August 29th, 2014
August 27th, 2014
Monday was my sixth first day of school, as a teacher. Excuse my momentary outburst of disbelief, but wow! I’ve been teaching for six years. When I first started in the education game, I was so naive and fresh-faced and just out of college. Then, I got laid off and cynically vowed to never enter another high school, so I honestly didn’t think I’d make it to year six. And yet, teaching is an inextricable piece of who I am, of who I am still becoming. It’s also worth mentioning that no matter how many times you participate in the agonizing ritual, first days of school are still first days of school. They’re nerve-wracking, fast-paced and, no matter what your intentions, un-scripted.
I re-mixed this blazer previously here. Apparently I tend toward a similar navy blue and orange look when I want to appear professional. This particular skirt is really special to me. It’s my grandma’s skirt that Jared’s mom hemmed for me (because I’m short) and has a fabulously subtle herringbone pattern. I have another one in mauve, to be featured soon. In other news, I got a new camera lens (yay!) and can’t wait to post some of the photos I’ve been taking with it (this is not one of them).
August 25th, 2014
If you break the rules, you go to prison. If you break prison’s rules, you go to Alcatraz.
Having never seen a movie about Alcatraz (I know, I know. I’ve watched a lot of OZ though, so I think that’s the same or something), I had few expectations about visiting The Rock. My parents, Jared and I took an official cruise to the island, which is a National Park and bird sanctuary and housed Al Capone — and I had no ideas about any of this. Once we arrived, we watched a quick movie where I discovered even more hidden history — there was a 19-month Native American occupation on the island from 1969 – 1971. I was so fascinated that I did a little bit more reading on the topic and found that this protest brought attention to the Native American plight and the concept of Indian activism was then reinforced by the federal government (read more). Eventually, Alcatraz was designated a National Park and that’s how it has remained until the present day. However, as you tour the island there is a strange juxtaposition of prison barracks, spray painted messages of Native American pride and protected seagull nesting grounds. This is definitely a must-do on any SF visit, but book in advance. We had a hard time getting tickets 6-weeks out.
August 21st, 2014
I suppose you aren’t a true Californian until you take a trip to wine country. While my family was visiting, we opted to go to Sonoma Valley for a wine-tasting vineyard experience (my first). We did minimal research beforehand because it appeared that you could pretty much drive up one road, hitting the wineries as you went. However, we did take note of two wineries we wanted to visit — Gloria Ferrer and Nicholson Ranch.
We left early, arriving in Sonoma around 11AM, both the traffic and drive from SF were quite mild. We went to Gloria Ferrer first, because it seemed more civilized to start getting morning-drunk on champagne. The patio was moderately crowded, but we were still afforded a fabulous view. My parents wanted to do a bottle service, so they let my brother and I choose the bubbles. I was insistent on something pink, for no real reason, and we settled on their Brut Rosé. Coincidentally, this first wine was also my favorite of the day. It had bright, crisp, summery flavors that I really enjoyed. Although we didn’t tour the caves (I didn’t know they charge extra for that), it was still the perfect first stop. The only downside was that due to the mixing process in mid-August, the patio gets rather swarmed with flies. So if you go anytime soon, sit inside.
Our next stop was at Nicholson Ranch. Okay, this place is what I always imagined wine country to look like. It was picturesque and afforded us a much closer inspection of the vineyards (for no extra charge). We sat outside under umbrellas and enjoyed the sunshine and the views — I actually garnered a bit of a sunburn on my back, because what is sun? Here we did a Club Service Tasting (my mom’s choice) and sampled six wines each, plus we devoured a cheese board. Our family favorite was the Chardonnay Cuvée Natalie Reserve Estate which had buttery caramel and vanilla undertones. I also enjoyed the Cactus Hill Pinot Noir.
Our last stop was for lunch at Fremont Diner. Apparently it’s been featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, which heralded additional popularity for the tiny establishment and so, it’s always packed. Jared and I couldn’t get over how much it looked as though they had plucked a restaurant right out of Austin and set it in California wine country. I had such a weird feeling of deja vu the entire time we were there. We drank sweet tea (the first place I’ve found that serves it here) out of mason jars and I ate a hearty meal of chicken and waffles. We listened to live country music on the patio — because apparently in California they sing about the “good life” in Texas, and in Texas they sing about heading west to California. Chickens pecked the ground nearby while we watched the sun sink lower behind a verdant backdrop of rolling vineyards. It was the perfect way to punctuate our experience.
August 20th, 2014
I’m sure a lot of you have heard of Everlane, they are a San Francisco-based t-shirt & clothing company. I had read several reviews extolling the virtues of their t-shirts on various style blogs. At the time, I was on the search for the perfect white v-neck, and I bought one from Everlane. First of all, their white t-shirts are far from opaque — which is fine, if you’re just wearing it for leisure, but I wanted one for the workplace. That was my first disappointment. Then, within a couple of wears, two small holes developed near the bottom seam. Irritated, I relegated the shirt to my “workout pile” and moved on. Still, I kept reading glowing reviews online. Normally, I never return things, or complain, mostly because I don’t like confrontation — but I had opinions about this. When I finally mentioned said disappointment on Twitter, I was contacted within an hour by the Everlane rep and offered a replacement shirt, despite it being past the return date, and credit toward a new purchase (the sweater featured below).
There was no added catch to do a write-up of any kind on my blog, but I wanted to share my honest opinion about this company. I think it’s rather rare in today’s day and age to have a really positive customer service experience, especially in the online clothing retail industry and with a real person. Everlane generally has excellent and timely customer service and a dedication to being transparent about their production and policies — if you want quick attention, contact them directly via Twitter. Additionally, the new products feel of superior quality to the original shirt I ordered. I’ve spoken to a few other bloggers and we concluded that I may have gotten a defective tee (although, in my opinion, it was still too transparent for everyday wear) and I hope that these new pieces hold up past one wash. For now, I will say that I am very pleased. I love the soft mauve color of the sweater and I am still not tired of pairing my sweaters with tights and a dress or skirt. I think I am actually falling in love with the foggy, drizzly San Francisco summer.
Sweater: Everlane // Dress: UO // Tights: StitchFix // Shoes: Ross
August 18th, 2014
I have a long-time fascination with backpacking and camping. I mentioned previously that camping was not an activity my family typically engaged in, thus the probable source of said fascination. During the last few months, basically since moving to California, I’ve managed to experience more nature than I squeezed out of the entire year in Texas. California is truly a magical place for aspiring outdoors(wo)men.
Last week, my parents and brother came to visit us in San Francisco. Familial interaction with the added benefit of playing tourist in various surrounding areas of our fair city. Somehow, we ended up partaking in an activity that was definitely more my speed — hiking in the Muir Woods! Recently, Jared and I watched a documentary called Mile Mile and a Half and I decided that it was my new life’s ambition to hike the entire JMT. To this end, Jared bought me The Backpacker’s Handbook as a form of encouragement and I got my first taste of the trails on this excursion.
With my parents, brother and Jared in tow, I hiked a loop through the Ocean View Trail, Lost Trail and Fern Creek Trail, back down to the visitor center. It was so magical walking among the giant Redwoods, removed from civilization, peering constantly heavenward and scanning the horizon for flora and fauna. We spotted a doe, a buck, a couple of woodpeckers and a chipmunk (super cute! I’d never seen one before), and I successfully identified Poison Oak. Ideally, I would have spent some more time engaged in extensive exploration, and am consequently counting the days until we can go back.
August 13th, 2014
“Believe you can and you’re halfway there.” – Theodore Roosevelt
I don’t talk about being a graduate student much on my blog. I go to school online, so it’s not a huge part of my day to day. However, I am in fact working on my M.Ed and I have been for a while. When I started this degree, I was still in Texas and completely unsure of what my “next step” was going to be. It seemed perfectly logical to take that (unintentional) time-out and go back to school, something I’ve wanted to do since I graduated college the first time around. After a taxing amount of research, I applied to an online program that offered my major of choice and was accepted.
Attending graduate school online is a tricky thing. You need a certain level of tech-savviness to appropriately navigate the coursework. Additionally, you have to possess a fairly high level of intrinsic motivation. There is no one reminding me of when my assignments are due, or even what days my classes start on — I am wholly responsible for my own learning. Some people, like myself, thrive under this perceived autonomy. But it comes at a price. Should you have any questions or issues that require speculation beyond a simple yes or no, it can be complicated to communicate with your professor via an online TA. I have had a few minor issues regarding grades and rubric feedback, but it was all sorted fairly handily.
The strange thing is, people seem to forget that I am in graduate school. I have a full-time job and just moved cross-country (not for school), so all this adds up to not-a-grad-student in everyone’s collective mind. Many of my friends have moved for various grad programs across the US, but I found it easier to bring my program with me instead. I don’t require the recognition of others in order to achieve my academic endeavors, but sometimes I do feel incredibly forlorn. Since I take classes online, my discussion with other students is fairly limited and not often stimulating. I process new ideas by talking about them with other people — but I don’t know anyone else pursuing an M.Ed and therefore find myself unable to bring up social cognitive theory during casual dinner conversation. Even at my new school, those instructors with master’s degrees have them in a field other than education. I am only one ship in a vast ocean, and I just want to geek out about self-monitoring strategies.
I finished my sixth graduate school class today. That means I am officially halfway done. I’m almost an expert in my field, whatever that means. Throughout this process, I’ve been both frustrated and inspired. I’ve accrued a bit of additional student loan debt (at this point, what does it matter). I’ve read countless journal articles on education and literacy and student motivation, with countless more to go. But at about this time next summer, I will be hanging my pretty new degree on the wall.
August 11th, 2014
I am lusting after a new DSLR camera, but I know that’s not a realistic dream at the moment. I don’t think there’s anything particularly wrong with the quality of the photos I take currently, but I wish they were just a little brighter and sharper. Honestly, I suppose it’s because I’ve been really enjoying taking photographs in San Francisco; there is so much to see and I want to document it all! Next week we are going to the Miur Woods and Alcatraz, so expect an overabundance of images. I know I run the risk of becoming an obnoxious hipster carrying a DSLR as an accessory. I am also surprisingly okay with it. I will still be the least obnoxious hipster in SF.
I’ve been on the hunt for the perfect, lined chambray skirt for some time now — this might be it. I had an imperfect, unlined version in Korea, but it remained behind, filled with holes due to my aggressive foreign washing machine. I found this one (for half-off!) while thrifting — which is becoming the story of my life. Also, if you don’t know about The Home T, ta-da! now you do. They have a shirt for every state!
August 8th, 2014
This outfit is a compilation of many things that don’t particularly “belong” — maybe that’s why I like it. The hat is one I frequently borrow from Jared’s side of the closet and the top is an oversized men’s sweater I bought on sale three or four years ago from Urban Outfitters. I love the subtle mountain / nature print, and I’ve also remixed it before here. I found these vintage boots at a thrift store in SF for $8. They are supple leather, with cross-cross detailing along the sides, made in Brazil and otherwise unbranded. I actually saw another woman try them on and was like, “HOW did I miss those??” When she put them back on the rack it took me all of 12 seconds to grab them for myself. Of course, they fit perfectly. The only thing is, these boots are well loved. They have water marks and scuffs on the toe, but for some reason that endeared them to me more. I considered polishing them up, but I seriously love them because they are so worn out — it makes me feel as though these boots possess their own unique story, and I want to be their second act.
August 6th, 2014
When I was younger, I participated in Girl Scouts. Unfortunately, suburban Girl Scouts usually consisted of camping in someone’s backyard while the moms-in-charge ordered us pizza and we painted each other’s nails. I remember our badges often focused on crafting, makeup and cooking. Not to mention I was a shy kid and hated selling cookies. But sometimes we went to sleepaway camp for a few days, those are my favorite Girl Scout memories. We slept in communal tents, used latrines, and learned useful skills like how to start a fire, use a pocket knife and make packet meals to cook over the coals — there was also usually landyard making and paper mache involved. Sometimes we interacted with wildlife, identifying birds or small animal tracks. We made daisy chains and sang songs around a blissfully blazing campfire. I never went camping with my family (I come from a long line of people who like their hotels), but I am thankful that they provided me with the chance to experience nature as a child.
I’ve grown into a less shy, but still introverted adult — however, I do make grand, sweeping attempts at social bravery on occasion. This weekend involved one such gesture. I signed up with my friends Amber and Marian to go kayaking / camping at the Point Reyes National Seashore with seven other ladies I’d never met before via a camping group called Trail Mavens. I can only liken this group of urban women seeking both solace and companionship in nature to Girl Scouts for grownups — replace cookies with wine.
In my head, I imagined the kayaking bit to be more leisurely than it actually was. We were kayaking as a mode of transportation, 40 minutes into the ocean, in order to reach our campsite at Marshall Beach. There is no other way to get there aside from boat, which definitely provides a more secluded feel, but also really sore shoulders. We pulled our kayaks onto the beach and settled in for some storytelling time, followed by a vegetarian lunch (we took turns preparing the food) and a hike into the the farmland beyond Marshall Beach. The hike was especially enjoyable because we were the only humans on a trail primarily populated by cattle and birds — I spotted quail, swallows, dove, finches, seagulls, cormorant and a hawk over the course of the weekend. We set up tents, learned about maps and camp stoves, built fires, drank wine and swapped female-centric stories.
The strange thing about our campsite was that the light never changed. A heavy fog obscured the sun for the duration of our trip, so 6AM looked like 8PM and it messed with my internal clock a little. However, being tech-free and unplugged (one of the weekend rules) combined with no sense of time, gave the weekend a magical, twilight quality that caused it to stretch into perpetuity.
Unexpectedly, I reached several points of clarity over the weekend. First, women commune with nature differently than men. I typically take camping trips with men (either with Jared or together with his friends) where I am often the sole female, and this was a totally unique experience. Second, the big decisions we make definitely shape who we are, but that doesn’t mean any of us stop searching or dealing with feelings of not knowing — and that’s okay. Third, committing to a place, finding your people and putting down roots can be hard, but ultimately rewarding. Deciding to stake claim on a place is actually one of the scariest things any of us do.
In conclusion, this weekend was one part lady-bonding, one part nature and one part an education — I can’t wait to do it again.