Thursday, May 29, 2014

Three Things

I've spent most of this week sick with stupid bronchitis again, and I'm really annoyed about it, so given the need to fight The Grump, here's a list of things I'm currently really, really excited about:

Source: Public Bikes
This amazing thing is going to be mine in just 10-14 business days! It's a gorgeous turquoise Public C1, and I've had my eye on it for months and months. I've had my eye on a Public bike for years, actually, but didn't feel comfortable with the investment, and just plain didn't have the money. I was ready to pay for this myself with a Memorial Day sale discount last weekend, but now it's a birthday gift, so ...   ♥   

Source: Gogobot
In less than 2 weeks, G and I will be on our way to Vegas for a quick getaway. Both of us had less than optimal previous trips (for one, we were both separately sick and had fevers, which is no way to enjoy any trip, especially a trip in a place as delirious as Vegas). Suffice it to say we both want a "do-over" and we'll get that chance the second weekend in June. Plus, it's a great opportunity for us to sort of jointly celebrate our birthdays, since his birthday is tomorrow, and mine is in less than 3 weeks. Also, I've really been itching to get the heck out of dodge recently, if you know what I'm saying, so a trip? Yes please!

Speaking of trips ...

Source: this place

You may or may not know that I'm going back to Germany this August. I'll be roaming around Germany for a couple of weeks, doing some of the same things I did last summer, and some different things. It's all starting to come together now, and this morning I just booked an impulsive 36 hours in ... Stockholm! What better time to visit Sweden than in the summer? Seriously, I may not get a chance like this for a long time, and it feels like this should be the summer of just saying yes when I'm able to do things. Take chances. Etc.

So yes, there's three things I'm really looking forward to.

And hopefully soon I can kick this stupid bronchitis for good, and not be sick anymore. I should have known that being on my feet for 15 hours last weekend (shooting a wedding) was going to result in illness, but I always soldier on, working on nervous energy, until there's nothing left! Silly girl.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Monterey Mornings

Pacific Grove, 2006
I suppose its time I write this post. It's just hard. Because it reminds me of the past, of things I've let go, and it's hard to think about. But it struck me again this morning, and my heart aches, so here it is.

There are many mornings, as I ride my bike to work in Berkeley, that I think about "Monterey Mornings." There are so many tactile things that contribute to my very vivid memories of Monterey -- one of my favorite places in the world, and a place I'm honestly not sure I will visit again.

The characteristics of a "Monterey Morning" include: fog, or at least low clouds and mist, blowing in from the ocean, a wet wind dewing up your face as you walk (or ride a bicycle); and a quiet, cute neighborhood filled with small houses with white picket fences, tons of flowers blooming and other little touches that make me think of houses along the northern California coast. There's also a quietness -- few cars, and all you can hear is the chirping of birds, and the sound of your bicycle. There's a quiet wildness to it.

 There are few places where I feel this exact feeling. Monterey/Pacific Grove is one of those places. My ride to work in NW Berkeley is another. It's bittersweet. Simultaneously heart lifting, and heartbreaking.

It happened again this morning.
Some things are just hard. There's no way around it.


I don't want to end this blog post on a bummer note. I've been avoiding writing this post for months, letting it sit half-written in my head, and fully in my heart, until today. But you know me: I can't be sad or negative for long, especially in this place, which is supposed to be life-affirming.

So here's our affirmation for the day. One thing we can always count on is this: eventually, the Monterey Morning dissipates, and all we're left with is sunshine.

Monterey, 2011

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Snapshots from a happy life

 It's only Wednesday, but I am so ready for this upcoming holiday weekend. I'll be out of town on Friday night and all of Saturday shooting a wedding in the Sierra foothills, returning to SF in the wee hours of Sunday morning, and thank goodness I don't have work on Monday. After my first wedding of the season, I'm going to be sore and exhausted, not to mention that brutal commute. But it's worth it -- the happy couple are longtime friends of mine, and I'm so honored to be there for their wedding.

Other random things: X-Men comes out this weekend (seeing it Sunday!), I rolled my ankle on Monday while running so I have to take things a bit slow for the rest of the week, I'm going to a goth happy hour tonight called The Unhappy Hour (isn't that amazing?) and this last week has been truly wonderful. I am a really lucky person to get to live all this life and I never want to stop sinking my teeth into it.

Here are some of my favorite images off of my phone in the last couple of weeks:
Anyone know what this flower is? I found it on a walk in Berkeley.
Cedar Rose Park /  Berkeley
Iris <3
The "map room" at the Exploratorium. As you can imagine I LOVE THIS ROOM. 
I found my favorite handmade button.
Yerba Buena Gardens / SF
Clouds in Hayes Valley (yesterday)
Stelline (my favorite local Italian restaurant)
A week ago. I have such a crush. Ahhhhh. <3
Star Trek 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Bay to Breakers 2014

I was afraid to write about Bay to Breakers beforehand this year. I wanted to, but I wasn't sure what I would say. It's been two years (to the day, today) since the perfect day that was my first Bay to Breakers. So much about my life has changed since then. Some good, some bad, all emotional.

I knew in advance that even though it had been two years since I'd run this race, I was going to do better than last time. Two years ago I was truly a novice runner. I had no idea, at the time, that I could run 7+ miles, because I'd never done it before. Flash forward to now, and I've been training for my second half marathon since March. I've been running 6-8 miles every weekend (at a time) for a couple of months now, and it's not really a big deal for me anymore. In fact, I really look forward to them, and they're part of my weekend routine (as is the brunch that comes afterward ... hallelujah!).  So, up to the race this time, I was sort of fighting the idea that this race, and this distance, might not really be a big accomplishment for me anymore. After all, I was running at least that much on weekends already.

I don't like thinking that way, however. Every race is an accomplishment. I don't want to become one of those people who can only run half marathons or something. Luckily? I really had nothing to worry about, because this Bay to Breakers was just as special as the last time.

So, I felt prepared. And I even had some goals, this time, which I don't usually do. My reasonable goal was to finish with an 11:30 minute/mile average. Last time, I finished with a 12 minute mile average, and I'm a much better runner now, so I thought this was a reasonable goal. I also had a crazy (reach for the sky!) kind of goal to finish in 1 hour, 20 minutes. I realized that was extremely ambitious, especially because there's always so many unknowns in a race that can impact your pace. I had no idea how I would do, but I wanted to give it everything I had. I was serious.

I don't know if it's worth going through all the details, except that I totally nailed it. I finished in 1:21:27, a 10:39 per mile average. I very almost hit my crazy goal of 1:20, which I now realize was misinformed -- I had no idea that would mean a 10:30 average, when I made that goal, I just liked how the number sounded. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would run a sub-11 minute average over 7+ miles, not on race day, not on a day where I didn't sleep great, not on a day where I had to navigate drunk, costumed people and certainly not on a day where I had to tackle the Hayes Street Hill.

But I did it! Yet again, I put my mind to it, and I did it. And everything about this day was perfect. Afterward I met the boy in the upper Haight and we enjoyed an early lunch at the Citrus Club, aka the exact same place I went to after my race two years ago. And we ran into Susie and Jeff, who took me to Citrus Club two years ago -- of course we did. After a trip to The Fizzary for some sodas, we headed home. After a shower, and some lounging around, we went to a late lunch, saw the fantastic Godzilla movie (so good! so good! SERIOUSLY) and returned home afterward to eat cookies & watch Star Trek until I fell into the world's most amazing sleep at 10:30pm. What a day. What a race. So proud of myself.

This one, as always, was for you, dad. 11 years today. I miss you always.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Throwback Thursday 002

Shot April 14th, 2009 // Canon 5D //  Nikkor 28mm f 2.8

I almost posted this last week, when it would have been more relevant, but whatever. Remember the time I wanted to "make fun of hipsters" so I did my only DIY project pretty much ever and made a giant sparkly mustache and glued it to a ruler and walked around Coachella with it for 4 days?

Looking back on it now, I was actually engaging in hipster behavior, not making fun of hipsters.


Oh well. I guess it's been 5 years since then (how is that even possible?!), and time brings wisdom.

This is still the coolest DIY project I've ever done.
I am not a crafty person. And since then I've kept a large amount of glitter glue around.
You know, "for emergencies."
The back of this mustache now contains the autographs of We Are Scientists, too.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Snapshots from a happy life

Confession: I'm actually really scared to delve back into this long-abandoned series. It's been a long time -- since Jeffy died -- since I've felt truly happy, with any consistency, and it feels disingenuous to post a series about how gosh darn happy my life is, if I don't feel that way. My life and heart are still a mess right now, though I've been able to stabilize some, and I feel like bringing back this series now. Not to rub it in anyone's face just how freaking happy I am -- but to show myself the happy moments, to remember those great moments, so that when I feel emotionally overwhelmed, or wake up screaming from a nightmare I can't remember (hello, this morning), I can prove to myself that this, too, shall pass.

Don't get me wrong. The majority of the time -- I am able to see that.  But I'd like to post about it anyway.

Anyway, here are some of my happy moments as of late:

Dolores Park, as seen from a morning run on a day off

4th Street, Berkeley -- gorgeous summer foliage has grown in

Cedar Rose Park, Berkeley, as seen on a run

Black-Eyed Susans in Hayes Valley

Spring pasta sauce in the making: spring garlic, spring onion, asparagus, shelling peas

PAWS at The Independent last Wednesday

A typical scene these days: DS9 and slippers 

Monday, May 12, 2014

The DS9 Rewatch

Pretty sure darts were involved here
One really awesome thing I've embarked upon recently is a rewatch of Star Trek: DS9, aka my favorite Star Trek series, one that is incredibly close to my heart. I first watched it about ten years ago, but have wanted to watch it again in its entirety ever since. Now that I've gone and changed basically everything about the way I live my life, it seems like as good a time as ever to start again. So, a few weeks ago, I began my long-awaited Deep Space Nine rewatch.

It took me a little while, after finishing watching Voyager again so recently (there's always an adjustment period to a new cast), but it's become so apparent to me, after just a season, why DS9 stands above every other Star Trek series. It's such a serious, intense television show. Things aren't always OK at the end of an episode. Or a season. Or the entire series. It gets dark.

Don't get me wrong, there's a lot of the good, ideal-world stuff that Star Trek is famous for, along with funny jokes, but unlike TNG or Voyager, DS9 isn't afraid to race through dark places, show you the dark side of a character or a decision or a set of decisions, and let that darkness play out over a period of time. Star Trek isn't all positive here, and I love that. I need something in between the "it's always OK!" of TNG and the "I cry during and after every episode" of Battlestar Galactica.

I also love that it takes place on a space station. I love that the characters are so nuanced. The show lasts
Quark with a cardassian vole
seven seasons -- the same as Voyager -- yet the character development on DS9 blows Voyager away. And while the cast may not be filled with Shakespearean Theater-caliber acting talent (I'm looking at you, Patrick Stewart and Brent Spiner), it's got some truly fantastic actors, among them the great Rene Auberjonois and Andrew Robinson. And when my favorites have a scene -- or an episode -- together? It's magic.

These characters feel like family. And I love feeling everything as they go through their lives on this space station. I feel so happy and lucky to get to live these adventures again, a decade after the first time. And wow, I am an enormous nerd. This post just got kind of really embarrassing, didn't it?

Anyway, the point is, I really look forward to going home after a long day at work, putting on my pajamas, cracking open a beer or pouring a glass of wine, and sitting back to watch DS9 again. It's been so long. I've wanted to fall back into this universe for so many years, and now it feels almost new again. I love this show. And if you haven't watched it? You should!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Throwback Thursday 001

Shot March 22nd, 2008 // Canon Rebel XT 

I've decided to move my Throwback Thursday posts over to the blog. It will encourage blog traffic and help me from feeling quite so self-indulgent when I post old self-portraits on Facebook. It's funny, what's happened with "selfie culture" in the last few years (since the rise of the smartphone).

Back in 2008, I was a budding young photographer, still learning, still figuring out what I was doing and what I wanted to be. One of the two "365/Picture a day" projects I embarked on that year was all self-portraits. And it wasn't viewed in the silly, self-indulgent way that "selfies" are viewed now. Not really. Now, when I post something from those days, or any photo of myself online, I feel extremely self-conscious. I feel like people are going to judge me negatively for it all because of the narcissistic saturation of the current generation and the ease of instantly-posted photos.

Anyway, so this was just me trying to figure myself out. I talked about how this photo, which I took in my office, was reflective of my dual Gemini nature. Oh, I'm so deep. Not. I do like it a lot though, even to this day, which is not exactly what I can say about much of my early work.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Eating Well: Breakfast

I've talked on this blog before about how difficult breakfast is for people pursuing a plant-based lifestyle or people who don't like/consume meat or dairy. Especially if, like me, you don't understand why people eat a) cereal and b) copious amounts of fruit. I really don't like either of those things, and never have. Even better: I also don't like pastries, and donuts are a dessert-like treat that I only enjoy on special occasions. Vegan pastries are really hard to find here anyway, so it's not like I would eat them for breakfast, but you get my drift. Breakfast: it's tough for me.

Thankfully I do love oatmeal, and it's my go-to breakfast at work. But on weekends, or on a day like today, when I've taken a "mental health day" from work/life/the soul-crushing everyday routine of my life these days (oh my gosh, so needed, you have no idea), oatmeal isn't going to cut it,  because it's boring, and who wants to eat oatmeal at home? Not me. Not me.

Which brings me to this morning. This morning, I started off my mental health day with a run, and along that run, I ended up at Whole Foods (so typical). The rule "never go grocery shopping when hungry" does apply here, but I'm not very good at listening to my own rules, so never mind that. I picked up the first three things that caught my eye/nose, ran home and made a really satisfying, amazingly easy vegan breakfast.

And I even got inspired to take photos of it with my real camera, so we're OG food bloggin' it today.

First up: seasonal asparagus (organic, free range, duh) from Stockton. Asparagus is probably the only good thing to ever happen in Stockton (real talk). Because this was the "big" asparagus, I cut each stalk in half before throwing it into a heated pan with olive oil, sprinkling with salt + pepper, and sauteeing until the stalks began to brown. It's really up to you how much you cook your asparagus, but make sure you're flipping and stirring with a spatula, because overcooked asparagus = sadface, and it burns easily.

Next up: strawberries. I actually hadn't planned on getting any strawberries until I walked by the display and was lured by their incredible, sweet scent. Strawberries are my favorite seasonal fruit, and I'm powerless against them. I went home with a pint of them in my bag. These are right on time for strawberry season in northern California, and yes, we are so spoiled. Just rinse and eat!

My main reason for going to Whole Foods is that I know they're the only store I can think of that sells the new Field Roast Breakfast Sausage. I love everything I've ever tried from Field Roast, and I love a good veggie sausage, but most veggie sausages aren't vegan, and Tofurkey kind of scares me (I'm weird?). When I heard about these a few weeks ago, I made a mental note to pick some up as soon as my budget allowed. Today was that day, and they did not disappoint. All you need to do to prepare them is heat up the same oil you heated for the asparagus, drop in the sausages, and sautee/turn with a spatula until they're browned, which should only take about 5 minutes.


I know. It almost seems too easy, doesn't it? But it really is that easy. And it's good for you. And you'll end up wishing you'd made more of each, and your hands will be stained from strawberry juice. And at the end of your breakfast, you'll want to blog about it, too.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Then again, maybe I won't

caution; mood swings ahead

Not really having the best week so far. I keep looking at the image above, which I took in Golden Gate Park on Easter Sunday, and try to let it calm me back to my happy place. It's not working. I feel like the grumpiest of Grumpy Cats. I feel useless, worthless, and back to square one. Trying to make my life better isn't an easy process, and I know that, and I accept that -- but I don't handle rejection or setbacks very well, even though I try to pretend like I do.

I'm also really bad at pretending.

I don't want to wallow. I hate wallowing. Time to pull myself up by my bootstraps, right? We all have days/weeks/months/years like that, don't we? This, too, shall pass?

Ugh. Gag me! Get over it, girl! 

I am seriously at the end of my rope, and it's only Tuesday. Send help? Send vegan cookies?


OK, OK. I'm trying to get it together. What do you do when you're starting to lose it? What reliable mood enhancers do you try? I mean, other than alcohol. Which will definitely be happening later.

I'm actually feeling a little better now after I started listening to music. I've really been digging this song by the German band Solitary Experiments lately, so hearing it just cheered me up. Even though it's a bit of a downer of a song, it still makes me feel better. I love it when that happens.

Angrysad music: the great cleanser!


I told myself that I would try doing the kind of blogging I used to do. I've been up in my head again about how every post has to have a theme and a purpose, instead of my just leaving a text box open and typing in it throughout the day. Well, it's been only two days since I opened this text box, which is way better than the average of 7 days it takes me to write a more specific post, so I think this was a good idea.

Here's to several beers and a bunch of bootstraps.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Volunteering at SFIFF

I've never really been one of those people who volunteers for stuff. One might say I'm fundamentally selfish, or at the very least, I'm "looking out for #1" aka myself. And that's true -- I won't deny it. I am not an altruist, and I accepted this about myself long ago. I'm fine with it. Not everyone can be an altruist, and that doesn't make me heartless, or mean that I don't care about helping people. I do -- but only if it also benefits me in some way. It sounds gross, right? But I think I've finally realized the real reason why people do volunteer work, and it's exactly this, and it's totally not gross. Volunteers give of their time to help others, yes -- but while there may be no monetary compensation to that work, there is still something in it for you. Or me. This is the thing I never understood before: that you volunteer because you want to get something out of it, and because you want to. Not because you think you should.

And I bet now you're thinking "You just now figured this out, Amber? How dense!"

Yes, well, I can be very dense. I think we've established this.

Anyway, I've been volunteering at the San Francisco International Film Festival for the last week. It's the oldest film festival in North America, and is celebrating its 57th year this year (that means it began in 1957). My good friend from high school, Zoe, works for the festival and thus lives in the bay area for three months every year, and after attending a screening last year, I knew I wanted to volunteer. The volunteers looked like they were having a really good time, and more than that -- I've really fallen out of my love of film since I left Los Angeles 14 years ago, and I've wanted to rediscover it. I know there's only so much time for so many hobbies, and I can't do it all, but film is one I've wanted to make time for. This seemed like the perfect way to get back into it after a long hiatus. I was right.

I've been doing so much volunteering this week, you guys. Seriously. It's been really awesome. And I've definitely ascribed to the motto "you get out what you put in." I don't half-ass anything, as I'm sure most of you who know me are well aware, and although I told myself I wouldn't get stressed out about such a fun thing, I also promised myself that I would go all in with this if I actually went through with it. I think that's where the real, tangible benefits of volunteering come in, anyway. I'm learning how to do all kinds of interesting tasks, none of which are difficult, but all of which build knowledge and confidence about different aspects of running a film festival, and open up more opportunities within that context.

Tuesday night at the Castro Theatre
One of my favorite duties that I sort of fell into -- managing the signs in the ticket holder lines!

volunteer lounge sign
yes, it's hilarious. 
I love this city. 
handing out ballots last night

So yes, this is what has taken up a huge portion of my life for the last 7+ days. The festival runs through next Thursday, May 8th, and this blog post took me one week to write (sigh) (again) (again) so you should probably expect dispatches from me to continue to be sparse until after the festival has concluded. Not that you wouldn't anyway, though, because I've become a poor blogger over the last year.

It's a new month, though, and I love May, because it typically signifies the time of year where things start to get really damn good for me. I'm ready for it. Bring on the spring and summertime madness.

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