New glasses + weekend shenanigans. (Wedding! Anime Comic Con! Dinosaurs! etc.)

It seems like a long time has passed since my last posting date on Thursday, but that’s just because I’ve spent most of the intervening days out of town. We went to the Bay Area for a friend’s wedding. It was a French wedding attended by lots of (mostly) French people speaking (mostly) French. It took place on Bastille Day and the day before France won the World Cup, so it was a very French affair.

We made our hotel reservation months in advance. Unbeknownst to us, the Anime Comic Con would be going on in the hotel at the same time. Surprise!

Spoils from Anime Comic Con 2018:

 

Marvel Black Panther bag and Sen. John McCain action figure

 

[Sidenote 1: I got to chatting with the cool guy who sold me the Marvel Black Panther bag. Turns out he’s a musician. He’s a member of Dirty Rotten Imbeciles (aka D.R.I.). He said they’re coming to my town at the end of October to play a gig. We’re going, Callaghan and me.]

[Sidenote 2: I thought it was hilarious that they were selling Sen. John McCain action figures at Anime Comic Con in California. I couldn’t resist. McCain’s been my senator since I moved to Arizona in 1991. I don’t have to agree with all of his political positions (and I certainly do not) to say in all honesty that he’s one of my heroes.]

Next:

New glasses, part I-don’t-even-know-what.

 

[Sidenote: These pics were taken late last week during a time of hot dusty winds, when the AZ monsoon skies were a haze of golden brown. Even the indoor pic on the left looks dusty.]

You may be wondering how many new pairs of glasses a person needs in a year. I am, too. Hopefully the saga ends here. It should, provided that a). my prescription doesn’t change again, b). I don’t step on my new glasses, and c). in the event that I do, my replacement frames don’t come from overseas on a slow boat that either hits an iceberg or gets lost in the Bermuda Triangle. Those are the three things that have happened in the last 12 months. Luckily, the debacle cost only $25.00 to fix – it was $25.00 to replace the broken frames, and when they never showed up, the glasses lady let me pick new frames for a complete re-make (fresh lenses included) and trade the new glasses for the replacement ones.

I’m enjoying my new granny specs. I’ve worn dark, plastic/acrylic frames for as long as I can remember; these super thin gold-toned ones are a change I’m loving. They seem treacherously light and delicate, but the glasses lady assured me that they’re very strong (titanium) and difficult to break.

Returning to the weekend! We got back yesterday in a dramatic climatic shift. On a summer morning in San Francisco, middle of July, I wore jeans and a t-shirt, as usual, but also a sweatshirt over the t-shirt, and a pleather motorcycle jacket over the sweatshirt… and I was still cold. San Francisco in the summer is antithetical. I boarded the plane dressed for a Phoenix winter, landed in Phoenix 1.5 hours later, and stripped myself back down to summer while still on the plane. I walked into Sky Harbor airport in just the jeans and t-shirt again.

And that, my friends, is one reason why I’ll never move back.

The day before, though, we spent a balmy and beautiful afternoon strolling through Todos Santos Plaza in Concord. We had a great time, but I was glad to come home, as usual. There’ll just never be anything like the steady hum of creative energy in our quiet house in our quiet neighborhood in our quiet desert – it always seems quiet, even when it’s not – with the wide-open space all around, the huge sky overhead, and the sound of our Arcosanti bells speaking for the monsoon breeze out front.

OH! We went to see Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom while in Concord. I thought it was good enough for entertainment, but not good enough for a “monthly favorites” list.

The movie-makers told a familiar story this time, didn’t they? An ark with all the different species, a clashing of good and greed-driven evil, and the not-subtle suggestion that Owen and Claire are Adam and Eve in their neo-Jurassic world. Even the movie’s title (Fallen Kingdom) sounds biblical.

I found myself emotionally wrought at the beginning when the brachiosaurus got left behind on the island, watching everyone sailing away to safety. I cried. Callaghan assured me, “No brachiosaurus was harmed in the making of the movie,” but it didn’t help. I spent most of the movie thinking the poor dinosaurs. Gah. I’m always upset to tears when I see horrible things happening to animals, and I guess CGI dinosaurs are no exception.

 

Geronimo’s hot summer. (Desert tortoise update!)

A quick Geronimo update is in order! We’re in the swing of summer now, and Geronimo has gotten with the program.

Geronimo’s daily summer pattern is to chill in the dark depth of the cave he’s dug out for himself, and…

well, that’s his pattern.

But he does come out to bask in the sun for a little while at least every other day (usually in the late morning), just for a quarter of an hour or so. Then he goes right back into his burrow and disappears in his cave.

Every once in a while, we’ll see him cruise around the yard eating grasses and low-hanging hibiscus flowers.

He’ll sometimes emerge from his cave to sit in the patio part of his burrow, facing out. He likes it when he does this and we sit with him on the outside. He enjoys our company, even if he’s out of reach. How do I know this? He told me. A mother knows.

 

Geronimo in the summer

 

Once a week, usually on the weekend, Geronimo comes out and we’ll soak him for as long as he’ll lets us, which is pretty much just as long as he needs to drink water.

He has a drinking routine; it involves sticking his whole head below the surface. He blinks his eyes underwater a few times and squirts water through his nostrils when he comes up for air. It’s like he’s rinsing out his eyes and nose, which is probably exactly what he’s doing.

Have I ever mentioned that his favorite part of soaking day is the Romaine lettuce he gets for his after-bath treat? And then we’ll pull some hibiscus flowers from the top branches of the hibiscus bushes and hand-feed them to him. His favorite!

Geronimo and his flowers.

Geronimo Shovelhands. (Desert tortoise update!)

All has been business as usual around here, and then one day I saw dirt flying out of Geronimo’s burrow. Next thing I knew, Geronimo was gone.

(Spoiler alert: he didn’t stay gone.)

For being such slow creatures, tortoises have a way of making things happen fast. Ours does, at least. I don’t know why this surprises me anymore. I just… when Geronimo started digging out the back corner of his burrow, I didn’t know he was going to dig until he was out of sight! He dug deep enough to get under the cinder block walls, and then he dug straight ahead, still at a diagonal, carving out a tunnel. I suppose that’s the definition of an actual tortoise burrow. Duh.

In my moment of alarm, though, I went to Facebook to freak out, because that’s what Facebook is for. Also, I have tortoise parent friends who would possibly offer comments or insights (and they did – thanks guys)! My freak-out went something like: 1). Where is Geronimo going? How far will he go? Where will he end up? Will we ever see him again? and in the comments and a few DMs: 2). Isn’t it dangerous that he’s dug beneath the cinder block structure of his burrow? Now there’s a mountain of packed dirt on top of cinder blocks supported by nothing! How is this possible? What if the blocks cave in? Will they crush Geronimo? Will they trap and smother him? GAHHHHHHHH

When we built the burrow, we thought that Geronimo would just chill at the back of it, and he did, for a while. When the days started heating up, he built his real burrow. Turns out that all we built was a semi-enclosed porch… which is fine. We’re pleased that Geronimo loves his burrow enough to feel that it’s a good entrance to the lair he’s digging out for himself.

Meanwhile, Callaghan started the process of securing the burrow’s cinder block walls to its plywood ceiling with construction-grade metal brackets, performing the necessary contortions in defying the laws of spatial limitation. I, myself, can barely fit my upper body into the burrow. Callaghan has to reach in and maneuver a drill in the far-back upper corner!

I don’t know how Callaghan does it, exactly, but he does. I know that his process involves lying on a couple of large tiles. Consequently, each time he finishes fastening a bracket and clears out for the day – only one bracket can be done at a time – Geronimo goes back to his burrow and gets mad because the dirt inside had been flattened out; he has to dig at the burrow floor in order to fluff it up again.

This guy!

 

Geronimo digging. You can just see his little back elephant leg behind the spray of dirt.

 

Long update short: Geronimo spends his nights (and most of his days) deep in his new digs (literally). Also, he’s adorable. Nothing new there!

 

Phoenix Forgotten. (Failed non-review movie review!) (+PTSD diagnosis story)

We went to watch Phoenix Forgotten, which brought back the year of 1997.

As I sat there, it occurred to me for the first time that the beginning of my PTSD coincided with the Phoenix Lights.

[NOTE: The link function to open the linked page in a new window is down at the moment, so you’ll have to back-arrow to get back here]

 

 

Probably many of us living here in Phoenix metro in 1997 remember the lights that moved over the Valley in March. For me, 1997 was also eventful because it involved numerous doctors throughout the year. 1997 was the year I was diagnosed with PTSD. Yes – six years post-main event.

I wasn’t in school in 1997. I was taking a year off, the year after college and before grad school. There were only two things on my agenda for 1997: write poems and train for my black belt in Tae Kwan Do. I was also working.

So I was doing all of that, just minding my own business, like you do, and then, one night, I went to bed feeling sick to my stomach. As soon as I closed my eyes, my heart jumped in and crashed the party, like, Hey! I’m here too! Whheeeeeee! Cannonball!!!… and I couldn’t breathe, and I thought I was going to die of a cardiac event.

Then I was waking up. It was morning. What the hell just happened?

It happened again the next night, and the next and the next. It got to a point where I was too gun-shy to go bed. Going to bed had become a horrifying prospect, so every night, I put it off until I was passing-out tired. I don’t know why I didn’t go to the doctor sooner.

Eventually, I did go to the doctor, because I had an episode that was different than the others, and that was the proverbial last straw.

In that episode, I was trapped in another dimension and I was going to die for sure. Somewhere between awake and sleep, something happened. If I was completely asleep, it would’ve been a nightmare. Whatever this was, it was psychedelic and real, like, 3D real… and that was on top of the physical Armageddon that was my new normal. After I survived that night, I finally went to the doctor.

*****

1997 became a year of medical mystery. I went back and forth between different internists and specialists, cardiology and gastroenterology and cardiology again, everyone referring me to everyone else. I was deemed healthy – good news! – but I was still having these ridiculous episodes.

Then my baffled first internist started asking me questions about my background. When it came out that I was a combat vet, she referred me to a shrink. The shrink explained that panic attacks mimic heart conditions and other physical issues, which was why no one thought of the PTSD possibility.

He explained that the first episode was a panic attack. After it recurred nightly for a period of time, it became a panic disorder (PTSD, in my case). And the next-level attacks, he said, were “night terrors.”

Why did it take so long for the PTSD to manifest? He said it wasn’t unusual for vets to come home fine and then experience a trigger years later. The trigger could be anything, he said. So what was my trigger? We’ll never know, and it doesn’t matter.

All we know is that my PTSD was triggered by something in the spring of 1997. Coincidentally, I’m sure, the Phoenix Lights also happened in the spring of 1997.

*****

I sat in the movie theater remembering and pondering all of this, and that is how my non-review movie review became a post about my PTSD diagnosis.

I can’t be objective about this movie, but I can say that in my opinion, it wasn’t bad.

Phoenix Forgotten begins on a robust note, then bleeds out into the Found Footage horror movie sub-genre. In my experience, Found Footage movies made after the first Blair Witch Project are doomed to the basement where Bad Horror Flicks live. I often really enjoy Bad Horror Flicks, but I can’t even say whether this movie was bad enough to qualify as that bad.

If you’re intrigued by the Phoenix Lights and/or you’re a fan of Found Footage horror movies, you may dig this one.

 

 

Newsflash: the Grand Canyon is not commercial real estate.

Yesterday, I got to the gym early for my morning BodyPump class, so I hung out in front of the low bank of lockers just outside the group fitness room. That’s where people wait when there’s a class in session before their class.

I set my stuff down on top of the lockers and noticed a copy of the day’s Arizona Republic, our newspaper, hanging off the edge. My eye was attracted to the small heading “Grand Canyon at risk” before moving on to the blaring headline beneath it.

 

 

Why is the Grand Canyon at risk? I wondered. What votes? I read enough of the article to get an idea of it before class.

Last night, I read more.

The Grand Canyon’s unfathomable majesty isn’t enough, it seems. The fact that its splendor already draws millions of visitors from around the globe each year isn’t enough. Or maybe it’s too much. It’s too much of an exploitation opportunity for out-of-state commercial real estate developers to pass up.

Plans have been made for large-scale development on a plateau on the Grand Canyon’s eastern rim… specifically, where the Colorado River meets the Little Colorado River. The site is known as “The Confluence.” It’s a sacred Navajo site.

Quoting from the Arizona Republic article:

“The heart of the project, known as the Grand Canyon Escalade, is a 1.6-mile gondola tram ride that would drop 3,200 feet into the Canyon, taking visitors from rim to river in about 10 minutes. The project would also include commercial and retail space, multimedia complex, a river walk and administrative buildings.”

Excuse me?

I read elsewhere that the multimedia complex is reportedly designed to cover over 400 acres. The commercial and retail space would include an IMAX theater, hotels, and shops. In addition to the gondola tram ride to the canyon floor, there will be an RV park.

This is the Grand Canyon, as in, sacred Native American ground. As in, one of the seven natural wonders of the world. As in, please remove your greedy developer fingers from the Grand Canyon… and also, while you’re at it, tell the government to get their hands off of our wild horses, more of Arizona’s native treasures. All of it should be left alone.

This is what developers are planning for the holy site:

 

 

Words fail me here.

Evidently, the Navajo Nation’s president supports this proposal. I get that it would help the Navajo Nation economically, but can’t another way be found?

“Opponents say it could desecrate the region and transform the Grand Canyon from a national park into an amusement park.”

Or background scenery as people shop, dine, and watch movies.

Who would think of coming to the Grand Canyon to catch a show at IMAX?

People go to the Grand Canyon to behold its grandeur. They can opt to hike, raft, and run. They can take helicopter tours to view the canyon from above. The Grand Canyon is nature. It is not commercial real estate.

Can we please just leave the Grand Canyon to be a natural wonder in the desert? Can we please refrain from trampling the sacred ground of indigenous people?

And they all fall down. (November favorites!)

Let’s just jump right into this list of enjoyable little things I discovered in November!

 

1). Jacket weather.

 

Winter has come.

Winter has come.

 

Okay, I didn’t discover this, but it happened, and I love it. Jacket weather has arrived! (My hair isn’t this light; this pic shows an illusion of the aggressive lighting in the optometrist’s room in which I was sitting yesterday afternoon. My hair looks red under light, anyway, but this pic is beyond.) It doesn’t matter what the calendar says… if it’s cold enough to wear a jacket – in the 60’s – it’s winter.

 

2). Night School (novel by Lee Child)

 

Lee Child's 2016 Reacher release!

Lee Child’s 2016 Reacher release!

 

It’s here, and I finally got my hands on it! I’m about half-way through, and I’m hooked, as usual. I’ll probably devote a post to this new Reacher novel of Lee Child’s.

 

3). Nerve (film)

 

thatasianlookingchick-com-nerve

 

We were looking for a fluffy cinematic escapade for mindless entertainment one day, and we happened upon Nerve. We chose it because of Emma Roberts and the fact of having seen the trailer and remembering how we thought we discerned a unique premise for a sci-fi thriller… and that’s exactly what we got. And we were entertained. Success!

 

4). The Affair S3 (T.V. series)

 

thatasianlookingchick-com-theaffairs3

 

This season of The Affair is strikingly dark compared to the last two seasons, which were also dark, if that gives you any idea about this stunning series. Season 3 takes you down into an abyss, a drop that’s immediately evident as that eerie song of Fiona Apple’s in the opening credits now harmonizes with beautiful and morbid images of the characters sinking to the bottom of the ocean.

 

 

The Affair just gets better and better. The story seems straightforward enough as it begins in the first season, but by the time you’ve watched the first two/three episodes of the third season, you have no idea, really, what you’ve gotten into.

 

5). Acure night cream.

 

Acure night cream

Acure night cream

 

I think this cream may have appeared in a list from last year. It’s making a reappearance, as I’ve started using it again, and I still think it’s great. I’ve tried some very good night creams this year; my favorite is still Yes to Blueberries, but I’m enjoying using this one by Acure at the moment.

 

6). Amy’s organic lentil vegetable soup (light in sodium).

 

Amy's organic lentil vegetable (light in sodium) soup

Amy’s organic lentil vegetable (light in sodium) soup

 

I eat a lot of soup these days. I love homemade soup, but more often than not, I grab whatever can of soup we have on hand. It’s always Amy’s. This lentil vegetable one is my favorite. It’s “light in sodium,” but not to worry… it’s nothing a few twists of the salt grinder can’t fix! I load it up with pink Himalayan salt and figure I’ll deal with the repercussions of excess sodium consumption later. I’ve got to have some vices, right? At least one? And as far as processed foods go, Amy’s soups really aren’t that bad.

 

7). Clif Kid Organic Z bar (iced oatmeal cookie) with peanut butter.

 

Clif Kid Organic Z Bar (iced oatmeal cookie) with peanut butter topping

Clif Kid Organic Z Bar (iced oatmeal cookie) with peanut butter topping

 

This bar appeared on last month’s list. Its taste reminds me of Fig Newtons, which I love. But now I top it with peanut butter for some added protein, and the aftertaste takes it from Fig Newton to pure oatmeal cookie. I’m so glad I tried this!

 

8). Scivation Xtend BCAAs in strawberry kiwi.

 

Scivation Xtend BCAAs (strawberry-kiwi)

Scivation Xtend BCAAs (strawberry-kiwi)

 

When deciding on BCAAs to supplement my weight-training workouts and muscle recovery, my only concern was finding a good one that’s vegan. I’d never taken BCAAs before, so I dove into some research and came up with Scivation Xtend. I got the strawberry kiwi. The flavor is good, and it works well in getting me through a Body Pump session and recovering faster afterward. SCORE.

 

9). Sumo wrestling.

 

Grand Sumo Tournament 2016

Grand Sumo Tournament 2016

 

Sitting in front of the T.V. with Dad when we were in California for Thanksgiving, I got to revisit those favorite childhood moments of watching combat sports with him… only this time, instead of boxing, it was sumo wrestling! It never occurred to me to actually sit and watch sumo. Callaghan and I were instantly drawn in; we were surprised at how much we enjoyed it. I’m still pondering the mystery of how a match that can be over in 5 seconds can be so exciting to watch. The 15-day tournament ended on the 27th (It was the November Grand Sumo Tournament, or Kyushu Basho, in Fukuoka, Japan). We watched the last two nights here at home, on YouTube. The next tournament will be in January.

 

10). New tattoo.

 

Three swallows in flight

Three swallows in flight

 

Fresh out of the studio, freshly wrapped in plastic.

Fresh out of the studio, freshly wrapped in plastic.

 

I finally got my bird tattoos! I’ve been wanting swallows, and I love the way they turned out.

That’s it for November, and that’s almost it for 2016!

Mood lightning. (I got pics of monsoon lightning.)

We had our first real monsoon of 2016 last Friday night. We didn’t know it was happening until we left the movie theater, because that’s how it works. It’s a monsoon season late afternoon. You go into a building and it’s all calm and benign outside, if not boggy under a sky constantly on the verge of raining. Then night falls and you leave the building to find hell boiling over from the top down.

It is fantastic.

Storms in the desert always hold me in thrall. Some years, monsoon season barely trembles. Other years, the theatrics of a night storm could expunge the banality from a decade’s worth of lackluster monsoon seasons.

I’ve never tried to take pictures of lightning during these monsoons, but that night, I thought I’d film the sky as Callaghan drove. I’ve discovered that taking screenshots from video footage on my phone is a useful way to take “impossible” pictures. I recorded the sky for nine minutes on the way home, and Lo, I indeed managed to capture some lightning!

(Despite the fact that lightning flashed erratically from different directions, so I kept moving my phone between my window and the windshield. And the fact that heavy rain animated the windows in a continuous blur. And that between the dark outside and the glare of interior lights on the dashboard, I couldn’t see what I was recording.)

My screenshots aren’t going to end up as centerfolds in any nature’s majesty themed magazines, or on postcards, or in calendars, or on anything… but I’m thrilled with how they captured the mood of the storm. I’d characterize the storm’s mood as something like Samuel L. Jackson’s character’s mood in the last third of Snakes on a Plane.

Here’s a bolt gashing down to light up the dark around it:

 

Bolt lighting up the sky.

Bolt lighting up the sky.

 

And another supercharged bolt suspended in a flash, looking like an electric vein:

 

Positively charged!

Positively charged!

 

Doesn’t this look to be two kinds of lightning happening at the same time? Is it possible to get a flash of sheet lightning at the same time that a lightning bolt appears?

This next pic shows lightning bolts approaching the earth in a more decorous composition of filigreed branches, but then the branch on the left says “F*ck it” and flumes down like fire the rest of the way:

 

The finger of wrath blow-torching its victim on the ground.

The finger of wrath blow-torching its victim on the ground.

 

And here’s one that shows lightning not messing around at all, ripping through the sky in a war-like blast that would incinerate everything in its path:

 

Lightning on a mission.

Lightning on a mission.

 

That looks like another instance of hybrid flash/bolt action, to me. I’m not sure what that is, but it was definitely angry. Like Samuel L. Jackson in the last third of Snakes on a Plane.

These image results may have come from a matter of timing as one display of lightning overlapped with another – recording the show as video allowed me to capture those split seconds. I’m not counting out the possibility, though, that factors such as glare or curvature of the windows could have created the visual effects of the last two pics.

Regardless, there’s an idea of our first monsoon of 2016 in Phoenix. Raw and unfiltered.

On our loss of Prince. On Ethan 103’s release of “Punk Rock Fashion Police.”

At first, I was only going to write about a local punk rock band in celebration of their new song. Then Prince died, and I wanted to say a word about that… but I didn’t know where to begin. I don’t know where to begin. There is, in fact, nowhere to begin. Nothing I could say would be enough.

It’s unnecessary and not enough to remark that once again, we’re in mourning for an icon, dazed by the loss of another staggering talent. It’s only been three months since we mourned for David Bowie.

What would be the point of writing anything more than, “Like everyone, I’m shocked and dismayed at the news of Prince’s sudden death. May he rest in peace.” What am I going to do, blog about my shock and dismay every time we lose a brilliant genius of a musical artist? At the rate it’s been going, I’d have to change the title of my blog to That Asian-Looking Chick Who Only Blogs About Pop Culture Icons’ Deaths. No one wants to read that.

Moreover, there are countless beautiful tributes and eulogies out there more poignant and well-said than anything I could write.

Michael Jackson is gone. Prince is gone. The last one standing out of that particular holy trinity of iconic artists (which owned the radio during my teen years in the 80’s) is Madonna. (Maybe I’ll never have to consider writing about her death, because maybe she’ll outlive us all.)

Prince has been everywhere. Sinéad O’Connor made the song “Nothing Compares 2 U” famous, but Prince wrote it. I never forgot that, because my appreciation for O’Connor started with that song, as I’m sure it did for many of us.

So it’s in the climate of our purple-hued sorrow that I want to highlight this fantastic local Arizona band, Ethan 103, in celebration of their new song, “Punk Rock Fashion Police” – right here in this same post. Because Prince would likely appreciate the correlation. I don’t think he’d want us to stop celebrating music that celebrates individualism, even for a minute. Prince was individualism. David Bowie and Prince were among the few whose art helped to make individualism acceptable, starting with their music.

Arizona Native punk rock band Ethan 103 released “Punk Rock Fashion Police” on Monday, an event that those of us who know these guys have been anticipating for months.

 

Caption from Facebook: "Newly recorded song from Ethan 103 titled "Punk Rock Fashion Police" to be played tonight on AZ 98 KUPD (97.9) FM on the Go Punk Yourself radio airwaves hosted by Craven Moorehead. Tune in 7pm-9pm. Www.ethan103.com as official music video releases tomorrow 4/18/2016."

Caption from Facebook: “Newly recorded song from Ethan 103 titled “Punk Rock Fashion Police” to be played tonight on AZ 98 KUPD (97.9) FM on the Go Punk Yourself radio airwaves hosted by Craven Moorehead. Tune in 7pm-9pm. Www.ethan103.com as official music video releases tomorrow 4/18/2016.”

 

Read the review (written by Yours Truly) and watch the video here:

Video – Punk Rock Fashion Police

“Ethan 103 Incinerates the Scene with new song ‘Punk Rock Fashion Police’.” Indeed, they do. And whether or not Prince was a fan of punk rock, I like to think that he would dig the spirit of this song.

Powers that be (Haiku 7: Power)

Questions I asked myself all week: Does power always, in every circumstance, corrupt? Is power breakable? What would it take to break chains of power, and would it take a super hero or a super villain to break them?

In these new haiku, I explore the correlation between power and corruption.

 

Haiku 7: Power

(by Kristi Garboushian)

1.

Grand tribulation:

oak doors hewn by elected

justice. Reckoning.

 

Power of position

Power of position

 

2.

Preternatural –

czars savoring backfire,

litanies of blood.

 

Power of risk

Power of risk

 

3.

Gold, palladium…

lustrous, incorruptible,

soft nobility.

 

Power of heritage

Power of heritage

 

4.

Ravishing spittoon:

molten glass posterity.

Inheritable.

 

Power of fortune

Power of fortune

 

In a lighter vein, the week wound back down to normalcy after the in-laws departed. It was a good visit. We took them to typical Arizona places (i.e. Tombstone, Sedona), and they ventured down into the Grand Canyon. They saw a fraction of what Arizona has to offer… one really needs more than a week to take in all of its splendors. Our guests enjoyed what little they experienced.

Sunny winter in Haiku (Haiku 2: Blue Sky)

It’s a new week, and other than some residual congestion, I’m flu-free. Seven days of viral craptastic downtime makes for a giddy return to work. I only went in on Tuesday last week. I went on Wednesday, too, but I was sent home almost immediately, so Wednesday doesn’t count.

(Aside: Remember when “viral” really was just a bad thing?)

Even on Sunday, I coughed so much, Callaghan said, “There’s no way you can go to work tomorrow.” But I felt much better when I woke up yesterday. The whole day felt glorious. It was warm and the sky was extra sunny, clear, and blue – even more blue than usual – so I went outside (glorious!) during my lunch hour and took some pics. I didn’t go far… just to the art museum near my building. The museum and the adjacent little theatre.

I’m sharing some of the pics with a few more haiku, because they go together. I’m feeling the haiku these days, and it feels good. It feels good to pick up poetry again!

 

Haiku 2: Blue Sky

(by Kristi Garboushian)

1.

To be undulant,

an unfinished votive dream

soothing chess-players.

 

Blue sky with theatre box office.

Blue sky with theatre box office.

 

2.

Elasticity:

five hundred sodden leaves around

the arctic building.

 

Blue sky with art museum.

Blue sky with art museum.

 

3.

Plumage battering

an alternative fossil –

carnage emerging.

 

Blue sky with fake lava.

Blue sky with fake lava.

 

4.

A feast of words held:

tense, shy, the gloved telegrams,

chronological.

 

Blue sky with art museum, 2.

Blue sky with art museum, 2.

 

I love how Haiku encourages pictures in 17 syllables.

LUCHA LIBRE! It’s what’s for entertainment (the night before your birthday).

Lucha Libre – Mexican wrestling – has to be the most colorful and entertaining type of combat sport I know. Like all wrestlers, a luchador is an athlete and an entertainer rolled into one. Luchadores are known for wearing masks. They’re known for launching themselves into the air. Lucha Libre is hella fun to watch!

A Mexican cultural tradition, it’s natural to see Lucha Libre in Arizona. When a $5.00 ticket deal for a Lucha Libre event at a local venue hit my inbox last week, I snapped up a couple and asked Callaghan after the fact (if he wanted to go). I suspected he’d love it, so I just went for it, thinking I could justify my impulsive decision with the It’s my birthday weekend and this is what I want to do reasoning. The event was on Saturday night. My birthday was on Sunday. Luckily, Callaghan was stoked about our impromptu plans. Lucha Libre tickets five bucks each!

So we headed over to the AZ Event Center on Saturday night, and today I’m coming at you with another gazillion images. I took the interior pics from my seat and with my cell phone, as usual, so the usual disclaimer about the photo quality applies. I wanted to capture the personalities of the luchadores and the fun they were having!

 

[TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

[TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Me with Callaghan on my birthday eve at the AZ Event Center. We were tired, but... Lucha Libre!!

Me with Callaghan on my birthday eve at the AZ Event Center. We were tired, but… Lucha Libre!!

 

From Bout 1:

 

Bout 1 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 1 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 1 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 1 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Strolling around the audience…

 

Bout 1 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 1 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 1 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 1 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 1 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 1 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

From Bout 2 (Las mujeres! – female bout):

 

Bout 2 - Las mujeres! [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 2 – Las mujeres! [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 2 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 2 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 2 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 2 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 2 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 2 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 2 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 2 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 2 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 2 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 2 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 2 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 2 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 2 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

From Bout 3 (two Mexican dudes vs. two American dudes):

 

Bout 3 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 3 – Mexico duo vs. United States duo! [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Representing Mexico:

 

Bout 3 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 3 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Representing the United States:

 

Bout 3 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 3 – Mexicans in green, Americans in black shorts [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

(These two were the only Americans on the fight card.)

 

Bout 3 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 3 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Mr-Mexico Luchador!

 

Mr-Mexico Luchador, end of Bout 3 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Mr-Mexico Luchador, end of Bout 3 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

From Bout 4 (tag teams – trios):

 

Bout 4 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 4 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 4 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 4 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 4 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 4 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Team 1:

 

Bout 4 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 4 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 4 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 4 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 4 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 4 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Team 2:

 

Bout 4 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 4 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 4 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 4 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 4 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 4 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 4 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 4 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 4 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 4 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Loved these guys!

We picked up a free poster on our way out:

 

Great night of Lucha Libre! [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Great night of Lucha Libre! [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

I did capture some high-flying action shots, but with the technical limitations of the cell phone camera, they’re not great – some luchadores came out blurry, while others were straight-up unidentifiable blurs.

Okay, I’ll include a few of them, because why not! These are all from the first bout:

 

Bout 1 - Action [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 1 – Action [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

INCOMING!

 

Bout 1 - Action [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 1 – Action [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 1 - Action [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 1 – Action [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 1 - Action [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 1 – Action [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 1 - Action [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 1 – Action [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 1 - Action [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 1 – Action [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

And…

 

Bout 1 - Action [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 1 – Action [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 1 - Action [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 1 – Action [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Ka-BAAM.

Also, here’s a short video clip of the bout between the Mexican duo and the American duo, which Callaghan let me post on his YouTube channel:

 

 

The Americans are the ones wearing shorts. They ended up winning, by the way.

Awesome night of entertainment!

Merry Christmas! (Photos from Las Noches de las Luminarias at the Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden)

As a part of our Christmas celebration this week, we spent an evening trekking through the Desert Botanical Garden to take in the thousands of luminarias hand-lit along trails, walkways, and ledges.

A luminaria is a paper lantern made by filling the bottom of a small paper bag with sand and setting a candle in it. Like eating tamales on Christmas Eve, decorating your yard with luminarias (often around the perimeter) is a southwestern Christmas tradition, and Las Noches de las Luminarias is a tradition at the Garden. At this year’s display, we enjoyed the music of mariachis, and members of Yellow Bird telling Apache winter stories and playing native flute. We also admired artist Bruce Munro’s breath-taking art installations in the Bruce Munro: Sonoran Light at the Desert Botanical Garden exhibit.

We visited the Garden after nightfall. Of course, I took about 500 pics, which I whittled down to 32 after sifting through them.

At times like these, I wish I had a better camera. The one in my cell phone couldn’t adequately capture the beauty beheld in the Garden that night!

But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t gleefully surprised when my photo album came out vaguely spooky and Halloweenish; the grainy photo quality probably has something to do with this. My first idea was to take you on a festive holiday stroll through the desert, but instead, you’re getting an experience that might resonate more with The Nightmare before Christmas. The desert at night can be haunting with botanical silhouettes, red skies, and ghostly trees. In many places, the luminarias and Bruce Munro’s artistic light installations added to the eerie effect.

Come along…

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-DBGLuminarias_1

Bienvenidos! [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

thatasianlookingchick.com-DBGLuminarias_2

Christmas tree in the desert. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

thatasianlookingchick.com-DBGLuminarias_3

Over 8000 luminarias were hand-lit at the Garden. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

thatasianlookingchick.com-DBGLuminarias_4

Saguaro cactus. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

thatasianlookingchick.com-DBGLuminarias_5

[TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

thatasianlookingchick.com-DBGLuminarias_6

[TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

thatasianlookingchick.com-DBGLuminarias_7

[TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

thatasianlookingchick.com-DBGLuminarias_8

Luminarias spied behind an organ pipe cactus. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

thatasianlookingchick.com-DBGLuminarias_9

For obvious reasons, these luminarias are made with plastic sleeves rather than with real paper bags. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-DBGLuminarias_10

[TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

thatasianlookingchick.com-DBGLuminarias_11

[TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

thatasianlookingchick.com-DBGLuminarias_12

Christmas lights wrapped around a palo verde tree. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

thatasianlookingchick.com-DBGLuminarias_13

[TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

thatasianlookingchick.com-DBGLuminarias_14

The desert at night. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

thatasianlookingchick.com-DBGLuminarias_15

[TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

thatasianlookingchick.com-DBGLuminarias_16

Shadow of a dwelling behind the luminarias. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

thatasianlookingchick.com-DBGLuminarias_17

Members of Yellow Bird told Apache winter stories and played native flute on the Plants and People of the Sonoran Desert Loop Trail. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

thatasianlookingchick.com-DBGLuminarias_18

[TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

thatasianlookingchick.com-DBGLuminarias_19

Christmas light-studded hill in the desert. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

thatasianlookingchick.com-DBGLuminarias_20

Red sky, web on the ground made of strings and beads of lights. (Light art of Bruce Munro.) [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

thatasianlookingchick.com-DBGLuminarias_21

Arteries glowing in the desert darkness – light art of Bruce Munro. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

thatasianlookingchick.com-DBGLuminarias_22

Eerily glowing luminous art by Bruce Munro. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

thatasianlookingchick.com-DBGLuminarias_23

[TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

thatasianlookingchick.com-DBGLuminarias_24

[TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

thatasianlookingchick.com-DBGLuminarias_25

Luminarias leading the way on the Garden trails. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

thatasianlookingchick.com-DBGLuminarias_26

[TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

thatasianlookingchick.com-DBGLuminarias_27

[TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

thatasianlookingchick.com-DBGLuminarias_28

Luminaria with more of Bruce Munro’s light art. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

thatasianlookingchick.com-DBGLuminarias_29

“Fireflies” by Bruce Munro. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

thatasianlookingchick.com-DBGLuminarias_30

“Fireflies” by Bruce Munro. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

thatasianlookingchick.com-DBGLuminarias_31

Light art by Bruce Munro. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

thatasianlookingchick.com-DBGLuminarias_32

Statue in the Garden. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

…and a great BIG “thank you” to Callaghan for patiently waiting as I took hundreds of pics!

Merry Christmas, All. =)

LA Fitness takes over 24 Hour Fitness in AZ, and AU REVOIR Body Combat.

Last Tuesday, I wrote about my recent psychedelic Body Combat experience at a gym in France.

MEANWHILE, back at home, our own Body Combat classes have been placed on life support, because our gym is no longer our gym. Toward the end of November, our gym got yanked out from under us in the most unceremonious way possible. As in, one day our gym was there, and the next day, it “went out for cigarettes” and we never saw it again. But we know where it went. It went to either Oklahoma or Nebraska.

In the words of French songwriter Serge Gainsbourg, Il est parti chercher des cigarettes. En fait, il est parti. (“He went to get cigarettes. In fact, he left.”)

The president of 24 Hour Fitness (our gym) traded his 11 Arizona locations for THREE LA Fitness locations between Oklahoma and Nebraska. 24 Hour Fitness no longer has gyms in AZ, and we’re now members of LA Fitness.

“It’s almost like the president of 24 Hour Fitness lost his 11 Arizona locations to LA Fitness in a game of poker,” Callaghan said. I have to agree.

I doctored up this map from 24 Hour Fitness’ website to create a visual of the development:

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-24HourFitness

 

In offering an explanation, 24 Hour Fitness’ president said that “Phoenix was not a market where 24 Hour ever ‘gained the kind of cluster that we ought to see’.”

24 Hour Fitness never “gained a cluster” in Phoenix?

About 4.5 million people live in Phoenix Metro. Oklahoma City Metro has 1.3 million people – roughly a third of our area. We had 11 locations in Phoenix. What kind of “cluster” was he hoping to gain? How does a trade of 11 Arizona locations for three locations in the Midwest make sense?

“Our assessment of (Phoenix) was that it was not a core market for us,” continued 24 Hour Fitness’ president. “At that time, we discussed the possibility of selling that market to a number of players. Ultimately, the only transaction that made sense to us was with LA Fitness… we believe the Midwest offers interesting possibilities for us to make those cities core markets for 24 Hour Fitness.”

Callaghan was outraged. “I call bullshit,” he said. “It was a crazy night at the casino. He lost.”

Rumors about the impending trade filtered through to us less than a week beforehand. If it wasn’t for Facebook’s gossip mill, we would’ve been blind-sided. We got our “Welcome to LA Fitness” email BEFORE we got this email from 24 Hour Fitness, after the trade was finalized:

“After much deliberation, we have made the difficult decision to exit the Arizona market, effective November 20, 2015, but we are pleased to announce that we have reached an agreement for your membership agreement and your personal training agreement (if applicable) to be assumed by LA Fitness,” read the email. “Thank you for the privilege of being able to serve you. We truly regret any inconvenience that this situation may cause, and we wish you success in your fitness efforts.”

So yes, our gym dumped us and ran off to the Midwest with some floozy, and it waited until after it crossed state lines to send its Dear John letter/”OH BY THE WAY we left Arizona and now you belong to LA Fitness” email. Probably just “business as usual” in the cutthroat world of chain corporations, except it was a big deal to us when 24 Hour Fitness left, because ultimately, Les Mills’ Body Combat and Les Mills Everything Else are leaving, too.

LA Fitness isn’t contracted with Les Mills International, so it’s not supposed to offer Body Combat or any of the other Les Mills group fitness classes. LA Fitness has been allowing our instructors to continue teaching the classes in the wake of the take-over – a temporary arrangement.

I spoke with an LA Fitness corporate rep and was told that the Les Mills classes at the Arizona gyms-formerly-known-as-24 Hour Fitness WILL be replaced by LA Fitness’ own group fitness classes. He assured me that “the classes will basically be the same, but under different names” (i.e. “Bodyworks plus abs”). But we know from some members’ experiences that the classes are actually not the same. Les Mills classes are unique and cannot be replicated. We’ve made phone calls, we’ve sent emails, we’ve started a petition… but there’s pretty much no chance that LA Fitness corporate will contract with Les Mills International merely to provide us with the same classes we had when our gym was 24 Hour Fitness.

So now we’re waiting for LA Fitness to shut down our classes completely. This could happen at any time, since Les Mills has basically been squatting on LA Fitness’ premises.

Still, anything could happen! It never hurts to think positively, right? I like to hope for the best while planning for the worst (could I squeeze any more clichés into this post?), so we’ll see what happens. It seems obvious that Body Combat at our gym is running on fumes, though. There… signing out with a cliché AND a pun. BANG.

Here, enjoy Serge Gainsbourg’s song “Nicotine,” charmingly performed by Jane Birkin:

 

 

Il est parti chercher des cigarettes. En fait, il est parti. “He went to get cigarettes. In fact, he left.”

Cold weather joy!

This last week we’ve had quite the cold snap here in Phoenix Metro, which I believe we can actually attribute to El Niño. A few days ago, our state registered the coldest temperatures in the U.S. while everyone else basked in unusual warmth. Hell has frozen over here in Sun Devil country!

It’s all good, though, because cold weather means a lot of enjoyable things. Such as:

1). Cold weather means I can light a lot of candles in my office at home.

 

Forest of candles.

Forest of candles.

 

It’s normally too warm for so many candles at once, obviously.

 

2). Cold weather makes savory, hot food even heartier.

 

Bocca burger at Red Robin (with iced tea, which I love in all kinds of weather).

Bocca burger at Red Robin (with iced tea, which I love in all kinds of weather).

 

We eat stuff like this year-round, but I find it most fulfilling when it’s cold outside. This particular visit to Red Robin was especially welcome because it was the day after we got back from France, where I’d spent over a week subsisting mostly on salads, bread, and the Larabars I’d packed. Those salads were wonderful, for sure, but by the time we got back I was ready to sink my teeth into something savory and hot!

 

Roasted purple potatoes.

Roasted purple potatoes.

 

Pinto beans in the slow cooker.

Pinto beans in the slow cooker.

 

Pinto tacos!

Pinto tacos!

 

Side-note: Did you know that Field Roast makes vegan cheese? I didn’t know until we found it at the store last night. It was great in these tacos! My favorite vegan cheeses have been Follow Your Heart and Daiya, but now there’s Field Roast. Daiya probably still works best on pizza, though. I might have to do an experiment to find out. There are other vegan cheeses out there, too.

 

3). Cold weather means that chocolate tastes like Christmas.

 

Stonegrindz Chocolate

Stonegrindz Chocolate

 

This chocolate is made locally, and it is delicious. Somehow, cold weather and Stonegrindz’ midnight dark chocolate really go together. Callaghan even likes it, and he generally doesn’t care for dark chocolate! We get it at the Farmer’s Market down the street, of course.

 

4). Cold weather makes garage workouts possible.

You know it’s been cold if you see that my elbows are bruised… it means that I’ve been working out on heavy-bags in the garage, a thing you can’t do in Arizona heat if there’s no A/C out there.

 

I waited seven months for this.

I waited seven months for this.

 

(A selfie was going to be impossible, so I took these pics with the web cam… that’s why they’re kind of grainy and dark.)

 

Garage workouts once again!

Garage workouts once again!

 

Because let’s be honest… there’s nothing like an intense workout on heavy-bags to relieve your frustrations. Any shrink would back me up on that, I’m guessing.

The cold also means that I can lift weights in the garage, since we have some dumbbells out there. I need to build up some strength.

Did I mention, by the way, that my strength-training attempts at the work gym ended in failure? The plan was to go during lunch, but evidently the rest of the world had the same idea. I couldn’t get the weights I needed because they were always in use, and I didn’t have time to wait. I gave up after three or four days.

 

5). Cozy winter kitties.

 

Nenette in her favorite windowsill sunbeam on a cold day.

Nenette in her favorite windowsill sunbeam on a cold day.

 

Nenette asleep on the back of the couch, one of her favorite spots.

Nenette asleep on the back of the couch, one of her favorite spots.

 

Sleepy Nounours and his little pink freckled nose.

Sleepy Nounours and his little pink freckled nose.

 

Blanket weather!

Blanket weather!

 

It’s supposed to warm up a little starting today, but it’ll still be cold enough to be magical!

Looks like this turned out to be something of a “favorites” post, which I didn’t intend, but it’s great because I wasn’t going to do one for December. (At the end of the month I’ll do a “best of 2015,” instead.)

I finished “Make Me” by Lee Child. (This is not a review.)

Lee Child’s latest Reacher novel, Make Me, delivered. The story is tight and the tension is high, and Reacher is his usual, taciturn self. Reacher “said nothing” about 20 times. I kept track of all the “nothing” that he said. It was deafening.

If last year’s Reacher novel left me disappointed at all, Make Me more than made up for it. Reacher gets off a train and the story takes off, engaging instantly with intrigue (heightened by the knowledge that very little is extraneous – a perk of being a seasoned Reacher reader, though you absolutely don’t need to have read previous Reacher novels in order to enjoy this one), but I particularly loved this story with its details that correlate to details in my reality. It’s always fun when personally relatable aspects leap out at you from a novel.

There’s the female agent being Asian-American (which I am), and the tertiary character, a journalist, being a science editor with a background in molecular biology (I’d worked as a science editor in bioinformatics and molecular biology in the past), and the moniker ‘Callaghan’, “which at least was Irish.” (Hello, Callaghan! I’d written a blog post about how my French husband’s nickname is an Irish name.)

So here’s Reacher hanging out with this Asian-looking chick, and they find themselves, at one point, right here in Phoenix, where familiar places and things are mentioned. (Sky Harbor International Airport. Maricopa County sheriffs. Scottsdale. The “baking desert heat.”)

All of this coated the bad-assery with an icing of familiarity that added amusement to a reading experience that was already supremely enjoyable. But even without those details, there’s nothing like an excellent, well-developed, well-paced thriller/mystery to facilitate a much-needed escape.

If I ever find myself having coffee with Lee Child, I’m going to thank him for this one, especially.

 

Lee Child's 20th Reacher novel

Lee Child’s 20th Reacher novel

 

Make Me gives us classic Reacher, yet it deviates from the Reacher formula in a surprising way, at the very end. That’s all I’m going to say about that.

The problem with Reacher is a classic one, too… you can only hang out with him for the time it takes to finish the book. Then you have to wait a year for him to come back. I remind myself to be grateful that he comes back at all… surely Reacher will retire one day, and that will be the end. Meanwhile, the countdown is on for Reacher’s return.

Death by Palm Tree?? (And good riddance, lawn.)

At the beginning of August, we’d occupied our house for almost a year, and we’d never seen a roach on our property, inside or out. Not a single one. Then the Great Roachapocalypse went down on our front lawn. As of that moment, the lawn’s days were numbered.

It’s hard for me to admit this, because roaches, but the event was your proverbial blessing in disguise. We never liked the lawn. It was Bermuda grass, and it irked me to think we were wasting water in the desert to keep it green. Mowing it took time we didn’t have, and even when freshly-mowed, the grass looked ragged. Getting rid of the lawn sat high on our list of things to do when we felt we could afford it. The roaches simply expedited the undertaking. Let me tell you, it’s amazing what you can suddenly “afford” when a thousand sewer roaches start swarming in a cloud above your lawn.

We were instructed to have our palm tree trimmed first. Not only was it badly in need of it, but it was suspected that the droves of sewer roaches had been lurking beneath the palm tree’s fronds. That’s probably exactly what they were doing… keeping to themselves under the palm fronds, waiting for our sprinklers to come on so they could skitter down and frolic in the glorious, cool oasis that was the sprinkler water puddled where the lawn dipped toward the metal plate covering the water main.

So we had the palm tree trimmed and we were progressing toward the goal of a grass-free front yard when we were unnerved anew. Because astonishingly, the horror story that began with the Great Roachapocalypse continued during the front yard conversion process, when we learned things from our landscaper. Specifically, we learned about a manner of death that I’d never heard of before, an unfathomable manner of death that I wouldn’t wish on anyone: Death by palm tree.

Did you know that the most common way to die while trimming a palm tree is to get murdered by the tree, itself? Neither did we. I listened, aghast, as our landscaper described the phenomenon, an instance of which she’d actually witnessed.

“The dead fronds on the underside fell on him and pinned him to the tree trunk. That’s what happens. You get suffocated.” She made a motion with her hands to demonstrate a palm tree’s fronds slapping downward, like when you collapse an umbrella.

That’s what happens. The fronds clap down, and the tree-trimmer is swallowed up. By the palm tree. My mind veered to the image of a palm tree as a monstrous, upside-down Venus Fly Trap, which, in that case, would be a Venus Human Trap.

Of course, I had to research this atrocity. I was half-hoping to find it debunked on Snopes, even though our landscaper had seen it for herself, but I found news articles reporting such palm tree deaths in three different states, including Arizona (Arizona and California have the highest palm tree death rates). I also found an informative article penned by an experienced palm tree-trimmer by the name of Rich Magargal. In the article, Mr. Magargal describes the three most common ways that people can die while trimming a palm tree, and some preventative measures that can be taken to avoid such a demise.

Here are some quotes from the article:

“Finally, and most importantly, is the alarming and growing death rate by suffocation.

The vast majority of suffocation accidents are the result of fronds sliding down, or sloughing, onto the climber. Just a few feet of fronds can instantly and completely immobilize a climber. There is absolutely nothing he or she can do to remove them because their entire body is forced down and against the palm trunk with hundreds of pounds of pressure. The force of the fronds is primarily on the head of the climber, forcing the chin into the chest. This is how suffocation occurs. Take a moment to put your hands behind your head and pull your head forward bringing your chin in contact with your chest. Notice how little pressure is required to make breathing impossible. Now, imagine several hundred additional pounds of weight on your head and picture yourself under the skirt of fronds 50 feet in the air.”

This already far exceeds my capacity for imaginative comprehension, BUT THEN the author goes on to say:

“Remember, when a climber is working under the skirt, the fronds hang down to around his or her knees. Also note that it is much darker and cooler underneath, so every manner of creature having two to eight legs can be present with you.”

ROACHES.

The only true phobia I have other than roachaphobia is claustrophobia. I’m also an anti-fan of heights.

So I’m reading this article and imagining that I’m trapped high up on a palm tree, pinned beneath a hundred pounds of dead fronds with my neck bent down and suffocating to death while covered in huge roaches, and I die a little bit inside, like some of my cells are withering in a sympathy death for my imaginary worst-nightmare self, and I’m SO GLAD AND GRATEFUL that we were able to have our palm tree trimmed, our lawn torn out, and a flat bed of gravel put in its place.

This is the gravel we chose:

 

We went with the option on the right-hand side of the circle.

We went with the option on the right-hand side of the circle.

 

(I love how she arranged those samples for me!)

Here’s how it looks:

 

Behold our newly trimmed palm tree and our grass-free, roach-free front yard.

Behold our newly trimmed palm tree and our grass-free, roach-free front yard.

 

We now have a flat bed of gravel that will be inhospitable to roaches when they come back with the heat next summer. There will be no water there to attract them, and nowhere for them to hide. THE YARD IS BEAUTIFUL.

See that mark on the ground on the left? Here’s a close-up:

 

Roachapocalypse Ground Zero.

Roachapocalypse Ground Zero.

 

This would be what attracted the roaches when it was hot and our Bermuda grass was being watered. The water was collecting here on this plate. Our landscaper created that border around it before she put in the gravel.

Enjoy some pics of I took of random palm trees with deadly frond skirts on full display:

 

The pic on the left was taken on Saturday morning, and I took the one on the right on Saturday at dusk.

The pic on the left was taken on Saturday morning, and I took the one on the right on Saturday at dusk.

 

The tree on the right shows the most dangerous scenario for a palm tree-trimmer, with its loose fronds hanging down. As Mr. Magargal says:

“There is a lack of knowledge about sloughing. At any point along the trunk of a fan palm it is natural for the fronds to come loose and remain near the trunk, unattached but woven together in a skirt. When the skirt drops nothing can survive beneath it. Even experienced arborists miss the potential of sloughing. Usually, if a palm is going to slough off it may occur as low as 25 to 30 feet from the ground.”

We still have a small patch of grass in the backyard, but there were no roaches on that lawn, because there’s no dipping-down point to collect water back there. We’re keeping the grass there for now.

Those palm trees, though. I’ll never look at them the same again. They’re full of surprises. Our landscaper pointed out some hummingbird eggs she found in ours:

 

Sadly, these hummingbird eggs were abandoned when the palm tree was trimmed.

Sadly, these hummingbird eggs were abandoned when the palm tree was trimmed.

 

So that, I hope, is the end of the story as far as we’re concerned. If you have a loved one who trims palm trees, please share Mr. Magargal’s article with him or her. Let’s save our palm tree trimmers!

What I’m Digging Right Now – August Favorites

It’s the first of September, and I can already feel a change in the quality of the atmosphere, though very slightly. I love the energy boost I always feel at this time of the year! Here are some of the Little Things that made big impressions in my little world in August:

 

1). Soundcloud.

 

LOVE.

LOVE.

 

I created a Soundcloud account toward the end of June, and it’s been one of my favorite new things of the summer. In August, I bumped up my focus on working out, which made me appreciate Soundcloud even more. The playlist I created for training reflects the fact that the gyms where I’d formally trained mostly played gangsta rap/hip hop, with some alternative metal thrown in (though my playlist contains more of the former). I threw in some dubstep because that’s also amazing for me in a training scenario. I find any kind of metal to be great workout fuel, too, but I prefer working out with rap and dubstep because my mind has this strange ability to convert them to background noise when I want it to. (For that same reason, I can also listen to rap and dubstep while working at work, which I often do.)

Check out my Soundcloud stream if you’re curious about my current workout playlist.

Callaghan claims to not like rap, but he makes requests from my playlist every once in a while. Also, he sometimes bursts out singing “Bitch better have my money!” while he’s doing things around the house, because deep, deep inside, he appreciates Rihanna. (Also, he has a client who owes him money, and that song’s lyrics are perfect for the situation.)

It’s pretty hilarious.

 

2). Straight Outta Compton (film)

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-StraightOuttaCompton

 

Speaking of gangsta rap!

Here’s the thing: I grew up in California in the 70’s and 80’s during the “east coast rap vs. west coast rap” era, and I remember it well. I still have some Eazy-E in my collection, and rap has always been a genre in the diverse collection of genres I love (even when I was mostly listening to EBM and industrial music, I still popped in Busta Rhymes every now and then). All of this to say, considering that Callaghan doesn’t share this cultural background (having grown up in France) and affection for the genre with me, I was pleased when, after dragging him to see Straight Outta Compton on the Saturday of its opening weekend, he emerged from the theater as moved and as impressed as I was. As I’d mentioned above while talking about Soundcloud, Callaghan claims to not like rap, but this movie impressed him probably more than any film I’ve ever seen… and that’s saying a lot. It’s just really, terribly good. Last time I checked, the momentum of this genius film hasn’t slowed down, either… Straight Outta Compton seems to be barreling straight for the Oscars. Good.

 

3). Hannibal finale.

 

Maybe the most beautiful scene I've ever viewed in a television series. (Hannibal)

Maybe the most beautiful scene I’ve ever viewed in a television series. (Hannibal)

 

Oh my goodness.

I’m not finding any words to describe the way I felt during the final moments of the exquisite series Hannibal. I was prepared to simply feel sad that it was all coming to a close, but that last scene blew our minds, it was so utterly breathtaking, so stunningly beautiful. It was everything. Everything. It may well have been the most gorgeous and gratifying ending to any series I’ve ever seen. We were sad that it ended, but we both felt like we couldn’t have asked for more.

 

4). Epic monsoon weather.

Copious, spectacular monsoon activity left August battered and drenched right up until the last minute of the month, and we loved every minute of it! (Even stepping outside this morning and finding a section of fence damaged in last night’s storm.) The magic of the desert is never more potent than it is during the late summer.

Here are some pics from one of the many (I think we’ve had five-six…?) monsoons during August:

 

A wall of dust rolling in ahead of a thunderous rain.

A wall of dust rolling in ahead of a thunderous rain.

 

Caught in a monsoon in the middle of a Target parking lot. The rain was fabulous!

Caught in a monsoon in the middle of a Target parking lot. The rain was fabulous!

 

Moving on to food!

 

5). Fresh pineapple and kiwi fruit.

 

Fresh pineapple and kiwi fruit

Fresh pineapple and kiwi fruit

 

We feasted greedily on fresh pineapple and kiwi fruits all month. It was bliss on the tongue and so fabulously refreshing… a great way to wind down summer!

 

6). KIND Healthy Grains Peanut Butter Whole Grain Clusters.

 

KIND Healthy Grains Peanut Butter Whole Grain Clusters.

KIND Healthy Grains Peanut Butter Whole Grain Clusters.

 

I was thrilled to discover this flavor of KIND granola… of course I love it because it’s peanut butter, but also, it’s high in protein and low in sugar. It’s a great new staple in our pantry.

 

7). Amy’s Pad Thai (frozen).

 

Amy's Pad Thai (frozen)

Amy’s Pad Thai (frozen)

 

You have to love being able to reach into the freezer and taking out a box of something delicious, healthy (healthier, for frozen processed food) and satisfying every once in a while. Amy’s Pad Thai is one of those things.

 

8). Deep Indian Gourmet Dal Masala Curry.

 

Deep Indian Gourmet Dal Masala Curry (frozen)

Deep Indian Gourmet Dal Masala Curry (frozen)

 

And here’s another one of those things! This frozen Dal Masala Curry makes us swoon, it’s so good. We eat it with brown jasmine rice, and it’s perfect… especially when you don’t have time to deal with food.

Here’s the one product on the list this time…

 

9). Alba Botanica Honey Mango very emollient bath & shower gel.

 

Alba Botanica Honey Mango very emollient bath & shower gel

Alba Botanica Honey Mango very emollient bath & shower gel

 

We’ve been using this body wash for months now, but I haven’t featured it in a “Favorites” post yet, so I thought I’d share it this time! I’m very happy with the cruelty-free products we started using this year. This body wash has a lovely, light scent, and it’s just as moisturizing as the Olay body wash we used to use. Score!

And finally… because some randomness is in order…

 

10). Microsoft Windows Ninja Cat Riding a Tyrannosaurus Rex laptop sticker.

 

Microsoft Windows Ninja Cat riding a T-Rex needs no caption.

Microsoft Windows Ninja Cat riding a T-Rex needs no caption.

 

I have my friend Jodi to thank for pointing me to this delightful laptop sticker.

http://www.geekwire.com/2015/microsoft-windows-ninja-cat-returns-riding-a-t-rex/

How did I never know about MS Windows Ninja Cat before? I love it on my Mac at work. Heheh.

My College Survival Tips. (School is starting! Here’s how I got through when I was a student.)

Arizona State University, my alma mater and place of employment, starts its fall semester this Thursday. For me, being immersed in the university community, this is one of the most energizing times of year in The Land of AZ. The loudening crackle of the university gearing up for a new academic year echos around town like a catchy tune, everyone’s motivated as the heat starts to let up (or at the idea of the heat letting up), football season begins, Halloween approaches, and we look forward to the fall sunsets, which we know are going to be more glorious than usual.

 

And it begins!

And it begins!

 

School starting up always takes me back to when I was a college student. (Meaning, pursuing an undergraduate degree, for those unfamiliar with the American university system.) It was 20 years ago, but I remember with keen clarity some of the survival skills I’d developed. A lot has changed since then, but a lot has remained the same. In honor of this first week of Academic Year 2016, I thought I’d share some of my personal college survival skills.

Here’s how I survived when I was an undergraduate student at ASU:

1). .99 bean burritos “without cheese” from Taco Bell (no less than four packets of fire sauce) and Power Bars the rest of the day – stock up on Power Bars when they’re on sale. (Sidenote: Taco Bell’s bean burritos are now $1.29 on campus, and these days, I don’t eat Power Bars. Neither would I eat bean burritos from Taco Bell. But they saved me many a day when I was broke and late for my next class and needed to grab something cheap and fast.)

2). Work as a student worker on campus 20 hrs/week –

2a). Use workplace as a locker for storing stuff in between classes when off-shift.

2b). Study/prepare for classes during downtime while at work.

3). Emergency measure for Paper-Writing Procrastination (PWP, because I’m a vet and you leave the military with acronyms-as-language hardwired into your brain): Pull all-nighters in the Computing Commons on campus –

3a). Bring a light jacket or sweatshirt regardless of the time of year (or you’ll freeze in the A/C), your own water bottle, and Power Bars.

3b). Pick a work station and implement your strategy for camping out there all night. Strategy involves mostly just leaving all your stuff where it is to make it look like you merely ran to the restroom when in fact you went outside to eat your Power Bar and walk around to get the blood circulating in your legs.

3c). Finish and print the final draft of paper just in time to go to class and hand it in.

4). The “Study for an Exam” (aka “Cramming for a Test”) version of #3 is to do the exact same thing, except pull the all-nighter in the designated study section of the 24-hour IHOP that used to be across the street on 13th and Forest at the Twin Palms hotel (it’s now The Graduate Inn, and the IHOP, sadly, is gone). Venue-specific bonus: coffee all night!

5). Donate your plasma once a month or so for extra cash. The plasma-donating place on Broadway is still there. I don’t know if the phlebotomists who work there these days have vampire fangs attached to their canine teeth, though, or if that was just a thing of the 90’s.)

6). Get your teeth cleaned for super cheap by the students in the dental hygiene program at the local community college (in the 90’s, it was Phoenix College… not sure if any of the other schools in the Maricopa County Community College system have started offering dental hygiene curriculums.)

7). Wait until Friday to do happy hour with friends from work/class –

7a). Order one cheap beverage (I usually got iced tea) and shamelessly eat enough free happy hour food to constitute dinner. My favorite place for this was Macayo’s. I remember their mini-chimichangas and mini-flautas to be so deliciously satisfying! (Don’t know if they still are. Haven’t been to happy hour there in years, and I wouldn’t eat those things now, anyway.)

8). Get together with classmate who’s doing as well as you are after you’ve both finished your drafts of the next assigned paper; exchange papers, read, offer each other brutal but constructive criticism.

9). Caffeine. In my case, it was Diet Coke. I DO NOT recommend this. If I was an undergrad relying on caffeine today, I’d go for iced coffee or tea.

10). Join the Tae Kwan Do club on campus, which meets three times a week. (Used to, that is. It’s not there anymore. The Jui-Jitsu club is still there, though… it meets at the SRC three times a week, as well, I believe.) It’s free therapy, and it keeps you in shape.

On that note, you can consider yourself a seasoned Tempe-campus ASU student when you learn to recognize the juniors and seniors by how amazing their legs look after they’ve spent 2+ years running, power-walking, biking, roller-blading (which very few people do anymore) and/or skate-boarding around the country’s second- or third-largest campus to get to their classes on time.

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-2015FallSemesterStartsASU-Devils

Typical Food, part deux (Restaurant edition)

Not long ago, I posted “Typical Food” in answer to several questions about what I eat. Then we celebrated our anniversary last weekend and went out to dine at several places, which was kind of a big deal to us, considering we hadn’t eaten out much (if at all) in a while. So I took a few pictures of that food, thinking I’d show you what some of those indulgences looked like!

Friday night: We went to our favorite Thai restaurant for dinner. The last time we’d eaten there was in 2011, right before we moved to France… we returned to Arizona a year and a half ago, but we still hadn’t made it back to that restaurant! We figured it would be a grand way to kick off our anniversary weekend, and it was. The food was as scrumptious as we’d remembered it.

I’m sorry to say that there are no pictures, for some reason. I totally spaced the picture part of the program, but I’ll tell you what we ate: I ordered Pad Thai (I asked for no egg, no bean sprouts), Callaghan ordered something with chicken, and we shared some Tom Kha to start – it’s a coconut milk soup – as well as an eggplant dish. Everything I had was vegan (they prepared the dishes without fish sauce), and it was out of this world good. The restaurant of which I speak is Yupha’s Thai Kitchen. Get Out Magazine has proclaimed that it’s the “Best of Tempe’s Thai Food,” and we couldn’t agree more!

Saturday mid-day: We went to Green New American Vegetarian, another old favorite. For the first time in many months, I sunk my teeth into their miraculous Calexico burger, and my all-time favorite menu item there, as well, the No-Harm Chicken Parm Po-Boy sandwich. We ordered both so we could split them. For dessert, I had a Cookies ‘n’ Cream tSoynami. Think Dairy Queen Blizzard, but without dairy. You would never know unless you we told, either! Green is a place beloved by omnivores and vegans alike.

 

Deliciousness at Green. Just because it's vegan doesn't mean it's healthy!

Deliciousness at Green. Just because it’s vegan doesn’t mean it’s healthy!

 

Green's Cookies 'n' Cream tSoynami is fantabulous.

Green’s Cookies ‘n’ Cream tSoynami is fantabulous.

 

These gorgeous flowers added to our dining experience:

 

Anniversary flowers. We weren't home when the shop tried to deliver them, but we were near there, so we picked them up on our way to lunch. We brought them into the restaurant so they wouldn't perish in the heat of the car.

Anniversary flowers. We weren’t home when the shop tried to deliver them, but we were near there, so we picked them up on our way to lunch. We brought them into the restaurant so they wouldn’t perish in the heat of the car.

 

For dinner that night, we headed over to Oregano’s, where I ordered the Pasta Basta – another favorite dish! – asking for whole wheat pasta, and no feta cheese. Callaghan ordered a huge salad with beef, and we shared a side of their delicious Brussels sprouts.

 

Some of my favorite flavors are in this Mediterranean pasta dish at Oregano's.

Some of my favorite flavors are in this Mediterranean pasta dish at Oregano’s.

 

Oregano's Brussels sprouts, coated in olive oil and perfectly seasoned!

Oregano’s Brussels sprouts, coated in olive oil and perfectly seasoned!

 

After that, Callaghan ordered a Pizookie for dessert, which I admired from afar with the fondest of memories.

Those were some of the culinary highlights of last weekend. This weekend, we’re heading back to Green, because my parents are here with us, and I know they would love the tSoynamis.

Happy Friday, All!

What I’m Digging Right Now – April Favorites

Some levity is in order around here, right? Conveniently, it’s May now, so I can rave about some of the Little Things that helped to make April enjoyable!

For one thing, we saw a phenomenal movie…

 

1). Ex Machina (film)

 

The movie poster in the theatre lobby....

The movie poster in the theatre lobby….

 

You know I love a good, well-crafted sci-fi thriller, and it’s been a while. I was just barely coasting along on the spectacular fumes of Pacific Rim when we walked into Ex Machina. I was almost skeptical going into it, but I knew that Luc Besson had nothing to do with this one, so I had high hopes that it wasn’t going to be another disappointment like last summer’s Lucy. We used the movie pass that Callaghan had gotten as a gift (thank you, friend!) and found ourselves stunned and in awe as Ex Machina dimmed the lights on its eerie, final scene. Certainly, the combination of elements made this film superb, but overall, I think it was the restraint used in its making that made it brilliant.

 

2). Mad Men (T.V. series)

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-madmenS7

 

We’re having the same experience as most everyone who watches this series, I think: Mad Men’s last set of final season episodes isn’t striking us as being as purposeful as those in previous seasons. Whatever. Mad Men is back, and we’re loving it. The set! The hair, makeup, wardrobe! Mad Men is still my favorite period piece in television, and they’re killing it more than ever now that they’ve taken up solid residence in the 70’s. I almost don’t even care what happens at this point; I’m just there for the eye candy.

 

3). American Crime (T.V. series)

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-AmericanCrime2015

 

Here’s a powerful new series that got right down to business and grabbed us by our throats. It’s dark, it’s gritty, it’s almost too ugly and depressing to watch… but it’s smashing.

 

4). Nurse Jackie (T.V. series)

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-NurseJackie

 

We’re late arrivals on the Nurse Jackie train, but like the critic said, “You just want to keep on watching.” Yep. We plowed through the first three seasons in such a short period of time, I’d be embarrassed to say how long if I could remember when, exactly, we started watching it. We just started season four, I can tell you that much! The hilarious short (half-hour) episodes make this dark dramedy especially easy to binge-watch. It goes well with popcorn, too.

 

5). It’s a 10 Miracle Leave-in Plus Keratin.

 

It's a 10 Miracle Leave-in Plus Keratin.

It’s a 10 Miracle Leave-in Plus Keratin.

 

This is an old favorite! Since we’ve now got ourselves on a strict budget because of Ronnie James’ medical costs, I went digging around in places where I store things I haven’t used in a while, and I happily re-discovered It’s a 10. And guess what? This brand meets my recently established criteria for beauty products! Because of expenses, I’d been procrastinating on the hair care part of my 2015 New Year’s resolution to go cruelty-free with cosmetics and such, so I was pleased to find that I’d stashed away this pricier gem of a hair care item that just so happens to have not been tested on animals.

Shopping my home supply for forgotten favorites is the best.

 

6). Madagascan Vanilla Flower perfume oil (The Body Shop).

 

Madagascan Vanilla Flower perfume oil from The Body Shop.

Madagascan Vanilla Flower perfume oil from The Body Shop.

 

My search for a gorgeous cruelty-free fragrance finally led me to The Body Shop and its array of perfume oils. Back in the 90’s, I’d used the one called “Ananya,” which was finally, recently discontinued. I still have a little bit left in my last old bottle, but it’s been a while, and it’s not what it was when I’d purchased it… its potency has faded, and the scent is slightly off. So I went back to The Body Shop and happened upon their Madagascan Vanilla Flower, and I am in love. I’m not usually drawn to vanilla scents, but this one is different… it’s a deeper, more exotic vanilla with its warm, ambery-floral heart.

 

7). Earrings from Target.

 

Current favorite earrings - sparkly cluster studs from Target.

Current favorite earrings – sparkly cluster studs from Target.

 

This was just one of those silly impulse Target purchases, you know, when you run in to get some almond milk and you come out with three bags full of random crap. I’m proud to say that I’ve stopped with all of that this last month – somehow, and I know that many of you can appreciate the self-control I’m having to employ in this effort, haha! – but not before I found these earrings on clearance (back in March, I believe). Over the last month they’ve become my favorite uniform earrings to wear to work on days I don’t go to the gym. They’re just round studs made of little sparkly clusters. I think they’re perfect.

 

8). Arizona Yellow Bells.

 

Fragrant Arizona Yellow Bells on my desk at home.

Fragrant Arizona Yellow Bells on my desk at home.

 

Our Arizona Yellow Bells are all in bloom, and they are splendiferous! Callaghan surprised me with a vase full of them on my desk one day, where they perfumed my entire office with their rich, sweet fragrance. Arizona Yellow Bells are native to our desert, but I never experienced them until we moved into this house. There are two robust Arizona Yellow Bells bushes in our backyard, and they attract many a hummingbird, which we also adore.

While I’m at it, what would an Arizona spring flora favorite entry be without a shot of my favorite cactus blooms?

 

Spring in the desert is my favorite!

Spring in the desert is my favorite!

 

 

9). Rositas’ salsa.

 

Salsa from Rosita's.

Salsa from Rosita’s.

 

I have several favorite restaurant salsas around here, and this is one of them. Yesterday, I decided to pick some up on my walk home from work, and we had it for dinner. I love salsas that aren’t sweet, and this one is satisfyingly tangy and bold on the cilantro and onion… just the way I like it!

 

10). April Favorite pick for Ronnie James and Nounours: Bench & Field Holistic Natural Feline Treats (at Trader Joes’).

 

Bench and Field Holistic Natural Feline Treats.

Bench and Field Holistic Natural Feline Treats.

 

Kitties’ Auntie M. gave them these treats for Christmas, and the little guys went nuts for them. The day we ran out was a woeful one, indeed. What’s more, we couldn’t find the treats anywhere, and Ronnie James and Nounours wouldn’t eat any other kind. Catastrophe. Finally, we asked a sales person at PetSmart. They didn’t have the treats there, but she looked up them up and told us that they could be found at Trader Joe’s. Yes! We went to get them, and happiness has been restored.

“With added vitamins and minerals,” it says. “OMEGA 6:3 Enriched” and “with Menhaden Oil,” it says. Ronnie James and Nounours just say, “MOOR PLEEEZZZ!!!!”

The thing is, while we were medicating the Wrah-Wrah to heck and back, these treats were the only consolation prize we could offer him. They got us all through and ended the sessions on a happy note.

 

That about wraps it up for this favorites list – Happy Friday, All! =)

“A rumbling sound, then three sharp knocks…”

We’re on the eve of a new month, and we’ve got another Friday the 13th coming up soon! That makes two months in a row. In honor of the underrated yet overhyped doomsday of lore, I’ll regale you with an anecdote. Today is, after all, the halfway point between the two Friday the 13ths.

First, a refresher, or background information for those of you who are new here.

A few months back, Callaghan and I watched The Babadook, which I’ve since decided is the best horror film I’ve ever seen. Being a huge fan of all kinds of horror, including some of the cheesiest of the many bad movies the genre has to offer, I tend to rate a horror film based on its HMISM (How Much It Scared Me) factor. (I just made that up.)

It’s hard to get a good rating on the HMISM scale. I don’t scare easily. I have Exaggerated Startle Response, but that’s jumpiness, not fear… and it’s certainly not the same thing as a satisfying case of creeptastic-movie-produced heebie-jeebies. After a good horror flick, I’ll find myself looking over my shoulder apprehensively, and the back of my neck will prickle as I wander alone through the house. Not only did The Babadook have this delightful effect, but also, it was 99% cheese-free.

We knew we were sitting down to watch a horror movie, but we didn’t suspect we were in for an astonishingly terrifying, brilliant, richly layered and masterfully wrought horror movie. The Babadook has stayed with me, and I can easily call to mind its expertly applied sound effects.

This brings me to the weekend of our last Friday the 13th (two weekends ago), when I heard a mysterious triple knock in our bedroom.

Callaghan was at the gym. I was the lone human in the house, working on my laptop on the bed with Ronnie James and Nounours purring by my side. All was quiet, and then we heard it. Knock-Knock-Knock.

The kitties startled upright, and I looked around with all the neurons in my brain shining through my eyeballs as I tried to ascertain what I’d just heard, and where the sound had come from. It made no sense. It really sounded like someone had knocked on the wall from inside the room, but no one was there. There was no way the sound came from the front door, since that’s at the opposite end of the house.

A few seconds later, I heard it again. Knock-Knock-Knock. This time, it happened while I was actively looking around, and I didn’t see anything either directly or peripherally. There was nothing in the room that could have explained the sound, but I thought I heard it from the area of Callaghan’s night table.

 

Just a night table with the usual stuff on it, right?

Just a night table with the usual stuff on it, right?

 

 

Naturally, I thought of The Babadook. That’s how the Babadook announced himself in the movie: Knock-Knock-Knock. The thought came to me with some amusement, but I was truly mystified. When I told Callaghan about it later, he said he had no clue what it could have been.

One day the following weekend – that would be last weekend – we were lying in bed, waking up slowly, when the triple knocking sound suddenly filled the quiet space in the early morning room. Knock-Knock-Knock.

“There it is again!” I said excitedly, happy to be validated by the recurrence of the sound. I hadn’t been sure that Callaghan believed me when I’d described it to him. He turned toward the direction of the sound, studying his night table.

“It’s this,” he said. He was extracting something from beneath a pile of magazines. I looked and saw that it was a small, slim tablet. With its dark blue cover, I hadn’t noticed it mostly buried on the dark table.

 

Why look at that. It's a tiny tablet.

Why look at that. It’s a tiny tablet.

 

Of course! Now I remembered that little tablet… it was the mini Samsung Callaghan had given to his Grandmother in France last year, specifically so she could use it to Skype us. Mamie isn’t tech-savvy, so Callaghan set it all up for her, simplifying it as much as possible. She only had to open it, swipe the screen, and hit the Skype button… but she never did. She said that she wanted to use it, but it was too complicated. Eight months later, when Callaghan’s Dad visited us in December, he brought it back. I hadn’t realized it and I didn’t even remember that tablet, so it didn’t occur to me to check under the magazines when I heard the triple knock!

It’s a very small tablet.

 

 

We took this pic last night to show the smallness of the tablet. It's barely bigger than my hand. (Yes, it was 18:20 and 75 degrees. Don't worry. In a few months, we'll deal with our scorching summer while you enjoy your well-deserved beautiful temps outside!)

We took this pic last night to show the smallness of the tablet. It’s barely bigger than my hand.
(Yes, it was 18:20 and 75 degrees. Don’t worry. In a few months, we’ll deal with our scorching summer while you enjoy your well-deserved beautiful temps outside!)

 

 

Callaghan’s own tablet is a white, regular-size iPad in a white and red Eiffel Tower case. It’s quite conspicuous, and it obviously wasn’t on the night table when I’d first heard the knocking sound. And my tablet is a regular-size black Samsung with no case. I didn’t see any tablets when my eyes skimmed the night table. My powers of observation are slipping.

“Mamie must have set the sound notification to knock,” Callaghan said. “I didn’t do it!” We checked, and sure enough:

 

 

SO MANY QUESTIONS.

SO MANY QUESTIONS.

 

 

We tapped it and heard the triple knock. Each time Callaghan received an email, the tablet made that sound. Mystery solved, right?

I just don’t understand 1). Why Mamie would bother changing the notification alert sound if she never used the tablet, and 2). How she could have changed it if she was so reluctant to try the tablet that she never even hit the Skype button to call us. I mean, does this make any sense? The idea of Mamie fiddling around with the settings and changing things in there seems a bit far-fetched. For me, there’s still a feathery question mark hovering in the air above the whole thing.

“Maybe the Babadook changed the notification sound,” Callaghan suggested helpfully.

“Yeah, let’s go with that theory,” I said. “It’s more fun.”

After this upcoming Friday the 13th, the next one won’t occur until November… but somehow, I doubt the eight months in between will be uneventful!

Happy Friday, All!

Nature Walk at Dusk

Yesterday was hella hard, guys. It was just one of those days, like we all have from time to time.

My work day ended at five, as usual, and Callaghan gamely came to get me, as usual. We had to run some errands at Tempe Marketplace, so we went there and did that. Then we were almost home when I suddenly felt the need to feel the earth under my shoes… I mean, the actual earth, as opposed to pavement. I wanted to feel and hear the gritty crunch of desert as I walked. Callaghan is always up for my whims – spontaneity is a part of his DNA – so we swung a right on the Mill Avenue bridge and went over to Papago Park, because why not? It was right there, five minutes from home, and it was dusk, the ideal time for a little nature walk. It was around 6:30pm.

The second I stepped off the pavement and onto the desert ground, the aroma of creosote seeped into my senses, even though it hadn’t been raining, or wasn’t about to, and I was exactly where I needed to be. The sunset progressed as we made the gradual ascent toward the red rocks, picking our way over fragments of jumping cholla. When we were almost there, we paused to look out west.

 

Dusk over the Phoenix skyline (Papago Park, Tempe, 2/19/2015)

Dusk over the Phoenix skyline (Papago Park, Tempe, 2/19/2015)

 

We stepped aside as a couple of guys toiled past us on their mountain bikes. Higher up, we could hear the quiet voices of others who likely had the same idea… tough day, long day, the desert calls, the desert heals.

When Callaghan turned around again, he found me sitting on the ground. I’d planted myself on other the side of the trail, and I did not want to get up.

 

Hi. I'm not about to get up.

Hi. I’m not about to get up.

 

No, REALLY! I'm staying right here.

No, REALLY! I’m staying right here.

 

But I was thinking about how I’ve lived in Arizona longer than I’ve ever lived anywhere… about how I moved here with almost no possessions after my military service, and how I built up my life here over two decades. I was thinking about how I left for two and a half years and then one day woke up with every atom of my being aching to be in this desert again. I was thinking about a poet teacher I knew who’d moved to Arizona after his parents died in a plane crash. He said, “I came to the Southwest in ruin. Both real and metaphorical deserts have helped me recover my life.” That’s a part of the magic of living here… you can come to Arizona in ruins, with nothing, and you’ll find yourself gathering the desert’s power and rising up from the ashes of your former life, just like our city’s legendary namesake. Phoenix.

I know I’ve said all this before, but I think it even more than I say it. I think these thoughts often, and I’m so grateful.

I had to get up eventually, of course. We headed back, and I felt blessedly centered and calm. Walking in nature is my favorite way to soothe frayed nerves, even if it’s just down the street from home.

Also, I don’t know about you, but I’m SO glad it’s Friday! Happy Friday, everyone. =)

The Pizookie and the French

Down the street from our house here in downtown Tempe, there’s a pizza joint called Oregano’s. It’s been a local favorite for the last two decades. It was newly opened when I first started going there in 1994; now, 20 years later, there are 14 Oregano’s locations throughout Arizona. They’re famous for their pizzas, but their entire menu is made of yummy awesomeness… I love their salads, sandwiches and pasta dishes. And their dessert? There’s only one dessert on the menu at Oregano’s, and that, my friends, is the Original Pizza Cookie, or, as everyone calls it, the “Pizookie.” The Pizookie is available in three flavors – chocolate-chip, white chocolate macadamia nut, and peanut butter chocolate. I’m sure that all the flavors are great, but I’ve always only ordered the chocolate-chip.

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-OreganosTempepizookie

 

The Pizookie, for the uninitiated unfortunates among you, is cookie dough slightly baked in a 6-inch, deep-dish pizza pan, topped with three scoops of vanilla bean ice cream and sprinkled with chocolate chips. The resulting concoction defies description. There are no words.

Many others have tried to re-create the Pizookie, but as far as I know, no one has succeeded at elevating the simple combination of cookie dough and ice cream to the sublime height of perfection that Oregano’s consistently achieves. It must have to do with the pan they use, the type and temperature of the oven, the amount of time they leave it in, the particular recipe for the cookie dough, etc. It is a feat of culinary genius.The cookie comes out of the oven perfectly half-cooked, with the underneath firm (scraping the bits from the bottom of the pan is a part of the delightful experience), the top just barely set, and the inside soft and hot… and then, fresh from the oven, it’s topped with ice cream. It is voluptuous. By the time it gets to your table, it’s a pan full of hot and cold melty, gooey, chocolately ohmygodthisprobablyhasathousandcaloriesbutwhocaresIcanworkouttomorrow goodness.

It’s meant to serve 2-4, haha!

 

We went to Oregano's last night just so I could take this picture. OH THE SACRIFICE! OH THE THINGS I DO FOR THIS BLOG!! Meet the Original! Pizza Cookie at Oregano's. PIZOOKIE.

We went to Oregano’s last night just so I could take this picture. OH THE SACRIFICE! OH THE THINGS I DO FOR THIS BLOG!! Meet the Original! Pizza Cookie at Oregano’s. PIZOOKIE.

 

Just to give you an idea – I’m vegan 95% of the time. Since we’ve been back in Arizona, I mainly reserve the 5% for Oregano’s Fancy Dancy Mushroom pizza and their chocolate-chip Pizookie.

Now all of this, of course, leads up to the little story I have to tell you today.

When I lived in France, one of the most baffling reactions I got from the French was their dubiousness and often mocking hilarity when they’d ask me what things I missed in the States, and I’d answer, “The food.” I honestly did not understand their mirth. In my experience, the diversity and excellence of food here is unparalleled. America is, pretty much by definition, a merging of cultures; we have all the food here. For instance, I couldn’t find decent Thai food where we were in France… between the Rhône-Alpes (Valence, Grenoble) and the Alpes-Maritimes (the French Riviera), all we encountered were approximations of the Thai food that we know here in the States. And Mexican food? Forget it! Those are just two examples… all the cuisines in the States are rave-worthy. I could not find Ethiopian food in France. The plethora of excellent Indian restaurants we have here? Nowhere to be found over there. Also, from our national classics to our regional specialties, American food itself is great, not to mention “New American Cuisine” and fusion styles. I just love food, and there were so many foods I missed while I lived overseas. I found it nearly impossible to be vegan in France… the variety of vegan-friendly foods over there was dismal, at least where we were (we hung out in Paris on several occasions, but we didn’t live there).

Anyway, my answer to What do you miss about the United States? drew laughter laced with disbelief. There were degrees of the same reaction. Some people just laughed. Others laughed and made mocking, disparaging remarks. And yet others simply made disparaging remarks about American food, or my food (when I’d show up with something of my own that I’d brought, or that my parents had sent) for no reason at all. The French that I encountered just could not conceive of anyone liking the food in the States, much less missing it. (Not ALL French reacted this way, mind you! Of course there were those who were super polite and nice and had manners. I’m not talking about my friends, for instance.)

Callaghan was just as perplexed and taken aback by this reaction as I was, and he was embarrassed by the attitude of the French. Not only had he formerly lived in the States for ten years, so he knew the truth about the food here, but he also couldn’t believe the rudeness of the responses when the subject of food in America would come up. He speculated that people probably assumed “food in the States” meant McDonald’s and hot dogs, and pretty much nothing else.

Thus, we were both fully expecting Callaghan’s Dad and his Dad’s girlfriend Nicole to turn up their noses at the food in any given restaurant we’d visit while they were here staying with us over New Year’s. To make a long story short, they loved all the food they ate everywhere we went. It was kind of funny how we could tell that they were enjoying the food, but for the most part, they kept their reactions, you know, low-key. But Oregano’s was their favorite. They loved the jazzy atmosphere, and they loved the food, and they could not hide their reactions there.

When we got there the first time, Nicole said that she wasn’t really hungry. She ordered soup. But when she sampled my Fancy Dancy Mushroom pizza, she couldn’t conceal her pleasure, and neither could Callaghan’s Dad when he tried it. They both reached in for more.

Then the Pizookie arrived. We’d ordered two, so they could share one and we could share one.

It was rapture at first bite.

Suddenly, Nicole, who “wasn’t hungry,” was shoveling in mouthfuls of the hot and cold melty gooey Pizookie goodness. Callaghan’s Dad was doing the same. Several times, they both tried to stop eating it, but they could only leave their spoons down for a few minutes before they picked them up again. They were hard-pressed to hide their ecstasy. I’m telling you… I had never seen either of them eat anything with such gusto, in France or anywhere!

The next day, Callaghan called me while I was at work.

“We’re at Trader Joe’s buying chocolate chip cookie dough,” he told me. “They want to make a Pizookie.”

My first thought was, I could make better chocolate chip cookie dough. I don’t think anyone would argue that homemade is better than store-bought. My second thought was, they’re going to be disappointed, because there is no possible way any Pizookie we’d make at home could even come close to the heroin-laced Pizookie that emerges from the pizza ovens of Oregano’s. I cringed at the idea of them even trying, but I was amused nonetheless.

That night, the “pizookies” resulting from Trader Joe’s cookie dough and our conventional oven were a huge disappointment, as I knew they would be.

The next night, after dinner, Nicole said that she wanted to go back to Oregano’s. She wanted a Pizookie. I couldn’t believe it. She ate some American food she liked so much that she literally couldn’t get enough.

I was scrambling to work on my December Favorites blog post, so I declined, but I ended up tagging along when Callaghan implored me to go and we compromised with me bringing my computer and them accepting that I was going to be anti-social.

There we were, at the end of December during an unusual cold spell, after dark, sitting outside on the patio at Oregano’s, cozying up to the outdoor heaters. I wrote for this blog while everyone dug into their Pizookies. It was kind of surreal, but not surprising. The Pizookie is a thing you have to experience to understand… and if you think you know what it is because you had it somewhere other than Oregano’s, then you really don’t know what it is, because only Oregano’s does it like that.

So, Arizona people, if you’re hosting visitors from France, take them to Oregano’s – the great food, atmosphere and top-notch service speak for themselves, but moreover, there’s nothing more American than a chocolate-chip cookie… and baked in a pizza pan and topped with ice cream at Oregano’s turns it into an experience they’ll never forget!

Happy Friday, All!

(NOTE: this post was not sponsored by Oregano’s.)

My Super Bowl Curse.

This is not the post I’d planned. This was supposed to be my 2014 Favorites post, but it turns out it takes energy and strength to put such lists together, neither of which I’ve had at all for the last two days… so instead, I’ll tell you the weird little story behind that.

19 years ago, in 1996, the Super Bowl was hosted here in the Valley. All of Phoenix metro prepared for the arrival of the Dallas Cowboys and the Pittsburgh Steelers, who were set to play in Arizona State University’s Sun Devil Stadium, and the requisite chaos ensued. Super Bowl fever is a thing in and of itself, so you can imagine that Super Bowl fever in the hosting city is madness. Sun Devil Stadium holds almost 70,000 people, and ticketholders flooded into the Valley from elsewhere to fill it up for the annual championship football game. Exciting times, right?

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-SuperbowlXXX1996

 

I was a senior at Arizona State, carrying a full course load and working 20 hours a week in the foreign languages department, so I pretty much lived on campus.

At some point during that last week of January, I started to feel sick with nausea that ebbed in and out for days, getting progressively worse. I visited the student health clinic on campus twice. They said I had an ear infection, though I had no pain in my ear, and they sent me off with stuff for the nausea. Finally, I woke up one morning and headed to my 17th-century British literature professor’s office for his early office hours. Our class was scheduled to take an exam that day, but I knew I wasn’t going to make it. I went to his office, told him I was sick, and asked if I could take the exam early. (I still remember the expression of trepidation-bordering-on-disgust on his face as he regarded my sick ass sitting there in his office for an hour!)

I finished the exam, went to the language lab, told them I was sick and wouldn’t be able to work my hours that day, and left. Soon after I got home, all of proverbial hell broke loose.

I’ll spare you the graphic detail and skip ahead to the part where my friend came to my apartment almost six hours later to take me to the Emergency Room. When we arrived, the triage nurse took my vitals and said, “I don’t understand how you can still be conscious” before installing me in a bed. Wow! How to avoid waiting for hours to be seen in the ER: arrive severely dehydrated!

Bits of the night surfaced and wavered before me between periods of oblivion. At some point, my boyfriend arrived. I remember him watching me and remarking, “When you do get sick, you REALLY get sick.”

Truly, I had never been so sick with infectious disease. I had an I.V. drip for hydration, another with anti-nausea meds, a third one with a painkiller (for the lower back pain resulting from dehydration) and a catheter. The situation was described to me as my stomach was drawing the water out of my muscles and that’s what I was throwing up, which was a ghastly notion, but I was more intrigued by something I overheard as I drifted in and out of consciousness. A doctor and a nurse were standing over me, talking, unaware that I could hear them. One of them said, “Yep. This is how they all end up.” This is how they all end up. The words sounded sinister. I found out later that they’d been talking about what the medical community was calling “the Super Bowl flu,” an epidemiological phenomenon. When thousands of people visit an area at the same time – as in Super Bowl week – the local germ pool gets infiltrated with foreign germs to which the locals have no immunity, and the locals get sick. Phoenix residents were getting clobbered by this vicious stomach virus, with many of us landing in the ER. I was a Super Bowl statistic.

Toward noon the next day, the crisis was over. I was feeling slightly better from all the treatment, and I wanted to go home. “You’re not going anywhere until you pee,” said the matter-of-fact nurse in her matter-of-fact nurse way. “We need to see you pee!” But I couldn’t. They kept me there until I could, and then it took a whole week of bed rest at home to completely recover.

That was in 1996, and that was the last time I had the stomach flu… until two days ago, when my blissfully long run of avoiding the dreaded throwing-up virus came to an end. Again, I’ll spare you the details, but suffice it to say that it flattened me pretty good. Yesterday morning, I wanted to work on my 2014 Favorites post for today. I was sitting on the couch with my laptop next to me, and I literally did not have the strength to pick it up and set it on my lap. Flattened.

Out of curiosity, I stepped on the scale this morning. I don’t often weigh myself, but I know the general weight that I maintain, and by my estimation, the scale showed nearly six pounds less. I either lost over five pounds in the last two days, or I’d started out weighing less than I’d thought I did. I wouldn’t be surprised if I did weigh what I thought I did and lost almost six pounds, though, considering the efficiency with which my body evacuated itself of everything I’d consumed in the last week.

Why is this all of this significant, you might ask? Well, THE SUPER BOWL IS COMING BACK TO PHOENIX THIS MONTH. Coincidence? I think not. I think the next time the Super Bowl comes to the Valley, I should lay in a stash of supplies and barricade myself inside the house for the entire month of January.

I’m feeling better now. I’ve been sleeping a lot. Though plenty dramatic, this time was not as severe as last time. My temperature is back to normal, my headache is mostly gone, my lower back pain is subsiding and I’m recovering some energy, but I’m still weak. I’m taking today to start eating again and regain some strength so I can return to work tomorrow.

Also, my gym bag is packed for Body Combat tomorrow night. Yesterday, I was so lacking in energy I thought for sure I’d miss Wednesday’s class, too, but now I’m jumping out of my skin because I missed last night!

Merry Christmas from Arizona!

Christmas in Arizona is…

Soaking up the rays in a t-shirt on the second day of winter.

Soaking up the rays in a t-shirt on the second day of winter.

And on the day before the first day of winter.

And on the day before the first day of winter.

Because even if it’s chilly outside (it was between 58-60 degrees in these two pics), the sun-rays are warming.

I took the picture of Callaghan yesterday when I went home for lunch. We inherited this old lawn chair when we bought the house, and yesterday, we discovered that it’s broken. I didn’t post the pictures that happened while I was laughing.

As for me, I avoid actually laying out in the sun, but as far as I’m concerned, there’s no such thing as too much sun. I love being outside. Sunscreen is my friend, and I do mean tons of it.

Christmas in Arizona is…

Hummingbirds, like this little guy...

Hummingbirds, like this little guy…

...drinking his nectar.

…drinking his nectar.

Callaghan took these pictures yesterday, as well.

We have four hummingbird feeders – two in the front of the house, and two on the back patio. They draw lots of customers, and this is enchanting for someone coming from a country without hummingbirds. (That should be the name of a novel: “A Country without Hummingbirds.”) Callaghan’s enjoying all kinds of special moments mixing the hummingbird nectar and feeding these little guys! He’s a good hummingbird Daddy.

Christmas in Arizona is…

Wide-eyed wonder kitty of the Ronnie James persuasion.

Wide-eyed wonder kitty of the Ronnie James persuasion.

Festive Wrah-Wrah! This wreath was leaning here waiting to be hung up when I caught this photo opp.

And:

Pretending to be a tree kitty of the Nounours persuasion.

Pretending to be a tree kitty of the Nounours persuasion.

Festive Nounours! Seriously, isn’t he even shaped like the tree?!

Christmas in Arizona is…

Mill Avenue lit up in holiday lights.

Mill Avenue lit up in holiday lights.

Downtown Tempe at night. It never gets old. I took this picture coming home from the gym last night.

Christmas in Arizona is…

Bringing the outdoors in.

Bringing the outdoors in.

First we hung our wreath on the front door, all traditional-like, but on second thought, we brought it inside and decorated it instead of a tree. Works for us.

And finally, it wouldn’t be an Arizona Christmas without…

Tamales!

Tamales!

We’re picking ours up today!

It’s traditional here to eat tamales on Christmas Eve. There was one year I went to my friend Mary’s house to make Christmas tamales with her… we had so much fun, and the fresh, homemade tamales were amazing. I’ve never attempted them on my own, so now I do like thousands of other ‘Zonans and order my tamales from one of the many Mexican places that make them special for the holidays.This year, I ordered tomatillo chicken, chipotle pork, red chili beef and (meatless) green corn. There’ll be something for everyone. =)

Merry Christmas, All!

Freedom is Never Free!

It’s November 11, which means that here in the States, we’re observing our national holiday to recognize veterans of the armed forces – the United States Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines.

At the end of October, I received this incredible email at work:

Saturday, November 8th ASU is hosting Notre Dame at 1:30 p.m.  With a desire to honor all of our veterans at ASU, a limited number of tickets have been made available for our veteran faculty and staff. You served with honor, now we honor you. Thank you for your service!

This came from the Salute to Service committee out of the Pat Tillman Veterans Center, a wonderful campus and community resource for veterans and their dependents at ASU. November 3-14 had been designated as “Salute to Service” week – a week of events with focus on military appreciation built around Pat Tillman’s birthday, November 6, and today, Veteran’s Day, November 11. With this, ASU celebrates the entire week as a way to honor vets and Pat Tillman in continuing his legacy as a heroic Sun Devil and pro football star who sacrificed his life in serving our country.

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-ASUsalutetoserviceweek2014coverpg

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-ASUsalutetoservice2014

 

Callaghan was especially excited about the opportunity to go to Saturday’s game against Notre Dame because he’d never been to a college football game before. Coming from France, he had no real concept of the importance or spirit of athletics at the American university (there’s no equivalent of it over there – no collegiate athletics programs, no mascots, no school colors, no marching bands, no cheerleaders or rivalries or tail-gate parties or events like homecoming or play-offs, etc.), but he had heard all the stories. I mean, he knew about it, but he’d never experienced it.

Man, did he get a first-class education in American college football spirit on Saturday! We walked down to the stadium – the joy of living downtown will never fade – where he dipped his virgin toe into the traditional institution of American college football. His foray turned out to be more of a head-first dive straight into the insanity that was Sun Devil Stadium that day. The game against legendary and well-seated Notre Dame proved to be a phenomenal, exciting, well-fought battle on Frank Kush field (55-31 ASU, final).

As you can imagine, the Sun Devils’ victory parlayed into an outrageous all-night party at the many bars, clubs and restaurants up and down Mill Avenue, the main street of Tempe.

Later that night, the passionate and gracious Notre Dame fans we spotted on Mill stood out in their navy and gold gear as they took in the chaos of the festivities with wide eyes. It was like a UFO had deposited the Fighting Irish fans in downtown Tempe, and they had no idea where they were. We saw them wandering slowly down the street in their unseasonal-to-them shorts and t-shirts, looking around with dazed expressions, and maybe it was just me, but I didn’t think they were thinking, damn, we lost, so much as, damn, now we have to get on the plane and go back to freezing Indiana. Because that’s what I would have been thinking, if I were them. (Aside: I’m certain that Arizona gets some of its transplants because people decide to move here after visiting from their cold places to support their teams playing the Sun Devils in sunny Tempe. It got up to 90 degrees that day. Callaghan and I were in long-sleeve t-shirts because we wanted to avoid getting farmers’ tans, but most people were in regular t-shirts or tank tops and shorts. You can generally get away with that year-round out here.)

Here are some pics from Saturday:

 

Tickets to the game. Thank you, Pat Tillman Veterans Center and Salute to Service committee!

Tickets to the game. Thank you, Pat Tillman Veterans Center and Salute to Service committee!

 

Entering Sun Devil territory. Fear the Fork!

Entering Sun Devil territory. Fear the Fork!

 

Sun Devil Stadium is built into the cactus-studded "A" Butte at the north end of the Tempe campus.

Sun Devil Stadium is built into the cactus-studded “A” Butte at the north end of the Tempe campus.

 

Score!

Score!

 

The game aired on ABC.

The game aired on ABC.

 

The Sun Devils played an enormous game. The spirit of Pat Tillman was with us, and we veterans in the crowd were recognized.

The Sun Devils played an enormous game. The spirit of Pat Tillman was with us, and we veterans in the crowd were recognized.

 

This brings us to today, a day off, and, most importantly, a day to remember and reflect with gratitude. Happy Veteran’s Day, and to all of you vets out there, thank you for your service!

What I’m Digging Right Now – October Favorites

Thing One: It’s time for October Favorites, which means that this is the one-year anniversary of my Monthly Favorites posts!

I’m not at all surprised that I started this series in October, because I find it easy to enjoy pretty much everything in October. It’s my favorite month, so there are lots of favorites in it.

Thing Two: I regret to say that I have to retract a previously-listed favorite. That Revlon Colorstay Moisture Stain lip color I’d raved about in my September Favorites post? Is no longer a favorite. September was a weirdly humid month here, and my lips didn’t know how to deal with it, I guess. That lip stain (stains are drying products, but that one seemed to be different!) turned out to be a disaster on my lips as soon as the monsoon humidity ended. They just suddenly dried out, and nothing I did could soften them. No amount of exfoliation helped. No variety of products helped.

Until I tried… and this brings me to my first favorite “little thing” on the list for October…

 

1). Nivea  A Kiss of Moisture Essential Lip Care.

 

Nivea A Kiss of Moisture Essential Lip Care

Nivea A Kiss of Moisture Essential Lip Care

 

As I was saying, nothing in my arsenal of lip care products worked when my lips dried out. Oil didn’t work. Vaseline didn’t work. The Aquaphor I traditionally use at night didn’t work. The L’Occitane lip balm I’d raved about a few months ago stopped working. The EOS balm I’d been enjoying did nothing but taste good (and I’m pretty sure I wasn’t getting any nutritional benefit from it). So I headed to the drugstore in search of something different, and I walked out with this modest little product by Nivea that’s literally the only thing that works. My lips went from extremely dry and flaky to soft and moist overnight. I have a feeling that this is going to be a favorite for life, not just for now.

 

2). Asymmetrical, geometric, metal statement necklace.

 

Wearing the necklace at Rage in the Cage.

Wearing the necklace at Rage in the Cage.

 

A former co-worker gave this necklace to me for Christmas one year, but somehow, I never wore it until October. I threw it on as we were heading out the door to Rage in the Cage, and I’ve worn it several times since then. It’s funny how our tastes change over time… something that seemed awkward to me at first now interests me with its unusual, unexpected appeal, and I love it.

Shall we move on to food?

 

3). Roasted Brussels Sprouts.

 

Roasted Brussels sprouts with quinoa

Roasted Brussels sprouts with quinoa

 

LET IT BE KNOWN that finally, after several years, I’ve discovered a way to get Callaghan to eat Brussels sprouts with genuine gusto. Brussels sprouts are way at the top my favorite foods list – I love cruciferous vegetables, particularly Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, rapini and kale – and the fact that he didn’t like them no matter what I did made things challenging. One day last month, I put them in the oven to roast. Callaghan enjoys roasted broccoli and cabbage, so I thought, why not try roasting the ol’ sprouts? And miraculously, he loves Brussels sprouts when they’re roasted! It’s simple… I just cut off the ends, remove the outer leaves, cut them in half length-wise, arrange them cut-side-up on a foil-lined baking sheet, drizzle them with extra-virgin olive oil, and sprinkle them with coarsely ground sea salt and black pepper before putting them in a 425 degree oven for 30 minutes. He demolishes them and then asks for more. SUCCESS IS MINE.

 

4). Organic Honeycrisp apples.

 

Organic honeycrisp apple! Apple perfection.

Organic honeycrisp apple! Apple perfection.

 

It’s apple season, and everywhere I look in the produce section, it’s applicious abundance all over the place! My favorite kind are the Honeycrisp apples. They’re so sweet, juicy and flavorful. I have one every day. I know I need to enjoy them while they last, because they are seasonal.

 

5). Kashi Go Lean Crisp! Toasted Berry Crumble cereal.

 

Kashi Go Lean Crisp! Toasted Berry Crumble cereal

Kashi Go Lean Crisp! Toasted Berry Crumble cereal

 

I’m always on the prowl for protein-rich foods, so when I spotted this cereal on the store shelf, I grabbed it, read the label and brought it home to try. Plus, toasted berry crumble! I had high hopes, and it didn’t disappoint. I eat it with plain, unsweetened almond milk, and it is SO GOOD.

 

6). Clif Builder’s Snack Size protein bars in Chocolate Mint.

 

Clif Builder's Chocolate Mint Snack Size protein bar

Clif Builder’s Chocolate Mint Snack Size protein bar

 

Oh my goodness. If you’re American – and maybe even if you aren’t – you probably know what Thin Mint Girl Scout cookies taste like. Imagine a Thin Mint in the form of a substantial little bar with 10 grams of protein and only 140 calories, and it should be evident why I have to rave about these today. This nutritionally-dense little bar functions as a dessert that means business… the business of supplying me with yet more protein while tricking my taste buds into thinking they’re smacking on Thin Mints. The best part is that you don’t have to wait for Girl Scout cookie season to get them!

Now exiting food territory…

 

7). Arizona sunsets.

 

Arizona sunsets are always beautiful, but they're especially dramatic in October....

Arizona sunsets are always beautiful, but they’re especially dramatic in October….

 

In Arizona, a sunset isn’t just a sunset… it’s an Arizona sunset. The Arizona sunset is a thing, and it seems that October in the desert brings the most unforgettable sunsets of all. Pictures don’t do them justice. I think it must have to do with the cloud arrangement at this time of year. I don’t know. All I know is that every year I’m in Arizona, I take more pictures of sunsets in October than I do in any other month. They are spectacular.

Let’s finish off the list with pop culture!

 

8). Homeland, Season 4. (T.V. series).

 

HOMELAND (Season 4)

 

No spoilers here, but just allow me to say that after the season three finale, we were kind of left with our jaws on the floor, thinking, What could be the point in continuing this? We were intrigued, and we knew we wouldn’t be let down, but we had no idea how not let down we’d be. Season four is turning out to be our favorite so far, and that’s saying a lot, because Homeland is one of our all-time favorite series.  It just keeps getting better!

 

9). The Good Wife (T.V. series).

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-thegoodwife

 

Okay… how is it that we never thought to watch The Good Wife before? We started watching this masterfully written and crafted drama series in October, and it immediately sucked us into the depths of its rich and complex world. You guys, this show is on its sixth season; we’ve been binge-watching it as if there weren’t other things we needed to be doing. We’re half-way through the second season. We’re completely addicted. We’re gone. Bye. See you next year.

 

10). American Horror Story: Freak Show and Stalker (T.V. series)

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-Freak-Stalker

 

T.V. is so good right now, it’s killing me. Between the shows mentioned in this post and Modern Family, I don’t even know what’s playing in the movie theatres right now, to tell you the truth.

So, we had no idea about Stalker until last month. We started watching it at about the same time as American Horror Story: Freak Show, and we’ve continued to watch the two as a double-feature every week, back-to-back. We start with Stalker, then move on to AHS, and by the time that’s over, I’m thoroughly creeped out.

With Stalker, it’s the camera angles… the way the show is filmed helps to build a sharp, paranoid intensity in a short amount of time, and you don’t even realize you’re on the edge of your seat until it’s over. With American Horror Story: Freak Show, it was mainly Twisty the Murder Clown that did it for me… until the other clown emerged. Again, no spoilers here. Just saying. There are two evil clowns, and the fact that the new one is the scarier one to me is telling.

I’ve actually been contemplating this season of American Horror Story beyond its dark surface display of evil and gore, and I might share those thoughts here at some point… probably when the season’s over and I’ve seen the whole thing to its conclusion. (It wouldn’t be fair to draw conclusions before watching the conclusion, right?)

With that, I’m off to enjoy another crisp and gorgeous November morning. Enjoy your week!

Little Ranch House in the Desert

In my “July Favorites” post (that seems all too recent), I mentioned an on-going adventure that consumed the month. It actually started on the last weekend of June, and the situation changed so frequently from the very start that we just decided not to mention it until the end. That brings us to today. We’re moving!

No need for alarm. We’re only moving down the street this time. Heheh.

We loved our apartment, truly. It was peaceful, and we appreciated the unfettered feeling of renting rather than owning our living space. Having lived in many apartments and owned properties in the past, I’ve always felt more comfortable as a renter than as a homeowner. But over the last few months, several compelling reasons to reconsider welled up.

One, we needed more space. Callaghan used the larger of the apartment’s two bedrooms for his studio, but still, the room overflowed with the accoutrements of his multifaceted craft… plus, we also had to use that space for storage, making it even more cramped.

Two, we weren’t properly set up to host guests, and when your guests mostly come from Europe for longer stays, that’s a big deal. Two of our visitors from France slept on an air mattress we put in the middle of said cramped studio room at night, which wasn’t very comfortable for anyone, and the third – a couple and their daughter – stayed in a hotel (yet somehow, they were the ones who accidentally saw me naked).

Three, I didn’t have an office, and I had been sorely feeling that lack of a dedicated writing space. Obviously, I can survive without one, but I just reached some kind of limit after several years of officelessness. I needed that room of one’s own, to echo Virginia Woolf. Since 2010, I’ve been carving out little office spaces for myself here and there by placing a small desk in the corner of a crowded room, usually the bedroom. I longed for an office again.

Four, nearing the end of our apartment lease, we discovered that our rent would be raised upon re-signing. We had to make a decision.

All of this led to the final thing (and the catalyst for everything) that happened: I was half-joking around one night at the end of June when I filled out a form online. Next thing we knew, we were swept into the eye of the house-hunting storm that defined the months of July and August.

It’s a good time to buy, and looking for a house was fun. The twists and turns of our search initially took us out of our preferred area, but eventually, a house right down the street from our apartment appeared on the market. It happened at precisely the right time, and it happened that we both loved it at first sight, and it happened that our inspector found it to be in excellent condition (unlike the previous house we’d almost committed to buying).

Built in 1958, the house is your standard four-bedroom/two-bathroom ranch-style abode so common here out west. It has everything we need, and nothing we don’t. It was critical to us that we didn’t get more house than we absolutely needed. Most importantly, its location is ideal. The appraiser recorded the house as being situated “1.5 miles from the center of the ASU campus, in a highly sought after area of old town Tempe,” and that’s exactly where we wanted to be.

 

Little Ranch House in the Desert

Little Ranch House in the Desert

 

The house-buying process was almost complete when the universe, in a flamboyant move to confirm our decision – just in case we were having doubts! – hurtled a spectacular monsoon into our apartment neighborhood, knocking out our power, taking down trees and permanently altering the botanical composition in front of our balcony. It’s still lush and green out there, but suddenly, the tree house effect that had so captivated us in the apartment was gone! We were sad for the destruction of the trees on our street, but it was a magnificent storm.

 

Our apartment is the in the upper left....

Our apartment is the in the upper left….

 

The storm made quite an impact on our street!

The storm made quite an impact on our street!

 

I don't think anyone was hurt, though.

I don’t think anyone was hurt, though.

 

It was the one good storm of the season.

It was the one good storm of the season.

 

We got the keys last night, and this weekend will be all about the move. It is, in fact, happening, and I’ll be so glad when it’s over and we’re unpacked and organized! I’ve been fantasizing about an organized life with a place for everything for years, it seems. It’s amazing. I’ll have an office, and Callaghan will have a studio that’s just a studio, and visitors will have a guest bedroom and bathroom, and Ronnie James and Nounours will have lots of running-around space, and there will be no shortage of storage space, either.

So, that’s the story behind this latest move into this latest dwelling, which we see as being a Very Long-Term Situation. It’s sweet. It’s a sweet little house, and we’re grateful to have gotten it. We got lucky, is what we got.

Happy Friday!

Go Criminals!

In case you rolled out of bed this morning saying to yourself, “Self, I would like to learn some quirky Arizona trivia today,” I’m here to provide.

First, some background for those unfamiliar with this aspect of American culture: American schools’ athletics programs are intrinsic to the overall school experience. Athletics gives American schools their school spirit, and much of student life revolves around the sports programs, with (American) football traditionally at the heart of it.

The components are the same at every school. In the student body, there are the jocks (athletes) and the cheerleaders (also athletes, charged with the task of motivating the players by generating crowd support).

Then there’s the mascot, the heart of the school’s athletics-driven spirit. My San Jose, California high school mascot was the Ram… we were the Willow Glen Rams, You are Now Entering Ram Country, GO RED AND GOLD!! American schools’ designated colors also boost school spirit by promoting and encouraging unity. WEAR SCHOOL COLORS ON GAME DAY!

The Ram as a mascot is a cool choice, if not a somewhat pedantic one. School mascots are typically animals – the more bad-ass, the better – and the ram does have an air of bad-assery. The mascot doesn’t have to be an animal, though, and neither does it have to be bad-ass. (Scottsdale Community College Artichokes, anyone?)

This brings me to that nugget of Arizona trivia I wanted to share this morning, since I saw something about this yesterday, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since for its historical interest factor:

In 1910, Yuma High School was destroyed by a fire. With no time on their side, the Yuma School District made the pragmatic decision to move the school into the recently-vacated Arizona Territorial Prison. From 1910-1913, Yuma high school classes were held in the old cell blocks, and school assemblies took place in the prison hospital. Aside from this, Yuma High was a normal school with the normal need for a mascot to represent it. Guess what mascot they chose? The most logical one for any high school housed in derelict prison facilities, of course! In 1917, Yuma High School students became “the Criminals,” and to this day, Yuma High School remains the “Proud home of the Criminals.”

This all came to mind yesterday when I found a list of the “10 Worst High School Mascots in Arizona” in the Phoenix New Times. The Yuma High Criminals took the number one spot on the list, its entry complete with the snarky comment, “Yeah, Yuma Rapists and Murderers does sound a little tacky.”

 

CaptureYumaCriminals

 

 

I disagree with the choice of Yuma High for this dubious honor… my feeling about the school’s mascot aligns more with the sentiments in the article from which I’d pulled the Yuma High School history bits related above: Yuma High School’s mascot carries historical significance, and that is a fine thing. The article is here. If you don’t care to read it, at least enjoy this video of the Yuma High School football team’s entrance onto their field a few years ago when they went to battle a rival high school at their homecoming game, because it’s something to see!

 

 

Another favor you can do yourself, if you haven’t already, is watch the 2007 re-make of the film 3:10 to Yuma. It’s my second-favorite Western after Tombstone, and it’s pretty well done!