December 27, 2010


For those of you interested, I posted a little update over at Bodies in Motivation.  

I'm still amazed at the results yielded by a tiny tweak in my diet and workout routine.  This isn't going to turn into an "I Love CrossFit" blog, but some of the strides I've made with health and fitness this year just feel like a big deal to me, so hopefully you don't mind when I share.

Hope you all had a wonderful holiday! 


December 21, 2010

Moving Mountains One WOD at a Time

My first Crossfit workout was on October 9th.  It's hard to believe it's only been a few months.  It took me probably a year to finally get the guts to show up to one of the Saturday Drop In Workouts and now it feels like something I have been doing my whole life.  On my first day I was in a state of panic from the moment I showed up to the moment I left.  Well if I'm being honest, at the end of the day the panic had morphed into a low grade exhaustion, but you know what I'm getting at.  I dragged Garrett with me as my security blanked and into the box we went -- first getting a mini tour, a brief synopsis of what Crossfit was all about, an overview of the Paleo diet, an introduction to The White Board, and then we warmed up and did our first WOD --- The Newbie WOD. 

3-5 rounds for time of the following: 

20 box jumps
10 push ups
10 sit ups
10 squats

It seemed innocuous enough, no scary names or Olympic Weightlifting.  No weird abbreviations or unintelligible combinations of exercises.  Plain and simple -- I imagine they do this on purpose.   

I gave it my all, I survived 3 rounds and then I had had enough.  18 minutes and 32 seconds

I had pushed myself enough just showing up, frankly, so I was ok only completing the minimum.  I modified the box jumps by doing step ups on a 12 inch box, but overall felt relatively pleased with my performance.  Then I went home and was sore for 5 days.  Hella sore, actually.  Like don't drink any water because then I will just have to sit down to go to the bathroom sore, if you know what I'm saying.

So last night when I headed into the gym, guess what showed up on The White Board?  A little revisit to The Newbie WOD for comparison.  A little check-in on the progress.  And after 2 months and 2 weeks my workout shook out as follows:

I completed all 5 rounds (woot!)
20 box jumps (this time I used the 20 inch box -- still modified though for my precious knees!)
10 push ups
10 sit ups
10 squats

Finished in 14:15. 

This morning, I'm a little sore but nothing crazy.  Mostly my upper body is sore because we worked Shoulder Presses for about 15 minutes before we even started that newbie WOD, so it was like two workouts in one!  

I felt pretty amazed last night in the obvious increase in my physical endurance.  After only two months!  One of the things I tell myself now when I'm mid-workout and feel like I'm going to keel over and die is that I can stand around and have those thoughts and delay finishing my workout, or I can push through and think about how tired I am while getting one squat closer to being finished.  So my mental endurance is improving as well.  :)

It's funny how sometimes we put off reaching for our goals because they seem so overwhelming or out of reach.  It seems like they would take too big of a commitment, or require a life U-turn of epic proportions and really, who has time for that?  What Crossfit has taught me in a very short amount of time is that sometimes you just have to show up and try hard.  

Holly's New Rules For Life:
1.  Show Up
2.  Try Hard

You don't have to be the best or the fastest or the strongest, you just have to keep showing up and ultimately you will get somewhere.  Sometimes you will get to where you thought you were going, and sometimes you will go even further than you thought you could.  They say if you want to move mountains you have to start with a single stone, right?  I'm so happy I lifted that first stone because now I'm dead lifting 220 lbs (that's two supermodels!), shoulder pressing 80lbs (small children, anyone?), doing handstand push ups, squatting with barbells full of weight over my head, pushing and pulling myself and sweating through every goddamn t-shirt that I own.

But every time I look up at the horizon, that mountain gets just a little bit smaller.      

December 20, 2010

The Story of Our House

So our front and backyard? 

Finally done. 

Actually, it’s been done for over a month now but I just haven’t had it in me to post the Before/After pics.  I know, I suck.  Part of the reason is because since finishing, it is almost painful to look at the before pictures.  It’s not that our new yard is so super fancy that it blows our old yard out of the water -- I mean, come on, our budget was spent on really fabulous things like Extreme Trenching and Improving Drainage, etc so obviously this hampered the Porno Pool w/ Grotto, you know?  I just want you to manage your expectations here.  But my hesitation to post these pictures had more to do with the fact that every time look at the Befores, it is all I can do to not shout – I SWEAR WE WERE NOT WHITE TRASH!

But before I tell you the story of the yard, I feel like I should tell you the story of this house so you understand why the yard got to the condition that it was in.  It’s not like one day we just started throwing garbage in the backyard and stacking things – it was, er…well, a much more complicated process. 

So once upon a time in 1999 Garrett’s parents bought him this house when he went off to college.  They were assuming (quite intelligently, actually) that when he was done with college a few years later they could sell the house, recover their expenses, and pat themselves on the back for their smart investing. This was only possible for two reasons --  1)  Real Estate in Sacramento in 1999 was incredibly cheap  and 2)  Their son was an 80 year old man living in an 18  year old’s body and could responsibly care for a house at such a young age.  As you can imagine there was no way in hell my parents would ever have purchased me a house when I went off to college, and righfully so!  The only thing they didn’t anticipate was Garrett getting comfortable here and never wanting to leave (and who can blame him – our little house is really quite cozy) and that the real estate market would take a massive nose dive.  Have you heard?  It blows.  So for now we rent from his parents, live in sin, and it works out well for all involved. 

But back in 2007, after almost a decade of Garrett living there but before I moved in,  it was becoming apparent that the house needed a little updating.  It was about 900 square feet, had one bathroom, 3 tiny bedrooms, and only outdoor laundry.  Garrett and his parents hired a contractor and 6 months later basically had a brand new house.  It was still 3 bedrooms (though much roomier at 1200 square feet), but it had a second bathroom, a remodeled master suite, and an indoor laundry room.  Due to the dumpsters, tractors, contractors, and new foundations being laid though, what it DIDN'T have at the end of that 6 months were pretty yards.  The front and back yards died a horrible death and instantly got put on the the "Things To Do At Some Point When the Remodel is Done" list.  And then life went on for about 2 and a half years:  Garrett started a new job, we moved in together, we merged all sorts of aspects of our lives, Garrett quit the new job, and  it just never seemed like the right time to start a large scale yard remodel, so we didn’t. 

But by August of this year Garrett had quit the soul sucking full-time job and had been working part time for a few months.  We had fallen into a new life rhythm and it finally seemed like the time.  We started interviewing landscapers, getting quotes, and finally in September we started with the front yard looking like this:  

And come November, it started looking a little more like this:

A nice new driveway that can fit 3-5 cars now instead of just one.  And some low maintenance bark/shrubs/moss rock...see?

And inside that gate, a new little patio:

Of course now that the yard is done we have no Patio Furniture Budget, but that is neither here nor there.  

Now, onto the backyard!  

I just want you to remember to tell yourself that we are not white trash, mmmkay?

Here was our back patio and "lawn" before:

And what was left of my "Garden Beds":

Here's another look at what were my Garden Beds and our shed:

No, that is not where the Uni-bomber lives.  That's our backyard!  

And of course, here was our lovely side yard:

But then November came, and after about a month of many strange men being at my house at all hours of the day 5 days a week (sometimes 6!) the yard began to look a bit more liveable.  

Now look at that side yard:  

Which leads right onto our new patio:

And look -- we actually have a lawn now!

And Garden Beds that look like, come spring, they might actually grow things:

Though, uh, who is going to teach me how to garden now that I am responsible for 120 square feet of soil?  OY!  HALP!

Anyway, as you can see there is no Porno Pool to my dismay, but I am pretty happy that things are simple, clean, functional, and more importantly don't make our neighbors think that we are total crazies!  

I am trying to convince Garrett that we should have our wedding here since we could easily fit 75 people in the back to witness a little holy matrimony.  Plus -- it would be free!  (Well, the venue at least.) 

If you are interested in seeing more, all of the photos are here. 

December 14, 2010

The Travel Bug Has Bitten

Because I love clean cut beginnings and endings, and mostly because I love to do big picture planning, the end of the year always appeals to me.  For the same reasons Mondays actually appeal to me also, but I know I am slightly in the minority on that, so let's forget about that for a minute.  I think this makes sense to a lot of people -- the love for planning, but in practice I am slightly crazy at the end of the year, just ask Garrett.  I have been following him around for last couple of weeks talking about our 2011 travel plans and he keeps looking at me like, "Woman, can we get through Christmas already?" 


Anyway, we have a few trips that we have already agreed upon, plus a wishlist that I'm just putting out to the Universe in case it wants to drop some fabulous opportunity in my lap or something.    

January -- The Great Southwest Road Trip 2011
photo credit
Since Garrett is back working the retail circuit, vacay in November and December is not an option.  His parents live on a ranch in New Mexico though and we really want to go see them.  I've never been to there house in the 5 years we've been dating if you can believe that?!?  So we've finally marked off two weeks in January to road trip our way out there, spent some quality time, and then fly home.  I'm really looking forward to it.  We are currently planning tentative stops in central/so-cal, and Arizona (his grandma lives there) plus 5 or 6 days in NM with the parentals.  I'm pretty excited about it seeing as I've never been to either state ever!  I'm definitely down for some suggestions of places to stop so if you have any let me know.

May -- Playa del Carmen, Mexico with Garrett and his friends
photo credit
The boys are planning this one and I'm just showing up, which could be genius or a total nightmare.  I'm thinking it will be genius though and am getting pretty excited.  Mexico is another place I've never really been (Tijuana soooo doesn't count!)  Also, it has been great workout motivation, if nothing else.  Can't wait to be lying on a Carribbean beach with a giant drink in hand hanging out with fun people that know how to have a good time! 

August -- San Diego for the BlogHer?

Right now this is a maybe.  It's so close so I feel like I should go, but honestly the thought of a million people I don't know is sort of socially overwhelming.  Are you going?  Tell me you are going.  It will make me feel much better.  Besides I have gone to San Diego every year for the last 3 or 4 years, so it's kind of A Must, I think or I may have withdrawals.

Fall 2011 -- The Blathering, Austin TX
Both Garrett and I are OBSESSED with going to Austin, so I will have to figure out how the two of are going to travel there together plus have a girls weekend.  It can happen, I'm sure of it. 

Probable other trips with no determined time:
Seattle Again -- Seattle and I fell in love at first sight and I am convinced we must return! 
Portland -- why not just squeeze it in with another Pacific Northwest adventure?

Trips to find time for (and hey,  money!  Universe do you hear me?): 
Boston -- How have I not been here yet?
Maui Again -- I know nothing will compare to the first time, but I would really like to get back there again for some beaching and frosty umbrella drinks. 

Where do you want to go in 2011?

December 13, 2010

Asked and Answered

Friday night after a long week, Garrett and I sat down over a glass of wine and started talking about the ups and downs of our day.  When I got to the downs I told Garrett about how I was was a little bummed that we didn't get a Christmas tree this year.  We don't have kids, but we're pretty festive and we had talked about getting a tree this year (since we didn't last year) and decided to definitely do it. 

First we had planned to go right after Thanksgiving --  but honestly, after running the 5K, the siren song of having 3 more days off just to relax had a greater pull than the idea of having a festive and decorated house.  So I lit a balsam scented candle and said we'd do it next weekend.  Then the following weekend had us attending 2 parties, with one very late night out so come Sunday we lit the candle again and decided we'd go next weekend.  Oops, except "next weekend" was this last weekend, and this last weekend Garrett was heading out of town.  Unless we wanted to go the weekend before Christmas and do a rush job -- and I didn't mostly because I'm morally opposed to paying $50 for a tree that is only going to be up for a week -- it was looking like we weren't going to be getting a tree, and I was bummed.  

Mostly I was bummed because I am dying to replace the memory of the last time we got a Christmas tree.  I've told you about this, haven't I?  How we marched down to Home Depot, picked out the prettiest tree on the lot, smugly tied it to the roof of our car, and then realized that we had tied our doors closed?  Yeah, not my sharpest moment. 

Anyway, so no sooner do I express my dissatisfaction with our Christmas Tree Situation and my phone buzzes.  It's a new text message from my cousin's husband saying:  "Want a Free Christmas Tree?"  And for a minute I felt like I was on candid camera or something, but obviously without hesitation I said YES!!!  And 4 hours later we had a tree in our garage.  That he delivered!  Saving me from tying my doors closed or tying it to myself or something equally as unsavory!  It was a huge tree, actually and it needed a little surgery before it could come inside, if you know what I'm saying.  So  Garrett handled the actually trimming of the branches and stump, and I handled the light and ornament trimming while he was out of town.  And it's so cute!  My mom came over, we busted out all my childhood ornaments, played cheesy Christmas music, and by Saturday night we had this:  

Except imagine it looking even better because I take terrible pictures! 

The house smells fantastic, it is beautiful to see at night, and even though it takes up half of our tiny little living room -- I LOVE IT. 

I think I'm going to call it my own little Christmas Miracle.  Well, you know, unless Santa shows up at my door with the winning lotto ticket.   

November 30, 2010

Dude, It's Really Good Chili

I don't know what you do for fun, but I like to cook things and sometimes inspiration strikes at weird times. 

Maybe I need some more morning friendly hobbies, I don't know.  Matt Lauer just doesn't do it for my like my Le Creuset.   

All I know is if I could find a job where all I did was cook, read, drink coffee, and sometimes watch bad reality television in the morning but free in the afternoon, well -- I would be an EXCEEDS Employee.   Excuse me while I go update my LinkedIn Profile.   

Anyway, today I made some chili and it occurred to me that I need to share this chili recipe here because: 
1.  It is Easy -- so easy you can sleepwalk through it at 5am and have lunch ready by 6am!  2.  It is Very Customizable and Packs some Major Vegetable Punch in One Pot-- flexible with the ingredients you have on hand, and efficient. 
3.  It is Delicious. 

That is quite the trifecta, I think -- so here we go.   

Holly's Famous to Dozens Chili

The Basic Ingredients
Your Favorite Oil to coat the pan
1 Large Onion
2 Cloves Garlic, minced
3-4 Carrots, chopped
1-2 zucchini, chopped
1-2 yellow squash, chopped
1 LB Ground Beef or Turkey

The  Spices
2 TBS Chili Powder
1 TBS Paprika
1-2 tsp  Red Pepper Flakes (depending on how spicy you like it!)
1.5 tsp Cumin
Some Cayenne if you feel really spicy -- I rarely do, but Garrett LOVES it

Salt & Pepper, OBVIOUSLY

Other Liquid Stuff
1 Can Diced Tomatoes with liquid (the 14 ish oz kind)
1 14 oz Can Tomato Sauce
1 Cup Broth (chicken/beef depending on what meat you used)
1 TBS Apple Cider Vinegar

The Final Ingredients
2 Peppers (any color) diced
1 Can Beans (whatever you have on hand, if going Paleo, leave them out)

Sour Cream
Green Onions
Corn Chips (if you are feeling really crazy!)

  • Dice all your Basic Ingredients (minus the meat) and get them cooking in your favorite oil.  Salt and Pepper generously.
  • Add the meat and let it cook up a bit.  Salt and Pepper generously. 
  • Add The Spices, and give it a good stir.  It will start to actually look chili-like.  Weird. 
  • Add the Other Liquid Stuff and bring to a boil.  Lower heat, then cover and let simmer for about 40 minutes
  • Add The Final Ingredients and cook with the lid off for about 10 more minutes
  • Serve with Toppings!

That last part is the best part, you know.

November 29, 2010

A Week of Big Accomplishments!

Back to reality, eh?  Man do I love a long weekend, but the Monday that follows is a little rough, no?

I hope you all enjoyed your holidays -- Garrett and I spent our Thanksgiving morning running our first 5K together and man, it was chilly!  (28 degrees when we left the house!  Uh, we Californians don't do much when it is 28 degrees out, so I was certainly second guessing my decision to run a race!)   

I use the term 'together' loosely though, because Garrett left me in the dust almost immediately, which ended up being a pretty smart decision.  Since I have never really ran more than 2 miles at one time (hi, I am not a runner) I was afraid to run too fast in the beginning and then crap out at the end, so I wanted to make sure I paced myself.  It turns out, however, that not getting ahead of the crowds during  "Fun Run" full of kids and old people and strollers (OMG dodging the strollers!) ends up being kind of a mistake if you are trying to run in a decent amount of time -- live and learn. 

So running the race took me about 45 minutes and although I won't be winning any awards with that time, I am pretty stoked that we did it.  And you guys --  I ran the whole. damn. thing. 

Now where's my medal?

Don't they give you a medal for running 3.1 Miles?  No?  Well that is bogus, I say!

In all seriousness though, I think that I have to thank Crossfit for my performance -- and by performance I mean Not Dying.  Like I said earlier I am not a runner, so I have never really forced myself to run very far.  A few weeks ago one of our WODs involved running a mile, lifting some weights, and then finishing it up by running another mile and I about died when I read that because  I was just SURE I wasn't going to be able to do it.  But then one of the coaches said to me "You don't have to do it fast, Holly -- you just have to do it."   And what the hell do you know?  I did it.  So during the 5k when I wanted to stop and walk or quit or whatever, I just said that over and over in my head.  I like a good mantra when I'm in pain. 

Also, I turned up my music very loud.  I don't know how people run without music.  It was a necessity to take my mind off of things.  Do you know what was playing when I crossed the finish line?   Only the cheesiest and best pop song ever!  And I found the lyrics to be quite apropos at the time.  I was so happy to cross that damn finish line you would have thought I just ran a marathon.  But I guess in a way it kind of was my marathon, ya know?  It was my first timed race ever, my first little shoe clippy thingy (the technical term, I'm sure), my first race bib and all that -- and I enjoyed the heck out of all that silly stuff.  It was a measurable accomplishment and I was pretty proud of myself.  Also, I basically gave myself free reign to eat my weight in turkey and stuffing when I was done, so that was an awesome bonus! 

Speaking of my weight -- I woke up the day after Thanksgiving (of all days) and hit 50lbs lost.  Also another hat tip to Crossfit.  (The timing almost made me want to go back for some more stuffing!)  CAN YOU FREAKING BELIEVE THAT?  Because I can almost not even believe that.  I kind of can't get over that number because when I look at myself I see the same person, but dude that is a lot of pounds lost.  In fact I'm not sure I have ever lost more than that EVER.  I feel pretty excited to keep going but since it is a notable pit stop on this journey to become as healthy as possible before we have kids, I think I'm just going to stop and enjoy the view for a while!   

November 24, 2010

A Love Letter to Jello Salad

So Thanksgiving is all about the food.  That's a given. 

Of course it is also about gratitude and tradition and family and all of that goodness and stuff, but since I don't have any kids yet and I'm pretty grateful the other 364 days of the year, WHEN DO WE EAT?  I'm looking forward to football, family, card games and good times, but what I really can't wait for is DINNER!  Or lunch, I guess. 

Do you all eat your Thanksgiving dinners early?  We like to eat around 3 so that we can have pie (or turkey sandwiches, what?) around actual dinner time. 

Anyway, both my mom's and dad's sides of the family cook very similar spreads, so it doesn't matter who we are celebrating with because there is always a delicious feast.  There is one major difference in the two menus though, and it happens to involve one of my absolute favorite dishes:  Raspberry Jello Salad.  You see it's a staple on my dad's side of the family, but we only occasionally make it on my mom's.  There is really no rhyme or reason to it on my mom's side, sometimes we have it, sometimes we don't, but usually it is per my request.   I thought about whipping up a real quick batch tonight, but with all the other dishes I am tasked with, plus squeezing in one more workout so I can freely snarf stuffing without guilt, it just seemed like a bit too much.   So since I'm not going to be eating it, well, I feel the need to at least discuss it at length.  Will you humor me? 

First of all, I will acknowledge a few things about this recipe:

1.  I Get it.  It is not salad.
I used to have an irritatingly food obsessed roommate and during one of the years we lived together I cooked my first Thanksgiving Dinner EVER (you myself.)  I was feeling sentimental and I was telling her about each dish and how I made them, and why we make them year after year when I pulled out this dish she laughed like I had just told the most hilarious joke.  Then she tried it and said,  "Yeah, it's good, but you are kidding yourself if you think this is a salad.  This totally isn't very healthy, Holly." 

And all I can say to that is THANK GOD SHE ENLIGHTENED ME.  I mean where would I have been in life had she not made a flow chart defining salads and health for me in our little kitchen?  Praise the lord!

For this, and many other reasons as you may assume, we are not only no longer roommates but no longer friends.  But I do think about her often when I make this SALAD, and 12 years later I still feel incredibly happy that I chose it over her.  It's that good, people.     

2.  I Get it.  It sounds gross.
I have seen many different faces when I've explained that my favorite thanksgiving dish involves a jello salad with cream cheese, whipped cream and -- wait for it -- pretzels.  Not all of them have been excited faces.  It sounds like a ridiculous combination, and I full acknowledge that.  But let me just promise you that it is the best gift from the Sweet and Savory Gods, and I swear on a bag of kettle corn that the combination works.  And it just gets better and better as the days pass. 

3.  I get it.  It's a dessert.  It doesn't really go with the meal.
Who the hell cares when I eat it, you psycho control freak?  Oops, sorry, I think that was a little residual ex-roommate rage there.  Seriously though, it does taste more like a dessert than a side dish.  But if no one is going to be a stickler with the candied yams about it, then leave my jello salad alone too, okay?

4.  I get it.  Jello Salad is NOT sexy.
In fact, there is little that is less sexy than jello salad, well you know, at least when we are talking about cravings and Thanksgiving food.  I nominate Turducken as a food that sure sounds less sexy, but I have to agree that saying a jello salad is one of my favorites sort of makes me  feel like I'm answering one of those "You Might Be a Redneck" jokes in the affirmative.  

But it is so super duper delicious that I am willing to put all of those points aside!  And I have to admit, I will really be missing my Raspberry Jello Salad this year.  So on the off chance you are in dire need of a last minute side dish/salad/dessert, this recipe on Tasty Kitchen is quite similar to the one traditionally served in my family.  And you should try it, because I dare you not to love it.  Plus then we could be White Trash Friends Forever.   

Do you think they make a necklace for that? 

Do you have any crazy family food traditions?  Tell me so I don't feel so stupid now that I have written a bazillion words about jello salad.  Pretty please?

photo credit

November 18, 2010

Green Smoothies: Breakfast of Champions

 5 days a week, I start my day off with an enormous green smoothie -- and at least one day a week I hear something about it:

"What the heck is that?"

"Did you make that yourself?"

"What's in that?"  or the ever so tasteful "That looks gross." 

And the truth is -- it does kind of look gross.  It looks like lawn clippings mixed with water or something, and just typing that made me dry heave a little.  But it is the best tasting, most-efficient, on-the-go breakfast ever so I remind myself regularly that food doesn't always have to be pretty to be delicious.   And this Breakfast of Champions is definitely delicious.  If you are not sold on the delicious factor, what if I told you it had 2 CUPS OF SPINACH in it.  I mean, hello, when else are you going to eat 2 cups of spinach??  If you are like me, probably never, since I don't even like spinach that much.  But in this smoothie?  You can't even taste it!  So here we go...

Add the following to a blender and give it a whirl:

1 Cup of Almond Milk (I used unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk, but you could use plain too)
1 Frozen Banana
1 Scoop of Protein Powder of Your Choice (you need an emulsifier so it's milkshake-like)
1-2 TBS of Almond Butter (You could use Peanut Butter if you have it on hand)
2 TBS of Ground Flax Seeds (Or anything else you'd like to sneak in)
2 Cups of Spinach

You all, it tastes like a giant peanut butter and banana smoothie but you just ate 2 cups of spinach.  How badass is that?  Plus, with the almond butter/milk/protein powder combo you will not be hungry until lunch, I promise. 


And if nothing else, Popeye (and your mom, no doubt) would probably be proud.

November 17, 2010

Faces Only Mothers Could Love

So Garrett and I have been together for five years today.  I was feeling a little sentimental about that fact this weekend and because we have a million photos of us lying around the house, I thought I would head over to Target and pick up some new frames because they were on sale (holla!)Obviously we spent the weekend hanging them, and let me tell you, if your relationship can survive hanging photos on a wall when both of you have VERY different opinions of what the correct procedure is for hanging said photos -- well then, I think your relationship can survive pretty much anything.  

Anyway, as I was looking at some of the nice photographs of us that we were hanging it reminded me of a complaint that I hear from my mom all the time which is that we always take the same picture over and over.   And here is the thing about that:  we kind of do.  But in our defense it is mostly because we don't hang around the house taking artsy shots of each other with our expensive cameras where we look simultaneously look gorgeous yet deeply in love.  We just aren't those people.  We're the people who have photo album after photo album filled up with the same off-centered couples self portraits with the scenery of our current vacation in the background.  And honestly, we are lucky if we can even take those pictures correctly.  Ahem, exhibit A:

But I'm kind of ok with that.  We are goofy, and un-photogenic, and have a hard time standing in one place long enough to try and look attractive and in love before we burst into giggles, or someone gooses the other, or eyes start rolling -- and really it is SO EXHAUSTING TRYING TO BE PHOTOGENICALLY FABULOUS, MY GOD.  I need a rest just thinking about it.

That said, this year instead of a sappy post about love and happiness, I thought I'd give you this:  

Holly & Garrett -- Celebrating 5 Years of Not The Same Picture Over and Over, Mom, Really.  I promise.

Year One:  This was on our first vacation together ever to Pajaro Dunes.  We definitely loved each other, but I'm not sure we had actually you know, told each other we did at that point.  Aw, just babies.  Don't you think it would be fun to get married there (hint hint, Garrett)...ANYWAY...

Year Two:  Our second major vacation together up to Humboldt County -- the prettiest stretch of coastline in Northern California, and I will fight you on that one.  Yes, this is an off-centered couples self portrait, BUT THEY ARE NOT ALL LIKE THIS, I SWEAR.  

Year Three:  See I told you they aren't all like that.  Apparently sometimes they are off-centered tongue in ear portraits.  Garrett may or may not have been questioning what the hell he had gotten himself into with this crazy chick at this point.

Year Four:  Because sometimes love just makes you want to jump off the end of pier, am I right?  Tell me I am right, people.  

Year Five:  Finally this year we got our act together and just had some professional photos taken, because as evidenced we certainly were never going to get a shot like this without some serious intervention.  This is one of the pictures I framed this weekend, and I can't say enough fabulous things about the photographer who took these.  She definitely captured the best versions of us, and that is a hard task to do! 

But as I look back over these years of good memories, and silly faces, and badly centered self portraits, there is no doubt in my mind that the best parts of this relationship are rarely this polished.  And that is the thing that I am most looking forward to celebrating today.  

Here's to many more years of un-photogenic, yet picture perfect love! 


November 15, 2010

Tales of My City

I’ve been looking for a new book to read for a few days now.  I wasn’t quite ruined by the last book I read, though I did find it mostly entertaining.  It was a library book that I picked out right before my trip to Chicago because I assumed it would give off the vibe of “Don’t sit next to me on the plane *ahem*  I like extra leg room”  and since it worked for 3 of the 5 legs of my flights, it appears I was correct in that assumption.  (Would you sit by someone reading this?  Me either.)  My shelf of checked-out library books has dwindled, so out of necessity I have been aimlessly perusing my own bookshelf lately, which frankly is a collection large enough that if I devoured every unread book available I could probably stay away from the library for at least a year or two.  But since they are kind enough to subscribe to all the good magazines I like, and I already have to stop by weekly to keep up with the Kardashians and Justin Bieber’s hair and all that, reaching for one the books I already own first rarely ever happens. 

(Sidebar:  What are you reading right now?  I need to pad my library reservation list too since that is also quickly dwindling!)

So when I headed over to Peet’s to grab some tea and say hi to Garrett this afternoon, I was thrilled to see Sacramento Bee’s Books & Media section abandoned at an empty table.  On the front page was a feature article on Armistead Maupin, as he is doing a reading at the Library Galleria this week to promote his new book.  It was such an entertaining article and it reminded me of my years living in LA in an instant.  I talk about my life in LA sometimes on this blog, but definitely not enough.  I'm going to fix that.  It was such a fun and unique time in my life and full of stories -- and today's article reminded me of that.    

You see I moved to LA when I was 19 because a friend of mine at the time was going to school down there.  I had taken a hiatus from college, my dad had just died, and really my life had a complete lack of direction – why not move to LA, I thought?  So I did.  And I immediately got a job at Peet’s Coffee & Tea in Brentwood (fun fact:  the Peet’s I worked in was actually the old location of Mezzaluna Trattoria of OJ Simpson fame, and years earlier in the midst of the famous trial while my parents and I were looking at colleges we must have driven by it a hundred times so my mom could film it at every angle because she was so wrapped up in that trial!)  

One of my responsibilities at that store was Community Marketing, which was just a fancy title for schlepping thermoses of coffee to big events to promote Peet’s and then sitting there with a smile on my face serving all evening.  I thought it was a giant pain in the ass at the time, and my car’s light colored interior definitely suffered dragging brewed coffee back and forth through LA traffic, but looking back I got to hang out at some very cool events for free just because I was serving coffee:  Food and Wine festivals, concerts, chi chi parties, you name it and chances are I served coffee there.

One of my favorite events to serve was the UCLA Hammer Lectures & Readings Series  which featured lectures by prominent authors, musicians, and artists.  I would serve coffee before the event started and then I could sneak in and listen to Elvis Costello talk about his songwriting process, or Margaret Atwood discuss exactly what she thought of literary criticism.  It was a thankless part of my job for which I most certainly wasn't not getting paid, but the benefit of eavesdropping on such uncensored fantastic talents was pretty inspiring to me at the time and was an incredible perk, especially since I was so lost in my life at the time. 

One of the final lectures that I attended was one featuring Armistead Maupin.  He spoke of his travels and of San Francisco.  He detailed the catharsis of writing one of his most famous novels and coming out all in the same year.  He talked about AIDS and how no one was discussing it when he started writing about it, about film and about music.  He was the kind of person who you wanted to invite to your cocktail party and sit next to wide-eyed the entire evening. 

After the event I was carrying all of my gear out to my car parked in this back alley, certainly bitching in my head about how I should not have to be doing this so late at night -- and it must have been written all over my face because all of a sudden out of nowhere I heard someone say “Need a toke?” and then a giggle to himself.  I turned around to find the event's Guest of Honor outside smoking a joint all alone, and I couldn’t believe that this super famous author was willing to lend me an ear and a puff.  I declined at the time because I was 20, and a do-gooder, and the sheer shock of someone openly smoking marijuana on the University campus was almost too whacky for my sheltered little mind to even conceive of, but he had such a kind face and was so earnest in his effort to let me know “It’s here if you need it.”

Of course after that encounter I went out and picked up a few of his books, though I have never actually cracked the spine and read one.  Not for any particular reason either, except that I have a lot books and most of them end up sitting on the shelves unread because of my penchant for library books.  And when I thought of that story this afternoon while drinking my tea, it pretty well convinced me that Tales of the City needs to be my next book choice, even if I do have to do some digging around on my bookshelves.  And hell, with the annoying Monday that I’ve had today, don’t think it hasn’t crossed my mind to head downtown later this week and take him up on that long overdue offer.  I think we all know that my do-gooder tendencies still have a stronghold even 10 years later though, so chances are it’ll probably remain just a memory.     

November 11, 2010

The Blathering: Part Deux

So Chicago?  Was a MAJOR whirlwind.  I truly can't believe that less than a week ago I hopped on a plane and flew halfway across the country to hang out with a few people that I had met once before, and some that I had never met at all.  Does that sound strange to you?  Because when I actually write it down it sounds strange to me.  But in reality, it made so much sense it was scary. 

About a week before the trip I started telling friends and co-workers that I was going to Chicago to hang out with my "friends inside the computer" when they asked about my trip.  We'd all have a little chuckle but there would always be a pause because, "Wait...what? Was she serious?" 

Yes, totally serious. 

But you see, that's the thing about the blogging and the internet -- if you're not that into it, it kind of does seem totally strange and abnormal -- like football or boxing or Snooki.  But when you really get into it -- it totally makes perfect sense.  For me, I think my attitude about blogging and the internet all changed at The Blathering last year. 

I've been blogging since 2006, and reading blogs since, well..forever, it seems.  Being a person who loves to write, it's just kind of hobby that makes sense to me.  But I had never really embraced "the culture of blogging."  Yes, I know that was a totally douchey phrase.  What I mean is I had never gone to BlogHer, I wasn't dying for Dooce to send me a tweet,  I didn't consider Maggie Mason my mentor.  I was just a blogger, I wasn't a  know?  And then along came The Blathering - 2009.  Being that it was in Sacramento, I told myself that I was just meeting up with some other writers in my hometown, no biggie.  Nothing out of the ordinary.  Sure it was a bit anxiety inducing, but I was mostly in my comfort zone.  I was at home and if it was awful I could just hop back in my car and drive back to my house rolling my eyes at all the weirdos I left behind.  But then, the exact opposite happened.  

Every single person that I met in Elizabeth's backyard last Fall was a delight, and after that weekend, opening my Reader and following the happenings of all of their lives last year made me absolutely fall in love with the way this silly blogging community connects people.  It's more than stats and traffic, drama and popularity.  It is extraordinary people living ordinary lives and sharing their stories with each other, something that happens so infrequently in our busy everyday lives.  Really sharing.  It tugs at my heart strings a little when I think about all of the experiences and changes that this small group of women went through this past year, and I feel overwhelmed with gratitude that I got to be a part of it all just because of this little blog right here. 

So this year, when the opportunity presented itself to buy a stupidly expensive plane ticket to Chicago, and fly half way across the country to spend a weekend with people I didn't know at all in the hopes that there would be that thing -- that intangible element of humanity and friendship and connection that writing this blog has introduced me to before -- I obviously jumped at the chance.  And because I did, I met some delightful, intelligent, hysterical, and exciting ladies whose lives I cannot wait to watch unfold this year.  Friends that I'm excited to share my own stories with.  Women who I know will provide fantastic advice.  Ladies who I know will cheer me on through the highs and lows of this coming year -- and for which I hope to do exactly the same.  

So as much as The Blathering was about this past weekend -- eating deep dish pizzas, navigating public transportation, searching for the perfect pair of jeans on Michigan Avenue, having late night conversations in bars listening to David Bowie, drinking one too many cocktails, laughing until my stomach hurt over the stories of our lives -- what makes me the most excited is the future.  Where will we all go?  What will we do?  How will our lives be different a year from now? 

What will happen because of this one strange weekend with a bunch of friends from inside the computer? 

I'm so incredibly lucky that I get to find out.

November 04, 2010

Out of Office Reply

I know I've been a blogging slacker lately but after this weekend, that will all change I'm sure.  I'm off to The Blathering this weekend in Chicago for 48 hours of fun and fabulousness, and aside from the fact that my plane leaves in about 12 hours and I haven't packed, I couldn't be more excited. 

See ya on the flipside!

October 25, 2010

Monday Musings: First World Problems Edition

I'm feeling annoyed today, and because it is Monday that is increasing it ten-fold.  Therefore, I must vent:

Complaint #1:  Bank of America Sucks Donkey Balls
I have done my banking there since 1996, and have pretty much hated them since the inception of our relationship for one reason or another, though I'm not sure there is a banking establishment out there that I would truly love.  It just kind of is what it is, and I stay because it is a pain to move everything.  HOWEVER, I recently received a random envelope in the mail from them saying "Hey, here's a new debit card because your info was potentially compromised.  Totally our bad, sorry about that."  And there were three main things that really irked me about the situation:  1)  WTF?  Potentially compromised?  The nonchalance of the letter was irritating.  2)  The card had a new number (obvs) but I had my old one memorized -- which proved very convenient when making online purchases at new retailers -- no need to dig through my wallet!  and 3)  Do you know how many things I have automatically debit out of my account?  About a million -- netflix, the gym, student loan payments...yada, yada, get it.  But let's just say in the last 3 weeks I have gotten a lot of "Something is wrong with your credit card" emails and phone calls (including a "Collections" call from 24 Hour Fitness complete with a rude ass girl on the other line demanding payment) and I would really like to just punch Bank of America in the stomach each time I have to deal with it.  

Complaint # 2:  Yahoo! You Are Dead to Me
So about a week ago I tried to sign into my Yahoo! account and got an irritating error message.  I sent the appropriate complaint and received a canned response of "We're working on it!"  And then I waited.  And sent another complaint.  And got another canned response. And waited.  And got an email with a ticket #.  And waited.  I don't know what the hell they are working on but after more than a week I still can not check my mother-loving email.  And for someone who checks their email probably 30 times a day this is...oh, how do you say...UNFUCKINGACCEPTABLE!  Everything comes to that email address.  EVERYTHING.  Obviously I am going to have to move on to another address (especially after googling this problem and reading about people who have been dealing with it for over a, no) but again, now I have to figure out by trial and error exactly what I need to update.  Also, it means until Yahoo! fixes the problem everything stored in that account (aka future travel itineraries, groupons, contacts, etc) are gone.  GONE.  Ugh, the thought of it all kind of makes me ill.  I think Yahoo! and Bank of America may be in cahoots.

Complaint #3:  I miss the skin on my hands and knees
So Garrett and I joined a CrossFit Gym about a month ago (the nasty call from the 24 Hour Fitness Rep ended up being the perfect time to cancel our old gym membership...HA! Take that, bitchy chick.) and really I have loved every minute since, you know aside from the blisters on my hands and the rug burn (Yes, I injured myself doing modified push ups.  Awesome).  The first month you spend 3 days per week learning technique and most of the lifts and then do an abbreviated workout.  Abbreviated.  Yet I have pretty much been sore everyday since we joined.  So last Friday we finished our course and now I guess we get to join the rest of the folks and do the real workouts, and honestly I feel a little freaked out about it.  Sometimes I find the warm ups a challenge (embarrassing as that is to admit) so the thought of an entire 40-60 minute workout is freaking me out a bit.  I just went online and looked at our WOD for tonight and HOLY SHIT.  Now I have 10 hours to try and figure out how the hell one modifies a handstand push up.  OHMYGOD.

I think I will leave it at my top 3 complaints because, really, that is probably enough.  I don't want to get on a roll or I will never shut up and I don't need to start this day with a downward spiral in attitude.  

What's bugging you this Monday?  You know you want to vent.

October 15, 2010

Book Review: Orange is the New Black

Holy hell, this book kind of ruined me. 

Does this happen to you?  You pick up a book and it is just so delicious you can hardly put it down, but then you have to because you don't want to finish it too fast!  And then when you finally finish it you are not ready to let the characters go -- you want to know what has happened to them, what they are doing, what the next phase of their life is?  And all of a sudden you've got nothing -- no book to read, no story to be wrapped up in.  It is over, but you are not ready to move on, so of course no other book on the shelf looks enticing enough to take your mind off things.

Just ruined, you know? 

I feel like I should divulge that I am a total memoir junkie, just so you know where I'm coming from, but part of the allure of memoirs is that they are true stories (or so we hope) through which we can filter our own experiences.  So not only am I getting a good story but usually that story illuminates something about myself that I hadn't previously noticed or thought about.  This one hooked me immediately.  If you haven't heard about it already, here is a quick plot synopsis (Thank you Amazon!):
Just graduated from Smith College, Piper Kerman made the mistake of getting involved with the wrong woman and agreeing to deliver a large cash payment for an international drug ring. Years later, the consequences catch up with her in the form of an indictment on conspiracy drug-smuggling and money-laundering charges. Kerman pleads guilty and is sentenced to 15 months in a federal prison in Danbury, Connecticut. Entering prison in 2004—more than 10 years after her crime—Kerman finds herself submerged in the unique and sometimes overwhelming culture of prison, where kindness can come in the form of sharing toiletries, and an insult in the cafeteria can lead to an enduring enmity. Kerman quickly learns the rules—asking about the length of one’s prison stay is expected, but never ask about the crime that led to it—and carves a niche for herself even as she witnesses the way the prison system fails those who are condemned to it, many of them nonviolent drug offenders. An absorbing, meditative look at life behind bars.
What was so immediately compelling about this book was the way the author explains the headspace of her early twenties and the thoughts leading up to her criminal action.  That longing for adventure and this directionless feeling felt so familiar to me that I was sure the only thing responsible for our different experiences was an option in a Choose Your Own Adventure novel.  She chose a path that would land her in a federal prison, and the events leading up to that year of her serving time are like a soap opera storyline that I am so happy to have avoided, but it felt like something that could have happened to me.   

Once in prison her tales of life and female bonding were sometimes frustrating and at other times poignant, and the on-going sidebar surrounding famous Martha Stewart trial and subsequent imprisonment added an interesting complexity that I never would have even thought about had I not read this book.  Kerman really portrays the powerlessness of imprisonment and although I knew they were criminals (though mostly for petty drug offenses) I found myself rooting for inmates, taking sides, and looking at my own life and its freedoms through a completely different lens.  Sure in some ways this was a glorified tale of white upper middle class triumph, and what is interesting about that?  But it was also a surprising look into the incredible, nurturing subculture of women who do not have the luxury of maturing in regular society, but who grow up behind bars.  And tragically, so many women do.   

Besides being an interesting story in itself, Kerman is a natural storyteller and her writing draws you in.  Each chapter represents not only a progression of time in her sentence, but a lesson learned on the inside.  I found myself reading a page here and there whenever I could, and when I finally got to the end I felt robbed to no longer be surrounded by such an eclectic community of women but also relieved that Kerman was allowed her freedom again.  I actually missed the characters immediately though and tried to google all the information I could the second I closed the spine. 

Orange is the New Black was an entertaining and easy read, but below the surface of those anecdotes were so many raised questions about whether or not many of the people incarcerated today really ever have the opportunity to become functioning members of our society.  Prison forces you to live in a way that would not work in the real world, yet the transition to freedom is not something that seems to be handled in an informative way.  I felt immediately grateful for the small ways that I have been showed the ropes of my own life.  The community of people who have informed my decisions happened to have been on the right side of the law.  And this is only due to luck, and not everyone is so lucky.  It was worth pausing and having a little moment of gratitude when I was done.  This was a page turning and eye opening read, and my only complaint is that I wish it had been just a little bit longer -- I just wasn't ready for it to end.   

October 14, 2010

Happy, Indeed

I am 32 today which -- I don't know -- just seems so novel.  So adult, really.  I feel like I'm pulling the wool over someone's eyes a bit. 

In my mind there are parts of me that still feel like I'm about 21 and still wide eyed and trying to figure life out.  But then again every once in a while that little old lady inside of me comes out a bit too.  In fact tonight we are celebrating my birthday dinner at our favorite sushi place because I have a Groupon.  Holla!  Yep, I'm excited that not only do I get to have my favorite sushi, but with a coupon.  Ok, that little old lady probably comes out more than I would like to admit these days.

The other night I realized that when I met Garrett I was 25 and he was 22!  "We were just babies!" I told him, "You were barely legal!"  But it feels nice to have found someone to grow up a bit with.  I love that our relationship still has the newness and excitement that it did when we first met, but we also have 7 years of history together.  We have figured a lot of life out just the two of us, and that feels increditbly comforting. 

I recently rescued some old family home movies from my mom's garage and transferred them from 8mm to DVD.  I had to wait 3 weeks to find out what was on them and if I'm being honest I was excited about them, but mostly I was anxious.  For one, it would be the first time I had seen any video of my dad since he passed away 12 years ago and I was a little apprehensive to experience something so emotional (and believe me it was incredibly heart-wrenching just to hear his voice again.)  But my other anxiety had more to do with seeing myself at around age 12 because ohmygod, AWKWARD!  Bad clothing!  Terrible hair!  Immature behavior! OH MY!  Why didn't anyone tell me?  (Oh wait, they probably did.)  There really should not be any visual evidence left of anyone's adolescent years, am I right?  

Anyway, so the other night I put in one of the DVDs for Garrett and together we had a good laugh.  With that 7 years behind us, he has not only gotten to know me well, but has become very well acquainted with all the members of my family so I think he was especially excited to see all of their awkward moments as well.  The 90s were such a goldmine of bad fashion decisions, I cringe, but it was hysterical to enjoy all of us at our silliest.  Well at least until I realized that we were watching video from 20 years ago and -- OMG, WHERE DID THE TIME GO WHEN DID I GET SO OLD? 

One of the many home videos on the DVD from my dad's 37th birthday.  His arrival home from work and subsequently getting the dogs all riled up and excited as he was wont to do.  My mom narrating as she filmed about all the fun things in store for the evening.  There was vido of him admiring the banner that I had painstaikingly illustrated in Print Shop and printed on our black and white dot matrix printer.  It was just a real slice of Americana, and it was so odd to think that this was our lives then.  Even weirder to think about was that on that day my dad was turning 37 -- only 5 years older than I am now.  I can remember it so vividly, standing excitedly in my denim cutoffs and my Stanford sweatshirt -- at the time I was sure that was where I was going to college (BAHAHAHAHA!).  

Then came the rest of the family, and of course all of it was on film, my grandparents showing up, my aunts, uncles, and cousins.  Everyone spending the evening clinking glasses in celebration.  My dad was just so damn happy to be celebrating with his family, eating cake, cracking jokes, opening presents -- and just being his normal happy go-lucky self around his peeps.  It was wonderful to see and remember.  Knowing the backstory, he had a lot of stuff going on in his life right then, but you never would have known it because on that night he was just so present and enjoying the moment of celebrating with the people he loved the most. 

That touched me for a million reasons that I won't even get into, but the most powerful takeaway for me was that he was turning 37 that year -- and sadly only 5 short years later he would be gone.  You just never know how long you have or how many of these precious and fleeting moments you will get to enjoy, you know?  And no matter what is going on, I want to enjoy those moments just like he did.  Today, even though I am a year older and it's fun to whine about all of that, I am also trying to remind myself all day how lucky I am just to be here.  How lucky I am to have adorable coworkers make a big deal this morning, to have my family send cute text messages all day, to get emails from friends, cards in my mailbox, to have tweets and Facebook messages find their way to me, and to be having dinner with my favorite guy (WITH MY DAMN COUPON!).  This is a splendid life that I get to live and I don't want to take a minute of it for granted. 

I want 32 to be a year of being present and grateful.  


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