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Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Stumbling upon nature

      The other day, I walked outside to get some fresh air. I was relieved to take a break from driving. Driving, going, pushing, running, walking, hurrying, moving, packing, unpacking ... is all I do. Work, shop, eat, sleep, clean. Rush. Rush. Rush.

      It was a Sunday and I needed some fresh air. I meandered around, happy to be outside without having anywhere to drive to or get to. I stumbled upon beautiful nature behind my complex. I see the new homes being resurrected, so I know I live in a new, up-and-coming residential area. But wandering around last Sunday just about 100 feet directly behind where I live was amazing.

     I found concrete street already poured. I found driveways already existing. I found curbs. I was told by a family member that this used to be the site of a former residential area. But I was still in awe of seeing the "Christmas" tree standing proudly at the end of a driveway where a mobile home used to be.


        I walked around, breathed in the crisp December air, and kept taking pictures. It was interesting to see nature - brush, trees void of their leaves, and Douglas Firs - running wild amongst the concrete slabs of forlorn driveways and empty, cracked streets, trying to overcome it. Man versus nature.

     I saw a tractor slumped near heaps of cylinder concrete blocks thrown randomly in a pile. Nature versus man. Beauty versus rubbish. Quiet versus noisy. Habitat close to nothing. 

         Who had lived here before? Who decided to "clean up" the area with brand new homes? I had never before seen the ghost of an old neighborhood. It was beautiful to see the abundance of the trees and brush trying to break free from the chain-like concrete. It was a very interesting contrast of what was once there - the nature that is trying to regrow and reclaim its land. It's sad knowing that these trees will be chopped down to make way for another lot of homes. Maybe the few that survived chopping for the formal locale of residents won't survive the chopping block for the new, modern layout the builder has in mind. 


      It was almost eery walking in this old neighborhood which was reclaimed by nature. But it was amazing. Old versus new. Black, old concrete set against brilliant trees. 



          As I noticed an old fence at what must've been the former property line, my ears noticed the road noise. I was near two very busy roads that intersected on a corner. Reality came back. I always hate when suburban neighborhoods exist because it means urban sprawl takes place. There are very few forests left in Oregon in the crowded areas due to masses of people dispersing from Portland. Ironically, I am from So Cal - the center of suburban sprawl - where no nature exists, but is rather captured by the builders: the money talkers (and the nature takers). Roads and roads and roads are built. A million stoplights are put in.

        But last Sunday, I didn't think about public transportation and how stoplights in suburbia need to be synchronized. I just truly enjoyed being artsy and enjoying my surroundings, observing all of the contrasting elements.

       Relax. Slow down. Walk. Observe.




Saturday, August 17, 2013

I made something I've never made before. I'm slowly starting to learn about gluten free foods, as I try to listen to what my body is telling me, how my body feels and what I might need to cut from my diet.

I'm not for sure if I have a gluten intolerance, but I do have major stomach problems. I decided one day I'd like to make gluten-free muffins. After weeks of searching online for gluten-free blueberry muffin recipes, I kept encountering recipe repertoires that consisted of long lists of ingredients that made me sigh in exasperation and I felt defeated. I didn't want to make muffins anymore.

I grew up baking and cooking with my mom and sister Sara (http://sara-sweets.blogspot.com/), making mouth-watering Italian dishes and American cookies that delighted even our pickiest-of-eaters friends. I'm thankful to my mom who taught me how to sautee, steam, roast vegetables, how to chiffonade, and how to execute recipes well. I also learned how to survive on my own as I moved out of the house because I had been cooking for years. I often created my own recipes, blowing my taste buds into new dimensions.

My mom learned how to cook from her father, a full Sicilian, who, to this day, still drinks Scotch and has two cups of coffee a day; my awesome grandpa who comments like we all have in our family when a cook hasn't prepared food to our expectations: "Eh ... I could've made this better at home."

But I finally found a recipe on foodnetwork.com that listed most of the ingredients I had. I no longer sighed in exasperation and defeat. I finally found a recipe that I was looking forward to baking. The recipe called for 2/3 a cup of rice milk; I had coconut milk, so I used that instead.


 I mixed all the dry ingredients together, and then added the wet ingredients - canola oil, coconut milk (my choice), vanilla extract and maple syrup (my choice to use in lieu of agave nectar). The last thing I added were blueberries, which I washed beforehand.


I was excited when I remembered I had these re-usable silicone muffin pan liners my sister Jenny bought me about two years ago for Christmas. I am so excited I never have to buy muffin liners again!

This picture above is of the mix right before I put the pan in the oven. But the most important thing is .... the end result! After letting the muffins cool in the pan, and then on the rack, I tried one and they were't bad. For gluten-free, it was actually good. It wasn't sweet at all. But it was good. 

I'm young, but I'm starting to realize our bodies change and I wasn't in as good of shape as I used to be in. I have to be extra careful about what I eat, even though I've always been healthy. I have to be healthier. I've cut a few things out of my diet as I'm trying to lose a little weight. 

Gluten-free baking and gluten-free food in general can have a lot of calories. I've noticed this more and more, and I think it's because other things are added to gluten-free products to make them taste better. But as long as I eat smaller quantities and things in moderation (gluten-free or not), I'll be fine. And now I have weekend snacks! 

Monday, June 24, 2013

Sometimes I'm on the hunt for quirky and "corky" things!

https://canoeonline.net/shop/inspect/cork-planter-bookend-set

Cork Planter Bookend Set
Photo from canoeonline.net

This combines my love of book ends and organizing!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

I hosted a Meet Up event over this past weekend. Other young women and I made Valentine-themed crafts. It was so fun! I made this wreath from an idea I found from the Internet. (Thanks Google.) It took awhile, but this wreath was easy to make!

I bought red yarn, a round, styrofoam wreath, pink, red and white felt, and a ribbon. A new friend donated heart stickers, which I placed on the wreath. While this wreath wasn't my idea, it was my idea to put on the heart stickers.


Monday, January 7, 2013

A New Year Brings New Beginnings

Although it's already seven days into the month of January, I still feel this new year will be new, special and encouraging. To have something new or a new person enter one's life means to have something unfamiliar and of recent origin enter one's life. Something unfamiliar, obviously, is different.

To me a new year will hopefully mean a year which will bring about good and different things. There's a reason I moved far from where I grew up. I grew up in a safe home and neighborhood, never went hungry, and went to great schools (well, I don't think anyone enjoyed middle school.) To me, my new year will include having faith, a better attitude about things, and even more perseverance to get what I want and deserve (i.e. a career, etc.).

Sometimes change, even with a new year which subtly slips away from the old year, is the best thing for people.

I borrowed an Oprah magazine and read an article by the popular author and life coach Martha Beck. She is a smart lady. It's rare when I relate to an author who writes for a magazine which seems to appeal to women in their 40s, 50s and 60s, but as a mid-twenty-something woman, I really related to the article Take a Flying Leap. You should read it.

Not everyone is able to overcome their fear of failure or has the ambition to change. This article is about how if someone feels an intangible pull that they should change their life (Beck calls it 'the call'), that someone should and ought to change and listen to the call of life. Be smart. Don't let the negative people pull you back.

For each door that closes, I realize another one opens. I don't always see the "opening," but what's important is that I try. If at first I don't succeed, try and try again. Some common sayings are common for a reason - because they're true.

I really love the serenity prayer saying about God giving me the grace to accept the things I cannot change, and the courage to change the things I can. I also love a Mary Engelbreit quote. It has something to do with accepting how you think of stuff you cannot change (changing your perception), but changing the things that you have the control to change.

I have no idea what's going to happen this year. But I have a good feeling. Always trust your intuition. It exists to protect you.