Archive for the ‘awesome people’ Category

Sweet Charity

I often post about the fashions, recipes, books, and locations that I love, but today I’d like to share with you some of the causes that I love. 
It’s very important to me to recognize how fortunate I am, and that giving even just a small amount of money or time adds up to make a difference.
Here are some causes that I love:
Food on Foot is a non-profit organization that feeds the homeless and hungry in Los Angeles. They not only provide nutritious meals, they offer clothing, blankets, and employment assistance. They are a unique organization in that they also inspire/require hard work, self-reflection, and random acts of kindness. They’re not about just giving food to those without it; they instead look to help those who are struggling to get on their feet and become productive members of society. I’ve been a member since August of 2011, and I wrote about my first experience with them here, back when this blog went by a different name. 
It really is an inspiring and unique organization.

I was introduced to Xela Aid by one of my mentors in grad school (now my boss!). Xela Aid works with a village in Guatemala, to help the people of the village break through the cycle of poverty by providing health care and education opportunities, among other things. I have gone on volunteer trips twice, and plan to go again next summer. It truly is a life changing experience, and you can read a little bit about my experience here. 
Kiva works on the concept of a microfinance– or lending to low-income people or those without access to banking.  When you give money to Kiva, you’re technically an investor, since those who receive the loans pay them back. You could keep the returned cash, or (preferably) reinvest it in another cause. You get updates about the person you are investing in, and you can see how your loan, no matter how small, helps him or her to climb out of poverty and become financially independent. Many of the loans go to impoverished nations and to small businesses; for example, I just reinvested my balance to a Georgian woman who is starting a bakery; before that a woman in Ghana who makes Kenkey borrowed money for dough, and before that, I lent to a Ugandan woman who was opening a pub. It is so easy to give to, and I really love the idea of supporting women in their business ventures around the world.
If you’re interested, here’s an invite code– they say you and I will both get an extra $25 to invest!
Now, this cause isn’t about helping the less fortunate; in fact, most of their listeners are fairly comfortable Los Angelinos. KCRW is one of our NPR affiliates, and I really love NPR. It’s important to me that we have quality journalism, and I especially love what KCRW does for the community. Their music programming is excellent–as in not just good, but seriously influential and eclectic, and just wonderful. Even if you’re not in the Los Angeles area, you can listen online. I promise that it makes for great office music. 
Also, the local reporting on KCRW is unparalleled. And the book clubs, film screenings, art walks, and concerts that they produce are so cool that I almost feel unworthy. That station is where I turn to for all things news and culture, and it’s listener supported. 
I love it so much that I accidentally made two ongoing donations during a pledge drive!
I’d love to hear about the organizations that you are involved with, or how you like to give back, in your community or internationally!
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Scenes From A Weekend: Chinatown

I have lived my whole life in Southern California, and until yesterday, I had never visited the famed Chinatown. I’ve seen the movie and driven past it, but never walked around the neighborhood.

So when Cliff’s cousin suggested we all make a day of it for Saturday’s Chinese New Year parade, I was completely on board.

We started the day by meeting up at Union Station.

 It really is one of the world’s most beautiful train stations, and if you ever get the chance to, I  suggest dining at Traxx, or at least having a drink in the famous bar. We stopped into the bar for a scotch, then set out for lunch and the parade.

Since Olvera street is also so close by, we decided to stop in for some Mexican food. If fajitas and margaritas on a patio on a balmy February afternoon in L.A. isn’t your idea of a great Saturday afternoon, then… I don’t know what to tell you. Because it was wonderful.

We figured at some point we should catch the parade, so we walked a couple of blocks over to where the parade route ends.

While scurrying across the street after the light changed, I caught the edge of my foot on a crack in the pavement and twisted my ankle sharply. Maybe it had something to do with the margaritas? All I know is that it hurt, but I limped along the rest of the day and refused to hold the group back.

Since we were in the middle of Chinatown, we thought it was the only time appropriate to buy hats and parasols. Now, I know the hats are technically Vietnamese and not Chinese (a woman at the beer garden made this very clear to Cliff. He asked if they were offensive. “Offensive? Yes.” Was her reply. D’oh. But they did protect us from the sun, and they were selling them on every corner, so…).

We ended up finding a beer garden (I had to bow out of the drinking by that point) where local bands were playing.

We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around Chinatown, sampling some of what the food trucks had to offer, dancing with little girls with parasols.

When we got home, I discovered that my ankle was in worse shape than I let on; it was swollen the size of a softball, and I soon wasn’t able to put much weight on it. 

It doesn’t look to be a sprain, but unfortunately it looks like it might set me back about a week in my marathon training. D’oh!

Nonetheless, Chinatown did not disappoint. I may be biased, but Los Angeles really is one of the most unique, eclectic, exciting, wonderful cities in the world.

Also, you can now Follow my blog with Bloglovin !

Also linking up here!
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Love Your Heart Month

Happy February, everyone!

I know that just about every month has some “raising awareness” cause attached to it, and February is no exception. In fact, February has a cause that is, well, close to my heart. (Sorry, I had to.)  February is Go Red For Women month, a month about raising awareness and prevention of heart disease. What many people don’t know is that Heart disease is the #1 killer of women, causing 1 in 3 deaths each year. Think about the for a second. Think about all of the pink merchandise you’ve bought in October, or maybe that run/walk 5k you did for the Susan G. Kommen foundation. Now realize that heart disease is more deadly than all forms of cancer.




But the great news is that we have the power to prevent heart disease with a healthy lifestyle. So for the month of February, I encourage all of the women in my life, and all of the men who care about women in their lives, to use these 28 days to develop at least one healthy habit. Go for a walk with girlfriends to catch up. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Take a yoga class with me.When you see a friend or family member making a healthier decision, let them know how proud you are.  I’ll be posting more updates in my blog about my marathon training, and I want to hear about the ladies in my life making and achieving their fitness goals, no matter how big or small.



Also, wear red on February 10th with me!

For more facts, tips, and how to get involved, visit here:
http://www.goredforwomen.org/


Oh, 2012…

One of my favorite things about New Year’s Eve is that it forces you, if at least momentarily, to reflect on the year you are finishing. Some years I have cringed at the memories I was leaving behind (ugh, 2009 and 2010) but this is one of those years where I can’t help but grin as I think back. I don’t mean to brag, especially since I know a lot of people who had a tough year, but as far as I am concerned, 2012 was effing awesome.

I don’t want to bore anyone by listing the year month by month or anything, so here’s a sort of random compiling of categories to help me remember this year:

New skills I learned (or at least tried):
 Sailing– took classes at a community college and learned some fundamentals on small Lido boats; saw how it all works on a 50 ft boat in May off the coast of Mallorca. Planning to continue my sailing education.

Cheese making– I feel I have mastered making mozzarella and goat cheese. The cheddar, parmesean, and gouda I tried really sucked, but now with more kitchen space and better equipment, I plan to try again this winter.

Gardening– I have several hanging and potted plants on the balcony. Some have died and been replaced, some are still going strong. At the moment they are all living and thriving, but I want to learn more about how to keep that happening, and how to start a vegetable garden in the back yard.

Teaching a writing course that included more literary analysis– I feel like that went better than expected. I copied my colleague Beth and started assigning Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Saw There in my English 101 courses, and since I did, the classes and assignments are so much more fun. At a time when I was feeling discouraged and burned out about teaching, it’s shown me just how awesome my job can be.

Teaching an Upper-Division Course: When Beth and I got the opportunity to co-teach a course for undergrads and grad students who work in our writing center, I was equal parts thrilled and terrified. It ended up being such a positive experience, though.

New Year’s Resolution, and did I keep it:
 To make my bed every day. In the parts of the year where I lived alone, yes. But once I moved in with Cliff it became nearly impossible since he’s usually in bed when I am leaving for work.

Favorite television show:
Hands down, The Walking Dead. I am obsessed. So obsessed that Cliff bought me a Katana for Christmas.

Road Trips:
Joshua Tree in March, Phoenix/ Tempe in November, Bakersfield in December

Best Meals:
Beef Tartare in Paris
Traditional Mayan food in Xela, Guatemala
The yogurt, fruit, granola and honey breakfast we kept ordering at Hotel Modelo in Xela, Guatemala
Christmas Eve tamales
Cedar Plank salmon that Cliff and I grilled up
Filet Mignon with bleu cheese crust at Ruth’s Chris

Best drink:
ginger margaritas at Rip Jack Inn in Costa Rica

Books read:
Middlesex, The Hunger Games trilogy, Just Kids, Big Sur, Lamb, Medium Raw, The End of Something, A Moveable Feast, Love in the Time of Cholera, The Paris Wife

Books I started, didn’t finish, but will come back to:
Lady Chatterly’s Lover, Bitter Fruit, and Blindness

Scariest moment:
Zip lining in Costa Rica and braking too early so that I was stuck on the line and had to pull myself long to the platform. I actually still have nightmares about zip lining.
Moment that should have been scary but really wasn’t:
Falling out of the raft and being swept down the rapids (also in Costa Rica)

Memories that will ALWAYS make me smile:
-playing hop scotch and “Salta!” with the preschoolers in Guatemala, and little Roxanna Michaela showing me the stash of chalk she had hidden in the folds of her traditional skirt.

-finding Shakespeare and Co. in Paris in the pouring rain– we got lost and combed the streets for hours looking for it

-The cats that hung out on the bar in Costa Rica
-The bartender at The Liberty Bounds pub in London who was excited that I was from Huntington Beach. He said that when he was younger, he and his friends would practice their California surfer accent, much the way I’ve tried a British accent.
-Cliff presenting me with a leopard print key to his house
– Getting hammered with my brother at The Bruery’s St. Patrick’s Day bash
-Dinners with my family

Biggest Physical Accomplishment:
Hiking to the summit of Mount Baldy

Memory that makes me Proud of Myself:
Making friends with strangers in Dublin. I had always been afraid of traveling alone, but when I got to Dublin I discovered that I wasn’t staying with a friend and had to experience the city on my own. I cried for a short while, but then I got myself a bus pass and a map, and went exploring. I chatted with all sorts of people and surprised myself with what a good time I could have. A few times I found myself lost outside of the city due to my poor understanding of the bus table, but it all worked out, and I always found my way, eventually.

Places I traveled to (internationally):
Costa Rica (Arenal and then Playa Grande), Amsterdam (for a few hours– enough time to visit coffee shops & the red light district, and to get some pommes frites), Mallorca, Guatemala (Xela, Lake Atitlan, and Antigua), Dublin, London, and Paris.

Things I kind of Sucked at:
-Keeping some plants alive
-Saving money
-Speaking Spanish
-Zip Lining
-Tying bowline knots
– Not dwelling on negativity when I should know better
– Keeping up with everyone in Vegas. I am not the drinker I used to be!

The Best Change of 2012:
Every day I come home to my best friend.

Resolutions for 2013:
Do more yoga
Stay in better communication with friends and family
Write more

2013, you’ve got a lot of awesomeness to compete with, but I have faith in you.
I can already tell that this year is going to be amazing, and we’ll be ringing it in at the W Hotel in Hollywood tonight.
CAN’T WAIT!
Cheers, everyone!

Oh, 2012…

One of my favorite things about New Year’s Eve is that it forces you, if at least momentarily, to reflect on the year you are finishing. Some years I have cringed at the memories I was leaving behind (ugh, 2009 and 2010) but this is one of those years where I can’t help but grin as I think back. I don’t mean to brag, especially since I know a lot of people who had a tough year, but as far as I am concerned, 2012 was effing awesome.

I don’t want to bore anyone by listing the year month by month or anything, so here’s a sort of random compiling of categories to help me remember this year:

New skills I learned (or at least tried):
 Sailing– took classes at a community college and learned some fundamentals on small Lido boats; saw how it all works on a 50 ft boat in May off the coast of Mallorca. Planning to continue my sailing education.

Cheese making– I feel I have mastered making mozzarella and goat cheese. The cheddar, parmesean, and gouda I tried really sucked, but now with more kitchen space and better equipment, I plan to try again this winter.

Gardening– I have several hanging and potted plants on the balcony. Some have died and been replaced, some are still going strong. At the moment they are all living and thriving, but I want to learn more about how to keep that happening, and how to start a vegetable garden in the back yard.

Teaching a writing course that included more literary analysis– I feel like that went better than expected. I copied my colleague Beth and started assigning Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Saw There in my English 101 courses, and since I did, the classes and assignments are so much more fun. At a time when I was feeling discouraged and burned out about teaching, it’s shown me just how awesome my job can be.

Teaching an Upper-Division Course: When Beth and I got the opportunity to co-teach a course for undergrads and grad students who work in our writing center, I was equal parts thrilled and terrified. It ended up being such a positive experience, though.

New Year’s Resolution, and did I keep it:
 To make my bed every day. In the parts of the year where I lived alone, yes. But once I moved in with Cliff it became nearly impossible since he’s usually in bed when I am leaving for work.

Favorite television show:
Hands down, The Walking Dead. I am obsessed. So obsessed that Cliff bought me a Katana for Christmas.

Road Trips:
Joshua Tree in March, Phoenix/ Tempe in November, Bakersfield in December

Best Meals:
Beef Tartare in Paris
Traditional Mayan food in Xela, Guatemala
The yogurt, fruit, granola and honey breakfast we kept ordering at Hotel Modelo in Xela, Guatemala
Christmas Eve tamales
Cedar Plank salmon that Cliff and I grilled up
Filet Mignon with bleu cheese crust at Ruth’s Chris

Best drink:
ginger margaritas at Rip Jack Inn in Costa Rica

Books read:
Middlesex, The Hunger Games trilogy, Just Kids, Big Sur, Lamb, Medium Raw, The End of Something, A Moveable Feast, Love in the Time of Cholera, The Paris Wife

Books I started, didn’t finish, but will come back to:
Lady Chatterly’s Lover, Bitter Fruit, and Blindness

Scariest moment:
Zip lining in Costa Rica and braking too early so that I was stuck on the line and had to pull myself long to the platform. I actually still have nightmares about zip lining.
Moment that should have been scary but really wasn’t:
Falling out of the raft and being swept down the rapids (also in Costa Rica)

Memories that will ALWAYS make me smile:
-playing hop scotch and “Salta!” with the preschoolers in Guatemala, and little Roxanna Michaela showing me the stash of chalk she had hidden in the folds of her traditional skirt.

-finding Shakespeare and Co. in Paris in the pouring rain– we got lost and combed the streets for hours looking for it

-The cats that hung out on the bar in Costa Rica
-The bartender at The Liberty Bounds pub in London who was excited that I was from Huntington Beach. He said that when he was younger, he and his friends would practice their California surfer accent, much the way I’ve tried a British accent.
-Cliff presenting me with a leopard print key to his house
– Getting hammered with my brother at The Bruery’s St. Patrick’s Day bash
-Dinners with my family

Biggest Physical Accomplishment:
Hiking to the summit of Mount Baldy

Memory that makes me Proud of Myself:
Making friends with strangers in Dublin. I had always been afraid of traveling alone, but when I got to Dublin I discovered that I wasn’t staying with a friend and had to experience the city on my own. I cried for a short while, but then I got myself a bus pass and a map, and went exploring. I chatted with all sorts of people and surprised myself with what a good time I could have. A few times I found myself lost outside of the city due to my poor understanding of the bus table, but it all worked out, and I always found my way, eventually.

Places I traveled to (internationally):
Costa Rica (Arenal and then Playa Grande), Amsterdam (for a few hours– enough time to visit coffee shops & the red light district, and to get some pommes frites), Mallorca, Guatemala (Xela, Lake Atitlan, and Antigua), Dublin, London, and Paris.

Things I kind of Sucked at:
-Keeping some plants alive
-Saving money
-Speaking Spanish
-Zip Lining
-Tying bowline knots
– Not dwelling on negativity when I should know better
– Keeping up with everyone in Vegas. I am not the drinker I used to be!

The Best Change of 2012:
Every day I come home to my best friend.

Resolutions for 2013:
Do more yoga
Stay in better communication with friends and family
Write more

2013, you’ve got a lot of awesomeness to compete with, but I have faith in you.
I can already tell that this year is going to be amazing, and we’ll be ringing it in at the W Hotel in Hollywood tonight.
CAN’T WAIT!
Cheers, everyone!

Cookies and Swords!

So my mom brought me a tin of my FAVORITE Christmas cookies, of which I have been guilty of having more than a couple. In fact, there is now only one left, and that lone cookie reminds me that Christmas is now over.

Believe it or not, Christmas has not really been my favorite time of year. It reminds me of hard times my family has gone through, of depression and loss and feeling inadequate for not having money to spend it the way television insists we do. It can seem so forced and artificial, and the materialism of the holiday has left me feeling just as discouraged as Charlie Brown.

But I have been coming around, and have developed a new appreciation for Christmas. Part of it has to do with having someone special to share it all with (I don’t blame you for gagging right about now). Cliff and I put up lights and decorations, and this was our first Christmas together.

My friend Emily gave me this chandelier ornament! How fabulous!

We even put up lights, which was a big deal for me since I grew up in a condo that didn’t allow us to put up outdoor lights, and since then I have lived in apartments/ houses where I could only put lights in windows. We even bought a snowman lawn thingy that we put up on the balcony.

On Christmas Eve, my mom and Grandpa came over for dinner. I loved playing hostess, and I cooked up tamales (bought ’em, didn’t make them myself. No way.) and other yummy sides, and we all drank wine and talked late into the night. It really was wonderful. My grandpa and Cliff are like new BFFs.
 Here’s the cheese plate from that night– I made the mozzarella myself, and chopped some rosemary from my garden to sprinkle on top. Yummers!

Christmas day we slept in, I made french toast and eggs, and we got to opening presents. I still can’t believe my man got me this:

That’s right, a friggin KATANA! The picture doesn’t do it justice; it really is gorgeous. I am actually a little afraid of it– that bad boy can do some serious damage. I am determined to learn more about it, if not at least from watching YouTube videos.

After a day of being lazy and making plans for our January vacay, on the night after Christmas we went to Ruth’s Chris for dinner with my man’s sister and cousin. What’s better than amazing steaks, (hello, they melt a pat of butter on each one!) good wine, and raunchy conversation? Nothing, I say!

And finally, last night, I met Cliff’s aunt when she hosted dinner at her house. She is a fun woman, and another night of great food, wine, and conversation rounded out the week perfectly.

Even if Christmas itself can be lame at times, the wonderful thing about it is that it gets you at a dinner table with family and friends– I didn’t even get into the fun girls’ night out I had before Christmas, or the post-Christmas beers I had with other friends! But it’s all about spending time with the people who matter most. This year I was blessed to get to include Cliff in my family time, and to be included in his. And really, that is better than any Christmas gift, even if it is a badass sword.

A Dose of Warm Fuzzies for a Cold Day…

I know it’s December now, BUT, this is a good reminder as the warm fuzzies that we felt around Thanksgiving give way to stress and frustration in those few weeks before Christmas.

 I believe in counting my blessings every chance I get, so I decided to make the entire month of November a month of Thanksgiving. If December gets to be a whole month of Christmas, then why can’t Thanksgiving stake its claim on an entire month?

So on Facebook, each day for the month I posted something that I am thankful for. Here’s the list, directly quoted from Facebook, starting with November 1st and moving down to the 30th:

1. I know I did this last year, and so I am sorry for the repeats, but in the month of November I like to post everyday one thing that I am thankful for. (The posting on Facebook helps keep me accountable, and plus, I like spreading positive energy.) So today, I am thankful for my flexible work schedule that lets me sleep in a couple of days a week. 🙂

2. Today I am thankful for the cozy home I live in. Every day when I pull into the driveway, I get warm fuzzies.

3. Today I am thankful for the people who work all of those unsexy jobs that make sure that we have power, running water, trash pickup, gas, etc.

4. Today I am thankful that I get to have dinner with my awesome family every Sunday night. ♥

5. Today I am thankful that my “hard day” of the week consists of 12 hours of talking about writing, teaching writing, and Alice in Wonderland. I am blessed to have a job that I truly love.

6. Today I am thankful for those brave women of the suffrage movement, and today I am proud to exercise my right that they fought so hard for.

7. Today I am thankful for Facebook’s “hide” feature– it is really preserving my sanity today. While I welcome political discourse and love that I see a variety of opinions expressed on FB, I have no time for hurtful comments and logical fallacies. Sorry.

8. Today I am thankful for my international students. Not only does their hard work inspire me, but their questions and perspectives challenge me to reconsider, well, just about everything.

9. Today I am thankful that I was raised by such a strong, independent woman. Love you, Michelle Murphree!

10. Today I am thankful that I get to drive the car I always wanted, a black Mini Cooper. She may not always get along with my wallet, but I love love love that car.

11. Today I am thankful for all of the brave men and women, past and present, who have served our country. Thank you, vets, for keeping us safe!

12. Today I am thankful for my good health, and to show my body gratitude, I’m going to treat it to some yoga. 🙂

13. Today I am thankful that I can watch my favorite shows whenever I want on DVR.

14. Tonight I am very thankful to have a belly full of nutritious food. I know that I am often guilty of taking that for granted.

15. Today I am thankful to have a dishwasher. Seriously, how I lived in an apartment so long without one is beyond me.

16. Today I am thankful for hardships that I have endured that make me emphatic to others.

17. Today I am thankful for lazy, rainy Saturday afternoons spent with college football, sweat pants, and my man.

18. Today I am thankful for my loving, hilarious, inspiring grandpa.

19. Today I am thankful for the quality education I received, and thankful that many more will since we passed prop 30.

20. Today I am thankful to have such an awesome brother who I can always count on to make me laugh and teach me something new.

21. Today I am thankful that Cliff insists on having a maid service come a couple times a month to clean. It’s okay to feel a little spoiled now and then.

22. Today I am thankful that I get to spend this holiday with the people that I love all under one roof! I truly am so blessed! I hope all of you have a wonderful Thanksgiving! ♥

23. Today I am thankful for my second family, the Fornwalts. We make a pretty fun group!

24. tonight I am thankful for heartfelt toasts and opportunities to dress your best! Cheers to Harry and Claudia!

25. Tonight I am thankful that the Zombie Apocalypse has not yet happened.

26. Today I am thankful for my co- Writing Center Supervisor, Beth Saur. I think we make a pretty awesome team.

27. Today I am thankful for a well stocked medicine cabinet and a pharmacy down the street. Suck it, flu!

28. Today I am thankful for news sources like PBS, NPR, BBC World News, and The New York Times that report the important stories in a credible manner.

29. As this month winds down, I am thankful for all of YOU, Facebook friends. Thank you for being a friend… (I’ve traveled down the road and back again; your heart is true, you’re a pal and a confidant…)

30. And last, but certainly not least, I am thankful to have the best boyfriend in the world, Cliff I am so blessed to be in love with my best friend. Thanks everyone, for putting up with my month of thanksgiving! Love you all!


As you can see, I have A LOT to be thankful for!