Tuesday, December 31, 2013

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13 photos from 2013

I left a bit of my heart in Big Sur this year

High above the clouds off of Highway One near Big Sur

Lots of weekends away visiting my parents in Portland; this is from picking berries on Sauvie Island

Exploring Santa Barbara's Urban Wine Trail, one of my favorite things to do on a Sunday

My cat, who made grown up life a lot more joyful 

Snuck up to Berkeley/San Francisco this fall, my first time back since graduating 

The closest I got to scuba diving this year... :(

A 12 hour layover in one of my favorite cities, Washington DC

Visiting my best friend at her new home in Senegal, Africa, was a major highlight

Carmel-by-the-sea was surprisingly almost as beautiful as Big Sur

My birthday was a vast improvement from the year before, having all of my friends and family celebrate with me at a picnic in the park was really special

I thought I'd share some of my favorite photos/moments from this past year.

I know, I can't believe 2013 is over either.  This year wasn't my favorite; while I got my first real job (that I love!), it's been hard settling down and getting into the swing of post-college and post-traveling life.  I've often internalized my struggle too (telling myself to "grow up" and deal with it), so I didn't even really realize that I wasn't too excited about this year until I reached the end of it.  I'm still personally wrestling with the idea and saying "fuck it" and leaving or sticking it out to save and be responsible for another year.  Regardless, 2014, I'm ready for ya!

Monday, December 30, 2013

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Christmas in Portland

As Christmas-y as my apartment got...

Mini trees count too, right?

 If he isn't the cutest nephew ever, I don't know who is ;)

 My room in the new house... I love the huge corner windows

 Huckleberry pancakes!  Mmmm

 Gah!  I can't get over her little bowl cut.  She looks like Paul McCartney.

The whole gang!

I always have trouble answering the question, "Where are you from?"  Well, I was born in one place, lived somewhere else for 5 years, then attended middle school and high school in another place, then called Berkeley home for 4 years in college (and spent summers elsewhere), and now my parents live in Portland.  Since they moved there 3 years ago, I've lived at home for months at a time, but I don't know anyone else who lives there, making it difficult to explore the city more.  (Though my parents do make for good companions, it's not as easy as hanging out with my high school friends).  Regardless, there's many things I've come to love about Portland, and I looked forward to spending a week there for Christmas.

Especially fun was the extended time spent with my nephew and niece.  I'm not particularly "good" with kids, but these kiddos are so cute and fun it's not hard to fall in love with them.  I mean, are they not the most adorable kids ever?!  (I may be biased.)  Other highlights include good wine, great beer, and of course eating out at many of Portland's amazing restaurants.  And no trip to the City of Roses ia complete without a visit to the largest independent bookstore in the U.S., aptly titled Powell's City of Books.  I'm pretty sure Powell's, which spans an entire block, is the main reason my siblings were most excited for my parents to move to Portland. ;)

This year I was lucky to kind of celebrate Christmas twice.  As Zack left for a three week trip to Thailand the weekend before Christmas, we decided to have a mini celebration before his departure.  Since I didn't get a tree for my apartment, we borrowed my roommate's mini tree and pretended it was just as good as the real thing.  :)  And then of course was Christmas day.  Opening presents is usually a drawn out affair, with several breaks along the way for mimosas and huckleberry pancakes.

How does it go by so quickly every year!  I'm sad it's over already.  Let's rewind back a few weeks!

Monday, December 23, 2013

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Reunion//post grad life

This past weekend my best friends from college and I all got together, which has been rare since we graduated a year and a half ago.  It's especially hard to plan since we all live so far away--one lives in Australia, another in Africa, one in New York, and the rest sprinkled throughout California.  It's incredibly bittersweet to all be together again; I'm reminded of all of our fun times and how well we all get along, how comfortable we are with each other, and how nostalgic I am for the time that we lived in the same building or mere blocks away.

Seeing everyone makes me happy and sad all at once... navigating the post college life is tough sometimes.  Of course it's so exciting and fulfilling to have a job (and make money!) and have a "real" apartment, and do adult things like go wine tasting or take weekend trips with your significant other.  But it's also confusing... not all of your friends are close by, it's sometimes difficult to make new friends, the carefree college life is over (Fridays are no longer optional), and you're in this awkward middle ground of still wanting to do whatever you want but not having it be appropriate at all times.  Add into the mix that most other people are feeling this way (and are at different stages of "growing up"), and it makes the social life of college seem so much simpler and attractive.  You begin to realize that it will never be the same as it was before.

I mean, it's not as depressing as maybe I'm making it sound, but it's hard to only be together for short periods of time.  It's bittersweet.  Once I arrived home last night after the weekend of laughing and being ridiculous and nonstop talking, everything seemed so silent and lonely (and I am the queen of independence).  I guess it will be nice to have these few days of solitude before family time this Christmas, but for now, I am already missing these people.

Friday, December 20, 2013

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Carmel Mission

To be honest, there isn't much to actually do in Carmel besides wander the small (but cute) town, visit the surrounding areas (like Point Lobos or 17 Mile Drive), and shop.  Given that my annual income is a penny compared to most of the visitors to Carmel, Zack and I are the not the target audience for activity number 3.  Given that we were a little strapped with ideas for activities, and that I'm a serial travel guide addict, I consulted my number 1 travel companion... Lonely Planet Coastal California.  This book has been with me on numerous adventures over the past year and hasn't failed on the fun sightseeing front yet.  

I don't have too much to share about visiting the Carmel Mission... overall I wasn't too impressed with it (I am partial to the San Juan Capistrano Mission, located blocks from my high school), but since Zack is an architect and I like taking photos of interesting architecture, it was a nice way to spend an hour or so and get out of Carmel.  If you're not familiar, Spanish Missions (there are 21 all over California) are churches left over from the Spanish colonial rule in the late 1700's, and are frequented by tourists today who enjoy a bit of history or preserved architecture.  Luckily, we ended up there on a Sunday, which meant it was free to the public.  I'm glad we stopped and visited, but the highlight of my day was our windy drive down to Santa Barbara through Big Sur. 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

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Seventeen mile drive

this is my "it's way too cold" face 

During our weekend in Carmel-by-the-Sea, my boyfriend really wanted to take me to see 17 Mile Drive.  If you're not familiar, 17 Mile Drive is a scenic drive through the gated community of Pebble Beach, passing by beautiful white sand beaches, a world famous golf course, the Lone Cypress, and multi-million dollar houses.  While he was insistent, I was less than enthused.  Why would I want to pay $9.50 to drive through a fancy gated community when the most beautiful stretch of California coastline was located 30 miles south in Big Sur?  (My devotion to Big Sur runs deep.)  And though the bohemian vibe of Big Sur still appeals to me more than the excessive wealth of Pebble Beach, I will admit the views were well worth a small admission fee.

The drive is clearly marked along the way (probably so tourists don't end up in the ritzier & private residential areas), and there are several "stops" that you're encouraged to take to fully admire the views and points of interest.  Some of the sites are skippable (Huckleberry Hill had the smallest and sparsest huckleberries I've seen), while others you could spend an afternoon at (Spanish Bay had a beautiful picnic area).  The beaches are seriously gorgeous, and so are the houses overlooking them.  Just like at Point Lobos, the turquoise water and white sand looked like they were taken out of the tropics and plopped down next to a highly ranked golf course in windy northern California.  The viewpoints on the water were my favorite part of the drive, but I did feel a bit let down by the infamous Lone Cypress.  The Lone Cypress, a California landmark, is a 250 year old Cypress perching on a rocky outpost overlooking the sea.  I'll admit seeing such an old tree was cool, especially one in a precarious setting, but at the end of the day, I'll take a redwood forest over a single Cypress any time.

The weather was cold, but it was nice having those pretty viewpoints all to ourselves. :)

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

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Thai Coconut Chicken Soup, aka the best soup ever

Once upon a time in my life I didn't like soup.  I thought it never filled me up enough & I hated most vegetables.  The only soup I would ever eat was a creamy chicken tortilla from a high end deli near my high school.  They served it every Tuesday, and I went every week.  I'm not quite sure when I started trying more soups... I think I eased my way into it with the gooey factor of french onion soup & realized that tomato soup was the perfect dipping "sauce" for grilled cheese.  Then my love affair with San Francisco Soup Company started midway through college (I miss you so much SF Soup Co).  And then all of a sudden a few months ago I woke up and I couldn't have enough soup.  Some weeks I just want soup every night for dinner.  (This also might be because it is December).  Regardless, I took to the interwebs in search of as many soup recipes I could find.

This one is one of my favorites.  The only other thing I've felt like cooking recently besides soup is Asian cuisine (I bought myself a wok and haven't touched the oven since).  So a Thai-inspired soup sounded amazing, and surprise!--it was.  My boyfriend and I made it a few weeks ago and we are kind of obsessed.  (He says it is the best meal we've made together! I beg to differ, but it is really good.)  The recipe is pretty simple... my suggestions are to not skip the lemongrass and that the serrano chili is totally fine if you can't find Thai chillies.  It's not too spicy (my boyfriend topped it with Sriracha), but the perfect amount of heat.  Serve it with tasty beer.  I've already bought the ingredients to make it again this week...  I am a soup addict.

Coconut Chicken Soup with Chillies and Lime
Recipe from Real Simple

  • 2  tablespoons canola oil
  • 1  medium onion, sliced
  • 2  tablespoons chopped fresh ginger
  • 1  Thai or serrano chili, halved
  • 1  3-inch piece lemongrass, smashed (optional)
  • kosher salt
  • 6  cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 3/4  pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1  14-ounce can coconut milk
  • 1  medium head bok choy, chopped (about 4 cups)
  • cilantro and lime wedges, for serving

1. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, ginger, chili, lemongrass (if desired), and ½ teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the broth and chicken and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until the chicken is cooked through, 6 to 8 minutes.
2. Discard the lemongrass. Transfer the chicken to a bowl and shred the meat, using 2 forks. Add the coconut milk and bok choy to the pot and simmer until tender, 2 to 4 minutes. Return the chicken to the pot.
3. Serve the soup topped with cilantro and lime wedges.

Monday, December 16, 2013

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Freedom beneath the surface

yellow snappers


surface intervel  


Last year, at the tail end of a six month trip through Southeast Asia, I decided to end my trip in one of my favorite countries (Thailand) doing one of my favorite activities (scuba diving).  I knew I wouldn't be scuba diving once I came home to California since I'm a total cold water wimp (I have not been in the Pacific Ocean once in the year I've been back), so I wanted to get a few more dives under my belt before I left.  I settled on Koh Lanta, and signed up with a dive school that offered an underwater photography course, mostly because my previous underwater photography attempts had not gone over well (despite producing decent results on land).  I think these are an improvement.  Neutral buoyancy would probably be my greatest asset in taking clear, in focus, and correct color balanced photos... but hey, I'm still a beginner.

My favorite underwater photos are abstracts.  I like when photos (normally depictions of reality) make you wonder what is going on, what it is you're looking at.  It's crazy that there is another world down below that most people never see--I believe the figure is 70% of earth is underwater.  It's incredible to be able to explore a place you've only ever seen in movies or on television, while flying.  I miss diving!  I miss the feeling of floating.  Jacque Cousteau said it best: "From birthman carries the weight of gravity on his shouldersHe is bolted to earthBut man has only to sink beneath the surface and he is free."  

Side note: Jean Michel Cousteau (Jacques' elder son) lives in Santa Barbara, and lists the nearby Channel Islands as one of his favorite dive sites .  It makes me feel even guiltier for not going diving here.  Ugh.  It's so cold.

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