it and I happily attended to the baby gems with fresh mint & vinaigrette while awaiting my ravioli.  

Unfortunately, Dopo may have ruined pasta for me.  The thought of dried, packaged noodles is currently making me roll my eyes.  Like I needed another food-related thing to be snobby about.

If you're anywhere near the bay area, GO TO DOPO IMMEDIATELY.  If not, get on a plane and come visit our spectacular city and then GO TO DOPO IMMEDIATELY.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

5 Things

5 things I'm loving right now:

1. Morning coffee.  My favorite time of day.  Drinking strong coffee & reading blogs in the late morning is blissful.

2. This bracelet I got at H&M this week.  Cheers me up instantly:

this pic reminds me that I should post about my epic scar

3.  My country music Pandora station.  Reminds me of home?  ha

4. Watching past seasons of Sons of Anarchy with Matt.  CANNOT WAIT for the season 5 premiere in just two weeks.  I mean look:

5. And speaking of awesome things that are happening in September, I'm loving the anticipation of football season!  Micaela and Marianne got me the most amazing Saints jersey & panties from Victoria's Secret for my birthday, so I'm all set for the season opener:

What are you loving these days?

Monday, August 27, 2012

Weekend Update

After such a relaxing weekend, Monday morning's hitting like a ton of bricks.  Thank God for (strong) coffee.  People who don't drink it: how do you survive mornings??

Matt and I had a legit date night on Friday, and boy did we need it.  Our intention was to go to this weird sushi restaurant in our hood and then to see The Campaign, but the weird sushi restaurant turned out to be not so much a weird sushi restaurant at all, but a super hip bar & grill (more like bar & fine small plates establishment) called Honor.  The outside of the building still boasts the sorta-defunct SUSHI VILLAGE sign (plus incredibly strange marquees, with phrases like "Vegetarian Drinks are Back!" and "European Bowling is Here"), but inside is a veritable circus of hipsters & beer aficionados watching avante garde (and ironic) films on the flat screen tvs behind the trendy bar.  In short: we'll be back.

should've known it was a hipster bar

Not a whole lotta veggie selections on the menu, but they had Hell or High Watermelon on tap, so I'm sold.  

After our unexpectedly trendy "meal," we headed to the movies to see The Campaign, AND IT WAS FUNNY AS ALL GET OUT.  Zach Galifianakis was spot on as an uppity effeminate southern Republican and had me crackin' up the entire time.  I'm often critical of southern accents in tv and movies, but he nailed it.  I'm not even a movie person and I already want to see it again.  Especially in light of all the mudslangin' that's been going down in our actual campaign these days: oh so timely.

I spent Saturday working, organizing our house a little, drinking coffee, and playing wii.  It was pretty awesome to have a day in which I didn't get out of my jammies till late afternoon.  I'm still recovering from cross-country travel + work + funeral business and all that, so relaxation was in order.  And Sunday wasn't much more eventful; Matt and I showed off our apartment (we're trying to find a new roommate), went on an evening neighborhood stroll, and he cooked me this delightful meal of eggplant, spinach, red pepper, and angel hair pasta.  It's why I keep him around:

I also spent part of the day working on my blog.  I'm trying to learn a little bit of html so I can spruce things up around these parts without having to pay someone a fortune to do so.  Any ideas on websites that are awesome for people like me (who don't know the first thing about web design) to learn how to make blogs pretty?

Hope everyone had a great weekend & that Monday isn't so brutal.  Link up with Leeann, Sami, and Dana here!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Friday Faves

Hands down, my very favorite thing this week is this amazing picture of Milo, one of the darlin' boys I babysit.  I talk about his little brother Jude a lot, but Milo needs credit for being the total bad ass that he is.  Their family was in Hawaii last week, and Milo, who turned 4 this summer, is surfing like a rock star:

FOUR YEARS OLD.  This kid is destined for great things.  And I suspect the ladies will be falling at his feet the second he steps foot into kindergarten.  

THIS STUFF IS SO GOOD.  My friend Sara gave it to me and I can't get enough.  Normally, I don't really use lotion, but this smells so good that I can't resist.  It's made by Burt's Bees and the orangey smell is divine.  Find it in your local drugstore or Target!

Continuing on the beauty train, EYESHADOW.  Specifically, a very expensive one and a very cheap one, both new to me:

I've been coveting this for a long time, and my sis & bro-in-law gave it to me for my birthday last week.  Expensive, but worth every penny.  Such beautiful colors, a mixture of shimmery and matte, and the brush is pretty fantastic itself.

I was slightly hesitant about this one, because a) it is only $3 so how can it be that amazing? and b) I'd bought regular elf eyeshadow before and been disappointed.  But this mineral eyeshadow is GORGEOUS.  It stays on so well and looks incredible on.  I ordered three colors when elf had their 50% off sale a couple weeks ago, and now I plan on ordering lots more!  

And lastly, this article on anxiety and love by Daniel Smith.  I've had a serious anxiety disorder since I was a kid, and while it's pretty much under control now with medication + various techniques I've learned over the years, I'm still really interested in hearing about other people's experiences with anxiety. Daniel Smith has a new book out called Monkey Mind: A Memoir of Anxiety, that I ordered a few days ago.  I'll report back after I read it.

Happy weekend to all of you!

link up with my girl Lindsey!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

You Know, We All Need Balance, Right?

I've mentioned several times that my friend Diana and I meet every other Wednesday to do a mini poetry "workshop."  Except it's not really a workshop because there are only two of us.  But basically, after we graduated with our MFAs in Poetry back in 2007, we found ourselves with no worldly desire to write (ha).  I've never been good in the absence of deadlines.  And so, in order to keep ourselves committed to that-which-we-went-into-debt-for, we started giving poetry assignments and meeting (initially with another friend of ours from grad school, too) on the regular to keep ourselves accountable.

Of course, these biweekly meetings consist of about 15 minutes of poetry and 2 hours of catching up, eating good food, laughing, etc.

Last night, Diana came over for our "workshop."  I made pizzas, she brought cupcakes, we spent a few minutes talking about our poems from that week, and then?  We did this:

That's right ladies: the Bachelor for Wii.  You get date cards, compete in challenges, and ultimately stand nervously through a rose ceremony where wii versions of real bachelors (Jason Mesnick, etc.) choose to keep you around or send you packing.  IT IS SO AWESOME.

Basically, I've been reading and feeling rage about this, spending my work days planning curriculum for our upcoming book about violence and displacement in Colombia, missing my grandma, etc. . . and so sometimes, you need to play a lil Bachelor wii. ;)

Even Matt got into it.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


I inherited a lot from my father.  And while he passed on some good stuff (his commanding laugh, concern for others, ambition, etc.), he also bequeathed to me the following:

*extreme clumsiness (we bang into shit on the regular)
*a bad back
*a screwed up body temp that makes us unreasonably hot all the time
*acid reflux
*and worst of all: INSOMNIA

It's 5:10 am in San Francisco, and I've been up for a good hour and a half.  I pretty much wake up between 4 and 5 am every single night, give or take 30 minutes.  And by "wake up" I mean "wake up and can't go back to sleep," as I wake up and go right back to sleep many times throughout the night.

except in my case, it's 4 am

I've seen doctors, taken Ambien and/or Melatonin, used special bath salts & oils that are supposed to lull you to sleep, tried yoga/stretching at night, stopped drinking coffee in the afternoons, used sleep masks, tried going to bed earlier, and yet still:

And unfortunately, given that my dad hasn't slept through the night in something like 30 years, it's not looking so good for me.  I know I sound whiny, but insomnia really does f up the entire day (especially when it occurs multiple nights in a row).  I think maybe I need to be hypnotized.  Anyone have any less extreme suggestions?  Except don't suggest giving up coffee, cause that would basically ruin my quality of life.  

Incidentally, my mom and sister can sleep anytime, anywhere.  Damn genetics.

(And speaking of genetics, check out this hilarious blog post about Mary-Kate and Ashley written by my real life friend & former neighbor, Bonnie.  It's one of the many things I read between 4 and 5 am this morning). 

Monday, August 20, 2012

Scenes from the Homeland

Matt and I are heading back to San Francisco today after a week with my family in Georgia.  It's always strange to leave, but I'm definitely looking forward to being back in my own apartment and easing back into my schedule.  It was an emotional visit this time around, with a funeral to prepare for and everything that comes with that, but it was also really nice to introduce Matt to the place where I grew up.

can't get enough

Mama's backyard.  So many trees.

from the upstairs window at my mama's looking over
at the neighbor's green yard and red barns

I got in last Monday, and Matt joined me on Thursday (which was my birthday, in fact).  We had a low-key night in with some good friends and my favorite pizza ever.  Usually I am all about birthday festivities, but with all that was going on this year, a mellow night at my mama's was perfect.  And it was Matt's first time meeting her. :)

with Lane, one of my besties (we've been friends for 20 years)

view from the top of Kennesaw Mountain, next door to where I grew up

one of many southern meals with my man, this one at the OK Cafe

The funeral was on Saturday, and it was just as my grandma would have wanted it: Catholic and full of family.  My dad played guitar, my aunt sang Amazing Grace, and we all remembered what a dear woman she was.  My goodness, we will miss her.

Being the fans of irony and juxtaposition that we are, Matt and I headed to a comedy club on Saturday night.  Seemed like a good way to shake off the funeral blues, and we had free tickets thanks to a friend. We saw Tommy Blaze and he was hilarious.  Especially when he picked on the couple behind us who were awkwardly navigating their way through their second date.

I always love spending time with my enormous nephew

And so it's back to California today.  I'm actually really looking forward to getting back to work, which is a mighty pleasant feeling, I must say.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Off to Georgia

But this visit will be bittersweet.

photo by my sister

photos by my brother-in-law, Andy Lee

Grandma in May on her 92nd birthday, photo by my sister

We lost my precious grandma this past Wednesday.  She'd been on the steady decline for months, and we knew it was coming, but oh how I will miss her.  When she died, she was sleeping peacefully and surrounded by family, which is just how anyone would want to leave this world, I know . . . though it's tough to grapple with death, no matter the circumstances.  I'm sad she couldn't have made it another week so I could have hugged her and said goodbye, though I'm grateful for my family who made her feel so comfortable and so loved in her final days (months, really).  

Over the past five days, we've all been emailing back and forth about funeral arrangements, writing and editing the obituary, and talking details . . . and it's just so strange.  Strange to be grieving the loss of someone so dear, and having to focus on what seems like minutiae.  So surreal to email my dad and be like "oh, hey, you need a comma after this, a semi-colon after that" in a paragraph attempting to sum up my grandma's remarkable life.  

The funeral is on Saturday.  We will toast her and celebrate her and hope that everyone up in heaven is appreciating her spunk.  I wish I could say she's hanging out with Ignatius up there, but let's be honest. . . I'm not sure he made it past St. Peter. ;)

We'll miss you dearly, Grandma.  Your spirit will be with us, always.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Things I've Been Making Lately

I get a CSA box every three weeks, and it's pretty much the highlight of my month.  The best part about getting produce straight from a farm is that I end up trying new recipes, since I get things in my box that I normally wouldn't buy at the store.  Case in point: the eggplant that came last week.  Now, I looooooove a good eggplant parm, and the eggplant penne at Lococo's is to die for.  But I've never been masterful at cooking the ol' aubergine, so I basically never buy them at the grocery store.

After scouring the internet for healthyish eggplant recipes, I settled on this one.  But, as usual, I made a few modifications in order to achieve this deliciousness:

*I didn't peel my eggplant
*I used panko bread crumbs instead of wheat germ
*I added a healthy shake (or three) of nutritional yeast to the breading mix
*I made about 1/3 extra of the breading mix so that my eggplant slices were pretty heavily breaded
*I sprayed the baking tray with nonstick cooking spray

and for the sauce, I:
*sauteed 1/2 an onion, a smallish sweet pepper (also from my CSA box), and minced garlic
*when it was sufficiently translucent/cooked/browning, I added a jar of Giada's Roasted Garlic marinara as recommended by Lindsey
*threw in several shakes of chili flakes and Italian seasoning

When it was all done, I stacked eggplant/marinara/eggplant/marinara/eggplant/marinara with a pinch of part-skim mozzarella on top, and heavens to Betsy it was good.  Seriously, one of my new faves.  I had to stop myself from devouring the entire tray.

Best part?  It was super easy & quick.  40 minutes tops, start to finish, and well worth the time.  Make it! and report back to me your delight.

I've also been making some jewelry lately; something I really haven't done since college.  I went through a frenzied period when I was living in New Orleans during which I spent hundreds of dollars on beads, materials, etc. and countless hours fashioning necklaces, bracelets, and earrings.  But since I pretty much burned myself out, I haven't played around with jewelry in many years.  I don't know what came over me (well, yes I do, I wanted to make thank you gifts for the Domino Five, although I still haven't sent them . . . ), but recently I've been whipping out some DIY accessories:

Fun!  I need to work on the durability of my creations, though.  Any jewelers out there wanna give me some tips on how to make sure the jump rings don't split?

And lastly, I "made" this poem several years ago, but it just came out this summer in Booth.  Well, I guess it came out two months ago, but I just noticed it today.  So it's "new."  Ha.

Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Healthy Recipes I Want to Try

I looooove scouring Pinterest for new recipes.  Since I've been eating super healthily, I've been cooking more at home (though admittedly, sometimes I eat a Morningstar chik patty and cottage cheese for dinner).  Last week, I created a Healthy Recipes board on Pinterest, so that I could keep all guiltless meal ideas in one place.  Here are a few of the things I've pinned:

Yum, right?  Delicious-looking healthy things inspire me to cook.  Even though I'm a vegetarian, I often pin recipes that include chicken, because I can easily swap Quorn "chicken" for the real deal.  If you have a healthy recipes board on Pinterest, let me know!  I'd love to follow it and get more ideas.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Beauty Product Don'ts

I love reading blogs that recommend new hair/skin/makeup products, cause I've found some amazing products that way.  At the same time, I think it's important to share what isn't working for us, in the hopes of sparing other bloggers wasted money.

Recently I've tried three products that have not panned out so well.  I had high hopes for each of these, but they all fell short:

I don't have sensitive skin at all, and this made my face break out!  Honestly, I can't remember another time when a product made me break out.  But after using it for several consecutive days, I woke up with straight-up pimples on my face.  Like several of them.  I stopped using it immediately, and my skin is right back to normal.

Several people have told me that Garnier BB Cream didn't work for them, either.  And honestly, I'm not sure there was much of a difference in how my skin looked.  Sure, it was a little bit smoother, but certainly no more than when I use a tinted moisturizer (by the way, I've been using e.l.f. tinted moisturizer, and it's a whopping $3).  

I wanted to like this.  I love the idea of chapstick/lipstick hybrid balms.  But this one dried my lips out, and I didn't find it moisturizing at all.  I bought it in Cherry Me, which was a little too bright for my skin color . . . but I would have used it anyway if it felt good on my lips.  Sadly, it's been relegated to the reject pile.  I think I need to stick to straight up chapstick (this one is my favorite--it's amazing!).

Sometimes, I think matte polish on nails looks really cool.  I tried this emerald color from Revlon, and I did like the way it looked when my nails were painted.  However, when I took the polish off, I discovered that this polish had stained the bejesus out of my nails and they were SO YELLOW for SO LONG.  Ugh.  See??

Sick, right?  They basically had to just grow out--I couldn't get the yellow off for the life of me.  And frankly, I don't even think the picture does justice to the sunshiney yellow hue my nails took on.  

Anyone else disappointed by a beauty purchase lately?

Thursday, August 2, 2012

We're Living in Interesting Times

My dad was born the year that Brown vs. Board of Education desegregated schools.  (Well, of course, it took many years to really play out, but the historic Supreme Court decision took place in 1954).  The idea that schools, right here in the USA, were racially segregated the very year my dad was born . . . well, frankly, that's hard to wrap my brain around.

The other day, in my writing workshop, someone posed the question: "If you could go back to any other decade, which would it be?"  Honestly, I wouldn't want to go backwards at all.  I'm so glad I never lived in a time when women couldn't vote, when schools were segregated and people of color were relegated to far-away, academically-inferior, and often understaffed schools.  I mean, yes, this happens today to some extent, based on zoning and neighborhoods and access to education.  But you know what I mean.  

crazy that this was 1954, right? photo found here.

I think that one day, our grandchildren will be marveling that when their grandparents were young(ish), we were debating gay marriage.  That restaurant chains were giving upwards of 5 million dollars to organizations that work to keep gay marriage illegal.  I mean, regardless of your views, aren't there far more important places to give your money?  Is it more important to prevent gay people from getting married than to feed starving orphans?  I'm blown away by multi-million dollar effort to oppose gay marriage.  Because after all:

Source: via Claire on Pinterest


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Discovering Your Own City

Welcome, August!  You're my favorite month . . . and not just cause you're my birth month.  And speaking of welcoming August, check out my brand new nephew:

Aria on the left, baby August on the right

My bff just had her second baby, and christened him with what I think is the most beautiful name in all the land: August.  Congratulations Tiff and Matt, and heyyyyy little guy--so excited to meet you!

The other day, after a rough morning (I mentioned some of the stressors here), I spontaneously decided that Matt and I needed some afternoon relaxation.  Like, some real relaxation was in order.  I remembered that a while back, some friends had mentioned this hot tub sanctuary right in the middle of Oakland, and after just a few clicks and one phone call, I had us booked for an appointment at Piedmont Springs.

Turns out, it's only $16 per person/per hour to soak in their glorious, outdoor, private hot tubs.  They're surrounded by wooden walls and, looking up from the tub, you have a calming, woodsy view:

I was two miles from home & felt like I was on vacation

It was a bit luxurious for the middle of the week, but I figured it was no more expensive than a dinner out and trust me when I say we needed it, so I treated us to a one-hour session.  We opted for the regular hot tub, though you can also choose the combination room, which includes both a hot tub and a sauna, for $8 more per hour.  And they have spa services as well!

don't we look relaxed?

It's pretty great to find little treasures like this within a big, bustling city such as Oakland.  Somehow, it makes city life more manageable.  

What are your favorite hidden gems in your city/town?

p.s. check out my guest post today over at my friend Lindsay's blog.  I'm talking about my favorite vacation ever!