I am looking at the date on my computer and feeling a sneaking sense of dread. We still don't have a tree. To be honest, I don't really feel like shelling out $$ for a tree that I know I would want to get rid of as quickly as possible and then feel extremely guilty about tossing onto the curb. I am feeling the pressure to get all Christmassy, mostly because I don't want to disappoint my kids, even though they are older and not as into the things we (I) used to (make them) do like the advent calendar and the gingerbread house and the cookies. Heck, I still have three pumpkins sitting outside our front door, and until a few days ago, a fourth pumpkin, the one Yumi and I didn't get to carve for Halloween, at the foot of the stairs to our apartment. The only reason I threw it out was that a squirrel had been eating it -- that is, I believe a squirrel is the culprit, because the pumpkin was being "carved" little by little each day, until there was a huge hole in it and the fruit flies got to it. Poor squirrel. It had probably started to look forward to its daily pumpkin meals, and maybe even brought along some of its friends for a feast, only to suddenly find it's no longer there.

This year, Nyan and I decided to exchange handmade presents, at least among us grownups. I am grateful for this idea (although I still have a lot of making to do) because holiday hyper-consumption leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I don't really need more stuff, none of us in my family do -- in fact, we are always grappling with the problem of too much stuff (#firstworldproblems). And while I appreciate a simple, thoughtful gift, and like to have (and give) nice things, I am always disheartened by the culture of materialism and acquisition and waste that's made even more offensive at Christmastime. Recently, I had a discussion (argument) with one of my kids about how it's wrong to use Christmas as some kind of bargaining chip when they want something expensive: "If you get me this, you don't have to get me anything for Christmas" or "This can be my combined birthday AND Christmas present." I said, what's to stop them from asking for something extravagant and calling that "my Christmas present for the next ten years" (but still expect to receive something every year anyway)? Plus, we are not magically rich at Christmas, we just come to accept that there will be more debt -- the thought of which we will push to the back of our minds "in the spirit of the season."


halloween 2018

Halloween isn't an actual holiday in that you don't get time off work or school for it, and it could fall right smack in the middle of the week (like it did this year), and it isn't religiously sanctioned or historically or spiritually significant, but people still make an effort to celebrate it, and that, in my opinion, is what makes it so great. And even though 2/3 of the children and 1/2 of the adults in this family couldn't care less about it this year, I knew I would be a fool to let this lack of enthusiasm get to me. So on October 31st, I got off my sad, lazy ass and bought groceries for the night's festivities, got myself a costume (really, just a wig that I found on the floor at Party City), and went to work putting up decorations at home, filling a bowl with candies for trick-or-treaters, making a proper Halloween meal. Kat was already making the zombie meatloaf (the only thing we had planned ahead), so in keeping with the undead theme, I added to our menu: severed finger breadsticks (using garlic herb pizza dough from Trader Joe's), bloody eyeballs (mozzarella ciliegine, sliced olives, pesto, marinara sauce), and grey matter mashed potatoes (using a medley of yellow and purple potatoes). The Mendozas and Yumi's friends came over at around 7pm, and Joms, Kat and I took the kids around the neighborhood to trick or treat. When their bags were full, and we were already tired from walking a few blocks and uphill on Gilette Crescent, we decided to head back home. That was when we came upon the haunted house. There were eerie lights and fog rising from it. The kids shrieked as we walked up from the sidewalk, through a maze of spider webs and skeletons, to that house's front door, where a creepy clown handed them the last of their candy loot for the evening, like a grand trick-or-treat finale. It was the coolest, most unexpected thing. I felt instantly grateful for the decisions I had (reluctantly) made earlier that day. You know, if you think about it, there really is no point to Halloween but a good time: costumes and candy and a lively scare. You don't have to participate in any of it, but there is a unique kind of generosity that Halloween inspires in people, I believe, and that makes it all worth it.

halloween buffet table pièce de résistance! trick or treaters trick or treating a haunted house! proceeding to the haunted house skeletonssevered hands sorting their candy loot zombieszombie drinking a shirley temple the ring


a quick trip to palm springs

September was difficult, mental health-wise, and so was most of October. I can't really write about it still. But in the middle of the fog, Imo and I went away to Palm Springs, without the kids. It was just an overnight trip, but it was good.

Our first stop was the Indian Canyons where we went on a short hike. We took the Andreas Trail, which was only a mile long, and the easiest of the hiking trails on the reservation, but it followed the stream that ran through the gorge and there was so much to marvel at: unusual rock formations, giant fan palms, geckos, wild cacti. It was beautiful.

indian canyons look up andreas trail stream andreas trail summit palm trees

We had lunch at King's Highway, the diner at the Ace Hotel, where we were staying. I really liked the Ace, it appealed to my hipster sensibilities: I loved the glamping vibe of our "patio room" with its own outdoor fireplace and record player, loved the vintage furniture, the cruiser bicycles, the taxidermy, the old-fashioned photobooth -- I embraced it all. Imo and I hung out by the pool for the rest of the afternoon, which wasn't as bad (not too crowded, not too loud) as many Yelp reviews I'd read had warned (maybe because it was a Sunday).

king's highway diner diner mirror reflection bed, ace hotel swim clubsmoke signal & cranky coyote after 2 cocktails our own patio imo on the bed taxidermy & vinyl records, check.vintage photobooth, check.

Dinner was at Workshop Kitchen + Bar. Interesting Brutalist interiors; packed on a Sunday night. We weren't seated right away and didn't get the outdoor seating I had asked for when I made the reservation, but Imo & I had been drinking for half the day and I am a happy drunk. I had their Le Debutant, a seasonal cocktail, which is now my new favorite. (I hunted down a bottle of Park Pineau des Charentes when we got back so I could make it at home!) The food was very good -- tiny, beautiful portions. We shared the octopus carpaccio to start, and for the entrees, Imo got the wood-grilled hanger steak (potato & taleggio puree, market veggies, black garlic, pickled black trumpet butter), and I had the black cod (honey-lavender glaze, celery root purée, kabocha squash, young fennel, mushroom conserva, sea beans, pee wee potatoes, fresno chile + garlic ferment). I am still dreaming of that food.

drinks & octopus carpaccioworkshop kitchen + bar

The next day, breakfast was at King's Highway (again). I got the avocado toast (I had to, duh). We checked out of the hotel, then headed to Moorten Botanical Garden, which had a pretty cool collection of cacti -- I thought the jumping cholla cactus was hilarious. I don't know, the idea of a jumping cactus is so funny to me, even though I know that getting pricked is not a joke. Anyway, after that, we walked around downtown Palm Springs, grabbed poke salad for lunch, then started on the 100+ mile drive back home.

outside moorten botanical garden jumping cholla cactus conservatory

Here's one of the many selfies we took during this trip (lol).




We moved the clocks back an hour over the weekend. I completely forgot about the end of DST, so imagine my relief (joy) when I checked my phone at 2am -- after a night of watching too much TV and drinking too many Le Debutantes (more on this later) -- and discovered that it was only 1am! Though I am not a fan of shorter daylight hours, I am all for the quality of light in the fall. For a few short hours each day, everything shimmers.

Today is Election Day. I have filled out my ballot, and later, at lunch, Imo and I are going together to our polling place to turn our ballots in. At the moment, I am doing laundry. There is so much hope in the air -- or at least that is what I am choosing to pay attention to today.

fridge-top pothos



I can't stop taking pictures of my plants. I am amazed when I can keep them alive and healthy... and heartbroken when they get sick and die. I have had a few die on me these past couple of months: RIP calibrachoa, begonias, lantana, dracaena marginata #1, lemon thyme. I am trying to learn how to not get affected so much when things go wrong in the garden. I have to remind myself that gardening is as much a lesson in letting go as it is in perseverance.

plants opuntia microdasys monstrose (crazy bunny ears) sampaguita vinca (still moody) boston fern flowering echeveria more plants more plants prickly pear cactus with new growth prickly pear with new baby pads organized potting table baby's tears poinsettia & norfolk island pine succulents on the potting bench rosemary germander dwarf olive tree chimineaportulaca, late afternoon