Saturday, December 5, 2009

Apartment Remodel

For the past two years, my apartment building has been going through a remodel. As people move out, the apartments are given a full face-lift. I have been steadfastly holding out from the remodel (primarily to preserve my low rental rate), however, by September, I was starting to get the feeling that my days were numbered and I would be getting a notice informing me of a higher rent (a thinly veiled attempt to get me to move out). As most of you know, I really, really like my corner unit studio. I have a great view, and on the nights that the guy downstairs isn't practicing "Bohemian Rhapsody" on his guitar, it is pretty quiet. So, in a fabulous moment of genius, I negotiated a deal with my landlord in which I would move into the apartment next door while mine was remodeled. I even got the contractor and his henchmen to move all my furniture and boxes!! The apartment was finished in four weeks and it came out really well. I do have to pay $75/month more in rent, but I don't mind. As Rose pointed out, I am saving like 3 hours a week by not having to wash dishes by hand, and isn't that alone worth $75?

I need to give a special shout-out to Chris, who flew here from Utah and spent the Wednesday before Thanksgiving moving all of my stuff back into the newly remodeled place. I wasn't even there to help!! I had to work and when I came home from the office, it was done. How amazing is that?

Here are some "before" and "after" photos:

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Bionic Eye or Fetal Retinal Cells?

Tonight, my friend Chris called and told me about a story that he'd just heard on All Things Considered. Chris explained that the story discussed a new solution for retinal diseases and he didn't have all the details, but he thought that it involved implanting part of a fetus into the eye. He suggested that this procedure would be a great way to connect my pro-choice beliefs with my visual impairment.

Anyway, after my Young Dems board meeting this evening, I logged onto and found the retina/fetus facts. For those of you interested, you can check out the story, "Bionic Eye Opens New World of Sight for Blind", which explains two options for us retina-challenged folk: a bionic eye and the implantation of fetal retinal cells. TWO options. How cool is that?!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

6 Months to Go!

Well, folks, today is October 11th, so that means that I only have 6 months remaining in my 20's! Knowing that my 6 month mark was quickly approaching, I have been trying to engage in some crazy and exciting activities so as to end my 20's with a real kick. You know, I really just want to rev things up. Here are some of the wild things that I've come up with so far:

* October 3, 2009 - Volunteering at the Crawford High School Community Garden
(Jenny and I are using pitchforks to mix rotten produce to the compost pile.)

* October 8, 2009 -
Rose and I are discussing the latest episode of our fav new show, "Glee". (We both agree that the show is FABULOUS but it is really unlikely that Will would be unaware that his wife is faking a pregnancy and we don't understand why the Cheerios wear their uniforms to school every day. )

Other exciting things that I am spending my time doing but that don't have photos to accompany them:
* Repotting house plants
* Consolidating my 401(k) plans into my Roth IRA
* Cleaning the tile in my bathroom
* Scanning old photographs into a digital format (this involves sitting at the photo kiosk in CVS for hours)
* Transferring my prescriptions to my new health care plan's prescription delivery service
* Using the "gum stimulator" tool that my dentist gave me in an attempt to ward off periodontal disease
* Reserving books on the library's electronic inter-library loan program

As I review my list of "wild and crazy" activities, I am beginning to fear that instead of celebrating my 30th birthday in April, I may actually be celebrating my 70th. Suggestions are appreciated. . .

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Trifecta of September 2009: Swine Flu, Santa Anas, and Construction

Pretty much everyone who reads my blog is already my Facebook friend, so you all are more than well-aware of my ridiculous situation this week. I thought I'd just do a quick blog about it, since, let's be honest, I really have nothing else to do.

On Tuesday, I left work early because I was feeling sick. Wednesday, I woke up with a temperature of 100.4. Uh, oh. I called my doctor's office, described my symptoms, and they asked me not to come in. Then they called back about 2 hours later and said that they had reconsidered and they wanted me to come back in so that they could check my vitals. I told them that I felt like crap and I really didn't want to come, but they insisted. (Someone clearly got ahold of my chart, saw that I have a history of SVT during infections, and told the nurse to get me in before they got sued for malpractice.) Of course, as I sat in the waiting room, I was made to wear a mask. Being asked to wear a mask is perhaps the most stigmatizing thing that can happen to someone this season. There was a woman in the waiting room who I am certain was a mentally-ill streetwalker (she was talking to herself about restraining orders, she was horribly underweight, and was wearing an "I just qualified for a home loan with the help of ACORN" outfit), and even she gave me a disdainful look as if I was an absolutely gross, germ-ridden human being. The outlook is not good, my friends, when you have prostitutes thinking that you are nasty.

Anyway, my vitals were normal ("normal" for me being: low blood pressure 107/60, high resting pulse 80, and low body temp 98 degrees). They did this heinous flu test which I am warning you all about now - it involves a long straw with a small bottle washer at the end which is stuck so far up your nose that I am certain it dislodges parts of your brain. Of course, this test had to be done twice - one is a "Rapid Flu" test and one has to be cultured, so it will take about a week . By the time the cultured test results are in, I'll be back amongst the members of society, so I don't know why it even matters. Perhaps I can be another notch on the San Diego Public Health Department's H1N1 belt. I was told that I should start "Tamiflu" and that I was not to leave my apartment for 72 hours. I told them I'd just finished my library book, and asked if I could go to the library. They said "no" and suggested that I have someone drop off books at my apartment door. See, I was just testing them to determine how legit of a quarantine they expected. Clearly, this one is to be pretty legit.

Thankfully, both Rose and my sister, Katie, were brave enough to cross the quarantine caution tape and bring me items to entertain myself and soothe my illness. Katie appeared with a plastic bag of DVDs, cough drops and a Ziplock bag of large, white, unmarked pills. (I was hoping for muscle relaxers, but she later confirmed that they were Vitamin C. Darn.) Rose came fully armed with a Jamba Juice smoothie, magazines, dvds, two trashy novels, honey, limes, and Emergen-C. You see, Rose had this illness in the days prior to my own infection, so she was really dialed in on the needs of an ill, house-bound person.

The factor that I am dealing with that is making my quarantine slightly more miserable is the Santa Anas. It is hot as hell, and although I am thrilled to death that I don't live in the blazing inland inferno that is El Cajon, it is still pretty sizzlin' here in Point Loma. See, I live relatively close to the beach, so I don't have air conditioning. I also only have west-facing windows, so there is absolutely no cross-ventilation. Okay, I am going to admit a very bad thing that I did yesterday in sheer desperation: I opened the door to my apartment building in an attempt to get some cross-winds. Now, this might not seem so bad if my door didn't open into an interior hallway and I didn't potentially have a pandemic virus. I realized after about 10 minutes that my attempt to get some ventilation was possibly endangering other members of society. Whoops. My bad.

Anyhow, I got through yesterday and now I am on Day 2 of Quarantine. Today is when the Trifecta hit - they started demolishing the apartment next door. Seriously? Really? I (possibly) have the swine flu, it is hot as hell and now I have the horrific racket of an apartment being ripped to shreds. This is like some sort of joke. You know that movie, "The Money Pit"? (My sister and I watched it all the time when we were kids, because we loved, loved, loved Shelly Long.) I feel like my life this week is reminiscent to the "Money Pit". I am afraid that it is only a matter of time before I fall through the floorboards while wedged into an Oriental rug.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Donkey on a Surfboard

I just had to write a quick post because I am SO excited about the San Diego County Young Democrats' new logo!! I got my t shirt tonight after our board meeting and I love it! Evan, our Communications Chair, created a hip new design (a donkey on a surfboard, if you can't tell) and spent a considerable amount of time cranking out the shirts at the screen printing shop. Check it out:

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Thursday Night Dinner - Gnocchi with Fresh Greens, Tomatoes, and Walnuts

Recently, I have received some requests to add more food-related posts. Seeing as I eat food multiple times every single day, I doubt that this request will be too difficult to fulfill. And so we have this evening's dinner:

Gnocchi with Fresh Greens, Tomatoes, and Walnuts

I know this isn't a great picture, but I cooked dinner after Pilates class, so it was like 8pm, I was wicked hungry, and I wasn't very patient or willing to try for photography perfection. Anyhow, this recipe came from the book " The Vegetarian 5-Ingrediant Gourmet" by Nava Atlas. I was introduced to this book by my friend Katie B during my June trip to Utah. Katie has been a creative-cooking vegetarian for as long as I've known her (since September 1995) and has been my inspiration to try a number of new dishes.

This is a very simple meal. Basically, you do the following:

1. Cook gnocchi according to instructions on the package.

2. Saute garlic and oil for about 2 minutes.

3. Add greens (I used kale, but you can also use spinach or chard) and cover. Steam for about 1-4 minutes depending on greens used (Kale takes a little longer). Add tomatoes and cook until heated. The recipe didn't call for it, but I also added walnuts to the mix. This was primarily with the intention of including protein to the meal, however, it also added some depth to the flavor as well as a nice nutty crunch.

4. Combine gnocchi with greens mixture. I topped it with shredded parmesean cheese (which you can't see in the photo because I hadn't added it yet).

Of course, the kale and tomatoes came from my CSA and the cheese, oil, garlic and walnuts are organic and from the co-op. Admittedly, the gnocchi is a commercial brand from Trader Joe's. What can I say? I'm not perfect in my organic-ness, people.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Weird Wildflowers Continue to Grow!

How exciting - a second bloom on my weird wildflower plant! Unlike the first flower, this one grew out and then upward in a 90 degree angle. My second plant has a bud that is almost ready to bloom. I'll post a photo when it does!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Perkins Loan - No Longer My Obligation

I finished graduate school in September 2003 with the same thing most MSWs graduate with - a pile of debt. You see, even with a half-tuition "Urban Scholar" scholarship, Boston University's tuition fees were pretty steep. Therefore, I had to apply for loans. One of the loans that I received was a Perkins Loan, which would be forgiven if I worked in social services for 5 years following graduation. Being as I was attending graduate school for Social Work, this requirement didn't seem like it would present much of a problem. So, every year since 2004, I have faithfully submitted all of the paperwork necessary to substantiate my work in social services and have my loan forgiven. Each year, bit by bit, the loan repayment grew smaller.

You can only imagine how excited I was to receive a letter in the mail this afternoon thanking me for "completing my loan obligation"!! (Okay, so it is pending verification from the lender, but whatever. The loan requirements have been satisfied.) I am so excited, I wanted to share my letter with you all:

Okay, now I know you are super psyched, but don't get too out of control!! See, I still have a few thousand dollars left in Stafford loans. My goal is to hunker down and pay off the rest of my school loans by the end of 2009. So, at that point, I'll be 100% debt free and we'll really party then, okay?

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Beach and Baking Bonanza

I enjoyed the majority of the weekend on the beach, soaking in the cancer rays. The weather was absolutely perfect and the water temperature was in the low 70's. Sitting on the beach with my book, fresh fruit, and iced decaf coffee - the world sure seems like a perfect place. Well, except for all of the saggy, tattooed bodies. Ah, yes, it only takes an afternoon in Ocean Beach to remind myself why I should never get a tattoo. Tats just don't seem as appealing when they are distortedly displayed on a body that hasn't had a work-out since Jane Fonda's last VHS tape was released. No judgement, people. Just an observation.

Sunday afternoon was spent as so many of my Sunday afternoons are spent - cooking and baking. This time of the year, I always have a ton of tomatos and zucchini from my CSA. Here is what I made this afternoon/evening:

Zucchini Bread (made with whole wheat flour and raw sugar)

Veggie (Zucchini, Corn, Tomatoes) and Black Bean Soup

Eggplant, Heirloom Tomato and Mozzarella Pizza

I also put up some of my produce. I froze raspberries (77 cents a container at Henry's!!) and blanched and froze zucchini. This way, I'll have "fresh" summer veggies this winter!

And this is what my kitchen sink looks like after all this work:

Friday, August 7, 2009

My Work Cell Phone

Yesterday, after nearly two months of employment at my new job, I was finally issued my work cell phone. I was so excited, I practically clapped my hands and jumped up and down! Upon being handed the phone, however, my enthusiasm dwindled. Sadly, my work cell appears to be some sort of an artifact from the late 1990's. Now, to its credit, the phone is indeed a "new" phone. It has never been used before, and my guess is that it has been sitting in its box in the bottom of the IT department's filing cabinet for the past decade.

The thing feels like a brick. It has a collapsible antenna which I am certain I will have to extend to the full four inches if I care to get any reception. Every time I talk on that phone, I am going to look like I just stepped out of Season One of "Friends". I might as well grow my hair out into the "Rachel" and pull on some flared jeans and a baby tee. Seriously.

This evening, I was at Katie and Ryan's and I was trying to figure out how to set the ring tone. Ryan suggested that I "go back in time", since the current Nextel help line probably doesn't offer customer support on my particular model any more. Ryan also suggested that I try throwing the phone against the wall "because I bet it won't break". I reminded Ryan that it was a work phone and I really shouldn't abuse it. This fact seemed to be of little consequence to Ryan, so I quickly put my phone back in my purse before it could become the subject of any durability experiments. (Please note that when I got home this evening, I googled the model of my phone and saw that many reviewers had indeed thrown it against a wall, and it had survived without any problems. In fact, one review called the phone "The Hummer of Cell Phones" because of its indestructibility.)

Anyway, if you see a social worker climbing into her 1999 Corolla with her 1999 cell phone, don't be alarmed, people. You haven't entered into a time warp. It's just me, living my glamorous professional life.

Monday, August 3, 2009

I Love My CSA

Most anyone who knows me has heard about my CSA, Be Wise Ranch - I talk about my organic, locally grown produce as fondly as others talk about their pets or children. Here is why I love my bi-weekly deliveries from my CSA:

1. When I go to pick up my CSA box, I feel like I am about to get a birthday present because the contents of the box are always a mystery. Will I get cherries? eggplant? yellow peppers? I never know what fabulous produce I will find! As adults, we really don't get too many surprises (Well, except for the occasional job lay-off or unintended pregnancy. Surprise! ) Let me tell you, the CSA mystery box really adds some excitement to your life.

2. The produce from the farm lasts way longer than the stuff you buy at the supermarket. The fruits and veggies that I receive in my box are picked the morning of my delivery, so they haven't been sitting around in the bed of a truck and/or in a store for days and days. The majority of my produce lasts for at least 10 days in the fridge. (Obviously, some stuff lasts much longer, like carrots, beets, potatoes, onions, etc.)

3. I am supporting a San Diego farm and, subsequently, the San Diego economy by buying locally. San Diego is my favorite place to be, and I want the community to be healthy and thrive. Screw Watsonville - I'm buying my California produce right here where I live.

4. I pretty much eat all of the fruits and veggies because I think, "Geez, I paid for it. I really should eat it". Some days, the only reason I am eating healthy food is because of my self-inflicted guilt over wasting money.

5. When I receive produce that I have never prepared before (i.e. dandelion greens, fennel, bok choy), I am forced to be creative in my cooking. This keeps me enthusiastic about making meals, and it ensures that I am getting a variety of nutrients in my body.

6. When I go to potlocks and I bring my own dish, I can say, "Oh, this is local and organic." Potlucks are always a good place to gloat about how eco-friendly you are, because potlucks are generally attended by hippies. (Or Mormons. But I bet they would be impressed too.)

7. This week's delivery - $25. heirloom tomatoes, slicing tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, zucchini, carrots, eggplant, spring mix, beets, oranges, peaches, peppers, arugula.
Eating healthy and taking care of my body: Priceless

There are lots more reasons that I love my CSA, but I need to go make dinner. In case you are wondering, tonight's menu is a grilled cheese sandwich - organic cheddar, heirloom tomatoes, and avocado on rosemary herb bread. Delicious.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Weird Wildflowers

I aspire to one day have a home full of lush plants and a yard filled with gardens and shade trees. However, at this point during this 29th year, my studio-living lifestyle only allows for about 15 houseplants. For the most part, the plants are basic potted houseplants - nothing fancy. I purchase the plants from nurseries, receive them as gifts, or I grow them from cuttings off of my other plants. I don't start things from seed.

In April, I received a "Thank You for Volunteering" card from Planned Parenthood which included a packet of wildflower seeds. I decided that perhaps this was a good time to try my hand at growing plants by seed. I read the directions and planted three pots. I was super excited when they started to grow, and made sure to water regularly and rotate the pots so that they received equal sunlight from all sides. As the plants grew bigger, I noticed that they were starting to grow horizontally. I put a "Hope" pebble in one pot to encourage the plant to be healthy and strong. I attempted to attach the stems to drinking straws, but it was a futile attempt. As the summer continued on, I begin to believe that my awkward sideways plants were somehow the result of my poor gardening skills and I was certain that they would never bloom into the wildflowers that they had once been destined to become. Well, much to my surprise, late last week I saw a pink flower bud growing on my plant. I am so incredibly proud of it, that I decided to forgo the shame of growing a non-vertical plant and post photos of my very, very beautiful wildflower.

No flowers yet for this guy (see the straw?) but I am going to give him his own inspirational pebble and we'll see what happens!

Hillcrest Farmer's Market

Katie, Bryan (not to be confused with Katie and Ryan) and I spent this lovely Sunday morning at the Hillcrest Farmer's Market. If you can believe it, it was my inaugural visit. (Considering my interest in local living, I am slightly embarrassed admitting this fact.) As you can imagine, the market was a sensory-stimulating activity with the aromatic scent of basils and Turkish coffee, the taste of heirloom tomatoes and sweet strawberries, and the sights of colorful floral bouquets and piles of fresh produce.

Never before had I tasted plumcots (a hybrid of a plum and apricot), but I was immediately charmed by the mingling of the sweetness of apricot and the tartness of a plum. I bought a small basketful for $4 and enjoyed a few on the beach this afternoon. So, if you are at your local farmer's market this summer and stumble upon plumcots (which are also know by two registered trademarked varieties - "Pluots" and "Apriums"), I would definitely encourage you to try a bite. You won't be disappointed!

Here are photos of Bryan and Katie sampling the locally grown produce. Katie brought home ceviche, freshly made spinach fettuccine, and salad fixings, so you know she's eating well tonight!! Bryan checked out the edible plants and herbs for the patio at his new townhouse, which happens to be walking distance from the market. I held off on buying anything other than the plumcots and Bella Vado Avocado Oil because I have my CSA delivery tomorrow. It was difficult but somehow I managed to demonstrate self-restraint!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Migraine - The Result of Rainbow-Induced Sensory Overload?

The San Diego County Young Democrats marched in the San Diego Pride parade today with the Gavin Newsom campaign. It was a sizzlin' hot day, and for a girl who doesn't like to be east of the 5 on summer weekends, this was quite a feat. We were outside walking around for about five hours, and despite my attempts to hydrate with lots of water and consume lean proteins in regular intervals, I still managed to end up with a migraine. So I spent the afternoon in my steamy hot apartment, in bed, being unimpressed with my situation. Oh, and in the middle of my migraine stupor, I somehow managed to go into my fridge, pull out an egg and smash it on myself - all down my legs, on my stomach, on my arms, everywhere. This is what happens when your brain is fried, your vision is compromised and it is wicked hot outside. I have no other explanation, but I do still have a lingering stinky egg smell.

Anyway, here are some photos from the parade. I think everyone had an awesome day. After Californians' equality taking a pretty hard hit this year, it was really great to see the entire community out rallying!

Oh, and for those of you wondering about the phrase most often uttered by parade-goers as Gavin walked by? "He is HOT!"

Monday, July 13, 2009

Fourth of July

I am committing blog plagiarism and simply referring you to my cousin Cassandra's "Fourth of July" post for a re-cap of Independence Day festivities in Washington state. All I can say is that there is pretty self-depricating video of dancing and sparklers.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Underground House

I recently returned from a fabulous vacation to the Pacific Northwest with my bff, Meghan. We had a ton of adventures, which I will definitely include in upcoming blog entries. However, my first vacation-related entry will focus on an amazing earth-friendly home that I saw in Woodland, Washington. (As those of you who read the Haylapa post know, I am totally jazzed about alternative building.)

My cousin, James, is helping his friends Sterling and Crystal construct an earth-friendly, underground home. When James initially began telling me about the underground home, I pictured the dirt home Pa dug into the side of a hill in the Little House on the Prairie books. This image somewhat concerned me - why would James' friends want to live like moles? I understand that it gets rainy and dreary in Washington state, so why compound the issue by living in a dirt cave?! James must have sensed my confusion because he kindly offered to take me out to the home for a tour. James, along with his wife, Cassandra, and their daughter Madison, climbed into the glamorous Subaru that Meghan and I had rented for our trip and we all headed off to the underground house.

This photo demonstrates what the house looks like from the main road. As you can see , the house itself is barely visible. Eventually, the roof will be covered with soil and native seeds (probably grasses and clover) will be planted. This is called a living roof or a green roof. The goal of the living roof is to manage storm water run-off, reduce energy costs, improve air quality and have the home blend into the landscape.

The front of the home does not face the street, but instead looks out over the pastures. The entire front portion the home will be glass (either windows or French doors), which allows an incredible amount of light to enter the home. The house has been positioned so that it receives optimum sunlight during the darker winter months. The patio roof provides shade which prevents the home from getting too warm during hot summer months.

This is a shot of the interior of the home. You may notice that the walls look like a bunch of white blocks. These blocks are called Insulating Concrete Forms (ICF) and are Styrofoam blocks that have been stacked and filled with concrete. As you can imagine, this provides a solid framework in addition to stellar insulation against both heat and cold.

The floors have underfloor heating -a system of coiled water pipes in the floor. The pipes will carry hot water and will warm the floors (and thus the home, as we all know that heat rises) in the colder months. This is an extremely energy efficient way to heat a home. (My Uncle David installed a similar system in his garage in Connecticut so that he stay warm whenever my Aunt Divinna kicks him out of the house. Hehehe. Just kidding, Uncle Dave. We know you want to stay warm while working on the El Camino.)

There are other aspects to the home which are earth-friendly, such as the plan to install solar panels over the garage and the gravity water system which allows water to flow from the well above the house to the home without the use of electricity. If you haven't already guessed, I am very jealous of Sterling and Crystal's innovative and beautiful home. It has certainly inspired me to be more conscious of the plethora of green building options and I hope that it inspires you as well!

P.S. I am sure that I have neglected to mention numerous components of this underground home, and it is entirely possible that I have mis-quoted bits of information. If this is the case, I hope that James or Cassandra will correct me in the "comments" section!!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Update on First Two Weeks of June

I apologize for the two week lag in postings, but remember my dear readers - you are supposed to be happy for me when my life is so busy that I don't have time to write.

So, first, I resigned from my job at the foster family agency and spent two crazed weeks trying to tie up all the lose ends. I had a fabulous "No More Walden" cocktail celebration with my girlfriends, and then I jetted off to Utah, where I enjoyed a low-key week of vacation. Unfortunately, despite a multi-year drought in Wasatch Valley, it rained heavily each and every day of my visit. During the few hours of sunshine, I enjoyed doing yard work in Katie and Will's garden and at the Sandcastle Ranch. I did not enjoy being consumed by the enormous mosquitoes while gardening, but I will just have to consider my nasty, bite-covered legs to be evidence of my love for digging in the dirt.

I began a new job with Head Start on Monday, and I have spent the past week trying to get acclimated. Environmentally, it is a big change for me. In my previous position, I had a gorgeous corner office with two walls of windows, a comfy papasan chair, and lots of plants. I now have a cubicle with four foot high walls, no sunlight, and lots of exposure to chatty people (today I had the fortune of listening to a woman explain in detail how her daughter has a "bum rash" as a result of ingesting too much watermelon).

At my new job, I am mandated to take a one hour lunch break. Hmmmm. . . Lunch break? This is a foreign concept to me. As is true for most social workers, I have spent years eating "lunch" (i.e. whatever remnants I locate in my desk) while typing out a report, driving to a home visit, or sitting in a meeting. Therefore, in this job, during the first two days in which I had a lunch break , I only took 30 minutes because I had no idea what to do with myself! However, I am quickly beginning to like the idea of an hour break in the middle of the day. On Wednesday, I went to Walden for a visit with my old work friends. Today, I went to Starbucks and sat in a comfy chair outside, drank a latte and read my book. Tomorrow, I will get a pedicure. I am fairly certain that I can get used to this aspect of the job.

As most of you are aware, I am very accustomed to managing my social life during work hours. I am talking about managing everything - dinner plans, updating my blog, organizing large-scale Young Dems events, scheduling pilates sessions and acupuncture appointments, booking airfare - during my work day. Balancing my work and social life keeps me on my toes and in a generally good mood. But at my new place of employment, I am blocked from nearly all websites necessary to manage my life (I do get limited access to Google, but it is pretty much just Google Earth. Too bad my social life isn't more oriented around maps). As you can imagine, when I discovered this absolute lack of internet access, I nearly hyperventilated. No internet coupled with the cubicle situation (and the resulting lack of privacy/ability to use a cell phone) caused me to experience intense panic as I imagined my social life coming to a screeching halt. Friendships would be lost (both real and Facebook-based). Events would go unplanned. I would become a hermit - a person who has no idea what is happening with Jon and Kate Plus Eight. With my relaxation breathing, I was able to calm my panic, but I still worry. This situation has the potential to become quite dire.

Monday, June 1, 2009

A Family Visit During May Gray/June Gloom

Mom, Dad and Nate arrived in San Diego last Wednesday afternoon for a week long vacation. Unfortunately, the fam decided to visit during the spring months which are known locally as "May Gray/June Gloom". As you can imagine, there have been numerous comments along the lines of "I thought San Diego was always 75 degrees and sunny" and "I only brought one pair of socks because I thought I'd be wearing sandals the whole time". Well, I guess the jig is up - San Diego does not always have perfect weather. What can I say? The world is an imperfect place.

Mom, Katie, Nate & Dad
Mission Bay
May 30, 2009

(If you are confused by the date and location combined with the sweatshirts and windbreakers, please refer back to the "jig is up" comment.)

Tesch Family
Miguel's Cocina
June 1, 2009

This is the requisite "Tourist Family at a Mexican Restaurant" photo. The Tesch family is incredibly classy, so we opted not to wear sombreros.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Eyeball Explosion - August 2005

Since the writing of the entry "Mother on Facebook Causes Irresponsible Behavior to End", there have been several inquiries about my retina situation. Instead of telling the entire story again, I thought I'd just post the mass email that I sent out the week following the eyeball explosion. (Note: The term "eyeball explosion" comes from the inter-office email that one of the receptionists sent out to the staff informing them why I would be out of the office. This was the term she used, and what can I say? It stuck.) For those of you who have been long-time recipients of my email updates, please don't feel obligated to continue reading. For others, I take you back to Logan, Utah, summer of 2005. . .

From: Stephanie Amber Tesch
Sent: Sunday, August 21, 2005 8:19 PM

Subject: Eyeball Explosion

Arrrr! Sorry for the mass email, but it is truly the most efficient way of disseminating information. Last week, I had an unfortunate eyeball incident. The short story is this: I experienced a retinal hemorrhage on Tuesday of last week and this was followed by an emergency surgery to put a gas bubble in my eye to create pressure on my retina. I had to lay face down for three days, which was quite unpleasant, but I persevered. I can walk around now, which is good. My buddy Katie has graciously sewn me a pirate patch which is quite fabulous. The gas bubble will be absorbed in about three weeks and at that time I can start to get an idea of how much of my vision I will get back. It won't ever be as good as before, but such is life. I would like to take a moment to address a few questions that have frequently been asked regarding my situation:

1. No, my eye will not "turn into" a "lazy", "googily", "wandering", or "crazy" eye.

2. At this point, eating carrots will not help my eye. I am past the point of preventative medicine.

3. I do not think that "showing a little leg" will distract anyone from looking at my bloody eyeball.

4. Marijuana is for glaucoma, NOT a retinal hemorrhage. I do not need you to "hook me up".

I want to thank everyone who has been so supportive over the past few days and who has and will continue to help me out with food, transportation, and companionship.

With love, Stephanie Amber, the one-eyed Pirate

This photo is from Jimbo and Kate's Wedding party, about two weeks post-eyeball explosion. At the time that this photo was taken, pretty much all I could see was a bunch of black, lava lamp-esque orbs floating all over the place. Understandably, you may be thinking to yourself, "She was heinously visually impaired. Why was she smiling?" Well, this was one of the few times that I attended a party at Jimbo's house in which the toilet was enclosed in a room with walls and a door. Who cared about busted up retinas when you can enjoy peeing at a party in privacy?!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Trevor, This is Not the Holocaust

Trevor (my brother-in-law through engagement) just likened me to Anne Frank. Why? Because Anne wrote a diary in an attic annex, and I write a blog in a studio.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

May 19th Special Election - My Opinion on 1D and 1E

At first glance, choosing how to vote on Props 1D and 1E can seem so hard. . .it is like asking a mother to pick which of her children she likes best! But here is my opinion:

Essentially, Prop 1D will take money from early childhood development programs (First 5) and put it towards foster care and children with disabilities. My take on it is this: If we reduce our early childhood intervention (which includes parenting classes, home visits to new parents, etc), we are essentially creating a bigger problem for ourselves 3-5 years down the line because we will be generating an even higher # of kids who are either in foster care or have severe medical/developmental issues that could have been addressed (and possibly reduced or eliminated) if they had received appropriate services early on.

Prop 1E takes money from adult community mental health services and puts it towards child, teen, and young adult mental health services. First of all, adult community mental health services are HUGELY important in reducing homelessness, incarceration, illegal drug use, etc. Not to mention that they help to stabalize families by assisting mentally ill adults with children (of which there are many) to be more effective parents. If we reduce these services, we are really going to see the impact within a short period of time. Also, mental health services for children, teens, and young adults are federally mandated, so the state HAS to pay for them.

The state financial situation is truly heinous right now, however, I do not agree that cutting crucial services will help the situation. By doing that, we are only putting the most vulnerable people at greater risk. To fix this budget issue, I suggest that we become far more innovative in our thinking by looking at issues like prison reform, job/skill develoment, and legalization of marijuana.

Now get out there and VOTE!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Mother on Facebook Causes Irresponsible Behavior to End

This afternoon, the San Diego County Young Democrats hosted a fantastic Kickball Tournament/fundraiser at the beautiful Kate Sessions park in North Pacific Beach. Although I am incredibly uncoordinated, I still wanted to join a team. I mean, really. Surely even I could master a sport as basic as kickball! Unfortunately, I mistakenly mentioned the idea of playing kickball to my mother. Mom immediately made me promise not to engage in such irresponsible behavior for fear that the impact of a playground ball thrown at my head might be the final blow to the old retinas.

Ah, I know what you sneaky kids are thinking - my mom lives in New Hampshire and I live in San Diego, so how would she ever know if I were to play? Well, my mom is on Facebook (along with most everyone else's mom) and there is sure to be photographic evidence posted all over my page by my friends. So, I did what any kid whose mom is on Facebook would do - I volunteered to work the registration table and pick up the players' empty beer cans.

That's me at the Registration Table.

What? Mom didn't say I couldn't have a beer. . .

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Thrifty Grocery Shopping at Henry's Farmers Market

There are few things in life that make me happier than getting a good deal. What can I say? Being thrifty is incredibly satisfying.

So, I went grocery shopping at Henry's Farmers Market on Sunday afternoon following the Young Dems board retreat. Now, generally, I don't shop at Henry's because most of my food is obtained from either my CSA, Be Wise Ranch, or my beloved Ocean Beach People's Organic Foods Market (which I refer to simply as the "Co-Op"). However, I had received a coupon from the previous weekend's Healing Arts Festival for $5 off a $20 purchase at Henry's, and I couldn't resist the temptation of a bargain. I brought along my Go Green Book of coupons and also picked up an additional coupon book at the entrance of the store. For the next 40 minutes, I amused myself by finding all of the items that were on sale AND that I had a coupon for. At the check-out, the cashier said, "Damn, girl!" when I handed him my fistful of coupons. "Damn, girl" is right because I cut 1/3 off of my total bill by using coupons. I packed up all my deals in my re-usable bag and headed out. What a fantastic Sunday afternoon! So here's my tip for this thrifty trip: Save your coupons until the store puts your items on sale, and that is when you can get the optimum savings.

Also, I stumbled upon a stellar offer from Organic Heros : If you buy an Organic Valley Family Farms item and a Nature's Path Organic item, you can send in the bar codes and receive a free year subscription to Organic Gardening magazine. Additionally, Organic Valley and Nature's Path will make a donation to Rodale Institute's Farmers Can Be Heros program.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Scruples and the Young Dems Board Retreat

As many of you know, a few weeks ago I was elected Vice President of the San Diego County Young Democrats. The advent of such a prestigious position has required many changes in my life, namely trying to find space for the secret service agents in my studio apartment, identifying a hair-do which can withstand the high winds of my rooftop helicopter launch pad, and the editing of my telephone conversations for fear that my cell has been tapped by the opposition.

This weekend, the entire executive board of the Young Dems went to a secluded location to discuss our strategic plan for world domination. Although it began well, we were soon derailed by a bottle of Patron and early 80's board games. (I am certain that many other attempts at world domination have been thwarted in a similar manner.) One board game in particular, Scruples, presented us with the opportunity to discuss our personal ethics. By presenting questions such as "Would you place your retarded sibling in an institution?", this board game reminded us of just how far our society has come in the past twenty years. The 1986 version of Scruples, which is riddled with socially inappropriate language and antiquated electronics references (ie "vcr" and "cassette tape") apparently does have an updated Scruples Millennium Edition. I am afraid to even imagine what type of modern-day moral dilemmas are included in this 21st century edition.

Strategic planning

Scruples and Patron

We are SO excited to be Young Dems!

Sunset view from the back porch

Friday, May 8, 2009


So, as promised, this is the Haylapa post. During my stay-cation in late April, I went out to Descanso (a small town in the San Diego back country) and stayed in this gorgeous straw bale house, which is named the Haylapa .
For those of you who don't know, straw bale construction is a sustainable building method that uses straw bales as structural elements (kinda like big bricks). It has advantages over some conventional building systems because of its low cost, easy availability, and high insulation value.

The home and property were covered with unique artwork created by the artisan owners. Metal structures, handmade willow furniture, and mosaic tiles decorate this serene get-away. It is absolutely amazing to me how some people have an innate ability to create a space. This couple took a small piece of land and created a dwelling that blends beautifully with the landscape.

On a more practical note, the Haylapa has a composting toilet. This was my first composting toilet experience, so I was a little hesitant at first, but it is really no big deal at all. It is incredibly simple and doesn't stink at all. As I said earlier, the Haylapa is out in the back country and in the back country, there there is very little water. (Actually, San Diego County is a desert climate, so there is very little water in any part of the county, back country or otherwise.) The composting toilet makes perfect sense for a desert climate, as it does not use any of the scarce water resources.

On the outdoor patio, there is a handmade pizza oven, where, after receiving a baking tutorial from the owner, we created six pizzas. The first two were absolute doozies and ended up in the coals. By the time pizza number three was inserted into the oven, it was dark, I was hungry, and dinner was not looking like it was going to come to fruition. Thankfully, amazingly, the subsequent pizzas were successful and delicious. My tip for future pizza making is this: don't waste your expensive ingredients (in our case, artichoke hearts, sundried tomatoes, pine nuts, and goat cheese) on the first couple of pizzas. Save the good ingredients for the last few, when you've figured out what the hell you're doing.

Also, if you're wondering how I found out about this place - I discovered it on the website Vacation Rentals By Owner . I have stayed at two VRBO properties (the Haylapa and an enormous, Spanish-style house on the ocean in Rosarito, Mexico) and both experiences have been really fantastic. I like staying at homes better than hotels because it allows you to have a more intimate and unique experience in a new place. Plus, you are supporting locals rather than hotel corporations. I encourage you to try it out the next time you are planning a trip - there are homes listed from all over the world!