Friday, June 21, 2013

Day 17: Some foodporn

Here are some pictures of food I made or pictures I took of food while in Italy.

A surprise visit of some family just got into town, yay! :) So I'm gonna go be social.

Peace,
Chacha

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Day 16: Giancarlo's

So you remember me mentioning how I was hoping to shadow a local Italian chef this summer? Well, I did it! :D I went in to talk to Giancarlo and pick his brain about schools in Italy and the next I came back he invited me behind the bar to help him make bread! After that I learned to make mushroom ravioli, lobster ravioli, cream puffs, and braciole! Almost every day since last Thursday I've gone in during the afternoon, thrown on an apron, and gotten to make delicious foods.

You may also recall how I had a bit of a meltdown during this past semester when I realized that what I wanted to do (shadow a chef and get away from MIT) did not necessarily coincide with the norm. Most  of my friends are off doing awesome internships and making money. And while it's a lot easier for me to say that I'm extremely happy with my decision now (I got to help put up drywall for a ceiling at a house for Habitat earlier this morning, go to lunch with Mike and Myla, see the kiddos afterward for "kissy monster" time, and am literally in a swim suit sun bathing as I type this), it was a hard challenge to not feel inferior among my peers while I was back at school. My decision to come home has been more relaxing, rewarding, and hermit-like than I anticipated-- and I am so grateful that I had the guts to say "guys, I need a break." I'm a heck of a lot more content just being alone and making my decisions without second guessing what others want from me. Furthermore, I'm happy that I gave myself the respect to realize that my passion isn't just  building robots/being an academic. My happiness is significantly increased whenever I'm cooking/around food. With this realization and Mike's suggestion, I've decided to launch an Indiegogo campaign to hopefully get help funding my dream of enrolling in a culinary academy in Italy during my gap year after I graduate from MIT before I start my masters program (hopefully at MIT). Given that from my rough estimate it's going to cost about $30K for the whole year abroad (flight, tuition, housing, living expenses), me not working this summer is rather nerve wracking. But, where there's a will, there's a way. Right? And if there's one thing I've learned from my mom's jokes about my pestering for something, it's that when I want something, I won't stop until I get it. Period.

So you may be wondering, what sparked this renewed enthusiasm, what rekindled the flame (now freaking BONFIRE) of determination? In a word:

Giancarlo's

One of my earliest items added to my bucketlist (if not the first, seriously) was owning a restaurant/cafe and living in the flat above it. I realized that owning such an establishment might be too stressful and thus changed that item to "befriending someone who owns a restaurant to level of comfort where I am able to walk into the back and make myself something to eat." 

Yesterday for lunch after making a crap ton of ravioli, I made myself a arugula with gorgonzola, mozzarella, blue cheese salad, topped with candied walnuts, mango, apple slices, and some beets, all lightly drizzled in a fig vinegar.

I'M FULFILLING A BUCKETLIST ITEM AT THE AGE OF 20! Seriously, it's freaking awesome. I never imagined I'd get to fulfilling stuff on that list, and especially not an item as epic as this one, until like, I don't know, at least post undergrad. I'm not getting paid a cent, but I'm so giddy about work each time I go in, I don't even notice! I even love peeling a 5 gallon bucket of potatoes! WHO DOES THAT?! I do. And I do it with a smile and some dance moves to whatever (generally mexican) music is playing. 

Interestingly enough, Leonardo (Leo is a fellow cook who really does most of the food/dish making, if not all, during lunch hours and is one of three chefs during dinner, Giancarlo and Guillermo being the other two) asked me if I liked working there yesterday and I said yes. He asked me "why?" I was caught off guard. The sincerity with which he asked seemed genuinely curious. I always start each evening before we open for dinner by asking the chefs "are you excited?! I am! It's ok, I'll be excited for us all." and I guess that maybe provoked the question? It makes sense. I'm not making any money and I get so tired/my back aches enough (oh joy arthritis, how to suck the fun out of some things sometimes! :P) that I have to stop and do some stretching before I can continue on. I don't know, I just, I've never enjoyed "going to work" so much in life. I responded to his question with "At school, it's really hard. I have think with my brain A LOT... all the time... and no matter how hard I try, I always feel dumb. I always feel like everyone else is smarter than me. But here? In the kitchen? I feel content. I feel like, I have a task, however small, and I can do it well." I've been thinking about that response a lot lately. I realized that I initially responded with that because I wasn't sure how to respond. To stop and put into words the reason behind why you feel this way or that is a surprisingly challenging task! That, and I wasn't sure how much English he could understand. But on some level, it's absolute truth. There is a great sense of importance one gets from being able to complete a task and to do so well. No matter how small and perhaps unappreciated. Those ravioli, most anyone could make, but I made them. I lathered the noodle in a egg and water paste to make it stick better when I fold it over. I scooped out just the right amount to make it full and not too filled (pretty good at getting that on the first go now). I carefully folded the pasta over, squished out the air, cut and trimmed the excess noodle, and forked the edges to seal the goodness in. And yes, the customer will most likely devour that ravioli in the same amount of, if not less, time that it took me to make it without even a moment's thought about what work went into creating that, but I don't care. Each ravioli is a sense of pride in my book. I made it. Don't get me wrong, the fun people, the learning new recipes, learning what it's like to work with an Italian (read: emotional, not always timely, slightly crazy but you gotta love that about 'em) are all aspects I am cherishing greatly. But this sense of accomplishment is certainly something I did not anticipate but have very much enjoyed. Also, the fact that I'm finally taking my passion for food seriously. Like, taking myself seriously about it. That's nice.

Story time: I have been befriended by all the Spanish speaking staff there. I tell them that I want to practice my Spanish so they kindly speak to me in Spanish while I try to respond in Spanish. (They also get a kick out of me being so white and half Mexican, hah!) Anyway, one evening near closing, I was hostessing (oh yeah, I go in later mornings and work through the after doing food prep ~11:30-4:30, then hostess at night, 5-10ish! :) I'm learning all aspects of the restaurant business. I love it!) and asked my amigo (not me being racist, we chefs refer to each other as "amigo, pass me x") to make me a pizza with BBQ sauce, caramelized onions, arugula (LOVE THAT STUFF), and gorgonzola. He informed me that they didn't have BBQ sauce and I was SO sad because I was craving that like mad. Anyway, 10 min later Guillermo comes back and asks me to taste a sauce he made so I did. IT WAS FANTASTIC! He had made me a BBQ sauce from scratch!!! Let me tell you, I have never had such a delicious pizza in my life. Needless to say, I freaking love the camaraderie that having fun workmates produces! Shout out to Cora, a sweet new girl that started a couple days before me. She's made working there tons of fun! 

Working at Giancarlo's has renewed an sense of excitement about going to Italy. I am officially determined to find a way to get there next year. I had made the promise to go there for a chef's school freshman year in MIT, but with each passing semester, my energy was draining for life, let alone going abroad to study cooking. Being back here, making food, it's given me the greatest paycheck of all:

hope.

I'm once again excited about my future and for that, I am very, very pleased. Thanks for reading!

Tanti baci,
Chacha

P.S. I'll post some pics of dishes I made in a little bit once I go inside and get my camera. :-)

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Day 15: My relationship with food

I was in third grade when I got to help make over 10,000 dolmas for a local Greek orthodox church one Saturday afternoon during the closed hours of a local Greek restaurant (since closed permanently, sadly). I, and the only other two girls under the age of 45 there, helped waitress when we breaked for lunch.

It was magical

I don't know why. I can't tell you what exactly made it so magical to me, but I still look back to that day and think of it as one of the fondest memories of that year. Surprising? Mmm, at first glance perhaps, but when you think about what role food has played in my life, it starts to make more sense. Some of my fondest memories are watching my mother or dad cook growing up. (Granted, mom does/did most of it, I recall my father used to cook.) You see, food isn't just nutrients. It's not just calories and carbs and proteins. What food has gifted me can't be quantified. No, what food has given me is something greater than most any influence in my life. What is that?

Passion.

I don't mean, when I'm cooking I'm happy. No. I love everything about food. I love the spectrum of colors displayed when you walk down a tent filled street at a farmers' market. I love the scent of good tomatoes. (What? You mean to tell me you don't smell the tomatoes when you pick them out a store? I mean, that's assuming you can find good store-bought tomatoes, an inherent falsity. Heh, welcome to being Italian...) I love watching onion become transparent as you sauté it in oil. Or kneading bread, that intoxicating scent that yeast gives as it rises in the warm dough. When you take bare ingredients, oil, vegetables, flour, etc. and make meal of it-- it's like, engineering for the taste buds. 

But the aspect of food I love most isn't that oh-so-pleasing moment of finalizing an art piece of taste bud adventures so delicately placed on a plate steaming with all its glory. Nor is it that moment of watching someone gently place a fork full of your masterpiece in their watering, yearning receptacles... No. It's what food provides for me: a reason to get together. A common ground that all cultures, walks of faith, and personalities can bond over. Even if you don't like making food, chances are you like eating. I know some folks claim that they could just eat a pill to satiate hunger (I'm thinking of you, bro) and be content, and while I personally find that hard to believe, I'm not here to debate that. I believe even those folks though, will not pass up a good meal if offered the chance to enjoy such an palatable experience. What I love most about food is what it's brought together for me: 

family.

In high school we used to have these Italian, family-style, hours-long "family" dinners. I don't think I was blood related to anyone in the room other than my mother but I would consider each person that came just as much a relative in my wedding check-list of "must invite." Looking back at these afternoons, watching my then baby-nephew learn to walk, talk, and sit in his own chair, revisiting World War II with my adopted-grandpa figures who fought in that atrocity, and observing my mother glide across our kitchen grabbing this, stirring that, adding a dash of oregano here, and frantically remembering she had forgotten something in the oven, are all aspects of my life that have shaped who I am today. To you, they may seem small. Minor. Pointless. But to me, they are more than just a memory, they are a part of me. A part of who I am. A driving factor of who I want to be

For that, I am more grateful to food than may make sense to many people. But that's the beauty of being human, we all have our personal quarks and random reasons to get up in the morning. Mine happens to be food.

Well, this post was supposed to discuss the amazing, new adventure I've embarked on at Giancarlo's but I needed to explain my relationship with food before I can make that post and have it make sense. Fear not though, that post is coming soon! I just have to go get ready so I can go do food prep at the restaurant now! :) Ta ta!

Thanks for reading!

Love,
Chacha

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Day 14: Firsts

Yesterday was my first day at Habitat for Humanity, and oh boy, let me tell you-- it was exhausting. For about three and a half hours we were moving sheets of drywall (4'x8'x1/2" and 4'x12'x1/2" and the worst was the 5/8" thick stuff) off of a forklift and into the houses we are building. Oh Lordy, talk about tiring. My arms, neck, and random parts of my back are still aching! However, as exhausting as it was, it still felt invigorating and great when the day was done. Not to mention, I ate my lunch totally guilt free!

Another first was my meeting with Giancarlo today! Giancarlo's is a local Italian restaurant in Morro Bay that is slightly fancy and verrrrry good and run by an Italian man, Giancarlo. I had never met the man in person, but I looked at his website and had an idea of what he looked like. I called ahead and was told to come by at 4:30 (they open at 5 for dinner). I dropped mom off at the grocery store, pulled up to the restaurant, and had to give myself a wee pep talk to get out of the car. I reminded myself "what's meant to be, will be." a mantra I'm growing quite fond of these days. I got to the front door and noticed a young man about my age painting something on the front of restaurant which I figured out was going to end up looking like bricks. I then saw a man with a striking resemblance to a pirate standing at the door and asked to speak with Giancarlo. After some confusion, I realized the pirate man was Giancarlo himself and that no one had told him I was coming by to talk to him. Solid. I wonder how well this is going to go over... Fortunately, it turned out great! Nay, better than I could have expected! I was super nervous but thanks to Giancarlo's pirate-like persona, his adorable Italian thick accent (missed like 15% of what he was saying), and his generally welcoming and spirited personality, I quickly relaxed fell into my own slight Italian accent. (Seriously, I don't mean to insult people, but when I'm talking with people with accents, I start talking with an accent, I don't know why! It's very hard to stop.) We ended up talking for over an hour! Three tables had already filled and he still talking with me. Telling me about Italy and going to a chef school there and what the culture is like. I told him about my own experiences some. The boy out front painting is his son, Alex (I think? He also said he's called Giancarlo, so I'm a little confused), is 23 and apparently Giancarlo hopes that I can talk some sense into his son about also going to Italy to study to become a chef. Hah! Not even an hour of knowing this man and I'm already getting set up. Oh silly Italians... :P But seriously, this man, is awesome. He told me about the different regions, programs offered, things to know. Apparently, the first caffe of the morning, if you don't like it, you can send back and they'll make you a fresh one, free of charge. It's a thing. I'm promised it's true. I'm going to have to try it! He also told me about his family in the South (he's from Bari) and told me that if I need any help with anything, he's more than happy to call his brother in Italy to check something out. Apparently his brother is high up or actively involved in some Finance sector (and escorted the president around Venice?? waaaatt??) and his mother is a teacher for 40 years and his grandmother is about to turn 100 in September.... not sure why any of that last matter is of importance to you, but this is why I love Italy and Italians, it's all central about food, family, and memory making! Seriously, the man and I appreciated talking for over an hour on just those three things! It was glorious. He instructed me to come back in the morning so he can call his brother (it'll be evening there) and I'm going to bring some possibilities of schools and he'll help me weed out which ones are touristy and which ones are legit. :) I'm planning on going tomorrow at 11!

I am pretty convinced that I'll need to be abroad for a whole year for my culinary experience if I want something that isn't a touristy attraction. I just need to figure out a way to finance the whole thing, oy vey... (birthday is coming up, day 15: how to subtly hint to your family/friends you just want cash for a post-graduation adventure) It felt great talking to him. I have a renewed excitement and appreciation for Italian culture again. I was starting to lose touch with it and was starting to doubt if I'd ever go. I really think I need to do this. I can't really explain why, it just feels right. Whenever I think about where I'll be in just over a year, or like, shortly after graduation, I picture myself in Italy.

Anyways, I'm tired. Thanks for reading! I'll post this whenever I get internet back, oh yay Cayucos...

Tanti Baci,
Chacha

P.S. No, I didn't ask if I could shadow him. But I will ask! Tomorrow! When I come back with schools to look over with him. I think it'll seem more natural. :)

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Day 13: A haiku for bro's cat

As per request (should have expected this!) bro, here's a haiku for Miss Napoleanne...

A little background first, for those of you who don't know this embarrassing and true fun fact about my family, we have "voices/personalities" for our cats. My cat: the dumb, adorable, drooling baby. My bro's cat: the sophisticated and aloof Southern Belle (she talks with a drawl and everything, saying things like "fawtha" when addressing my brother). Confused? Concerned? Laughing? Yeah... you're not the only one. Got give some mad props to my mom though, she manages to get our cats to write an occasional card to my brother and me back on the east coast! I've saved them all, m'dear Sweetpea! (Her cards have poor grammar and backwards written letter even, just like a little kid!)

Yeah... my family goes all out... ON EVERYTHING. ^.^ And though some may view it as embarrassing (eh hem, bro! :P) I've learned to embrace it. It's shaped who I am today and has helped me life uber enthusiastically!

But alas, what you've all been waiting for, Napoleanne's haiku:

Napoleanne
Southern and refined
Never leaves home without her gloves
Our curvaceous belle

 In case you're curious, Napoleanne came from Neopolitan because she's three colors, but it slipped up at Napolean too often that we just stuck with it. But because Napolean Dynamite came out like a year after we got them, people thought it was named for the show, plus she's a she, so we try to emphasize the "anne" ending of Napoleanne. Also, the reference to her "gloves" is because she has white "hands and feet" (as shown in the first picture below). 

Thanks for reading folks!

Later,
Chacha






Thursday, June 6, 2013

Day 12: A haiku for my cat

This is not a cop-out of a post, just a haiku to honor my amazing cat, Sweetpea. Should I feel so inspired to write more, I will later.

Sweetpea

Sweetpea my kitty,
I want you in my wedding,
So soft and furry.

Is it weird that this blog post reminds me of something Mary from Psych would do? Ah man, that show is so good. Everyone should Netflix it. Right now. Go. Why are you still reading this? 

Go watch Psych!

Kthnxbai.

-Chacha

P. S. Enjoy these fine examples of my cat. LOOK AT THEM. HOW CUTE IS SHE?!?!?


Day 11: House of Cards

I started watching House of Cards yesterday, and you might be thinking "wow, a post about a TV show? Really?" but seriously guys, this show... it requires so much thinking! Who's backstabbing which platform, etc. It's exhausting and great all at the same time. Plus, I love Kevin Spacey.

Putting aside all the sex and gross older man-younger mistress business, the show really is rather insightful. I could easily believe that there is as much "social politics" as the show suggests. I've watched 7 episodes so far (yeah... I know, I'm hooked.) and there are already a couple of things that pop out:

1) Early on a 59yr old woman gets fired because this cold-hearted business woman (not just emotions speaking, if you watch the show, you'll see, "cold-hearted" is the most accurate word I can think of to describe her) wants to create a new image for her non-profit. Anyway, the woman says a line something like "I'm 59 years old, no one wants to hire me. What am I supposed to do, bag groceries?" The whole scene is troubling for a couple of reasons. First, she's getting fired basically because she's not fresh and young and hip looking. However, her reaction also bothers me. I understand that managing a non-profit is a lot more glamorous than bagging groceries, but I completely believe that (most) all work is honorable. (Sure, there are a couple jobs I think the world would be better off without.) And while the woman may be upset, it's in this moment of frustration that she also reveals her true self. While I am fine bagging my own groceries, I think there are plenty who would look down on doing such a job and yet use that service all the time. It's rather easy to degrade another's work without really thinking how much easier your life is with that person doing whatever job it is. I guess it just brought to my attention that I probably do that too with others' careers and should probably take a moment to think before I cast a judgement so easily. Just some food for thought...

2) There's a main couple in the plot, a congressman and his wife (the cold-hearted business woman). And watching how they interact is just, soul crushing at times. The blatant disregard for loyalty just seems implausible. They have this sort of "open relationship" deal but like, it's really rather disturbing how glamorized hollywood is making it seem. Meh, maybe it's supposed to be shocking. I don't know. Basically, I just see 55-60 year olds acting like their irresponsible college students and I shake my head in disapproval.

3) There is a CRAP ton of deceit and polling who will vote for what policy given what incentive, etc. It's really actually exhausting to keep track of this all. Surprisingly though, it's made me really want to get in there and straighten stuff out! And then I laugh at myself. I guess it's been... 4 years now?... I've toyed with the idea of running for president. I hate politics. The only back I like to scratch is my cat's. And after learning about all that goes on behind the scenes I feel like the president himself doesn't actually do all that much. Where I see I could make improvements would be in establishing a good Cabinet of-- get this guys-- educated experts in the perspective fields and not just putting my "buddies" into positions. But then again, it's often those "buddies" that help fund you to the office. And then I get depressed about losing a race that I am still 15 years too young to run for! Plus side though, I already have the best campaign add ever, thanks Chloe and Tom! (They made this amazing high school graduation poster for me that I've put up on every door of every dorm room I've lived in!)


Meh, I've lost my train of thought and am hungry. Gonna go eat now. If this blog post comes up in like 15 years when I run for president, that'd be freaking awesome. I wonder if blogger will even still be around... The future man, prettttty cool times.

Thanks for playing! 

Later dudes,
Chacha

Day 10: Perspective

On Tuesday we left Stanford to return home. However, just before we left my dear friend, Chris, at Palantir sent me a message asking if I was still in the area and wanted to grab lunch. Let me tell you this: Palantir is freaking awesome. Man, I've never doubted my major so much. If that's what Course 6 (EECS) folks have in store once they graduate, geez, I'd never leave my job! It got me thinking though, why can't course 2 have neat start-ups like that? I think we do some extent, but it's certainly not as common as with course 6. Man, I gotta find a job like Palantir. Not-so-starting start-ups are AWESOME.

When driving home though, we dropped off our two friends who live in the Central Valley. It had been, I think, 8 years since I had driven through there. It was weird. Immediately I was reminded of my childhood. The concrete, pale, brick walls with the white metal gates so reminiscent of the hispanic neighborhoods I grew up with. Signs in Spanish and then English. The constant sense of drought with so little greenery around. The heat-- so inescapable. It was odd how uncomfortable I grew simply driving through this region of California, especially because for as long as I could remember I thought fondly of my childhood in Porterville. (I grew up there and moved to Cayucos when I was 7.) And for the longest time, Cayucos didn't really feel like my home, even though this summer I have lived here for 14 years as opposed to Porterville, 7.

I wonder, how many of my memories that I think back on fondly, are so drastically distorted from the truth? And what causes that? I was genuinely surprised at how grateful I was to not live in the Central Valley anymore because of two things: 1) I thought I still thought fondly of my childhood, and I think I still do, so that seems contradictory and 2) I hadn't realized how much I actually associate Cayucos with home, and how much living with the ocean in sight affects my happiness.

Addressing the first point, I think this sort of runs into a common theme with friends/family members. You can like who someone used to be one way, and cherish those memories, but perhaps given how you and they have changed you no longer enjoy their company. That's not anything new to understand, right? It's just, when you think about liking something that doesn't change (e.g. a place doesn't change all that much) and you liked it when you were younger, to go back and no longer like it is rather shocking. I suppose it all boils down to perspective, but still... I mean, I didn't go back to Porterville, so maybe I'd think differently going back to the town I grew up in. But I was just so filled with this sense of "GET ME OUT OF HERE." I was totally shocked. More so, I guess it reflected some internal changes that must of taken place that I had no idea about nor any idea of how greatly they would change my perspective. I guess it is a good thing though, to realize how much I appreciate where I live even if it's not by admiring it in itself, but rather seeing what I do not like in other places.

Meh, my thoughts. In case you haven't really caught on, my blog is rather stream of consciousness and mostly for my own memory collection I 'spose. I love having readers, don't get me wrong! You guys are the best! Just don't be expecting profound pieces of literature every time. Hah.

As always, thanks for reading!

Much love,
Chacha

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Day 9: mental snapshots

Like I mentioned earlier, on Monday Steven, Victor, Serafin, and I (MIT SigEp) all went on a road trip up to Stanford to meet up with a buddy, Alex, at Stanford. (He's Stanford SigEp.) It was a great trip and I got to look around their d.school (design component of the MechE dept. for grad school) as well as talk with some grad students about what is involved with the program-- pretty neat stuff they have there! (Side note: I already feel out of place. I was walking around and everyone was so damn good looking, happy, and tan. *shakes fist to sky* Not to mention, the design stuff was wicked artsy! They're going to spot me from a mile away as outsider! Heh, meh. I'm still going to apply and put my best foot forward, haha. Here's to trying!)

I'm going to have to say that the highlight of the trip (and possibly one of the coolest memories I have of my college years thus far) was "playing the drums" in the Stanford band. In case you think it's just your average marching band, click on the link above and while you're at it, youtube some other videos because that band be CRAYon (like the term? crazy -> cray -> CRAYon??? I think I'm onto something here, guys...). It was-- invigorating. Dare I say, EPIC. Truly awesome. I felt so nervous at first because I have NO sense of rhythm whatsoever, but as soon as I strapped on my football-helmet-made-into-drum and saw how much fun everyone else was having, I soon forgot many of my inhibitions. While at first I was nervous, I quickly saw that there was no need. Alex advised me to do the choreo at least if I didn't know how to follow along (mind you, choreo, that is, jumping and kicking your feet about and doing random-ass moves, with a "drum" strapped to you was a new experience in itself!). I soon found myself rid of all the cares in the world just jumping around and doing my best to keep with the tempo. Can you picture it? Me with a helmet strapped to my waist sorta, two sticks in hand, all the while flailing about like a dork. It was golden. Some pictures were taken, however I did my best to occasionally take a moment to let it all soak in and take the best data collection of all:
memory photos. 

I don't know if you've ever seen Elizabethtown, but there's this scene that has forever stuck with me where the main actress takes a mental picture. I think it's a beautiful concept. Obviously I want to be able to capture all special moments of my life via film/tangible means, but all too often, I get caught up in adjusting the aperture settings of my camera and forget the most important fact: to appreciate the moment through my own two "lenses" first and THEN an external one.

Needless to say, so far this summer I've tried to take at least one mental pic per day (I've failed to even keep that up sometimes, but it's a start at least). The Stanford band was certainly an unforgettable addition to my every growing memory book.

I'd like to give a huge shout out to Alex, thank you dude, that was an amazing memory for my collection. Sorry we crashed your place the week before finals! We all thank you tons!

Thanks for reading!

Much love,
Chacha

Day 7&8: Rose colored glasses

Saturday I had the pleasure of having a friend from MIT who lives in LA come up and visit me! Steven is another MechE and wicked, crazy smaht. He's also a brother of MIT SigEp, and on Monday he and I drove up to Stanford for a visit, picking up two others along the way, to visit a Stanford SigEp friend and tour the ME department for grad school. Woohoo, road trip!

Saturday evening though, before the trip, we had grabbed some nachos at Taco Temple, a California fusion restaurant, and afterward saw a movie at the local movie theater in Morro Bay. It's funny-- perhaps more accurately a little bit sad-- it always takes a non-local to help me see my home through rose colored glasses. On our drive to the theater he had mentioned how my town is such an ideal, small, California beach community which reminded him of one from the movies (like from the 1950s era). It's not that my town and Morro Bay are dead or boring, they're just, "chill." Quiet. Calm. Laid back. And with a new perspective he helped me see it in such a light. Where I would get annoyed with the 25 stop signs that exist in the quarter mile drive down Morro Bay Blvd., he helped me welcome it as a time to take in just how quaint (hah, bro, I did just use that word) my surroundings are. And while each building in particular might be viewed as slightly loved or needing of some repairs, as a whole, with the sun setting just over the wave breaker, the sight of the bay at the end of this road with its boats and buoys is actually rather beautiful.

While this isn't a ground breaking realization, it's certainly something I'm trying to bring to my attention-- how often do I take advantage of the beauty around me? I think a good daily challenge would be to walk around my usual environment and be able to spot at least one thing beautiful/something I'm appreciative for. (Finding something to be grateful for in each person you encounter is another blog post I have yet to rant about, fear not. The point of this is to learn to appreciate the nature, or something else if you're in the city if there isn't much nature, around us everyday. More importantly, to train ourselves to be actively searching for something positive that we enjoy. It's all too easy to focus on the bad in our lives.)

I don't mean to sound ridiculous. Like, I don't expect myself to walk by a trashcan and be like "wow, I am so appreciative that this trash can exists." but like, hey, maybe there's art on the side or maybe next to it is a nice tree whose leaves or blossoms offer a little shade as you walk along in the heat of the day. I don't know, I guess I mean to say that to take the time, a quick minute out of your day, to appreciate the beauty in something new (or better yet old!) in your life is a trait I find rather admirable.

I am starting today: Today I am making a note of how lovely my gladiolas and cala lilies in my front yard are (ignoring the weeds, lol!). Thanks mamma for taking care of them while I'm away at school! (The trick is to actually talk to them. I compliment them and tell them they will grow up to be big and strong and plentiful... Yeah, maybe I'm off my rocker, but if you saw this flowers, you'd think twice about mocking me! My glads have over 2' of blooms!)

Thanks for reading! (I'm not sure who all reads it, but I see that there are some page views at least! Thanks bro! :P)

Much love,
Chacha

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Day 6: Schooners

So today is a little silly fun fact day. I have lived in my small town for going on 14 years now and there is one restaurant I have never eaten at... until today: Schooners.

It's always looked like a shady restaurant to me what with it's wooden pirate sculptures out front and it's watermill and other random sea-worthy items. But recently (the last couple of visits home) I've wanted to try eating there. By some lucky turn of events I got to meet the lovely Lisa (read: potential future aunty-in-law) and have dinner with her and her son. (Again, potential future cousin-in-law... confused? Don't worry about it...) I walked through the doorway and into the magical unknown. For nearly 2 decades I had walked past this establishment headed back home from a day at the pier and how many times had I stopped and measured my height against the sculptures to see how I had grown in comparison? Finally, Friday evening, I got to satisfy the mystery that lay just beyond that external entrance I had so familiarized myself with.

It was oddly satisfying though. To get to finally discover the inside of the last restaurant in my little town I hadn't eaten at (well, I guess I haven't eaten at the Cass House either, but that's like a B&B thing) filled me an unexpected sense of closure. Like, it's just a restaurant. I'm "emotional" in the sense that I have emotions about it, but like, it's more that something that has alluded me since childhood is no longer an "unknown."

This got me thinking about other "loosed ends" in my life, things that I just want to say I have the experience of trying. And I soon realized the list is long. (Off the top of my head: surfing, skateboarding, waitressing, going on a hot air balloon ride...) I then realized that life is short and while I don't advocate for the complete "YOLO" (you only live once) life style, I think it can be healthy and safe to live in the present to an extent. (another blog post in the making)

So, as part of my summer of adventures, I'm acting on a lot of my impulses and actually following through with my plans. Tomorrow I am headed up to Stanford for quick little road trip with some of my other friends from the MIT SigEp and we've visiting a brother at the Stanford SigEp (plus I'm checking out professors for grad school, ah!!). In any case, it was just funny to me that eating a restaurant could provoke such a "deep" train of thought.

Thanks for reading!

Much love,
Chacha