Podcastic 

While it’s great to unplug and enjoy the natural sounds of your surroundings, it’s nice to escape into some tunes to get you through some of the ho-hum of your day. Or just to help you relax. Similarly, podcasts are a great means of escape, often with compelling stories and conversations to both tickle the intellect and quench the nagging thirst for entertainment.

A few of my faves below… although I’m always discovering and dabbling in other greats…

WTF w/ Marc Maron – a lot of comedian insight, cerebral ranting, deep interviews w/ celebrities… and Obama (in the archives)!

The Great Debates – these guys take on any issue with ridiculous intellectual passion!  Sample topics:  Beer is Better than Wine,  June is Better than July, Keanu Reevs is a Great Actor… sometimes special smart guests BJ Novak and John Mayer.  It’s kind of amazing.

Speaking of amazing…

How to be Amazing – comedian/actor Michael Ian Black interviews some greats from different arenas of success (literature, science, tech, film, politics) to learn that even the most successful peeps struggle and fail in the process of becoming amazing.  If you think you’re amazing, this is humbling.  If you think you’re stupid, this is comforting.

Call Your Girlfrienda podcast for long-distance besties to catch up on politics, internet, pop culture, and social commentary.  Two hella smart ladies tell it like it is in a peer-arena pow-wow.

Girl on Guy – (discontinued, but archives are available) comedian/actor Aisha Tyler (sf local!) is thoughtful and super smart (I would listen for her vocabulary alone – whenever you hear SAT words w/ obscenities, something magical happens), interviewing all kinds of celebrities, humorists, gets down to the personal nitty gritty via sincere storytelling and conversation.

Give ’em a listen!  They totally do that smart-feeling thing you turn to reading The New Yorker for.  Explore topics you always knew how you felt about, but could never articulate.

I’ve always got an ear open for more good listens… what are you listening to these days?

Get Outta Town: Quick trippin 

My new favorite thing is to piggyback onto one of Mike D’s business trips. The destination doesn’t have to be exotic or cosmopolitan. Just the idea of getting out of town and experiencing somewhere new and different is enough! Took a Thursday-Friday off work and flew out to Salt Lake City, Utah. Without doing much research, I was already looking forward to the likes of this clean, modest, quietly-happening town. Its main magnificence, a huge Mormon temple, glowing magestically against a backdrop of snow-covered mountains. 

View from the hotel balcony – dope!!!

Mike attended to his work stuffs, and I hit the town on foot, in freezing-cold temperatures and a chance of rain to try to intimidate me. The streets were wide and clean. Maybe it was the snow. Maybe it was the absence of crowding on the sidewalks or the abundance of cars crisscrossing intersections that I expect to encounter in a downtown area. Are businesses even open? It’s so quiet  and still. Yes, open! Just quiet… which I found to be most impressive and enjoyable, in both its calm and simplicity. This isn’t to say, at all, that the place was deserted or boring. No. It was completely manageable, which I will say, in this case, is an extremely high compliment! That alone, already made my SLC experience unique and delightful. 

So, of course there were some things to research to make sure I was going about my experience properly. Food destinations! Scoped out some yelp reviews and took the lead from a Thrillist article or two. I like to make sure I eat well when I’m some place new. Not quantity, but quality, of course… although I shoot for a high quantity of quality, as anyone should ;). This isn’t a food review, but let’s just say that what I ate was satisfying, and where I ate was comfortable and pleasing. And usually Instagram-worthy. 

Publik Kitchen offered a variety of tasty toasts accompanied by healthy leafage
Eva’s Bakery – one of many hot chocolate stops! A pretending-I’m-in-Paris moment.
Doner bother me – I’m eating! Hit-the-spot kebab place called Spitz.

On the second day I got to hit some spots outside of the downtown area. Wanted to browse local boutiques and quirky consignment shops. It was less freezing, so a walk in the cold was actually quite nice. Locals were friendly and helpful when I stopped to ask directions or get advice on where to go next. Loved strolling through some residential streets and imagining the people that lived in all the cute, snow-covered houses. Little things, like the orange flags at crosswalks to make pedestrians more visible, gave me the warm fuzzies about a community culture that valued safety. Adorbs.

These days I do feel a heightened sense of awareness anytime I travel outside the liberal bubble of the SF Bay Area. You never know if walking into a conservative community as a blonde Asian is going to put you in an unwelcoming situation. You also never know how prepared you should be to handle yourself. It’s weird to say I was relieved to not run into any hostility (weird that this is a feeling that I have to anticipate more in this socio-political climate). Even better, as I overheard concerned conversations around current events, and read messages of “no hate and no fear here” in local newspapers and advertisements, I felt warm, akin, safe and sort of touched. I could feel myself sigh and smile, thinking “This is a nice place. I like it here. And the cost of my meal was incredibly reasonable.”

Hoping to take more of these quick, piggyback trips and more inspo-tunities. Are you getting out of town these days? 

Random: Notes from my Inner Monologue

My mind goes everywhere throughout the day.  While I’m seemingly on-task at any given moment it’s incredibly likely that my actual thought is something non sequitur and random. I spent a week paying special attention to my inner monologue and here’s what it had to say:

Don’t eat all of the red onion in your salad/sandwich.  Wait – check if you have gum first.

Get bangs.  No – don’t get bangs.

You should wear more hats.

You probably don’t need to buy another backpack/purse.

Take up smoking.  It’ll force you to take more breaks.

In 15 minutes you can have an M&M.

I haven’t had a really good cake in a while.  What happened over the holidays?

Commit to your accessories!

After living this long without getting a tattoo, I think I’ll get one just because I’ve earned it.

Walk carefully — you’re wearing white shoes today.

I’m probably burning more calories than I think I am.

My mind as a weird little treasure trove of randomness! I like it.  It’s honest and hilarious, if at least for my own amusement, and that makes it worth paying attention to.

Take a listen to your own inner monologue- does it surprise you?

Hens in the House: QT w/ My Childhood Girl-Crew

I’ve got this group of girls I’ve know since I was just a little KB.  Somewhere between kindergarten and Freshman year of high school, the eight of us rolled into a little crew.  Every year around the holidays we try to get together.  Sometimes it’s the only time that year we see each other.  This past weekend, most were able to make it over to my house for some much needed girl-only QT. It’s a very different rhythm of banter, brand of laughter, and stock of anecdotal shit-talk that I always forget the feeling of until we’re in the middle of it.  The conversation is quick, the quips are classically hilarious, and the volume is about three notches up from the norm.  It’s pretty amazing.  Fantastically loud.  So us.

We’ve all surfed the ups and downs with each other, as you can imagine over the years.  Rivalries, phases, changing interests.  We took sides every now and then, or vowed not to get involved in selective drama.   Sometimes we swore each other off, and other times we showed up to save each other.   It’s the joy and bullshit of life-long friendship.  At any given point over the past 30 years (you heard me… thirty!), there’s been a connection to one another, and we continue the effort still to keep our toes in the group as our lives drift in every direction, having less and less to do with each other.  It’s a struggle, and it’s a gift.  It’s pretty incredible to have gone on this long, to really know each other like no one else outside of our crew, and to value it enough to hang tough through life.  We pay our dues w/ the drama… but the ROI of our friendship pays off every time.

So great to have the ladies over for the afternoon, to just be girls again.  It wasn’t all of us, but for what it’s worth, it still did the trick.  It’s like they said in the bible (I don’t know who said it, or exactly what was said, but it’s kind of like it…) – when two or more of us are together, we’re basically all together.

That’ll do, Hens.  That’ll do.

 

Vision Bored: Blanking on New Year’s Resolutions

With every New Year is the hopeful promise that things can be better.  That I can be better. Sure.  Nothing wrong about that.  I’d long given up, however, on the notion of setting real goals specifically to participate in New Year’s resolution-making.  Timing-wise, it creeps up on me pretty fast (after a sometimes-hectic holiday season, mind you), and there’s not really enough time to firm up some resolutions I think are realistic and, actually, kind.   What a way to start improving myself — shoot right to citing my shortcomings and what I don’t do well enough.  They usually come as lightening-fast self-criticisms, like, “You’re starting to look old,” “You have no self-control when it comes to sweets,” or “You eat a lot of red meat for someone who doesn’t exercise regularly.”  Yes, one can start from here and come up with some positive, productive resolutions in time for that NYE countdown.  But it just doesn’t feel like a sincerely positive place to come from in order to do it.  Also, I like myself a little better than that.  I don’t want to start the year all negateevo about what I don’t like in myself and my life.  Instead, the New Year is more of like, “Alright, I can start thinking about these things and figure out how I want to move forward.”  No cold turkey.  No hard-drawn lines.  No declarations.

So, as I’ve been blanking since NYE on anything I might really be able to form into a resolution… and we’re now mostly through the first week of 2017… I’m going to give myself a break, and give myself points for at least thinking of thinking of resolutions.

An old mentor of mine used to say something like, “Don’t just have a New Year’s resolution — start a New Year’s evolution”  (That’s actually not what she said at all… just similar… and I kind of punned it and rephrased it to make it work.  It’s certainly a thinker, all the same.  And I still credit her for the basic framework of the notion).  It’s difficult to grasp the concept of a resolution not being just something of a finish-line.  But what about growth, development, and how someone really makes a change?  What about time, stride and space?  The old cliche about “the journey” still holds true, if you can stop wincing at how cheesy it is long enough to appreciate it. Start somewhere.  Plant the seeds for real growth.  Remember to work with the good stuff you’ve got, and enjoy the process.  It’s the process you’ll remember most, anyhow.  Like a movie montage of all the progressive actions you took on different days, wearing different outfits, showing a little improvement with each clip!

That being said, and the thought-process rolling, I’m starting to come up with a few New Year’s evolution-like ideas.  This notion is already going around that instead of having solid resolutions to change your life, you can just do more of the things you like to do, and things will be better.  That sounds like a pretty good deal to set yourself up for success, if you ask me — watch out, 2017!

If you do have some New Year resolutions on deck for yourself, kudos!  Are you excited about what you’re setting out to do?  Are you looking forward to getting things done and changing things up?  Just remember that  if, come March, you suddenly realize that you’ve completely flaked on your resolutions, you can just start again from there.  Constantly starting over is better than quitting, altogether.  Things take time, so just make some time.  Go, have fun.  Do stuff you like this year. 

 

 

Sketchy: Keeping up Creative Practice through the Holidays

It’s been rough finding time around the Holiday hoopla to slow down and keep creativity in the rhythm of things.  Life gets busy sometimes, and the holidays aren’t the only excuse I’ve run into.  Oy, it’s always something!  Carving out that time is a real challenge, but I try to give myself a break, taking baby steps if I can’t give it my all.  Fifteen minutes to a half hour is what I’ve been able to find here and there, and it’s not a huge chunk of time, but it’s better than nothing.  I sit down for those few minutes with my little notebook to put in some sketch practice.  Most times, I’m not even in a creative mindset, can’t even tap into my imagination or find any inspiration with my pen in hand.  Just another part of that challenge, I guess, and I can’t let that discourage me.

A draw-anything moment turned into a pretty satisfying rendering of the power lines outside my living room window.

Draw something, KB.  Anything!

The practice, while sporadic, has been important.  I’ve never really been great at drawing, and it’s not really my goal to be great.  It’s more been an exercise in recognizing my own hand.  The same way that I would know my own handwriting, I think I want to be able to see myself in the way I draw, and to take note of the choices naturally I make.  Do I get caught up in details?  Do I re-trace over my lines?  Am I being too judgmental of myself?  I learn how I deal with the absence of color when I just have one pen handy.  I notice the way I accept reality when I’m drawing an object, what defining characteristics of a particular object I think are enough to capture its totality.  I also try to let go of perfection, and just have fun.  This is difficult, but still worth the try.  Can’t let standards rule my creative space.

Color is definitely a game-changer!

The Wife (my bestie, Jessica) gifted me some colored pens as a just-because present a few weeks back, and I love them!  They’ve been a game-changer in my notebook scribblings and sketching.  It’s great to have the support of my favorite people in my endeavor to live creatively!  It’s certainly a comradely gesture for her (Jessica’s a Creative, too!) to take notice of my efforts and supply me with some tools.  Holler!  And may I just brag a little that it’s a 20-pack?  !De colores!

The pens helped me break through some of my holiday creative block, and realize that not all of the holiday stimulation has burnt me out creatively.  Lights, glitter, bows, wrapping… not to mention the bevy of foods at holiday celebrations!  Inspiration abounds!  How could I possibly have nothing to draw?  I just had to make sure to make the time for it…

How have the holidays inspired you?  Have you been able to keep to your creative projects and practices these past few weeks?   Hope the holidays were more of a joy than a headache.

Looking forward to more as the new year approaches.  Keep practicing!

Some holiday inspiration, after all!  There really ought to be more holidays where we gather around trees.

 

 

 

I’m Dreaming of a White Elephant Christmas: A rambling on Gift-giving

Gift giving isn’t everyone’s forte.  It took my husband years before figuring out not to shop for my Christmas gift in a sporting goods store.  As much as I love to unwrap me some ski socks on Christmas morning (they’re so comfy!), the novelty and sentiment is only good for maybe a one-time gifting.  Not to worry — Mike D.’s grown since then, and has developed a better sense of what makes a good gift for me.  This past Christmas, he hit the nail on the head impressively.  Like, so impressive, it was almost uncanny:  a much-needed black v-neck cardigan (correct size), black/gray-marled sweater jogger pants (the right size, again), and a Lulu Lemon sports bra (the correct size, again! and for a bra!).  For the cherry on-top of an amazing gift-combo sundae, a seriously-cool black Swatch with a gold-colored face!  The perfect, comfy, KB-style-appropriate outfit, whose separate pieces I’ve been able to wear proudly all year long!  Way to go, Mike D., and cheers to excellent gift choices!

To some degree, even choosing a Christmas card requires the same consideration and care.  The two basic rules for choosing a gift or card, alike are:

  1.  Know your audience
  2. Love what you’re giving

Pictured is the card I got for my sister.  We like tasteless jokes in my family, so choosing this card satisfies both rules:  1) I know my sister’s sense of humor, 2) I think this card is adorable and hilarious, and I’m excited that it will give my sister a good laugh.  Laughs make great gifts, too.

In our house this year we’re opting out of gifts for each other in an effort to focus on the “peace” often associated with the Christmas season that we’re rarely able to observe (it can get pretty nuts this time of year).  Also, we’ve realized that anything we would really want for in terms of gifts are things that we’ve easily just bought for ourselves. We’re adults, after all. Still, gift-giving is a big part of Christmas tradition, and a favorite expression of love in our family. So, we’ll try to get our gifting fix via White Elephant exchanges in our respective offices and Friendsmas celebrations.  Surely, in the end, it will all suffice, and we’ll achieve that  “peace”, and likely a whole lot of merriment, all the same.

White Elephant seems to be the answer to the holiday gift-giving dilemma, more commonly when engaging with a large, diverse group.   It’s all the rage because of its non-specific recipient, and sometimes the added fun of it being an unconventional gift!  Last year proved to be the most successful White Elephant Christmas Eve party ever!  By “successful” I mean that I brought the most coveted, talked-about gift of the night!  Hoping this year will serve just as fruitful, but it will take some planning.

While the W.E. gift should alleviate some anxiety of thoughtfulness, a good gift that whoever ends up with it will actually enjoy still takes some effort. Same guidelines for choosing a gift or a card apply!  If your W.E. group is a more conservative crowd, stick to classy gifts that are useful and of general interest. Despite what SNL says, a candle makes a good, general gift.  It might not be a thriller, but it’s an acceptable go-to.  If your group is a little more on the wicked side, get creative!  A gag gift is one thing, but if it’s interesting enough, it’ll be worthwhile, and not so seemingly jerky.  Also, W.E. often has a price limit.  The higher the limit, the less gag-y of a gift you should get, without a nice-gift supplement (it’s pretty messed up for someone to leave the party with a gag gift when they legitimately spent the $20 limit on the gift they brought).

I’m so proud of the White Elephant gift I gave last year, mostly because I’d seized an opportunity to be creative.  It may also have been the closest to a DIY gift I’ve ever gotten.  Was it a jerk gift?  No. Those are too easy.  I really got into this, and was certainly aiming to please.  I gave a lot of thought to the group that was participating–  These folks really look forward to the whacky shock-value of the White Elephant game at this annual neighborhood Christmas Eve party.  I’d observed what gifts brought a lot of fun to the party over the years, and decided I wanted to challenge the types of gifts they found hilarious.  It involved some random doll parts that a co-worker had mentioned throwing out from a hoard clean-up.  So weird, it was like gold to me!  It was perfect.  I procured the doll parts and cased them in a handsome mason jar.  Next, some supplement items to off-set the gag, and add to the gift value (there was a price limit – gotta hit that worth).  I bought a couple of similar-sized jars of fancy preserves, and grouped them with the doll-parts jar, like they were items in a gift basket.  It was so much fun putting this gift together, anticipating the rise I would get at the party.  The pay-off was the jovial reaction to this weird, outrageous gift (opened, in the end, by the conservative patriarch of the house, who admitted to really loving the doll-part jar, mostly, of course, because of the laughs it brought to the party).  It was odd, interesting, and fun.  And like I said, laughs make great gifts!

What is gift-giving going to look like for your Christmas this year?  Do you have a strategy for choosing gifts?  Whether you go big or go simple, it’s really the thought that counts that will make this a meaningful, joyful season.  I’m certainly looking forward to all the ways that good intentions in the spirit of the holiday materialize.  Cheers to making the yule tide fun!