electric poppy fields

April 26, 2010

some days i’m reminded of how lucky i am to live in southern california. we drove out to the poppy reserve in lancaster. it was really amazing. we went after i saw some friend’s photos and knew i had to have my own. i can’t believe that i never went to go see the wildflowers during peak season! pete and i had a great day wandering through electric orange fields and keeping our eyes open for snakes! we saw one baby rattlesnake under a bench and lots and lots of little lizard friends. i will let the photos speak for themselves!

it was a great day! i highly recommend going out there to frolic in the flowers while they’re in peak season! i can’t wait to explore some painting ideas inspired by our beautiful electric orange fields! it costs $8 per car to enter. support our parks!


optimal enchantment

April 25, 2010

it’s been a tough week. i’ve been living in this very emotional and stagnant place for too long. this past weekend i hit the wall with my thoughts. we really can become prisoners of our own minds. the cycle of repetitive thoughts, thinking about tomorrow instead of today and projecting fears onto ourselves. worst of all, this stagnant crust begins to grow and it  paralyzes us from being positive. i knew what i had to do. i had to seek optimal enchantment.

optimal enchantment can be found in a room on the second floor of a building on santa monica blvd in santa monica. i call it optimal enchantment because of the sign that says that inside of the building. i think that is what it says. regardless, it is what i wanted it to say in that moment. the real name of this place is santa monica power yoga. about ten years ago i stepped foot into this space nervously. what the hell was my friend making me do?

smpy has a lot of lovers and a lot of haters. people love it or hate it. for me, brian kest changed my life. he was my first yoga teacher. smpy is his donation based studio. when i started there, they had one location. a weird room upstairs that always had a crazy line around the corner for yoga. it’s a smelly room with no frills. its kinda what i love about it. some people don’t like the crowded room but i feed off it. the energy of people coming together to level out. there is nothing like it. some people don’t like his teaching style because it’s so physical. i argue what starts out as physical seamlessly evolves into a mind and body practice.

when i first started doing yoga, i was in a job i hated and had a lot of personal anger towards the world. i’m the shy and quiet type but my anger had just kept growing over the years. it was this cycle of anger and anxiety that found me in my first downward dog. when i first entered into my practice i wasn’t sure what was going on and didn’t totally know how to listen to my body. all i knew was that i was working some shit out. i noticed that i was calmer at work and my body didn’t hurt when i was on my feet all day. i actually even took up running for a while because i learned how to breathe.

i was lucky, my back corner spot was open. it was like no time had passed. my heart instantly began to feel full and we hadn’t even started class yet. it was a nice reminder that making the extra effort to level out and find balance is always worth it. i wasn’t even upset that brian wasn’t there to teach. travis took his place and i welcomed it. it was hard to remember to listen to my body until i tried to lift one leg in the air and realized i had a muscle pain in my leg. the kind that could rip if not listened to. this was a reminder of how important it is to move our bodies daily. that emotional and stagnant feeling builds up in our muscles when we stop caring for our bodies.

i stand on my feet all day on concrete floors, half hunched over teaching children or cleaning up their art messes. my muscles begin to forget that they need opening up. that crusty layer of ick began to peel itself off as soon as i entered into my first child’s pose. it was amazing. i left class and i felt like i reset my mind. i felt like i connected with that moment after my very first class,10 years ago, when i emerged from this room and everything was crisp. leaves on every tree were vivid and alive. i felt open and ready to heal. next time i feel like fear, anxiety and my own thoughts are cocooning  around me, i will remember to seek optimal enchantment in that special little hidden stinky room above the radio shack on santa monica blvd. namaste.

its always a constant challenge to find new and innovative gluten-free and vegetarian meals. one of my favorite tacos is from hugo’s tacos in studio city. they have a string bean, corn and zucchini taco that is pretty delicious. they messed up our order once and gave us a mystery salsa. my guess is that it was either the salsa habanero or the honey chipotle. it was a happy accident because it was delicious. i’m not sure if their corn tortillas are gluten-free.

i wanted to recreate my own version of these tacos. the hugo’s version is a hard shell taco. i was feeling lazy so i went with soft shell. trader joe’s sell gluten-free blue corn tortillas that we use for everything mexican inspired. trader joe’s is a great resource for gluten-free items. they have a gluten-free list on their website.

i started with boiling the green beans for a few minutes. i  also prepped the roasted corn from tj’s frozen section. i just used a little bit. i drained the green beans and then sautéed them with lots of shredded zucchini with a little olive oil. next, i added the corn. i spiced it all up with cayenne, cumin , salt and pepper. i also squeezed half a lime over the mixture. we used some leftover refried black beans but i would eliminate this next time. too mushy.  i would possibly replace with a little regular black beans in the sauté.

as i said earlier, i made these soft. i would fry up the shells next time and make hard taco shells.start by placing veggie mixture inside taco shell. add a layer of queso dip and a little habanero salsa. (trader joe’s also sells a gluten-free queso dip in a jar.) a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkle of cilantro and you have a delicious vegetarian and gluten-free taco!

many improvements can be made on this recipe. you can also make a delicious tostada with this same recipe. i would also add sliced avocado next time.

i’ve had the pleasure of being off of work for three weeks. i really did nothing, except update this blog and busy myself with house projects. i did spend the day with my friend teri and my mom at the huntington gardens and library. i took some pictures with my iphone and i think they have some very inspirational qualities for art projects. i’m a sucker for color and texture!

the picture above was from the windows looking out onto parts of the chinese gardens. i really love this picture. viewing nature through the symmetry of the window provides a nice contrast between the controlled and the wild. i would love to have garden windows that mimic the idea of mandalas and symmetry. it creates a very meditative state of being.

i love this photo. pete and i both agree that we’re going to use this photo for wall art  inspiration for the bathroom we’re about to repaint. this photo was also taken in the chinese gardens.

the photo above is also very inspiring to us.  we’re going to redo our hallway in this style. we’ll never have a red wall again but the layout of the drawings is magnificent.  the content of the drawings appeals to the naturalist in both of us.  it is a very specific type of drawing that strips the pictures of interpretation and simply leaves the presence of science and nature to linger heavily. it also has an anal retentive quality that really appeals to me.

all in all it was a great afternoon. the museum store is fantastic. they have lots of great little stuff and great gardening books! my only suggestions to improve your trip are to bring water, snacks and wear a hat. it was really hot when we went and it is barely april! i highly recommend not going in the summer. the heat was almost unbearable in the stretches of the gardens that don’t have much cover!

diy kayak!

April 11, 2010

i have always been one to tinker around with stuff. i enjoy learning how to make things myself, even when it would be cheaper to go out and buy the item i’m interested in making. i owe a great part of this need to tinker and create to my dad. we create things in very different ways. he is a former engineer and math is not my strong suit. immediately, it’s easy to see where our creative paths split. i’m the sociologist who is very into the process of art. he is the engineer who likes to create large scale math based wood working projects.

so he is making this wooden kayak in his garage. i wish i had been smart enough to take photos from the earlier stages of construction. i wasn’t, so what i do have photos of are closer to the end stages. he got some instructions off the internet and tweaked them a bit and this is where we are at. it is beautiful. the differing woods and the designs are really coming out as he begins to add coats of shiny liquids. i don’t know what they are to be honest. next i think he has to fiberglass it or something close to that to make it water ready.

we don’t know if it will float. that is part of the great experiment too. as my mom says…if anything it will be a very unique planter in the garden. it’s exciting to watch. the amount of patience it has taken him to plan out, problem solve and create is so far beyond anything i have patience for! pictures of the water launch to follow once it’s water ready!

let me preface this entry by saying that i do love carne asada tacos. i’ve eaten meat most of my life. i was a vegetarian for about five years when i was in college and for some years after that. strangely, i was never a vegetarian because of anything i knew about farming animals or the meat industry. i just didn’t like a lot of meat at that time in my life. somewhere along the line i started dating adventurous eaters and a world of gourmet foods and new tastes entered my life, which included many meat dishes. street style tacos could’ve been my lifeline if i had to choose one thing to eat for the rest of my life.

last year i was becoming more connected to my food. i wanted to know more about meat. i watched the movie Food Inc, and while it was a very good documentary i didn’t feel that I learned anything new. however, the parts with the cows hooked up to the machines with their sides ripped wide open and human hands digging into their stomachs was a bit intense. i kept reading about Jonathan Safran Foer’s book Eating Animals and i knew i had to read it.

well i read it. i read it when i was in texas visiting with my boyfriend’s family. it was a tough place to read about eating meat. texas is built around meat. i read it and i didn’t start any fights, so it was a success for me. half way through the book, i thought that i would still eat really ethically raised meat. that was until i found out that it doesn’t exist. i think it was the slaughter chapter that really got me. please understand that i’m not naïve, i didn’t expect that the slaughter of animals would be clean. however, i didn’t think that animals were skinned alive with their muscles being pulled off while they’re going down the slaughter belt. i never thought about the impact this has on the psyche of the laborers who stand ankle-deep in animal blood trying to knock out surly animals trying escape. i never thought about the factory farms and how they’re destroying family farms and the freedom to create another option for meat consumption. i never really thought about meat fillers and how we feed these animals that we consume. lets not forget the antibiotics and hormones that also are a part of the equation. i never thought that eating meat had so many components to think about.  well, i think about those things everyday now.

i think about it everyday. i also think about the social pressures to eat meat that were so clearly articulated in this book. the whole concept of “the communal table” when applied to meat is very interesting. when you tell a person you don’t care much for a certain vegetable, lets say brussel sprouts, it isn’t a big deal. if you tell a person you don’t eat meat it creates a weird divide. talking about meat is as uncomfortable as talking about religion.  people have strong views about meat. it seems to me that people assume that i think  i’m better than them because i choose to abstain from the act of eating meat. this couldn’t be farther from the truth. nonetheless, it creates an awkward dynamic. often, people feel offended when you don’t eat what is offered. this tends to happen more in places where vegetarianism isn’t as mainstream. i live in los angeles so i have it pretty good.

i guess my whole point in sharing this is that the root of the conversation about food and our society needs to be replanted.  the whole way we talk about touchy subjects like food and religion, two things that bring comfort to many, needs to be shaken up. the two most common negative reactions i receive when i talk about meat are “i just don’t want to know how it gets to my plate” and “i just don’t believe in vegetarianism”.  these reactions come from very smart people. all i want is for people to stop reacting and instead engage me. ask me why i’m a vegetarian. ask me why i became interested in not eating meat. i guess in the end i’m hoping to change the tone of the conversation that comes along with choosing not to eat meat. the dialog in our country is so divided right now. we can’t talk to anyone with opinions different from ours without cutting them down first to prove our point is right. we’ve attached dogma to everything.  politics, religion and food are going to segregate us more and more if we don’t remember that choices stem from opinions. we’re lucky enough to live in a country where we’re allowed to have them.  lets start talking about meat and how we can work on a more sustainable and compassionate system for farming animals. i’m not a utopian dreamer, i know that most americans will want to continue eating meat. i just think that we can start talking about solutions to changing the system instead of attacking each other. a good start is reading this book.

Eating Animals” has changed my life and my boyfriend’s life.  Slowly, my copy is being passed around town to friends and people keep asking me what that book about meat was that i was reading awhile ago.  i couldn’t be happier to share it. sometimes yelling at people about stuff just doesn’t work. people are quietly reading this book and quietly making decisions to eat meat differently. whether that is eating the same amount of meat, just cutting back or going full-blown vegan, it  is a personal choice that this book sheds some light on.

cultivating patience

April 2, 2010

it’s  that time of year in southern california when the weather seems unseasonable compared to other parts of the country. early spring hikes, premature wearing of flip-flops and our first pair of shorts find their way into our wardrobe rotation. its invigorating and exciting to watch our natural world wake up. leaves unfurl themselves, pesky bugs begin snooping around my plants and the farmer’s markets begin to fill with tantalizing fruits and veggies.

last year we began growing our own fruits and veggies in our garden. many were a success and some went to that farm upstate where bad plants go to live out the sad end of their lives. this year we are trying again to be our own farmers. allow me to preface this by saying that we’re growing all our veggies and fruits in containers. we have a small yard and no room to plant in ground, so we’re going the container route.

peter has started many seeds inside the house, while we already have some larger plants growing outside. the picture above shows his sprouting seeds from hatch, new mexico. peter grew up in el paso ,tx  and often drove through the chile fields in hatch and has quite fond memories of fresh delicious sun-kissed hatch chilies. that being said, we were sadly informed that hatch chiles can only be called hatch chiles if the are grown in hatch, new mexico. so we are calling them our hatch inspired chiles! they are doing great so far, probably because I’ve had nothing to do with them!

we’re also working on sprouting some carrots, peas and radishes. outside we’ve planted swiss chard, eggplants, strawberries, jalapeños and grapes. many people may say “why bother?” i say, because it feels so good! i love being connected to my food. whether we get to harvest all these plants or not, we get to watch them evolve and learn about the process of growing food.  one day when we have a larger garden it will be so rewarding to be able to plant rows or chard, lettuce and chiles and perhaps know what we’re doing. these are all test rounds. farmers aren’t great farmers overnight.

the other aspect of growing your own food that is nice is the meditative process of cultivating patience. peter has taught me that, by tending to his baby seeds everyday. it is amazing to watch another person connect to the process the way he has. patience is everything with gardening. perhaps that’s why i’m not the most talented gardener!

if all goes well, we plan on having a nice harvest party at the end of the year. we’re vegetarians and also live a gluten-free lifestyle. this makes it so hard to join dinner parties or even accept an invitation anymore. i think people feel that we’re a pain in the ass. this is true. we’re a pain in the ass. we can’t eat a lot of things! hopefully our harvest bbq will show that we can be social and eat at he same time. we also hope to showcase some delicious gluten-free and vegetarian foods complete with recipe book! it should be fun and enlightening experience for everyone!

lets hope our plants all make it to harvest!