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.

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. =)

HABOOB!

We’ve arrived at the end of a beautiful but windy week that brought our first dust storm of the year… a whole two months early! Our dust storm (aka “haboob”) season here runs between May-September. Late Tuesday afternoon, we left the living-room window open even after the vertical blinds started whipping around to the tune of the wind-chimes on the balcony.

Click here to see the video.

Ronnie James and Nounours aren’t dust storm fans… yet. They’re new here. They’ll get used to it.

I remember my first Arizona dust storm in the early ’90’s. I was driving, and suddenly (and I do mean suddenly), a towering, opaque wall of dust came toward me. I was a new transplant in the Land of AZ, and it was an odd moment of surprise while feeling at home at the same time. The dust storms here aren’t as violent as the ones I’d experienced in Saudi Arabia, but they can be dangerous, and tragedies do occur. Still, we like them, we do! They’re a part of life in the desert, and they’re somehow mystical.

So, if Tuesday’s dust storm is any indication, our April and May houseguests from France might be in for something really, um, new.

The last time we hosted visitors from France was in July 2011, right before we moved over there. We collected Callaghan’s friends from the airport and took them directly to the small diner across the street from our Chandler apartment – it was one of those small, ‘50’s-inspired trailer diners – and while we were sitting there eating dinner, this happened:

 

 

We’ll see what happens this time when our visitors are here! Maybe nature won’t give us anything more dramatic than its usual spring splendor of desert blooms.

And with that, I’m off to downtown Phoenix to pay a visit to the V.A. facilities. Have a great Friday and weekend, everyone!

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.