Friday, July 25, 2008

the month in squirrel

i've kept you in the dark--uninformed. first it was because i was too busy. then, though the rampant busy-ness continued to plague me (i know, i'm a broken record), i kept you in the dark because i was too heartbroken to break the news.

and now i must update you even though i am indeed standing on the subway platform, really late for school because of a work emergency, scrawling in a notebook about a squirrel, when really i should be taking notes for the paper that's due tomorrow. the paper topic--not squirrel related.

instead, i give you the month in squirrel. because i can't keep rushing through my days ignoring the blog passages looping in my frantic head. some people have internal communication with god--i have my blog.

so it all started with a babysitting job. the boss left town while my sister amy visited. i pretended to martyr my squirrel watching services to be nice. but really i would have begged to have mr. squirrel for the weekend. amy was thrilled too, once we got passed the whole, "i swear he won't poop on you (wink, wink)...much".

ah, we had a glorious time. mr. squirrel delighted in all the new crevices he found to nestle into, like the ceramic pitcher, while we just delighted in watching him.

i discovered that he thinks watermelon is as heavenly as i do, lapping up every last drop of pink juice with his little squirrel tongue. i stared while he swung from the hanging laundry like a sideshow acrobat, and cooed like the possessor of a loudly ticking biological clock at the curled up positions he found to sleep in. prussia, on the other hand, didn't think a rodent in her territory looked so cute, thus practiced emitting frightening guttural sounds from the depths of her primal cathood.

while mr. squirrel enjoys frisky playtime with the boss's girlfriend's cat, he got the message loud and clear that prussia was not a friend. and so, the doors remained closed between them. and that was that. prussia did participate in a bit of moping as she generally remained on the side of the door where i wasn't. i was busy with the cute rodent.

amy followed mr. squirrel with a camera and what fun it was without the constraints of working guilt. but in the end, like the auntie to the core that i am, it was with a mixture of sadness and relief that i returned him to the boss. see, the thing about mr. squirrel is that he just loves to chew on wood. paper, furniture--antique or ikea--he didn't discriminate, books, anything that could have potentially come from a tree and is generally important to you. so imagine baby proofing a house not of sharp objects, but of wood. then imagine your baby could scale walls to reach the tippy top of the cabinets. so basically, babysitting mr. squirrel is a ton of fun mixed with a very vigilant eye.

once mr. squirrel made it home, the boss felt a little bit sad that our bond had deepened so that mr. squirrel didn't always choose his shoulder to jump to first. but not sad enough to regret the free babysitting.
everything was peaches and cream--or nuts and rodent pellets--until one morning on my way to work, the boss called to say, in a voice i'd not heard before, grave and tired concern weighing down the boston brouge, "mr. squirrel is gone. i've been all over the neighborhood. someone put him out and i think an animal must have got him. you know, with his bad paw (the reason he's our baby), he can't climb so well. and he's not afraid of people. he could have climbed up a kid's leg and some parent freaked out..."

a sad week passed. a quiet week at work without giggles and ridiculous high pitched squirrel talk. we tried to repeat the logic mantras, "it jsut wasn't meant to be" or "he's better off in the wild."

but i couldn't shake the sadness. looking through emre's digital camera, i came across a little video i'd taken at my house of him playing in the kitchen. and i started to cry. i cried for a squirrel.

and i wasn't alone in my sentiment. the boss was dragging too, spending his nights prowling around nearby parks, whistling and trailing almonds behind.

so we decided to make a flyer. who cares if people think we're crazy? he wore a collar, for crissakes! how often do you see a very clean squirrel walking around in a collar?!

hopes were not high, but just as i printed the MISSING SQUIRREL posters, the fireman from the station across the street rang the bell and said, a couple hours ago, a squirrel walked into the open front door wearing a collar, looked him in the eye, squatted, and peed, all the while retaining unflinching eye contact. must be the same squirrel they see that crazy submarine guy walking on a leash.

without even filling the boss in, i squealed and ran across the street. they'd been feeding him, but he'd hid somewhere for his late morning nap. when he woke up and came out looking for more food, we were summoned over again. and there was darling mr. squirrel, covered in what could only be described as filth or soot, looking like a street rat, chunks of his tail missing, acting extra skittish.

i don't think the ouside world was too easy on the posh little mister. he was pretty happy to see us, until we bathed the black grime from his normally shiny coat and dipped him in flea medicine.

welcome home, mr. squirrel. goddamn, i never thought i'd love a rodent so.

oh, and mr. squirrel has some new bling--a gold pendant with his name and phone number. nice

99% of these photos courtesy of amy ahlstrom

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

taffy and tides--what more could a girl want?

okay, so i'll admit that i have this bad habit of promising people vacation information, then sharing it a little too late. i've mentioned that my new friend sarah is hitting my old stomping grounds in sonoma county. just didn't send her these links in time. so just in case, and for all of the rest of you, i offer more sonoma county tour guiding.

another beautiful west county indulgence drive: BODEGA BAY

View Larger Map

starting from guerneville. again, drive west out of town, again turning left onto bohemian highway at the rio theater. this time, you will drive right through occidental, continuing on bohemian highway till you get to the tiny town (if you could even call it a town) of freestone. here you will find two major places of interest. the first is an absolute REQUIREMENT and it's called wildflour bread. stop. sample. buy a loaf. buy two loaves. hell, buy as many loaves as you can fit in your car. trust me, you will want to take them to bed with you. i have met cyclists, as in the ones who pedal, that made the day long journey from san francisco, just for this bread. on more than one occasion.

just across the street you'll find a very unique kind of spa called osmosis. i can't say that i've ever partaken in the sawdust (?) bath they offer, um, but everyone raves about it. we'll call that one optional.

continuing south on bohemian highway, you'll soon run out of road and turn RIGHT on bodega highway, also known as highway 12. more cow pastures leading you out to the ocean. slow down in the little town of bodega and recognize the church and schoolyard on the left hand side from alfred hitchcock's 'the birds'. there's also a beautiful old creepy cemetary up on the hill as you're leaving town, eucalyptus leaves swaying in the wind.

at the end of bodega highway, turn RIGHT on highway one. drive just over three miles and turn LEFT on south harbor (up a steep hill), and an immediate left on heron, then left on mockingbird road. follow the signs for pinnacle gulch and park. this is a lovely 1/2 mini-hike down to the beach. sometimes amazing tide pools.

after your hike, backtrack to highway 1 and turn left. you're now entering the town of bodega bay. stop at the pink and white striped salt water taffy shack on the left side of the road. the best flavors (buy a bag of each and try not to consume all in one sitting or illness shall visit ye!): apricot, cran-raspberry, molasses, etc.

continuing on highway 1 you'll find the more popular 'candy and kites'. the taffy is not as good as the pink place, but it shares a parking lot with a great fish and chips place that is a great salty, greasy balance to the taffy you've already wolfed down in 1/4 mile of the road.

if you're in an exta-exploratory mood, follow signs to bodega head, a lovely detour to the 'head' of the bay and a beautiful place to get the wind caught in your hair. left on eastshore road, right on bayflat, follow the signs. along this road you'll also find a place that sells great clam chowder. my grandma used to love it so much that i, the vegetarian, braved the smell of it all the way back to santa rosa to bring it to her.

back on highway 1 heading north, more coastal drive till you loop back to guerneville over the russian river and a right turn. stop anywhere you like, but remember to respect the awesome power of the ocean. it's a lot more dangerous than the east coast. necessary caution out of the way, you'll find the coast easily accesible from roadside parking lots, usually a very short climb down to the beaches full of craggy rocks to explore and admire. enjoy.

taffy and beach photos by amy ahlstrom

Monday, July 21, 2008

moonrise over seabright

one of those breath-catches-in-your-throat moments, sitting in the still warm sand and turning my head toward the ocean waves to see this. even my lovely new 105mm couldn't do it justice click on the photo to enlarge. this one is really worth it.
it reminded me of the harvest moons that would come at the beginning of october. my dad made me feel like they were a special dedication to me for my libra birthday and would always call me out to the horse pasture to see them. so i did the same, rousing all sun-exhausted beach revelers to stand up and see. this moon in july, no fires anywhere, was quite beautifully shocking.

Friday, July 18, 2008

the great west county brunch drive

because sarah is from oklahoma like my mom and because sarah provides me with free therapy every month at her cringe series and because sarah so adorably referred to her upcoming vacation destination as 'guerney-ville', but mostly because i just can't bear not to be the personal tour guide of all my friends visiting sonoma county, and because i have so much free time on my hands, oh! and also because strangers from all over the world actually hit on these maps and i love the thought of some random person deriving happiness from an awesome tour they found on somebody's blog.....i give you THE GREAT WEST COUNTY BRUNCH DRIVE. this drive includes many of my favorite places on earth. i don't visit home without going here. enjoy.

do look at the lovely pictures google provides along the way. and do expand the directions by hitting the + sign to get from point to point.

View Larger Map
and of course i can't just let google leave it at that. i have to put my two cents in.

so, point A. starting in guerneville. don't know where you're staying, sarah, but i've started the tour in downtown guerneville. easy enough. as i mentioned to you at freddy's, the night you put your fist in my cocktail, guerneville is a beautiful place that is a bit economically depressed due to the major flooding of the russian river that happens here every few years. i'm pretty certain that if you poke around in the back of any of these stores, you'll find a built in stock of sand bags and plywood boards. people take the risk living here that they will lose their possessions to the flood waters. so they pay less, and every few years, they hold their breath and pray. coming from new york you won't be fazed by the strong gay community here. guerneville has always been a beautiful getaway for the gay scene in san francisco. we love guerneville. you may, however, be taken aback by the slow paced, seriously crunchy granola vibe. enjoy it. hopefully there is still no starbucks here, and certainly nothing you'd find in any mall across the country.

the map drives you north out of town to the even smaller town on monte rio. on the left side you'll find the amazing and odd looking rio theater made out of a little airplane hanger (?). they show one movie at a time. see what's playing and make a mental note. return. i saw sleepy hollow here in the winter of 1999. they gave me a blanket for my chilly fold up chair and a MUG of hot apple cider. beautiful. it was a creepy, foggy ride home at midnight in my convertible. but johnny depp was there to protect me.

the movie theater is your landmark to TURN LEFT on bohemian highway. about 5 miles down the road, you pass through camp meeker, where i shared a 4 bedroom house overlooking the creek for $650 a month with three friends. and then i moved to new york. and my wallet said ouch. camp meeker is another of those faded glory kind of places, a popular resort town at the turn of the 20th century abandoned after a huge fire, its un-weatherized vacation homes reclaimed by a poor community lucky to live in a beautiful place. if you're taking your time, pull over in 'downtown' camp meeker. you'll find the volunteer fire station and a post office in a trailer. and that's it. if you look across the creek from downtown (in the summer they dam this creek to make a swimming hole for the kids). my house was directly across--and oh, i still hear that volunteer fire siren ringing in my ears. the dark brown shingles with the two white balconies. i miss it tremendously. if you're in the mood for aimless wandering, these streets are great to drive around. but slowly. they are one lane (or half a lane in many cases) and sometimes the turns are so sharp and steep they require putting the car in reverse 4 times to get around a corner.

continuing on bohemian highway you're just a mile outside of your brunch destination, the enchanted town on occidental. turn onto main street and park anywhere. the town is only two blocks. and yes, main street is a parking lot. you're eating at howard's cafe, which i have a mental block about and always call 'howard station'. it used to be a train station for (you guessed it) howard. order the primo potatoes. everything else will be fantastic too. but really, order the primo potatoes. go up to the counter and check out the vegan baked goods. they are seriously tasty (despite the unpopular adjective that accompanies them). don't be surprised if you run into tom waits. this is his territory.

after brunch, stretch your legs and digest a bit by peeking around the cute little shops. 'hand goods' is a great place for gifts and locally made stuff.

in the very center of town starts coleman valley road. depending on which way you come out of main street it's a left or right. but you can't go wrong because it's start point is in occidental. so if you're on it, you're good. this is a beautiful drive. it deserves paragraphs of praise but it would still be inadequate. even more gorgeous in the winter when the hills are emerald green.

you will notice that california looks very brown and dry in the summer, espcially compared to the lush summer east coast. it's because our dry season is summer. it doesn't rain here at all in the summer. but it doesn't snow in the winter. rains a lot. so winter is green, summer is "golden". it took me forever to get used to this switch. also, i used to hate the "brown" hills in summer. now that i come back from living in the city i have a different appreciation for them and call them "golden" like everyone else.

at some point you have to make a right turn to stay on, so pay attention when you cross other roads (which isn't very often) or you'll end up on joy road (which wouldn't be such a bad thing either). eventually you will reach a high point and should be able to see the pacific sparkling in the distance.
at the top you will see a lot of big rocks and cows. my dad used to tell me when we drove on this road that we were driving to the moon. and i believed him.

coleman valley road will take you all the way down to the ocean, which is hugged by highway 1.
turn right on highway 1. you are half way through your loop. stop at any beach you like, but definitely don't miss goat rock state beach
. the ocean here is cold and very dangerous!! we don't swim, and we don't turn our backs on the waves. but there are beautiful rocky coves to explore and tide pools teeming with sea life, and sea lions etc. continue north until you hit goat rock state park. you can't miss it. turn left and drive down to the rock. legend says that the land separated from this rock so quickly that there were still goats grazing the top of it. this is where i spent my late nights in high school. walk on the beach and check out the beautiful arches. WARNING: sometimes even if it's 90 degrees inland, the coast will be 20 or 30 degrees cooler. and nights ALWAYS cool down. bring sweaters and light jackets. the weather is so different than new york!

from goat rock, back on highway 1, continue north till you cross the bridge over the russian river. turn right on the road that points toward guerneville. the little village of duncan mills is a nice place to stop for great coffee at gold coast coffee. the population here is less than 100 and those one hundred people like to invite everyone over once a year to dress up in costumes and re-enact historic battles. clearly, this is not the california from baywatch.

stay tuned for more tedious tours!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

your weekly assignment

okay, i'm not going to ask you to rate this one, because it's the only version i did. the homework assignment was to design the cover of a pharmaceutical company's annual report. when given the assignment, i knew immediately that i wanted to use this image--one of my favorite shots of my very talented sister amy's.

oh, and interestingly, though the onions won here last week, at class in critique, the pears won hands down, even though everyone thought they were potatoes. go figure. must be something about how the images translated to print. that also happened last year when i asked the internet for feedback on my tennis ball assignment. i think only 1 out of 30 people chose the image that won hands down in class. so i should quiz you guys and use the opposite in class?

Saturday, July 12, 2008

hoşgeldin yasemin!

this was the scene after dinner last night at midnight--a little kitty joe salad and a little turkish dessert.
four years ago, when i first landed in istanbul, my plane was delayed. by the time i made it to the balik household, it was past one in the morning. i expected to find a dark house, but instead, i walked into dinner just put on the table, everyone waiting to eat. and oh my god, what a dinner! i sat there overwhelmed by the kindness of emre's family and shyly uttered my first heavily practiced words in turkish to emre's mother--eline salik--which means health to your hands--a compliment to the cook.
in this country i am known for my hospitality, yet i could never dream of coming close to the level of spoiling that is showered upon me by my turkish friends. though we begged yasemin to bring nothing for us this time (my entire wardrobe already comes courtesy of the balik family visits) she nonetheless showed up with an enormous suitcase of vacuum packed cheese, olives, turkish delight, porcelain plates, turkish coffee, jewelry, and of course, a trove of uncannily perfectly fitting clothing.
yasemin has this incredible talent (in addition to her acting skills). if i walked into a store and brought these 15 items into the dressing room, maybe 3 of them would fit. yet with yasemin, who hasn't seen me in 4 years, every piece fits like it was tailored to my body. crazy. and the same goes for what she brought for haley. below, she bejewels haley with wedding jewelry, an emerald set.
it was quite a beautiful reunion, the first time yasemin had seen her little brother emir (left) in four years! they're not a bad looking set of siblings....
yasemin casually announced over breakfast that she will be getting her masters degree on full scholarship by a private university that approached her due to her fame on turkish television. i told her she can relax here in new york where she is unknown. it'll be just like when angelina jolie goes to france. totally incognito.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

i'm totally fired. from my imaginary job as a graphic designer, i mean.

i'm sorry to be such a bad blogger. i have fun stuff planned for this summer, like this past weekend at miguel and alison's beach house on the jersey shore where i got to remember why i went to uc santa cruz where fraternities and sororities are ILLEGAL. seriously. they feel that strongly about it. and so, apparently, do i. i mean, don't get me wrong, it was uplifting to see that drunk guy 'pretend' to push his also inebriated girlfriend into the path of a car. oops, thank goodness for power brakes! but really, lest i sound ungrateful, the weekend was amazing. the ocean, divine. i was stressed that i forgot the power cord to my laptop, so i couldn't do my photoshop homework, but perhaps that enhanced the loveliness of the getaway.

i know there was a point to all this before i started ranting like a cranky 65 year old judge at his summer home...ah, and that was, i'm all booked up for weekends as though this is summer or something, yet my schedule does not really accommodate. work and school and homework and planning a wedding i will officiate. too much! long enough excuse for the patchy posting?

okay, so i had to throw my homework together today. let me just say that I AM NOT A DESIGNER. in that respect i am totally and completely alone in my class. so don't laugh at me. too much.
okay, you can laugh.

below, two option for a 're-design the new york times cook book' assignment. and a fun poll.

p.s. you can click on the cookbooks to make them bigger.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

what happens when i take the afternoon "off"

had to leave work early yesterday to make it to my summer evening classes. clearly, i can't be survived without. was greeted this morning by the putrid smell of burned pan.