Saturday, November 22, 2014

Of man buns and magical dances

Hi Friends,

I'm a list mode this week as I try to keep abreast of my responsibilities, which seem to be multiplying like rabbits, or stray cats, or ants. (Do ants reproduce a lot? Because I'm pretty sure they should win some sort of reproduction award here in southern California, as of late.) And so, in the spirit of list-making, I have another list for you today:

1. If Biola University's trends are any indication of general American trends, then man buns are in. This is a trend I can get behind, people. And so can my brother:

Don't mind me; this is my "I just rolled out of bed" look

Did I just text my brother saying, "I need a picture of your man bun for my blog, stat."?

Why yes, yes I did. There are some things I never dreamed I'd find myself texting. 

2. This week I discovered a flourishing, fragrant rosemary bush in my yard. The property I live on is so shaded that it's hard to grow much of anything, so this discovery was delightful. Garlic and rosemary-coated sweet potato medallions, here I come.

3. When I was home a few weeks ago, I showed my family this video of a young man with down syndrome, named Tim, who owns and operates a restaurant with the help of his family.

Tim loves going to work. In fact, he loves it so much, he does a dance-off in the parking lot each day before work. He calls it his "dance of magic."

After my family and I watched Tim's dance of magic approximately seven times, my sister and I looked at each other with the same idea.

"If we did this everyday for a month, it would change our brains. They'd be swimming in happy endorphins!"

Research indicates that the thoughts we think and things we do change our brains. Depressed thoughts beget depression, while grateful thoughts beget joy. Saying unkind things once makes it easier to do it again, while managing angry impulses once makes it more natural to manage them in the future.

It would seem, then, that the things we do with our bodies significantly shape our inner state. Dancing in the parking lot before work every day — acting the way we want to feel — could do a lot to chase away discouragement and fatigue.

I feel confident that creating my own, pre-work dance of magic is a marvelous idea. I'm just not sure I have the guts to dance my way through throngs of college students, by myself, everyday for a month. Which is why I showed this video to one of my classes last week and asked who would be willing to do this with me.

"When and where?" a few of them asked. And: "Can we do a dance of magic right now?" So, they're in. The last month of the semester just got a lot better.

4. This spiel has major brain-changing potential, too. If only we each did this every day:

Swaying and clapping whilst standing on the counter seem to be key to making this chant particularly effective. So clear your counters, folks...

5. I'm still in a state of wonder at things my body can do these days. There are so many daily benchmarks that highlight the restoration of my health. I'm particularly in awe of my ability to wash dishes daily. In the past, I had to ration out energy to do things like wash dishes, so they didn't get done very much. But now, I can wash them every day, no problemo, without having to clear my schedule so I can recover afterwards. It feels so empowering. Gosh, I hope I don't start taking these little things for granted.

 6. It's the weekend! We should go do a weekend dance of magic to celebrate. It'll do us some good. 

Here, I'll make it easy, and include some dance music for you. Ready, set, GO!

Hoping for a glorious Saturday for you all.


Saturday, November 15, 2014

Food, flowers and family: a weekend list

Today I have five random things to tell you:

1. This paleo "fudge" is my kryptonite.

Some days, I eat it for every meal. It goes especially well with berries in the early morning hours. It also goes well with whipped cream. And waffles. And tea. And coffee.

I ate this fudge for breakfast before I took the GRE last week, along with waffles and eggs, because it caffeinates me in all the right ways. It makes me focused and energized without giving me jitters. Tea and coffee cannot caffeinate me to perfection like this fudge can. Hey, just consider me a master caffeiniologist, Jack. In the same way an anesthesiologist creates an anesthesia plan for his patients, I create caffeine plans by calculating an exact ratio of caffeine to bodily mass and then prescribing the amount of caffeine necessary to conquer the day. It's a precise science that saves lives.

I'd like to take a moment to prescribe you three doses of this fudge. You can thank me later. Also, I accept payment in all forms, as long as those forms are some sort of chocolate.

I figured I should pack some fudge for my 10-minute break halfway through the GRE, so I did. When my 10-minute break arrived, I rushed out to my locker, reached for my fudge, and noticed it was no longer in recognizable little discs. Instead, it was an oozing, melted blob. So I reached my fingers in the container, swiped a glob of the delightful mess, and stuffed it in my mouth. I swiped and stuffed at a rapid speed, until the proctor came in, kindly overlooked the chocolate that was all over my hands, and called me back in to finish the test. I can't say for sure, but I imagine any favorable test results were at least in part due to this fudge's ample gift of caffeine.

2. Brussel sprouts are my other kryptonite. I have no self control when I'm around brussel sprouts. I eat them all —every single fairy-sized cabbage—until there are no more brussel sprouts to be found in my house.

This is probably because I tend to cook brussel sprouts with bacon.

I really know how to make vegetables go down easy here at Ristorante Jackson. You're welcome to eat with me anytime.

3. These roses have been my steady companions for three years.

When I first bought them, they were rainbow roses, each sporting ribbons of red, orange and yellow. They reminded me of the sticky wad of Starbursts I liked to moosh together and gnaw on when I was a kid. I couldn't look at my rainbow roses without salivating. But now, their rainbow colors have faded and they're mellow yellow. They still bring me loads of pleasure, though.

4. There's a tree beyond my deck that sprouts fairy bells every November.

Can you spot the bumble bee looking for the best entrance to this nectar cup?

I imagine that, in fairy land, when a breeze comes and shakes this tree, it sounds like a tinkling symphony of wind chimes.

5. This week I've missed the chilly fall weather I enjoyed last weekend in Washington.

But you know what I haven't missed? My dad! He's in town visiting for awhile, so I've gotten to enjoy his company, all to myself.

Whenever he comes down we like to go to Laguna Beach where we soak up the sun and enjoy the beauty of Laguna's many turquoise coves. We often pack a picnic and munch till our hearts' content under the smiling sky.

This is my favorite picnic table in the whole, wide world.

It sure makes the week better when dad's in town!

I hope your weekend has been sprinkled with delights, my friends.


© by scj

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Random news and a trip home

Hello, my friends!

First, I'd like to tell you that I passed a woman taking her llama on a walk when I was on my evening run today. The llama was black, and poofy in all the right places. I'm almost positive it was on a bright pink leash. Naturally.

From a distance I thought it was a poodle — the kind of poodle you'd find at Paul Bunyan's side, if he were into poodles (I'm almost certain he wasn't). It appeared to be an unearthly large poodle. Thank goodness poodles aren't the size of llamas in real life. It would make itty bitty, cutsty wootsy cockapoos an impossibility.
Just try and imagine a world without itsy bitsy cockapoos!

The sights in L.A. never tire me, that's for sure.

I'd also like to tell you that today I took the GRE. This is happening, people. I'm really truly thinking about getting a PhD. There's still a lot to consider, I've not applied anywhere yet, and I'm in no rush to make a decision, but I sure am delighted to be able to consider the possibility. Dreaming about the future was a luxury I had to give up for several years, and now, the dreaming is just as thrilling as the actualizing of the dreams.

I felt a little nervous about taking the GRE. I've not been able to do much academic work over the years, and I've been especially unable to focus for long periods of time as a result of my sickness. So although I'm feeling like a million bucks these days, I wondered if my brain could focus for the duration of the 4-hour test. And you guys. I did it. Not only did I do it, but I focused with relative ease and had so much energy afterwards I had to go on a strenuous run to release it. Wild and weird and wonderful. 

And craziest of all: I had fun. Sitting there for hours surrounded by other aspiring doctoral students, thinking clearly, and enjoying mental stamina was such a foreign experience, I felt like a new woman. It's fun to feel new. Super duper ruper luper nuper muper cruper fun. There aren't enough "uper" words to capture the gratitude I felt today as I sat in that testing cubicle. I feel drenched in God's grace.

Aaand finally, I have some snapshots from my surprise trip to Portland last weekend.

My little brother Marc was born on my little sister Rebecca's birthday 24 years ago, so November always contains a double birthday celebration for our family.

We forgot to put candles in the pie, so two lone candles did the trick

I cannot believe my littlest sibling is 24.

And my sister!

 How is it possible that she's catching up to me in age?

My mom made her world famous banana cream pie for the birthday dessert.

Just the sight of that pie brings back sweet childhood memories. Just the sight of this picture makes me salivate.

I love that my family enjoys sitting around and talking when we're together.

A friend FaceTimed in to join our conversation for a bit

Sometimes we'll sit and talk for hours. Or, as was the case this weekend, sometimes we'll sit around and toot party blowers for hours.

Marc's girlfriend, Jaime, flew in to join us for the weekend. It was lovely to have her.

When we're not sitting around talking, we're probably outside exercising together. And since God decided to gift us with some rare November sun, we spent a lot of time in the great outdoors this weekend.

Some of the leaves we found were MASSIVE!

One of the glories of Washington is there's a mountain on every horizon. This is Mt. Hood

I hadn't been to the northwest in November in so long, I'd forgotten how vibrant the colors are in November. I was expecting naked winter branches, but instead found horizons still dappled with warm reds, oranges and yellows.

Winter is a-comin' soon, though:

These are the leaves of my childhood. I loved collecting them and using them for crafts as a kid

A trip home isn't complete without spending time with my sister from another mister, Anne.

Anne and her sister, Elizabeth are our dear, loyal heart-friends. We grew up living in the same cul-de-sac and attending the same church. We even home schooled together. I love them and am glad Annie still lives in the area so I can see her when I'm home.

Elizabeth, we missed you last weekend.

Annie and her lovely sister, Elizabeth

And Aaron and Natasha (brother and sister-in-law) we missed you, too!

What a handsome couple!

Oh man. What a crew I have in the Pacific Northwest. And what a week it's been. And now, it's time for a good night's sleep.

G'night, friendlies.

Sweet dreamin'!


© by scj

Saturday, November 8, 2014

A grand surprise

Yesterday started with a dazzling, wingdinger of a show.

When I crawled out of bed at 5:45, I looked out my back door and saw a full-bellied moon hanging over Tinseltown. Delighted, I threw on a sweater and some slippers and ran outside to capture some photos. As I snapped, the sun rose behind me, casting honeyed rays across the hills:

And glory of glories, the skyscrapers in downtown Los Angeles caught the morning light and lit up like a jack o-lantern:

After a few seconds the city's jack o-lantern light extinguished and the sun began to rise high in the sky. It was my cue to run back inside and finish packing my suitcase, which is approximately the size of a pregnant seal.

I haven't yet mastered the art of packing light for a weekend trip.

My sister and brother's birthday was yesterday, so I decided to take a quick, surprise trip to Portland so I could join in the birthday festivities. My little brother was the only one who knew I was coming, and he made sure we pulled off the surprise without hiccups.

En route from the Portland airport yesterday

Home again, home again, jiggity jig!

I wish I had pictures of my family's faces when I walked into the house yesterday. They were gaping and disoriented and priceless. I tried to make a video, but it turns out video-taping while trying to pull of a big ol' surprise is not one of my special gifts. 

I'm having a grand old time documenting the festivities though, so I'll be sure to post more photos later. Stay tuned for glimpses of a real, live AUTUMN! Oh Pacific Northwest, I sure do love you.

I hope your weekend has been a full-bellied moon kind of weekend, too, my friends!

Talk to ya later,


© by scj

Monday, November 3, 2014

A nature walk

It's finally beanie-wearing weather down here.

In the above photo it's a nippy 62 degrees outside, requiring that I don three layers, one of which is a down vest. Because: WIMPY.

Sixty-two degrees is short-wearing weather in the Pacific Northwest, where I'm from. But here it's curl-up-by-the-fire-and-drink-hot-chocolate weather. It's dipped into the low fifties in the evenings here lately, so we've had ample opportunity to sip hot chocolate. (Click here for a yummy hot chocolate recipe for all you dairy and refined sugar-free folks).

These brisk, sunny afternoons have a way of coaxing me out of the house, away from my piles of grading and into the glorious countryside. Incidentally, laundry, toilet-scrubbing, and car-waxing also have a way of coaxing me away from my piles of grading. It doesn't take much, folks.

Los Angeles, bathed in afternoon light

I had to live here three years before I could detect the change in seasons, but now I'm an old pro at sniffing out a southern California autumn. And this weekend, I smelled her, so I went on a nature walk to look for signs of her presence. They're subtle, but they're there.

The quickly sinking sun was the first clue that Fall is here:

The sun is much more inclined to hit the hay early when Fall is in town. Heck, I am, too. It's 9:41 PM but my body could swear it's after midnight. Am I a wimp, or am I a wimp? Isn't the fall time change supposed to be a glorious, sleep-allowing affair? Why do I feel like a truck hit me? Thank goodness for this invigorating chill in the air! ;)

I spy some fall colors at the end of this trail!

Can you spot the burnt orange?

There's more of it!

And a splash of red! It looks like the bugs had an autumn feast recently, and poor little Red was the main course:

Well this looks like a cozy fall home for furry critters:

If I were a hedgehog I'd be sure to curl up in here for a long autumn's nap.

The views in these hills are breath-taking in all seasons. It's hard to see, but downtown Los Angeles is on the horizon in this photo.

Here, I'll zoom in so you can see:

There she is, wrapped in a thick ribbon of gray smog. 

Did you notice the trees in the upper right hand corner of the second to last photo? These are some of my favorite trees in southern California. They lose their bark to display smooth, naked trunks. I love to run my fingers up and down their smooth skin. 

A nature walk wouldn't be complete without a photo of the fall sunset:

Our autumn sunsets are always spectacular:

Holy. Smokes.

I hope you dream sweet, autumnal sunset dreams tonight, my friends.



© by scj