Inland Empire

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Last month I spent a beautiful long weekend visiting a friend who lives in California. I had never spent any time East of LA, let alone heard of any Inland Empire, so I was blown away by the beautiful vistas and desert scenery it had to offer.

I was originally traveling for a work trip which ended up getting canceled, so I was happy to enjoy some spare free time drawing and listening to my audiobooks (I am about 3 decades behind but a friend in publishing has got me sucked into the Garth Nix series Sabriel...any other fans out there? First book was incredible.)

These photos are actually out of order since I visited Joshua Tree National Park on my last day, but the rock formations really are something to see... I only went to the park on a whim and at my friend's suggestion, as she had to work a shift my last day. I hadn't realized until I got there that it's one of the more instagrammed national parks and a popular day trip as it's a short drive from LA and Palm Springs (it was tragically never on our radar when we planned our 2011 road trip, though looking back it definitely should have been.) There's only a handful of places I've visited that made me feel transported to an alien planet and this was one of them (in a good way, haha.) I'd love to come back and camp at some point, and maybe take some time to explore the nearby town of Joshua Tree.

Having grown up in one of the flattest parts of the country (we called my neighbors' mound of landscaped dirt a 'hill' and the steeper streets of Athens 'mountains'...nope not kidding!) we Floridians tend to get excited by anything that remotely resembles a mountain. These beauties were no different.

The three above photos emphasize how truly terrible I am at blogging- when I was in towns/cities (including one of the most photogenic little spots, Palm Springs of all places!!) I really didn't bother to take photos! I guess I was a bit more self-conscious? I don't know. What I will say about Palm Springs is that it was gorgeous but I really only walked up and down the main drag and visited a couple restaurants/coffee shops in the ABM guide. If you'd like to dedicate a weekend to Palm Springs I'd definitely recommend checking out the post, their team members seem to visit quite a lot, haha.

Living in a big city the past 6 months has truly been a blast, but after weekends like this one I tend to realize that in the long run I need green, open spaces, woods, trees, mountains... either way this under the radar part of California was definitely worth a visit. More time hiking and camping (and maybe a first ever backpacking trip??) will definitely be on my bucket list this New Years'. How about you?

Hope everyone's having a fantastic weekend!

Home Again

Monday, December 24, 2018

Gosh it is so nice to be home. Especially when home = sunny Florida :) I used to make endless fun of the snowbirds as a year-round resident, but after enduring a few winters up North I kind of get it now, haha. We've been spending our days

  • short and long runs through the neighborhood
  • seeing the Byrds live in concert (a rare classic rock band that actually still sound amazing.)
  • kayaking at Riverbend State Park  (highly recommend. It was so. beautiful. Scary baby alligators and all!)
  • enjoying a bonfire in our freezing (read: very reasonable 53 degree) weather
  • exploring Fairchild Botanical Gardens, visiting their gorgeous rainforest butterfly garden and seeing our fifth Chihuly piece...we keep stumbling on his works in the most random corners of the states and I'm really not mad about. This one's another definite must-see if you're in the area
  • trying face masks, making terrible cocktails (like...truly awful, LOL) and watching too much House Hunters International
I have to say I really do love spending time with my family, especially down where it's warm. Hope you all have a wonderful Christmas. What are your plans for the holiday?

On beauty and fitting in

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Definitely not enough eyeliner, right?

Third and final year of college with eyeliner still going strong, and the occasional mascara making an appearance

I grew up in in a very beauty-centered town. Everything in our little part of Florida is somewhat focused on outward appearances, from the type of car you drive to how you look in a swimsuit, to how big your home is and whether or not you put enough makeup up on to look "presentable" at church, whatever that means. My Mother has always gone somewhat against the grain in that sense (she couldn't braid my hair, rarely wore makeup and while other moms were desperately dyeing their grays, she rocked a very chique all-white pixie cut,) so I suppose it's not that surprising that I never really got fully sucked into this strange world. My daily makeup routine smearing on the inkiest black eyeliner I could find and maybe covering up a spot or two. If I needed anything remotely fancier I had to recruit my cousin for assistance (shout out to her for making me look superrr hot the day after I was dumped by my first boyfriend.) Still, I did as most young people do at some point in their lives, and in an effort to fit in tried to make myself somewhat "presentable" on Sundays to avoid sticking out like a sore thumb from the girls who painted their faces on each morning and never wore the same dress twice.

By the time I met and fell hard for my now husband seven long years ago (!), I was kind of over it. Makeup seemed to be getting more complicated and expensive, and I hated wasting 15 minutes of my morning painting it on and another 5-10 minutes in the evening taking it off.

So I stopped wearing it.

In some club somewhere
Me on a good skin day, 2017

That was in 2012. These days, as the less environmentally-friendly ingredients of makeup have been exposed and Alicia Keys has made the resounding point that makeup isn't necessary for a woman to be considered beautiful, the decision to not wear makeup on a daily basis is somewhat less groundbreaking (not that going without makeup was ever 'groundbreaking' or even all that remarkable.) But at the time it did feel like my own quiet rebellion against the obsession with external appearances I'd grown up exposed to. It felt weird, and freeing, and more like 'me' than I had in a long time. 

I guess this is all on my mind because my decent skin, which for all those years didn't really give me much grief in the acne department, seems to be making up for lost time. Lately I've accrued a fairly constant little cluster of bumps on my once smooth forehead. My waste is less defined (probably thanks to residency ending and actually getting to eat 3 square meals a day.) More than a few ignore-able grays are now cropping up in noticeable places. Sigh. It's so much easier to stick to our convictions when they don't impact your life all that much in the first place, isn't it? It's really easy to avoid buying fast fashion when you have the budget and time to spend more than $5 on a shirt, or tut tut someone else's flashy gazz guzzling car when you have no idea what went into their choices in the first place? It's also easy to see yourself as beautiful when you fit into society's narrow definition of beauty...and so many beautiful women don't fall into that category.

I still have a pretty hefty distaste for excessive external displays of wealth. I'll never feel the need to buy designer bags that scream "HI I COST A LOT OF DOLLARS," or understand the concept of buying a luxury car you can't really afford to keep up appearances. But apparently these things matter to some people. When I was really bummed about family members who seemingly had a lot of money suddenly not being able to come to our overseas wedding, I thought about these things a lot. I rolled these thoughts over and over in my mind, like a hand endlessly kneading a dry piece of clay, trying to make it into something conceivable. At my craziest I thought, "maybe if I was more like them, they would have come."

But sometimes you just can't rationalize why things are the way they are. Sometimes you just have to accept people for who they choose to be and the foreign ways they choose to live their lives. I kept thinking of the James Bay lyrics

Come on let it go
Just let it be 
Why don't you be you
And I'll be me...

I suppose all that was to say, you can't really change people, especially if they don't want to change. But you sure as hell don't have to be like them. And while I briefly flirted with the idea of going back to wearing makeup after 7 years, I decided to stick with it. I'm not afraid to show off a few spots.


The Wedding- Part III

Monday, December 3, 2018

After taking some photos in beautiful Arkadi Monastery, Anna Roussos took us to a beautiful empty field to do a few more portraits...not pictures is my sister lovingly hoisting up my dress while I awkwardly hopped over a wire fence through some weeds and mud in high heels, but hey, that's what Maids of Honor are for, right?

I think one of my (small) wedding regrets was not springing for either a second shooter or videographer. At the time we were planning the wedding we had no idea how we'd be able to stay within our very modest budget, and since my parents were paying for the wedding I was fine with a few compromises. We ended up under budget and used the last of the wedding funding to make a donation to someone in need, but the result of having only one photographer is we don't have many photos of the venue, table decor, and scenery at our reception. Which is a shame because it was truly a stunning place.

It's hard to get the full panorama from these photographs, but Panakron Estates is surrounded by rolling hills and fields and in the distance, Crete's beautiful mountains, including Psiloritis, its highest peak and the one we hiked to a few days before for my bachelorette party. Peter and I had stumbled on it when we took two of my great Aunts on a volta, or walkabout, through the village where my family is from and where we eventually married. It was such a beautiful, sunny day and we chatted about what it was like for my Theia Alexandra and Theia Hara to be little girls in this place where time seemed to stand still. How they'd sip the nectar from this flower, or turn this one inside out to make it into a fairy doll. It turned out to be one of the last times I saw Alexandra before she passed away, and is a memory I'll forever be grateful for.

That afternoon we stopped at Panakron on the drive back to Rethymnon. We had a lovely meal looking out over their lawn and the breathtaking mountains behind it. I remember turning to Peter (we'd only be seeing each other a few months) and saying, "wouldn't this be such a nice place to get married?" Probably a little premature, but he agreed and was nice enough not to point out that such statements at that stage in our relationship probably sounded a little bit nuts.

Fast forward to a few months after our engagement. We had decided to marry on Crete, but had no idea how to go about finding this beautiful place again. My Aunt does not use email well, nor does she drive, and at the time there was no website, nor any sites pinned on google maps. Luckily, my husband is bit of a nerd and had used a GPS watch that day we spent with my Aunts in the mountains. He pulled up the data, crossmatched it with google's street view and (insert heart eye emojis here) found the place nestled on the road between our village and Arkadi.

They were a bit baffled by some of our requests (unclothed tables, taking our meal outside under the stars- bistro lights??) but regardless complied with our strange American requests. The result was everything we'd hoped for.

We kept some American traditions (like father-daughter and mother-son dances, above) an a few Greek ones (being serenaded by my aunts with an old Greek song, and traditional Greek and Cretan dances, below...)

We somehow managed to keep everyone on the dance floor, even without a DJ (we went for an incredible live Cretan band fronted by a friend of a friend)

One of my favorite parts of the wedding was seeing friends and family from every part of my life interweave with friends and family from every part of Peter's life.

All in all, an incredible day. All photos are by Anna Roussos, who did an incredible job.