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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Go Chargers!

I went to my very first NFL game today.  WOO HOO!  I can't believe the *craziness* that is tailgating.  It was like driving through a circus to park except there weren't any fences to keep you separated from the animals!  


Thanks to the advent of the cell phone and texting, it didn't take me long to find my friend, Nancy, who invited me to the game with her and her friends.


Love Ken's apron!



Yes, yes.  It was also Halloween today.  Alex didn't forget.


You can't really see them, but all the Chargers girls wore costumes and, of course, were cute as hell.


Nancy on the left, with Chris and her sister beside her.

Today, I am grateful for many things, among them:
I got to see my first NFL game without a TV around it.
Nancy's friends were very friendly and made me feel right at home with them.
The CHARGERS WON!!  Let the winning streak begin!

Happy Halloween!

My monthly Scrabble party was last night and we had some first-time players:  Dr. Jekyl, Lady Godiva, and a couple of pirates to name a few.





Yesterday, I was keenly aware of how grateful I am to have a fun group of friends to play Scrabble with every month.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Puzzling





Today Yesterday, I was very grateful for free online computer puzzles.  

It was a long week, and when I got home from work, I totally vegged out and played puzzles all night long, which explains why this post is a wee bit late.  I'm a bit OCD with an addictive personality, so when I start something like this, I usually don't stop until I just can't keep my eyes open anymore.  I woke up on the couch this morning.  :)


Thursday, October 28, 2010

Sewing 101

So (sew?) way back when on October 2nd, in this post, I expressed my gratitude for a co-worker giving her sewing machine to me for the low, low cost of lunch at El Torito's.  And then I never mentioned the sewing machine again after that.  There was a good reason.  

     T     H     I     S     

My first attempt to sew something on my own was a complete disaster.  Either the sewing machine didn't work correctly, or the seamstress didn't work correctly, and my bet was on the seamstress (I first wrote "sewer", as in "one who sews", but then quickly realized that you might think I switched to plumbing.  No wonder "seamstress" is a word.)

Understandably, I became disheartened and frustrated when I couldn't figure out what I was doing wrong and pushed the machine aside vowing to figure it out another day.

A couple of days ago, one of my co-workers asked if I had sewn anything yet, and I relayed my pitiful story.  She knew right away what the problem was and said if I brought the machine into the office, she'd give me a quick tutorial.  Which I did.  And now I can sew!  Turns out I was doing about 60% of the threading steps wrong.


Thank You, Beryl!  For your excellent sewing lesson at lunch today.

Stoic Style

Today Yesterday, I'm grateful for running across and reading an article on a topic that I didn't know I was interested in until I read about it on the Boing Boing web site:  Stoicism.  I used to think that being stoic meant being brave and emotionless in the face of circumstances that tested those two things, being "hard".  




But it means so much more than that.  As I read it, it means that every day, you make yourself aware that this could be the last time you ever drink a cup of coffee, or meet your best friend for lunch, or see a caterpillar crawling across your path, or (fill in the blank).  




The idea is not to dwell on this and become morbid about it, but to realize what you have at the present moment and to fully appreciate it and experience it.  It's a great article, I recommend reading it here.  Here's a paragraph from it: 

One of my favorite visualization exercises involves the sky. When I see it, I periodically remind myself that the sky didn't have to be blue. But on most days it is blue, and a gorgeous blue, the hue of which changes subtly from hour to hour. Then I reflect on how wonderful it is that we inhabit a universe that can, on a nearly daily basis, present us with such a spectacle. A simple exercise, to be sure, and some would say a silly one. But if you can learn to appreciate the sky -- something most people take utterly for granted -- there is a good chance that you can learn to appreciate your life as well and thereby enjoy a happier existence than would otherwise be the case.

I love it!


Your attitude is your choice.  Consciously making yourself aware of all the good you see and experience every day can go a long way in forming and maintaining a positive attitude for all the days of your life.
My daily pictures and reflections on gratitude in this blog fall in line with stoicism's philosophy.  By consciously looking for things to be grateful for every day, I'm appreciating, noticing, and more fully experiencing things I may not have before.


 Thank You, Boing Boing!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Sanity in check.

(Regarding yesterday's post, replace "November 1st" with "January 1st".  Common Sense... check.  Sanity... check.  Let the holidays begin!)




Today, I'm thankful for really good books that I can't put down and end up getting sleep deprived, but it was so worth it at the time.  Speaking of which.... Good night y'all!

Monday, October 25, 2010

If at first you don't succeed

So I'm seriously considering giving the "month of no sugar" thing another try.  I'm pretty bummed that I didn't achieve my goal.  I'll have to think about it some more though, before committing.  I made it 18 days before, over half-way!  Surely I can make it to 30 days on a second try.  Anyone out there want to give it a try with me?  Maybe the buddy system can help us both.  I'm looking at November 1st.


If I do give it a second try, I need to more clearly define what counts as sugar and what doesn't.  You have the refined, processed white sugar that's added to things to make them taste "better" (above) - these I did not have.  And then you have the foods with natural sugars in them like fruits and milks (below) - these I did have.  


And then finally you have the natural sweeteners that are basically sugar like honey, agave nectar, molasses, etc. - and this is where I was stuck.  Do I include these or not?  The goal was to be healthier and to lose the physiological cravings for the stuff, so would the natural sweeteners help or hurt the goal?  I never really decided.  Any thoughts?

Enough about sugar already...


Today, I'm thankful for plants that don't care if you neglect them.

What's the opposite of green?  Whatever that is, that's the color thumb I have.  About three months ago, I brought a plant into work.  Three days later, it was fried to a crisp.  I tried to resuscitate it for about a month... nothing.  So I gave it to Trace, our office plant healer, for some critical care.  And yep, it's thriving now.  And nope, she won't give it back to me.  

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sunday, Lazy Sunday


I am thankful for my couch, where I spent the majority of my day, today.  Napping, reading, watching TV, and playing on the computer.  Sunday, Lazy Sunday.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Butternut Squash with Walnuts & Vanilla

I tried this new recipe today using the butternut squash I got from my CSA box last Monday.  



YUM!  I love it when a recipe comes out better than you expected.  This one's going in my "to make again" pile for sure.  First, you chop up your squash.


Then you coat it in olive oil & sprinkle with salt, and roast for 20 minutes.


Then you toast the walnuts and add the butter.  When the butter melts, add the squash and coat everything in the butter.  Then add the rest of the ingredients:  ginger, vanilla, lemon juice, thyme and black pepper.  And you're done!


I suggest using about 1/2 the butter that the recipe suggests.  I used three tablespoons, and it was really rich.  Tasty, for sure, but really rich.

My Thank You for today is related to this recipe.  I have very limited counter space in my kitchen, and it's always tricky to figure out how to display the recipe conveniently without it being in the way or spilling something on it.  Today, as I was looking around the kitchen, a light bulb finally went off!  The perfect solution:


Thank you, little red magnetic clippy thing and just-big-enough-hinge on the cabinet.  You've made my cooking life a whole lot easier.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Cinderella version 2.0



Today, I'm grateful for two websites:  750 Words and Creative Writing Prompts.  


As part of my literature degree, I took a creative writing class in college.  I surprised myself by actually liking the class and having fun crafting poems and stories.  I had every intention to continue writing after the class was over, but without the guidance of an instructor and a class of peers to share the experience with, that intention fell by the wayside (The Wayside was also the name of the bar I went to every week... Coincidence?  Hmmmm).




My interest in writing was re-ignited by Squam when I serendipitously ended up in a creative writing workshop.  (I thought I had signed up for a short story reading group...ooops.)  About the same time, I discovered the 750 Words site and started using it.  After a couple of weeks of writing, at a loss for writing topics, I googled "writing prompts" and found the Creative Writing Prompts site, which I've been having a lot of fun with.




Today's prompt was to rewrite Cinderella so that the shoe fit one of her step-sisters, not her.  I cracked myself up as I wrote it.  I'm having so much fun with this....I'm not a good writer, I don't pretend to be, and it's not my intention to become one.  I'm writing for myself, just to have fun, and to express a little creativity in my every day life.  




I'm grateful for the 750 Words and the Creative Writing Prompts web sites and for the people who run them for helping inspire my inner creative self.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

   G R A T I T U D E   

I just gotta brag on my workplace today.  I absolutely love working at UCSD.  The students bring their energy, idealism, and excitement and you can't help but have it rub off on you a bit.  The best part about working for UCSD, though, is how they take care of their staff.  No, we're not gonna get rich working there, our salaries are actually below market value, but they make up for that in part with their Staff Education and Development programs. 
I attended one this morning, the Administrative Professionals Development Program, where Marye Ann Fox, our Chancellor, was scheduled to provide the welcoming remarks.  Everyone at my table felt immense pride for our Chancellor as we had recently learned that the White House named her as a National Medal of Science recipient.  We all conspired to give her a standing ovation when she took the podium, thinking we'd be the "cool" table to honor her in this way, however, everybody there, over 300 people, had the same idea and she was given a rousing and heartfelt welcome.


Our Esteemed Chancellor this morning

Today, I am grateful to work for UCSD and the Skaggs School of Pharmacy, and to have an intelligent, witty, inspiring, and down-to-earth Chancellor in Marye Ann Fox.



Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Mom



I had the best kind of dream last night.  My mom gave me a great big hug and told me not to worry, that she knew.


Two days ago, the writing prompt for my 750 Words entry was "The last time I saw her, she..."  Of course, the first person who popped in my mind was my mother.  She contracted cancer when I was 18 years old and died from it in 1991 when I was 20.  I'm afraid I wasn't the ideal daughter during this time, and it's something I've regretted my entire life since, my only life regret, in fact.  I loved my mother, our relationship was fine, but when she got sick, I distanced myself from her.  In hindsight, I can plainly see why I did that, but it doesn't change how she must have been hurt by it, and how ashamed and awful I still feel about it.






In my writing entry, I fiercely apologized to her and expressed all the things I should have said to her and all the things I should have done for her at the time.  I wondered if she knew that I loved her, if she understood what was going on with me and forgave me for it.  My mom sacrificed a lot for us, my brother and me, and I failed her at the worst time of her short life.


Last night, in one of those lucid dreams that feel amazingly real, she walked up to me with a knowing smile and gave me the warmest, most loving hug.  I could feel the warmth of her body and smell the scent of her unique self.  I could feel the love she felt for me and I returned it.  We just stood there, holding each other, and that was the dream.



Tuesday, October 19, 2010

I had a great run.

I had a couple of iced sugar cookies today.  




My streak has ended, but you know what, I'm totally okay with it.  I went 18 days without sugar and for me, that's a pretty awesome accomplishment.  I'm going to take what I learned and use it to help me going forward.  Balance, balance, balance.  Moderation, moderation, moderation.


Gratitude


Today, I was grateful that no one in my apartment complex was using the washer and dryer when I got home from work today.  Otherwise, I might have had to wear pajamas to work tomorrow.  (P.S.  Stunt doubles in the pic... I forgot my camera when I went to the laundry room.)

(N)SD!

Monday, October 18, 2010

A Bountiful Harvest

Today went by fast.  Mondays never do that, what a treat!  I was busy all day at work, when I wasn't staring out the window at the cozy and comforting gray, rainy day that made me want to curl up on a couch with a blanket and a good book.


I love my office window.  It's good for daydreaming.

Today was CSA pick-up day and the harvest was bountiful this week!  Apples, oranges, pears, limes, tomatoes, potatoes, kale, red peppers, carrots, lettuce, avocados, zucchini, broccoli, and beets.  WHEW!  I had planned on just having a frozen Amy's for dinner, but with all this lovely produce, I was inspired to make a stir-fry.  

I cut some super firm tofu up into bite-size pieces, marinated it in a combo of soy sauce, sesame oil and garlic powder for about an hour and threw some brown rice in the rice cooker.  While that was all taking care of itself, I chopped up an onion, a carrot, broccoli, kale, red pepper, zucchini, walnuts, garlic and the mushrooms I got from the Farm Tour Saturday, and stir fried it all up in sesame oil and soy sauce.  After an hour of marinading, the tofu went in a 375-degree oven for 20 minutes.  Once everything was done, I threw it all together and finally sat down for dinner 2 hours after I started it.  Oh my YUM!  Lunches this week are going to be good.


I'm grateful for the pleasure that cooking gives me.  When I'm serious about cooking, I cook in silence... no TV, no music.  I pay full attention to the ingredients and to the sounds of preparation.  The chop of the knife, the slice of the mandolin, the sizzle of the oil when you put garlic and onion in the pan, the roar when you add everything else.  My favorite sounds.

(N)SD!

Testing 1, 2, 3

Ooops.  I forgot to post yesterday.  Well, I didn't exactly forget, I just didn't feel like it.  It was one of those days.  I did manage to stay sugar-free, although I came really close to not being able to say that.  My will power and commitment were tested to the nth degree.


Never, ever, ever go to the grocery store hungry!  I know this.  But I do it sometimes anyway.  After a lovely afternoon of a movie (The Social Network...great flick!) and a craft show with a friend, I stopped at Henry's to pick up just a few things - bananas, peanut butter, and milk.  I walked out with $100 worth of groceries.  Never, ever, ever go to the grocery store hungry!  Everything I bought will be used, so it wasn't a total catastrophe, but it almost was.  


Because I was hungry, and walking around all that food, I found myself super tempted to put sugary treats in my cart as I walked by them.  Henry's sells the best cookies.  I managed to get through the bakery section without putting any of them in my cart by telling myself, "Wait until you get in line, they always have those little baskets with individually wrapped cookies you can buy instead of these 12-packs.  You can have one of those, nobody ever has to know.  It'll be okay."  


That helped me get through the urge, and then when I got in line, I was semi-disappointed and semi-relieved that there was no little basket with cookies there.  Thank goodness!  I could have left the line to walk the 20 feet back to the bakery, but knowing how I'd feel about lying on this blog kept me from doing that.  Because there's no way I'm going to write, "I ate sugar".  And I'm a really bad liar.  Crisis averted!  You gotta wanna, even when you don't wanna - that was definitely my motto for yesterday.


Yesterday's Thank You:



Pippin, one of the lovely ladies that I met at the Squam Art Workshop last month, lives here in San Diego!  She had a booth at North Park Craft Mafia's Sunday, Crafty Sunday yesterday and I bought this piece from her.  I absolutely love it!  I'm grateful that a fellow Squam alum lives here and that I am now the very proud owner of this gorgeous piece of artwork. 

Saturday, October 16, 2010

From Farm To Fork

I had a pretty neat day.  Today was the San Diego County Farm Bureau's first-ever Farm Tour Day, a fundraising event to help this self-reliant, non-profit organization advocate for their 1300 members.  For $20.00, I got to tour five local farms and sample some of their produce.  


After watching films like "Food, Inc." and learning more and more about nutrition and how foods, and the chemicals that some are made with, affect our bodies, I've been on a kick of wanting to "get more intimate" with my food and eliminate anything containing ingredients not found in nature.  When I saw this tour listed, I got so excited and was looking forward to it every day.  Funny.  I used to get excited about getting all dolled up and going to Poison concerts.  Now going to a farm gets my blood going.  Times, they change.


First up was Hillebrecht, an avocado grower.  I *looooooooove* avocados.  





I was tempted to hang back at the end of the group and stash as many as I could in my purse, but unfortunately my conscience wouldn't let me.  A lot of them had fallen from their trees and were just laying on the ground.  So sad.

Next was certified-organic Rockwood Ranch, citrus fruit and wine grape grower. 


Farmer Stehly is demonstrating how the ant traps work.  They buy "Gourmet Ant Bait" to fill the traps.  Nothing but the best for these pests!  He told us about some pretty innovative methods they've discovered to control their weed and pest populations.  


This may look like pesticide being sprayed around these plants, but in fact, it's 220 degree water!  Hot water helps control the weeds around the crops.  Amazing!  

Farmer Stehly also told us about the method they found to prevent deer from eating their fruit.  After dismissing ideas of building fences and electrocuting them, he read about one farmer who hangs bars of Camay soap on the trees.  The deer don't like the smell of the soap, so they stay away.  He tried it and it worked.  So now his wife makes regular trips to the 99-cent store and buys it by the shopping-cart-load.  Just ingenious!  Such a simple idea and win-win-win all around.

The third farm I visited was Altman Plants, a cactus and succulent grower.  This was the perfect opportunity to buy a plant that I wouldn't be able to kill in three days (no green thumb here).  The nursery was just beautiful.



They share space with another farm, a fruit-grower, where I learned about Dragon Fruit.  It's a gorgeous red color with a very unique look inside.  It tasted like unsweetened watermelon with a similar texture, but a little bit creamier.



The fourth stop was the most popular stop, Mountain Meadow Mushroom.  The very friendly and enthusiastic farmer could have been George Clooney's brother.  


He walked us through each stage of growing mushrooms, beginning with regular straw and then to the final product.  I had never really thought about how mushrooms were grown before.  I guess I just imagined they were harvested from the woods.  ?  Seeing how it's really done was fascinating.  He let us pick some right from the beds and taste them.  Best Mushrooms Ever, no question.  He said a lot of flavor gets lost in the transport to the store.  The mushrooms we had here were the most flavorful I've ever had. 




I love how he operates, too.  He's worked out a deal with the Del Mar Fairgrounds - they give him all their hay from the race track when they're done with it.  And then once he's done with the soil that the mushrooms grow in (once they've lost most of the nitrogen), he gives it away for free.  Schools, community gardens, various horticultural clubs and many other organizations routinely stop by and leave with truckloads of it.


And finally, the last stop of the day was at West Lilac Farms, citrus fruit and decorative plant grower.  A tram ride was part of this tour!  It brought back memories of hay rides back in the day.




It turns out that this grower is one of the suppliers to Be Wise Ranch, the CSA that I belong to!  How cool to actually meet the farmer whose food I'm eating.  This man grows my food:




Apparently, I get their avocados and their beets in my box every two weeks.  If you don't know what a CSA is, you should definitely check it out.  It's the smartest food-buying decision I've ever made.  Everything is fresh, nutritious and sooooo delicious.


This was a fantastic event.  It was very well-organized and everyone was super friendly and eager to show off their farms.  I was especially impressed by it because it was the first fundraiser they've ever organized.  They kept it very low budget and didn't do any paid advertising, just basically through word of mouth and about 120 people signed up for it.  I think it has the potential to get even bigger and better in the future and I can't wait for the next one!


(N)SD!


P.S.  By the way, this event was without question my Thank You for the day.  I'm very grateful for my local farmers, for the Farm Bureau, and for my CSA.