Looking forward to fall!

Summer is fading, and I can totally feel it, even though it was 105 degrees yesterday. The sun is rising a little later, setting a little earlier. People are getting their fantasy football teams together. The snowbirds from up north and back east are preparing to migrate to Phoenix Metro. Soon, we’ll see them on their jaunty walks in their shorts and t-shirts (while we desert denizens put on light jackets.)

I love summer giving way to fall. We do have seasons here in the Sonoran Desert part of the Land of AZ… maybe not in the traditional sense, but we do. The desert just expresses itself differently. The desert is a season-rebel. It does not conform to the norm. You have colorful fall leaves? We have colorful, blazing sunsets. You have chilly, moist temperatures? We have perfect temperatures… dry temperatures in the 70-80-degree range.

I love the heat, but hospitable temperatures make certain things possible. At some point in the late summer, I start anticipating aspects of the fall, as I know everyone around here does. Some of them can’t come soon enough. Here are 10 off the top of my head:

1). Garage gym workouts.

Cooler weather will put our garage gym back into the equation of my combat-sports fitness training.

2). Opening the front door.

Sitting in the living room at dusk with the fall breeze coming through the screen door is one of my favorite things. In the world.

3). Roasting veggies.

Brussels sprouts. Broccoli. Sweet potatoes. Purple Peruvian potatoes. Onions. Garlic. Fall in our house smells delicious.

4). Pears.

We eat pears year-round, but they come into season in the fall, and they are rapturous.

5). Pomegranates.

Pomegranate season! The flavor of pomegranates also signifies fall to me.

6). This is Us (Sept. 26) and Stranger Things (Oct. 27)

This fall, the two T.V. series I’m anticipating are This is Us and Stranger Things. I’m seriously emotionally invested in the family members of This is Us, and, like all fans, I’ve been waiting forever to find out what happens next in Stranger Things.

I would normally look forward to American Horror Story, but its early start this year puts it more in the summer than in the fall, as far as I’m concerned. Homeland is another fall series that isn’t starting in the fall this time around. Seems that the new season won’t be out until spring.

7). Candlelight writing in the early morning.

There’s something about writing in the early morning dark with just the glow of a candle flame to illuminate what needs illuminating.

8). Fall cleaning.

I’m more eager to deep-clean the house in the fall than in the spring, and the house feels so good after it’s done!

9). Creative inspiration.

Maybe it’s from a lifetime of “back-to-school” mental conditioning, but I’m more inspired, motivated, and revved-up in the fall than at any other time of the year. This is especially good this year, as I’m working on the toughest part of my book right about now. The fall magic will arrive just in time.

10). An extra cover on the bed.

For me, a heavier cover at night somehow leads to a more satisfying sleep. (By “heavier cover,” I mean the bathrobe I throw over just my side of the bed at night.)

Nenette shares my enthusiasm. Earlier this morning, I talked to her about fall, and she looked out the window like “Where is it?”

 

Late summer Nenette, awash in the early morning light.

 

Happy weekend!

 

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!

Welcome to the Hotel NOT CALifornia!

First of all, Happy 4th of July, fellow Americans! I’m coming at you from a coffee shop this morning because our internet at home is down. And hey, how about that dust storm last night?! The luscious scent of creosote enveloped us the second we stepped outside this morning… it’s going to rain. Monsoon season begins!

Whoa, I’m feeling scattered here. Let me focus on sharing with you my latest favorite discovery.

The first time we spotted a vehicle with a “Not Cal” decal, we did a double-take. The second look was necessary because we’re used to seeing California pride decals that say “So Cal” for Southern California, or “Nor Cal” for Northern California.

We thought we were looking at a “Nor Cal” decal, but the “r” wasn’t right… it looked more like a “t.” It seemed to spell “Not Cal.” Squinting and looking closer, I realized, Hey! It DOES say “Not Cal!” Then I saw that the lettering was centered over a beautiful bronze graphic of the state of Arizona, which was resplendently merged with the Arizona flag. Not California. Arizona. I was stoked.

 

The AZ flag with its copper star and sunset rays. (AZ is famous for its copper mining industry and sunsets.)

The AZ flag with its copper star and sunset rays. (AZ is famous for its copper mining industry and sunsets.)

 

[Side-note trivia: In the 2001 poll taken by the North American Vexillological Association, the Arizona flag ranked #6 on the list of 10 Best Flags in North America – the sixth best flag out of 72 flags! New Mexico’s flag took first place, Texas came in second, and Quebec’s flag ranked third with its elegant fleur de lys design. Interesting, right? See the poll results here.]

Broken down geographically, the residential picture of my life looks like this:

First, I lived in “Nor Cal” for 18 years (born in San Francisco, raised in San Jose), spending most childhood summers with extended family out of state (Hawaii). I moved away after I graduated from high school. I’ve spent the last 27 years in “Not Cal.”

Over those 27 years, I lived overseas for five years (three years and three months in West Germany/Germany, six months in Saudi Arabia/Iraq/Kuwait, one year and six months in France), and five months in Texas… and I’ve lived in Arizona for 20 years and eight months (interrupted only by the time spent in France and Texas).

The point being that I was born and raised in California, but I’ve lived more of my life outside of California than in it, and over 75% of that time, I’ve lived in Arizona. I couldn’t be happier in a place, and I especially couldn’t be happier to NOT be in a place. For all its beauty and the fact that people I love live there, California and I are not a good fit. I’m a California native who feels like an Arizona native, and I’m not alone… we ‘Zonans like to joke that anyone who’s lived in the Land of AZ for 10 years or longer qualifies as a native, since most people who live in Arizona moved here from somewhere else.

(Apparently, a significant percentage of transplants in Arizona come from California. My friend and real estate agent Nick once remarked that every time there’s a natural disaster in California, Californians stampede to Arizona.)

So when I saw the “Not Cal” decal the first time, I was amused.

The second time I saw it, on a different vehicle, I was even more amused, because then I realized that “Not Cal” was a thing, which meant that it could be had. I found it online, ordered it, and Zach-the-Not-Cal guy got it to our mailbox within two days.

 

Bugsy all glammed-up!

Bugsy all glammed-up!

 

So, Zach and everyone at Not Cal Clothing and Big Cartel (funny coincidence… I’m at Cartel right now), thank you! Thanks for helping us ex-Californian ‘Zonans represent. =)

NEWS – You Can Take the Girl out of Arizona, but You Can’t KEEP the Girl out of Arizona.

Yeah, good luck with that!

So. Our move has evolved, rather surprisingly, like this:

Phase One: (planned) Back to the States (June 2013)

Phase Two: (spontaneous) Back to the Desert (November 2013)

Surprise! Surprised?!

That’s right… we’re moving in November, as in, about a month from now. According to the Taoist calendar, I’m in a CHANGE year, which I guess I might have figured out by now, anyway, even if I didn’t know it. We just decided on this move in the last, like, week and a half.

One thing’s for sure – Texas is a fun and interesting place! We agree with our friend who remarked, “Austin is a town to fall in love with.” We’ve been here for four months now. Great times have been had and awesome people have been met and there’s so much to do here, it’s just been crazy-wonderful. Our plan was to stay for a year and then decide what to do after that. We’ve had a few other places in mind, in the case that we did decide to re-locate again. The short list included Lincoln, NE and Denver, CO.

But the longer I’m back in the States, the more I find my thoughts returning to the desert, to the Greater Phoenix Metropolitan Area, aka the Valley of the Sun (Phoenix is situated in a vast desert valley, surrounded, as per definition, by mountains). Callaghan loves Phoenix, too. We talked about it, and then we looked around at The Shipping mostly still in boxes, and we thought, why wait?

We’re going back to the Land of AZ!

It’s not that I think that one place is better than another, because I don’t. This is simply about feeling right somewhere, which is a very personal thing… feeling spiritually connected to our environment can only be a deeply personal thing. Just as some people believe in soul-mates, I believe in soul-places.

I was born in San Francisco and raised in San Jose, and the whole 18 years I spent in the Bay Area, I never felt comfortable there… not because of the people, but because I didn’t feel that I belonged. It wasn’t my place. In high school, I plotted my escape planned my departure for the earliest opportunity (hello, U.S. Army!) and never looked back. Now, I’ll go to California to see my family and just to visit, but live there again? Not going to happen. I’m hardly alone in this. It’s a pretty common phenomenon, people growing up and leaving their hometowns. It’s like we have to wander away from the place of our upbringings in order to discover where we really belong. Often, we find our special places by accident. You arrive for one reason – school, a job, a significant other – and before you know it, it’s been decades and you’re still there and you’re feeling that content, rooted belonging feeling, and you can’t imagine being anywhere else.

That’s how it happened with me and Arizona, back in 1991. After the Army, I accepted my then-boyfriend’s (also an ex-soldier) invitation to move to Phoenix. It was August, right when Arizona’s at its feistiest. It was scorching hot, dry, and alarmingly sunny year-round with brilliant blue skies and these ridiculous sunsets you just wouldn’t believe, and alien red rock formations with holes in them and gigantic cactuses everywhere. The sky was enormous. There were haboob (dust storms), and the July-August monsoon season brought the heavy aroma of creosote with the rain and the lightning over the desert. It was magical. With the surface streets laid out nice and neat on an idiot-proof grid system, you can get all over the enormous Valley from one end to the other without ever setting tire on a freeway, but an elaborate and efficient freeway system does exist should you desire to use it.

Next thing I knew, I’d been there for 20 years, longer than I’d lived in California. I never wanted to leave. I loved it. Being there just felt right. It was my place.

Then I met Callaghan. We got married. The plan was for him to live with me in Arizona for a year, but it turned out that he had to be in Europe for his business, so after just a few months, we ditched the plan and moved to France.

By January this year, Callaghan’s business circumstances had changed, so we were free to move back to the States (he has dual citizenship, as you may recall). We both wanted to move, and our adventurous spirits tingled with the possibilities. The question “Where should we go?” carved out an enticing open door in our lives, and there were so many places that could answer it! It was easy to sweep my beloved Arizona under the “been there, done that” rug while scanning the horizon for something new. The United States was like a gigantic candy store, and we were standing in the middle of it with ONE decision to make, to start.

We decided on Austin for all the reasons in this post.

And Austin is truly fantastic! What I didn’t anticipate, though, was seeing Phoenix everywhere I looked! The similarities are real, but I’ve come to realize that the reason I see Arizona all over the place is that I want to see it. I miss it. The saying goes, “East or West, home is best.” Arizona is my home. For me, it is best.

There’s great diversity in the Valley, and I’ve lived all over it… Phoenix’s many suburbs include (but are not limited to) the municipalities of Avondale, Glendale, Paradise Valley, Tempe, Scottsdale, Chandler, Gilbert and Mesa. We’re going to settle in Tempe, because it’s my favorite, and I’m planning to find a job there.

We’ll rent an apartment at first, but we’ll eventually buy a house so when the BIG ONE hits and California falls off into the ocean, we’ll have beach-front property.

I can’t believe it! We’re moving in November!

Here’s a smattering of pictures I’ve taken in Arizona over the years:

 

Desert blooms in the springtime make me so happy! This was one of the plants in my front yard.

Desert blooms in the springtime make me so happy! This was one of the plants in my front yard.

 

A shot of the sky at dusk

A shot of the sky at dusk

 

I miss the giant Saguaro cactuses, too

I miss the giant Saguaro cactuses, too

 

I love these alien red rock formations near the Phoenix Zoo and Desert Botanical Gardens...

I love these alien red rock formations near the Phoenix Zoo and Desert Botanical Gardens…

 

I can smell the creosote in the air just looking at this monsoon season sunset!

I can smell the creosote in the air just looking at this monsoon season sunset!

 

Stormy monsoon sky!

Stormy monsoon sky!

 

Phoenix's Camelback Mountain

Phoenix’s Camelback Mountain

 

This was my favorite sunset, and I remember it well... I came home from work to my Tempe apartment and went straight out to the balcony to take this picture. Pink Floyd's "High Hopes" was playing.

This was my favorite sunset, and I remember it well… I came home from work to my Tempe apartment and went straight out to the balcony to take this picture.

 

Sedona. Enough said.

Sedona. Enough said.

 

 

 

 

 

Note: None of these pictures were photo-shopped, touched-up, color-corrected or otherwise manipulated in any way. Arizona’s a natural beauty.