Thursday, June 30, 2011

Peru Part I: Being Lazy in Urubamba, or, Toilet Telephones

After I did the recaps from the Galapagos trip (you can find them all here), I was South America trip recap burned out. It's hard to really talk about a trip without sounding trite and cliche, but this trip was incredible. I loved the Galapagos, but Peru, and specifically Machu Picchu, really charmed me. From the history to the natural beauty it was simply stunning. After a quick night in the hotel in Lima, we were up bright and early to hop a short one hour flight to Cusco. The incredible thing about flying into Cusco is that it is at such a high elevation, with towering mountains on top of that. You can actually see snow covered mountain tops popping up out of the clouds while you're at cruising altitude.

What's up, mountain?

 As usual, we were given a big ol' box of goodies to eat and a drink, even on a 57 minute flight. Get it together, every American airline. South America has nicer planes, friendlier staff, and food all over the place. Come on now.

Upon landing in Cusco, we hung out in the lounge while our guide, Joaquin, told us what we'd be doing over the next few days. In the interest of staving off altitude sickness (especially since we just came from sea level) I had the second of what would be four cups of coca tea that day. They made it with fresh leaves, compared to the tea bag I had at the hotel in Lima that morning.
Totally delicious, and scientifically proven to work. Also, illegal in America.
We left the airport and headed out on a two hour drive to our hotel for the night. The drive was beautiful, and after a week of sun and water activity, plus a day of airplane travel, it was nice to just sit back and look at some beautiful scenery.

 Halfway to our hotel, we broke up the drive by stopping at an open air market. Bobby and I are not kitschy souvenir buyers, so we just wandered around checking things out, looking for a vendor selling food.
 We found a woman selling huge cobs of white corn with fresh white cheese. Bingo!
 This was crazy delicious. I'm not even the biggest fan of corn and I was singing its praises for a few days.

We hopped back in the car and continued on our merry way to our hotel for the night, the Tambo del Inka
in the little town of Urubamba. It was gorgeous, but strangely empty. We got there around 3 p.m., and the entire evening was devoted to chilling out and catching our breath a bit. I was thankful for the scheduled down time. We had an early dinner/late lunch that was incredible.
Yay food!

This mushroom risotto haunts my dreams, taunting me with the knowledge that I can never eat it again
I had my 3rd and 4th cups of coca tea at dinner- this is when I started to realize that it will make you speedy. After dinner we all kind of went our separate ways. Bobby's parents and his sister and brother-in-law went off for naps, and we headed out to explore the place. My pupils were dilated like saucers and my heart was racing from all the coca tea, so a nap was out of the question for me, anyway. But yay no altitude sickness!
Lobby action

More lobby (this was taken before dinner while we were filling out passport paperwork and such)

I loved these columns. And the fireplace was incredible
 We knew we wanted to check out the pool and hot tub, but we also knew that after doing so we would crash into bed for the night. We made ourselves walk around the grounds first, and I'm glad we did. The hotel is right on the Urubamba river, and it was the rainy season, so everything was green and happy.

Bobby's parents in the window :)

We headed back inside as the sun started to set so we could visit the pool. The following pictures are a bit blurry because the flash washed everything out, so I turned it off. We spent about an hour in the pool/spa area, jumping from pool to pool like kids. I'm glad we didn't let our exhaustion get the better of us or else we would have missed out. Bonus- we wore our stinky, funky Galapagos swimsuits in the chlorinated, very hot water. Ta-da! Totally clean.
 Half of this pool was inside, the other half was outside. You could swim under that window to the right and be out on the deck. It was a bit too cool for that, though, so we headed downstairs to check out the hot tubs.
 Between all the different pools, the wooden platform, and the random cold bath I felt like I was back in one of my favorite places on earth- the Japanese onsen. Not quite as awesome, but almost.
 The hot tubs, aka "our washing machines". What can I say, we have no shame.
 We decided that the water had rejuvenated us enough for some night time socializing, so we headed back to the room to change clothes. The dining room, still empty, was all ready for dinner time.
 This was one of the bars, and to the right there was a wall of windows overlooking a porch, that was hanging out over the river. This clinched our decision to change and come back. Plus, we were a bit hungry and who doesn't want another opportunity to eat on vacation?
 All in all it was a nice afternoon and evening of down time, and we found ourselves back in our room exhausted by the very early hour of 10 p.m. Although I'm still wondering- why was there a phone in the bathroom?? Mysteries.

A Different Perspective

As seen at a big box store, while buying an emergency windshield wiper
My "Clutter Catcher" is called Goodwill, or, alternatively, any thrift store in town.

I'll stick with my method.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

As Seen From My Bike: Follow the Creek to Pizza

Bobby and I like to bike to whatever restaurant laziness in cooking has led us to patronize for dinner. That way we feel a bit  less lazy, and we feel like we've earned our dinner.

 On this particular night, the destination was my favorite pizza place, since we had recently gone to his. Bobby and I are a divided household- it's sad, we're unequally yoked in this regard. I hope we can work through it.

With all the rain we've had, the "creek" has turned into a sizable river. These kiddos were cooling off after a long day of playing frisbee golf (we live right next to an enormous park with an 18 hole course that backs up to our apartment).
 We live at the intersection of 3 bike trails. This is like living at the interchange of 3 highways.  Perfect.
No, I'm never going to get tired of making fun of pretentious hipsters and their scrunched faces/ mustache obsession. LEARN TO SMILE AND GET A REAL MUSTACHE, HIPSTERS.
My favorite calzone- ricotta cheese, cream cheese, jalapenos, pineapples. Minus the sausage it usually comes with, add some garlic olive oil on top, enjoy the bliss.
I approve of this investment.
 After we were full of grease, cheese, and soda, we headed back home. Here you can see our tax dollars at work. Hello you beautifully maintained biking trail.
Sunset as seen in the sky

Sunset as seen in the goose pond.

Said geese, pictured  here

We made a bank run on the way back. The leftovers are strapped to Bobby's bike trunk with a bungee cord, and he's in the drive through lane. This scene makes me smile.

All of these pictures were taken with my late LG phone. R.I.P, old phone. Sorry technology has marched on without you.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Hygienic Hippies: Washing My Face With Oil- The Verdict

This review is not going to be as straightforward as my review of the no 'poo method. However, I did love oil cleansing. It's just that, with my skin woes, things are always going to be a bit complicated...

The first three weeks of  oil cleansing were incredible. I mean, off the charts, nothing has cleared my skin up that quickly without leaving it cracked and dry, outstanding results.

Castor oil is the active participant that really cleans your face, so if you're going to do oil cleansing you must have it. I picked this castor oil up at Whole Foods for a pretty decent price. You want cold pressed and cold processed because this creates a more pure end product. It won't be in the oil section, it will be in the medicine/health and beauty section since technically one is not supposed to ingest it (although pregnant women past their due date do so often as a way to try and jump start labor, and I have seen it used as a "cleanse").
I picked up grapeseed oil because it is a thinner/lighter oil than olive oil. A lot of the oil cleansing method info on the 'net recommends sunflower oil, but grapeseed worked for me from the start so I'm not messing around with a good thing.
The ratios of castor oil to your oil of choice are totally dependent upon your individual skin type. The castor oil will actually dry your skin out if you use too much of it. I found that a 50/50 ratio worked perfectly. I do think that if you have oily skin or are acne prone you probably shouldn't go less than 50% castor oil, and maybe even a bit more. I found that 1/3 grapeseed to 2/3 castor oil was too much- after two nights, I started getting flaky.

I followed the instructions outlined here. I massaged the oil mixture on to my dry face (makeup and all if you wear it, yes, really!) with clean hands. I thought it would feel gross to rub oil on my face, but it was actually pretty soothing. I massaged it in for a few minutes, and then I steamed my face. I did this by running a wash cloth under very hot water, wringing it out a bit, and then letting it sit on my face until it cooled (usually about 30 seconds). Once the cloth had cooled, I gently wiped off my entire face, rinsed the wash cloth, and repeated the process. Personally I do this 4 times. I find this is enough to get the oil off of the surface of my face, while still leaving enough to keep me moisturized. My first reaction on the first night of using the oil cleansing method: "Afterward my face didn’t feel dry, or oily, or tight, or anything. It just felt like normal, healthy skin. I did have a noticeable glow, and my pores were already much smaller. My skin was also much more even toned, and a few bumps I already had were noticeably decreased in size"

I continued on in this manner for a few more days. My skin kept getting better and better. It was glowing and soft, my pores were almost invisible, and my blackheads were disappearing. I also noticed a reduction in fine lines around my eyes- rubbing oil into your skin definitely helps in that regard. Bobby confirmed that the oil cleansing was the best thing I had ever done for my skin overall, because it worked immediately and didn't give me crappy side effects. He said that my skin looked 80% better from the 2nd day on. About 4 days in, I was googling around to get more information on castor oil, and I read that it is a natural anti-inflammatory, which explains why it helps with acne. I also found that the properties of castor  oil allow it to penetrate the skin more deeply than other oils, which is why it can clean out your pores. And then, on a forum for oil cleansing, I stumbled upon a comment by a woman who said that oil cleansing was the only thing that cleared up her adult onset, cystic acne (oh, hello, that's me to a T). She mentioned that she rubbed in circles for at least 5 minutes, and usually 10, until she started to feel grit, like sand. I immediately remembered that I, too, had been feeling a grittiness after a few minutes- I assumed it was just my face oil reacting to the oil mixture, or dead skin being rubbed off. Turns out, it was neither of those things. She went on to say that if you look at your hands, you can see the blackheads/whiteheads that have been pulled  out of your pores all over your palms. What the what? That is kind of gross but also a good way to tell if it works. That night, I massaged a bit longer, and worked the oil in deeper in places where I felt that gritty feeling. Sure enough, I looked at my palms (sorry if this is grossing any of you out) and there were flecks of black and white all over them- easily 20 or 30 flecks- aka 20 or 30 potential future blemishes that would have pissed me off. That was huge proof to me (on top of the way my skin was looking) that the oil cleansing method is legitimate. How many times had I scrubbed my skin with medicated exfoliating wash trying to get blackheads to go away? I can't even count. Yet I could gently rub oil into my face and those same stubborn jerks would just slide right out? Dammit, oil cleansing method, where have you been the last 13 years?!

Anyway, I was going right along having a grand old time with the oil cleansing method for right at 3 weeks. And then, out of nowhere, I started to break out, all along my jaw, the week before my period. Hormonal acne strikes again! However, even when broken out, my skin looked healthier than when I was on Retin-A, with clear skin that was cracked and dry, flaking constantly. So despite the breakout I kept at the oil cleansing, because the previous 3 weeks had proven to me that it wasn't the cause of it- my wonky body was. Thanks, ovaries.

The oil cleansing method takes a bit more time than just washing quickly with a face wash, but in my mind those extra 10 minutes a night are well worth it. I bike pretty much every day, at least 10 miles, and work out 6 out of 7 days a week. I had no problem getting sweat and grime and sunscreen and the occasional bit of powder/eye shadow off of my face with the oil. In the morning I would just gently wipe my face with a clean warm wash cloth, and then splash cold water on it and go. The hormonal breakout at the end of week 3 confirmed to me that I still need to get a handle on that side of things. For the last few days I've been experimenting with putting Retin-A on my face for two nights, taking a break for one night, and then repeating, and that has been working out really well. For anyone on Accutane or Retin-A or other drying medications for acne, the oil cleansing method will probably be a godsend. And I think that if you don't have acne prone skin the oil cleansing method will probably make your skin look even healthier than it already is. If you do have great skin, take a moment to realize just how incredibly lucky you are. Oh for the reckless joy of going to bed without washing one's face... or using a random drugstore mask and being able to relax without thinking, over and over again on a loop "isthisgoingtobreakmeoutisthisgoingtobreakmeoutOMGwhatifthisbreaksmeout". For 3 weeks out of 4, at least, the oil cleansing method lets me experience what it's like to be one of those people with good genes and good skin.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Cat Box

Sometimes you're just tired of thinking. Maru videos on the internet to the rescue.

In other news, I'm re-upholstering my second love seat today. Once that project is done, new apartment pics can go up. Per the sensational news, this will give a crazy stalker the chance to memorize the layout of my home and then come and kill me.

Get ready for the good stuff, crazy stalker. Home tour is on the agenda soon!

But for now... more Maru.

No, wait! For now I need to upholster that couch. Off to be responsible.

Friday, June 24, 2011

I Have Heard What the Talkers Were Talking

I'm all talked out, kittens. I just truly don't even care to try and engage in meaningful debate anymore. Way back when I first stumbled upon blogs, I found it fun to find interesting things to read and discuss on the internet, with intelligent and interesting people. No, I'm not talking about crappy forums where people just fight. I'm talking legitimate spaces for sharing thoughts, working through thorny issues, having one's mind changed, changing another person's mind, etc. I relished the back and forth of respectful debate, the logical mind exercise of thinking through something and trying to deconstruct it. The first blog that I found, and was active in, was Feminist Mormon Housewives. I managed to find it in the fall of 2004, right when it was recently founded. I was dating a Mormon at the time, and wondering what kind of space there was in his faith for liberals, feminists, free thinkers. Taking part in that blog over the course of the year we dated in Dallas, and the year we dated long distance while I lived in Japan, really helped me. A lot. I found other blogs, and started my own once Myspace finally sucked me in during the early part of 2006, when I was halfway through that year in Japan. I had always loved a good (honest, civil) debate, and I found a lot of it online. Once I joined FB, there were lots of linked articles and posts to hash over with my friends (liberal and not liberal) and on the whole, most were civil and engaging. I found such interactions to be a nice exercise in logic, and it was fun to talk with people who had varying view points.

Often times in the past I have touched on controversial subjects on my own blog, or have presented strongly held and sometimes contentious viewpoints. Those blog posts were often extensively researched, and I felt like I wanted/needed to share them. I am no wallflower when it comes to politics, and I am open about being an activist. I volunteered for two years as a Democratic Precinct Chair, and I served as a delegate to the National Convention in Austin. Throughout undergraduate and graduate school I have taken part in more student actions, and signed more petitions, than I can count. I am a proud and regular voter, I've registered others to vote, and I have marched in rallies with homemade signs. I have cried over laws passed, laws that left me just so broken hearted and defeated that I just wanted to give up. But I didn't, and I haven't, and I won't.

But what I do want to give up- at least for right now- is all the talking. All the writing. Because let's face it. 99% of it is pure wasted time. It might be fun for me to craft a zinger of a response, or a witty counterpoint, or a scathing post, meticulously researched, on how unfair X, Y, or Z law is. But in the end, I'm usually preaching to the choir. And it's usually, honestly, a waste of my time. I think it served a purpose for a long time, I do think it made me more open minded, more temperate, more logical, and it allowed me to really develop a firm understanding of why I believe the things I do. And I learned a lot, and changed a lot. Right now, however, the thought of engaging in debate just leaves me exhausted. I put a moratorium on myself that I recently rescinded and it just left me annoyed, and further reinforced that sometimes, it matters not how logically one presents an argument, it will inevitably not change anyone's mind. I'm not interested in writing blog posts that just bring out the cheering section, and I don't really believe that such posts would cause someone to change their position, because I have very little faith in the powers of my own writing, and I have enough sense to know that this blog doesn't have a very large sphere of influence. I'm growing tired of choosing the words, of sharing the facts, of offering the caveats, of addressing dissent before it is raised. All of those bob and weaves used to be fun, and now they just feel so laborious.

I'm still politically active. I'm still signing those petitions, and volunteering, and fighting for what I believe in.  Tonight, I rejoiced when I received my text from HRC that same sex marriage had passed in New York. But as much as I'm giddy about the news, I truly have no desire to write a long and thoughtful and passionate blog post about it, and then field potential comments, good or bad. I feel the need to say that I do, still, get inspired and motivated by reading such material, or skimming over an interesting political debate. I'm just not at all interested, at the moment, in creating it myself. Maybe it will come back. Maybe it won't. I'm just tired of expending the energy, and I was never tired before. It used to be fun. I would think of a turn of phrase, or a good point to make, and I would enjoy it. Now that I'm tired of it, and bored with it, it's probably a good move to stop spending my time on it. I've gotten to where I don't even care to talk about it amongst friends. I'm just. talked. out. I think I'm also pissed off that we're STILL having to talk about some of these things in the first place. For God's sake, I want to stop debating "whether or not we should let gay people get married". Or "is health care a human right?". Or "should evolution be taught in schools?" Or "does feminism harm men?". Blurrrrrrgh. I just want to be in a place where certain things are just accepted. Debating such things just reminds me that so many of my morals and values must still be defended on a constant basis. I told Bobby I was annoyed with having to start from a baseline of fighting for legitimacy in the first place. I don't mind doing it at the ballot, or in an e-mail or letter to my senator, or on a phone call to a registered voter to tell them to get out and VOTE. I am, however, minding a lot having to talktalktalk about it. Especially when so much of it is a song and dance, a little formality, with neither party really having any intention of changing.

I'm feeling dangerously close to the apathy line, and I can't let myself burn out now. I believe far too strongly in way too many things to let myself get taken over with ambivalence. If writing it all out, if presenting and defending arguments, if engaging in debate, if all  of that is wearing me out it's not worth the mental exercise I used to enjoy. The action is what is important, anyway. All the rest is just chatter.

Post title from Walt Whitman, my favorite poet.

Last Week in Dallas: Clutches and "Bridesmaids" and Cinco de Mayo, Among Other Things

After a few days catching my breath and catching up with Mom and Granny in Brownwood, it was time to head back to Dallas for the last 5 days of my trip. I headed out early Wednesday. Halfway through the trip, my clutch started getting cranky. My car wouldn't accelerate that well. I hit traffic right as I got into Dallas, and during a stop and go moment under a bridge, I clicked on my lights. 20 minutes later, I was at Dad's house. I forgot about the lights being on. I was worried about the clutch. But mostly, I was hot. So I took a shower, called up Kate and Anna, and made dinner plans. Of course, as soon as I got in my car, it was dead thanks to the lights being left on. Bobby was flying in on Friday night, and we were driving back to Colorado together on Monday. I was pretty certain the clutch wouldn't make the trip, and after repeated tries the battery just wouldn't take a jump. A tow truck and a clutch replacement were in my future. I called Bobby, and he said  he'd do some research to find a mechanic. In the meantime, Kate and Anna came and picked me up and we had dinner as planned. I have to say, it was absolutely perfect timing. I had done all of my Texas running around, I had met up with all of my friends during the first  leg in Dallas, and all that remained for  the trip was a birthday party and a wedding, both of which I could easily get rides for.

We celebrated my clutch going out by eating at Twisted Root Burger Company. They have the best black bean burger I have ever had, plus made from scratch sauces and lots of different fried things on the side- green beans! pickles! And the standard french fries/onion rings. But the best part is their made in house root beer. They always have plain, and then some crazy flavor. I've tried their Irish Cream, Strawberry, and this time I had their Chocolate Peanut Butter. Just trust me, it sounds nasty, but it's so good.

Fun fact- my camera broke that night as well! That's why the pictures are all blurry

You probably shouldn't take me to restaurants...
 During my week jaunting between Austin/San Antonio/Austin/Brownwood, Kate had moved in with Brooke and Chris. I crashed at their house, and Kate let me drive her to work the next morning so that I could meet up with my friend Jess for lunch. Lunch with Jess was great. I wish we had more time to hang out, but she is a busy girl, always traveling, and she is spending the summer working at a breakneck pace so that she can pay for and take 21 hours of college classes to finish up her neuroscience degree. I told her she has to come to Colorado for some snow sports, so hopefully a winter meet up is in our future.

After lunch I headed back to my dead car to give it one more try of a jump before we succumbed to a tow truck.

 The thing is, this car has more than 160,000 miles on it, and clutches (and batteries) are bound to go out. Plus, this was the original clutch, so I'm not holding it against her. I love this car down to its bones, bad clutches and worn out batteries and all.
 Dad tried his best, but it just wasn't happening. I called Bobby in Colorado, and he called a tow truck to come get our lil' 'rolla. I took advantage of the "tow truck should be there in two hours" news by taking a nap on my Dad's back porch. It was beautiful Texas weather, there was a nice breeze, and the loveseat is super comfortable.

After the car was safely on its way I headed back North to Plano to pick up Kate from work. She works as a manager at a nursery, is a master certified horticulturist, and loves her job to bits. I always like seeing her in her natural environment.
Tomato plant aisle, AKA the snack machines for employees
 I had made plans to go out to the Church that night with my friend Daniel, but I just wasn't feeling up for going out. Instead we watched the Biggest Loser, I took some medicine, and crashed out. The next morning he dropped me off at the train station so I could ride the DART home to my Dad's house. On a whim, I decided to get off at the Mockingbird Station exit. I've spent a lot of time there, and one of my first few dates with Bobby was at the Angelika. Since I had time to kill and nowhere to be, I got off for nostalgia's sake. I walked around a bit, got some coffee, and then headed back to the train station. As I walked up the steps, I saw a man in a white tux, a TV camera crew, and about 15 to 20 girls in bridesmaid dresses. I recognized the man- we had gone out on a few dates back in the day, his name was Robert- and he called out "Hey, it's Cortney!" I waved and smiled, and then continued on my way, assuming he was busy and working. As I started  to get on the escalator, he ran around the corner, and told me to come join him for an pre-screening of the movie "Bridesmaids". He was the former host of Good Morning Texas, and he was doing a bit of publicity for it. It was pretty random chance that we would run into each other! I took him up on the offer, and joined him in the Angelika.
 They had to film some segments for the show before the movie, so I watched them give fake toasts...
  and hand out goodie bags. After the camera work was done, we headed into the movie. If you haven't seen it yet, I would highly suggest it. Afterwards I said my goodbyes to Robert, grabbed some lunch, hopped back on the train, and then walked from the station to Dad's house. J-Ben and I had dinner plans, so she came and picked me up and we headed out to Pappasito's. It wasn't until we got there that we realized it was Cinco de Mayo. Perfect.
 J-Ben, reflecting on the day.
Me, worshiping guacamole. Also, my bangs are totally telling the story of how I walked several miles from the train station to my Dad's house in some serious Texas heat. Don't worry, I had the option of showering before we went to dinner. I just picked napping on the back porch again over a shower. Priorities are important.

Bobby's plane landed that night, but he went straight out to his parents house. I spent all day Saturday celebrating Mel's son's first birthday party, and then I spent the evening with Bobby, his parents, and our friend Lindsay. Sunday was Mother's Day, but more importantly, it was Karin and Hermes wedding day! It was beautiful, the food was great, and we had a lot of fun. Lindsay photographed it, and when the pictures are done I'll be posting lots of them here.

Monday morning Bobby and I picked up our car, and then we set off for Colorado. We broke the trip up into two days so that, per usual, we could stop and visit with Great Granny in Kansas- she is perfectly halfway between Texas and Colorado. We came home to a house full of boxes, but I was instantly in love with the new apartment and was so glad to be home that the boxes didn't even matter. After being gone a year I'm so grateful I got to spend such a long time in Texas, and it couldn't have been better timing, with the two birthdays and a wedding. Even with the clutch going out, it was an excellent trip.