You're never too old

Hi! How is everyone? I’ve managed to catch some sort of weird coughy/snotty/my-body-hurts-all-the-time thing, but other than that, life has been swell. On Tuesday some friends and I got paid to eat cupcakes and the weekend prior we visited Big Bear. So everything the past week has tasted like buttercream, campfires, and the Lumineers. 

After we graduated JMU, a good chunk of my fellow classmates moved out to Los Angeles to pursue big dreams and eat lots of tacos. Though I didn’t know many of them back then, the intimidation of a new city drew everyone closer together. It’s such a delight to have them around; whenever I am feeling nostalgic for the days of dining plans, syllabi, and four locos (except I am never nostalgic for a four loco), they are just a stone’s throw away, ready to sip cheap wine and reminisce over the frozen yogurt machines. 

One of these friends (lil Kris Belskey! Basketball player and comedienne and dog-owner extraordinaire!) gathered us all out to Big Bear to celebrate her 26th birthday. If you remember, I like Big Bear a lot. It's a fascinating little town; various climates and bits of foliage all blend together, creating a desert/forest combo like straight out of The Land Before Time. As you head further into the mountains, the Joshua trees and little shrubs start to disappear, and you begin brushing against the pine trees and various campgrounds. 

Our arrival was loud and vibrant. We tore through the house like children, dropping out Chex Mix and own the prowl for the best beds. Birthday girl and her girlfriend got the master suite, obviously, and then a few lucky folks claimed the other bedrooms. A few girlfriend ands I myself were happy to grab the bunk bed room, mostly because it made us feel like Annie and Hallie à la Parent Trap.

And like the children we were in college, we busted out the Bud Lights and solo cups, reviewing the established set of rules for Beer Olympics and drawing names to coordinate teams. The cookie cake and piñata were set to the side, as we weren't animals, and didn’t want to dive headfirst into everything at once.

To stretch our legs and burn our beer calories, we set off on a two mile walk, loaded down with some combination of dog/camera/road beer. If you’re the kind of person who doesn’t take a road beer with you on a walk, I highly recommend you give it a try! I have very fond memories of my dad and uncles doing this on our walks from the beach house to the shore, saying that they were grabbing a "roadie" as if it were as necessary as sunscreen. It’s very nice to crunch through the woods and sip something wheat-y and toast-y (not Bud Light), especially when you’re wearing a flannel. Beer+woods+flannel are three peas in a pod, much like the Hogwarts trio or Destiny's Child.

Back at the house we climbed onto the railings for impromptu photoshoots, then jumped to the ground to chase the dogs and blow raspberries on their bellies. We were definitely not acting our age (or where we?!!) as we flipped red solo cups onto the table, blew out the candles of a chocolate chip cookie cake, and destroyed a piñata in an effort to get to a handful of Reese’s eggs. 

To really top off this inner child/college student weekend, we did breakfast the next day with Cracker Barrel-style pancakes drenched in Mrs. Butterworth’s, followed by an easter egg hunt in the front yard. We then cleaned the house and took all of our trash and recyclables the local center. Yay for responsibility! That night I even paid my credit card bill and organized the pantry. A slow ease back into 25.

I’ve been trying to understand this “adulthood” thing. When I was younger, I thought that meant drinking wine, paying bills, and getting married. So far I’ve done one of those things, about 75% of the other, and none of the last one. I thought I might have a real person job and lots and lots of clarity. 

But that hasn’t been the case. I’ve sat on the steps of my apartment in tears, wondering who I was and what on earth I was doing in LA. It got so bad that I started listening to Stressed Out by Twenty One Pilots and felt like “it got me.” Luckily, my bff Alex Testere came along and reminded me that there was always Rilo Kiley's A Better Son/Daughter.  But then if I really want water show to get going, I'll just put on Lippy Kids by Elbow. 

So maybe I didn’t go to Big Bear. Maybe I went to Neverland and was too distracted by candy and friends and wine to see any of the mermaids/pirates/lost boys. I stopped worrying about the definition of adulthood and listened to the inner-nine-year-old who was screaming, “REMEMBER WHEN YOU USED TO GIVE ME FRUIT ROLL UPS AND WE WOULD PLAY WITH FELT AND CHASE STUFF? WHAT HAPPENED TO THAT GIRL. I LIKED HER.”

I’ll have to remember to feed her more often. 

Stay cozy friends! Go eat a fruit roll up or these eggo-waffle-toast guys. 

Journey up the Pacific coast, part three

Welcome to the final installation of my PNW road trip series!! The beginning of an end, AKA the moment where we catch a glimpse of the final destination and quietly slide it under the bed alongside our plans to stop eating sugar and drinking during the week. We made the most of it, indulging in midnight van shenanigans, lust-worthy donuts, and 70s motels.

Seattle

Before this trip, I knew Seattle as the place where Tom Hanks went to feel very melancholy. It looked both wet and romantic, like the sort of place you would go to escape to with your lover when you were both faking sick or having a Moonrise Kingdom episode. If I lived in Seattle,  I'd spend the winter huddled up at home, pouring wine into a fat pot of soup. Summertime would be spent lounging on the beach in a gray sweatshirt. 

Ariel and I plotted an entire day in Seattle, beginning with the Pike Place Market. Pike Place is a feast in every definition of the word; there are baby chocolate cheesecakes, tubes of lavender honey, tortilla chips, Washington apples, blood orange vinegars, ponchikis, freshly shucked oysters, small cups of green tea, wax-wrapped smoked salmon, and pickles. The people are just as diverse, with toddlers sucking on crusts of sourdough and old women tucking fresh cheese in their canvas bags, nestled alongside a box of water crackers. 

We walked through tea shops and a whiskey distillery that looked like a guerilla advertisement for flannel. In the evening there was demolishing Brooklyn-style pizza at Delancey, spying on swing dancing classes, and falling asleep on the ferry ride home. If our beanies and ponchos did anything to make us look like Seattle locals, the vibe was quickly wiped away by the amount of times I said, "WOAH, LOOK AT THAT." I also took several pictures of strangers.

Seattle to Portland

Driving to Portland from Seattle was bizarre. Often times when I'm on roadtrips, the landscapes will start to remind me of past places; I've seen bits and pieces of Virginia in California, New York in Tennessee, la-de-da, etc, etc. And I know that sounds weird because "Uh, Amanda, the United States has more stuff than the menu at the Cheesecake Factory," but it does and just trust me on it. The drive to Portland had that effect—the vastness reminded me of the 5 or driving through the flatter parts of Virginia, but then there would be a giant mountain rising in the distance. Just one.

Portland was like that too; nature was everywhere! Our first morning we sought out to find a hike, and were able to find one at Forest Park only ten minutes from our host's Victorian-style home. Like aforementioned parts of Oregon, it was green and alive, wet yet refreshing.

After our hike, we considered ourselves good and exercised, and well in need of a donut. We went to Blue Star Donuts, a Portland favorite with options such as Rosemary Basil, Pistachio Piña Colada, and Valhorna Chocolate Crunch.  It was hard to settle on just one, and even harder to turn down the caravan of food trucks that stretched outside the street.

Before this trip I couldn't help but wonder, "Will Portland match up to Portlandia's stereotypes???" And in some ways, yes. The weather was abnormally gorgeous, and the streets of Downtown Portland were packed with families and strange bikes couples and clowns. It might have been an exceptional day,  due to the weather all, but Ariel and I wondered, "Does anyone here actually have jobs??" Maybe they all work as clowns and donut-sellers. 

One of my favorite parts of traveling is crashing on other people's couches. We stayed with Drew, an ex-boyfriend's best friend (which could have been awkward but we're all grown-ups here). After he got off work, the three of us met an Asian-comfort food restaurant, where we had Sapporos, pumpkin curry, dumplings, and some very spicy things that I cannot remove. On the other side of our table, two very tall Asian men ate from a package of double-stuf oreos. The children behind us drummed with their chopsticks and a girl's night out shrieked from the next room.

In the evening, we talked about our astrological signs in Drew's car-turned-sometimes-a-house. He's well-traveled, and before moving to Portland studied art in Cincinnati and backpacked through the California mountains. The three of us laughed in that van until we cried; glossing the windows with the heat of our breath as if we were two horny sophomores. 

"Thank you so much," Ariel and I repeated as we stretched out over the spare mattress later that eve. 

"It's no problem," Drew said. "I remember what it was like to be a traveler. I know how important a warm bed can be."

Portland to Redding

When you're traveling alone, you often wake up deep with introspection. It's strange to wake in a new place every morning, and you must gather your bearings upon peeling back the blanket. But traveling with Ariel wasn't like that; when I woke up I knew exactly where I was, feeling excited and nurtured. The morning we left Portland was the eleventh day of our journey, and we were learning one another's patterns. She was the better driver, I was good at finding restaurants. She could calm me down if I could get us a place to sleep.

And that day to Redding was reserved purely for driving. There wasn't much to do in Redding, and it was to be the only night we would stay in a hotel. After eight hours of driving, this was a welcome site. 

If I had a Sound of Music-style list of favorite things, hotel rooms would near the tippy top. They're one of the coziest places in the entire world, offering fresh sheets and individually-wrapped bars of soap. You can make subpar coffee without leaving your room! There is wi-fi! There is a lobby with occasional cookies! It's Disneyland!!!! (That is, for someone who really likes to not clean/not make the bed/eat a dinner of vending machine snacks and cheap booze/watch sex and the city reruns.)

And the only thing better than a hotel is a 70s-style hotel, especially one called the Thunderbird Lodge. There's just something about a neon sign off a California highway that makes you feel like you've made it. We ditched looking for Redding's top restaurant for the simplicity of walking across the street to a sports bar $3 Bud Light. We ate Newman's Ranch dressing on a bed of romaine, white bread painted in garlic butter, and watery chili. It was fucking delicious.

Because by that point, and maybe for most of the trip, it was never about finding the best donuts or the famous tasting. It was about trying something new and kind of scary with a friend. I've done a lot of road trips alone, and while that has its own rewards, there is little to rival mutual excitement over hot water and cheap beer. 

Ariel and I embarked on this trek out of shared mindset for adventure, which ultimately fueled us to hop around the various states like a non-murdering Thelma and Louise. We divided the wheat thins, gas prices, and days of DD-ing up as amicably as we had offered one another drunk pizza rolls in our college days. We were SO ABUNDANT, and not with things (you gotta travel light when you're in VW bug), but with memories and gratitude. 

That night, we walked across the rainy street and nestled into the warm, white hotel sheets to watch Netflix and cuddle. We didn't have the wisdom of a Redding-native, but for the night, it was perfect.

Redding to Solvang

At this point the roads began to feel familiar. We were migrating back to Southern California, and greeting all the diversity along the way. In this last leg, we saw fields of farmland, vineyards, mountains, snow, cacti, Joshua trees, rain, rolling hills, fog and even a volcano. It was like Mother Nature looked down at us and shouted, "DID I MISS ANYTHING?? ARE YOU SURE? WELL JUST IN CASE..."

Our hosts that evening were my good friends, Kaitlyn and Dave, and Dave's parents Molly and Rick. It was a Sunday eve, and we ate cozy food: cornbread, chili with red beans, and chocolate.  After the dishes were placed in the washer, the four us kids sipped wine while laying by the fire, and fell asleep before 10. 

Solvang to LA

And we came back! All in one piece and slightly freaking out because our jobs were no longer to find hikes and restaurants and use hotspots, but to drip slowly back into the real world where we had to remember the correct day of the week. We were fat with memories and wine and McDonald's Egg McMuffins (which we ate more than twice or three times on this trip...). *cue angel emoji*

Do you remember feeling slightly bummed when you came back to 3rd grade after a week in grandma's Floridian condo? Yeah, that feeling came back. Because when you're out venturing the unknown, it feels as if anything is possible. The days feel longer because there is no routine, only surprises. 

Maybe I like road trips because it's not very hard to feel curious. Curiosity is fear's playful best friend, the one who encourages you to eat the snail or drop your number on that guy's table. When you're bombarded with new thing after new thing, the fascination with the unknown triumphs fear. Nothing can go wrong because you never had time to create expectations. 

I won't forget that feeling of curiosity on that first night when Ariel and I pitched a tent in the rain. I remember thinking, "Are we going to be able to get this tent up in this storm? With hardly any light?" Turns out we could, and it made that final snuggle all the cozier. 

 

 

A journey up the Pacific coast, part two

PART TWO! Are part twos ever as good as part ones? I think not, with maybe the exception being Austin Powers:The Spy Who Shagged Me, Home Alone: Lost in New York, and hopefully this blog post. 

When I left off, Ariel and I had just waved goodbye to Sequoia, the man in the night dress who gave us shelter, sofas, and a coffee table full o' weed. (Since my last post, Sequoia has given Ariel and I a review on couchsurfing. It reads "REALLY SWEET PEEPS." I did not add the all caps; that was his choice. What a guy, man.)

Eureka to Eugene: 

Ariel and I awoke with a plan. We would leave Sequoia's house bright and early so that we'd arrive in Eugene at a somewhat decent hour and avoid the hyperventilating that had occurred the previous evening. 

The drive to Eugene was breezy. After a mere four hours, we were in the second largest city in Oregon. The minute we arrived in that state, I could sense something was different. A layer of gray had melted over the earth, covering everything in a Patagonia jacket smelling of incense, musky cologne, and marijuana. The surrounding fauna was a shade green I thought could never be found in the United States, and 70% of the buildings were painted with mushrooms. There were coffee drive-thrus and waterfalls. It was a weird fairy land, if the fairies were lumberjacks who loved macchiatos and shrooms.

Maybe it was the fact that we were finally able to shower, or maybe it was because we arrived somewhere while it was still light outside, but nothing looked as good as that Eugene hostel. We had our own room and all of the bars were in walking distance (!!!). Making use of this valuable time to get some local flavor, Ariel and I put on our “going out outfits” (AKA denim shirts, yoga pants, and high-heeled boots), and went to the paint the town red at the Pizza Research Institute. 

The Pizza Research Institute, though to my knowledge was conducting no pizza research, scored major brownie points. For one, they served their cocktails (I had sangria) in ENORMOUS goblets. There were fat pieces of fruit bobbing up and down, all of which continued to soak up the sweet, boozy nectar. Ariel and I split a salad and each got a personal pizza, both of which came topped with a mountain of different cheeses and veggies. Now, the pizza at PRI wouldn’t fall into any category that was named after a city, but it was fucking delicious. The crust had seeds in it and it was perfectly browned and chewy. The vegetables and cheeses tasted like Greg-the-Waiter had grown them in his back pocket. It wasn’t anything you’d see in any trendy NY/LA restaurant, but it was doughy and cheesey and vegetable-y and everything I wanted to put into my mouth. Aforementioned boozy fruit was the perfect dessert. 

After dinner, Ariel and I moseyed across the street to dive bar with to check out a local Americana band. We began with a glass of wine and a shot of whiskey, and then proceeded to make our way onto the dance floor and rolls our heads with some Eugene-locals. 

The next bar is where things get a bit foggy. It was half arcade, which despite my living in a metropolis, I had never been to before. (Barcades, is what I think the kids are calling them?) Regardless, the whole thing is a bit fuzzy.  I did wake up with a piece of pizza in my purse and an email from an old man named Bill, saying that he enjoyed our conversation regarding the Oregon County Fair. Based on those clues, it sounds like it was a pretty lovely evening. 

Eugene to Astoria:

The next day began with only a slight hangover, some kombucha, and more sunlight than I believed to be possible in central Oregon. This was perfect, considering that Ariel and I had set aside this afternoon to be the one that we ventured into Ashland’s hot springs. For those who may not know, hot springs are basically Mother Nature’s way of telling us that, regardless of how old we get, she wants us to take off our clothes and play in the water. 

Your only form of payment is bravery - hot springs are popular. And in a place like Oregon, where no one seems to work real jobs, the place can get several visitors on a Tuesday afternoon. We arrived around 11am, and there were already a handful of folks skipping naked through the greenery, frolicking like small European children on the beach. 

The last time I was naked in public was my senior year of college when I did a  lap around my friend’s house wearing nothing but a pair of Nike’s and a friendship bracelet. (I’m not one for showing off Tweedle Dee, Tweedle Dum, and the Cheshire Cat, but….when in Rome.) Ariel and I both through caution (and our underthings) to the wind, and climbed in among a small cluster of Oregon's finest.  

Floating in the hot springs was similar to what I can imagine it feels like to be a mythological creature. At any moment, I half-expected Zeus to parade in disguised as a horse, or witness Vertumnus attempt to woo the spritely Pomona. It barely felt real. Oregon is truly a rainforest, with thick layers of moss painting every tree branch and life inching its way out of every surface. 

I didn’t want to put on my clothes and stop running my fingers over the smooth, wet stones. I wanted to be naked forever, like Tommy Pickles in this episode of Rugrats.  (Also, mental note to add "Naked Forever" to the list of novels I'd eventually like to write.) When the time came for our departure, Ariel and I pulled on our clothes and repacked the car to head up to Astoria.

The drive was quick, and we arrived at our hostel with just enough time to finish a bottle of wine and find a seafood restaurant. But the scariest part of Astoria was the journey down the boardwalk. It wasn't really dangerous, but halfway to dinner we heard the most terrifying wails and wimpers. It turned out to be the sounds of elephant seal mating calls, which upon learning, ended up serving as a nice soundtrack to our oysters and chicken sandwiches. 

Astoria to Bainbridge Island: 

Astoria is located on the Washington coastline, only a stone’s through away from some infamous Goonies moments. It’s also the last leg of Lewis and Clark’s cross-country trek, and they really couldn’t have found a worse spot to end up. Don’t get me wrong; Astoria is breathtaking and worth a visit, but that’s only when you have a bed, an umbrella, and at least some form of shelter. It’s right on the water, and in January this means it’s going to get cold, windy, and foggy. The 101 took us across a ginormous bridge, and it looked as if we were heading straight into purgatory. The nearby landmarks were labeled “Dismal Point” and “Cape Disappointment.” Oof. Rough days, Lewis and Clark. 

We waved goodbye to the coastline, migrating towards Ariel’s uncle’s place on Bainbridge Island. Bainbridge doesn't feel real. In the middle of winter, it’s foggy and green, brimming with a gray mist that seems to billow in from every direction. It’s the kind of place one would envision roaming if they were suddenly orphaned and decided to live life in the style of the Boxcar Children. Had it not been raining and dangerous, I’d have wanted to kick off my shoes and muddle through the dirt, looking for storybook berry patches and rabbit holes. 

But Ariel and I had an agenda. We had to be leaving Bainbridge (by ferry) by FIVE so that we could get to Bainbridge by SIX so that I could get to a meeting by SEVEN (despite the carefree nature of this trip, I had not stopped working. Gas money, to my dismay, does not grow on trees.) By this time, the rain was pounding, making our first drive through Seattle more stressful than romantic. Cars were honking. I was apologizing. It was so scary that at one point, Ariel looked at me and said, “Should we fire drill this?” And then we switched spots in the middle of the intersection.

Luckily, break time came for the weary travelers. While I was in my meeting, Ariel went in search of a bar. Her journey was most fruitful, because when I went to meet up with her, I discovered that she had picked one of the fanciest joints in that part of Seattle. And had somehow scored us glass after glass of free champagne. I keep her around for a reason. 

We sat in the corner, shamelessly flirting with the bartenders all while hoping that our luck would not run out. In an attempt to look really fancy, we ordered a plate of oysters, and then proceeded to write haikus on napkins. (The Fitzgeralds would have been so proud!)

The feeling of our arrival that evening was bittersweet. It was wonderful to settle in the Bainbridge house that evening, stripping down into our birthday suits and pretending to be mermaids in the middle of some mossy lagoon. But I couldn't help but feel as though we were living in a fantasy. This is typical of travel, I've learned. It's like living in a bubble; one where you get to spend your days in cars and your evenings in hottubs. 

I began to wonder if these feelings of diving into the unknown were the high from vacation, or if they could indeed by be my reality. Is a life on the road something I could build, or even something I wanted? Where is the line between work and adventure? Could they be combined? And if so, how?

The answer still hasn't made itself clear, but when it does, you'll be the first to know. 

- Stay cozy

 

A journey up the Pacific coast, part one

Hey, cozies. It’s lovely to be back on the internet! I've been neglecting this online space lately, similar to how I neglected my papermate diary from time to time back in middle school.  But now I'm back and once again using this platform as an extension of myself and my stories. Isn’t it funny how blogs work? Isn’t it a delight?! Recently, I’ve been nomming the hell out of my friend Kathryn’s blog Going Zero Waste, as well as The Minimalist Baker. That is, when I’m not crying funfetti-flavored tears while watching Fuller House. Watching the show is somewhat akin to eating desserts from an Easy-Bake Oven. Not delicious and yet somewhat satisfying.

But I’m not here to discuss Kimmy Gibbler or how Aunt Becky is slowly going insane. No, amigos, I am here to discuss my PACIFIC NORTHWEST ROAD TRIP! I’m well overdue, but now I’ve had time to reflect and develop a buttload of gratitude for the crazy opportunity to take this trip. I never expected it to happen.

A few months ago,  my friend Ariel and I were having lunch in the quiet town of Carlisle, Pennsylvania, when we began discussing our desire to travel up to Portland, Seattle, and the like. We wanted to do it renegade-style, with a tent in the trunk and nourishing ourselves with beer and granola. The possibility seemed real, but very far away. We settled on the idea of “maybe” and left it at that.

And like many good ideas, this one grew from a little nugget into a full-fledged plan. Phone conversations multiplied, plane tickets were bought, and BOOM, we were sitting in my living room going over our final packing list.

The trip began with us venturing up to Santa Barbara in order to reclaim my VW Bug, Caroline. I hadn’t seen or driven her in four months, and she required a jumpstart and a quick cleaning, but she was alive. After a wine-tasting with our friend and chauffeur, Charlie, we plugged in our first destination (BIG SUR! BIG SUR!) and started to head on up on the coast. Cue: Rusted Root. 

I cannot think of a way to organize this post, as my writing often falls in the realm of this-is-kind-of-a-travel-guide-but-here's-what-we-drank, so we’re going to go the ol’ route of bold lettering. Bear with me, folks. 

LA to Big Sur - If I could paint this trip in colors, this part of the journey would be gold.  The southern California coastline is bathed in sunlight, making the grass and ocean glow. It was also so beautiful, and quite distracting. We didn’t arrive in Big Sur until after sundown. It was also raining, so we carefully plotted a gameplan to keep as ACAP (as cozy as possible). This included a quick stop for hot sandwiches and firewood, as well as “break beer” as we waited for the sandwiches to finish cooking. At the Riverside campsite, we strapped on our headlamps and set up the tent, hopping over poles and through the mud with our eyes on the prize: shelter, fire, and wine. All three were achieved, and followed by Ariel teaching me to play speed. Have you ever played?? It's addictive and competitive and may slightly taint a friendship if you're both the kinds of people who can't stand to lose. 

Big Sur to Vallejo - Have you woken up after a morning camping? When you're not unexpectedly soaked, it's delicious. Your senses are heightened, allowing your you to really taste the pines and soil, and the light is a calm grey. Had we been more seasoned campers, or dwelling in our mountain hideaway for longer, we’d have prepared with a breakfast of biscuits and scrambled eggs. (But, you know, road trip=timing=breakfast of peanut butter protein bars and banana muffins. Both great.)

We stopped along the cliffs, climbing alongside the wildlife and into the depths of steep craggles. They were perfect for climbing. And noticing how the ocean is one badass motherfucker.

Vallejo to Eureka - Morning began with a breakfast of quiche followed by a brunch of wine. Ariel and I had a long drive ahead of us, which naturally meant starting wine tasting at 11am, sharp. My friend Kathryn had been our host for the evening, and came along with us for the ride. Not only is Kathryn a wine country local (Vallejo is a breezy 20 minutes from some pretty fantastic vineyards), but she also was able to offer us some delicious discounts. Which was great because one of the places we went to was $40 for one tasting. And while I consider myself a woman of many talents, shitting money isn’t one of them. Following our afternoon in Napa (Lindsay Lohan and Dennis Quaid memories included), we made our way westward, dancing through various small towns offering 69 cent Pepsi and polite drugdealing teenagers. 

Here’s where things got tricky. Apple maps planned our drive up from northern California to Eureka, which is located at the very top of the California coast,using the 101. To this Ariel and I scoffed: The 101, you say?? What are we, tourists?? We were vagabonds! We were guerilla travelers, with a cooler full of olives and a quarter-filled bottle of wine. We were taking Highway 1, just as we had planned.

What we didn’t take into consideration was that Highway 1 is only glamorous from San Diego to San Fran. After the Golden Gate city, you lose all cell phone service and are driving 40mph over winding roads and into the dog. And in January, it gets dark at 4pm. And when you’re driving that slow, you add three hours to your arrival time.

IMG_6452.jpg

To top it all off, we were couchsurfing that night, which meant that we were staying in the living room of a complete stranger. I’ve done this type of thing before - it’s always polite to arrive at a decent hour to allot for conversation time with your host. Most of them offer a free space in exchanged for some dialogue (not sex) or homemade muffins (not sex). Ariel and I were very, very late and very distraught after our six hour drive. And it didn’t help that a spooky pickup truck was following us in the last leg of the trip.

But we made it! Alive! And our host wasn’t even mad! In fact, our tardiness was actually appreciated by Sequoia, a jolly fellow sporting a torn sleep dress and several rings. He had a girl over, and was focused on achieving some alone time. And despite his priorities and our late arrival, he remained a FABULOUS host, offering us anything we could possibly need.

“Help yourself to whatever’s in the fridge,” Sequoia said. He gestured to the coffee table, which was topped with so much weed that it looked like the freaking secret garden, and he was Mary Lennox. “Smoke whatever you want….Uh, that’s about it. Goodnight.”

He then proceeded to **mAkE lOvE** to his special lady friend, who we met later than night when she emerged in (you guessed it) the infamous night dress! We thought this lady was his girlfriend, but the next morning she asked us how to open the gate. So she was probably new.

The moral of this installation is to never judge a book by it’s cover, or a man by his nightdress.

- Until the next chapter, stay cozy!

 

Austin, outlaws, and following my intuition

My heart pulled me to the city of outlaws. 

Five years ago, I drove through Austin Texas with a fake I.D. and my college boyfriend. We were halfway through a romantic cross-country adventure, and stopped in Austin to visit his cousin, her girlfriend, and their backyard chicken coop. All three were great; open and welcoming and  finding ways to entertain us even though they were days away from in vitro-fertilization. The night before Kelly was to become a Baby Mama, we ate nachos at Shady Grove, smashed Hey Cupcake treats into our mouths, and danced on Coyote Ugly tabletops. 

My interactions with Texas have always been romantic, even when I’ve been alone. I’ve fallen into my Cormac McCarthy alter-ego, fantasizing about cowboys eating tacos. I like to think that Texas is painted in dust and bullhorns, that all of the drinks are served in mason jars.  A little bit of Mexico, a little bit of California, a little bit of Virginia. I pretend the state is not dominated by Republicans. 

Other than this mental erotica, I’ve traveled to Texas with my dad, alone, and with former lovers. I’ve stayed in Amarillo, Tyler, Austin, and Houston, eaten steak and jerky and Chuy’s and it still isn’t enough. Last November, the urge was overwhelming, and I began plotting an escape route.

I’ll admit that I meditated over the decision as to whether or not to go. Plane tickets and care rentals and the amount of money I’d surely spend on tacos required some thought. (I also realized that debating whether or not to go on vacation is the definition of champagne problems, but I’m the kind of person who freaks out when a quarter rolls under the washing machine, so spending huge sums of money is the kind of thing I don’t take lightly.)

So here’s what I did. I googled “decision making meditation” and found a bunch of videos that told me they would be able to help. I spent the night with my headphones in, listening to a wispy-voiced women lead me through a series of relaxing instructions. It worked (REALLY!). The next morning I bought the tickets and rented the car and made a taco vision board on Pinterest. 

Traveling alone (with the exception of my shoestring budget) offered an immense wave of freedom. I had couchsurfing hosts lined up, a few places that I was determined to hit up for tacos, etc. On my first night, my host Jesse took me to Whisler’s. When I heard the name I imagined rolling desert hills and tumbleweeds, the “whistles” being the eerie wind that haunts a Western horizon. 

Whislers was like that, if the Western horizon also possessed Asian-fusion food trucks, $10 manhattans, and men who I assumed who were drastically out of my league. While ten bucks is pretty average in LA and New York, it was unfathomable in Austin. Even so, my host offered to pay for the first round, and then a whiskey shot (and another and then one more?) later that evening.

“Austin is essentially one big party,” Jesse said. She is tiny, a little thing only made smaller when she dons herself in a parka and beanie. 

The next morning we walked alongside the train tracks as the BBQ shacks begin unfolding their picnic tables. She lives in East Austin, a neighborhood predominantly populated with Hispanic families and twenty-somethings who like living walking distance to dive bars and taquerias. For breakfast we ate migyas tacos and drank horchata, all while complaining about 26-year-old boys (and 34-year-old men) who didn’t know how to respond to a text message. 

Later that day, she drove an hour north to her mother’s in order to do her laundry. I explored my surroundings, taking a free Bollywood dance class and visiting the graffiti gardens, and after that I was looking to get my drink on. I mean that in the lamest way possible; my ideal bar scene is one where I can sit in the back with a book or my journal and sip something while eavesdropping on the conversations around me. 

Luckily, Austin is literally one giant party. There is no such thing as dark days, and something is constantly going on. I went to Rainey Street, where Sunday Funday-ers were roaming the bars in cowboy boots and leather jackets. I wandered into Lydia unshowered, with my hair wild atop my head and a Northface backpack on my shoulders. My vagabond appearance was a gift rather than a hindrance, however, as it prompted a conversation between myself and the bartender. I left that around 7pm, after consuming two free Manhattans. (Side note: Austinians love to concoct their own Maraschino cherries!!) 

Is it just me, or is it easier to be brave when you’re traveling?  Striking up a conversation with a stranger in a bar seems easier, maybe because we’ve got nothing to lose. It could have also been because I was in Austin, a land that I had fantasized like a child mentally concocting Neverland. Every inhabitant fascinated me. I wanted to ask them questions about what they did for a living, why they lived there, if they thought San Antonio was cool, and if there were such thing as taco happy hour. 

I want this to come across honestly: every moment in that city felt special, like it was painted in a dusty faux gold. Dancing on a dirty floor, I briefly remembered that time in front of my computer, only two months prior, and the feeling of certainty that told me to come to the city of outlaws. 

When you have those moments of mental clarity, whether it be to pursue a story, launch a project, or explore a new place: listen to that voice. I know that not everyone has the means to act on every whim they have, but when we nurture the ideas that grow inside our hearts, we venture into a space of ourselves that we are meant to understand. 

My trip to Austin didn’t lead to any broad life insights, or meeting my soulmate or landing a dream job, but it lend to new friends, poetry, and my first taste of Torchy’s tacos. It led to reflective walks and long stares in the Mexican horizon. It led to random roadside cleanup, a motorcyle ride, a donut caked in Captain Crunch, dancing with an old man. It gave attention to artists (creativity deserves just as much), and the realization that you can make your that quiet voice inside myself become a reality. 

(!!! Before I tell you to stay cozy, I’m going to tell you to go to Veracruz. Eat the migyas. There are crushed up tortilla chips in there. Also go to White Horse. And definitely couch surf because as far as I’m concerned it’s the BEST way to travel.) 

Okay....now...

- stay cozy

afternoon paddycake party

It's my last night in Cincinnati after eight weeks chasing 4pm.  This city is best when it's gray, alive when on Halloween and you sneak down to a basement drum set for cold air kisses. Over the river and through a highway jungle gym sits a street of bourbon bars. Bring a friend because glasses sound like Christmas ornaments when they clink. 

Anyway, Brianna and I had a paddycake party! With coffee/wine/socks/dresses/cameras....

Holiday season and we're inhaling fumes from vegan chocolate chip cookies (coconut oil, win win win), drinking cheap merlot during our 3pm happy hour. 

I never ate Skyline Chili, but I did eat up Saturday afternoons at the library, followed by RYE CHAI. 

And you haven't run until you've made your way around a mirror lake, which is now an ice skating rink with a blue flag floating in the wind (that means it's safe). 

Oh oh! I wrote about road trips.  And one of my one-act plays will be featured in Ink Festwhich will go down this April. It's a celebration of female playwrights, and I'm looking forward to sharing my voice. If you like vampires (and making fun of vampires), you might like what I have to say. 

Note: And if you want a big meal with big healthy things, white bean soup wins wins wins every day. 

As for musical choices, this song was featured in Scream, and it's not very seasonal, but I like it all the same. 

Happy holidays? I'm watching Game of Thrones for the first time ever so honestly I don't even know what time it is.  (DON'T SPOIL ANYTHING!) 

XO andddd

- stay cozy!

Kale, sausage, and white bean soup

What do you think of when you hear the word wild? 

You might think of Reese Witherspoon as Cheryl Strayed, which is totally fine. Or you might think of Artemis running through the Greek la-la lands with her bow and arrow, and that's fine too. For whatever reason, the wild has been on the brain, and I'm here to blog about it. 

Part of the reason might be because of my new addiction to hot yoga. Before hot yoga, I would not consider myself a sweaty person. In a hot yoga classroom it's impossible not to be. There are moments, like warrior 3 or hunkered in goddess, when the sweat drippy drops down my arms and I feel so natural and so IN TUNE with how my body is supposed to function. It's GROSS but COOL. 

I've also been reading lots of excerpts from Women Who Run With the Wolves, which is likely another contributing factor to my latest obsession. I just finished the chapter on creativity and it was delightful. According to Clarissa Pinkola Estes, the author creativity is not an option. It is something we must do when our love for something is overflowing. It need not be a person (though broken-hearted songwriters do quite well when it is), but it can be an idea, image, or land. It can be a word. 

And thus, when are were so inspired, a sort of "wildness" consumes us. Dr. Estes says:

Women's eyes flash as they create, their words lilt, their faces flush with life, their very hair seems to shine al the more. They are excited by the idea, aroused by the possibilities, impassioned by the very thought, and at that point, like the great river, they are meant to flow outward and continuously on their own unparalleled creative path. That is the way women feel fulfilled.

Wooooooof. 

The leaves have been inspirational, and coming home from yoga (already feeling animalistic), and seeing the leftovers from the trees has made me obsessive. I'm bookmarking soup recipes up the wazoo. I'm standing over saucepans of mulled wine while listening to Fleet Foxes. I haven't had a pumpkin spice latte yet, but I plan on doing so when the moment is just right.  Until then, I'll make soups. 

The act of making soups inspires both a sense of creativity and femininity. I can't help but a feel a bit maternal as I nurture a soup, is that weird? I don't think so. A good soup recipe combines lots of textures and flavors. This one does the trick; it's got kale for a plant factor, parmesan for cream, pillowy soft northern beans, canned tomatoes for acid's sake, and some ground turkey for the heavy lifting. The real treat is the process. Standing over the pot 5pm on a Sunday eve is cozy and inspiring.  A little creative exercise, if you will. It's finding inspiration, gathering the tools, creating, watching, loving, relishing, and feeling very very wild. 

kale, sausage, and white bean soup

in a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat. chop and add the onion and cook until lightly browned and translucent, or about five minutes. Chop the carrots and add to pot. Cook for three minutes. Mince the garlic and add the the pot, and cook for one more minute. 

Add the white wine to deglaze and then add the sausage, stirring to break up the meat. Add the spices and salt and pepper to taste. Continue cooking until the turkey is just browned. 

Add the chicken broth and tomatoes (along with their juices). Bring to a boil and then allow the soup to simmer for ten minutes. Chop the kale into pieces. Add the kale and beans and cook for another 12 minutes, or until the kale is tender.

Taste and add spices accordingly. Serve with parmesan cheese, and crusty bread, if desired. 

 

 

 

olive oil

1 half onion 

3 cloves garlic

2 carrots

1/4 cup dry white wine

8 ounces turkey sausage

2 tablespoons italian seasoning (I used dried oregano, basil, and thyme)

2 teaspoons red pepper flakes

salt and pepper to taste

3 cups chicken broth

1 12-ounce canned diced tomatoes 

3 large bunches of kale

1 12-ounce can northern beans 

parmesan to garnish 

 

- stay cozy AND RUN WILD!!!!!!!!!!