The GGA Project -- Day #354 "Suck it UP"

A few months back I mentioned doing a Facebook friend sweep, unfriending the people with whom I'd had no actual contact since accepting or sending a friend request.  I did this, mainly, because I tend to share a fair amount on the site, and I felt it was disingenuous of me to have "friends" know things about me that I wouldn't share with them should I see them in person, which would never happen as it would with a real friend.  I suspect most of the people didn't even notice the unfriending, which is better, since I didn't mean to be hurtful...I just didn't want to be phony.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago, when a very generous and kind, supportive action on the part of one of these recently unfriended friends--coming as a total surprise--caused me a bit of sweeper's remorse.

Today's New Activity: Tail-Between-the-Legs 2nd Request

I was touched by and grateful for my friend's outreaching, and though I suspected he never noticed we weren't still "friends" (the thing he did happened via a mutual friend's Facebook account), I wanted to reach back.  The problem is, when you unfriend somebody on Facebook, you can't just decide you're friends again.  You have to send a new request.  And I thought that was a perfect opportunity for me to write a message to reconnect, catch up, and explain why I'd unfriended in the first place.  Because with this particular friend, it was more than just lack of contact...I'd convinced myself that he didn't want to associate with me, even though there was nothing about him that should have caused me to imagine that.

Perfect opportunity for a little honest sharing and clearing of the air.  It turns out there was nothing of the sort going on.  And you know what?  I've found there almost never is (because the past year has found me checking in with a few different people whom I'd made assumptions about or who I'd thought were judging me)!  And even in the cases where there is, I've finally realized how much better it is to just suck it up and have a somewhat uncomfortable conversation and KNOW (even if there is some actual air clearing to be done) than to sit and wonder and imagine things in your mind.

Learning, learning, learning...


The GGA Project -- Day #353 "On Traveling Light"

Forever I went through life with the tiniest of purses.  And I loved the lightness that afforded me, especially in places like the salsa stage at the San Jose Jazz Festival, where I could dance to my heart's content with absolute freedom of mobility, my tiny purse no more than a nod in the direction of attachment to belongings.

So how on earth did I get to this point?

Okay, wait a sec...I can do it nicer than that:

Yes, people.  ALL that junk was in my purse.

For the record:

1 each--wallet, phone charger, laptop power cord, camera with case and USB cord, phone, lotion, deodorant, bottle of ibuprofen, Visine, hair tie, package of Kleenex, name tag, powder compact, lipstick tube, lipgloss tube, chapstick-like tube, mirror compact, box of mints, package of oil absorbing sheets for the face, coin purse, USB stick, grandmother's rosary, small notebook, checking account register, savings account register

2 each--dead batteries, earrings, eyeliners, sanitizer bottles, essential oils, packages of gum, loose mints, napkins, business cards, events fliers, sets of keys (personal and work), checkbooks

3 each--"feminine hygiene" products--hate that term!

4 each--ticket stubs, crayons

5 each--pens, receipts

10 each--jelly beans

Holy Shit!!

So why do I have dead batteries even though I've already matched them and bought their replacements?  Why do I have a savings account register when I have no savings account?  How did I end up with two eyeliners in my purse when I have never, ever even once applied eyeliner after leaving the house?  Why can't I find a pen when I need one although I apparently have 5 of them on my person at all times?  Why do I need a mirror when there's one in my powder compact?  How did I not even know I HAD a mirror in my purse?

The answer is the same to all of the above questions: I just have too much crap in there.  I started buying purses bigger a few years back and simply grew into them.  I used to use the excuse that I had a mom purse, back when I carried all of Kalil's diapers in there, as well as the things I kept on hand to keep him entertained.  But the only thing left of that nature is the little box of crayons I got from a restaurant.  And what good does that do if I can't even find it in the event of a True Crayon Emergency (that's a thing right?)?

I've been meaning to do this for a week.  But any sane mother knows you don't dump out the contents of your junked-up purse when there's a toddler around.  So in the wee, quiet hours of this morning, still somehow wired from a decaf Americano, I took on

Today's New Activity: Purse Down-Sizing

The thing is, I LOVE to travel lightly.  I used to be firmly committed to the idea.  But I think it's much harder to let go of things than it is to accept them into your life.  That goes for all things, not just the crap to be found at the bottom of my purse.  But what a wonderful exercise in cleansing and making room and clearing the space in my head (starting, YES, with my purse) for all the thinking and doing yet to come.

First, I whittled it down to absolute necessities:

Essential oils not so essential are ya?  Yes, the camera gets to stay.  Yes, lipgloss falls into the "necessity" category.

Then I opened it up to the not-necessary-but-nice-to-have:

I could fit the USB stick into a smaller container than that giant Babushka coin purse (when did a USB stick become so important to me?), but I don't have one at the moment.  Which brings up another thing: I somehow got rid of all the small purses in my life except for the nice clutches I take for dress-up events.  This is NOT an excuse to go shopping--just an acknowledgement that I'll have to take extra precautions to avoid filling up my big ole purse again.

Eh, maybe it's best to go shopping.

No.  No!  If there's one thing sticking to this project has finally drilled into me, it's discipline.  Stay strong...


The GGA Project -- Day #352 "Serious Business Happening Here...."

I'm just now beginning to realize how much I'm like my Dad.  Sometimes it trips me out--now, in my adulthood-- to see my parents up close after living states away from them for over a decade.  To really see how they are outside of how they are as my parents is at once fascinating and a little freaky.  That I'm so much like both of them (in different ways) says a lot about both/either the power of the nature argument (I'm so much like them even though we've been apart for so long) and the nurture argument (what I learned from them at a young age about how to be in the world stuck hard through my late teens, 20's, and early 30's, even though they were far away).

Anyway, the point is that I have a lot of things in common with my Pa.  But taste in reading material is not one of them.  Mostly, my Dad reads books from the business/management section of the bookstore.  Mostly, I'd rather chew on rusty nails (a lil Tapatio and we're good!)

So I probably cringed ever-so-slightly when, after Thanksgiving dinner, my Dad busted out a copy each for my bro and me of a book he'd read recently and which he thought we both might find beneficial.  It's just the same knee-jerk reaction I have to EVERY business book, though.  It wasn't that I didn't appreciate the gesture or trust him.  I was actually pretty excited to check out a book that my Dad thought I would like.  I feel like--now that he knows me better as I am in my adulthood--it would probably get to me on some level and in a positive way.

Today's New Activity: Business Book Reading on the Pop's Recommendation

I've only read the introduction so far, but I can see that it'll hold my interest just by the things the author promises NOT to do, which are all the things that put me off about the thought of business how-to books in the first place.  I'm looking forward to discovering what I can learn from it...

Total, off-the-subject sidenote.  Jeez Louise am I grateful for today, even with the emotional ups and downs the afternoon brought.  Outlook: hopeful, strong, unflinching, joyful, alive.

And as an off-the-subject sidenote to THAT sidenote: last night I chanced upon a blog I wrote a number of years ago that I'd forgotten, but which I found incredibly relevant today.  "Deathbed Therapy," it seems to me, might be worth revisiting about now...Though I do feel I've lived the past year in a way that I won't ever regret, I see that there is plenty of room for improvement in that area.

As far as we know, we only get one shot at this, folks--this life thing.  I hope you're living in a way that makes you feel fulfilled, peaceful, and proud when you go to sleep each night.  I'm working on it myself....


The GGA Project -- Day #351 "You Exit Halfway Across the Bridge..."

I'm not sure where I first heard about it a few months back, but

Today's New Activity: Treasure Hunting at Treasure Island Flea

has been on my to-do list for about 3 months now.

Here's the problem, Treasure Island Flea only happens once per month.  So having my schedule clear to attend any of the summer markets proved an impossibility.  And I'd actually been under the impression that it was just a summer thing that would be over by September, so I was pleasantly surprised to not only discover that it'd be around for the foreseeable future, but that there were free admission tickets floating around.  So then...

First of all, if you've never been to Treasure Island (and provided you live in the area), you should really check it out.  It's much bigger than it seems from the Bay Bridge you take to travel through it, and the views of The City from there are just beautiful.

The first thing I noticed approaching the flea market was a huge statue of sorts that had apparently been taken from a Burning Man a couple of years back.  Bliss Dance, as it's called, is 40 feet and 7,000 steel pounds of pure beauty, which--in the words of the artist, Marco Cochrane's words--"celebrates humanity, and in particular the feminine beauty, power and strength that emerges when women are safe, and free to be themselves."  I LOVE that.  This piece was quite the draw, dozens of people swarming around and taking photos from every angle, just as I was.  But anyway, that wasn't part of the flea market, just an unexpected icing on the cake.

I'm not sure who took in this scene and thought 'a flea market needs to happen here!!!,' but I'm glad for it.  It was a great environment, and great weather, in which to treasure hunt!

I didn't take many pictures of the offerings at all, just because I didn't think about it when viewing the most captivating things for sale, but there was a good variety.  There were antiques,

and whimsical who-knows-whats,

and world market-type goods,

and plants

and even, apparently, tarot card readings

There were artists selling prints and textiles and jewelry, and a lot of venders selling vintage clothing.  What was great about the clothing and antique vendors is that they didn't just bring a whole lot of junk.  It was like somebody had done all the dirty work of picking through the Goodwills and Savers of the world and brought along only the best stuff.  And what was really great was that the prices were very reasonable: more like a garage sale than an antique store or vintage consignment shop.

There was a great reggae band called Counter Culture (and I'm pretty picky about reggae, so when I say great, I really mean it.  If you follow that link, check out their song "Peace." I loved it!) there for entertainment. 

I had to drag Kalil away from that scene.  He listened for quite some time before standing up and dancing around like crazy for a few songs.  I love to watch him feeling all different kinds of music :)

I did a bit of Santa Claus-related work.  And then I picked up a cute little wall-hanging cabinet with hooks that I have big (new project, once this current project ends) plans for.  Seven bucks!  Not bad at all.

So the Treasure Island Flea is taking a break for December but will be back in January and indoors (still on Treasure Island obviously, but building to-be-determined) for a few months.  I can't wait to go back.  And I'm dragging all my treasure hunt-lovin' friends with me next time!!


The GGA Project -- Day #350 "In With the Old..."

Feel me, ladies: it's hard to make new girlfriends, right?

I mean, it's easy to make acquaintances, easy to make little connections here and there, but the idea of making an actual girlfriend, especially at this point in my life...I don't know.  I think it's tough.  In the past I've been able to make new friends through work.  And a lot of those friendships have stuck, withstanding marriages and children and all.  But it's been years since I made a new, actual hangout girlfriend, at work or otherwise.

Today's New Activity: ...In With the New (Friends)

Today I asked one of my coworkers if she wanted to join me in celebrating two of my friends' birthdays.  What was different for me about this was that I not only reached out to spend time outside of work with a woman whom I could easily see becoming a bona fide girlfriend, but that I brought her into a realm where former co-workers and long-established friends were.  A former version of me would have never done this.

I know other people don't struggle with this at all.  They mix up all their friends and don't give even a second's thought to how certain of their friends reflect on who they are or how they'll be perceived (or re-perceived) by the other friend(s).  But I've finally realized and accepted that I alone am responsible for how others perceive me.  My friends are my friends because they are good people whom I've come to know and accept and appreciate.  And that's it.  Personality differences and variations in humor or interests or demeanor or appearance are irrelevant.  Anybody I'd want to be friends with would know this much or at least be able to be open to the idea.

So she came, and we had a good time.  And I didn't spend any time at all worrying about it.  And I think we may actually become (at least some version of) friends.  Lucky me :)


The GGA Project -- Day #349 "Why I Should Really Get Out More at Lunch"

When I do manage to get out for lunch during work, I never really think to go to a place where I'd actually have to sit down and order.  This is mostly because I'm super uptight about time (it's the German in me....it has to be, cuz it's certainly not the Mexican in me), and the thought of needing to have all that happen (the getting sat, the ordering, the food's arrival, the eating, the paying of the check), in the course of an hour, sounds way more stressful than potentially enjoyable.

Eh, but I got over it today, since I've been wanting for a very long time to make it to this particular vegetarian restaurant.

Today's New Activity: Zomg, Chaat Bhavan

As much as I've recently tried to step away from reading reviews of places online, there are still a bunch of places in the back of my mind that I've read about in the past and wanted to try.  Chaat Bhavan, with its great track record on Yelp, was one of them.

We tried the only southern Indian dish on the menu, a thick stew with lentil/steamed rice patties called Idly Sambar:

Then there was the main attraction: a thali made of two veggies-of-the-day (paneer mattar (peas and cheese) and aloo gobi (potatoes and cauliflower)), two type of dal (lentil soup), raita (yogurt) and kheer (rice pudding), served with rice, paratha (flat bread) and papad (a sort of seasoned cracker).  Wow.  Super YUMMO!!

The thali also came with a traditional appetizer dish called Bhel Puri, which I'd always wanted to try and got around to today.  Oh my, what an awesome explosion of flavor!  And look how beautiful it is:

I'd met a friend, and these two inexpensive dishes were plenty to share.  And the service was super fast, though the large dining room was packed.

I'm a huge fan of the no-frills, authentic, fast and cheap Indian/Pakistani restaurants that abound in Fremont.  That I was one of maybe 4 non-Indian patrons in the place was a good sign to me, too.  I also just LOVE the experience of looking at a menu and knowing that I don't have to filter anything because it's 100% vegetarian!  The hardest part was narrowing it down.

I seriously already can't wait to go back...


The GGA Project -- Day #348 "Sweet Start"

Last weekend after the 5K action, the racers and I headed to a little greasy spoon up in Vallejo called Scotty's.  Scotty's was not only a pretty decent greasy spoon, they also had a full case of big-ass donuts for the offering.  And though I used to eat donuts a-plenty (especially in my childhood), I realized it'd been quiet some time (over two years, when I think about it) since I'd had one.  The idea that I must amend that soon landed hard in the back on my mind.

This morning I dropped the Monkey off at his Dad's to spend the day.  I knew my Dad and bro would be off golfing for a while, and my Mom doing her my-"help"-would-just-be-getting-in-the-way part of the Thanksgiving dinner preparation for some time.  With a few hours to myself then, I set out in the opposite direction from where I usually turn to head home, with the idea of finding a decent spot for breakfast.  I thought it was probably too much to ask to get donuts and wi-fi in the same place, or to find a donut place that took debit cards.  So I consider it divine providence that I was getting gas across the street from a little spot that advertised ALL THREE on its sign.

Today's New Activity: Contemplating Thanks at the Region's Most Ridiculously Well-Stocked, Open 24-Hours (Even on Thanksgiving) Donut Shop

I have a feeling that Happy Donuts, in Palo Alto, will make quick work of all these pre-prepped boxes.

After all, even on Thanksgiving morning the place was well-trafficked.  It helps their business, I'm sure, that the staff is friendly, the wifi fast, and their space the largest I've ever seen for a donut shop!

And festive!

I found myself wishing I'd discovered it long ago.  The fact that it had dedicated parking and was off the main University Ave. strip would have made it a nice alternative to some of the time I've spent in the area in days past.  Oh well, I know now...

Ok, I felt like a super dork for taking so many pictures of the inside of a donut shop, but you seriously have to check out this selection.  Look at the drink cases alone!

The main donut case...

and the overflow donut cases:

Jeez Louise!  And oh, did I mention muffins and bagels?  There was a whole breakfast and regular sandwich menu as well.

Cigarettes anybody?

So yeah.  Since this would be my first donut in some time, I decided, what the hell, go all out with an apple fritter (right, like I wouldn't have gone for the apple fritter anyway).  But apparently my sweet consumption capabilities just aren't what they used to be (I swear I remember vividly being able to eat a King Sized Snickers in one sitting when I was 7 years old), so I brought it home to share.

But at that point it wasn't even about the donut.  I was just thankful to be out and about in the morning, thankful to find a nice new place with good wifi, thankful for the family I'd find when I got home, thankful Kalil would be back in the early evening, thankful for my health and employment, thankful for friends old and new, thankful for both the sunshine on that side of the bay and the rain back home on my side, thankful for laughter and joy.

In a word, thankful...


The GGA Project -- Day #347 "The Game (in the Loosest Sense of the Word)"

One thing my family is certainly not lacking is the ability to talk.  I've been seated at eerily quiet family dinners at the homes of friends.  It was a foreign concept to me...the lack of comfort in or desire to communicate while sharing a meal.  But I imagine people from such a background would be equally off-put or annoyed by the constant chatter, the ever-present SOUND at a dinner table like ours.

Having my bro in town for Thanksgiving meant just that much more talking, the voice of one more story-filled life to contribute to the conversation.  So it's either very fitting or absolute overkill for us to have chosen the "playing" of a talk-prompting board game for

Today's New Activity: Playing Shift

I found the game among the other old standbys (Pictionary, Taboo, Trivial Pursuit) in the closet, and when I asked my Mom about it she said she'd never played it.  I should have had a pretty good idea about the nature of it when she said she got it from one of the vendors at an Organic/Holistic Expo she organized a few years back in Colorado.  This was definitely to be something of an ungame.

So basically, the idea in Shift is to move your game piece out of FEAR, at one end of the board, into LOVE, at the other end.  In order to move it, you have to first roll "trust" on a die marked only with "trust" and "doubt" and then roll a second, numbered die to determine what card you'll play.  If this is sounding super new-agey and hippied-out so far, it's because it is.  But I do have that gene in my body (pretty sure that one came from my Mom's contribution to the DNA), so I was up for it.  And as much as we made fun of some of the game's questions, tasks, and overall lack of real clear cut objective, we all played along.

This is something I truly love about my family.  I was raised to just, I don't know, be game, to participate, to join in, play along with, enjoy the ride.  I've experienced a lifetime's worth of group birthday songs sung over the phone to an out-of-town relative, of pretending to be asleep when we hear somebody else is coming into the room (as a group--a *whole group* of people "sleeping" in the living room in the middle of the day), of making up a game in the car on the roadtrip, everybody contributing new rules as we went along.  This was my childhood.  These were my teenaged years.  This is my present.  (My two-year-old son already knows how to fake he's sleeping when he hears somebody coming :) )

As I get older, the idea of what I want, of who I want to share my life with, becomes clearer.  It's a wonder to me when people are able to choose and stick with a life partner in their early 20's.  I feel like in certain ways I didn't have a clue what would really matter to me in the long run at that age.  But now (and this is funny, because one of the very questions in tonight's game was to name your single most-important-in-a-life-partner quality), I know very well that both a great sense-of-humor and eagerness to laugh, and this, this gameness, this quality that screams, "yes!  I'm down for that, whatever it is..." are paramount characteristics when I think about dating or getting serious with somebody.  It's okay if he's a cynic, a doubter and a critic.  It's okay if he's disillusioned, cautious and squinting-as-he-tries-to-determine if he agrees with what's being said (I am, after all, all of those things as well).  But he has to...he just HAS to be willing to participate.  Even for a game like Shift.  Not just willing.  He has to enjoy it in his heart of hearts.  I'm not saying he has to enjoy the specific game or activity.  He just has to enjoy the idea of, the opportunity to join in because he's all the way there.  He's shown up.  God, having that kind of clarity about what I want feels really, really, really nice.

So then: back to Shift.  Though it was not flawlessly or even all that consistently designed, the game did manage to bring up interesting conversation, get us thinking about and appreciating the growth we've made along our respective journeys, and even reveal some minor things we didn't know about each other before.  While my family didn't really need the game to get that kind of conversation started, I'm happy there are people conceiving of and making games like this, for the families out there who do need a little bit of a nudge.  And while I have serious doubts that a person could make the decision to embrace love over fear as the result of playing a board game, I do believe that every bit of practice in that area helps the cause.

C'mon over anytime you wanna play along, with this or anything really...



The GGA Project -- Day #346 "Just Toss it Up There"

So if you're an Apple fan (or maybe just if you're alive and have media sources available to you (?)), you've no doubt heard some buzz about Apple's latest product launch.  Actually, this falls more into the service than the product category, since it's all happening invisibly over the Internet (also known as a series of tubes).

From the sounds of it, it's a no-brainer: if you so choose, you can have all your music, photos, contacts, emails, calendar info, documents, etc. (just basically most things that most of us would be storing on our computers) saved in a giant cloud that follows you wherever you go.  I mean, this is the technical explanation anyway.  All you need do is follow a few simple steps and then bam!  The next picture you take on your iPhone will be there on your MacBook by the time you get home.

Today's new Activity: Opting in to iCloud

I believe I've made it pretty clear how big a fan I am of Apple products (real original, right?).  For the longest time I sort of resisted them (even though I did already have an iPod that I used almost daily), and I think that was mostly because I was just annoyed by all the hype.  I mean how can you get so excited about a device that doesn't even allow you to RIGHT CLICK?!?!?!  But over time I realized that this little right click issue was really the only thing standing between me and the full enjoyment of products that were in all other ways user-friendly, and without exception beautiful and overflowing with functionality.  Also, the right click issue didn't even apply to most cases.  It was just this thing in the back of my mind that had turned me against Apple--that and my annoyance with all the Mac fanatics. 

Some time last year nearly every coworker of mine at the time bought the then-new iPhone 4 right when it came out.  I laughed at their over-the-top Kool Aid consumption mentality.  That was, until I held one of those phones in my hand and got a gander at the oh-so-clear screen display, the gorgeous simplicity of the user interface, the thousands and thousands of apps available to elevate the experience.

I think I waited a month or so before taking the plunge myself.  After that I also purchased an iPod shuffle (stolen from my car last week...very uncool!) and bought my friend Kenneth's old MacBook.

In the course of a year I went from doubter to true Apple believer, and I suspect there won't be any going back any time soon.  I'll admit I was even pretty saddened at the passing of Steve Jobs.  And I saw plenty of criticism (on Facebook walls, for example) for people who reacted to that news as I did--images of starving children in Africa for whom nobody sheds a tear overlaid with shaming messages about "the state of humanity when..."

But I think a lot of people felt the way I did when Jobs died because the products he put out into the world were an everyday part of many of our lives.  We could see, very clearly, how what he did in his life affected things we did in our own.  It's rare that a person--and the company they created and fostered--completely overhauls multiple industries (a story I heard on APM's Marketplace put the number at 6, possibly 7--industries completely overhauled as a result of the influence of Apple under the direction of Steve Jobs).  Maybe that's a scary state of affairs for some to contemplate, but for me (and cheesy as this will sound), all I can say is "thanks."  I'm a fan.

So anyway, when I heard about iCloud I was pretty sure I'd want to take advantage of it  Thinking of all the time I could have saved in uploading pictures from my phone to post on my blog had iCloud been available this past year makes the service appealing.

Turns out iCloud is easy enough to set up (though not as easy as most things Apple-related).  Unfortunately I made a big mistake in updating my phone's software in order to enable iCloud, didn't backup properly, and lost all my phone's apps.  It also got un-jailbroken in the process, but I knew in advance that would happen.  It's funny that the step I took in order to made it possible for all those apps to be forever backed up without so much as a button click from me in the future was what caused me to lose them all in the process.  Ok, so maybe that's not all that funny.  But I didn't mind much.  I looked at it as a chance for a clean slate.  And I'm all in favor of clean slates these days.

There is still a lot for me to mess around with and figure out how to access where the big fluffy storage cloud is concerned, but there is a crap-ton of info available online.  There are also a number of tutorials set to cheesy, porn-sounding music up on Youtube, but you have to be careful in checking the upload dates as some of them were tutorials for iCloud's hypothetical or beta versions, neither of which will look in any way familiar or be relevant to today's user.

Have fun storing, y'all.


The GGA Project -- Day #345 "Card Sharking"

One of the nicest customers I help at the bank is a grandfatherly small business owner named Steve.  Early on in my stint at my current branch, I asked him about his business, which is called 3 of a Kind Casino Events.  It turns out he rents out casino game tables and their accompanying dealers for mostly corporate customers hosting employee parties, fundraisers, and the like.  He said they're always looking for extra hands to help out during the busy seasons, and he invited me and some of my coworkers to learn the trade.

Though the gig sounded interesting and fun to me, I wasn't sure I felt up to the challenge of all that rapid-fire math (blackjack is the first game he teaches people to deal), not to mention the fact that most players (I think) assume their dealer is both knowledgable and experienced--which, clearly, I am neither.  But Steve is super, super duper mellow, and he assured me on a couple of occasions that the atmosphere is very relaxed; nobody playing games at these events has any of their own money at stake.  So I finally made time this afternoon for

Today's New Activity: Blackjack Dealer Training

I showed up at Steve's offices with three other trainees.  One was the son of the woman who would train us (an older woman named Kay with 25 years of dealer experience under her belt), and a couple who already work for the company dealing blackjack but were there to learn poker.  It really WAS a very relaxed atmosphere, and nobody made me feel dumb for not being all that clear on even the basic rules of the game (I'd forgotten entirely what "insurance" was all about and was pretty foggy in my understanding of doubling down at first).

But Kay and Steve were both good teachers, and 45 minutes in I got to try my hand and dealing for a little while.  I was totally out of my comfort zone at first, having to calculate really fast with people watching and feeling very much on-the-spot, but in that moment I reminded myself that this project is ALL ABOUT getting out of my comfort zone and pushing myself to do things I might otherwise not.  I've especially loved the activities that seemed challenging to me, and this fit pretty squarely into that category.

I'm not sure any actual gigs will come from today's lesson, but I now have all the groundwork to be able to practice on my own, and if I do get the chance I will (eeeeeee) force myself to take it :)


The GGA Project -- Day #344 "And (AGAIN) on Military Site Repurposing"

So it turns out that--in addition to San Francisco's Presidio and Fort Mason--there is yet another local former military site that has now been re-imagined, residentialized (yes, I made up that word), and made good use of by people who can't let amazing old buildings go to waste (thank goodness for those people, by the way).

Today's New Activity: Poking Around Mare Island Historical Park

Mare Island is a former Naval Base and shipyard (founded in 1854!) that closed for those purposes a few years back.  Now, they do things like host 5Ks there; coming out to support some friends who were running one (not me--hell no!) is what got me out to the site.

But once the run started I knew I had about 1/2 hour to nose around a bit before I'd want to get back to the finish line, so I grabbed my camera and saw what there was to see (or a small portion of it anyway).

Jeez, I love old anythings.

Most of the grounds looked like this:

But the area nearest the race's start and finish lines was more of a yard for the dead and dying former somethings related to what, I'm not sure.  But I found it pretty fascinating...

I also had some fun with my camera's timer, which I've never done before.  What fun!

I feel like I could have stayed in that shipyard all day looking for interesting stuff to take pictures of.  It's a good thing I got back when I did though, since one of my friends shaved a substantial chunk of time off his previous best, so I was able to catch the big finale.

I'm not sure what would get me up that way again, but I'd love to learn more about this historic site.  That part of the bay area doesn't even look like California to me.  It's somehow more gently rolling and Eastern Seaboard-like.  And the leaves on the trees up there turn beautiful colors like all respectable trees should in the fall!  My brief visit up that way was a great start to a pretty amazing Sunday--the kind of Sunday that must have inspired the invention of Sunday in the first place.  How to make all Sundays like this one?!


The GGA Project -- Day #343 "No Veggie Version? What the Pho?"

Oh pho (pronounced "fuh").  What a beautiful gift you have been to America.  I'd never encountered the yummy Vietnamese soup dish until I moved to the Bay Area (home to a substantial Vietnamese population), but now that I have, I get hankerings for it every now and then.  What I love about it even more than the taste is that, for a Westerner like me, it's not so easy to eat.  It takes coordination and patience, and halfway in I'm usually too tired and full to go any further.  But that's okay.  It's the ritual feeling too it that I like.  I LOVE foods that take a long time to consume, especially when they're shared.

But anyway, this is not about pho.  It would have been, except that--to my surprise--the restaurant I visited tonight didn't serve a vegetarian version.

Today's New Activity: Dinner at PHO Asian Bistro

It was fine, because PHO Asian Bistro, in Dublin, served a few other noodle vegetarian dishes, like these:

 Vegetarian Pho Thai (pad thai style noodle dish):

Bun Chay (tofu and bell pepper salad with vermicelli noodles, served with chili dressing):

All in all, while not being all that authentic (I don't think), the dishes were plenty tasty and filling.  Must continue the hunt for the Hayward/Pleasanton/Dublin area's best (only?) veggie Pho spot...


The GGA Project -- Day #342 "Flour is Overrated Anyway"

I had two reasons for taking on yet another baking project today.  First of all, I wanted to thank my neighbor Sharon--who has been a wonderfully supportive friend this past year, though I haven't seen her often--in a way that she could enjoy.  Secondly, I wanted to include my coworker Isela in the treat that is bringing baked goods to work to share (I refuse to call this sabotage, just because we are in the middle of a Biggest Loser challenge ;)  )

Both of these women, you see, have special diets.  Hey!  I can relate to that.  I have a (semi) special diet!  And it means a lot to me when people remember that and do what they can to include me when there is some kind of group eating going on.

Today's New Activity: Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake

I have to say I've been totally reluctant to travel even two steps down that gluten-free road.  Knowing that people have been working for years to make vegan food taste good and haven't come all that far (in my opinion), I thought the chances the relatively young gluten-free movement had arrived at a tasty place were bleak.

But when I came upon this recipe after a "best gluten-free desserts" Google search, I thought the positive reviews were too many to dismiss.

Who on earth would imagine that this

would have its origins in these?!

Yes, those are chick peas/garbanzo beans.  And that is not to say that the recipe called for chick pea flour. I mean I literally liquified these very beans in a food processor, threw in a few other ingredients, tossed it into the oven and called it a day.  It took only these 5 ingredients (plus confectioner's sugar for the top),

10 minutes of prep time, and 40 minutes in the oven and bam!  That was it.  It was the easiest cake I've ever made (and shockingly it DID come out like cake, or like a less dense version of a brownie).

To my shock, my parents (who are generally pretty freaked out by the alternate-version-of-real-food things I eat as a vegetarian) not only tried but dug the cake well and truly.  Monkey too (not that he's picky when it comes to dessert).

Unfortunately I learned that Sharon, my inspiration for trying the recipe in the first place, also avoids sugar since learning how much better she fairs as a result, so I'm gonna have to do a little more detective work if I want to try and thank her in any kind of culinary way again.  But it's good to know that yummy gluten-free recipes really do exist, especially since so many people are embracing the diet these days.  I'm definitely holding fast and tight to sugar though!