Thursday, March 31, 2011
Before moving to Arizona for college I lived in roughly 13 houses in 7 different countries!
To most people, this sounds totally crazy, but not to me. I can't imagine my life any other way. It's literally impossible for me to imagine growing up in one house my whole life. That just wasn't how I was raised. Somehow I got used to moving. It was fairly normal for us to move to a different house that had better electricity, better plumbing, less cockroaches, and really less problems in general. In the last country I lived in, Myanmar, we moved a whopping 4 times in my 6 years there.
I always knew in the back of my mind that my parents teaching contracts in these countries wouldn't last forever and I was prepared to make the move. It was simply part of this life. Of course, saying goodbye to my friends was always difficult and dramatic but we promised to keep in touch. It is because of this that I'm good at staying connected to my friends now. Facebook and email definitely make that a whole lot easier. I still do enjoy snail mail though. My parents would always make promises of a new and exciting country, a great new school to attend and a brand new batch of neat friends to make. Of course, this would all came true. : )
So, honestly, I didn't have ONE house that built me but many houses throughout my childhood that helped shape the person I am today. I remember bits and pieces from just about all the 13 houses. Oh wow, I just had an epiphany mid-post, I think the reason that I like moving the furniture around in my bedroom so much is because of this nomadic lifestyle that I had growing up. Does that make sense? When I move the furniture around, it becomes a whole new room. How interesting that I just now figured this out....
These houses really did build me.
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
I had a meeting this morning with a tax accountant at H & R Block and as I was signing my name on one of the last forms, I noticed the watch the accountant was wearing. It was a Mickey Mouse watch very similar to the one that my dad had. In fact, it might have been the exact same watch! He loved this watch and talked about it for months before finally getting it from my sister for Christmas. He even cut out a picture of it from a magazine and put it on his bulletin board in his office. I have never seen anyone wearing it so it certainly surprised me but after that initial shock wore off, all I was left with was a smile.
This alone might have been just a sweet random act but just three hours later something else happened...
As I was leaving the office after my umpteenth job interview this afternoon, the woman interviewing me called out, "I just have to tell you, you smell so wonderful. I don't mean for this to sound strange but you smell like my mother and it's such a comforting, romantic and beautiful scent." I thanked her and then told her that I actually did indeed have my mother's perfume on. She was delighted. Honestly, it took me awhile before I could use my mom's perfume but a few months ago, I was looking at this half-full bottle collecting dust and just started using it one day. Now, I feel instantly comforted whenever I spritz some of her perfume on me so this really touched me immensely to hear her say that.
I'm not sure what I feel about signs and all of that stuff but this definitely felt like more than just a happy coincidence. What do you think? Do you believe in signs?
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
My family and I were living in Venezuela, Maracaibo at the time. We weren't too happy about it either because the four of us were living in a tiny apartment. Needless to say, things were extremely cramped in there. For some reason I remember it being pink. My sister will have to correct me on that.
Like most people, I don't have a large recollection of this time in my life. All I have our three distinct memories that come to mind whenever I think of kindergarten in Venezuela:
1. As far as school goes, my kindergarten teacher was a very very OLD lady. I swear she must have been in her 70's at the time. I remember when the bell would ring for recess and we would all quickly run out to the playground, 10 minutes later, our teacher would slowly hobble over.
2. My best friend in kindergarten was a bright orange/red haired girl named Jenny. We were inseparable from the very first time we met. I loved her hair so much and perhaps, this is where my need to have red hair stemmed from.
3. At some point during this short period of time we lived in the pink apartment in Venezuela, I burned my right thumb on an iron. I don't recall a whole lot about the moment but I think I was just curious. How hot was the iron and would it be too hot to touch? What better way to determine this then by touching it?! I cried a lot and thought that I would have burn mark on my thumb forever but it faded shortly after.
I can't find a picture on my computer from kindergarten but this one is from first grade and not a whole lot changed so this will have to do!
For this week's cuisine, I decided to make Creamy Cauliflower Mac. I found the recipe in my latest Runners Magazine and thought it sounded good and pretty healthy too. It's another genius concoction from renown food writer, Mark Bittman. "Instead of using high-fat butter and cream, Bittman makes his healthier mac and cheese with pureed cauliflower, chicken stock, and a moderate amount of cheese."
Here's the recipe:
2 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
2 bay leaves
1 large cauliflower, cored and cut into pieces
8 ounces whole-wheat elbow macaroni
1/2 cup grated cheese (such as sharp cheddar, Gruyere, or Emmental, or a combination)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup whole-grain bread crumbs
salt and pepper
Heat oven to 400F. Boil a pot of salted water. In a saucepan, warm stock and bay leaves on medium-low heat for five minutes; turn off heat. Cook cauliflower in boiling water for 25 minutes. Put cauliflower in food processor or blender. Cook pasta in boiling water for five minutes. Drain and rinse to cool; put pasta in a greased, nine-inch square baking dish. Process cauliflower with stock (discard bay leaves), cheese, oil, mustard, nutmeg, salt, and pepper, working in batches. Pour sauce over pasta, toss, and spread evenly in dish. Top with Parmesan and bread crumbs. Bake 20 minutes. Serves four.
Calories Per Serving: 420 Carbs: 57G Protein: 20G Fat: 15G
Here it is!
While it turned out pretty good, I still will always prefer the traditional mac and cheese. This just wasn't exactly creamy enough for me... Wonder what I could have added to get that consistency? I also think that I might have had too much noodles and not enough of the cauliflower cheese sauce.
Monday, March 28, 2011
It was perfect timing since I had the Full Marathon and desperately needed new running tunes. Sadly, it was pouring rain the entire time and my precious iPod died halfway through the Marathon. Not to worry though, I went to the Apple store last week and was able to get a brand spankin' new $200 worth iPod for only $60 so it's all good and I'm already back in business! : )Here are a few new songs that I've added to my music library:
1. Ke$ha - Blow
Sure, this is a slightly ridiculous song but it's a great workout/running one and it's super catchy. I honestly can't help but find her songs enjoyable and entertaining. The chorus of this song is especially fun to sing along to.
2. Mumford & Sons - Little Lion Man
I've had them on my New Music Monday before but I found another song on this album that I think I like even more. This song rocks. For some reason, there's something I like about a song making no apologies about swearing in a song. I respect that. In "Little Lion Man", the words are "But it was not your fault but mine. And it was your heart on the line. I really fucked it up this time. Didn't I, my dear? Didn't I, my..." There's just no replacing that word, it's so powerful.
3. Bruno Mars - Marry You
This is just a sweet song with a lovely melody that I can't seem to get out of my head. Mr. Bruno Mars knows exactly what the ingredients are to make a winning radio tune. I am sure that this song will be on the radio soon.
4. Katie Costello - Dig a Hole
This number lightly calls out springtime to me and I think that's why I like it so much. I'm definitely going to check out more of her music now after having listened to this one.
5. Lykke Li - I Follow Rivers
This singer's voice never fails to hypnotize me throughout every song of her's that I hear. Like one music critic has said of her, "[this Swedish pop singer] captivates like a voodoo spell to get you in the mood".
6. Tune-Yards - Bizness
African rhythms and hip-shaking horns fill this song. This certainly gives it that unique sound not commonly heard very much in today's mainstream music.
Friday, March 25, 2011
So, if you've been reading my blog and/or know me personally at all, then you'll know that I went to the University of Arizona. I have always been very proud to call myself a Wildcat. That's the school's mascot for those of you that don't know.
Well, last night we beat #1 ranked Duke in the Sweet Sixteen seed meaning that we are now in the Elite 8!!!!! That's a huge deal and I couldn't be more excited!! Our next game is on Saturday against UConn and this will be another huge game for us. If we win that game, then we are in the FINAL FOUR!!!!! Aaaaahhh!!! That would be amazing!
Sorry to bore those of you that read my blog that aren't into sports at all but this was just too great not to share! : )
I discovered that the kind hearted campaign began way back in July because a fellow blogger was involved in a hurtful blogging situation and she wanted to turn that negative experience into a positive one. Well, thanks to her for being brave and not letting the experience bring her down.
So here we go. I, LA, take the kind hearted blogger pledge today in front of you all. I couldn't agree with any pledge more then I do this one. : )
AS A KIND-HEARTED BLOGGER I PLEDGE TO:
- create, inspire, and admire rather than compete with fellow bloggers
- be understanding of each other-- in the blogging community, as well as in the world
- stay away from internet/blogging bullying
- speak my opinion freely, while still being mindful of other's feelings-- be tactful.
- make an effort--no matter how big or small the gesture, to spread kindness or joy to others
- acknowledge that I will make mistakes, (I am only human) but remember to learn from them
- know that at times I will post about the negative stuff in life, and maybe even some complaining (I am only human) but I will always follow up with something happy/positive too.
- believe that this world is a good place, filled with good people.
Thursday, March 24, 2011
Here are a few fun pictures that I snapped with my phone:
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
"If you want to run, run a mile. If you want to experience another life... run a marathon." -Emil Zatopek
My head has been full of mixed feelings about the Marathon so it's taken me a long time to write this particular post. I loved the experience and I hated the experience. It was amazing and it was awful. I enjoyed every second of it and I despised every second of it. There were moments of sheer bliss and moments of sheer agony. I can say for certain that I wouldn't trade those almost 6 hours back for anything in the world. The marathon pushed me more mentally and physically then I've ever been pushed before in my life.
Honestly, the first 20 miles went by fairly smoothly and the only complaint I had was the torrential downpour that we were constantly being hit with. Yes, folks, even in Los Angeles, it rains. Actually, this particular day, it didn't rain, it flooded! I've never seen rain like this here ever and long-time LA residents were shocked by it too. So, of course my clothes were soaking wet, my shoes and socks and everything else were wet. My poor hands were so frozen the entire run that they became numb and I think that they were beginning to turn blue even! At the finish line lots of people were being treated for Hypothermia.
Ok, back to the running part, so like I was saying, the first 20 miles weren't miserable and then I hit that "wall" that I've heard people talk about but haven't encountered myself. It was a serious wall alright. Everything that I've heard about the "wall" is correct and it's terrible. It's hard to explain exactly what it felt like... I felt like it took everything I had in me to take each step forward. I didn't have much more in me. I just kept saying to myself, "Only 6 more miles, only 6 more short miles." But those 6 miles were the longest miles of my life!!! I slowed way down and walked a bit more and slowed my running pace as well. One of my roommate's friends who ran the Marathon as well summed it up best, "the first 20 miles were easy; the last six, longer and more tortuous than the preceding 20!"
By mile 23, everything was hurting! I took out my phone during a rare dry moment out there and saw that my sister had called several times so I called her back. She asked me where I was and I told her that I had 3 miles to go. She then asked how I felt and I lost it. I began crying and just blubbered out, "not good". I'm not sure if it was hearing her voice and knowing that she was at the finish line waiting for me or that I wasn't going to be a quitter at mile 23, but I pushed through all the pain I was experiencing and crossed that finish line in just under 6 hours! I am proud to report that I was #14,038 out of 20,000 runners.
Here I am before the Marathon started:
After the Marathon:
Post-Marathon champagne my roommate got me! Yay!
As of today, I'm feeling much better and will probably be able to stop taking so much Aspirin soon. It still hurts to get up if I've been sitting for a long time but definitely not as much as Monday and yesterday. Now, the only thing really annoying me is that my iPod is still out of commission. Sadly, it got too wet on the run and will probably never be resuscitated. : (
So, have I inspired any of you to run a Marathon now?! Not sure if I'll run another one but there definitely is a part of me that wants to run one in better weather. We'll see.....
Saturday, March 19, 2011
Tomorrow I will be running the LA Marathon. That's 26.2 miles.
This is a huge deal for me. I'm borderline freaking out/super excited and thrilled. I've been training hard for over 6 months and before that I was training for a Half-Marathon. So I honestly don't think that I could have prepared my body more for these 26.2 miles. 26.2 miles!!!!! Now, I just need to work on my brain. I know that around mile 15, I'll probably have to dig deep down in myself and find those reserves that we all have. The reserves that will move my legs and I'll just switch to auto-pilot and stop feeling whatever pain has set in. The endorphins will surely have kicked in and my mind will take over the driver seat. Or perhaps, I'll be feeling great and won't have any problems at all. That's really what I'm hoping for.
Here is a really cool YouTube video that shows a 3D map of the LA Marathon course that I'll be running. This definitely gets me pumped up! We go through just about all the neighborhoods here in LA. I'll have to take mental notes throughout the run to blog about later! Ha! We'll see if I can manage that.....
Here's a great quote that I just found that definitely inspires me: "The race, the marathon, is a renewal of belief in one's self and the ultimate expression of confidence that you have created the foundation that enables you to go the distance."Woo hoo!! Stay tuned tomorrow or possibly later on in the week for all the Marathon details. In the meantime, wish me luck!!!!
Thursday, March 17, 2011
My mom and I were extremely close. Sometimes I have trouble breathing because I miss her so much. She and my father were taken too soon from this life and I certainly was not finished learning from either of them. Well, are we ever really finished learning from our parents?
Back on my mom's birthday in November, I wrote the following piece and I think it fits perfectly with this week's writing assignment. There may not be 10 exact things that my mother taught me but honestly, I wouldn't be able to pick just 10 things she taught me.
Today would have been my mom's 62nd birthday. My mom, Kathi, was my favorite person in the whole world. If you have been reading my blog for awhile, then I'm sure you know that I talk about her a lot. For those new followers, let me just tell you that my mom was my best friend. It's incredibly difficult going through life without her and I honestly don't know how I've gotten this far without my mom.
I know a lot of daughters don't feel this way about their moms so I know that my relationship with my mom was rare. I wish that I had really sat her down and told her how much that meant to me. For some reason, we didn't have too many serious conversations. I still would like to think that she knew how I felt. I could tell her anything. Seriously, anything. She never judged and never criticized. She just got it. I always felt comfortable divulging intimate details about my personal life to her, well, of course not e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g.
I've been keeping a journal since my parents died. Lately, I haven't really been writing in it like I should. Well, the week they died, my sister and I made two lists of things that made us think of our mom and dad.
Here is what was on our mom's list: bubble baths, The Temptations, anything easy listening, Twizzlers, scrapbooking, Singapore Slips, beach novels that she would never remember reading but really did, trips to a Tucson, AZ salon(Gadabout), Monopoly (she collected different editions from all over the world), daily trivia, stencil letters, awful singing but she still had fun, Christmas ornaments (we had one from every country we had ever been to on our Christmas tree), she wanted to be a translator for the UN, colorful and sometimes cheap jewelry, diet cherry coke, her amazing chocolate chip cookies, party mix, the best lasagna ever, getting sucked into any and every TV show that I made her watch with me, hugs, painful goodbyes always made her cry, Clementine(a stuffed monkey from Build a Bear), wandering in grocery stores and Target forever, magazines, comfort food, very smart, held hands during takeoff, loved children, reading aloud, movies, teaching stores, colorful pens, surprise presents, happy tears, big red apples, nose kisses, she dyed her hair since I can remember, always willing to do anything to help someone out and she has the power to make you feel like everything was going to be ok. Of course, there's so much more, but that's my list so far.
❤ Above everything else, I learned how to love from my mom. ❤
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
My roommate Gina and I attended yet another star studded amazing Fashion Show in downtown LA. Uh, NOT!!! We never ever do things like this! In fact, it was my very first fashion show ever and let me tell you, I felt so Sex and the City! For the ladies that watch Sex and the City, they'll know exactly what this means.
It was for an LA line of vintage inspired cocktail dresses called Stop Staring. It was "founded on the idea of timeless and classic dresses, and rockabilly clothing, Stop Staring! is inspired by silver screen glamour icons such as Audrey Hepburn, Marlene Dietrich, Rita Hayworth and Joan Crawford." The dresses are beautiful and look great on absolutely every body type.
Before the fashion show started, there was a very cool red carpet that we posed on for a bit. There was even a wax Lady Gaga there! Of course we had to take a picture with her!
Guess who was there?! Bridget from "Girls Next Door"!!
Here are a few pictures from the show itself. These were some of my favorite outfits.
There was even an awesome 40's style Andrew Sisters type girl group, The Swing Dolls.
Here I am posing before the fashion show started. So much fun!
I'm not sure exactly why I do this but once or twice a year, I Google myself. I guess I just want to see if there is anything out there with my name on it on the internet. Come on, I'm sure you've all done it a time or two as well.
Well, I just did and thankfully I did NOT find myself..even by page # 10 of Google, I did see plenty of other interesting Leah A's out there. It's a little disturbing and slightly creepy that there are so many women out there in the world with my name. Wonder how many Leah A's there really are... So, just tonight, I saw a pretty well known photographer, a few doctors, a minister, a wrestling manager, a teacher, a real estate agent, a fiber artist and sadly even a little 3 year old baby that passed away in September. I even found a blog dedicated to this guy's love of a girl with my name! It's literally all about her and the fact that he can never be more than her friend. And yes, trust me, it's not about me! Wouldn't that be hilarious if it was though?! : )
So, when was the last time you googled yourself? Go ahead, you know you want to check it now.
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Check out the simple recipe below:
Creamy Spinach Soup
Put 1 chopped onion, 2 peeled garlic cloves, 3 cups water and salt and pepper in a pot over high heat. Boil, cover, lower the heat and simmer until the onion is tender, about 10 minutes. Add 10 ounces chopped spinach and 1/2 cup parsley leaves; cook until the spinach is tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Add 1 cup Greek-style yogurt and purée. Garnish: A spoonful of Greek-style yogurt and chopped parsley.
Swati is lovin' our soup!
Two other easy similar recipes:
Substitute 1 tablespoon minced ginger for the garlic and 4 cups chopped butternut squash for the spinach (it will take longer to soften). Skip the parsley and substitute half-and-half or cream for the yogurt. Garnish: A spoonful of cream.
Curried Cauliflower Soup
Substitute 1 tablespoon minced ginger for the garlic, 2 cups cauliflower florets for the spinach (they will take longer to soften), 1 tablespoon curry powder for the parsley and coconut milk for the yogurt. Garnish: Chopped cilantro.
For more on these recipes go to this New York Times Page.
Sunday, March 13, 2011
I found this quote recently on a blog and I instantly fell in love with it:
"Music is the hardest kind of art. It doesn't hang up on a wall and wait to be stared at and enjoyed by passersby. It's communication. It's hours and hours being put into a work of art that may only last, in reality, for a few moments...but if done well, and truly appreciated, it lasts in our hearts forever. That's art. Speaking with your heart to the hearts of others." -Unknown
Friday, March 11, 2011
While running has done some awesome things for my body, there are a few bad things it has done to me as well.
This might be total over share but my feet have been looking pretty awful lately. We are talking never-ending blisters that refuse to heal completely, rough and cracked heels, dry peeling skin pretty much all over and basically just a general overall ugly appearance. Then, sadly, last week, I lost my first toe nail. Yep, I now no longer have a second toe nail on my left foot! I never thought I would be saying that. Who loses a toe nail?! Apparently, this is totally normal to runners! Geesh! Needless to say I haven't had a pedicure in months and stopped caring about painting my toe nails awhile ago. Why bother?
My feet DON'T look quite this bad but you get the idea.
Don't get me wrong though. I take care of my feet when I go on long runs. I wear proper sneakers, and thanks to my sister, I wear fancy shmancy socks. I apply the amazing Blister Block and Vaseline, baby powder and then I even put on mole skin on the hot spots of my feet in order to prevent blisters. Even though I take all these preventative measures, after a long run, I still manage to grimace when I take my shoes and socks off. After 10 miles, everything starts to suffer a little bit.
Despite this long list of negative characteristics of my feet, I still manage to think they are amazing. I find immense beauty in the fact that I have run countless miles on these feet. In the past two years, they have gotten me through two Half-Marathons, a 60 mile long walk, many short and long training runs, including a few 20 milers and next Sunday a Full-Marathon. For that I'll always be grateful to them. Perhaps, like the roughness of a persons hands show you how much they work with them, you can tell a lot about a person just from their feet. This sounds like something Forrest Gump said, right? Well, if this is true, then you can surely see that I've been using my feet a lot lately.
I'm thankful that these ugly feet have not given up on me and haven't given me any real pain or serious discomfort. I suppose beauty is pain though, right? Maybe that's why so many things in life can be considered ugly or painful and beautiful at the same time. My feet most certainly follow along with that thought. My feet may be ugly right now but they are also incredibly beautiful too.
Thursday, March 10, 2011
It was the first year anniversary of my parents death. Looking back on the day now I can't even remember exactly what I did. It's all a blur to me. For some reason I wasn't with my sister. Thankfully, we now promise to always try to be together on this date but this October 15th, we were not.
All I remember about the day was getting a call from the office of my apartment building letting me know that there was a package waiting for me downstairs in the mail room. I was shocked. I wasn't expecting anything. I quickly went to retrieve it and rushed back up to apartment to open it.
It was a large square heavy box with no return address but my address had been handwritten and I could definitely recognize the handwriting. It was from my friend Tracy. I slowly opened it and could immediately tell that it was some kind of a scrapbook. It had a beautiful butterfly on the cover and if you know me at all, then you'll know that I love butterflies. As I began turning the pages, I realized that not only was it from Tracy but several of my other close girl friends too.
They had all contributed a page or two to this beautiful scrapbook. Each page was full of pictures of my friends and I together, collages of magazine cutouts of things they knew I liked, thoughtful poems and friendship quotes and sweet letters. So many memories of these cherished friendships filled this scrapbook.
Tears formed in my eyes as I scanned the pages and began reading the letters tucked into the clear covers around each page. I was left utterly speechless. No one had ever done something so incredibly kind for me in my life and I didn't know what to say. It had been such a hard day for me and knowing that I would have to endure many more year anniversaries of my parents deaths felt impossible. Just as I was feeling my lowest and most alone in the world, this heartfelt gift arrived and I suddenly didn't feel so alone anymore.
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
Tuesday, March 8, 2011
Yep, I am now officially in my late 20's...cue the daunting scary music! YIKES! Despite my fear of turning 27, I had a very sweet day and I'm delighted to say that I no longer enter this year with trepidation but with a sense of hope and excitement. I feel wiser, more self-aware, confident and even more mature then I've felt on previous birthdays. I've had some incredible experiences as a 26 year old and I plan on continuing in that tradition with even more gusto. Once again, this birthday I was reminded of just how lucky and fortunate I am to have such amazing people at my side.
My friend Emily sent me these beautiful flowers!!
I love that on birthdays you hear from friends you haven't talk to in months and months, but suddenly, the big birthday rolls around and they know what to do. : ) I might also add that my Facebook wall was seriously blowing up! I thought it was going to explode from all the sweet birthday messages. I am definitely not complaining about that at all. I loved every single wall posting!
So what exactly did I do for my birthday yesterday? I started it by running just over 5 miles on the treadmill at the Gym! Woo! Go me! It felt amazing after being in Vegas all last weekend and not doing any kind of physical activity at all. After leaving the gym, I headed to a somewhat deserted beach near Santa Monica. Harmed with sunscreen, my swimsuit and iPod, I was ready to relax and get some sun. Sadly, this beach excursion only lasted about an hour since the wind was just too much for me and I ended up shivering at the beach instead! Haha! By the last 20 minutes, I was curled up in my beach blanket cursing my grand plans of spending the day at the beach! Oh well! As my roommate said, "at least I got out there and tried it".
Before it got windy and cold!
Next, I headed to the glorious infamous cupcake shop in Beverly Hills, Sprinkles. I purchased one sweet delicious red velvet cupcake. If you haven't tried these $3.50 cupcakes then you are seriously missing out my friend. I know it's ridiculous to spend that much on one cupcake but they are just so good. And I've done extensive cupcake research so trust me on this if you haven't had the pleasure of trying one of these for yourself. On the weekends, there is a huge line out the door down the street to get into this place but thankfully, yesterday was a Monday so I was in and out very quickly.
Later at night I had a very nice dinner with my roommate Gina and her mom. We had to rush through it a little bit since I had plans to sing karaoke in Korea Town with a group of friends and I had reserved a private room for us. I had a blast! Everyone got up and sang and seemed to really enjoy themselves and let loose. I can't think of one song that I wish we would have covered....well, i was a little disappointed they didn't have "Shoop" by Salt 'n' Pepa.. haha
Here are a few of my favorite pictures from the night: