Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Where is home?


When people ask me "where are you from?" I never know what to say. I was born in Brooklyn, New York. But when I was a baby my father's job was relocated to Columbus, Ohio. That is where I grew up, essentially. But then again, my teenage years were spent in Nowhere, Indiana, because when I was 13, we were uprooted once again. Though I never wanted and never liked Indiana, I never loathed my father for moving us there.  (Well, ok, maybe I did when it first occurred, I *was* 13.) He was just providing the best he could for his family. Ever since the first day I set foot in Indiana, I hated it. I didn't want to be there, I didn't want to leave my friends. I was already enough of an oddball in Ohio. Growing up in the Midwest with New York-state-of-mind parents gave me enough of a moral dilemma on how to act on a daily basis. From the very start, I was a typical Type-A, hurried, impatient New Yorker. That, mixed with a firey attitude and a roller coaster of an emotional personality, I definitely stood out among the slower, calmer Midwest mindset. I knew from a very early age that the lack of sense of urgency around me really bothered me. 

Once I was old enough and able to flee the confines of Smalltown, USA (aka, Indiana) I decided to do all I could to move to Chicago. It's not New York, which I ultimately want someday. But it's a large city, and it's close to my parents and my young brother, which I wasn't too sure I was ready to be farther from than driving distance yet. 

Though Chicago is the third largest city in the US, (and a beautiful one, at that) she's still in the Midwest, and most people here aren't originally from the city. That lack of urgency still lingers. I find myself riding public transit and walking through crowds with the mindset of an angry New Yorker, getting annoyed at slow walkers and rolling my eyes every time the el doors open and no one rushes to go inside. (They actually wait for people to get out first before boarding here!) 

Multiple solo trips to The City in more recent years make it clear that New York is home. I want Brooklyn, I want The City. For a few reasons, it's a little far from reach at the moment. But I love the feeling knowing that home is waiting for me, no matter how long it takes to get there.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Walter




For almost a year now, I've considered getting a cat. I have a hard time deciding what to eat for dinner, let alone major life-changing events. I really wanted to make sure I was ready for such a change. To let you in on why a little fuzzy cuddle machine would make such a difference in my life, here's a short list of things that would pop into my brain while deciding:

Litter box location. I refuse to be that person who has people over who immediately want to die because of cat smell. 

Longevity. My family's little 8-pound fur pot lived until she was 18 years old. If I get a cat that's 5 years old now, I'll be in my forties when it's that old. FORTIES. 

Moving. What if I move? Looking for pet-friendly apartments will narrow my search.

I go to work and the gym. I have a pretty regular work and work-out schedule. But being in a home is better than a tiny cage in a shelter, right?

Cost. What if it develops some food allergy and has to have the most expensive food and monthly vet visits and shots and medicine? Of all the people to raise a diva cat, it would be me. 

I don't want to adopt a cat then have to give it up again in a year because I realize too late that I can't take care of it. All my doubts, though, seem to fill my head just because I want to be the best "mom" to this innocent creature that I can be. And of all the doubt in my mind, the one thing I've never doubted was my ability to be a good mom someday. So while I'm in no position to have kids now, I can definitely mother a four-legged fuzz bag. 

Cut to last weekend, April 12th, when a coworker took me to Chicago's Anti-Cruelty Society. I walked past a cage and was greeted with green eyes, grey fur, and a high-pitched meow. There he was, all 15 pounds. After a short play time outside of the small cage, I went home without adopting. My house wasn't ready yet. I didn't have all my supplies. I had planned on visiting other shelters the next day, but my mission was clear: give the giant grey kitty a loving home, outside of the noisy shelter. Hours later, after buying a variety of food, a littler box, food bowls, and a laser pointer, I drove downtown (Yes! I drove downtown.) back to the shelter to pick him up. 

I named him Walter. My grandfather's name is Walter. I just think that's a great name, and this lovely grey, regal cat is worthy of such a name. He is almost seven years old, declawed from previous owners, who had to get rid of him because they developed an allergy. (Or so said the paper on his cage at the shelter. I have yet to see this cat shed!)

He settled right in, takes naps on the furniture, eats regularly. One week later, we're growing to be pals. I see him trusting me more, and getting more comfortable. All my doubts are gone. 

For more photos, follow me on Twitter! @LaLaLauren

Monday, March 18, 2013

One-Week Challenge


Very often we get into daily habits, and we don't even realize our routines unless someone else points them out. I haven't lived at home for about seven years now. And, I haven't lived in the same city as my parents for about four and a half years. As a self-labeled health nut, when I go visit my parents, I notice little habits they've created for themselves through the years. They existed when I lived at home, but I wasn't aware of them until I was able to see things from an outside perspective. 

The longest standing habit that I noticed was my parent's consumption of soda. Growing up, we had soda at dinner. Dad and I always had regular, caffeine free. Mom always had diet. I stopped this routine in college, when I was on my own and able to develop my own eating habits. I chose water instead. I'm so glad I got away from this nasty little habit, especially with all the developing health buzz through the years about these sugary, artificial beverages. But, when I visit my family, they still have soda at dinner, and sometimes lunch. While their soda habit is actually pretty normal for the average American, I can't help but wonder how their health would be positively effected if they quit this sweet and bubbly daily fixation.

Added to the soda, we have coffee. I began to drink coffee occasionally in college. After I graduated and lived with my parents again for a short time, I enjoyed a Thermos of mom's coffee in the morning on the way to work. It was completely irresistible, especially on cold mornings. I love the smell of coffee, and she added a sprinkle of cinnamon to the grounds so the aroma was even more inviting. When I moved into an apartment by myself, I found it wasn't always easy to wake up early enough to make coffee for myself, and I eventually stopped the daily habit. After a few scary caffeine withdrawal headaches, I decided to keep coffee for "special treats" only. To this day, I try to keep the caffeine consumption to a minimum. Long story short, I get a more positive energy boost from a short walk near the agency windows (sunlight), a tall glass of water, and a piece of fruit.

My mother recently expressed interest in developing better eating habits. After a small happy dance, I started to think of easy ways she could incorporate more healthy choices to her daily life. (Ask LaLa for healthy habit advice and ye shall receive!) I thought it would be fun to challenge ourselves for one week. I thought of a challenge for her to do for seven days, and she thought of one for me. 

Thinking of my mother's caffeine routine, I wondered how she could do without it. I know she still brews that inviting cuppa every morning, yet I know she also has the diet soda at dinner, and sometimes an artificially sweetened latte or a diet soda at lunch. What if she only had her morning boost? My challenge to my mother was to quit the caff all day except for the morning. But rather than cut her off of cup completely, I gave her suggestions to replace these artificial beverages with something more clean and natural. 


My challenge to mumsie:

Afternoon:
Stop the afternoon coffee and have a cup of herbal tea. My mom is used to sweetening her coffee with Splenda, and having diet soda, which is also sweet. Unsweetened tea can be a bit of a change for someone who is used to sweet beverages, so I limited her to one teaspoon of agave nectar. 

Afternoon and evening
Replace the lunch and dinnertime soda with lemon water. Room temp water with a hefty squeeze of lemon aids in healthy digestion while quenching thirst. In larger doses, caffeine can dehydrate your system by causing liquids to pass through your body more quickly. Also, the sweet taste of soda can make your body crave more sweet things later- diet soda or regular. A clean glass of water with lemon is just better for your insides than artificially colored and flavored carbonated beverages, sweetened with sugar or aspartame. 

Mumsie's challenge to me:
Edit your brother's senior photos, already! One photo per day. And, call your grandmother more often. 


My results:
Yes, I can do this! I knew I had a busy week, with events scheduled almost every night, (I'll get to more of this in my "reflections" section) so I decided to hit the ground running on Tuesday night and edit about eight of his photos. Cheating? Perhaps. But I got a lot done, more than just the photos my mom picked out that she liked. And the week after, I still edited more, because I wanted to. Sometimes I forget how much I love editing photos on my own, outside of work. I need to remember that just because my work day is done, my creativity is not. 

As far as calling grandma, I try to do that already, but I always think I could call her and my grandfather more. They are pretty amazing people and always seem to have a joke to crack or something nice to say, even if their week is filled up with doctor appointments. 

Mom's results:
(This is a direct quote from an email she sent me about the challenge.)
"I like not having soda all the time, it helps with the sweet cravings. I will continue to have it once in a while, but not as much as I did. As for my coffee...I can't say that I will continue to not have it in the afternoon but I can say that I will think 'tea' first if I want something. It's a rare day when I have more than 2 cups in the day." 


My reflections on both of us
As for my mother, and most every other person in the US with soda and/or coffee being a part of their daily lives, it is difficult for something so normal and comforting to be taken away. I was hoping this challenge would make her see that she doesn't "need" it, rather, she "wants" it. I think she partially understands that now, but it is a journey, for anyone, to change the way they view what they consume. One week is just a kick-starter. We have a long way to go.

As for me, oftentimes I come home from work, flop on the couch and wonder what I'll do for the rest of the night. I like to usually try and schedule things after work so I don't flop on the couch and stay there. My "challenge week" happened to be full of events, including spending time with a good friend who was visiting from out of town. It also included zumba and yoga, and the gym. (Regularly weekly scheduled post-work events are usually fitness or friends related!) Rather than cancel my plans with anyone or any class, I worked around them. I find that if I try to focus on one thing in my life, I get way too consumed with it, and forget about all the other things I was excited for in the first place. I managed to retouch more of my brother's photos than we originally planned on, as well as go to the gym and see my friend. So, as this was a rather small challenge for me overall, it really taught me a lesson on balance. Just because one big thing comes up doesn't mean I need to neglect all other things.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Nothing in this life is permanent.





A short post today, as a few things are on my mind lately. As always, let me know how you relate. Feel free to leave a comment here, or send me a tweet.

***

A good friend recently said some calming words in one of his podcast episodes. I won't get into the issue of which he was speaking because it isn't relevant to my topic for this post. But in context or out, it makes sense to me. 

"Nothing in this life is permanent."

As scary as that is to think about, I think he's right. Events happen to us every day which we do not expect. Also, if something in our lives isn't right, we can fix it. (It's just up to us to dig through the mound of excuses we tend to pile up.)

I've been thinking about how his statement applies to obstacles we face in life. 

A specific example I thought of is weight loss. If you want to lose weight, you have to live healthfully, completely. Don't dive in and focus on a number on a scale. Learn to live in a state of health first, and the results will follow. Weight is very much a state of mind as it is a shape. 

For another example, think of your job. How many of you go to work every day and don't enjoy it? Do you really need to continue to go there every day? What's stopping you from finding something you truly enjoy doing? 

And on a more "suddenly-in-the-moment" scale...sometimes we encounter things we never anticipated or prepared for- illness, layoffs, love. If we remember that nothing in life has to be permanent, we can change our day-to-day and accommodate new events, people, or situations. It's okay to change. It's okay to move things around a bit to invite new things into our lives. If we want something badly enough, we can make it happen.



(My photo above is a shot of Lake Michigan at Oak Street Beach from this past weekend, March 9th, 2013. The air is changing from Winter to Spring, and the lake is slowing going through nature's process of thawing out and becoming a "beach" again. Yep, it's watermarked. Stealing isn't nice.)

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Life of LaLa: On Being Happy

Hello. 

Do people write blogs anymore? Apparently as of late (and the past 9 or so months) I do not. I still cook, and take pictures along the way. And I paint my nails and get no-chips and take photos of my manicures. (Which you can find on my Instagram, if you follow LaLaLaurenRose82!) I find, however, that Twitter and Instagram and Facebook provide more of what people are looking for now- instant, quick updates. With portals like those we each get to connect to whoever we want, whenever we want, and we make as big of an impact as we want. People now want 100% customization, and that's what we get with Twitter and Instagram and Tumblr. (Though I've missed the Tumblr train entirely, get off my lawn!) 

It would be nice though if I could shower my readers with a few thoughts, in hopes one or two of you can relate. Maybe you're on the train and you see me tweet "Hey I wrote a blog, whut?!" And you click the link and now you're reading this, as the Brown Line slows to a crawl yet again and slightly infuriates you because you're about to be four minutes late to work, as per usual. It's ok. Read on, relate, laugh, try to find a common ground with me, won't you?

I turned 30 in November, and everyone keeps asking me what it feels like. It feels like everyone really wants to know, and that's about it. 

There's a lady with two kids I see on the bus, if I catch the early bus (ok, the "on time" bus that I should catch anyway). Her kids are so well behaved. And she looks tired, but very pretty, every day, in a simple way. She lets her daughter play with her iPhone, securely bound in a giant white Otter Box, while her older son takes a snooze and cuddles up in his down coat. They get out of the bus at the Brown Line connection, where I do. We exchange smiles, she gathers up her children, and we go about our days. 

The year 2012 was mundane like that. But I really enjoyed it, and it's what I needed. I needed to take time to be with myself quite often. I had to refresh my brain and love myself again. I dont think we take enough time to try and love ourselves. 

I took a vacation by myself, to a lovely, quiet, white sand beach on the Gulf Coast of Florida, called Lido Beach. It was August, so it was HOT, pushing 95 degrees every day. The salty ocean waves were so comforting and warm. I laid on the sand, collected shells, stood in the water and let the little white fish weave around my feet. I stared at the ocean and felt my stress swim away, and my mind became clear. Dolphin fins peeked out of the horizon line at dawn, as the air went from thin and breezy to full and warm. For the first time in my life I felt like everything in my life was ok, and I was thankful for everything that brought me there. 

It was a good way to say goodbye to my 20s. 

There were a few friendly jokes from about how I'm not attached to a partner yet. (Sigh, "yet.")

Singles, do you get that from people? It's almost as irritating as someone finding out I'm vegetarian and asking how I get my protein. Yep, right up there with that. 

Anyway, I tell them you can't force that, it has to just happen. How I *want* to answer their question is like this:
Do you know how long I stand there staring at the pineapples at Stanley's wondering which is the best, sweetest, tastiest one I should take home? 

I've thought of adopting a cat. But I am having a hard time knowing that I will be at work all day, and maybe somewhere afterward, and the cat will be alone. But then I think it might be better than life at a shelter. Then I wonder if the litter box would smell bad. I haven't gotten a cat yet. 

I created a recipe for vegan oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. They're so easy to make, and I bring them into work, and people eat them up within the course of two hours and ask for the recipe. It's always nice to make people happy, even if just for a minute. 

Other things happened too, but I believe one must retain a bit of mystery. 

Life can change in a minute. Suddenly all I knew before is all different now. And I can't wait to see what happens next. 


Saturday, March 24, 2012

Happy Birthday Dad




Do you remember your first... memory?

My first memory is with my dad. In Ohio, when I was very very little, before school and before worries and stress and before I even knew what the word "sad" really meant, dad would take me on walks. We would go visit mom, who worked part time at Layne Bryant in the mall. There was a place in the mall... a store? A kiosk? This place sold little clear and pink lollipops on long clear plastic sticks. They were wrapped in clear plastic and tied with a shiny bow. Dad would get me one every time. Still to this day, if I see one being sold anywhere, I buy it, and bring that distant memory back.

As I got older, we would still go on walks when my stress-free elementary weeks were over. I especially remember the walks when it was warm outside. There was a small black dog behind a fence that I would stop and pet along the way. Dad would look at the flowers in our neighbor's gardens and tell me what they were called. We would stop in the local grocery store, whatever my dad had on his list escapes me. But in the absence of the cute clear lollipos sometimes we would find Tootise pops, one of each color, all wrapped up in a bunch. Then we would walk on, so dad could get his weekly lottery ticket. There was a liquor store he would go to for the ticket (never liquor) and every time we went there, the man behind the counter would reach into, what seemed to me, like a three foot tall glass jar and take out a giant pretzel stick and hand it to me. We walked back home, I munched on the pretzel and dad would tell me what we would do that day.

Dad is very proud of his annual vegetable garden. I was always a girly girl and somewhat always afraid of dirt and bugs and worms. Ok, I wasn't afraid, I was just grossed out. But dad wanted me to help, so I did. I remember one day picking up something shiny. He asked what it was, when I suddenly realized I was holding a slimy earthworm. I swear I flung that poor worm halfway to Cleveland.

When the potato harvest came around in the cool early Fall months, we would go outside to the garden and gather up the remains of the garden before the first snowfall. We still do this, even though I'm not home all the time I still try to get out to the garden and see what kind of treasures I can find.

Some nights dad would take me to the local Chinese restaurant, Bo Ding. We would sit and eat our General Tso chicken and eggrolls. I don't remember our conversations, but I remember very much looking forward to our "daddy date nights," which my eight year old self liked to call them. There was something special about being with just dad, as opposed to dad and mom as a pair, which did happen quite often as well.

Though my teenage years were difficult and we did clash quite often, I always knew in the back of my mind, no matter how hard I tried to deny it, that he was just trying to protect me.

And when it came time for me to drive, and I left the headlights on while I was at work one day and the battery died in his car... I wasn't mad at him, I was mad at myself for letting him down. And I know (now) part of his frustration with situations like that (I was just as flighty then as I am now...) weren't just personally directed at me. It's hard to see your baby grow up, and it's hard to let go of those carefree weekends you once had.

Now dad is turning 60, though you would never guess his age if you met him in person. We are having a birthday party tonight. I'm in a reflective mood this week, as our family likes to celebrate milestones and remember all the good times that led us up to the current event.

And, my readers won't understand this, but we will. The tradition of me giving my father his birthday presents late still stands, as what I have in store for him is at this very moment is being created, but not in my hands right now. So in lieu of a gift at the moment, I'm writing this. Hopefully to bring back some memories, maybe crank out a few tears. I think it's important to look back and remember the important people in their life and how they helped you grow.

Though he may not realize it, I learned so much from dad. He taught me how to roller skate, how to fly a kite. He *tried* teaching me math. We all know that was a lost cause anyway, but I remember the nights of difficult math homework, and he tried everything he could to get me to understand it. I remember one night sitting in Wendy's with him, and he explained to me how a nuclear power plant worked, because I asked him what he did in work all day. As a ten year old, I may not have understood it all, but I was so proud of what my dad could do.

He taught me about weather. For as long as I remember, dad had on the weather channel. His weather radio still to this day beeps with storm warnings. We would sit outside in the summers on our front porch swing and watch storms roll in. He taught me what all the little shapes on a weather map represented, and how to track a hurricane.

He taught me that we have to know when the time is right to let go of a pet.

He taught me that guy who just dumped me isn't worth my sadness and tears.

He taught me that if something bad happens, I just have to get back up and move on.

He taught me that family is the most important thing in life. And so did mom, and so did my little brother.

There's really no other sappy way to end this other than simply saying, I love you, daddy.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Learning


Stress can do a lot of things to our bodies. I may sound like an annoying broken record here when I mention getting laid off again, but this summer I felt a stress that I've never felt before. Some of it was good, actually. I had beautiful days to myself, so why not go out and enjoy them if I had nothing else to do. But after my days of fun, I couldn't help but feel this overwhelming sense of guilt. Guilt for not using all that free time to find a new job, or network to at least find new freelance jobs. Then, I felt myself counteracting that guilt and thinking, I've been working since I graduated college and never had time to myself. Why not just enjoy it? The constant back and forth mentally exhausted me. There were days where it was hard for me to even leave the house. I've felt depression before, but this wasn't the same. I wasn't sad, or crying. I was just in this constant argument with myself over what was the right thing to do.

The stress took over my body, physically. My scoliosis started bothering me again. (Luckily I found a free yoga class to join. Yoga makes me feel so much better.)

If it weren't for my solid foundation of supporting friends and family, I'm not sure what I'd be doing today. I'm so appreciative for everyone's support and help. My best friend even encouraged me to make a long term goal- to run my first ever 5K in September.

Now, nearly eight months into my "unemployment" I'm adjusting. I don't quite feel so "unemployed" anymore. I fill my days with a significant amount of freelance work. And on my days off, I've learned to just try and enjoy them.

I've also learned I don't need a lot of money to be happy. I was always sort of aware of this. We never had money growing up. My professional field doesn't exactly pay the big bucks. But I thought for sure, in the beginning, that not having any work and living off government unemployment allowances, I wouldn't have a life here in Chicago. I thought, "well the job is gone, the money is too. My life in Chicago is done." I didn't think I could take little odd jobs and projects to make ends meet. Boy, did I prove myself wrong.

I truly am happy here. Happy that I made a life for myself and by myself in Chicago. And while I may have hit a huge bump in the road, I still managed to make it ALL work.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

I'm back!

I took a little vacation from the blog writing, but I plan to do more like I used to. (Meaning, probably one blog per month...! Ha.)

Since my year was very eventful, I'm going to try and write one good, bad or fabulously ugly memorable moment from each month of the year. (Riveting!) I want to try this out, and I am challenging my readers to do the same. Maybe in your head, on your own blog, or maybe just to remember some fun stories with friends wherever you may be celebrating the new year this evening.

January:
I had three cavities filled. What a way to start the year! Ow.


February:
Other than the worse blizzard I've ever seen...
Ricky moved in with me! He moved here two weeks after the blizzard, on an unusually warm 50 degree day. I think he brought a little bit of Florida with him.



March:
I took a fun vacation with my friend Kristin in the end of March. We soaked up some sun and beach. It was a nice break to the ever-lasting winter.



April:
Coming back from the vacation, I got sick. And if I remember correctly, this was the start of my two month long relationship with said sickness. Whatever it was, it wouldn't quit. Being on-again/off-again, however, it gave me time to begin my failed attempt at going on dates with people I met from OK Cupid. I definitely met some interesting guys, but wow. I can safely say "I know why you're still single" to each and every one. Sorry guys! (:

Another more serious issue I faced in April was that my grandfather was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer. He had an overwhelmingly positive attitude.


May:
I went to visit my grandparents in New Jersey. My grandfather was in good spirits, and so was my grandmother. I've never met two people so loving and caring and positive, no matter what the world hands them. I also got to visit with my uncle and cousins, whom I rarely get to see. I visited New York City for a day. I spent half of it wandering around SoHo, and the other half wandering around Brooklyn. I made it my goal to move there within five years.



June:
Well, this is where my year flip-flopped. I got laid off on June 16th. I walked into my otherwise normal job at the studio and was greeted with "I have to lay you off." After I shut my dropped jaw, I went home to reflect on what had just happened. I was never so scared of failure in my life as I was that day. I felt like my routine was gone, therefore my life was over.

A week later, I had two interviews lined up, a new freelance project to work on and two new freelance clients contacting me. This isn't so bad.


July:
Summer in full swing, I started to actually enjoy myself. I've never had time off to myself since before I began working. The "break" was starting to feel really nice. I joined free yoga class which met three days a week, and went to every festival I could. I also visited the lake almost every day and enjoyed the beautiful hot summer weather.



August:
What's this? A coupon for Zumba I never used that's about to expire? Sign me up! I did Zumba classes as much as I could, which was about four times per week, along with the yoga. I had another interview. I tried Native Foods Cafe for the first time. By now, unemployment didn't really bother me at all.


September:

I got more freelance, and decided to start up my gym membership again. I went to Indiana to see my brother preform in his marching band. Also, he came to visit me here in Chicago and we went on a segway tour. It was so fun.



October:
The big news: Grandpa beat his cancer. He's 83, and he beat stage 4 lung cancer. It's bound to return in the future, that's what the doctors say. But in the mean time, as long as he keeps his positive attitude and routine chemo treatments, he can stay healthy. He is definitely an inspiration to me.

The first part of the month was spent at my neighbors house every day, feeding her 11 cats while she was on vacation. While I was happy to help out, I quickly learned I am allergic to that many cats all at once! In the end of the month, I flew to Florida with my dad for my cousin's wedding. We had a nice time together. He told me stories of his childhood and what his mother was like. I never really get to spend time alone with dad much anymore, so I really appreciated the trip.



November:
More and more freelance, and, I turned 29! By this point I was optimistic about the future and very happy with my current unemployed status. Being unemployed doesn't mean being sad, upset, alone, broke and in despair like I thought it would.


December:
Well here we are. In the second half of the month I was lucky enough to randomly meet someone who worked for an ad agency I've always had my eye on. A week later, I had an interview. A day after that, I started freelancing for them. On my last day of freelance before the holiday break, I was asked to come back again "next year". So that's what I'll be doing next week. Is it the end of my search for regular full time work? We'll see. At least now I know it's not the end of the world if it doesn't work out that way.

Here's to a wonderful 2012 for everyone!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Vegetable Garden

Though he'll be the first to proudly proclaim his New Yorker status to anyone who so much as mentions the East coast, for as long as I can remember my father has had a rural vegetable garden in our back yard. Once in a while I'll break out my status as a native New Yorker as well, but in actuality, as much as my parents don't want to admit it, I'm more used to Midwestern soil, as my parents had to relocate our small family to Ohio when I was just a baby. If I recall the story correctly, however, my father has always had a green thumb. His first attempt was an avocado plant started from a simple avocado pit in a glass of water, held up by toothpicks. This plant relocated with our family, not just from New York when I was a baby, but to Indiana when we had to move again when I was thirteen.

Every summer I see the garden go from a small patch of fenced-in dirt to a thriving jungle of home grown goodies, overflowing with endless tomatoes, green peppers, banana peppers, scallions and zucchini the size of baseball bats. Though I really can't stand raw tomatoes, I would still help dad pick the reddest ones, willingly getting my fingers dirty, yet dodging any visible earthworms.

Late August and September rolls around and the summer comes to a close. Now is the time to harvest the hidden gems of the garden: the potatoes. Buried underground beneath their green leafy plants, Dad anxiously digs up the earth to see if the potato crop is "good" this year. (This year, not so "good"... about 30 pounds as opposed to the usual 70+.)

One more crop thrives this time of year, bright yellow spaghetti squash. The vines of this plant are out of control, vibrantly growing well beyond the garden's fence, nearly into the neighbor's yard. This hefty squash isn't exactly a power house of nutrients, rather a quiet amount of Vitamins A and C and folic acid. Anyway, it's just plain fun to prepare. And so I'm brought to the original reason for my posting: to share my recent spaghetti squash recipe with my father who asked me for it on Facebook 15 minutes ago.

I regret not taking more pictures while cooking this bold yellow squash. But it's so easy, you won't even need pictures for guidance.


-Preheat your oven to 350
-Cut the squash in half, length-wise
-Place the squash, cut side down, in a baking dish.
-Fill the baking dish with about a half inch of water.
-Bake the squash for about 40 minutes, or until tender when poked with a fork

Now is the fun part. If you have kids, they should really love this. Let it cool a bit, and use oven mits or tongs. Take the squash out of the baking dish or flip it over. Now just simply take a fork and scrape all the insides out. It should easily come out in strings that resemble angel hair pasta.


Now what? The squash has a mild flavor, so you can get inventive here. Spaghetti squash, like most winter squashes, can go either savory or sweet. So for the last four or so days, I've been eating this stuff for breakfast. (Also, the seeds roast up quite nicely!)

If you're tired of oatmeal, replace your oatmeal with spaghetti squash! Here's how to dress it up:

Add a bit of butter or margarine, a dash of brown sugar and a pinch of cinnamon. Throw in some raisins and chopped apples. Now just microwave it for about a minute, then stir it all up.

You can also use spaghetti squash as a substitute for... you guessed it, spaghetti! Try adding some marinara and basil and garlic for an interesting twist on a classic dish.

If you're not feeling so inventive, this squash works well as a side dish, simply with a little butter and salt.

Though my potted plants and roof top basil can't compare to the lush garden my father grows every year, it still comforts me to have a little bit of home here in the city. If you have any recipes for spaghetti squash, share them with me! If they're on a blog I can link to them for you. Just leave a comment with all the info.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Year is Ending


I sat alone on the sand by the lake early Tuesday morning. The air was just cool enough that I didn't want to lay there in a swim suit. Thin wispy clouds filled the sky. An angelic, almost rainbow-hued halo encircled the rising sun. The sand was cool and water even cooler. The skyline seemed a bit hazy because the sun wasn't high enough in the sky to illuminate it.

Shorter days. The year is ending.

I began September by squishing a giant centipede about to crawl into my room right after I woke up and got out of bed. (I know, I know, I'm a bad vegetarian.)

Twenty-nine is right around the corner. There is a very good chance I will still be jobless when I throw my "29 forever" party. I always envisioned greeting my last year before 30 with success and hope for the future. But wait-- who said success equals a full time job? I've done some pretty awesome freelance gigs I wouldn't have had any time for if I had a 9-5. Imagine all the new people I've met because of that. And as far as hope for the future, well that's been the theme of my unemployment.

Beach days are coming to an end. Neighbors are walking their new puppies outside. New couples are holding hands. I guess it's more fun to cuddle when it's cold out.

I'll be facing winter by myself, doing something I haven't done lately: wondering what will happen next.