Monday, September 29, 2014

Flag Day: Lesotho

Hey, remember this? It's the geography nerd feature I used to do on this blog a couple of years ago. I always thought I was the only one, literally the only one, who cared about this or read it. But a couple of weeks ago a friend left a comment on my Facebook timeline asking me to bring it back. Alex, you made my day, but not just my day: you made all this drivel stuff I put out onto the internet worth it.

For my first week back at this flag thing, I picked the flag of Lesotho.

Do you know anything about Lesotho?
Do you know where it is?
Because I've always thought that Lesotho is really cool.

Lesotho is a small, round country completely landlocked by South Africa. That's neat, right? It's a country within a country. How did that happen? These are the things I always wondered as a child. Turns out it's complicated (when isn't it?) and involves colonial Britain, and South Africa, and wars. Also, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that Lesotho has a lot of systemic problems: poverty, an HIV/AIDS epidemic, high infant mortality rates, high rates of child labor, sexual violence, etc.

But anyway, the flag. We're here to talk about the flag.

This flag is awesome because it has a hat on it.

Source: Wikipedia
Confession: I had no idea it was a hat. I thought it was a capsule from the Gemini space program or something, because it does bear a striking resemblance, doesn't it?

But no, it's a hat. It's called a mokorotlo, and it's part of Lesotho's traditional dress. When Lesotho voted on a new flag in 2006, every option included a mokorotlo. They ended up changing the color of the hat from brown to black to symbolize Lesotho as a black nation. The blue, white & green stripes seem to roughly symbolize sky/rain, peace and land/prosperity.

This flag is known as the "peace flag" after a prolonged period of unrest and war, and itself symbolizes that Lesotho is at peace, with itself and with its neighbors. The BBC wrote about this in 2006, which is great because the American media sure didn't care about Africa, and never does (unless a white person gets Ebola). Sad but true political commentary there.


Conclusion: this flag is cool, Lesotho is a country more people should know about around here, and also please don't go buy a hat like this because that's probably appropriating someone's culture. Even though it looks like it would be really good for gardening. </end>

Friday, September 26, 2014

Fall Goals

Yesterday it rained, and it was so beautiful. I went out on a run after the rain had subsided and found a world transformed. It didn't seem like fall before the rain -- but even though it got warm after the rain ended, and we're probably heading into another week of temperatures in the 70s now -- nothing is the same. We've turned that corner. There are leaves everywhere. Crunch. Crunch. Crunch.

I love it.

I feel so good this morning. Gabe and I went out for the best dinner last night at Straw, a carnival-themed restaurant near our apartment, and it was just great. It was not my healthiest outing, but for the first time in a long time I refuse to feel guilty about it. And today I feel mentally fantastic, so maybe indulging is a really good idea sometimes? Yeah, I know. I know that's true.

Anyway, today I feel compelled to write down some of my goals for this fall season.

---> Blog more. I've actually been implementing that this week, you may have noticed!
---> Start doing yoga again. It's so easy to fall out of the habit but I'm ready.
---> Complete my third half marathon on November 9th (the Berkeley Half Marathon)
---> Read 5 books by the first day of winter
---> Keep cooking! My current plan; alternate weeks of Blue Apron & Good Eggs.
---> Go back to the Saturday dharma talks at the SF Zen Center.
---> Do a photography project that's just for me.

I'm not aiming too high here. I want to do things that are good for me and make me happy. That's all.

Thursday, September 25, 2014


Wow, it's been a really long time since I've done one of these posts.

Watching — I've watched a lot of new-to-me shows (and one new show!) this summer. So happy all the fall shows are coming back now, though (thank goodness for new episodes of American Dad, am I right?). In terms of new shows, this summer we've watched all of The Strain and BoJack Horseman (both really excellent shows, if you're interested). In terms of other shows, this summer I watched all of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (again!) and all of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Last night we just started watching Star Gate: Universe, so that's exciting. Somehow I've managed not to watch any Stargate TV shows in my entire life, but I've finally decided to take the plunge.

Learning — Gosh, this is actually stumping me. What am I learning? Yikes! It's not good not to be learning anything. I guess lately I've been trying to learn more about myself. And I guess if I'm being honest, I do know myself. It's learning to listen to myself, and trust myself, and be confident in myself, that I've needed lessons in. I'm trying to be more in tune with what matters to me, rather than living life for somebody else's benefit. I'm a people pleaser, believe it or not (ugh!) and I'm really trying to teach myself new habits. It's a process.

Considering — So many things. Life is so full of possibility. This morning I'm daydreaming about spending a weekend in Santa Cruz. Every so often I wake up with this idea in my head that going to Santa Cruz would be a great idea. I haven't been there in so long, I have dreams of going to the Saturn Cafe and Tea House Spa, places I haven't been to in over a decade. Kind of a random desire, but it's popped up in my head every so often for the last few months.

Needing — To go out and have a good run today. I was feeling full of energy this morning, but I just ate breakfast and now I just want to snooze! It also rained in the bay area last night/this morning, and I can see the sun peeking through the clouds now, which only makes me want to get out there more. Imagine how amazing it smells out there after all that rain, our first in a long while.

Changing — When I think of this word, all I can think of is that fall started this week. I'm actually really happy about the mental reset this new season provides. Even though I love summer, and summer is always my favorite season, I also really love fall. Plus, this year I found myself looking forward to summer's end more than usual, so I'm embracing fall with renewed vigor (but no pumpkin spice anything, don't lump me in with all the other white girls in yoga pants please).

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Snapshots from a happy life

This week has been really exciting for me because after 2+ years with my Samsung Galaxy S3, 14 months of which were spent with an incredibly shattered screen, I finally got an upgrade. I upgraded to the iPhone 6+ and yes it's huge and wow the camera is really fun to play with. I feel really inspired to take photos with this phone camera, in a way I haven't in at least a year. Tech upgrades, yes. 

This post is about half/half with my old phone, but the first four are taken with the iPhone 6. I can notice a big difference and I am really excited to see what it's capable of. I had no idea how outdated my S3's camera functionality was by comparison.

ANYWAY I will stop babbling about that now. Here's a truly random assortment of things that I've done or seen or experienced in the last week or so:

A rose on Rose Street in NW Berkeley (on a really hot run yesterday). Love this, even though usually I'm "meh" about roses.
Morning from the roof at work // first full day of fall
Gill Tract Community Garden, Albany, CA 
Seen on a run in Albany (north of Berkeley) this afternoon. Summer isn't over yet here. 
I love these flowers so much. 
Gold dancing man still has to wait for Muni on a Sunday morning.  
Don't feed the parrots (SF Problems) 
I finally made a 100+ page book of all of my 2013 M'era Luna photos. It is absolutely beautiful. <3
Abandoned building across the street from my office. 
Gabe and I spent an amazing night laughing so hard our faces hurt at The Warfield. 
I attended Creative Mornings San Francisco at Pinterest's offices. The theme this month? Color. Perfect! 
Heavy with pollen. 
Maple leaves always turn first. 
"Dustup at Mallard Beach" -- some kind of altercation was going on here, everyone was upset, so much quacking! 
Morning from the roof of my office in NW Berkeley, looking east (last week)
My favorite place to take photos at Aquatic Park in Berkeley <3 
Last weekend: no clouds over City Hall
It's Decorative Gourd Season, and yeah, I bought a bag of them already.  
I still SMH every time I run by this sign, even though I've been seeing signs like it since I first came to Berkeley in 2001. 
The Berkeley Pier, one of my favorite new discoveries/running destinations. All you can hear is the sound of the bay's waves.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Eating Well: Things I've cooked lately

In so many ways, 2014 has been a year of unexpected change. And to go along with that, I've spent much of this year either chasing down parts of myself that seem to have gotten lost, or decided to wait patiently for those things to return. This month has brought the return of something really important to me, something I really missed, but couldn't force: my love of cooking. 

Yes, of course, you're saying. Amber loves cooking! Well, for most of this year, I wasn't feeling it. I was OK with this, because I figured my desire would return eventually. Luckily, I was right

Last week I decided to get a CSA box from Good Eggs. I had no idea what would be in it until the moment I picked it up last Wednesday, which was really fun, and I had no idea how awesome it would be! It was amazing to come home last week and find my fridge so filled up with vegetables: 

So yes, it has been a good week of cooking stuff. It's been so long since I've been able to say that.

^^^This was my favorite thing I made all week: fresh whole grain bucatini pasta from The Pasta Shop with a sauce made from Mission: Heirloom tomato-basil sauce, additional heirloom tomatoes, garlic, onion & green pepper, topped with fresh basil. It was absolutely delicious!

^^^Next up, we have a white bean hash. I actually wrote up this recipe for Facebook friends, so I'll repeat it here. It's ridiculously easy and super healthy, and made a great lunch the next day:

3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1/4 onion, roughly diced
1 eggplant, julienned (or whatever)
1 small green pepper, diced
1 small heirloom tomato, diced
1 can white beans
1 bunch chard, stems removed, roughly chopped

Just cut everything up.

Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a frying pan on medium heat. Add the garlic, onion, green pepper and eggplant.

Stir fry for a few minutes, don't stir too frequently but don't let the fragile veggies burn, either! Add some salt and pepper.

Then add white beans. Stir fry for a couple of minutes.

Then add chard. Stir until the chard is wilted, just cooked through. Add red pepper flakes if desired, season to taste, AND EAT!

^^^Finally, this was a great (and easy!) breakfast on Saturday morning. I was really, really excited to get a pound of gorgeous purple potatoes in the CSA box for precisely this reason. All this is, other than purple potatoes, is garlic, onion, green pepper, olive oil & salt/pepper. Just pan fry it all up.

I really hope this is the beginning of a renaissance for me with cooking. Stay tuned!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Four Days in Omaha

Earlier this month, Gabe and I took a four day trip to Omaha, Nebraska, otherwise known as the place he lived before he lived in San Francisco, and the place he considers "home."  I was extremely eager to get the heck out of town after a cancelled European vacation and a very stressful, worry-filled August, but beyond that, I was just really excited to go to Omaha for a lot of reasons. I love seeing new places. I love travel pretty much no matter what the circumstances. I also really wanted to see a place that Gabe loved so much, and meet new people/be inspired. Part of the trip also involved attending BarCamp Omaha, so, you know, enter inspiration.

Plus ... I have roots in Nebraska, and I've always wanted to go there. Plus, I knew this would be a great time. Plus, I just really wanted some time to hang out with Gabe, and not be at work. And all of those things were exactly what I got. It was a really great trip, and I am so glad it happened.

Here are some of the many, many snapshots I snapped on the trip:


Layover in Phoenix. Such beautiful sky. 
Speaking of beautiful sky: OMAHA SUNSETS. OH MY GOODNESS. SO GOOD. 
Gabe hooked up his phone to the rental car as soon as we got in. We were blasting our favorite tunes in no time at all!


The view from the front porch, out to the rental car across the street
Caffeine Dreams, a coffee shop with a lot of vegan pastries <3
Beginning of another gorgeous sunset
Sunset hitting downtown Omaha's buildings. So beautiful. 
Seriously loving everything about the sunsets on the prairie. 
pre-conference party: light show 
photo booth backdrop


The first talk I attended at BarCamp Omaha was about walkability. I LOVED THIS. 
Kind of obsessed with this guy's pickle hat 
Gorgeous Omaha architecture. So much brick. I loved it so much..
BarCamp's venue, which is also an art gallery 
Learning about curling.
I got extremely excited when New Urbanism came up during a talk. 
Yes, it's another sunset and I got so totally spoiled by these. 
I don't know this girl, but she was playing Giant Jenga in the backyard of a bar and I really had to take a photo. 
Benson. AKA where the cool kids hang out. Or something. 


The Missouri River!
Walked across a bridge to Iowa! This was so super cool. 
Also exciting: finding Omaha's bike share program, even if I didn't get to utilize it on this trip. 
Layover in beautiful Phoenix on the way home. 

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