California’s Rugged Good Looks and Seaweed Abundance

Sep 10, 2015

Sweet younger brother 
Curious papa
Chilled, adorable mom and dad  
Sea Ranch chapel stained glass window
We harvested nori seaweed! Here it is partly dried, brought indoors from the balcony.
My mom made Bun Rieu, Vietnamese Crab Pork Meatball Noodle Soup - one of my soul foods.
We rented a home along Sonoma Coast for solid family time. As much as I love camping, I want my folks to be comfortable now that they’re in their 60’s.

However, they would be down to rough it, which I know because they’ve enthusiastically attended almost all of the Boy Scout troop trips we took growing up. Now that I'm "grown," it is so wonderful to enjoy and to cherish time with my family. 

It's nearing the end of idea seaweed harvesting season because as fall and winter roll around, the tides are higher and shores become too dangerous. I took a class last year with local seaweed expert and herbal teacher, Tanya Stiller. The experience was so profound. We rose at 4:45am to hike down to the shore and gingerly walk around the tide zones to harvest kombu, nori, bladderwrack, and sea palm.* I didn't harvest much during that weekend course because I was arrested in awe of the ocean's beauty and gifts, and way too busy photographing it

On this past weekend trip, I showed my parents how to harvest nori, and we scored a freshly washed-up kombu. Altogether, took home half a 32-gallon plastic bag of dried nori to eat.

I highly recommend incorporating seaweed into your cooking habits, especially when making soups, broths, making beans or rice! Adding a 6 to 8 inch strip of kombu adds wonderful nutrients and vitamins. Seaweed is quite the staple in Asian cultures that have a culinary and social history with the ocean. 

Do you cook with seaweed? Would you ever try it? Hope everyone had a good Labor Day weekend!

*Note: Sea palm can only be harvested with a commercial license in the state of California. And, please harvest seaweed responsibly. 

Farewell Summer, Hello Strength

Aug 25, 2015

John Muir Woods, among the Redwoods and by the creeks that I love
Nasturtiums in progress, with Sennelier watercolors

Old China plates make wonderful paint palettes
I finally feel my life force returning to me. This summer has restored energy that seeped from me since last spring/summer. I’m finally feeling as healthy as I should be.

The rapid loss of energy has a lot to do with the fact that we bought our first house a little over one year ago. That whole process has been, and still is, a loud learning experience with high joys and also crushing stresses.

Our first year of home ownership in the freakin’ insane Bay Area market has been a radical flurry of activity as we remodeled, found housemates, and generally hustled. At some point of house remodeling and strained relationships, my body said, “Enough, please.”

For six months, from October 2014 to March 2015, my body was in the worst state it’s ever been. I wasn’t falling ill with terrible colds or the flu, but I experienced constant inflammation from stress and the fact that I became sensitive, even outright intolerant, of certain foods (e.g. cow dairy, sugary gluten-y pastries, etc).

The inflammation was experienced through headaches, insomnia, and horrible yeast infections among other symptoms. That’s right, let’s talk frankly about women’s health. Food sensitivities and stress caused me vaginal inflammation! What the hell? I never would have thought that was possible.

Thankfully, in March of this year, I cut dairy out of my life (not without reluctance. Good-bye butter, and ghee *tears*) and said, “NO THANKS” to invitations, engagements, extra jobs so that I could generally slow my life down. I replaced dairy fats with high quality coconut oil, lard, and olive oil. I took up Iyenger yoga at a wonderful studio, started swimming laps at the local pool, and also enrolled our household to a local farm, Full Belly Farm, for a weekly box of vegetables. I saw more of my loved ones between periods of rest. So much healthy goodness happened since March.

I’m proud that Cop and I own a home*, and that my health is being restored, but I’m overwhelmingly grateful and proud of our relationship. We’re doing it, we’re making it despite all the shitty stresses. This is our eighth year being together, growing up, and becoming adults, which is what we joke because we feel like giant kids most of the time. As summer fades and autumn comes around, I’m reflecting and feel immense gratitude for everything in my life, especially for all of the love, support, and strength of my partner. Thanks, Cop.**

Friends, listen to your bodies: work hard, especially when you have to, but rest fully, always oblige when your heart and mind say to stop. Modern life in cities is demanding, it doesn’t allow for patience. In order to build sustainable communities, we’ve got to nourish ourselves.

These books and resources have really helped me recover:
Nutrition in Essence, Sarah Bearden (one of my teachers at Ohlone Herbal Center)

Do you have any resources that you recommend concerning food sensitivities, or holistic health??

*I’m fully aware that buying a home in the cutthroat real estate market in the Bay Area is certainly no small feat, and definitely screams “privilege." Don’t misunderstand: we’re modest middle-income folks (I’m the poor one, with my environmental non-profit job), and we didn’t accomplish it all on our own. Although Cop and I saved up a bunch of money, we still had some help from our parents both financially and to help remodel the home. We found a house in a city right outside of Berkeley because we couldn’t afford anything in Berkeley. I’ll tell the story of our home acquisition another time!
**I also want to share our story another time. Soon!

The Complete Gnomes, cir 1970's

Aug 12, 2015

Picking ticks off fox friends

Lol least the watercolor is vibrant?
Lol more racism...
Ugh! Racist and sexist - story of European gnomes visiting Siberian gnomes, and being offered Siberian women to sleep with - in your dreams, Poortvliet!
This Gnome womyn was hand drawn and painted by me, from an image in the book. This is what beginning artists do, we copy and copy and copy some more.

I came across The Complete Gnomes by chance. This book has 414 pages of full color, with enchanting illustrations by Rien Poortvliet and text written by Wil Huygen. Despite its title and obvious subject matter, it’s really a window into old Dutch culture. 
When I studied Western Art History, Dutch painters and especially the Golden Age painters were absolutely my favorite.  I almost enrolled in a Golden Age Dutch art history class for fun, when I was an undergrad at UC Berkeley. I backed out when I quickly learned in the first class that shit was going to be way too serious and difficult ( not gonna be fun). “What? You want me to submit a 14-page paper in two weeks, on top of all the other schooling I have?....See ya later!” 
Back to The Complete Gnomes: I wish I could come across a similarly watercolor-rich book of Vietnamese culture, maybe featuring Viet fairies and dragons. Gnomes are strictly northern European inventions.
Poortvliet uses watercolor, ink, and from what I can tell, touches of colored pencil, to create vibrant illustrations of gnome livin’. The hefty book is great reference material as I learn to work with watercolors.
I’ve come a long way since I picked up watercolor two years ago. The first pieces of work I did are embarrassing! Maybe someday I'll share them... :) 
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