Christmas music already?

I am back on the internet which feels refreshing. Who am I kidding though, I never actually left the internet. Is that possible nowadays? I did however run into a series of events that kept me from blogging. First I traveled to Alabama to see my sister get married in possibly the loveliest wedding I’ve been to. The house I grew up in has a rather large amount of forest in the back, and with a few lanterns and candles, this was turned into an enchanting wedding set to the music of “Hallelujah” and “Moon River.” My boyfriend had all his fears and stereotypes of the deep dark South erased and now would love to move over there. Which I felt a big “I TOLD YOU SO” pride swelling deep inside because I’m always sticking up for my beloved Southland. Seriously, we do not all marry our siblings. I only have sisters anyway so I never got the chance. ;) Can you believe I talked to someone that thought slavery is still going on there? And I thought I had bad history classes in school. Well, my ranting is best saved for another day. The biggest joy to me was seeing my beloved nephew. I just can’t get over this kid. I got to play Ana to his Elsa as his obsession with Frozen (like all other kids) has him in awe of the ice queen. I think if I could hear that little three year old tell me “Ana, I love you. We best friends” everyday, I would be in heaven. Seriously, I think I need a kid now. Just skip the pregnancy and somebody give me their kid.

Right after that, it was festival after festival for my film industry job. Which means nonstop travel, meetings, and hobnobbing (or in my case clinging to the food tables) at parties. Yeah, those festivals just really take every moment of your time. But I got to see some pretty amazing films which is always a plus to this job. However, I’m back on the internet to actually do something somewhat productive, not just read soul sucking celebrity gossip articles and stalk TV show fan sites that I’m too embarrassed to admit I watch.

Now that I’ve written this, I get to go do a mass reading of some of my favorite blogs.

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Hiking in Sequoia National Park

Now that I’ve sorted through my photos I want to share some of the beautiful sights I was able to see when I visited Sequoia National Park last week.

First of all, I was amazed and enthralled with some of the stunning landscapes I was able to see. I always want to go out of the country and travel and often times I forget how absolutely beautiful the United States is. Here are some of the landscapes I was able to hike and kept annoying others by constantly stopping to snap photographs:

photo (32)And another one. I think I could live in this little cabin and be completely happy.

photo (33)Heading down one of the trails that led to a bunch of old mines, I was delighted to discover these silent observers who clearly thought they were being stealthy. I still get excited over the sight of seeing deer in the wild.

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Cooling off on the Hockett Meadow Trail.

But probably my most exciting shot was of this guy right here:

photo (37)And last but not least, my trip wouldn’t be complete without a typical shot of me standing in a Sequoia tree showing how tiny I am.

photo (38)I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend and your Monday back hasn’t been too painful!

A Trip To Sequoia: Silver City Mountain Resort

As you all know, I’ve been talking about doing something each day to bring about some happiness. Well, this past weekend it was happiness overload because I took a trip to Sequoia National Park. I’ve probably said this before, but I am a huge outdoors/travel nut. I love it. If I’m indoors for too long I start to get restless and sad. But when I’m outdoors doing some traveling and experiencing new sights, I’m in heaven. Sequoia was one of the areas I wanted to visit in California so I’m glad I was able to finally scratch that off my bucket list. I took pictures, a ton of pictures, and I’m psyched to share them (so if you hate that kind of stuff, avoid my next few posts. But I hope you don’t!) So first, let me tell you about this absolutely adorable place we decided to stay at: Silver City Mountain Resort. Claiming to be the most remote area in the park (which I can believe), this is the kind of place where you hear absolute silence. (If hearing silence is a thing.) After living in a big city for so long, this was refreshing.

On Friday, J and I packed up the car and left work early to take the 4 hour long drive from LA to the Sierra Nevada. I was warned that the hour long road up the mountains and into Sequoia was twisty and dangerous and, yeah, they weren’t kidding around. Once I started the trek up the mountain (lucky for me it was my turn to drive when this came about) it was about 8:30 pm so not only were we driving this snaky road, with little between us and the straight drop off below, but we had to do it at night. It was pretty scary, yet thrilling because I’m the kind of odd one that thrives on those situations. I didn’t get to see much scenery because of our late arrival but I did get to have a nature nerd freak out when I saw cute little mice scampering a long the roads at night, and a tarantula creeping across. Once we arrived to Silver City, we were left keys and a map to our cabin because everyone had gone to bed and given up on us. You know LA people can’t ever be on time. (Damn you, traffic!!) We stayed in the Honeymoon cabin, despite the fact we’re not on a honeymoon, and it was an old little cabin with propane lamps you lit yourself. No electricity.

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Honeymoon Cabin

Private campfire for each cabin.

Private campfire for each cabin.

Cabin kitchen

Cabin kitchen

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Bedroom. (I was really praying those tarantulas didn’t pay my bed a visit.)

It was so old fashioned and bare, which I loved. When I say bare, that means it also didn’t include bathrooms. Those were just a short walk from the cabins and much to my delight, they were very lovely inside. I was honestly expecting some kind of outhouse. The store on site included a delicious restaurant and homemade pies they claimed were the best you ever had. And I had all of them.

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Restaurant/store and in the bottom picture I tried to capture the hail that came down late Saturday.

 

I wasn't kidding about eating all the pie.

I wasn’t kidding about eating all the pie.

This was quite the little haven and a camper’s paradise. Of course, I say camping even though this technically isn’t camping, but still. There was no bathroom or electricity in my cabin so I think I should get some credit for roughing it! Staying in these cabins reminded me of some of my childhood vacations we would take to the mountains and I was elated to relive this. Now once I sort through all my hiking pictures I can share with you some of the most beautiful areas of land I’ve ever seen.

Project Happiness

As I’ve said before (or you may have picked up on in some of my posts) I suffer from depression and like many others know, it can really take a toll on your life. I’m always looking for new ways to get around it, and recently I’ve been focusing on doing something everyday to help take hold of some happiness. Or at least find a way to bring a spark of happiness to every day. And when I say this, I don’t mean I find time to lie on the couch with a huge bowl of ice cream (although ice cream does tend to make me happy), but I mean doing something, even if it’s very small, that will just make me feel all around better about myself and life in general. Whether you suffer from depression or not, trying to squeeze in that moment can benefit us all. We all lead hectic lives that can weigh us down, and if you’re anything like me, you may tend to find your days going by where you’re focused more on other people and making sure they’re happy. Which is great, don’t get me wrong, but it sure leaves your poor neglected self alone out in the cold. And we certainly don’t need that! There’s a lot of sadness in the world as it is.

I enjoy running, but the weather has been so boiling hot lately (we’re looking at highs of 105 next week!!) that I’ve been forced to workout indoors. Last night the weather had cooled down slightly, so I decided to take advantage of that and grab a moment to myself for a quick run around the neighborhood. After adding some new songs on my iPod (who doesn’t get amped up by new music?) I was out the door to enjoy the fresh air.

So even something as simple as stopping to check out the books at a neighbor’s mini library:

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Just the way they decorated this box makes me happy. Notice the owl on top.

Or taking time to stop by the park right before sundown:

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Even just taking the time to do something cost free and good for yourself can make a huge difference. If we all took the time at some point in our day to do something for ourselves that will make us happy, then what an improvement to our health, mind, and attitude it would make.

And who wouldn’t be thrilled to be greeted by this eagerly awaiting face when you get back?:

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(Unless, like 80% of the rest of the population, you’re terrified of rats then being greeted by one probably won’t help bring a ray of sunshine to your day.)

If there’s something special you do during the day for yourself to bring in that spirit of happiness, I would love for you to share it with me!

Finding your story

One of the most exciting and thrilling parts of writing is when you have the pieces of a good story in your head, you have the characters, but you just don’t have the complete story scene by scene. Then suddenly out of nowhere…it hits you. When I write, I always have a general sense of what my story is about, and especially what the characters are like, but I never seem to be able to make an outline. The beginning and ending comes to me with ease. Certain scenes of importance come easily, but the entire picture? Nope.

I detest outlines, and yet they’re pretty essential. I wrote stories back to back as a child. Then as an adult I began screenwriting (and definitely outlined my film then). Now I’m novel writing, but I just can’t make myself outline. I’ve been writing as it comes to me but have had to face the fear of, what if my story gets lost in the middle? What if it doesn’t just come together like I’m imagining it will? The other day, with film scores playing through my iPod, I took the time to just focus on the whole picture. I decided to do the thing I needed so desperately to do, but always shy away from. I began to loosely outline this story I had begun, this story that has been a big part of my daydreaming, and it all just came spilling out. I couldn’t stop myself from writing down the entire story. Scene by scene came pouring as if it had sat inside, trapped, just waiting for me to finally acknowledge it. And I’ve felt so happy and pleased with myself whenever I think about it. I feel like I’ve accomplished something, even if it’s a simple outline, it’s the story I’m going to write.

Have any other writers had success with just freely writing out your story without a structure? Or do you also find outlining a necessity?

Lazy Sundays

I’ve found myself loving Sundays more than ever because it seems like it’s the only day of the week where you can just relax and not do anything. No work (if you’re a Monday-Friday kind of person), no social events, just doing what you want to do, even if that means doing nothing. Well, not all my Sundays are so laid back, but recently I like to use them as a time to work on a writing project, watch my favorite TV shows that seem to always come on that night, and something else that just involves staying home. That something else today included one of my favorite things to do: cook food. And more importantly…eat it!

Below I grilled some salmon steaks and made this new recipe I found while reading through my cooking apps (am I the only one who can spend so much time just searching food online?) The pasta dish tasted amazing so I was thrilled to have found it.

photo (21)And then I made this butterscotch bread pudding- which doesn’t look too great, I know, but it’s bread pudding so I’m not sure how pretty it’s supposed to be. But it tasted delicious and that’s what counts, right?

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Anyway, if anyone is looking for two super simple recipes that taste amazing, look no furthur:

Pasta Kale Toss

1 (8 oz) package uncooked bow tie pasta (you can use other kinds if you prefer)

1 medium yellow bell pepper, chopped

1 medium red bell pepper, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 pinch ground cayenne pepper

1 pinch dried basil

8 oz feta cheese, crumbled

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 cups roughly chopped kale

salt and pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of water to boil, add pasta and cook for 8-10 minutes then drain. Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in peppers, kale, and garlic. Season with cayenne pepper, basil, salt and pepper. Cook until vegetables are tender. In a large bowl, toss cooked pasta with skillet mixture and then add feta cheese. And just like that you’re done!

*You may want to add more kale as it tends to shrink a bit. Also, I’m not a big fan of kale’s raw taste, but cooked it tasted great. As you may be able to tell I was lacking a yellow bell pepper, so I only made mine with red. I also added more cayenne pepper and basil. I don’t think I’ve ever followed the “just a pinch” of this and that when it comes to recipes.

Butterscotch Bread Pudding

1 loaf of day-old bread torn into small pieces

1/2 cup of butter, melted

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

4 cups milk

2 cups brown sugar

3 eggs, beaten

1 cup butterscotch chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Oil a 9×13 inch baking dish. In a large bowl combine the bread, milk, sugar, butter, eggs, vanilla, and butterscotch chips. Stir and let the moisture soak in. It should look similar to oatmeal. Pour into prepared pan. Bake in preheated over for 1 hour (I found mine needed an extra 20 minutes). It should jiggle slightly when you shake the pan back and forth. Serve it warm or cold.

*I don’t use butter, (I’ve always hated the taste and smell) so I substitute it in baking and cooking with olive oil in which case it would be 1/4 cup and 2 tablespoons olive oil. I also added cinnamon because, why not?