Archive for the ‘love’ Category

Friday Faves

It’s Friday, Friday, gotta get down…okay, I’ll stop. Since it’s Friday, here are some of the things I am loving this week, brought to you from images saved on my phone…

1. Building sheet and blanket forts in your living room. It’s a wonderful way to spend a Saturday afternoon, trust me. Who cares if you’re about to turn 32…
2. The fact that I am actually going to The Magic Castle!
I have always wanted to go inside, and you can only go if you have a guest pass from one of the magicians. We’re having my birthday dinner there! Trust me, I will be writing all about it…
3. My new elephant tea pot from World Market. I absolutely love World Market, and I may have gone on a little impulsive shopping spree. Once we remodel the house and begin decorating, I have a feeling that most of our home decor will be coming from there. But in the mean time, how adorable is this tea pot?!
4. I gave up eating sweets, and then I discovered that my local Whole Foods carries mix and match bins of cookies from Cookies Con Amore . They are dangerously good. The Amaretti cookies are my kryptonite, I tell you. They are probably some of the best cookies I have ever had, no joke. Many of them are flavored with anize, amaretto, orange peel, and lemon, and all are to die for!
5. Sunsets on our street. We live on a quiet suburban street in Huntington Beach. This is what 6:45 pm looks like around here:

It could be worse.
I hope everyone is enjoying Friday! I get a date night with my man tonight, which has me giddy with excitement. I’d say this song about captures my mood

Linking up with:

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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!

Downton Abbey versus The Walking Dead

Last night I finally got around to watching the most recent episode of Downton Abbey. That means I spent three days of having to interrupt people with “No no no! I haven’t seen it yet! Stop!” to avoid spoilers. (BTW, thanks a lot, New York Times. You’d think they’d avoid giving spoilers in a headline in the Monday edition!)

You see, the real problem is that when it comes to good television, I am over-committed on Sunday nights. I don’t even watch that much T.V., but now my two obsessions, Downton Abbey and The Walking Dead are both airing new episodes on Sundays. And you have to know that when I say obsessed, I mean it– watching an episode means no phone, no laptop or tablet, lights dimmed, wrapped in a blankie with snacks and drinks within reach. When I watch an episode, it is one of the few moments of the week when I am not multi-tasking. So amen for DVR, because I would not want to have to make a choice between the two.

But when it comes to choosing between The Walking Dead and Downton Abbey, I’d bet that most people could pick a side rather quickly and easily– shooting zombies or debating the financial future of your estate? Scavenging for food, or having your servant dress you for dinner?  I mean, you couldn’t get further from the zombie apocalypse than a British period drama set in Yorkshire, right?

Hmmm.

I admit that I have eclectic taste, but maybe in some ways, the shows aren’t all that different from each other…

You Can’t Get Too Attached to the Characters

Both shows are in their third season, and in both, the writers are not afraid to kill off main characters. Remember the last two episodes of season 2 of The Walking Dead? I still miss Dale. And just when you thought the gang had mastered their skull crushing skills and could clear the prison of zombies, No! As Chris Hardwick says, “Noo, nootttt T-Dog!!!”
The same thing goes in Merry ol’ England. Cybill pulled through the labor and the baby was beautiful and we all breathed a sigh of relief, until nope, Eclampsia. The village doctor was right, and like that, she dies in front of everyone.
You thought things were turning around in Downton, with Mary’s pregnancy and the new plans to modernize? Too bad, Matthew’s gone now.

The producers of both shows are not at all afraid to change the opening credits. You can become attached to characters all you want, but there’s a good chance that they will die in the next episodes. Even though this leaves me cursing my TV, I have to admit that it increases the drama and keeps me coming back for more.

It’s a Very Different World Out There, and Characters are Trying to Find Where They Fit Into It.
To say that Georgia is now a different place post Zombie Apocalypse is a stupid understatement, but as far as world changing events go (real or hypothetical) I think it’s fair to say that World War I was a close second.
During the war, the characters of Downton found themselves having to quickly adapt and even reinvent themselves; a footman becomes a medic on the front lines, a daughter of a lord becomes a nurse, and Downton Abbey even becomes a convalescent home. Men who had once never mingled with one another because of class find themselves fighting together on the front lines, and characters at home struggle with finding ways to contribute and prove their patriotism. And the war was just the beginning of things; once that’s over, the world markets fall into turmoil and noble estates find themselves in financial ruin. The characters all ask of themselves and others, should we accept change or should we resist and uphold tradition? Can Cybill really marry a chauffeur?! Overhaul the business model of Downton?! With telephones and electricity, it’s a confusing new world, and no one is quite certain where they fit in.

Now obviously the changes are more stark in Georgia, and characters are just hoping to survive one day to the next there. But the Zombie apocalypse means that characters get to virtually reinvent themselves, and their contributions to the group define who they are. They have serious roles to fill within the group, whether it is standing guard or preparing food for everyone. It doesn’t matter how squeamish or weak a character was pre-apocalypse; even little Beth (Hershel’s daughter) is now a pretty good shot. Maggie has no problem  stabbing a zombie in the skull. The wimpy pizza guy is now a man who kills zombies with their own bones. And the little kid shot his mother for christ’s sake! Every character discovers a time and a place when they need to step up, whether they are prepared to or not.

A New World Means New Rules
As the characters try to negotiate their changing worlds, their ethics come into question in ways they never thought possible. Before the zombie apocalypse, it was pretty clear that one should never kill another human. Then the walkers came about, and their humanity was questioned, but it became pretty clear that the only acceptable course of action was to destroy by any means possible the brain of the walking dead. Gross, but understandable. Crushing a skull might feel wrong at first, but you get used to it. But then when the living become problematic, that’s when it gets tricky. Those strange guys in the bar looking for a place to stay, do you help them out or kill them? That injured kid, do you kill him or set him free and risk others finding you? Your best friend trying to usurp your power, does he deserve to live? Is it okay to shoot your mom after a messy emergency c-section? In the zombie apocalypse, the dead are easy to kill (again); it’s the living that really make you question what’s right and wrong.
Things aren’t as bloody in Downton Abbey, but morality can still be a little messy. A former prostitute working as a house maid for Mrs. Crawley?! We can’t allow that, can we? Or if we do, what then? And to christen the first granddaughter as catholic? And house a political refugee from Ireland? The Crawleys find themselves having to make all kinds of allowances that a few years prior would have been unthinkable, but things are changing…
Class is Everything and Nothing
This is a central theme in Downton Abbey; the upstairs/downstairs dichotomy is the most striking feature to a 21st century audience. And yet, those class lines aren’t always as solid as first glance would have you think. Think of Lord Grantham and Mister Bates; comrades in the South African war who trust each other with their lives; because of class Bates serves as Grantham’s valet rather than dinner guest. But they are more intimate with one another than dinner companions. They confide in and give each other advice, and the Crawleys are far more invested in Bates’ conviction and sentence than one would expect of an employer/ employee relationship. Mary listens to and confides in Ana more than any of her sisters. Then there is Tom Branson, the chauffeur who marries Cybill and becomes part of the family, rather than their staff. Serving him may be weird at first, but even Mrs. Hughes remarks on the way that he has transitioned so nicely into his new position. Class is there, but its arbitrary nature becomes more and more apparent to all involved. 
Zombies, however, are the great equalizer. They are equal opportunity biters and attack indiscriminately on the poor and the rich. Characters who may have never interacted before the outbreak now rely on one another to stay alive. Think of Andrea, the attorney, and Derryl, the redneck. Unless she was defending him in court, she would have no interaction with him. For all we know, the Governor was a high school gym teacher before the outbreak, and now he runs Woodbury with an iron fist. The longer they have been in the new world, the less anyone cares about what position any others had before the outbreak; if you are good with weapons, that is all that matters.
Beware of Outsiders, and Above All, Protect the Family
In both shows, the core families are very suspicious and guarded of outsiders attempting to infiltrate. Matthew and Isabel Crawley were only welcomed at arm’s length into the family thanks to law, and it took the family quite some time to warm up to them. Branson has only barely earned acceptance into the family. The Dowager countess (and Mary too, for that matter) let all outsiders know that they are under scrutiny and not yet welcome. Even downstairs, the staff, though friendly, are not quick to warm up to new comers. Newcomers upstairs and downstairs have to await approval before being officially welcomed. 
Now, earning the dowager countess’s approval is NOT a position I would ever want to be in, and to be honest, I don’t know who is scarier to an outsider, her or Rick Grimes. But Rick is not about to let anyone just walk up and join the group either. People have died trying to do so. Those who have been let in, like Michonne, are not trusted and only permitted to stay on a temporary basis. Even the governor doesn’t let people just wander into Woodbury. Outsiders are the biggest security risk.
But.
In both families, once in, you have the full protection of the others. You might even find the Dowager Countess sticking up for you. The Crawleys will do anything to make sure that no scandal or gossip falls on any member of their household. In The Walking Dead,  your family will put their lives on the line to come rescue you. They will shoot anyone who tries to hurt you. The families in both shows are not big, but they stick together and defend the honor and safety of all.
Also. Oddly enough, several actors on The Walking Dead are British, so, maybe that’s the real common thread here.
So for some the choice between one show or the other is clear, but if you’re a strange one like me who enjoys both equally, it’s for good reason. Shows that put morality into question, while reaffirming what is most important–family– are few and far between. It’s only unfortunate that they happen to air on Sunday nights. And could the characters of Downton survive a zombie apocalypse? I think the downstairs crew would get on just fine, and the dowager countess’s walking stick may become very useful…

That Time I Was Spoiled on Valentine’s Day

So Valentine’s Day.

 For most of my 31 years, the holiday has been about silly cartoon cards and conversation heart candies. The last time I had an actual romantic Valentine’s Day, it was really stupid –having to pretend that I like a cheap stuffed bear from the drug store is not fun, and I’d rather not celebrate it than pretend that I like an ugly, generic stuffed animal. This may make me sound like less of a woman, but I don’t like boxes of chocolates either. So Valentine’s Day is usually more about eating pizza and downing a bottle of wine while watching tv.
And I wonder why I was single for so long.
But this year I finally got to see what it is like to feel loved and spoiled on Valentine’s Day.
While my man has to work tonight, we did get a couple of hours together this afternoon, when he surprised me with a BEAUTIFUL necklace and earring set.
Now, normally I am apprehensive about someone else buying me jewelry, but my man has some good taste. 
Both images via Nordstrom Jewelry 
I love how elegant, simple, and unique they are. They really look better on, though these pics don’t do much justice since I am in my kitchen…
He totally won Valentine’s Day. I did at least get him a card, and more importantly, some
Meat Candy!
I hope everyone had a splendid Valentine’s Day. And don’t worry, now that he’s at work, I will be joining the many who will spend the night on the couch with cheap wine and bad television…
XO, Rachel

Yes, I Found Love On An Online Dating Site

With Valentine’s Day only a week away, relationships and romance are on everyone’s mind, and I’ve been realizing just how lucky I am to be in such a healthy, loving relationship. I’m used to being that girl moaning about February 14th being Singles’ Awareness Day, and wondering why some girls have all the luck. Well now I am that girl with the luck, the one who lives with her handsome, fun, intelligent, adventurous, caring, romantic doctor boyfriend.

And while I consider myself lucky, it’s important to emphasize that it wasn’t luck that brought me to Cliff.

You see, the story of us is a modern romance in every sense: we met online. We met online through Match.com, to be specific.

When people ask how we met, we’re both very upfront about it. I don’t see any reason not to be. The shame and stigma behind meeting a date online is as outdated as, well, the 1990s, when it all began. When people think of online dating, they imagine desperate, awkward, ugly people who cannot get a date otherwise. Or they imagine freaks, sexual deviants, and predators. Cliff and I do not fit into any of those categories.  Well okay, I would call myself awkward, especially when it comes to dating. But everyone has quirks, and if you don’t have a story of an embarrassing first date, then I probably don’t want to know you.

 Anyway, I signed up for Match.com when a relationship ended right before my 30th birthday, when I realized that I suck at dating. I am more shy than I let on, and the thought of a man approaching me in a public place and asking to take me out honestly freaked me out. When guys hit on me in bars, I was a total spaz. Most of my relationships began as friendships that evolved to friends with benefits that sometimes evolved to more. Going on a date with a stranger seemed weird to me, and as I neared 30, I knew that it was time to stop dating wildly inappropriate dudes. It was time to find someone as smart, successful and fun as myself.

(Hehe, this was my profile pic; taken by my friend Liss at a friend’s birthday party)

When you create an online dating profile, you probably get more lame pick up lines from losers than you would in an actual bar. The online forum gives that extra courage so that the men who would never even smile at a pretty girl from across a bar would email her with cheesy lines about wanting to treat her like a queen. So yes, you have to wade through a lot of douches when in comes to online dating. But you don’t have to respond to them. In a bar, there’s that awkward moment when you have to find a way to politely decline a drink; in online dating, you just get to ignore the douche.

And what’s better is that you get to filter for what you want; you can look for just those guys who live near you, are athletic, have a certain level of education, pets, interests, whatever. You get to look for the guys who you are actually compatible with, and then pick from a pool of very eligible bachelors who fit your criteria. You can make sure that the person you go out with is someone you are compatible with. I learned from past relationships not to underestimate the importance of being compatible when it comes to beliefs, values, taste, and lifestyle. And after a lot of lame emails from others, I received an email from Cliff. He was everything I was looking for, and so I gave him a chance.

What also worked for Cliff and I is that it allowed us to take our time. We talked for much longer than usual before actually going out. I was perfectly fine with that; I wanted time to focus on myself and time to feel out what this guy was like. Cliff was also studying for his board exams, and we ended up going out the weekend after he completed his exams. And yes, the “chemistry” was there from the first date.

We took things slowly at first, but now over a year later we’re living in sin and making each other laugh every day. I get to count his family as mine, and vice versa.

That’s us in Zion, Utah in January 2013.

We are very much in love, and try to make each other feel special as often as possible. When it comes to Valentine’s Day, I am so blessed to have a special someone for the day, but I don’t need the day to remind me of that– I have every day!

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/


Scenes from a Road Trip

So for the first weekend of January, we decided to go on a hiking trip through the national parks in Utah.
 We started in Zion and hiked the first two days. Being January and all, the hikes were far different than what most Summer vacationers experience. Here’s Cliff walking on the frozen over Emerald Pool. Notice the giant icicles hanging from the canyon wall?
Our first big hike was Angel’s Landing. We tried the first day, but couldn’t get far due to ice.
 After renting shoe spikes, we tried again the second day, only to have me freak out on the last ridge. What can I say, I am afraid of heights! This hike is not for the faint of heart; the part where I freaked out has sheer 1000 ft drops on either side. Here’s a pic looking up from the ground; as you can see, that’s a long fall…

That’s me at the point where I chickened out. You can kind of see how high up we are…
Thinking about it gives me anxiety, so here’s a sweet deer grazing in the woods that I saw that day…
So after 3 days, we packed up and move on to Bryce Canyon, where we came down with nasty colds. The hiking trip then turned into just a plain ol’, fun road trip. Maybe not as healthy as a week of intense hiking, but we still had some amazing adventures.
This is Bryce:

The picture quality isn’t so good because it was effing cold, and taking off my glove to touch my phone’s screen took a lot of effort. 
So we drove along Utah State Roads 24 and 95, pulling over often to take in the views. That route also closely follows the route that John Wesley Powell, the explorer, took, which was pretty cool. We were pretty much the only people on the road. At one point, we drove just under 100 miles without seeing a single soul on the road!
We drove down to Capital Reef National Park, which we had never heard of. 
We got the park pretty much to ourselves; really, we passed 3 guys leaving and never saw anyone else. 
It was awesome.

These parts of Utah really are desolate. We learned from road side information stands that this was the last part of the continental U.S. to be mapped. I can only imagine explorers looking down into what appears to be a vast wasteland and saying “Oh HELL no!”
But only to discover all sorts of canyons and rock formations that are unlike any other place on Earth.

This view from inside the car, coming up on Monument Valley, made me want to indulge in a marathon of old Westerns.
 We finally made our way down to Sedona, AZ, just in time for sunset and margaritas.
From Sedona we made our way back home, stopping in the small town of Salome to see Cliff’s dad. The drive from Sedona to L.A. wasn’t as picturesque, at least not after what we’d taken in all week.
Noted:
Desert Air in the winter is not pleasant for the respiratory system. I hope I never take for granted the soothing, humid air of a beach climate.
Hanksville, UT is not really a town, more of a wide spot in the road. Don’t ever stay the night there. Worse, don’t bother trying to find food.
Germans really dig our national parks. Most people we came across in any of the parks were foreigners, and most were German.