Sunday, June 28, 2020

Brownie bites and baby bumps

Pic of the week 


I went to a zoom baby shower for a friend this week and there was an activity where you had to put a piece of paper on top of your head and draw a baby.  This was my baby.  

What's going on?

I'm COVID negative, y'all! Or was as of Tuesday, anyway.  I'm planning to get tested again as soon as I get back from Utah and then a week later to make sure I didn't catch it on a plane ride or in a cookie shop while traveling.  Watching the numbers steadily rise this week makes me wish I'd reserved a rental car instead of buying a flight, or that the Good People of Utah™ had been a little more careful about social distancing and wearing their masks.  But here we are.  Two flights to Utah on Friday (Somehow American Airlines has no direct flights anymore?) and two flights back the following week.  Sending prayers for not a full flight.

A friend of mine left town for a month or so and asked if I'd water her plants while she's gone.  It's a nice excuse to get out of my apartment for a while!  Plus, she has a nice big bathtub at her house that I fully intend to take advantage of while she's gone. AND she lives just down the street from one of the best pizza places in LA.  :)

A current goal is to get in my 10,000 steps every day.  That's about 4 miles' worth of walking every day.  Bring it on!  It's fun to get around the neighborhood and discover cute houses and out of the way treasures and such.  Plus I now have another neighborhood to explore while watering my friend's plants.

What I'm watching


It's on Netflix!  This is widely agreed to be one of the better Star Trek series, so I decided what with finishing Discovery and Picard that I'd check it out. Plus it's a great series to watch while working on other projects - photo archiving, puzzles, laundry etc.

What I'm reading


You guessed it, another perspective from the Black American experience. This is a quick read, check it out.

What I'm listening to


The Power of Vulnerability by Brene Brown. I listen to this once a year.  It is LIFE CHANGING stuff.  Seriously.  This is basically a 6-hour version of the stuff she talks about in her TED talks (which you can find here and here.)  Cannot recommend this highly enough.  Bonus - since I've listened to it 3 or 4 times now, I played it on triple speed and got through the whole thing in one day!  Usually it takes me a few days to get through the whole thing.

What I'm puzzling


Finally finished that 2,000 piece BEAST and am moving on to this little gem that I found at Target.  Antique Advertising by Milton Bradley/Hasbro.

What I'm cooking


Brownies.  In fact, one of the best brownie recipes I've found to date. Enjoy.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Feelin' Just Peachy

Pic of the week 




This week's hike took me halfway up the trail to the Wilson Observatory in the San Gabriel mountains.  It's a 14-mile round-trip loop, but I decided that might be a bit much for this weekend, so I just went halfway.  Gonna try for the full loop in a few weeks. It was a BEAUTIFUL trail and lucky for me, it was overcast so the uphill half was nice and cool.  Don't worry, I still got plenty sweaty.  AND!  I saw a real live rattle snake!  Another hiker alerted me to its presence, and it just crawled away into the bushes and didn't bug anybody, but that's the first time I've ever seen a rattle snake in the wild.  It was pretty cool.

What's going on?

Happy Father's Day!  




I've been on some pretty awesome adventures with this guy, and even though life has a funny way of laughing in the face of any plans you might have for your children, or that your children might have for themselves, I think I still turned out pretty okay, and that's in large part due to my ol' Dad.  Thanks for all the good times, and the hard times, and the mistakes, and the apologies, and the laughs, and the tears, and the many many many desserts.  Thanks for teaching me to work hard, play hard, and love hard.  Love you, Dad!

One of the most important things we do at Story Pirates is called Story Love.  It's our program where we provide personalized feedback on every story we receive - and that's well into the tens of thousands of stories.  To make sure we can accomplish that foundational goal, we partner with corporate sponsors for volunteer events.  The current state of the world what with the pandemic and all lends itself rather nicely to holding these events virtually and we had a BUNCH this week and I was able to help out with some of them.  It was really fun, and so nice to have something to do!

And then I spent a lot of time reading and working on my puzzle (still doing the 2,000-piece Cinque Terre puzzle, it's a beast.) and napping and trying to stay isolated as much as possible since I was at that march last week and want to reduce my chances of spreading the COVID if I happen to have picked it up in the giant crowd.  I have a test scheduled for this week to verify if I have it.  Fingers crossed that I don't because A - I'm not trying to spread that mess around, and B - it might mess up my travel plans to Utah and I need to come to Utah.

What I'm watching



If you haven't taken the time to watch this one yet, I strongly encourage you to do so.

What I'm reading


Turns out that though there have been notable gains since the civil rights movement in terms of racial equality, the systems that disenfranchised and othered people back then are still alive and well today.

Also THIS ARTICLE.  Which makes me continue to wonder why The Church™ is so reticent to acknowledge and grapple with its own history.  And why as an institution it is so against apologizing - not just for its racist past/policies/culture/present, but for the pain it has caused and continues to cause for essentially every marginalized population.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to bash The Church™, I think it does a lot of good, and is a bright and important part of my own history, but it could, and honestly should, be SO MUCH BETTER.

What I'm listening to

Vulfpeck Radio on Pandora.  Giving me some chill vibes to drown out the noise of it all.
And continued advice to wear a mask, socially distance, etc.  Let's not take chances, people.  

What I'm cooking


Peach Ice Cream.  Y'all, peach season is in FULL swing and I could not be happier about it.  Fresh peaches are one of my absolute favorite foods, and some peach ice cream just sounded so good.  I also threw in some chopped up cherries just for fun.  However. My ice cream maker failed me in a very disappointing way.  Not sure what happened, but it did not create ice cream.  So I just stuck the liquid in some containers in the freezer overnight and called it good.  It still tasted incredible.  Especially with some fresh sliced peaches.  Next time I may even add some granola.  :)

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Days of Action

Pic of the week 


Went for a hike on Friday and this is the view from about halfway along the trail.  Despite that lovely layer of haze, the view was pretty stunning.  It was nice to get out into some fresh air and take a breather from EVERYTHING that is happening in the world right now.  #rechargetofightthegoodfight

What's going on?

What.  A.  Week.  It's been a week of lots of reading and questioning and digging into reputable sources and listening and watching documentaries and hearing stories and learning how to approach conversations from a place of curiosity as opposed to combat and checking my knee-jerk reactions and clarifying my beliefs.  Y'all, we have a lot of work to do.  I know half of you are rolling your eyes while reading this, but here's the thing - you understand the position.  When something is important to you, when you believe in its value to society at large, you share it.  I've been doing my best to confront attitudes, fragility, privileges in my own life and figuring out how to leverage my position to help lift those around me who don't enjoy what I do.  There are better ways to do things.  We have to keep fighting - as humans, as brothers and sisters, as children of God - for equity and love.  Ya know?

I compiled this lovely list of statistics last weekend because I'd heard and seen a lot of numbers flying around and got curious about what the actual story was behind it all.  Interesting stuff!

I was having a conversation with a friend this week who is studying - as part of research for his Master's Degree - what conservatives believe and why, and he said, "Conservative political ideology is largely just opposition to liberalism." Which I found interesting.  Obviously that's not something that applies to each individual #notallconservatives, but I do think it speaks to the general direction of that side of the political spectrum in an interesting way.  He also said that on the more progressive side, you don't find the same thing.  Progressives generally have a clear articulation of beliefs.  Something to think about.

I made myself a spreadsheet/calendar this week for 365 days of action.  I want to be more involved in shaping the future of the country, even in small ways.  Anything from reading a book with a perspective I haven't explored yet, to watching a movie with a diverse cast or unfamiliar viewpoint, to signing petitions and emailing government leaders and marching in parades:

(There were SO MANY PEOPLE at this march. Maintaining social distance was essentially impossible, but everyone was wearing a mask and there were so many people along the route handing out hand sanitizer.  It was pretty great.)

Also, I got some killer Chicago-style deep dish pizza this week.

What I'm watching

Lots this week...


Some unbelievable acting from Ms. Kerry Washington in this one.  It's a play adapted for film and explores questions of race in a very layered way.


This show is not for everyone, but if you don't mind a little "content", it's great.


They're back!  More ugly-cry-worthy makeovers.  I think the first episode of this season was especially impactful.  Please watch it.  It showcases so beautifully the power of an institutional apology.

And just for kicks and giggles:


This is a documentary from 2007 that explores the intersection of faith and being LGBT and I think it brings up some beautiful things and showcases some ugly things and there are things in here that I think everyone can learn from and grow from without changing any of your core beliefs about the nature of God.

What I'm reading


This is a perfect follow-up to "White Fragility".  It's a 28-day workbook for, as it says on the cover, combating racism, changing the world, and becoming a good ancestor.  Get it.  But it'll probably be a sec because everywhere is on back order and all the libraries have a weeks-long hold list.

What I'm listening to


I thought this week's episode featuring a former DOJ official and his thoughts on the criminal justice system was an especially interesting take on what's going on in movements across the country re: policing.  Just to put my own thoughts out there, I believe in the idea of defunding police.  That doesn't necessarily mean abolishing the police, rather reallocating funds to better-equipped professionals.  i.e. police handle so many things they don't need to and aren't equipped to: mental health, social work, education etc. So let's spend money on those services - which are all proven to reduce crime - and stop putting that in the hands of people who are under-trained and carrying guns. Also, can we please demilitarize the police?  It's absurd.

What I'm cooking


Roasted beet salad.  I actually just used this recipe as a starting point.  I got some beets in my produce box this week a day after I bought beets at the farmer's market, so I had a lot of beets to use.  I sauteed the beets, put them on some red lettuce, added goat cheese crumbles, blue cheese dressing, sunflower seeds, and fresh cherries.  It was bomb.

And that's it from your friendly leftist friend/family member for this week.  Love you all! ;)


Monday, June 8, 2020

Camping for the Cause

Pic of the week 



Camping trip with some friends this weekend! It's a bit hard to see because of all the fire, but I've got my leg propped on a GIANT log that I dragged to our campsite to burn so we didn't have to pay for firewood.  That log lasted us until midnight and even then wasn't fully burned through.

What's going on?

Happy birthday to Mom!  I would normally probably do a little shopping and have lunch in her honor on her birthday, but since everything is shut down at the moment, I took Mom for a hike instead.  It was beautiful.  Very few people, incredible scenery, fresh air, peaceful atmosphere.  And I stopped on the way to get some of the best cookies in LA.  So.  Win-win-win.



I have honestly been quite wrapped up in reading and preaching the good word of racial justice on the social medias and educating myself about how I can do better and totally spaced writing this yesterday.  It's been a busy week.  

What I'm watching


Is this a good show?  Not really.  It's basically a soap opera in space.  But it's entertaining.  AND the cast is wonderfully diverse in almost every way.  Support shows like this, please.

What I'm reading


Get your hands on a copy of this book as soon as humanly possible.  I will most likely be buying you all a copy for Christmas, so. It will change your perspective for the better.  I promise.  We've got a lot of work to do, my White People.  

What I'm listening to

This podcast from the Salt Lake Tribune.  Specifically episode 132: What society and the LDS church can do to erase the sin of racism, which talks to two black members of the LDS faith and their reactions/thoughts on the current movement.


Sunday, May 31, 2020

If not you, who?

My dearest family and friends who are oh so white and delightsome, I can't do anything fluffy this week.  I just can't.  All I can say is please listen to voices that don't sound like yours.  Listen to stories that don't follow the same path as yours.  Listen to people who don't look like you.  Listen.  And parents, make sure your kids are seeing that gender, body type, and skin color have nothing to do with interests, aptitudes, and possibilities.  Read them books with diverse protagonists.  Let them watch shows with diverse casts.  Let them see men and women in all jobs and in positions of authority.  Make that the norm for them. Until next week, here's some information to get you started on that, or help you continue.  If you have ideas, or thoughts, or other resources, please feel free to share.

75 Things White People Can Do For Racial Justice

10 Books About Race To Read Instead Of Asking A Person Of Color To Explain Things To You

Coretta Scott King book awards

NAACP

Southern Poverty Law Center

13th on Netflix.  Documentary about the unintended consequences of the the 13th ammendment.

When They See Us on Netflix.  The story of 5 young men who were wrongfully convicted of a rape in Central Park and spent years in prison because of it. 

Trevor Noah speaks very eloquently about the events of this week:




Jane Elliot: "Why are you so willing to accept it or to allow it to happen to others?"  This is perhaps the most salient question we can ask ourselves right now.  Dig deep, my friends.  We have to do better.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

What's that smell?

Pic of the week 


Cue funky smell in the kitchen.  I cleaned out the fridge, the garbage can, the disposal, my ears, all to no avail.  We finally tracked the smell to underneath the fridge.  There's a little collection tray under there that catches condensation runoff from the cooling coils.  Usually it just catches water which then evaporates off and no one is the wiser.  But sometimes stuff starts growing in there and it can smell...not good. In a stunning example of bad design, on this particular model of refrigerator, that tray is not removable, and is nearly inaccessible.  See that hole there?  That's essentially the only way to get at the tray.  On top of that, if you want to remove that metal plate to give yourself a little more room, that essentially requires disassembling the entire front of the refrigerator. And you can't see it from the picture, but once you actually get through that hole, there's only about an inch and a half of space between the top of the lip of the tray and the bottom of the refrigerator.  So I had to attach a piece of string to a rag and shove it through that hole with a Swiffer handle, then kind of wipe it around the best I could to try and clean out the gunk. (The string was there because the tray actually extends back a ways, and I wasn't sure I would be able to get the rag out with just the Swiffer handle.)  Then I soaked the rag in some alcohol and tried to wipe it down the best I could.  It was quite an adventure, but it seems to have worked. I ended the ordeal by writing a somewhat strongly-worded letter to Frigidaire.  Hopefully we won't have to deal with this again.

What's going on?

Things are starting to slowly and cautiously open back up around here.  The park by my house with the giant set of stairs that I like to run on is still closed, but the beaches are all open.  I went running on the beach yesterday and it felt great, and my calves are SO sore today.  There were lots of people out there surfing, and SO MANY people had their dogs - which is incredibly annoying because most of the beaches in LA - this one included - are not dog friendly.  And apparently no one realized there isn't an asterisk on that law that makes it non-applicable during a pandemic.  And I realize I sound like a curmudgeon when I say that, but frankly I don't care.  You decided to get a dog, so you don't get to come to this beach.  There's a dog-friendly beach 30 minutes away.  Don't be lazy. I don't want to have to watch where I step because some slothead (thanks for that gem, Grandpa Great) didn't pick up after his dog.

Rant over.

Things I miss: Watching a movie in the theater, hugging friends, going to a play, performing on stage, wandering along a crowded boardwalk, going to the grocery store for only 2 things, making plans.

Things I'm grateful for: Still having work, my stockpile of puzzles, the chance to eat better because I'm almost exclusively cooking at home, the plethora of shows available online, virtual movie nights with friends, beautiful weather, close parks, fudge brownie m&ms.

What I'm watching



She-Ra!!!  This is a Netflix reboot and it's so fun!  The transformation sequence from Adora to She-Ra is over the top and ridiculous and everything one could dream of.  It's a show about sparkles and glitter and rainbows and friendship, but also gets a little bit real.  Check it out.

What I'm reading



This was an interesting read.  It's sort of an alternative England in maybe the 1600/1700s or so.  The dominant religion has a concept called a "sin eater" who is a woman that eats foods at your funeral to take your sins from you when you die.  Though the book centers more on a kind of political plot.  Good, breezy read.  I finished it in a couple of days.  I also think it's so interesting to read things that have a strong religious component and see parallels in my own life and beliefs.   

What I'm listening to


This is one of my favorite podcasts and they're currently doing exclusively COVID-related content.  They look at the science behind it all to give you the best information/advice with experts and citations and balanced information.  This week's episode, Coronavirus: The Mask Wars,  is about masks.  Apparently the science is spotty at best about whether masks are helpful.  But I think the main takeaway is this: wear a mask, but act like you're not, i.e. wash your hands, stay at least 6 feet back, etc.  Also, check out this article that I found informative and helpful.  Mostly it just made me feel okay about not wearing a mask when I go running or cycling.

What I'm cooking


I haven't had this stuff in YEARS, but randomly got a hankering and thought I'd buy some.  Turns out it's pretty difficult to find.  But I broke down and bought a pack of four boxes online.  Worth it.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Arachno-indifference

Pic of the week 


Just some lighthearted Instagram filter fun.

What's going on?

Two different spiders - though oddly the same species - invaded my life this week: 


This is known as the audacious jumping spider (Phiddipus Audax). I did not take this picture. One appeared on the bread in my shopping cart at the grocery store (not inside the bread, just on the package, then proceeded to adventure around the shopping cart.  Luckily he didn't disappear and I was able to transfer him to a bush outside once I paid for my groceries.) The other fell on my head at the park. I am not necessarily overly-friendly toward spiders, but they also don't really scare me.  I'm happy to pick them up on a piece of paper and help them find a more convenient spot to hunt that isn't my bedroom, or a shopping cart, or my head.  Adventures!

The mayor of LA has officially extended our stay-at-home order until the end of July - at the earliest.  *sigh* I miss hanging out with friends.  What a summer it will be. 
I decided while I'm hunkering down at home that it would actually be a really good time to get back on the better nutrition train.  A lot of my personal problem with eating healthy is that I'm often out and about, so I eat out a lot, and I also like to stop in at my favorite treat places while I'm toodling about.  But since I'm mostly just at home, it's actually a lot easier to plan and eat more healthy stuff - for me.  I know this is a stressful time for a lot of people and not the best to add trying to watch what you eat, but for me it's been great!  I'm eating TONS more vegetables than I used to and I feel great!  Sunday is my cheat day and I've noticed that when I indulge in a lot of sugar on Sundays, my body isn't the happiest.  What do you know?!  I'm gonna enjoy those brownies though.

What I'm watching


This is a beautifully done series on Amazon.  It's based on series of sci-fi paintings by Simon Stålenhag.  It messes with time, consciousness, alternate universes, etc.  Heads up that the pace is pretty slow, but I actually found that kind of refreshing. It's not the most amazing series ever created, but I think it explores some interesting ideas around life and humanity in a fun alternate setting. Also, the teacher in the series is a friend of mine!

What I'm reading



This is cute.  It's a collection of stories from a girl about the neighborhood she lives in.  It kind of feels like narrative poetry.  There's not really a cohesive through-line, but you get a sense of her life and family through the short snippets she shares. 

What I'm puzzling


2,000 pieces!  Many of which are just blue.  This is gonna be a fun one.  It takes up 80% of my huge desk.  😍😍😍

What I'm cooking


Fried Rice!  I discovered making fried rice at a home a year or so ago. For some reason it had never occurred to me to make it at home before then, but it's so easy!  And the great thing about it is that it's so versatile.  You don't have to just throw in peas and cubed carrots.  You can use literally any vegetables you have lying around!  I also used wild rice instead of white, so it was a bit healthier.  Veggies this time around were some yellow squash, mushrooms, cauliflower, fennel, and broccoli.  I sometimes throw in shrimp, if you're a meat-eater you can obviously throw in some beef or chicken.  I've also used carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, beets, radishes, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, the possibilities are really endless.