Entries Tagged as 'Personal'

On Halloween
+ California Traditions

Posted on: Saturday, October 31, 2015

Our first Halloween in the Bay Area, Christian and I drove up to San Francisco to visit our friends Jake and Cecille. I dressed as Alice in armor from the battle scene in the Tim Burton adaption of Alice in Wonderland–no one really knew what I was, but I wore fabric that looked like mail wrapped around silver leggings and a duct taped coat I’d fashioned over a sequined top. I wielded a cardboard and duct tape sword. My hair was long and curly and wild. Christian dressed as a peanut. He got chased by some monkeys we met on the street. Our friend Meryl was Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes. Jake and Cecille were bacon and eggs. It was fun.

That year, we also hosted a pumpkin carving party at our first apartment in Live Oak. We’ve carved pumpkins with the same group of Santa Cruz friends (give or take one or two) every year since. This year we carved pumpkins at our friend Tish’s place. I carved a Hello Kitty face. C carved a Hello Kitty witch. After we were done with all the gutting and careful chiseling (and occasional hacking) of our selected pumpkins, we threw a bunch of food on the grill and sat around Tish’s fire pit. We also broke out some glow sticks and Christian and I played with neon light and long exposures on my camera (see the last photos of this post for a message from us!). It was a slightly new spin on something we’ve been doing together for years now.

These last three years, Christian and I have driven up Highway 1 to Bob’s in Half Moon Bay to pick out our pumpkins. There are closer pumpkin patches we could visit but Bob’s holds a certain charm. The sign declares “Pick ’em where they grow!”. At Bob’s you have a view of the ocean while you browse the fields in search of your perfect pumpkin to pick (I like mine short and squat! Christian favors the tall skinny ones). There are “spooky” stand-ins for photo ops, a rusted out truck and bins filled with bewitching miniature pumpkins and squash–striped ones, green ones, white one, yellow, gray, orange, peach. And just outside the patch, there is a small petting zoo with goats and pigs and chickens and a turkey. The whole area is usually shrouded in fog, which I love. It’s a very California version of fall.


This year we’re going up to the San Francisco to celebrate Halloween with Jake and Cecille again. I think it will be our last Halloween in the Bay Area. It feels appropriate somehow–that our very first and very last Halloween will have been spent in the city. Although admittedly I’m a little sad that I’m going to miss the downtown Santa Cruz experience this year. Every Halloween Pacific Avenue is closed off to cars and big lights go up and the street fills with crowds of costumed people, many of them decked out in the most incredible ensembles you could imagine. You walk up and down the street and marvel at people’s creativity. There is a lot of exclaiming and calling out to one another; lots of congratulations are exchanged. You take photos with people and their costumes. Groups of people stage dances and crowds of other people in masks and makeup and dress-up gather around them to watch and cheer and applaud.

That being said, I’m very excited for Halloween in San Francisco. Especially since our friend Russ is hosting a Halloween party. It will be good costumes and great people. Christian and I are going as Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. I think my favorite costume from our years in Santa Cruz was the year I bedazzled black leggings and a hooded sweatshirt and went as “outer space”. This year should be funny though (because I’m going as Bernie and Christian is going as Hillary). But mostly, I’m just looking forward to seeing our friends in the city.

I guess what I’m trying to get at, is that we’ve established traditions here in Santa Cruz. And even though my heart has never fully left Washington, I know I’m going to miss this place when we finally leave–I’ll miss our favorite haunts and all of our friends and the things we’ve done together every year for the last five years. It’s kind of silly that Halloween makes me feel this way, but it’s the only holiday that we’ve consistently spent here in the Bay Area. And it’s the one that has always meant hanging out with the friends we have here (people who we’ve grown to appreciate more and more each year). Since moving to California we’ve spent Thanksgiving in state, but typically it’s been with family; for Christmas we always go back to Washington. And Fourth of July… well Fourth of July is kind of a nonevent in Santa Cruz (to be fair, it could never compare with how we do the Fourth up in the Pacific Northwest!). But for the last five years, we’ve always celebrated Halloween in California with our California favorites. So Here’s to one last Halloween Hurrah in the Bay Area!

Photos of our pumpkin patch adventures at Bob’s and the pumpkins carved at our fifth annual pumpkin carving party below:


I hope everyone has a Happy Halloween! I’m excited to see friends and strangers in crazy, creative, hilarious, beautiful, whimsical, nostalgic, surprising costumes! Maybe you’ll see a few of the costumes I saw on Halloween here on the blog in a couple of days… Think of it as my belated treat to you. I’ve never been very good at tricks…


*Photos 11 – 13 (of me and Buckwheat) taken by Christian

29 Portraits Project
Portraits 26 – 30 / 29: Alex, Tish, Christian, Tyler & Andrew

Posted on: Saturday, October 17, 2015

In September, Christian and I traveled to Hawaii with four friends: Andrew, Tyler, Tish and Tish’s boyfriend, Alex. Tish, Andrew, and Tyler all started grad school with Christian. I’ve known the three of them for over five years now. Alex is a relative newcomer–he and Tish started dating early this year–but he fits right in with the group. These are our oldest and closest friends in Santa Cruz–together we’ve celebrated birthdays, thrown parties, laid out by pools, gazed up at stars, floated rivers, spent weekends at a cabin in the woods, gone camping and backpacking, barbecued and pot-lucked, carved pumpkins, decorated cookies, watched super bowls, hosted game nights, had movie nights, thrown darts at The Poet & The Patriot, played corn hole, tossed frisbees, shot guns, visited the Monterrey Bay Aquarium, explored beaches, went out to dinners, met each other’s families, met up for drinks, danced our hearts out, talked late into nights, caught up over breakfasts, made plans and dreamed up trips. Andrew is from Hawaii, and ever since we all became friends, we’d been talking about a Hawaii trip. This September that trip came to fruition.


The beginning of our trip was filled with rain. We swam in the rain, snorkeled in the rain, ran from the grocery store to the car in the rain… It didn’t matter though–we were in Hawaii and the water was warm and the island was lush and we were on vacation with our friends. Sometimes the sun came out–warmed our faces and turned the gray clouds silver–but mostly the weather was erratic with frequent rain spats and wind gusts. I put off taking my final portraits because of the rain.

We arrived on a Friday. On Monday morning, the soggy gray clouds of the past three days burned off and the skies shone a brilliant blue. We passed the better part of that blue sky day at Kuhio Beach in Waikiki, sunbathing and people watching on the crowded, bleached-blond sand; surfing and splashing around in water the color of a seafoam green Crayola crayon. By the time we packed up and headed back to our place though, the skies had clouded over and the rain had returned. Tish and Alex were leaving the next day. Being an optimist, I thought the weather might be better in the morning. It wasn’t. So I took Tish and Alex’s portraits under skies that threatened rain, while a wind whipped their hair around. They were great sports though. And I think we got some good ones!


I took Christian, Tyler, and Andrew’s portraits on my birthday. The plan for the day was to drive to the North Shore, where we would hang out at Waimea Bay and then go into to take some photos. For dinner I wanted dumplings and after some research, decided on Lucky Belly in Honolulu. Andrew took us to the North Shore on the Kamehameha Highway which hugged the coastline–it was postcard beaches and teal ocean waters to the right, and valleys and mountains of emerald jungle to the left. Partway through our drive, we stopped at Kualoa Park to take some portraits with the scenic island of Mokoli’i (formerly known as “Chinaman’s Hat”) as a backdrop. A little further up the highway, after driving through a stretch of beachside houses and imagining what it would be like to live that close to the Pacific Ocean, we stopped at one of a half dozen shrimp trucks and got plates full of garlicky shrimp to tide us over until dinnertime. Chickens loafed in the grass around the covered picnic tables while we ate.

At Waimea Bay people cliff jumped from a large rock just off the beach. The sky was dazzling blue and the soft yellow sand was screaming hot. Overhead were large, lazy, fluffy clouds. The beach was peppered with people in bright suits on patterned towels and out in the water tiny people bobbed around leisurely in neon inner tubes. In the winter, Waimea Bay is host to the famed Quicksilver Big Wave Invitational but in the fall, the waters are calm and flat. We reclined in chairs and beach towels; I took photos of the cliff jumpers and the boys took a dip in the bay’s blue green waters. It was beautiful and serene. It was my favorite beach.

Towards the end of the afternoon, we drove into Haleiwa. The town was full of colorful plantation-era buildings with cute shops and artwork. We took our time walking around, popping into a store or two and grabbing a shave ice. On our way back to the car, we stopped on the bridge for some final portraits and then headed back to Honolulu for what turned out to be an outstanding dinner with two kinds of dumplings (pork belly bao and oxtail dumplings!). Back at our cabin for the week, the boys sang me “Happy Birthday” and I blew out the candles on a Hello Kitty Cake. I couldn’t have asked for a better end to my twenties.

My favorite portraits of Alex, Tish, Christian, Tyler, and Andrew are below. Thanks so much guys!

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This is the conclusion of the project. I took a total of 30 portraits and completed the project on my birthday. My goal was to take 29 portraits by my 30th birthday. Mission accomplished!


…of this project–I have more photo projects to come though,  so check back soon!

Adventures in Backpacking
Ansel Adams Wilderness Area

Posted on: Wednesday, September 2, 2015

It’s September. Labor day is just around the corner. Another summer is ending. As usual, I do not know how this is possible–how a season composed of days which feel so warm and lazy always seems to pass at the fastest clip. Still I am eager for the change–for raindrops and drops in temperature and trees to drop their leaves (although I doubt Santa Cruz, or the rest of California, will comply with my desires).

When Christian was little, his family marked the end of summer with a backpacking trip to Warm Lake in the Goat Rocks. He took me there in 2010–right before we moved to California–it was my first backpacking trip and I was instantly smitten. This is in spite of the fact that I was eaten alive by mosquitoes (photos of me from this trip show comically large red bites running up and down my brown legs); in spite of the fact that Christian led us up some literal goat paths before finding the correct path to our chosen campsite (consequently adding a mile or more onto what was already a 10 mile hike). It didn’t matter. I loved passing the day in almost complete solitude–maybe seeing one other human besides Christian, maybe not. We had an entire lake to ourselves. Sure, it was a very, very cold lake, but it was crazy blue and beautiful, surrounded by wild flowers and totally remote. In that remoteness, my mind emptied itself of its usual anxieties and I felt immersed in the moment. We read next to our lake, sprawled out on sleeping pads; we plunged into its cold waters; we hiked to waterfalls and pumped water at the creek; we cooked over a tiny flame and played gin rummy until the mosquitoes drove us into our tent. And at night the black sky cracked open and a million brilliant stars spilled out above us. Being there felt extraordinary.


This summer, Christian and I joined five friends for a three day backpacking trip in the Ansel Adams Wilderness Area (near Mammoth Lakes, California). We hiked seven miles in to Lake Ediza. We went up: across creeks and alongside waterfalls, vistas rising up behind us. At Shadow Lake, we sat beside the shore and ate lunches–peanut butter and jelly, bread and cheese, salami and trail mix. Then we climbed on: under trees, over rocks, on a path that cut through wild flowers of every color and hugged the rushing creek before jumping over it, departing from and then returning to its winding waters again (and again). Eventually, we rounded a corner and Lake Ediza spread out before us. It was stunning. In the distance you could make out a tent or two but it felt empty–big and isolated; crazy blue and beautiful.

Once again I fed a small army of mosquitoes (I counted 37 bites, mostly on my legs but I’m sure the actual number of bites was even higher). It didn’t matter though. Once again my mind emptied itself of the customary concerns and I reveled in the moment and marveled in that place. Daily tasks are often more difficult in the wilderness (cooking, hygiene, even sleeping all take on a particular effort) but life feels much simpler. I read Vonnegut next to the lake and when I felt hot or dirty, plunged myself in its frigid waters; I played card games on the large rock we used as our kitchen before and after dinner and cooked over small flames (instant coffee at breakfast, grilled cheese at lunch, mac and cheese and other backpacking fare at dinner); I day hiked up to elusive alpine lakes and watched the sun color the sky and pour onto the waters of Lake Ediza as it disappeared behind the surrounding mountain peaks at the end of each day. We explored and talked and stared off into space and splashed around and even celebrated a birthday. And at night the sky split open and stars flooded the darkness. The place was new but the experience was just as I remembered. Five years later and I’m still smitten.

A mix of iPhone and DSLR photos from our backpacking trip to Lake Ediza below:

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