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

March 30th, 2015

outfit no. 128

I bought a pair of Birkenstocks after hemming and hawing over them for years. I’ve always liked how they looked but was hesitant to take the monetary plunge. Recently, I decided to treat myself upon receipt of this years tax refund. So far, I’ve been told I look like a Berkley theology professor and, when I paired them with the slouchy socks featured here, that I look like I am going to Jazzercise class. I maintain there are worse things to be associated with and my feet feel like they are pillowed inside shoe-clouds, so I can hardly be bothered by the perceptions of others. I wore this outfit for a trip to breakfast, thrift shopping and collecting sand dollars on Ocean Beach.

Shirt: Gap (thrifted) // Jeans: Gap // Sandals: Birkenstock // Sunglasses: RayBan

March 27th, 2015

packing list for mexico.

I am heading to Mexico for five days to celebrate that most venerated of teacher traditions: spring break. I am staying in a tiny fishing village, accessible only by water taxi, and intend to spend my days completely isolated, doing yoga, reading books and listening to waves on the beach. I planned this getaway months ago in the wake of a stressful winter break and in anticipation of the inherent exhaustion as I tumble toward the end of the school year and the conclusion of my M.Ed program. I am carrying-on my luggage (one small duffel bag, one backpack) and bringing very little excess clothing in an attempt to focus more on being present and enjoying the experience and less on what I’m wearing. Since I don’t intend to do anything more strenuous than walking around town, I figured I could pack two pairs of comfortable sandals and some socks for extra Birk comfort. I am bringing leggings and a long sleeve sweater for the plane and because, eventually, I may need extra protection from the sun. I am also bringing a dressy, black patterned tank top (not pictured), just in case. My backpack, as you may have guessed, will be overflowing with books (I am bringing five, I think), my moleskin journal and several pens, my DSLR camera, three tiny tubes of sunscreen and the assorted flotsam necessary for international travel. Interestingly, it’s been almost exactly one year since I was last in Mexico and I can actually hear the ceviche calling my name.

March 24th, 2015

outfit no. 127

My school organized a Walkathon last week, the proceeds went to benefit children in Sierra Leone and Haiti. I was in charge of stamping student lap cards and cutting up oranges. Everyone walked laps in Golden Gate Park and, overall, it was a really fun day with really nice weather. I also love when my students are excited about the social justice projects we integrate into our school year and, as we just finished reading A Long Way Gone, it was great to see them make a connection. This is the outfit I wore for a morning of outdoor stamping followed by a trip to the Mission / Castro for early dinner. Also, one of my fabulous Internet friends sent me a care package from Korea and it made my whole week to stuff myself full of Pepero and wear ridiculous cat-print socks (featured below) that happen to match my favorite thrifted flannel. Oh, and I cut my hair. Fringe-city, population me!

Shirt: Levi’s (thrifted) // Jeans: Gap (old) // Shoes: thrifted // Socks: gift

March 19th, 2015

camping // china camp state park.

I knew living in a big city would bring with it a wealth of changes to my suburb-raised lifestyle. Parking is probably the most onerous task that has emerged in the wake of our relocation, however the late-night noise is a big lifestyle change as well. We live on a busy street corner near a couple of bars and, without fail, at least once a week there is a drunken fight / argument / tirade outside our window. Last week it was every. single. night. I can usually handle one night of pseudo-interrupted sleep, but five? No. I actually opened our window and shouted for a group of dudes to cease and desist their tech-centric conversation that had lasted from 2-3AM. I felt like a character from a New York based sitcom.

In short, we needed to get away. And what better place to escape noise pollution than in nature where your only nighttime companions are insects and perhaps the wind? The necessitation of a good night of sleep, coupled with the fact that our 5-year anniversary was this week, spurred me to book a campsite at China Camp in San Rafael. We’ve been hiking out there before and there are many things I like about China Camp: the proximity to SF, beautiful water views, herds of wild turkeys (we could hear them from our campsite) and the walk-in campsites that afford a very comfortable distance from any and all potential road noise. As long as you get lucky with your neighbors, the whole thing can be quite relaxing. We had a campfire, fancy wine & cheese and country music. China Camp is also dog-friendly, so it was no big deal to bring Sherman along and he got to loll about and play in the tall grass. A little time in the woods was just what I needed to refresh for the week ahead.

March 16th, 2015

outfit no. 126

The evenings are longer now, but my early mornings lack the substantive encouragement of daylight and now seem rather bleak. I have been pushing myself to get outside and actually engage with the extended daytime hours. So, this is my “I’m going on an outdoor adventure” beanie. Jared bought it for me as a Christmas side-gift from a men’s fashion website and, despite its rather outrageous neon hue, I have taken it on several hiking trips already. It’s also pretty great for holding my hair in place on particularly windy days. How strange that I already have all kinds of emotions and attachments tied up in a head-shaped piece of cloth. This outfit on a whole is a bit more tomboyish than usual, a look I usually feel I can’t pull off — however, I have to say I love Gap’s boyfriend button-down shirts for bustier gals seeking a comfortable, laid-back fit.

Shirt: Gap // Pants: Old Navy // Boots: thrifted // Beanie: gift

March 13th, 2015

climbing mountains and how I became outdoorsy.

I started camping in Garner State Park when I was in high school. Garner is located in the West Texas hill country and its main appeal is the winding, and appropriately named, Frio River. Garner State Park was a large part of my teenage existence brought on by both my parents friendships with a group of glamping adults and my high school sweetheart — he doted on the place like a beloved older sibling who possessed all the assuredness and uninterrupted “cool” that we perceive in those slightly more worldly than ourselves. In the times I visited with my family, we never stayed in a tent. However, as life continued in a rushing motion toward adulthood, and boyfriends came and went, I slept in and around Garner in all manner of accommodation: tents, campers and, at one point, a half-built cabin.

My most cherished memory of Garner is actually staying on a piece of land outside the park that was owned by my friend’s family. I was perhaps 18 at the time. His family was building this rustic cabin on a couple of acres with river access, at this point only the basic necessities were in place – toilets, un-insulated walls, and this fabulous covered porch that looked out over a meadow, lush with summer rain, where we had intermittently placed deer feeders in hope of luring fauna into our line of vision.

Storm clouds gathered early one morning during our week long stay, and rain began to patter on the roof before we’d even made breakfast. Rain has never spoiled an outdoors experience for me and I dragged my air mattress out onto the expansive, rough-hewn porch where I sprawled happily on my stomach. The day before, we’d driven to the nearest store (a country Wal-Mart) and, on a whim, I’d picked up the book Angel-Seeker by Sharon Shinn that was sitting, neglected, in the fantasy section. Sidenote: I think Wal-Mart used to have more books.

I relaxed under a misty haze of summer rainwater, sipping sweet tea, and reading the entire book, as morning stretched into a lazy afternoon. That day began my love affair with both Sharon Shinn’s writing and the beauty of quiet, introspective self-indulgence that camping and nature can offer.

After college, I seldomly camped – maybe once or twice. After Korea, we beach camped a few times in Galveston, but California has really opened me up again to the outdoorsy girl I once had the potential to be. I’ve climbed actual mountains and camped in the surreal moonscape of White Sands NM and backpacked through snow.

Recently, I was conversing with a fellow outdoor-lady / hiking companion to whom I confided the secret that I don’t view myself as “outdoorsy.” She laughed and said, “I think you’ve more than earned that title.” It made my heart soar a little to know that someone in this new life I’ve created here views me as a purveyor of nature and any variant thereof. I’m always learning and planning adventures and throwing myself several feet outside of my comfort zone (remember when I went snowshoeing? yeah, that). As an introvert, I find myself the most free when I am in the quiet of a never-ending forest or sitting atop a peak – every sense is heightened and I can hear myself in the silence. I suppose following my love of the outdoors with undiluted passion has become something of a lifestyle, and with that shift I have changed as well.  So, here’s to unexpected realizations and climbing mountains, both literal and metaphorical.

March 11th, 2015

outfit no. 125

The botanical garden in Golden Gate Park is free to SF residents if you have proof of ID. I find this to be a genius idea as it stimulates visits from locals, something many city institutions struggle with. Not only is the botanical garden more vacant than other areas of the park due to the necessity of an entry fee or ID, it’s also diverse, beautiful and well-maintained. I wander past concrete fountains, through an expansive green lawn and find a bench under the Star Magnolia tree where I can watch geese pecking at the bases of the garden’s myriad plants and trees in search of a snack. Jared and I tend to walk through when the weekends are nice because it’s a more enjoyable route to take when crossing through the park (and did I mention it’s free?). This is an outfit I wore for one such walk after a visit to the new Botticelli to Braque exhibit at the deYoung Museum. Socks + boots + stripes forever!

Tunic & Socks: UO // Tights: H&M // Boots: Old Navy // Sunglasses: RayBan

March 9th, 2015

outfit no. 124

One of my favorite outfit details is pulling a pair of dark, berry-colored slouchy socks over black tights. I don’t know why I lean toward this particular shade, but I found these perfectly hued socks at Urban Outfitters (online) and quickly bought up a couple of pairs since I’d put a toe hole in my favorite burgundy socks (originally from Gap) due to constant use — in defense of Gap’s socks, I did buy them in 2012, so they held on for a while. I wore this outfit to the Banff Mtn Film Fest and I was the only person not extensively clad in Patagonia or North Face. My students also expressed wonder at the addition of pockets to this tunic / dress, which I will admit was the primary motivation for purchase, along with the modest neckline.

Dress: Cos (thrifted) // Leggings: StitchFix // Boots: Old Navy // Socks: UO