Thursday, July 9, 2015

Hope everyone had a wonderful Fourth of July!

Mine consisted of staying at home while everyone else went off to their lakehouses and slowly making my way through a list of errands while listening to this album on repeat. I also went to Lake Michigan for fireworks a night early only to find Chicago discontinued Third of July fireworks years ago because of budgetary issues. Whoops. Lucky for me, wine by the lake with an old friend is still magical on its own. I might be pretty quiet on this space for a little bit because soon (!) I'm off to Mexico and Honduras. HASTA ENTONCES.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

I did not grow up going out to eat. I grew up in a family of four kids, with a stay at home mother and a dad who turned down certain jobs so he could spend his weekends at home with us. We were a road tripping and motel-staying family, a pack-your-lunch-when-you-head-to-Great-America kind of crew. My parents thought they wouldn’t be able to swing a vacation one summer because expenses were too tight but then they decided against it, driving us all to the Rockies and managing to never surpass their $100 a day budget (that was total to feed, shelter, entertain six humans). When we were home, we always, every night, had dinner at the kitchen table.

So to me, the eating out lifestyle seems a bit excessive. I'll enjoy a meal out because food and company is enjoyable but mostly, the simpleton in me would rather be at home, cooking a meal. The places that do get me blissed-out excited aren’t necessarily the trendiest (although I admit, I love a trip to Lula). The places I frequent are the places that cook what I could never make. Pupusas with curtido, cabbage slaw and vinegar. Korean stews with kimchi. Veggie biryani and a big side of naan. There’s a place two blocks away from my house that I swear por la virgin sells the best tortas in the city, and I'm the happiest little drunkard whenever the tamale man comes by a bar.

Usually I don't venture outside of my neighborhood too much but a couple work events have taken me to the outskirts of the city lately. I went through Archer Heights and into Englewood the other week, and go up to Bronzeville every week to volunteer, with my eyes scanning the streets of Chicago that are still unknown to me. After driving up North one day, I stopped on Devon St. after work, heading to Ghareeb Nawaz, an Indian restaurant that I haven’t been to since I moved to Chicago six years ago. A man was eating his Indian food alone at my table, and after introducing himself, he asked out of the blue, “Hablas espanol?” I looked at him, blonde-haired and green-eyed, and laughed, saying, "Yes, I do speak Spanish." He was Colombian, a teacher. We talked about Honduras, A Hundred Years of Solitude, the West side of Chicago all while we ate our biryani on a metal plate. 

Chicago is very flat, concrete, and big but what it lacks in terrain, it makes up for in cultural richness. I could watch Anthony Bourdain for days - and I did once when I had mono - but I forget that sometimes out my door is the best Korean, Indian, Mexican, Vietnamese dishes I’ll have without stepping onto a plane first (which reminds me of Bourdain's Bronx episode). The beauty in the ethnically diverse make up of my city just seems like an important thing to acknowledge right now, especially since so many current events make you realize that others still have trouble seeing the privilege of it all.

Pictured above: Pupuseria El Excelente in Pilsen; Joong Boo Market in Avondale

Thursday, June 25, 2015

It's been a rainy June, a busy June. At times I find myself thankful for the rain because it means my small herb garden will live despite my neglect. I have a pile of unread New Yorkers on my dresser, a Sandra Cisneros book that's long overdue but somehow I made my way through it, reading a few minutes on the bus, during the second half of my lunch break. For my standards, my life is a bit overbooked. There's work, volunteering, dance classes, babysitting from time to time, the weekend baby showers and weddings. I don't know if I like feeling pulled in so many directions - I think of David Brooks' notion that "we do not all have to shine" a lot these days - but right now, those things that stress me out also cure my boredom. I'd like to pare down, focus more on less, but maybe that's what winters are for. 

For now I'll just be busy, doing all of the things I've always wanted and am lucky enough to do, and when time permits, I'll walk around the block at the magic hour, sit on my steps with thai leftovers, and count the fireflies from my stoop.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

My senior year of college, I got really into the idea of soapmaking. 

I never actually made soap but I did start to take a second look at my beauty products, thinking twice before I reached for that $2 bottle of Suave shampoo at the drugstore. All the blog reading I did, the experimenting with making my own products, was fun and reminiscent of my days as a kid playing arts and crafts but I've come out the other side a moderate.

Mostly I've made the switch from commercial products to eco-friendly ones because I like things that are cheap and all-purpose. Coconut oil, Borax, vinegar, baking soda, essential oils, Dr. Bronner's, the DivaCup are my go to products but I'm not a purist. I wasn't a fan of making my own deodorant because well, sometimes I don't even have time to make my own dinner. My hair is also addicted to commercial shampoos, and when it comes to make-up, I just check the Good Guide before making any purchases and the highest score wins. 

I do believe that we should think about what we put in our waterways but in terms of personal health, I throw up my hands and honestly couldn't care less. I'm not wholly convinced parabens can kill you, and if they can, I'll just put it on the list of all of the other things I do that are potentially unsafe like ride a bike in the city, live in Honduras, drive a car and really, just walk out my door into the world every day.

The truth is that I know that those other choices like flying to Honduras and driving a car are more taxing for the environment than my soap choice. I try my best to minimize as best as I can. I think about my environmental footprint probably to an unhealthy degree, and in the end, remind myself to subscribe to Anne Lamott's advice that a good night time meditation is just saying to yourself "Oh well". High ambitions are great for the morning but also, come the end of the day, it might not hurt to forgive yourself every once in a while. 

Mark Bittman recently wrote a thoughtful piece in the New York Times about whether or not our health conscious, vote-with-your-dollar food movement is making any real wins. He made valuable points, as he tends to do, reminding us of an often forgotten part of the whole struggle: "[We need to learn] how to use basic organizing skills and how to fight. We need to prioritize one or more issues, we need to unite on those issues, and we need to gather others to apply pressure on politicians at every level and directly on corporations when possible." Rather than rearranging my medicine cabinet, the real fight (regardless the cause) should be to organize. Not that rearranging one's medicine cabinet is bad. That's the fun part, whereas Bittman's suggestion is the more complex and frustrating option.

There are a lot of ways to be an advocate. "Change requires a constant drumbeat," Rex Huppke wrote in an op-ed about an entirely different subject. "It requires calls and emails to lawmakers, support for legislation that rights what you see as wrong, a continuous hand stretched out into communities in turmoil, mentoring, donating, advocating. It requires presence and a relentless will to turn things around, preferably before something tragic happens." 

I don't know how I ended up quoting an article about Chicago gang violence in this post about coconut oil but I guess to me the message is all the same. 

But back to beauty. Here are some resources that I found helpful in my quest for a bit kinder beauty routine, which I think emphasis sense and simplicity:

A french woman's beauty routine
Lykke Li's favorite products - for those who are a bit more luxurious
Sierra Club's guide to safe cleaning products - sadly the original PDF is MIA
Also, just for fun, some Instagram beauty that's been coloring my days recently

Sunday, May 17, 2015

When I'm living in Chicago, I have a tendency not to tune in to the everyday magic that surrounds me as much as I would abroad. Chicago is all very normal and commonplace but still, it's nice to remind myself of a few things that are especially beautiful right now, like walking down the boulevard in the morning on the way to the bus with the morning light shining through and the leaves emerging. And having a job to go to every day. And cooking and chopping vegetables and collecting recipes in the kitchen while I listen to podcasts or dance bachata in place and wait for the water to boil. Also, seeing the skyline while driving down the highway at night, going back home on Sundays to see family, and mainly just feeling like I am where I should be.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

It’s still a bit chilly in Chicago.

But even though my fingers were growing a little numb, I was all smiles waiting for my bus this morning sipping on iced tea, listening to Selena’s “Amor Prohibido” next to a boulevard full of sprouting magnolia trees. I have some ideas for this blog and plan to write something beyond my mental wanderings but this month was full of unexpected car repairs and hospital visits and other just general, not-so-fun life stuff. Sometimes these budding flowers are the only thing keeping me sane, especially since on top of all this, I just learned what the Trans-Pacific Partnership is (also, Derrick Rose in the playoffs makes me a nervous wreck. His poor knees.).

But I promise, as spring so often reminds me, some goodness is on the way.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

"I am from Honduras. I lived in Honduras for 14 years. There was a time when we could go out in the neighborhood and play soccer all night long. The country itself is incredibly beautiful, and the people can be beautiful in so many ways. I used to sit outside with my grandparents in the evening. We would drink coffee and share with anyone who walked by. We would talk to strangers and friends and really just have a great time. It saddens me that this happens, for so much hate and violence to run freely on the streets. I do not understand how someone can torture and kill a 13-year-old. It really brings me down. Perhaps out of denial, I still have hope for the country and believe that not everyone is evil. I have nothing but love for the people down there. They are just lost and could seriously use less hate and judgement. Not everyone is bad. I guess I just want it to go back to its good days. Not really sure where you Redditors stand... but for me, my heart, tears, soul, prayers go to my country. For peace to return. For love to go back. I mean I've never had so much fun and felt so much love than the nights we would play soccer with a soccer ball made out of socks."

- Poetry from a Redditor