Wednesday, December 31, 2014

My Favorite Nature Photos of 2014

This year, I had a number of awe-inspiring encounters with wild creatures during my photo walks and hikes.  Here are my top 10 nature captures of 2014:

Monday, September 22, 2014

365 Days Project

In mid-August, I started a new creative project with the goal of taking at least one photo a day and posting it on instagram and flickr.  I wanted to try using my phone camera more frequently and in a more creative way to document the beautiful bits and pieces of daily life.  I have successfully documented the first 30 days of my challenge, from August 23 - September 21, 2014.  While some days I nearly forgot to snap an image and ended up with a photo of either our dinner or one of the pets, overall I'm happy with this month's results and am looking forward to continuing through the next month.  You can view the whole album on flickr here, but these are my shots from the first 30 days!

Project 365 Days 1-30

Monday, September 1, 2014

Uh Oh!

Hello blog readers.  Something has gone wrong with all the photos on my blog.  I made it private for a few days as I was tweaking the settings and when I made it public again all of the photos were gone!  I've yet to decide how I'm going to handle this, but my apologies in the meantime as it appears that years worth of work has been erased.  Bear with me as I figure out how to move forward.

ETA: So, I figured out what happened.  Apparently all pictures that are uploaded to blogger are stored in Picasa web albums.  As part of cleaning up my online photos I accidentally went overboard and deleted crucial Picasa albums, not realizing they hosted my blog photos.  So I'm slowly replacing the more current and popular blog photos from my archive, but unfortunately some of the originals were not stored on my hard drive and I may not have them backed up.  Lesson learned, and a head's up for all you other bloggers out there... Picasa=blogger!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Project 333: Year 2 / Phase 3

Courtney Carver's challenge to join the Project 333 Capsule Wardrobe Blog Tour has inspired me to finally write an updated post about living with only 33 items in my wardrobe.  This post has been in my thoughts for a while but I have lacked the motivation to write it out.  There have been many changes in my personal life over the past few months, and my clothing and wardrobe choices have mirrored the chaos around me.  Since June I have been living with roughly 33 things, but I hadn't really been keeping track of my clothing and jewelry and I hadn't yet "officially" made the switch from phase 2 to phase 3 of the project.  Today I finally sat down, sorted through my stuff, and refined things down to 33 items.

I have been practicing a modified version of Project 333 since February of 2013, and I have blogged about my journey during each phase.  Every season has brought new insights and challenges.  My lifestyle has changed, my body has changed, and my relationship to clothing has changed over the past 18 months.  I have let the project be fluid, changing the rules to meet the evolving needs of real life.  Today, as I prepared my 33 items to last until the end of September, I struggled with the following dilemmas:
  • I am currently between jobs.  For the past decade I have been a public high school teacher, but I recently decided to make a radical life change and search for a new career.  I have no idea what my new job will be or what wardrobe it will require.  Until the right job comes along, I am working as a substitute teacher, so I chose my clothing accordingly.  When I do find the right job, I may have to switch up my wardrobe.
  • I rarely buy new clothes anymore, but I did go to a clothing swap for the first time last month.  It was awesome, and I found some great "new to me" clothes, but it resulted in me having more than 33 things in my closet.  I decided to put a good number of things away for the next phase, to be rediscovered when I open my clothing storage box in September.
  • I am probably going to return to working at at least one job site where the average temperature can be 20-30 degrees hotter than where I live.  I chose clothing that can be easily layered and included lots of dresses (which I can add some leggings to if I'm cold at home) and cardigans (for the early morning chill before I get to work).
These are just a few of the factors that go into developing a functional capsule wardrobe.  Since I have been living this way for a while, I'm not concerned about making the project work for me.  I have blogged about the benefits of the project before, but I think that there are some key factors that can help to promote the spirit of the project, which is to have fun and be free of a burdensome relationship to too much stuff, including clothing.  Here are some things I have learned that help to make the project a success in my life:
  • Be flexible!  If something doesn't work, swap it out for something that does.  If an item wears out, replace it.  If you change jobs, or move, or have another major life event don't be afraid to reevaluate your closet along with everything else that is bound to be changing in your life during a time of transition.  
  • Be surprised!  If you are afraid of releasing seasonal clothing that you won't include in this year's wardrobe, and you have the space, just tuck it away until next time.  You might find, as I did, that you don't need to buy new clothing when you open your storage bin next spring, or fall, and delightedly find several items that you literally forgot you owned.
  • Be creative!  Having only 33 items means that you wear EVERYTHING.  You won't get stuck in a rut, but you will find out what works for you, your body type, and your personal style.  If you find yourself avoiding that same sweater or pair of pants each time you get dressed, that piece of clothing is not your friend and should probably be passed on to a better home.
  • Change the rules!  I have made modifications to the project that make it work for me.  For example, I no longer count my sunglasses or purse in my 33 items.  I don't count layering pieces such as leggings, tights, or tank tops.  I don't include outerwear like sun hats or rain gear in the total, either.  And I have about 6-8 pieces of decent "loungewear" (yoga pants, tank dresses, older T-shirts) that I can throw on to run to the store or wear around the house during the weekend or after work.  You can even modify the dates of each phase to meet your needs: when I was teaching full time I changed my clothes more with the changing school year than with the quarterly seasonal change.
Doing Project 333 has been a cornerstone in the continuing process of transformation for me as I release clutter from all corners of my existence and move toward a simpler life.  Realizing that I am happier with less clothing has led me to understand that I can be happier with less in other areas as well: fewer items in my home, fewer commitments and obligations, a better work life balance, a simpler diet... the list goes on. Living with less allows me to focus on the things that are important to me, without the stress of extra distraction and mental and physical clutter.

Thank you Courtney for inviting all of us to join you on this journey!  

Now, on to the details for this phase of the project.  Here is my list and photos for Year 2, Phase 3 (July 1 - September 30, 2014).  I have used the same coding system for the list below.  Items in bold on the list are ones that I kept in my wardrobe from the previous phase (April-June). An asterisk (*) indicates items that were purchased or that I plan to purchase during this phase, as opposed to taken from my off-season storage box. Most of the new stuff this time came from the clothing swap I attended last monthEnjoy!

1silver hoops
2blue dangle earrings
3turquoise and coral earrings
4coral beaded earrings
5silver bracelet (*gift from mom)
6abalone necklace
7leopard print scarf
8flower scarf
9light blue scarf (*swap)
10white ss tee
11grey ss tee
12black tank
13blue jeans (*swap)
14black dockers pants (*new)
15long black skirt
16denim skirt
17tan skirt (*swap)
18red sailboat skirt
19black dress
20pink dress
21brown and white dress
22denim dress
23blue and white dress
24blue long tank dress
25tan loose knit shrug
26black tie front shrug
27denim crop jacket
28coral crop sweater
29blue long loose cardigan
30tan cardigan
31black cardigan
32cork mary janes
33blue converse

Sunday, July 27, 2014

July Adventures

As July comes to a close, I thought I'd share photos from a couple of fun events this month.

First, Jason and I celebrated the actual date of our 10 year anniversary (July 3) with our traditional picnic at the site of our wedding, Quail Hollow Ranch.  We hiked the vista point trail, had an amazing picnic, and took what I think is probably one of our best anniversary photos ever!  We certainly have come a long way in terms of health and fitness, especially in the last few years!

Then, last week, I got the unexpected opportunity to go to LA for a couple of days with my friend Christy.  We stayed in a hotel downtown, and managed to get over to 3rd Street to visit my brother Kyle at The Proper Barbershop where he works.  He took us on a mini tour of the area, including the LA Farmer's Market and The Grove, both of which are scenic retail districts where you're likely to spot a movie being filmed or sight a celebrity while shopping.

Also this month, I started a new job working the front desk at a local fitness club, to compliment my Zumba teaching and create an opportunity for growth as a group exercise instructor.  I got to see my nephews again this week as they visited with my brother George who is racing at Laguna Seca this weekend.  Summer, as usual, continues to fly by and I hope to continue taking advantage of the long beautiful days as we round the corner into August.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Vacation Recap Day 4: Balboa Park & Seaport Village

Last month, my husband and I took a long-awaited vacation to celebrate our 10-year wedding anniversary. I've slowly been recapping the trip and you can read about our time at Disneyland Resort and Ocean Beach.

On the last full day of our trip, we enjoyed the last hours at the Inn at Sunset Cliffs with coffee and yoga on the lower terrace.  It was amazing to do sun salutations right at the water's edge.  You can see Ocean Beach Pier on the horizon, about a mile away.

After a lovely morning, we packed up the car and headed back to People's Organic Food Market, where we got pre-made salads, crackers and hummus, and cookies for a picnic in Balboa Park.  I have to say that this health food store, which is actually a neighborhood coop, was one of the highlights of the trip!  As I've mentioned, Jason and I are gluten-free and (while Jason eats meat occasionally) I'm vegan, and we are both foodies who love to eat.  This store was loaded with inexpensive, delicious offerings and we had no trouble finding a wide selection of treats for lunch.  

We said goodbye to OB and cruised a few miles east to Balboa Park, another site that we wanted to revisit from our honeymoon.  The main reason we wanted to visit, however, was to see the Real Pirates exhibit at the San Diego Natural History Museum.  In 1984, a sunken pirate ship, the Whydah, was discovered off the coast of Cape Cod.  This exhibit is a collection of artifacts from this shipwreck, recovered over the last 20 years.  It was AMAZING and I highly recommend it if you are in the area.  The highlight for us was seeing the pirate's actual treasure, which included pieces of gold and silver dating from the ship's passage in 1717. Also included in the tour are clothing, tools, and weapons used by the pirates and parts of the ship such as the bell, rigging and cannons.  There is also a room that explains how the artifacts were discovered, recovered, and restored for display.  No photos were allowed, unfortunately, or else I would have taken tons!

There were a few other exhibits at the museum while we were there, but the other one that I completely loved was SKULLS, which displayed a selection of 200 of the museum's most unusual animal skulls from its vast archive.  There were skulls from the tiniest mouse all the way up to an elephant.  My favorites were the bighorn sheep (of course, I'm an Aries!), the flamingo and the anteater.  The dolphin was also interesting because it was surprising how large the brain cavity is in comparison to the rest of the animal's skull.

After our tour we found a nice shady spot under a tree for our picnic.  There's not a bad spot in that park for picnicking... it's full of gorgeous old trees and lush, perfectly manicured lawns.  We enjoyed our food and people watching for about an hour.  The final place we wanted to visit was the Botanical Building, but we discovered that it was closed on Thursdays.  Oh well!  Since it was close to check-in time we decided to head downtown where we would spend out last night at the Embassy Suites on the Embarcadero.

Since we stayed at this same hotel on our honeymoon, we wanted to visit it again 10 years later.  Last time we were here, however, we didn't have a car with us and instead relied on public transportation.  This time, arriving at the hotel was probably the biggest logistical difficulty we had during the whole trip.  I had been pretty calm and going with the flow, but I was not expecting to have to valet park the car when we arrived! We were not prepared, and I had a mini freak-out about having to get everything out of the car on the spur of the moment, and about the $40 nightly valet parking fee. We are total "country mice" when it comes to how things are done in the city!  We had two coolers of food, bedding, yoga mats, unwieldy baggage, you name it that we were expecting to be able to carry in ourselves.  So we decided to prioritize, and left the coolers since we would be getting the car to go out again later that evening.  We grabbed what we could carry, checked in, and headed up to the room.  I was still upset about the parking cost but quickly relaxed since the view from our room was spectacular.

We had plans that evening to meet my brother George and his youngest son Alex, as well as George's fiancee Danielle and her daughter Lauren for mini golf in Belmont Park.  We had time to kill before meeting up, so we grabbed some coffee and walked around Seaport Village, which is right across from the Embassy Suites.  Jason picked out a new hat from the Village Hat Shop, a store we remembered from our honeymoon trip.

Later that evening we met my brother for a round of mini-golf in Mission Bay.  It was great to see my nephew Alex (and shout out to his older brother, Ryan, for house-sitting for us while we were on the trip! You did a great job!). After saying goodbye to the family we stopped by the Whole Foods in Hillcrest for dinner and then headed back to the hotel, where we enjoyed the city lights before turning in for the last night of the trip.

Overall, this vacation was more than we ever expected.  We have changed so much in the decade that we have been married.  We have weathered the ups and downs of marriage and of life in general, and we are all the stronger for it.  We are healthier and happier than ever before, and throughout the trip we kept reflecting on how much calmer, more centered, more present in the moment and more joyful we are now than our younger selves were a decade ago.  We both hope that it won't be another 10 years before we are able to go on vacation again, but I know that the memories from this trip are as spectacular as, and perhaps even better than, our honeymoon adventure.

Here's to many more years and memories, and may our love continue to deepen and grow as we continue this crazy journey together!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Vacation Recap Day 3: Sunset Cliffs and Ocean Beach

After an amazing two days at California Adventure and Disneyland, we headed south toward San Diego and the cute, funky town of Ocean Beach.  We spent out honeymoon 10 years ago in San Diego, and OB was one of the memorable places we visited: one afternoon we rode the bus from downtown to OB on the spur of the moment to get tattooed!  Oh, how times have changed.

We were able to arrange for an early check in so we arrived at our hotel around noon.  We opted for a boutique hotel with a kitchen so that we could do some additional food prep and restock our stash of gluten-free vegan eats.  We stayed at the Inn at Sunset Cliffs, which proved to be even better in person than in the pictures!  The gardens, pool and terraces were amazing.  It is one of the few hotels in the area that is actually "waterfront" meaning that waves wash right up onto the lower terrace.  I imagine that they probably have to close part of the deck off in the winter months.  Our room was just as nice, with a fully-stocked kitchen, sitting room, bedroom and elegant bathroom with a large shower.

The first thing we did was get in the pool, spend some time soaking in the sun and the gorgeous view, and relax after spending 16 hours at Disneyland!  Jason, of course, got in a few rounds of poolside golf.

After relaxing for a while, we walked about a mile to downtown OB where the weekly Farmer's Market was in full swing. We paid a visit to A.C.E. Tattoo, where we got inked a decade ago, and picked up some tasty gluten free vegan desserts that were really a highlight of the trip.  I wish I has written down the name of the bakery that made them because we would have totally ventured there to get more before heading back to Santa Cruz but, alas, it was just a lucky find that will have to live on in our dreams of delicious desserts.

We also walked to People's Organic Food Market, which we had tagged on the map as a destination for getting groceries for the second part of our trip.  We decided to get stuff for dinner and then come back the next day for any other supplies.  We got fixings for tacos and headed back to the hotel, where we made dinner in our room and ate al fresco on the terrace overlooking the sunset.

Check out day 4: downtown San Diego and Balboa Park

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Vacation Recap Day 2: Disneyland!

After spending Monday driving to Anaheim and exploring California Adventure, we were ready to spend all of Tuesday in Disneyland!

We started out from the hotel in search of a Starbucks that, according to my phone navigation, was in Downtown Disney.  We really had no idea where that was, however, so after walking about a quarter mile out of the way we decided to follow the couples with strollers and would our way between the Disney hotels to what is basically a shopping center adjacent to the park entrance.  Sure enough, there was Starbucks but by this time in the morning, about 8:30 am, the line for coffee was as long as a ride, reaching nearly out the door.  As much as we were craving caffeine we decided to forgo a 20 minute wait and continued on toward the park.  Right before we left Downtown Disney, however, we saw a little bakery that had no line so Jason decided to try to get coffee there.  No waiting, and they were serving Starbucks brand anyway!  Don't get me wrong, Starbucks is OK but definitely not our favorite, it's just reliable while travelling.  They didn't have any kind of non-dairy milk or creamer so we had it black but we took this as a good sign that things would work out well that day.  I'm sure all you coffee drinkers out there understand how significant successful procurement of "black water" can be!

It was on to the park were our good luck continued.  As soon as we entered and took the obligatory photo right inside the front gate we headed to Adventureland.  Right away someone handed us a fast pass to go on Indiana Jones so we were able to walk into the fast pass entrance and only waited about 10 minutes to get on the ride.  We barely had time to finish our coffee!  Since it was built, this has been one of my favorite rides and I was stoked that Jason would get to experience it as his first Disney ride.  I could tell that  he was overwhelmed by everything, and I tried to imagine seeing it all for the first time.

Even though I hadn't been to the park for nearly 20 years, I went several times a year as a child and in my teens and early twenties.  Living in Southern California, Disneyland is much more accessible.  I even went there for grad night, leaving on a bus directly from my high school graduation.  Jason, who grew up in Santa Cruz, found this hard to believe! It was so fun to see everything that I remembered and had experienced so many times as brand new through his eyes.   He was only four the one and only time he had ever been, over 40 years ago.  There were a few changes, updates, and new rides but for the most part it was familiar and nostalgic for me.  It sounds cliché, but the day was really as magical and exciting as when I was a child.

I think one of the reasons that Disneyland is so fun to visit as adults without kids is that the park enables you to suspend the demands of real life for the hours that you spend there.  Everything is clean, the workers act happy, and the attention to detail ensures that you can get lost in an imaginary world.  It lets you play, be childlike, and forget the responsibilities of adulthood for a while.

We took full advantage of the opportunity, hitting all the major rides.  Two of my favorites were closed for renovation: Alice in Wonderland and Space Mountain, but we still had a full day.  We caught on to the fast pass system pretty quickly and used it to shorten the wait time for some of the big-ticket rides. Before lunch, in addition to Indiana Jones, we hit Pirates of the Caribbean, the Jungle Cruise, and Splash Mountain.  We left at about noon and walked back to the room to rest and eat lunch from the stash of food we brought on the trip. We returned  at about 2 pm and went on Thunder Mountain, the Haunted Manson, the Tiki Room, and Autopia.  We has a pretty silly experience seeing Thor, which we thought was a stage show of some sort but turned out to be a "meet and greet" with Thor himself.  We waited way too long in line for this privilege, but it was hysterical when the doors opened and there he stood, waiting to take pictures with the crowd.

We took another break around 6 and returned around 9 for a final session.  We got back just as the fireworks were starting and Fantasyland was closed, so we went on Pirates and Thunder Mountain again. We waited at the entrance to Sleeping Beauty's Castle until they re-opened the "kiddy rides", and then rushed to get on Peter Pan which is surprisingly popular and apparently always has a pretty long line.  We also got on Sleeping Beauty and It's a Small World. By this time it was nearing midnight.  We had gotten a tip from a regular the the Tiki Room that the best way to get on the Matterhorn, which doesn't have a fast pass option, is to get in line right before the park closes so we ran over to the snow-covered icon and got in line at 11:55. We were nearly the last ones in line as they closed it a few people behind us.  So we brought the day to a close with a visit to the Abominable Snowman!

As Jason said, we killed it!  We had a blast and are pretty much addicted.  We can't wait to go back.  I want to take Jason there during the holidays when it gets dark earlier and the park is full of lights and holiday decorations.  I was kind of skeptical that it would be as much fun to go as an adult as it was when I was a kid, but I was wrong.  It was better because we could do whatever we wanted and we got to do it together, which was the best way to celebrate 10 years of partnership and marriage.  Here's to the "Happiest Place on Earth!"

Next: Day 3 - Sunset Cliffs and Ocean Beach

Friday, July 4, 2014

Vacation Recap Day 1: Hitting the Road and California Adventure

At the end of June, Jason and I went on a long-awaited one week vacation to celebrate our 10-year wedding anniversary.  Since our honeymoon, we hadn't been away from home without our dog, Tiki, for more than a single weekend (in 2008) so we were both excited to venture out without the responsibility and limitations of travelling with a pet.

The trip started on a Monday when we packed the car with our clothes and travelling supplies as well as two coolers of food and drinks.  Since we're both gluten-free and I'm vegan (Jason only eats meat occasionally) we decided to pack most of our food and drink and carry it with us on the trip.  I made huge batches of pasta salad and potato salad, and we packed chips and salsa, hummus, veggies, salad and dressing, almond butter and jelly, GF tortillas, fake "chicken", coffee, and soy milk and creamer.  I also made a bunch of energy bars using my favorite recipe, and Jason make a dozen GF chocolate-chip banana muffins and a loaf of bread. While it was kind of a pain to lug the coolers in and out of the hotels, it would have been even harder to find suitable places to eat while travelling.  We knew that the Disney parks and surrounding area would be especially challenging, and I'm so glad that we made the effort to plan and make meals in advance because it took a lot of the stress out of finding food on the road.  It also helped us save a significant amount of money, since we didn't buy any additional food for the first two days of the trip except for water and coffee.

We left at about 9 am and headed for Orange County, destination California Adventure!  We had reservations for two nights at the Candy Cane Inn, which had good reviews and is close to the parks.  So close, actually, that we were able to walk to the park entrance in about 10 minutes, and you could actually see the back of California Adventure from the hotel parking lot!  Our room was small but all we needed for sleeping and eating between park adventures.  There was a king bed and a mini-fridge but no microwave.  The hotel also has a pool and hot tub but they were both full of kids and families each time we walked past on our way to and from the Disney parks.  There is a shuttle to take visitors to the park entrance every 30 minutes, but we preferred to walk since it was only about a half mile away.

After unloading the car and having a snack, we walked to the park entrance and arrived about 4pm where we met my brother Kyle and his fiancee Sara who have season passes to both parks.  I had never been to California Adventure, since it wasn't even built the last time I was at Disneyland, and Jason hadn't been since he was 4 years old (over 40 years ago!) so it was great to have tour guides with us who knew how to navigate.  I'm so glad Kyle and Sara were with us, not only because I don't get to see them very often, but because it let us chill out and get into vacation mode.  We didn't have to look at any maps or make any decisions, which was quite relaxing!

Right away they took us to Grizzly River Run to cool off, which was great because it was definitely warmer in Anaheim than we are used to in Santa Cruz, where summer is often colder than spring or early fall.  In fact I packed not one but three sweaters and a sweatshirt, which I didn't even take out of the suitcase!  Our tour guides took us around California Adventure and we covered all of the major rides.  There are a lot of fun roller coasters in this park.  My favorites were California Screamin' (a roller coaster with an upside down loop) and the Tower of Terror, which I thought would be a "drop zone" kind of straight up and down thing, but it was way more surprising and fun.  But the best part of the day was spending time with my brother and Sara and seeing how they got a kick out of taking us on their favorite rides for the first time.

The park stays open until 10 pm, but after driving all day and the excitement of seeing Kyle and Sara and all the crazy thrill rides we were pretty tired, so we said goodbye around 8:30 pm and headed back to the hotel.  The next time we see those two will be at their wedding in September!  I can't wait, they are an awesome couple and really bring out the best in each other.  It is wonderful to see them both so happy.  We got back to the hotel, ate dinner form our huge stash of food, watched some TV and called it a night.  It was a great kickoff to a wonderful vacation week!

Next... Day 2: Disneyland!!!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Inspiration Points

This week I have been reading The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown.  In it, she talks about how difficult it is to be true to ourselves, to be authentic, and to avoid feeling shame for not living up to our own unrealistic, perfectionist expectations.  This book has come at the perfect time for me, and I highly recommend it to anyone who is struggling with a disconnect between the life they are living and the live they want to live.  Brown defines this challenge as being part of the human desire to belong and to be loved, which are essential for happiness.  Tue belonging is scary, however, because we need to be our true selves and be accepted for who we really are to feel that we are loved and that we belong.  Instead of seeking this connection, most of us (myself included) seek acceptance instead, and mold and shape our thoughts, feelings, and actions to meet the expectations of others in order to fit in and to avoid the risk of judgement or feeling different or like an outsider.  This week I'm thinking about the importance of recognizing and becoming my true self.  The hardest part of this journey, for me, is the realization that I haven't been true to myself for a long time.  It has been hard for me to realize that, just because I am good at something and receive praise and accolade for it, doesn't mean it is truly, authentically what I really want to do.  It is painful to recognize that I have been denying myself the privilege of making my own dreams come true because I didn't (and still don't completely) believe in my own worthiness to experience happiness, fulfillment and joy.  But the first step to changing this mindset is recognizing where I am and beginning to explore where I want to be.  As Brown says, living a "wholehearted life" is a journey, not a destination, and part of that journey is having compassion for ourselves and letting go of the toxic desire for perfection.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Nothing to Fear

Fear.  It's something we all feel from time to time, some of us more than others.  Courage.  Courage is what it takes to overcome the crippling grip of fear.  Courage to move forward and reach for our dreams and goals, no matter how impossible they may seem.  To overcome fear we mush push away those internal thoughts and voices that tell us we aren't good enough, that our ideas are foolish, that people won't understand or accept us for who we are and what we want to do.

For most of my life, I have made decisions based on what I was "supposed" to do, or what was "expected" of me.  I have always wanted to be the best, to be seen as good, to be well-liked.  I have gone overboard to achieve in school and at work to maintain this status of excellence.  While this has brought me success in many ways, it has also kept me in the grip of fear.  What if I fail?  What if I do something that others don't like or approve of?  What if my best isn't good enough?  Keeping up with my own expectations of perfection is exhausting and, in the end, impossible.  We all fail sometimes, we all make mistakes, and we all have to learn to pick ourselves up and move on regardless of what the rest of the world thinks or does about it.

I have reached a point of my life when I'm tired of living in fear, and tired of pushing aside my aspirations to do things that seem foolish or impractical.  I want to make decisions that free me from fear instead of continuing to lock me inside a cage of "what if???".  I have always wanted to be a published author but there has always been a voice inside me telling me that is something other people do, that I don't have the time, the resources, the ability... the list goes on.  But I've never lost the desire to reach this goal.  I have to learn to listen to my heart, and to begin to take steps toward doing what I really want to do if I am ultimately going to achieve happiness and fulfillment in life.

There are many pathways to success, but many of them lead to destinations in which success is defined by other people's expectations rather than by the fulfillment of our own hopes, dreams, and desires.  No one is going to give me permission to step off my current path, or tell me it's the right thing to do, or give me a gold star for reaching the end of my journey.  I have to listen to the whisper of my intuition, to my heart, and to my spirit and to believe that I am worthy of having my greatest wishes come true.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Weekend Update

What’s new in the Stasi household this past week? Here’s a bit about our vegetable garden, and an update on my running and other fitness goals.

The Garden: Jason worked really hard this year to get the garden growing. He did all of this himself, from turning the soil to selecting the plants. He has more of a green thumb than I do… I tend to get uptight and “type-A” about everything, and gardening is as much about trial and error and going by instinct as it is about doing it “right”. We already have a ton of lettuce ready to eat, and the strawberries are starting to appear as well. The chard did not do so well, hard to say exactly why, maybe too hot? We also have tomatoes, onions, potatoes, squash, and pole beans. We might get some artichokes this season, since we planted last year. Artichokes act as perennials in our past of California, and sometimes you and get a summer and fall crop from them once they are well established.

My contribution to the edible garden is an array of herbs that I keep right outside the kitchen door. Right now I have two kinds of mint, three kinds of oregano, sage, basil, tarragon, thyme, chives, and parsley. I’m hoping to have the oregano and sage fill in around the fish pond for lush, edible landscaping.

The Run: Today is day 10 of my running streak! I am amazed at the benefits I’m already seeing from a daily run. I ran between 1.2 and 4 miles each day (mostly shorter distances before work). Knowing that I only need to run for 15 minutes each day makes getting out there much easier. I saw a significant improvement in my performance after just one week: I shaved nearly 6 minutes off the same 4 mile run I did last Friday, and felt way less fatigued afterward. I am also seeing a little bit more conversion of body fat to muscle.

The Rest of It: I've continued to commute by bike to work and to the gym each day last week. I skipped Friday because it was raining pretty hard, but other than that I stuck to my routine. Just to give an idea of what an average week’s workouts look like for me these days, here’s my workout stats from Sunday-Saturday of last week:
Bike: 43.5 mi
Pilates: 2 hours
Run: 12.1 mi
Yoga: 2 hours and 10 minutes (10 minutes each session, 2 times per day)
Zumba: 1 hour (usually this is 2 hours per week, but there was no class on Easter)

Last week was pretty ideal in terms of sticking to my planned workouts.  Usually I don't make it to two Pilates classes a week and Jason and I often slack off on daily yoga.  I think maybe the regular running has encouraged me to stick to other planned activities, as well.

I also blogged two times last week, which is a move in the right direction.  As always, thanks for reading and I hope to have a new interesting post again soon.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Inspiration Points

I always enjoyed posted my mid-week inspiration, an am hoping to get back in the habit.  This week, as the school year hurtles toward the end of a good run, I'm feeling the pains of procrastination.  I often wait until something is "just right" to take action or complete a task, when in fact more often than not "good enough" is more than sufficient.  Take action!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Week in Review

As promised in my last entry, I'm trying to write and post more regularly again.  I still haven't decided on a format or on any regular projects that I want to showcase here, so I thought I'd just do a brief recap of what's new this week.
  • Last weekend, I joined Instagram! I held off on this online photo party for a long time because my old phone did not support the app.  Now, both my phone and tablet have a camera and can host the app, so I'm in business. I'm still figuring out how I want to integrate this new social network tool with my blog, Facebook page, and flickr account so you might see some duplicate posts for a while until I streamline how and where I put stuff on the interwebs.  I'm leaning toward just using Instagram for photos and letting it post to Facebook, but sometimes the square format is kind of limiting.  I do love me some filters, though!
  • I did not run a half-marathon last Sunday!  That's right, Sara Stasi, the ultimate perfectionist, did not do something she committed to doing.  Yes, it wrecked me to back out.  Yes, I was guilty all day and when one of my students showed up at school with a gorgeous volunteer tee I was wracked with jealousy.  But I didn't train for the race and to be honest I've had a hard time running at all lately.  Between biking to work, doing Pilates twice a week, committing to a daily yoga practice, and teaching and taking Zumba classes, I have a serious fitness regime on top of my "real" job.
  • That being said, I am determined to run the Capitola Half which is one month away.  I have run exactly one time per week for the past three weeks, and before that hadn't run since January.  That's a great training plan, don't you think?  Seriously, I have struggled to overcome running inertia and in order to help motivate myself, I have decided to commit to a daily running streak.  A running streak is when you commit to running a certain minimal time or distance each day for a set amount of time or ad infinitum.  I'm going to start with 37 days, to commemorate my recent 37th birthday. Today is the second day, go me!!!  That might not seem like much, but I already feel more excited to get out there every day and this goal did get my butt out of bed at 6 on a Saturday to hit the road (for a quick 1.2 miles). There are many benefits to establishing a daily habit, and I hope to rekindle my passion for running my shaking up my attitude and approach to the sport.
  • I've biked to work every day for nine days straight!  I'm putting my cruiser to the limit, riding nearly 45 miles per week, and am considering getting a second bike that is more commuter-friendly since I don't see myself riding any less in the future.  There are some things I really love about my cruiser though: it lets me sit upright, I can ride it in a skirt or dress, it's heavy and stable, it has fenders and a basket, and has three simple gears.  But those things that make it fun and easy to ride are also kind of a drag at times when commuting, and I would maybe like a lighter frame and a few more gears to get me where I need to go.
Those are just a few things that have been happening in the Santa Cruz Stasi corner of the universe.  As always, thanks for reading!  Tomorrow is Easter, and regardless of your religious orientation toward the holiday I hope you experience it as a time of rebirth, renewal, and rejuvenation at some level in your life.  

Friday, April 11, 2014

Start Me Up

The popularity of Project 333 has brought many new readers to my blog. I want to get back into blogging again, and bring something exciting and inspiring to my new visitors, but I'm just not sure exactly where to begin.
It feels awkward to jump back in after such a long absence from regular posting. I took an extended break from blogging mostly because my laptop broke and I waited a long time to get a replacement. Then I got a replacement and it turned out to have a faulty fan so I had to send it back to the company for repair. I finally have a functioning laptop again but after being so long without a computer I pretty much stopped using it and have been relying on my phone and tablet to go online. In fact I'm dictating this blog post on my tablet using the talk to type feature! Pretty crazy! I'm also not taking as many pictures as I was which was a central feature of my blog in the past. Now I'm completely out of the habit of regular posting and am trying to find a good way to get started again.
I know that one of the keys to being a successful blogger is writing regularly, either online or just a paper journal, so I plan to make that my first step. In the past I've gotten great feedback from friends, family and other readers about even simple things that I put out there that are inspiring or helpful or interesting, which gives me confidence to get back in the saddle again and also helps me keep in mind that it doesn't have to be complicated or perfect to be worthy of posting. I do believe that something that seems insignificant to me could be very significant to one of my readers. It's the same idea behind smiling, being kind, and saying hello to people that you meet out in the world because you never know how a seemingly small gesture may positively impact someone else's day.
So whether you're a regular reader or visiting Santa Cruz Stasi for the first time, I hope to soon provide you with some more regular posts to enjoy!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Project 333: Year 2 / Phase 2

Recently, I saw that Project 333 was featured in O Magazine.  Pretty exciting!  So even though I haven't blogged in a while, I was inspired to post an update on my Project 333 journey.

I have continued to follow my own "rules" for the project the same way I described them in January, with a few personal customizations.  My dates for Phase 2, for example, are March 1 through June 12, which is the last day of school and therefore the beginning of summer vacation and a different wardrobe! I also have little tweaks regarding accessories such as I don't count my sunglasses, and I allow myself to swap out jewelry on a monthly basis if I want to.  I also don't count tights or leggings which makes it easy to add variety to a "capsule wardrobe".

After doing Project 333 for over a year, I can definitely attest to the fact that you have to design the project to fit your life and style.  33 really isn't a magic number: it's the awareness that comes with living with less that makes limiting your wardrobe so powerful and strangely rewarding.

I've been living with my current 33 items since March and I think they will serve me well until mid-June.  I may need to swap my boots out for sandals, but so far it hasn't been warm or dry enough. Also, I've noticed that since I am no longer working an hour from home (where it is 10-20 degrees warmer each day) I don't need to vary my wardrobe as much from season to season.  Many of the items I have I can wear from January through mid-June, at least!  This is also partly because Santa Cruz has a mild climate and the summers here are actually pretty cool with a layer of fog for a large part of the day.

I'll go ahead and use the same system I've developed to code my list, since it helps to see that I actually haven't needed to buy much new clothing for quite some time.  I purchased only three new items this phase, and two were from thrift stores: I recently replaced a worn out white tee with a new one, and found a new-to-me dress and scarf at Goodwill.  I should be able to add photos this week, since most of these are already in my archive from past phases!

Items in bold on the list are ones that I kept in my wardrobe from the previous phase (December - February). An asterisk (*) indicates items that were purchased or that I plan to purchase during this phase, as opposed to taken from my off-season storage box.

1. silver hoops 
2. blue dangle earrings
3. turquoise and coral earrings
4. leopard print scarf
5. green scarf*
6. flower scarf

7. white short sleeve tee (recently replaced with a new one)*
8. grey short sleeve tee
9. coral short sleeve tee
10. green long sleeve tee
11. black tank

12. black jeans
13. blue jeans
14. tan wide-leg pants
15. tan cords

16. long black skirt
17. denim skirt

18. black dress
19. pink dress*
20. brown and white dress
21. denim dress

~Sweaters & Jackets~
22. grey loose sweater
23. denim crop jacket
24. coral crop sweater
25. blue cardigan
26. tan cardigan
27. black cardigan
28. tan wool long cardigan
29. black wool long cardigan

30. grey loafers 
31. black docs
32. cork mary janes
33. blue converse

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Inspiration Points

Motivational Wednesdays are back!  Today I've been thinking about the difficulty of being true to oneself.  Really knowing one's identity and feeling comfortable showing that true identity to the world can be, at best, challenging and for some people nearly impossible based on life circumstances.  I hope that each of you is able to let at least a little of your true, unique, incredible light shine every day.

Monday, January 6, 2014

52 of 2014 Week #1: Abstract

Last year, I participated in a photo project on flickr where the object was to take a theme based photo each week for a year.  I tried this in 2011, too.  The first year I made it through mid summer, until we had to move.  Last year I made it until September, wen a new school year and job disrupted my routine.  Hopefully I can weather the ups and downs of 2014 sturdily enough to complete this project for a whole year with a complete collection of 52 photographs.

For week one, which ended Sunday, the theme was "abstract".  I took several composed shots trying to get an image I liked, but ended up going with a shot of the sunrise over Pleasure Point I took early in the week.  I like how each of the waves is oddly cut off, the position of the hills far apart on the horizon is disorienting, and the clouds and light create ribbons of color and texture.  The photograph becomes more about the picture these shapes evoke, rather than a literal capture of a sunrise:

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Project 333: Year 2 / Phase 1

Hello readers! Happy New Year.  As I look back at 2013, one of the most read topics on this blog has been my participation in Project 333, an experiment in keeping and wearing items from a relatively minimal pool of clothing, shoes and accessories.  Here is more information about the project from founder Courtney Carver, and here are my posts on the subject.

The popularity of these posts leads me to believe that others are interested in reaping the benefits of a simplified wardrobe.  After almost a year doing Project 333, I have completely changed my relationship to clothing, shopping for clothes, and how I approach dressing everyday. It's hard to believe that I have lived since last February with just 33 items in my wardrobe, yet still had an appropriate and stylish outfit for every occasion.

This year, I plan to continue the project with some changes that I have made to suit my lifestyle, based on what I learned working through the phases of the project in 2013.  One thing I have certainly taken to heart is that the project is not an exercise in martyrdom; if you want to wear something that is not in your current wardrobe, or if you want to change or bend the rules midway through a phase to suit your personal needs, do it!  The point of the project is not to follow a set of arbitrary rules about what to wear, but instead to learn more about oneself and one's relationship to clothing and its purpose in one's life.

With that said, here's a review of the "rules" and of my personal modifications based on experience:

  • When: Every three months
    • I modified the dates to correspond more with local seasons and my job as a teacher.  Phase 1 starts December 1, Phase 2 on March 1, Phase 3 in early June, and phase 4 at the end of August.
    • After a year, I have been getting a bit bored with my accessories and decided to change my jewelry each month, instead of every three months.
  • What: 33 items including clothing, accessories, jewelry, outerwear and shoes.
    • For a time I expanded this number to 58 items in two categories: 33 “work worthy” items and 25 “weekend wear” items, but I'm no longer keeping track of "weekend wear" since summer vacation is over.
  • What not: these items are not counted as part of the 33 items – wedding ring or another sentimental piece of jewelry that you never take off, socks and underwear, sleepwear, in-home lounge wear, and workout clothing (you can only wear your workout clothing to workout)
    • I’m including my sunglasses in the same group as my watch, ring, and earrings I never take off.  I only have one, functional and stylish pair that I love and wear everywhere.
    • I’m changing the category of “in-home lounge wear” to “weekend wear” and limiting it to 25 items.
    • I’m not counting my rain jacket and rain pants.
    • I don't count tights, leggings, or base layers like undershirts.
  • How: Choose your 33 items, box up the remainder of your fashion statement, seal it with tape and put it out of sight.
    • I put my extra items in plastic storage bin under the bed.
  • What else: consider that you are creating a wardrobe that you can live, work and play in for three months. Remember that this is not a project in suffering. If your clothes don’t fit or are in poor condition, replace them.
    • When the “work worthy” clothes in my wardrobe wear out, they will become “loungewear”
    • When I buy new clothes they should be “work worthy”
    • I would like all my new clothes should be as locally and ethically produced as possible, or secondhand, but also have to be conscious of my budget and being fiscally responsible.  Sometimes the best choice for me is to buy a shirt from Target.
And here's a list of my clothes for this phase, December 1, 2013 - February 28, 2014.  I wasn't really blogging during Phase 4 which for me was October - December 2013, so I'll just update from my last posted list.
Items in bold are ones that I kept in my wardrobe from the first phase (July - September). An asterisk (*) indicates items that were purchased or that I plan to purchase during this phase, as opposed to taken from my off-season storage box.  I still need to get 2 more items.  I'm looking to replace an open-knit sweater that I wore all year last year, through every season.  I'm not sure what I need for my other item.  I probably still need a belt!

Year 2 Phase 1 Capsule Wardrobe (33 Things)
December 1, 2013 - February 28, 2014
1. purse
2. heart earrings
3. silver hoop earrings
4. brown dangle earrings
5. white shell flower neckalce
6. turquoise scarf
7. grey & black leopard scarf*
8. green ls tee*
9. navy 3/4 sleeve tee
10. coral ss tee
11. lt grey ss tee
12. white ss tee
13. tan cords
14. skinny black jeans*
15. skinny blue jeans
16. denim skirt
17. green dress
18. black cutout dress
19. grey peacock print dress*
20. brown fern dress*
~Sweaters and Jackets~
21. tan cotton cardigan
22. navy long cardigan
23. black cardigan*
24. cream cowl neck sweater
25. long tan wool sweater
26. long black wool sweater
27. wool coat
28. hooded zip jacket
29. TBD*
30. TBD*
31. brown boots
32. black boots
33. grey canvas loafers

I will try to post photos this weekend.  As always, thanks for reading!