Back When I Thought I Could Art, Part One

That moment when you manage to salvage your failing external drive and come across an embarrassing file you’d thought long lost to the oblivion of multiple drive transfers and the wibbly wobbly nature of time… Well. Not everyone can be so fortunate and I was not one of them.

Apparently there was a point in my life when I thought I could art and I find these so laughably awful, I thought I might as well share them before deleting for good ❤

Enjoy,

“J”

angel

chibitaria

c&j_math

 

Advertisements

Above Us Only Sky

rainbow-flagThe thing is, deep down inside, once we get past all the possible variations of melanin tones and delve through the murky waters that are the mellow beige or spectacular spectra hues that represent our orientations, we are all of us essentially nothing more than human. Nothing more than a temporary collection of star-dust and cells. Nothing more than electrical impulses. Nothing more and certainly nothing less. And that should be more than enough to form a basis of understanding with our nothing-more-than fellow human beings. At the very least, it should be enough to live and let live.

The latest LGBTQ attack in Florida – certainly not the first or the last – comes with extra complications given that the attacker was an American citizen who adhered to radical Islam. This is further compounded now that talks of introducing limitations to the second amendment are underway again. Who is at fault? Religion? Politics? Society?

Effectually, WE’RE all at fault. We who stay silent while these atrocities occur. We who quote the ancient texts (that are rife with suspect translations) to point out that anyone could deserve this. We who do not vote out those of intolerant dispositions from office. We who allow the truth to be distorted and endure a society that remains at a perpetual standstill, all while neither encouraging others nor committing ourselves to creating a better world order for the generations that will replace us. In keeping silent, we signal to would be attackers that nobody cares enough for the marginalized to consider serious preventative measures.

And I understand that my beliefs in the sacrosanct nature of humanity will not translate well to those of certain faiths… but after a while, one must ask oneself: Is it truly a just, divine, and merciful God who advocates for us to become murderers? Is this really what God/god/the gods would want?

To Be Continued…

poa_sign

It has only been seven – now quickly going on eight – months into this new year and our family has yet to have a quiet moment. On top of unresolved issues that have built up, a few major family illnesses and a death have occurred in the past two weeks alone. I’m taking a four day hiatus to finish packing and resolving what I can before departure. This blogger is hanging up the will be back sign until then. In the meantime, please enjoy Bach’s Chaconne from Partita No. 2 as played by Hilary Hahn.

Fullerton Arboretum

Located in the upper North corner of Orange County, the city of Fullerton is best known for the following: a convenient 15 minute distance from Disneyland by car, Troy High School, Republicans, and the eponymous California State University off of Nutwood Avenue. Hordes of commuters and international students arrive each year to pursue higher education for an increasingly competitive job market, their options limited by geography and cost for the most part. It ranks as one of the best Business Administration degree granting institutions but the disparity in inter-departmental expenditure is more than obvious. Humanities and Arts will languish in the ages old archaic system of favoritism while the Business and Engineering colleges are garnished with grants and money willed by famous and/or rich alumni. This hierarchical system is seen around the world and not unique to Cal State Fullerton. It’s sadly bigoted and geared towards pumping out businessmen and professors – the socially acceptable and “successful” of our demographics – professions which most have neither the inclination nor the will to follow for personal reasons.

In the midst of this ages long war, the botanical gardens (otherwise known as the Arboretum) on campus grounds flourish through patron donations, which enables them to provide free entry to the community and not just its students. The grounds are breathtaking, lush, and full of surprises if you step off the beaten tracks. Its main gem and attraction is a Bodhi Tree presented to the university by the Dalai Lama in 2000. Many a person has rested their weary feet at its roots and shaded themselves from the oppressive California sun beneath its verdant foliage. Though not my personal favorite, the Bodhi Tree is nonetheless of great importance and something of a claim to fame for the school.

Summertime sees the ducklings born in the spring transformed into full grown adults as well as a host of seasonal flowers blooming bright and tall, the return of a well-loved crane to its ponds, and a host of children that visit the children’s corner on the grounds. My favorite flowers are sunflowers and seeing them at the entrance made me so excited to discover what else had grown since last I had been there in June. The best part, though, was seeing my mom go absolutely nuts over the Arboretum’s plant collection. As an amateur botanist with years of experience in home gardening and transplanting, she’s also a bit of an enthusiast on rare plants, making the Arboretum her own heaven on earth since each section is divided into geographical regions.

Parking at the Arboretum is also free but very limited. And as previously mentioned it is quite a family friendly destination: it hosts a children’s area complete with play stations, the Nikkei Japanese Heritage Museum, and a greenhouse with plants sold according to seasonal availability. I recommend this Southern California trip to anyone who wants to tour a university campus and escape into the greenery, too.

arboretum_map

Although accessible by the 91 or 57 freeways, be aware that most of the 91 carpool lanes have been turned into toll roads by greedy-politician-back-hand deals with equally (if not more so) greedy-and-soulless businessmen. If this sounds a tad bit bitter, please keep in mind that Californians have a special love-hate affair with their freeways. We have pretty steep taxes already and it’s a slap in the face to find out that some of the heaviest traffic carrying freeways (which are already in need of lane expansions to accommodate the heavy influx of commuters) are now charging for being used.

But I digress. More information on the Arboretum and events can be found by clicking here.

sunflowers

My favorite flowers in all the world: they’re so big and bright and happy 😀 They always put a smile on my face!

Impromptu Op. 1 No. 1: The Hair Dresser’s Fantasie in E-flat Major

It was just one of those things that sort of happened: gathered around the table chatting about the proverbial life and taxes when out of the clear, wide, open blue…

“So did you really want a haircut?” Roberto asked, eyeing my frizzled mess with a discerning look. Earlier in our conversation my mother had remarked that I was unhappy with the current state of folic affairs – I hadn’t gotten a decent trim in, well, seven months and since my hair is deceptively thick it was long overdue for a touch up. I could tell his thoughts were going at a mile a minute; he knew exactly what he wanted to do.

“Um, yeah!” I still don’t know what compelled me but I’m very glad that I did. Was it a pre-midlife crisis building up? Was it the fact that at 22 the most adventurous thing I had ever done to my hair was bob it (albeit from a sober hair dresser). “Just surprise me!”

There was no time to take back a decision made on one and a half shots of spiced rum (shocking, I know. Light weights unite!). And that’s when both Roberto and Eddie got up at the same time, the two slightly tipsier than I was, but still in control of motor functions. “Oh my God, let’s do it.”

Jessie provided the kit: hair oil, mister, shears and… well all those other instruments from the picture above – didn’t quite catch their names. My previous hairdo was really, really outdated plus it was getting too long/monotonous for me even to care about doing much with it. Now I can’t wait to start playing with it again! Roberto you are absolutely fabulous. Anytime, any day, you just say the word and I’ll be your translator, guide, and host in Japan. Lots of love and gratitude XoxO ❤ And for anyone interested: Check out Roberto’s work at the  ULTA in Eastvale, California!

Artistry has always run strongly on my mother’s side but while previous generations have chosen professions in the more conventional music/art-related fields, it seems as if these young bloods have taken a shine to hair and cosmetology. Eddie only has to wait for his license to clear. My sister will be starting her courses just as soon as she graduates from high school. And, of course, Jessie. Best of luck in your exams on Tuesday, Jessica! With all of your hard work and enthusiasm, you will soon also be a wonderful hair dresser like Roberto and cousin Eddie.

Thanks for all of these beautiful memories 😀 And now time for a real impromptu in E-flat Major.

 

This. Is. LACMA.

So you think you’ve seen it all, huh? Pffff. Please 😉

Best of all: The second Tuesday of the month is free general admission for the day (usually 11am-5pm). Regular admission price totals $15 (special exhibits start at $25 and up) with parking for the day coming in at an even $12. After 7pm, there is no charge. Children under 17 years are allowed free entry with accompanying adult every day (not just the first Tuesday of the month), which makes it a cheap and educational day trip for Angelenos and tourists alike!

LACMA is also closely situated to the Natural History Museum and the La Brea Tar Pits so come prepared with lots of energy and great enthusiasm for learning!

Generally I am not a fan of modern art – sorry! – but I will say that the mass of squiggly lines made out of clay spoke to me in ways that the disintegrated rhombus and hexagons did not. It was oddly a convoluted mess of all the unspoken words I had ever wanted to say and yet soothing at the same time. Did not look up the artist’s name as the lovely Diana and I were pressed for time (crown delivery that same day at 6pm so expediency was of the essence!) but I will say this: It fed my soul and my soul was happy for the time it had the privilege and pleasure to look upon the colorfully engaging linear art gracing LACMA’s austere white walls. Props to this artist and I’ll just have to come back sometime after JET to get her or his name down properly.

Making Your Own Vanilla Extract + Time Machine Archives ii

beanilla

::Beanilla Recipe for Home-Made Vanilla Extract::

-What You’ll Need-

Homemade Vanilla Extract Infusion Kit (I used the Bourbon-Madagascar variety)

1 cup rum

Some elbow grease (and groovy dance moves)

8 weeks worth of saintly patience

Lots of love ❤

vanillabottle beanillapost

beanilla

beanillapost2

Stumbling across Beanilla was my best piece of luck last year 😉 The aroma of real vanilla is mouthwatering and soothing all at the same time  ❤ Until you smell a fresh vanilla bean, you have no idea what heaven smells like… okay, totally one-sided view of heaven. I especially loved how the scent wafted in the kitchen for a good couple hours. I could almost hear Bach’s Hallelujah in the background. It was glorious.

Some might be hesitant to begin making their own vanilla extract but it’s really just that simple: alcohol + sterilized glass bottle + deliciously scented vanilla beans = magical never ending supply of vanilla extract! For $15.00 you will never have to buy vanilla extract again! So long as you keep the vanilla beans in the bottle, just keep topping off your 8.5 fl oz bottle with alcohol of your choice (preferably same alcohol type and brand that was originally used) and you have a practically never ending supply of vanilla extract. And when you run out of alcohol just buy more. No, seriously… it helps out the environment and it’s worth every penny once you do the math:

Great Value Pure Vanilla Extract, 1 fl oz – $2.48

Pure Vanilla: Premium 100% Pure Extract, 2 oz – $4.12

McCormick Pure Vanilla Extract, 16 fl oz – $9.98

(And those are Walmart prices; as soon as you run out you have to go buy them again)

And some more Time Machine Archives… the baking adventures before life, work, and school puttered me out of my demanding side job of self-appointed cookie chef and baking experimenter extraordinaire 😉 I used my vanilla extract in souffles, chocolate chip cookies, biscotti, and the gem of gems: Linzer cookies! The flavor came out best in the souffle since it wasn’t competing with anything other than the egg. I still don’t like souffles though… all that eggy-ness.

souffle1 souffle2

biscotti

linzer1 linzer2

 

How to Pack for Long-Term Travel Part I

suitcase_packing

introductionIt takes many types of people to make the world go round but to some extent or other we are all travelers by nature: curious, adaptable, resourceful, and of course survivors. Our species has spread and evolved across every continent and settled in as varied a geographic setting as any that can be found on planet Earth.

But these days we travel more so for business or pleasure than for outright survival, still travelers we remain: from the casual weekend family visit and the cross country road trip to the international months-long backpacking affair and the long-term immigration settling. Unlike our medieval ancestors who were more likely to be born, raised, and die in the village/town/city of their birth, current generations are uprooting more frequently than ever before in history. Mainly for economic reasons (ironically, I cannot find a job in the country that prides itself on perpetuating the ideal of the American Dream even with a degree), which make experimentation with international unions quite popular because they facilitate this kind of uprooting for the citizens of participating such as in the case of the European Union. As such you are most likely reading this article because you are contemplating making such a move yourself and don’t know where to start. Welcome!

This article will be focusing on travel packing for upwards of a year or more but is easily applicable to the semester study abroad student stint. It’s broken down into three easy steps that will cover the initial essentials of packing and how to choose what you will be taking abroad with you.

resesarchPut those research skills to good use, my lovelies. Find out everything you can about your destination: geography, geology, and the highest/lowest/average recorded temperature are all great places to start. Become a fluent converter of Celsius (also known as Centigrade in some countries) and Fahrenheit. You may even want to look up humidity levels because dry heat and humid heat are two different situations entirely. Trust me. As a native Californian I thought I could handle heat, after all the running joke in this state is that California has only two seasons: summer… and not summer. That is until I found myself in Tokyo’s muggy, typhoon mess and between swimming in my own sticky sweat vs weather that was twenty to thirty degrees hotter but drier, I choose the latter any day. So… prepare yourself! Even when you think you’ve got something, turns out the differences might surprise you, too.

For those going to countries with significantly colder weather: although you may feel like investing in TWO suitcases just to accommodate all of your winter regalia, first stop and investigate what options, if any, your new home country will have for you. Sometimes it’s cheaper to purchase it on location than it would be to pay charges for extra check-in baggage. In the event that your new home country will not be able to carry your size (Japan, if you’re a taller/larger/wider American female such as myself – woefully a comfortable medium in USA sizing is an extra large over there) just buy the jackets/boots here and have them shipped in a box. This will save you packing headaches down the road and can be a nice care package from and to yourself 😉

inventorySo what’s in the closet? Once you’ve established what kind of climate you will be up against, the next step is to take stock of what you already own, what will work, what won’t, and what you’ll need. This is the part where people start tearing out their hair. When you’ve settled down somewhere for a comfortable amount of time and have a space of your own that you think of as permanent, you tend to settle down and accumulate stuff. And fast. This goes for furniture and living utensils as well as clothes. Rarely, if ever, do people take a mass inventory of their life’s accumulation for the sole purpose of tossing it out. Be honest, when was the last time you went about doing this?

However, this is also an amazing opportunity to donate all of your unwanted items: thrift shops, women’s shelters, religious organizations, and the Salvation Army will always welcome your used and well-loved items. If tight on cash yourself, you could always opt for the other route, which  is to sell your items as “vintage” on Etsy or eBay, but try donating what you can first to those in greater need than your own.

Start a list, draw it out, sticky notes… whatever helps you get organized.

weedingResearch. Check. Inventory. Check. Now comes the fun (or not so fun, depending on how indecisive you are)! Time to choose what to keep and what to give away/sell 😀 Below you will find an infographic from this neat website which is geared towards simplifying your closet weeding and it gives you a point of reference for what you can keep and what should get thrown out. Generally speaking, I love the flow chart style and it works if you promise not to make special allowances for a single item of clothing. Okay, well, maybe you can give yourself up to three passes but only those three >.>

Once you can mentally take a picture of everything you’ve got and everything you will most likely need to take, this will make it easier to purchase the appropriate type and amount suitcases for your trip. My rule of thumb is pack for a week and a half. Do your laundry more often and accumulate clothes over there as needed. It is astounding how little you need to actually survive. Most suitcases can’t carry much more without going over the weight limit so check with your airline and weigh as necessary.

closetweeding

 

And those are the first three steps to packing for long-term travel 😀 Next we’ll cover choosing suitcases and the lost art of packing them!

Till the next post!

Home-made Strawberry Jam + Time Machine Archives

strawberryjam

Hiking in the morning, making jam in the afternoon, and reading heavy fiction in the evening are some nice alternatives for the people who aren’t too beach crazy. The only way to enjoy summer properly is to partake of all its joys, my dear Californians, and yes there is a world outside of our warm, sandy beaches. Fortunately this is also the time of the year that locally grown fruit makes a comeback: lower in price and oh so ripe. The best way to preserve their full flavor and freshness? In jams! 😀

So this recipe is pretty adaptable for the most part, which is great for people who want to cut back on the sugar. My friend Diana is the greatest at coming up with cooking challenges for us to try but this one topped the cake. Not only was it fairly simple and less stressful than some of our other concoctions (pasta sauce… ahaha o.o) but it’s so much fun! Just the idea of making jam instead of having to buy it – makes one feel self suffient! It’s a family friendly recipe that’s a win-win for everyone. I look forward to seeing what else she’ll come up with next 😉

.:INGREDIENTS:.

  • 2 lbs organic strawberries
  • ~1 c water
  • 1.5 c sugar (white, brown, raw)
  • 1 lemon, squeezed

::DIRECTIONS::

  1. Wash, de-stem, and cut all of the strawberries in half. And, of course, eat a couple of them along the way >.> But not all!
  2. Blend strawberries and water until completely liquefied.
  3. Pour the liquefied strawberries, sugar, and lemon juice into a saucepan and stir sugar until completely dissolved.
  4. Boil this mixture for 30-45 minutes and stir occasionally to keep jam from burning. Make sure to skim the thick, white foam that accumulates, which although tasty is not good for the jam. You’ll know it’s ready once it turns a bright and deep red.
  5. Ladle into properly sterilized mason jars (do not touch inside of the jar) but do not fill to the brim. Carefully seal mason jar and place lid down onto a towel on a flat surface, which will help the jam to seal properly. Once cooled place the mason jars into the refrigerator so that jam can properly congeal 😉

breakfast

Even so this jam will be a little runnier than the kind you buy at the supermarket because there are no artificial additives. But it holds up well and tastes amazing. The amount of sugar listed in this recipe is just right for those who like a tart sweetness. Two cups of sugar (but no more) recommended for people with a really sweet tooth. All in all it’s a pretty adaptable recipe. Enjoy!

And now for some time machine archives from the old blog – those of you who would like access just drop me a line using the contact page: strawberry picking, otherwise known as いちごかり (ichigokari) in Japanese, is a great day trip to take if you live in the city and want to get out for a couple of hours.

ichigokari2 ichigokari ichigokari3 ichigokari_strawberriesichigokari_ella ichigokari_audrey

For about 1,000 yen (approximately $10.00) you can pick and eat as many strawberries as you want in the hothouses for a set amount of time. Most places do anywhere upwards of an hour and a half to two and a half hours of wonderful berry picking and eating.