July 2nd, 2015

accidental country girl.

I never intended to live in the country. Growing up in the suburbs, I always felt displaced and assumed that I needed those bright lights, late nights and the constant entertainment that only the largest of cities could provide. Then, I went to college in a small town, home to a prison and a university and not much else. The late night activities I had imagined for myself transpired instead over cheap beer on a friend’s back porch, huddled around a fire pit after finals or driving down random dirt roads, our laughter ringing through trees rather than bouncing off buildings. So, I graduated, I lived in big cities (some of the biggest in the world), and then, somehow, ended up back on a dirt road.

Almost immediately my stress melted away. Yes, it’s hotter in Texas, so there’s a possibility I could actually be melting, but I believe it’s attributable to the simplistic, authentic environment present here. Mostly, I didn’t realize how much I furrowed my brow and clenched my teeth, how I walked with my muscles constantly engaged to ward off any unneccesary attention (the kind women inevitably get on the streets of a big city). I’ve lost my anonymity entirely. I also didn’t anticipate how difficult it would be to procure things I (and most people in the 21st century) took for granted: Internet. We now have satellite Internet, with a data cap. We can’t get DSL or cable, and were legitimately offered dial-up as an option — I laugh-cried in response. So, my desire to stop Netflix-binging and to cut myself off from always being “on” has been (unintentionally) realized. I’ve cut my own hair and made fried green tomatoes and catfish, fresh-caught by one of Jared’s family members. I’ve bought “mud boots” for mucking about in the yard and I’m very close to convincing Jared to build me a deck and a chicken coop. I’ve reconnected with friends and family and bought snowcones from the stand that’s only open in the summer and picked tomatoes, then turned them into salsa, and drank homemade beer. Although we’ve agreed not to pretend we’re definitely staying put forever, it’s an admittedly good life, this accidental country one I’m living.

Sooner or later I will get back to positing outfits (surprise, I still wear clothes), and maybe some pictures of our (really, awesomely) epic road trip adventure, oh, and that whole wedding thing that happened (spoiler: it was amazing) and maybe something about (finally) finishing graduate school, but this has already been a BIG summer, and I need a moment to process all of it myself.

June 23rd, 2015

imposter syndrome.

For the past three years, Jared and I have been living like nomads. We settle for a while, plant seeds, see what grows, always saying “this might be it.” Of course, it never is. I remember last year, before we moved to San Francisco, my dad told me: “You’ll be somewhere else in a year.” I took immediate offense, assuming he meant I couldn’t hack it out West. “What do you mean?” I inquired. “Well, have you ever stayed anywhere for more than a year?” I started to protest, but realized that any defense I could mount was ultimately futile. I’ve been from Texas to South Korea to San Francisco, with more Texas in between. Actually, at 13 months, San Francisco has been one of my longer stints I’ve spent treading water. And yet, here we are at the end of another year, bags packed, eyes set on the horizon.

I have imposter syndrome. I never feel wholly settled in a place, and San Francisco never felt like home. For me, as for many other people, San Francisco was a transitory city. Everyone I met there was on their way to somewhere else. It was temporary, a band-aid, while necessary skills were acquired. My experience in SF was very similar to South Korea in that regard — there, I knew anyone I befriended was most likely on a one year contract of some sort, as I was. But, I did make friends in SF, really good friends, friends I might consider staying for — and yet, my heart is no longer in it. I don’t hate San Francisco, it’s given me so much, but the tech industry that makes me feel like I’m constantly living inside the Internet, the yuccies who oppose gentrification but support artisinal donuts, and the astronomically high cost of living (especially for a teacher and an artist) all contribute to my feeling adrift.

During this process of recalibration, I’ve found I like quiet. Leaning out the window at three AM to hush the loiterers who, for whatever reason, congregate on my street corner drinking IPAs and loudly arguing about startups is not a life that feels authentic to who I am. However, leaving the city limits of San Francisco to go kayaking, camping, snowshoeing has given me a new opinion of what I’m capable of and what matters to me. Joining a few wine clubs has been an equally edifying experience. Nature, quiet, wine — I like these things.

But I always find myself homesick. I grew up in Texas and, despite traveling and working different jobs and living in different places, I am still a Texan. So, when Jared and I had a recent bout of simultaneous homesickness, we said “screw it” and I sent out resumes, then found myself hired by a high school in small-town Texas. Some people might question why I would give up the convenience, diversity and luxury of cosmopolitan and population-dense San Francisco for a (very small) Texas town — but, to me, it doesn’t feel like a failure or a compromise, it feels like another adventure.

I drove through Texas recently. Green hillsides dotted with perfectly dispersed hay bails, like a carefully planned art installation, high, muddy rivers, thick with the recent rainfall, that cross the state in circuitous paths, and those perfect sunsets that transform the landscape into something else entirely, golden and expansive. I am happy. I am home.

May 20th, 2015

book talk // hausfrau.

Hausfrau by Jill Essbaum is a book about Anna Benz, a deeply unhappy expatriate housewife with three children living in Zurich. She is alienated by the language, her husband is cold, her mother-in-law distant and her friends few and far between. In an attempt to regain some control over her life, she reaches out to a Jungian psychoanalyst, takes German classes and engages in extramarital affairs as her life begins to spiral.

I was first drawn to Hausfrau‘s beautiful cover, some of my favorite books were initially picked up due to interesting cover art. Then, a Goodreads review likened Hausfrau to Madame Bovary, one of my favorite classics which I’ve read twice since first encountering in it a college lit class. And, while I can see the comparison, in retrospect, I believe Hausfrau to perhaps be the more poetic — which makes sense as Jill Essbaum is a poet and this is her debut novel. There are definite echoes of The Bell Jar.

Hausfrau drew me in with the first line: “Anna was a good wife, mostly.” Boom. I immediately wanted to read more. I am strongly drawn to unlikeable protagonists, especially of the female variety. I noticed other readers claiming Anna’s character was too difficult to like, but I perhaps enjoyed her more because of my own resistance and hesitance toward finding her endearing. I mean, for all intents and purposes, Anna is a narcissist and generally what society would deem a bad person. “Some women collect spoons. Anna collected lovers.” [Also, fair warning, the extramarital sex is often and rather graphic.]

The book is not humorous, fast-paced or light — it’s a heavy read, laden with tragedy and Jungian anecdotes. At various points in the novel, conversations with Anna’s doctor are intermixed with the ongoing narrative of the story. This gives the reader a deeper insight into what’s really going on in her mind. And, although I found myself reading past, present and future on the same page, the asides never felt out of place — it simply made for a more enlightening character study.

Additionally, Essbaum succeeds in playing with language in beautiful ways that had me highlighting line after line. I believe Hausfrau veers sharply away from Madame Bovary by accessing the precision of words. Throughout the book Anna queries various people about their opinions on spiritual and psychological matters, but also on the meanings of words (labyrinth vs maze, for example). Essbaum also draws continuous metaphors between Anna and language, her German classes being one of the tenuous threads holding her to the real world. “With Anna it was all verbs. She was sloppy in her conjugations, reckless in her positioning. She confused tense with mood and relied too often on the passive voice.”

Overall, I found this to be one of the smarter books I’ve read in a while. The language bordered on lyrical and there were many passages which I found psychologically astute. As I mentioned previously, the first line of the book grabbed me immediately — the last line did the same thing, but on a different scale. I won’t spoil it, but really, the whole book is beautiful.

Rating: 5/5
Recommended For: people who like their drama with a side of psychoanalysis, lovers of language and poetry

May 18th, 2015

outfit no. 132

This thrifted Free People dress is still one of my favorite finds of all time. It’s a style I wouldn’t normally choose for myself: buttons, drop waist, straight silhouette — but I love the fabric and the pockets, so I wear it quite frequently. In this instance, I wore it to a champagne brunch at the Cliff House (and checked that off the bucket list). We scheduled the outing weeks ago, unaware that Bay to Breakers was also taking place on the same day, so the parking and pedestrian situation left much to be desired — but at least the people-watching was top notch. The brunch itself was heavenly; my champ glass was diligently refilled any time it even threatened to near half-full. The food was decadent — I ate everything from mussels and smoked shrimp with wasabi noodles and roe to butterscotch pudding, piped carefully into an eggshell and topped with candied citrus rind. A harpist set the mood with live background music while we watched the blue-grey Pacific lap hungrily against the rocky coast below; it added an extra layer to an already enjoyable sensory experience. Highly recommend!

Dress: FreePeople (thrifted) // Sweater Tights: H&M // Shoes: Ross

May 12th, 2015

bay area bucket list.

It’s our one-year San Franniversary! I simply can’t believe it’s been a year since we drove from Texas to California. When I compare it to the year we spent in Korea, I feel like time must have stood still overseas because this year has flown by with a rapidity I have not experienced anywhere else. Sometimes I still get that familiar sensation of wanderlust and the immediate necessity to move on — itchy feet we call it. By and large, we are lucky to live in San Francisco and I don’t want to forget that. It may not be forever (especially if our rent keeps increasing), but it is right now. In order to continue  documenting our adventures in the Bay Area, I made a bucket list to check off what I’ve accomplished (some of it without Jared, unfortunately) and what is still left to explore.

San Francisco
Walk across the Golden Gate Bridge ✓
Walk around Sausalito ✓
Take the ferry to Alcatraz ✓
Watch the sea lions at Fisherman’s Wharf ✓
DeYoung museum ✓
See the Boudin Sourdough Factory ✓
Ghirardelli square ✓
Japanese Tea Garden ✓
Botanical Garden ✓
California Academy of Sciences ✓
Ferry Building Farmer’s Market ✓
Visit Ocean Beach ✓
Climb “Turtle Hill” ✓
Try Fernet ✓
Visit the mosaic steps ✓
Palace of Fine Arts ✓
Golden State Warriors Game ✓
Eat clam chowder & sourdough bread on the wharf ✓
Hike in the Presidio ✓
Roller skating at the Church of 8 Wheels ✓
Bowling in Yerba Buena ✓
Green Apple Bookstore ✓
Eat Chinese food in Chinatown ✓
Vesuvio Café ✓
City Lights Bookstore ✓
Picnic in Golden Gate Park ✓
Champagne Brunch at Cliff House ✓
Take a boat through the Bay ✓

[still to do]
Rowboats on Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park
Bike across the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito
See the “Painted Ladies”
Legion of Honor
Cable Car Museum
Lands End hike
Sutro Baths
Tacos / burritos in the Mission
Go to the San Francisco ballet
Tour Anchor Steam factory
Visit Baker Beach
Fortune Cookie Factory in Chinatown
Giants Game
Conservatory of Flowers
Alcatraz at Night
Off the Grid Food Truck Market
SF Zoo

Bay Area & Beyond
Visit Sonoma / Napa ✓
Join a wine club ✓
Take a limo to wine country for the day ✓
Muir Woods ✓
Rodeo Beach ✓
Hike in the Marin Headlands ✓
Pescadero ✓
Monterey ✓
Carmel-by-the-sea ✓
Drive down the Pacific Coast Hwy ✓
Berkeley ✓
Oakland ✓
Jack London SP ✓
Yosemite NP ✓
Kayaking in Point Reyes NS ✓
Big Sur / Los Padres NP ✓
China Camp SP ✓
Lake Tahoe in the winter ✓
McWay Falls, Big Sur ✓

[still to do]
Dipsea Trail
Gold rush towns
Take Sherman to Fort Funston
Pick apples at Gizdich Ranch
See the Elephant Seals in Año Nuevo SP
See the Tulle Elk in Point Reyes
Heidrun Meadery
Angel Island SP
Stay overnight on Stinson Beach
Sequoia NP
Russian River
Berkeley’s “gourmet ghetto”
Hike Mt. Diablo
Eat at Nepenthe in Big Sur
Stay at Deetjan’s in Big Sur
Lake Tahoe in the summer
Skiing / snowboarding in Lake Tahoe
Big Basin SP
Drink Pliny the Younger

May 7th, 2015

busy life, boring wardrobe.

Everything: Gap (shoes are thrifted, but still Gap)

It was unintentional, this over-booking of my headspace. Since after spring break, I’ve been struggling to healthily spend time on myself. My lack of self-time has resulted in my putting off yoga practice, stress-shopping online and zoning out on re-runs of The Office while eating microwave popcorn. Meanwhile, I have a pile of essays to grade, a graduate thesis to write, and productivity eludes me.

Everyone has stressors, and mine are not so great in comparison to most — mild things that I know will pass with time and hard work. However, as I lay my clothes out for the following work day, I keep coming up with the above outfit. It’s like some kind of #ootd Groundhog Day. Basically, I have ended up wearing some iteration of the above outfit once or twice a week, with a casual dress + cardigan combo thrown in to keep things interesting. My brain is too full right now to contemplate creative sartorial choices, which is sad because I dearly love indulging in interesting clothing concepts. Lately, I have needed an “I don’t want to give this any thought, but still want to appear pulled together” outfit like woah. So, ta-da! Uniform, or whatever! Savior of my time and sanity!

May 5th, 2015

in defense of mason jars.

I read an article the other day condemning Pinterest for providing ideas on how to repurpose Mason jars (among other cliché hallmarks of online DIY projects); it was aptly titled: “Please, Pinterest, Stop Telling Me How to Repurpose Mason Jars.” At its core, the article is really a critique of people who believe they can make beautiful, artisanal crafts simply because they saw it on Pinterest. As the author states, “I am grateful to my parents for going against that Boomer trend of telling me I was good at everything… Otherwise I might be spending my precious little free time making a wine rack from old coffee cans. Or worse, trying to sell other people on the idea of making a wine rack from old coffee cans.”

The author continues, “I did not know what a Mason jar was until my educated, Millennial peers started making them into candle holders. This Mason jar plague isn’t just distracting women from potentially more important endeavors, it’s demeaning the very idea of expertise.” And while I do agree, to some extent, that the ubiquitiousness of the craft culture has probably increased ten-fold since Pinterest came on the scene – I do not equate Mason jars with uneducated people or low-expertise crafts, as the author clearly does, nor do I feel required to pass judgment on how others spend their free time. While there are many crafts that do requite a certain level of expertise (knitting and quilting spring to mind), that does not mean someone’s dabbling in crafting or “quick crafts” is less valuable because they didn’t do it the time-engrossing Martha Stewart way. The author’s argument is to do it right (by her standard) or buy it on Amazon. Additionally, by stating that she is surprised her “educated” friends are using Mason jars the author explicitly implies that this horrific incident is a crime that could perhaps be forgiven in the uneducated (see also: Southern) class. The author obviously considers herself an educated, Millennial woman, but she also feels it’s acceptable to criticize how other women spend their time. Crafting, to her, a self-proclaimed non-maker, is not “important” enough an “endeavor” to warrant the wasting of her valuable free time, which is perfectly fine. It is not fine to judge how others choose to spend theirs.

Perhaps I am taking more offense on behalf of Mason jars than is purely necessary because my nerve endings are sensitive to the insinuation that Southern people are, as a rule, less educated or less important and couldn’t possibly be experts — a stereotype that seems to follow me around as well and is due mostly to my own Southern heritage. Perhaps I am in fact equating myself with a Mason jar, misunderstood outside of the South. Mason jars, to me, are symbols of Southern life. I symbolically equate them with wraparound porches, rocking chairs and cast-iron skillets – all items you could find in any Southern, country home, but are now spread across many areas and lifestyles as well because they are beautiful, functional items. Yes, we stereotypically sip sweet tea or bourbon from Mason jars. Actually, 90% of my glasses are, at present, Mason jars. I also store my sugar cubes for morning tea in a Mason jar. I make overnight oats in a Mason jar. Right now, I have a bouquet Jared brought me last Friday sitting pleasantly in, you guessed it, a Mason jar. Mason jars are functional tools for storage and décor.

Mason jars are also an important exemplar of expertise, as anyone who has attempted canning, preserving or making jam can testify. They represent the ingenuity of American culture and independence, in the same way that homesteading or owning a vegetable (victory) garden does. The author of the aforementioned article discusses the audacity of women who continue to craft “despite having no discernible training in crafting.” I’m fairly certain Betsy Ross possessed no PhD in Craftery when she sewed the American flag. The tradition of arts and crafts in America is rich and storied and certainly pre-dates Pinterest.

Basically, if you don’t want to make a Mason jar chandelier, don’t. But don’t degrade those who employ Mason jars as functional tools or enjoyable crafts in their homes, especially since Ball jars have been longtime inhabitants of Southern households – blogs, Pinterest and Instagram nonwithstanding. The critique seems to be that people in other areas didn’t know Mason jars exist, and that ignorance is no excuse to be hypercritical of women, crafters or Southerners. So, if you need me, I’ll be drinking wine – out of a Mason jar.

April 27th, 2015

outfit no. 130

My blog has been taking a backseat to reality lately. Mostly, I just haven’t thought about snapping outfit photos or, in the state of haste I am presently inhabiting, I pull out old favorites on continuous repeat. Today, however, I decided to be slightly more adventurous because I haven’t worn this dress in ages and it needed some out of closet time, lest it find itself donated. I decided to stick with my all-black theme and threw on a sweater of Jared’s that I saved from the donation bin. I mean, this sweater is the epitome of cozy and I love the faux-leather shoulder patch details. How it initially came into his possession, I haven’t a clue, but it’s mine now. An additional point of clarification, the sweater has not consumed my right hand, it only appears that way. Fear not.

Dress & belt: Ross // Sweater: borrowed // Leggings: StitchFix // Boots: Old Navy

April 15th, 2015

i left my heart in mexico.

I can’t quit Mexico. Whenever I have the opportunity to travel, I inevitably end up in Mexico or Belize. I suppose I am drawn to the authenticity and vivacity of the Mexican people — in my mind, they exist in stark contrast to the inauthentic people I tend to encounter in SF. Also, I speak a little Spanish and eliminating a language barrier always makes travel more pleasant. I mentioned previously that I scheduled this solo-adventure as a bit of respite and reward for nearing the conclusion of several life chapters all at once. I have never solo-adventured before. I always travel with Jared or with the intention to rendezvous with another travel-buddy. This time, there was no such rendezvous on the horizon and, as soon as I boarded the airplane, I knew this would be an unforgettable adventure.

Dress: UO // Swimsuit: Victoria’s Secret // Hat: Korea // Shoes: Birkenstocks // Sunglasses: Ambiance in SF

I landed in Mexico, disembarked, took a land taxi to the pier, then boarded a water taxi and rode 45 minutes into the ocean, finally arriving at a small fishing village I would call home for a week. When we arrived at the beach I was expected to find my own way off the boat and, without the assistance of a ladder or pier, I simply tossed myself overboard, landing with a splash in the lazy bay. That initial jump also set the stage for the rest of my time there. My host met me on the beach and escorted me to his B&B in the jungle. “Is this all you brought?” he asked, indicating my luggage. I nodded. “Good, we won’t have to use the wheelbarrow.” I agreed, that was good. I followed his lead by discarding my shoes, but the gravelly sand left my city-sensitive feet seeking mercy. We followed the single cobblestone road to his property, sidestepping manure, chickens and donkeys as we went. There are no cars in the village — only donkeys, horses, a few ATVs, and feet. Barefoot still, I waded through a river, scattering minnows and tadpoles with my invasive toes — bridges are overrated. Every field we passed was so alive and vibrant with the growing season — corn grew alongside Hibiscus and plantains and oversized hummingbirds buzzed eagerly around every new bloom.

My casita itself was beyond perfection. I had a stone terrace with a view of the mountains, a gauzy white mosquito net, and the sound of birds woke me every morning while the insects’ music lulled me to sleep every night. The natural spring pool was a dream and made me realize how desperately I miss swimming. I settled in that first night and watched the sun set with a cup of lemongrass tea. The following days blur together in a perfect union of hiking to waterfalls, reading some fantastic literature and lazing on the beach. I find it hard to read on the beach, I am far more interested in people-watching and glass-bottle-Pepsi-drinking. One day I watched a free-flying paragliding lesson. The instructor sat behind me giving instructions in a walkie talkie while the students in the air attempted to comply — bank right, bank left, pull up. It was my own private show and I watched them circle the mountains like bats, whipping the fog into decorative swirls with their multi-colored nylon wings.

During my three-day beachfront observation, I saw donkeys carrying cement bricks, men haggling over a wheelbarrow full of fish, two boys hacking open coconuts for the soft, meaty centers, a woman selling homemade pie from a container she balanced on her head and, of course, a few tourists who came for the day to do the waterfall hike, have a Corona Light on the beach, then leave. I liked getting there in the early morning, before the boats had started to populate the cerulean waters, watching the beach wake up and greet the day. I’d get a fresh-squeezed juice in town at a stand labeled “jugos naturales” and bring it in the to-go plastic bag down to the water. In the afternoons I’d eat pie and guacamole and swim, then hole up in my room to read. I also cooked my own dinners at the casita, making full use of their chef’s kitchen. I didn’t talk to anyone, but I did write 22 pages in my journal and read four books (Dancing for Degas, The Lover, Suspended Sentences, Chocolates for Breakfast) and developed admirable calluses on my feet.

Now that I’ve catapulted back to reality (and I mean that in the best way), Mexico seems like an unfamiliar and foggy dream I woke abruptly from and am not quite able to perfectly recapture outside the confines of my own imagination. I suppose that’s the price I must pay for managing to fully inhabit another life for just a little while.

April 13th, 2015

outfit no. 129

I stepped away from my blog for a couple of weeks to really relish reality without any distractions. I deleted Twitter and Facebook from my phone before I left for Mexico and only recently re-installed them. It was a nice break from all the unessential noise. Also, if you’ve been following me on Instagram you might be thinking, “You got some ‘splainin’ to do!” Yes, I had an epic spring break rife with new experiences, new books, a journal brimming with observations and an entirely new outlook on my future. So, while I compose a more eloquent post on all that, here is what I wore this past weekend! I took an unanticipated last minute trip to Oakland, which was also my first time riding Bart, and spent the afternoon in Temescal window shopping and eating doughnuts. As with many Bay Area gems I’ve discovered, I was previously unaware of how cute that area of Oakland is. I decided to represent my native Texan pride, dug out my old bomber jacket and paired them both with another oldie but goodie — my stretchy UO skirt that just happens to go perfectly with maintaing some semblance of comfort while sitting for 2 hours on public transit.

Jacket: Target (old) // Shirt: The Home T // Tights, Skirt & Socks: UO // Boots: Old Navy