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Days 2 and 3: LA and I-10 to El Paso

Day 2 of my solo trip across America was spent in Los Angeles with my fabulous godmother, her mom, sister, and niece, and a sprinkling of folks from her and my mom’s days in college. We ventured into Pasadena for lunch at Umami Burger (which apparently means savory in Japanese), and while the fries and potato shmushed things were incredible, as was the garlic aioli (oh me oh my), the vegetarian open faced sloppy-joe-esk burger was not my favorite, next time I’d probably go for the ahi tuna one. However I will say that our berry lime lemonade vodka drinks were delightful and bubbly. And really, that garlic aioli, bring it on forever ’cause it’s incredible.

Day 3 saw a bright and early start, a preliminary trip to Starbucks to fill up my reusable smoothie cup and water bottles. Yes plural. Hydration is important. With my bag of snacks in the passenger seat ready for some munching action, and a quick fill up on gas, I set off to the east!

As soon as I was beyond the city, I hit the high desert mountain landscape and kept on climbing towards the Chiraco Summit. My route was be-speckled with windmills and signs pointing towards desert spas (tempting), and a kind of terrain I’m really not used to being in for miles and miles. Oregon certainly has high desert regions–as well as coast line, mountains, forests, rivers, snow, sun… Let’s be real. Oregon has everything, which makes it the best and most beautiful state. Don’t argue with me on that–but not in the same way that the southwest of the US does. And to be honest, I was worried about driving over a thousand miles through desert. But, amazingly, it never got old. Indeed, it got prettier and prettier. It morphed. It changed colors with the sun. There really are cacti in Arizona. That may sound mildly moronic, but if you’ve never been to Arizona, and only seen it on tv and in magazines, I bet you’d have an “oh my gosh, that’s a cactus! They’re right there! On the side of the road!” moment too.

I decided to give myself a break for dinner in Tucson, and for whatever reason, had the biggest hankering for Red Robin, so I navigated to a shopping mall, circled it one and a half times, and settled in to a solo meal with a veggie burger and a banana milkshake (with sprinkles of course). Even though the sun was setting, I still had 4.5 hours ahead of me to El Paso, and so, sadly, the 300+ miles I spent in New Mexico were entirely nighttime miles. I hope to return someday to experience NM’s beauty in the daylight hours!

As I drove from Tucson to El Paso, I kept looking to my right towards the US-Mexico border. Though it was dark and I couldn’t see a thing, I knew that as I continued along I-10 I was growing closer and closer to the border as the road veered south towards El Paso. I have been to 11 countries, I’ve never been to Mexico, and I did have my passport with me… but I had a schedule to keep up with. Just before I pulled into El Paso, I passed the “Welcome to Texas” sign and immediately on my right a giant cement wall with barbed wire and search towers appeared below me. The highway was built into a hill, on my left was America, to my right was Ciudad Juarez. And it couldn’t have been more obvious which side was which. To my right was a hillside of small buildings, mostly brown, mostly small-house-sized. With the wall, and the all-too-obvious disparity on either side, I felt like I was back in the eastern Mediterranean looking over the wall from Israel to Palestine. In this scenario, the US was Israel, Mexico was Palestine, and it was not a pleasant feeling.

Now, I am not from Texas or any other border state. I do not live in a city so close to another country that you have to zoom in very far on google maps to see “El Paso” right next to “Ciudad Juarez.” But that wall of towering concrete was so stark. So ominous. So clearly communicating “stay over there. We DO NOT want you.” It didn’t feel friendly. I didn’t spend any daylight time in El Paso, I would love to in the future as I here it’s a delightful place to live. But a towering concrete wall on a hillside, next to a “Welcome to Texas!” sign didn’t quite fit with the friendly sign, the lovely things I’d heard about the city.

I pulled into the Comfort Inn El Paso a little after midnight. The website had made it look like a hotel (with no outside access to rooms) but alas, it was a motel. And though I promised my mother I wouldn’t spend any nights in a motel, it was 12:30am, I was getting up at 6am, and I wasn’t about to drive around the El Paso airport searching for mother-approved accommodations, wasting my precious few sleeping hours. Plus, it was only $44! So with my flare gun and pepper spray on my bedside table, and the door firmly dead-bolted and chained, I conked out for a few happy hours. And no axe murderers appeared!

 

 

 

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Solo Across America: Day 1

Solo Across America: Day 1

My journey across the country lasted 8 glorious days and I’m thrilled to share thoughts, insights, funny signage, and most importantly PICTURES with you all!

Day 1 was Eugene, OR –> Pasadena, CA. That’s 860 miles of road in one day! Definitely a long one, but I was focused on getting to my godmother’s house and enjoying spending time with her more than anything else. Especially because I’ve done this drive many many times before, I wasn’t super attached to seeing sights (and sites–punny) along the way.

Miraculously, the only semi-icky weather I encountered that day (note: this was during the Polar Vortex folks) was between Eugene and Medford (about 3 hours south from my starting point). Just a mild drizzle, which made for some AWESOME clouds, and then it was clear and sunny sailing all the way down I-5!

There were plenty of funny signs/bumper stickers/bilboards and other forms of Americans attempting to communicate with each other. Here are Oregon and California’s contributions:

The day included some stretch breaks, lots of water, a couple smoothies, a stop at radio shack for a car charger and audio jack (to better facilitate my Harry Potter listening marathon), Panera for dinner, and then a semi guilty and desperate stop at Taco Bell. 3 hours to go and I really needed something utterly unhealthy to keep me awake the last chunk of road, but most importantly, it was a safe day with beautiful scenery and an absolutely magnificent sunset.

Liv On The Road

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Hey folks!
Today I began my cross country road trip from Oregon to DC! (Yes, I am crossing the country in the winter time, going south though, thanks polar vortex!)
More thoughts and specifics and musings later, but for now (and the next several days) keep up with my Instagram account for both fabulous AND not-so-glamorous photos of the beautiful US of A! Today’s photos tracked me from Oregon to Los Angeles. Instagram handle (yep, you guessed it!) @LivOnAMission, I’ll also be using the tag #livontheroad

New Year’s Resolutions

New Year’s Resolutions!

Many of you may be thinking “Ooh yes! Self Motivation! Self Improvement! Woo-hoo!” others, perhaps the more cynical of the bunch (no judgement) may be thinking “Oh PUH-LEASE.”

I get it, and to be honest, I oftentimes laugh at people’s excitable renditions of their NYRs (like how I made up that acronym?) wondering to myself if they actually believe they can stick to their 98 very important attempts at self improvement for a full 365 days. After all, 76 percent of NYRs do not see full fruition (that’s a statistic I just made up).

All this being said, I do see value in reflection and thinking about changes that might benefit your life. I also think it’s important to be realistic about such goals, I tend to be thematic and not get into specifics, because really, for me, it’s all about guidelines to a better, more loved life.

Choose to LIVE instead of to veg

More music

Less TV

Say YES to ADVENTURE

Hike Often

Write more letters

Hug more

Early to bed & early to rise

Do more ART

Cross off 3 things in “1,000 Places to See Before You Die”

Write more

BE CREATIVE

Take more pictures

Choose little bits of H A P P I N E S S every day

Keep a happy calendar

Keep a happy jar

Open your H E A R T

Take RISKS especially EMOTIONAL RISKS

Throw things away

NYRs

New Year, New Day

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First post of the year! Yesterday (Dec. 31st) I ended the year right, by myself, in the woods, with 4 dogs. Leaving 2013 behind on my terms was important to me, so to say good riddance to the year and an open hello to 2014, I chose Clear Lake, a 4.6 mile loop of a trail about an hour and a half from Eugene. I brought along with me a lunch, hot chocolate, water, some “just in case” items, lots of dog treats, a camera, fond memories of special people, and the wish that we could have more time. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, that’s okay. And if you do, well, you do. Most importantly, riding in the top of my pack there was a special someone who certainly deserves to be carried Princess Cruise-style around this special lake.

Because I was outnumbered by canines, most of the noises I uttered consisted of their names or combinations of their names, and loud “HUPs” (think loud exhale sounding like “up” but with the tone of “come back to me”), but the second most common utterances were phrase to the tune of “uh OREGON” and (pardon my French) “Fuck it’s beautiful” and “Oregon YES”.

Oregon is a beautiful place, here are some pictures from a wonderful day.

Kale is the New Potato

Kale is the New Potato

HAVE YOU EVER MADE YOUR OWN KALE CHIPS????

I’m yelling because I just did for the first time two days ago and have made 3 batches since. Might even go for a fourth tonight. Point is, if you haven’t yet made your own kale chips, you should, right now, or I’ll keep yelling.

These crunchy little buggers are a marvelous little snack with a crunchy, slightly nutty, salty way of being and, the way I make them, just the right amount of a kick in the pants (that’s the spice talking).

Most wonderful? They are the simplest of things to make! So far I’ve only tried out one recipe, but I’ll keep you posted as I cruise along into kale-chip land.

Ingredients:

Kale

Olive Oil

Salt (sea and a little coarse preferably)

Curry Powder

Pepper

Boring things first: preheat oven to 350ish… Now the fun stuff! I keep my monstrously large bags (yes, plural, don’t judge) of kale in the freezer to preserve freshness (though the way my fridge has been acting lately, turning condensation into flat ice blocks on top of my tupperware, this might be unnecessary), but kale from your fridge, garden, market, wherever will do just fine! Get a good mixing bowl, toss in a few handfuls of kale, a generous dousing of EVOO, a good shake of the sea salt, another generous shake of the curry powder, and a few grinds of the pepper are all you need! Here comes the fun part (almost as fun as eating): get your (washed) hands in that bowl and mix and turn that kale about in the olive oil-y mix! Spin it ’round, maybe do a little do-si-do, however you do it, just make sure that all of the kale leaves are well coated in the olive oil. Then dump those little suckers onto a cookie sheet and pop in your oven!

Caution! Do not pour olive oil over the kale once it’s on the cookie sheet. Yesterday I definitely risked a major grease fire. Coating in the bowl is plenty, trust me.

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They take 7-10 minutes to bake, just enough time to do the dishes and dance around the kitchen a bit. I like to turn the chips over about half way through the cooking, that also allows you to check the crunchiness progress.

Then pull them out, and ta-da! Homemade-super-scrumptious-and-relatively-healthy kale chips!

I’ll definitely be attempting other recipes in the future, but in the meantime enjoyed these fantabulous curry kale chips!

You’ve Never Had Chili This Quinoa-tastic

You’ve Never Had Chili This Quinoa-tastic

You may recall that way back in September (coming up on a year now!) I cut meat out of my life. It was hard at first, but we both know we’re better off without each other in our lives. (That was a meat-relationship-joke incase you didn’t pick up on it).

A few days ago I finally got to replenish my disturbingly barren kitchen cupboards with three gigantic bags of groceries. Grocery shopping is so fun. Strolling around, chatting with my grandma on the phone while fantasizing about new things to make, new combinations of foods, new ways of seeing food. Such a blast!

As it was one of those days where I woke up late (ahem, noonish) and had nothing in my kitchen (see above paragraph, really, it was bad. Granola, but no yogurt! Shaking my head at the thought) I left the house without eating breakfast and headed straight to the grocery store! They say you should never go grocery shopping hungry, so so true. My cart was packed, and I’ll admit I may have forgotten that I’m heading home for a week and a half on tuesday (!!), and probably didn’t need to buy quite that much. Oh well.

By the time I made it home it was nearly 4pm and I still hadn’t eaten. In case you’re getting worried, I’ll say right now that this post does not end with me passing out, I learned my lesson on that last summer when I passed out in CVS from heat exhaustion. But that’s clearly a different story for a different time.

Now, here’s a funny thing about me. My friend, old roommate, and Not-So-College-Life buddy used to make so much fun of me for my kitchen-eccentricities. She’d happily sit with a bag of carrots and some hummus and snack for hours, or bite into an apple without a care in the world. I like apples just fine, but they’re such a commitment. Once you bite in, you’ve gotta finish. You can’t put it down ’cause it’ll tip over, the juice runs all down your fingers and then you’re sticky and stuck with an apple that you may have lost interest in from all of the hassle. Yes. I know this is strange. I know it doesn’t make sense. It’s just how I feel, okay? Let me have my apple-feelings.

But here’s where the really ridiculous bit comes in: while an apple may feel like too much work to me, I regularly spend an hour laboring over a hot meal. In fact, it’s not a meal to me unless it took time and probably some time on the stove. Dinner really can’t be comprised of just a mish-mash of cold things. There must be heat, it is the kitchen after all! 

This is all by way of saying that not only do we all have our little oddities, that though it was 4pm and I still hadn’t had anything to eat that day, I spent the next 35 or so minutes making absolutely the most scrumptious thing ever.  And girl was it worth it!

Vegetarian Quinoa Chili Bowl

Ingredients:

Tri-colored quinoa (more colors, more fun!)

Cumin (gotta get that chili flavor)

Spicy black bean dip

Cowboy caviar aka corn, black beans, and pepper salsa

Mushrooms

Kale

Plain yogurt or sour cream

Seaweed strips

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This bowl-meal was super easy to make and I would have cut down on cooking time considerably if I had had the foresight to include the kale and mushrooms in the first place and not at the last minute.

A half cup of dry quinoa, a cup of water, and several dashes of cumin boiled and simmered together form the base of this protein-and-other-good-stuff-rich-meal. While that’s cooking, sauté the mushrooms, sliced, onions and a handful of kale in some EVOO. Throw a generous dollop of the black bean dip and the chunky salsa (whole black beans or any of your other favorite southwest-inspired dips would work great here too) on top of the quinoa, dump the sautéed veggies on there as well, top with the seaweed strips and a dash of plain yogurt to cut the spice, and voila! Your very-own chili-esk vegetarian quinoa bowl.

The quinoa, kale, and seaweed mean that this very simple dinner is packed with calcium, iodine, protein, fiber, calcium, vitamins A, C, and K, and so many other good things! I told you this bowl was a powerhouse!

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