A to Z Challenge #26 — Zoo

Have you ever done that thing where, whenever you travel, you pick a common experience between all your destinations and sort of judge them based on the comparisons? When I was younger and not as adventurous with food, visiting Germany, I judged the different cities by their pretzels. For some reason, now that I’m older I often default to judging places by their zoos.

So here are my top three zoos and zoo experiences.

  1. Walk in the Wild at Oakland Zoo. This is an food and beverage event with booths scattered throughout the zoo — restaurants, wineries, breweries, and other vendors like Whole Foods and a jerky company I can’t remember the name of. Krave, maybe. The price of the ticket is non-trivial, but can you really put a price on eating sushi while tipsy want watching an elephant play with a red bouncy ball? No. No you can’t.
  2. The Night Safari in Singapore. The world’s first night zoo! In my last year of college, I was lucky enough to make friends with someone who’s family was temporarily living in Singapore and visit with her over Spring Break. She had one rule: although you must visit the night zoo you must not talk about the night zoo, because that just guarantees it will rain on the night you want to go. Sure enough, it was closed for rain the night we wanted to go. Oops. But we went there on the second try and it was amazing. There’s just something so cool and behind-the-scenes about going to a zoo at night time. It feels more like an adventure. Instead of a butterfly house, they have a bat house! And they sell Singapore Slings.
  3. Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington DC. I’m pretty sure this is the right zoo. Whichever place I’m thinking of, there was a polar bear who kept getting up on a rock, diving into the pool, squeegeeing his butt against the underwater viewing window, climbing back up onto the rock and doing it all over again. It was doing this when we arrived and still going when we left. Highly entertaining. And overall, this was a very nice zoo. I enjoyed it.

What are your top three?

A to Z Challenge #25 — (Greek) Yogurt

I was introduced to the miracle of Greek yogurt parfaits through, of all things, a marketing job at a flatbread bakery.

“Greek yogurt with honey is spread on a lavash sheet, followed by an assortment of berries, banana pieces and granola and then rolled up tight and sliced into bite size pieces.” (x)

First of all, it tastes fantastic and is a pretty easy breakfast to throw together and then carry out the door. Second, sometimes my job involved making these and feeding them to people while explaining that it tastes amazing and you can make lots of similarly delicious things with the bread.

I have since branched out to the Greek Yogurt and honey parfaits at Starbucks, and making my own at home. (As far as I’m concerned, the best brand of Greek yogurt is Fage, hands down, no contest.)

When I don’t have fresh fruit, I substitute jam — not quite as fresh and tasty, but still good. I should start going to the local Farmers Market!

What are your favorite parfait ingredients?

A to Z Challenge #24 — Xylophone

My high school had an award-winning marching band. We would learn a new show each year — and although I stubbornly stayed on third part even into my senior year (I was not an award-winning clarinetist) my marching was solid. Although actually, because I played third part my playing was usually pretty solid too.

The best year was my first. We played The Rise & Fall of Rome, composed by a man who writes these things with marching bands in mind and they all kinda start to sound the same if you listen long enough. But, at least to me and the rest of the newbies, it was brand new and epic. I can still hum bits of it. I can still remember that bit in the second movement when the clarinet section’s arc to merged with the mellophone section’s arc, and we had to be very precise in order to avoid being whacked in the head by a brass horn.


Just about every weekend in the fall we would pile into several busses and road trip it to whatever show we were competing in that night. As one of the larger sized bands, it was almost always a nighttime performance, which leant a sort of crispness and sense of anticipation to the whole thing. Traditionally, our last show of the season was in Napa, and the thing about the Napa competition was that it was often rainy. Rain meant marching without feather plumes on our hats, and that the woodwinds had to practice with our instruments under our clear plastic rain ponchos much as possible so the water wouldn’t get into the pads. (I don’t know how the flutes and piccolos made due with that, to be honest. I’m also not sure, in a heavy enough downpour, how the sousaphone section didn’t drown.) At Napa my freshman year, it rained all day — all the way there, all through warm ups and rehearsals, and all through dinner and the pre-show pep talk. We had our ponchos on in preparation. And then, miraculously, when we lined up in the on-deck area during the tail end of band performance before ours, the rain stopped. The chaperones rushed through our ranks and files, collecting ponchos and handing the plumes back out.

Naturally, it started raining again as soon as we took the field.

But what followed was absolutely amazing. Continue reading “A to Z Challenge #24 — Xylophone”

A to Z Challenge #22 — View

A couple weeks ago, I stepped off my second flight and into the Indianapolis airport. I’d never been to Indianapolis before. I don’t think I’d ever even been to Indiana before. But I already had my shuttle ticket to get to the hotel, and the shuttle stop was easy to find. It was also my first business trip, and my first experience with the certain knowledge that even if the hotel room wasn’t already paid for, I would be reimbursed in full. In return, I just wouldn’t leave the hotel at all that weekend in favor of attending seminars for the conference I was there for.

Continue reading “A to Z Challenge #22 — View”

A to Z Challenge #21 — Underwater

As any full-time glasses wearer knows, seeing underwater is only a thing if you can keep prescription swim goggles from fogging up.

This is not my strong suit, so I have a long history of being that dork in the swimming pool still wearing her glasses.

day 7, 048
Seahorse farm in Hawaii, 2010

… There was more to this post, and some people have commented on it, but for some reason the internet has decided to eat it. I can’t remember exactly what I wrote before, but the upshot is that I’ve been driving along the Great Highway in San Francisco a lot lately and it has crept into my WIP novel.

I’m a nervous driver. On long, stressful drives through the city I’ve gotten in the habit of visualizing it underwater. Tall clumps of kelp forrest instead of the tall trees between the road and the ocean along some sections of the coast, like in that several-story viewing window at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Slow, syrupy currents instead of brisk winds. And maybe part of all this is that I’ve always wished I could see clearly underwater, but between either chlorine or salt and my poor vision that’s difficult to achieve.

So in my novel, where the sea level has risen quite a bit, the characters are going to visit a submerged San Francisco.

A to Z Challenge #20 — Totaled

Last year, only a couple days into 2015, I was in a car crash on the freeway that resulted in our car getting totaled. The engine literally went crunch. Another car tried to make an exit that they were never going to make, but shot across four lanes anyway… My partner was driving and saw it coming in time to slow down a lot but momentum is momentum.

Luckily, no one was hurt and a witness — a very keen witness with an emergency roadside kit in trunk — pulled over to help. Usually rear-ending someone is a sure sign that you’re at fault but that was absolutely not what happened.

My memories of the experience are in stop motion. I remember three things before we were out of the car: I saw the collision coming in time to think “We’re going to hit them”, my glasses were gone and something (the airbag) had just hit me in the face, and I was trying to get my door open while my partner insisted we get out asap. Then we were out on the somewhat triangular island between our shoulder of the freeway, the exit, and an overpass.

Continue reading “A to Z Challenge #20 — Totaled”

Sunday Gratitudes #15

“Once you’ve embraced gratitude, give it some time before you expect changes. With most small gratitude practices, benefits emerge at around the three-week mark, Emmons says — ‘long enough for a behavior to become a habit.’ Though few studies have looked long-term, there is evidence that the effects can last for months, even years. ‘Changes can be permanent,’ he says, ‘as the brain rewires.’” (x)


I’m grateful for…

💆 – Feeling more comfortable in social situations. I’m still an introvert, I still don’t often initiate conversations with strangers, but since starting to take an anti-anxiety med I’ve found I’m less startled and anxious when people randomly start talking to me. I had a brief conversation with some random guy in the Las Vegas airport because he saw my tote bag from the magazine – he used to be an editor for another California magazine before social media was a thing. I didn’t feel uncomfortable or shaky after this conversation, which is nice.

💆 – The infinite color palette of the Pacific ocean. I aspire to someday live in a house with an ocean view. Not a view of the beach, not the people who to come to see it, just the ocean. And maybe a road winding somewhere along in the view, to remind me of where I have been — where I am right now, in this moment.

💆 – The evergreens that grow near the beach. They’re so spindly and wispy, but they hang on. Some of them are tall and thin, some of them are shorter and more shrub-like, but with a rakish tilt. My favorite are the tall ones with windswept tufts of green at their tops.

💆 – Receiving comments on my posts. A lot of the time I feel like what I’m writing about is silly or self-indulgent or wouldn’t interest anyone but myself. I especially love receiving comments on my Sunday gratitudes posts, because they’re something I started doing purely for my own self-improvement, but I’m glad when other people can take inspiration from them or chime in to say, I am doing this too. It makes me feel less like a perpetual weirdo. Continue reading “Sunday Gratitudes #15”

A to Z Challenge #19 — Sushi

Late post , but oh well. Sushi!


I meant to take a picture BEFORE we ate, but forgot.

As a good Californian, my first introduction to sushi was a California roll. I know all the fancy rolls aren’t really traditional but they’re damn good with a cup of green tea, and since meeting my partner I’ve grown quite fond of the spicy rolls. It’s been great fun trying all the different sushi places around our apartment and deciding which ones are our favorites.

My favorite rolls are the California rolls with something spicy on top.

A to Z Challenge #18 — Random

I believe in a random, “it is what it is” universe. It is value neutral. It just is. Things like luck and fate exist, but they’re never for or against you — they just are what they are, acting on whatever you are.

There’s a song by Motion City Soundtrack that caught my ear the one time I ventured out to Warped Tour at the Shoreline in Mountain View, sometime between 2006 and 2009. I’m no longer sure if I actually heard this song performed or if I didn’t listen to it until later, on the CD I bought there. The line is,

“They say that what doesn’t kill you makes you who you are.”

And I thought, yes. Because there are a lot of things that don’t kill you, but don’t make you stronger, either.

Continue reading “A to Z Challenge #18 — Random”