A quickie little update

Hey lovers!

Sorry to be MIA! An exciting opportunity recently surfaced that while still tentative has taken up a decent chunk of my time. That plus all the promotion and physical work that went into the first ever San Diego Festival of Books (which was SOOOO amazing!!!) had my hands tied when not glued to a keyboard. Also… I’m leaving for almost two months to England and Scotland in about a week and a half, so….. lot’s going on!! 

I’m wrapping up a few projects and will get back to writing my own stuff shortly. Thank to those following on the gram as I post bookish pictures of my reading habits, writing processes and general nerdish tendencies. 

Bookishly yours,


I Haven't Read Anything

So I’ve been in bookish bliss for a little over a month now. As those who’ve followed along know, I left the corporate job behind on a little over a month ago and have been splitting my time between a beautiful shop offering goods for home & hearth and an adorable indie bookstore. Both shops are incredible but I do of course have a little soft spot for the bookstore. It amazes me every day how long I went without knowing that doing what you love as a job could make you this stupidly happy.

My duties are predictable enough: open and close the store, ring people up for their purchases, take in and account for new inventory, manage special orders, maintain cleanliness and organization of the store, and put together/add to book and product displays. I’m also in charge of the Instagram account, website and changing messages on the sidewalk sign which I enjoy WAY too much to be normal. My recent sidewalk creations include, “Hey, we just met you, and this is crazy, but we sell books here, so read them maybe?” and “You know we’re all about those books, ‘bout those books, no Kindles! (just kidding, those are cool too).” Hand me a piece of chalk and a little autonomy and I’m drunk with dork power.

Then there’s handselling: actually talking about and making book recommendations. I go full nerd when I get to do this. I will admit that I expected to do it more often than I actually do. Perhaps it’s that my shop is located in a very small, quaint community where the folks who come in do so either to browse casually on their afternoon stroll or otherwise come in with a super specific selection already in mind. Maybe that’s a trend in other stores too thanks to the internet and apps like Goodreads that users can now rely on to get all of their bookish recs and reviews. Either way, the opportunity to actually rattle off books I think people would enjoy is one that I’ve had to create through conversation more often than not, which is totally fine. Your girl can talk, no issue there.

You know what I’ve learned though? I haven’t read shit.

How is that possible?? I read an average of 50 books a year. I read more in a month than some people read in 365 days or in some cases, in all of their lives. I read across multiple genres, both in print and on audio, I follow book blogs and listen to bookish podcasts and keep abreast of trends and new releases. So how is it that every damn day, I have to say the words, “You know, I haven’t read that book myself but…?” Tha fuck? Books are my thing! How am I coming up so short all the time?

Turns out working in a bookstore will make you acutely aware not of all that you have read but of eeeeeverything that you haven’t. It’s like living in a physical manifestation of my TBR list – everywhere are piles and shelves of books that I want to read while boxes of new ones keep coming in to make that list longer. Sure, there are tons of things in the store that I have read. Those selections are quiet though, minding their own business and existing silent from their place on the shelves and tables. It’s the ones I haven’t read that seem to waive me down on the regular and mock me to shreds, screaming “Hey, hey you! Hey girl, over here! You ain’t read this, have you! And you call yourself a reader, bruh?”  

This really ate at me for a minute there. I pulled up my Goodreads account and perused the list of books I’d read in recent years. What the hell had I been reading? What books had I been shoving my nose into if I was now feeling this inadequate about my reading habits? It became a bit of an obsession for a good 48 hours. My findings:

1.       I love old books.

My favorite author is Agatha Christie. If you read even casually then you might just know who that is; the rest of you might be pulling up the Google machine now to find out that Dame Agatha has been dead for many moons and was a British crime writer, commonly hailed as the Queen of Crime. Her work is classic. Murder on the Orient Express, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd and And Then There Were None are books that I still reread from time to time and am blown away anew by that woman’s ability to hit you with the most left-field, outta nowhereist of twists. My goal is to read and own her entire catalog, which is extensive. I try to read anywhere from two to five of those a year. I still have work to do.

I also love classics. Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, Little Women – they changed my life. You know what else? There are a TON of classics I haven’t read. Anna Karenina has been making a fool out of me for the better of part of two decades. That shit is my great white whale and I don’t know that I’ll ever vanquish it.

The point here is that because I do spend a formidable amount of time reading old books, I don’t always read new ones that are buzzy and trendy and cool. This doesn’t make me a bad reader – reading classics is never going to be a bad way to spend your reading time. Classics will always be a good default and are after all the blueprint for so much of modern literature.


2.       I actually have read a lot of “buzzy” books.

I may have been a little bit hard on myself. When I embarked on my “what the fuck have I been reading” project on Goodreads, I quickly discovered that I’ve done a pretty good job of not only reading some pretty popular/noteworthy/trendy reads, but I’ve managed to do so while reading diversely. I’ve read fantasy and magical realism, essay collections and memoirs, historical fiction and contemporary fiction; I’ve read a lot of books by women and POC, books by authors that identify as LGBT and that feature LGBT characters.

The thing is, as any reader worth their salt will tell you, one’s TBR list is an ever evolving entity. I spend most of my reading life feeling fairly positive what my next read will be then shaking the list up entirely when another interesting book is released and grabs my attention. That’s life in general though: the only constant is change so you may as well embrace the excitement. If you stick to a plan unwaveringly without leaving room for new additions, you may – in fact, WILL- miss out on a lot of great reads and amazing opportunities.

3.       There are too many books in the world. I’ll never read them all and that is a-okay.

There is one person that I know of on this earth that may just come close to reading ALL THE BOOKS, and that is “velocireader” Liberty Hardy. Miss Liberty is a contributor at BookRiot.com who singlehandedly compiles the New Release Index available to members of Book Riot Insiders (of which I’m of course a member *pops collar*), is the author of the New Books newsletter and cohost of the Book Riot’s All the Books podcast. You don’t have to know much about Liberty thus to know that this chick reads SO. MANY. BOOKS. I’m talking books – as in plural – a day. HUH!?? I met her at a book convention hosted by Book Riot a couple of years ago in New York and approached her with all the reverence and humility appropriate for meeting the Dalai Lama. I walked slowly and cautiously towards her and I think I even whispered my hello like a fucking creep. She didn’t have security called so it all worked out.

For a while, as I got more into the book blogging community and Book Riot in particular, I compared my own reading habits to Liberty’s – she’d rattle off all the books she’d read, and not in a braggy way so much as just on natural tangents when discussing new releases – and I’d think, “Girl but do you eat!?” I quickly discovered that continuing this comparison would make me want to end it all. I even tweeted her and some of the other ladies of the Book Riot podcasts to tell them that they were exploding my TBR lists straight out of control; Liberty tweeted back at me with a GIF of Beyonce doing a body roll and the caption “sorry not sorry.” It be like that.

The lesson here is that there is no keeping up with the pace of people like Liberty and really – you don’t have to. You don’t even need to read as much as I do, or at all, really, if reading isn’t your bag. If you are a reader, however intense or casual, the focus of your reading should be purpose and not pace. That will look different for each of us – some of us read for knowledge, some for pleasure, some for perspective or an escape (HELLO? Like when your president won’t renounce white supremacy, @#T^@%!) or all of the above. I’m choosing to worry more about the quality of what I’m reading and what it does to enrich my life, then concentrate on that. I don’t want to dwell on all the books I’m not reading and forget to absorb the one in hand.

So there is my little bookish stream of consciousness for the week, a peek into my reading life and confirmation that I do indeed sleep, eat and socialize in between devouring as many books as I can. I may not have all the answers for my customers but I do have plenty of knowledge to draw from. I also have the time, space and opportunity to expand that knowledge, and that, my friends, is why life is so great.

Oh, and because so many have asked recently, here is a snapshot of the last 25 books I read. Have questions? Need a recommendation? Hit me up! And if you're really feeling generous and supportive, follow the bookstore on Instagram! We're @westgrovesouthpark - thanks a bookish bunch! 


1.       Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

2.       Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew J. Sullivan

3.       The Wild Woman’s Guide to Travelling the World by Kristin Rockaway

4.       Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud by Anne Helene Petersen

5.       The Good People by Hannah Kent (not out yet, I was sent an Advanced Copy, okaaaaay? #feelingmyself)

6.       Who Thought This Was a Good Idea?: And Other Questions You Should Have Answers to When You Work in the White House by Alyssa Mastromonaco

7.       We Are Never Meeting in Real Life by Samantha Irby

8.       Rich and Pretty by Rumaan Alam

9.       Born a Crime: Stores from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah

10.   This is Just My Face: Try Not to Stare by Gabourey Sidibe

11.   The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

12.   The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

13.   Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur

14.   A Murder in Time by Julie McElwain

15.   The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

16.   So, Anyway… by John Cleese

17.   The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman

18.   Turn of Mind by Alicia LaPlante

19.   Difficult Women by Roxane Gay

20.   White Teeth by Zadie Smith

21.   Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley

22.   Girls of Riyadh by Rajaa Alsanea

23.   Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway

24.   Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

25.   Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova


Other Fun Stuff:

Think Me: Don't get caught up in what you haven't accomplished yet or dwell on how you could have done things sooner. Just do them now and trust the process.

Read Me: Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud by Anne Helene Petersen. I don't know how to sell this enough: it's an incredibly entertaining analysis of several polarizing female figures, women like Hillary Rodham Clinton, Kim Kardashian, Nicki Minaj, Serena Williams, Megan Mccarthy. It takes a look at the cultural phenomena that each of these women represents - love them or hate them - and dives into why they've each been deemed "too" much of a certain quality - too pregnant, too shrill, too queer, too slutty, etc. It isn't one giant defense of each of the women discussed - it's quite nuanced and honest and comprehensive in it's observations of the ways in which these women have made a name for themselves. It seeks to understand how they're affected by misogyny, sexism and where each operate within a feminist space. It's SO FUCKING GOOD. Read this now! 

Drink Me: Rose Milk Tea from 85 Degrees Bakery. Holy florals! This stuff is addicting - delicately flavored, sweet perfection. 

Hear Me: Sorry Not Sorry by Demi Lovato. Alright, sometimes I like pop and I don't care how you feel about that. Ladies - listen to this song and tell me you don't feel like a bad bitch after, especially if you watch the FIIIIIIRE choreography done to this song at Millenium Dance by the great Jojo Gomez. See it here - I've watched it about a thousand times and may or may not have mimicked the moves in my bedroom. 


Bad and Bookish

Last Monday wasn’t really Monday. I mean it was Monday but also it wasn‘t Monday because I HAD NO ALARM SET. My eyes opened when they bloody well felt like it, I had a cup of tea in bed as I curled up with a book for an hour and I swear I heard birds outside chirping “Yeeeah, girl. Live your best life.” Later that morning, I fulfilled a dream I didn’t know I even had by becoming one of those women who takes a Pilates class after 8AM on a weekday. I used to yell at these women in my head (and sometimes out loud in the safety of my car), “DON’T YOU PEOPLE HAVE JOBS!?!” I’m sorry, ladies, I get it now.  

I left my corporate property management job behind officially on Friday, June 30th and am finally focusing on writing and applying for grad school. Because I gots bills and need food to survive, I’m also working at two part-time gigs, one an adorable gift and housewares shop and the other a fantastic indie bookstore. Both stores are in South Park, my favorite charming little neighborhood in San Diego, and are around the corner from one another. On any given day, I can be seen skipping down the tree-lined street whistling to myself, entirely too jazzed to be going to work.

I’m off on Mondays and Tuesdays and work one or both jobs the rest of the week. My earliest start when working is 10 AM and some days it’s as late as 2PM; this means that working or not, I have enough time in the morning to get some writing done, enjoy that cup of tea or two and then dance around my room (literally, and full out) as I tidy up and then fit in a workout – usually Pilates or barre because I love supportive torture. I come home to get ready for the rest of my day, listening to an audio book or podcast as I splash on some makeup. I throw a little mousse in my hair for some structure and diffuse it lightly. I haven’t blown out my hair straight in two weeks – it’s wild and wavy and I’m kind of into it.

My first couple of weeks have been a blast. I’ve had the pleasure of opening and closing the bookstore (and pretending it’s my own) while thinking of creative ways to display new releases and crafting bookish puns to write on the sidewalk sign (like “Go On. Treat Yo’ Shelf.” *slaps leg and laughs at own pun*). I’ve learned about the book industry, ordering, taking inventory and gained insights into some great bookish news both locally and in the industry. I’ve sold gorgeous housewares, children’s gifts and stunning pieces of jewelry and more to people with a genuine appreciation for the art and effort that goes into curating products with purpose and displaying them with an eye for design. I’ve also been given free reign over organization projects as well as social media management and creating email blasts. Books, aesthetics, and the space to flex my planning/writing/organizing muscles: I am in my element.

The part I’m enjoying the most is how much I get to talk to people, an activity I think I’d forgotten I enjoy for a minute there. At my last job, I managed a resort-style, 500+ unit apartment community across from a private university, and while we rented to anyone who qualified, we did get a lot of interest from students whose parents could afford that resort-style price tag. Listen. A lot of the people I dealt with were great: college kids, military folks, families, young professionals, etc whom I was genuinely sad to leave behind. But MY GAWD, the handful of folks whose heady combination of money + privilege led them to think they could talk to my team and I like we were lesser human beings… they were the reason I often threw myself face-first on my bed at the end of the day and muttered, “I fucking HATE people.”

Really though, I love people and I remember that now. The cute kids who want to touch everything and squeal in delight when you give them something squishy or bouncy to play with, the husbands and boyfriends in search of a gift for their significant other, the parents who come in looking for books that will empower their kids and foster their love of reading… I love them all. I love when customers shake my hand or even hug me when I help them find the perfect little something, the fact that so many are regulars and remember my name. I love the sense of community, how wholly and incredibly different it feels to work for a small business as opposed to a huge corporation. This is all so new to me. It’s delicious.

I am never, ever bored. If I’m not rearranging or crafting some marketing material, my customers are my live theater. There was a woman who bought an oil-based fragrance from me just last week who raved about the perfection of its scent and emphatically recounted her long search for a fragrance that captured her essence. Somehow we veered off onto a tangent wherein she disclosed that she wears a necklace that’s actually a vibrator around her neck when she goes on dates. “If it doesn’t go well, I’m fine, you know?” she beamed.  “I don’t need him. I’m good! I’m good.” I laughed with her and hoped quietly that she waits until she gets home to explore the many utilities of her choice in jewelry.

Then there was the gorgeous, blonde, tattooed mom who came into the bookstore looking for “Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls” because she doesn’t want her daughter growing up with a Disney damsel-in-distress complex. She told her beautiful toddler that she could play with this cute stuffed fox we carry in the store but warned her to be careful with it since they would not be buying it. I locked eyes with that precious little munchkin and saw a very clear, "Oh yeah? in her expression as she proceeded to chomp down on its snout and rip off the nose. “Oops!” her her batting lashed seemed to say. “Guess we have to buy it now!” That little girl is going places, I tell ya. People are the best.

So. I get to write. I get to talk to people about books and beautifully curated gifts. Feeling useful and (slowly) knowledgeable while feeding the parts of my soul that were being starved in the name of traditional paradigms of “success” gives me a sensation that it’s taken me a minute to properly identify. It’s calm, it’s relief, it’s happiness. I'm bad and bookish, yo. Let's make that a thing. 

I leave you with a few little somethings that I’d like to start including with my blog posts. A little inspo, a little bookishness, a little peek into my current obsessions. Have a beautiful, productive, life-affirming day. Let’s stay in touch, ok?

Think Me: Take a risk. Let go of some of those I probably can’ts for a few but what if I dids and see what’s on the other side of worry.

Read Me: We Are Never Meeting in Real Life by Samantha Irby. Sweet baby Jesus, this is the most quintessential example of honest, confessional and witty writing I’ve seen in some time. Irby is acerbic with her wit and embraces TMI to the fullest, most OMG-I’m-cringing-but-I-can’t-look-away extent. It’s a collection of essays that takes you through Irby’s challenging childhood through to her struggles to get her shit together as an adult. She holds nothing back and lets you know how much of a mess she is and has been in figuring out how to adult, how to live in her skin as a fat black woman, how to make room in her life for another person and how to deal with complicated loss. The best part undoubtedly is that between about a thousand oh no you didn’ts, you find these poignant emotional revelations that anyone with a less-than-linear love, career and life path will relate to HARD.

Drink Me: Genmaicha Tea. I love green tea and am discovering just how many blends of the stuff are out there. We all know I love me some matcha, but Genmaicha is another solid favorite. It has that traditional green tea flavor with an added layer of toasted rice. It gives the tea a different depth and tastes fantastic both hot and iced. I get mine from The Loose Leaf at my favorite farmers markets in San Diego.

Hear Me: Mi Gente by J. Balvin. That beat tho!!!! I used to deny liking reggaeton as a genre because frankly, some of the stuff makes me want to jam a pen in my eardrum, which is the same way I feel about EDM. There’s a new generation of reggaeton artists and some seasoned veterans doing some pretty amazing stuff right now though, bringing beats that blend the reggaeton sound with salsa, bachatha, cumbia and allll the things that make me want to dance. This jam makes me want to be a young hoodrat in a club shaking it for all it’s worth. So instead, I do it in my room with only my books and Benedict Bookington III to judge me.


My dancing offends Benny's British sensibilities.

My dancing offends Benny's British sensibilities.

Oh you thought I was kidding?

Oh you thought I was kidding?

Same Love

Last weekend I went to a wedding in Malibu for which much preparation was required, i.e. a solid round of stretching and the ingestion of copious electrolytes and carbohydrates. Any wedding with an open bar has the potential for debauchery, but when the wedding involves a group of friends I now like to call Spain Gang & Associates (SGA), you really have no choice but to up the anti-hangover ante.

Bride Nicole and groom Manny are a lovely couple who were brought together when another lovely couple, Victor and Leandra Negrete, asked each of them to be part of their own wedding party. Nicole had known Leandra since middle school, Manny had known Victor since studying abroad with him during undergrad in Spain. The Negretes apparently knew exactly what they were doing when they paired up these two crazy kids because they hit it off damn near right away. They may or may not have been spotted making out the night of the very wedding.

 A couple of blissful years of dating later, Manny and Nicole announced that they’d be moving to Virginia as part of Manny’s military commitment as a Naval Psychologist. Mere days before packing up their belongings to make the cross-country trek from SoCal, a group of us were invited to a beachside rendezvous under the guise of celebrating Manny’s 30th birthday. We drank Malibu and rum from reusable Starbucks cups and jumped around in an illegal bounce-house, then Manny proposed to Nicole with a ring pop while he and a group of his closest friends reenacted the “Nightman Cometh” musical from “Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia.” That sentence pretty much tells you everything you need to know, but allow me to take you back a bit further.

My first time hanging out with Manny was back before he or I had ever met Nicole. I was living in San Diego and had come up to LA to visit Leandra and Victor for the weekend. Manny was in town from Northern California so we went out to dinner in Hollywood, and thus began an evening that culminated in Manny’s shirtless Flamenco dance-off with a stranger at a local bar. Afterwards we all went to McDonalds and Manny climbed onto the roof of said establishment; meanwhile Victor asked the drive-thru dude for a McNugget for Caramia, Leandra’s pet Chihuahua who we’d picked up for the short ride to Mickie D’s. Back at Leandra and Victor’s place, Manny and Victor purchased the domain name www.whatwouldcharliesheendo.me . They made shirts with this WWCSD slogan and later wore them proudly for Victor’s bachelor party kick off: Tough Mudder. (It should be noted that this all went down years ago during Charlie Sheen’s “winning!” days, for as I sit here and edit, some unfortunate news of Mr. Sheen’s health has just been revealed).

Not long thereafter, Manny moved down to San Diego to commence a rotation at MCAS Miramar. Little by little, other members of SGA became San Diego residents as well and I was pleasantly surprised to have a new set of friends in my hometown. Soon Nicole was a part of the bunch and the good times kept rolling: examples of pre-gaming activities includes zombie shoot-outs, Call Me Maybe dance parties, or a fun little game wherein participants take a drink each time Sting says the name “Roxane” during the song of the same name.

Two years ago, SGA made its way to Palm Springs for a post-holiday Gatsby-themed celebration at the home of Nicole’s grandmother. We played Jenga and Twister and got iced in between, then came a round of Cards Against Humanity fueled by shots of Fireball. I was somehow delegated to yell “I VOLUNTEER! I VOLUNTEER! I VOLUNTEER AS TRIBUTE!” each time someone volunteered to take a penalty drink in someone else’s stead. Our friend Jefe had to take a drop of bubble-bath to the eye, proving that the whole “tear-free” bit on the label is a giant pile of lies. Later we ordered pizza and jumped in the hot tub in our costumes. At some point, Manny put on a Spiderman suit and gave his favorite William Wallace freedom speech to an audience of tipsy faces that had been painted Braveheart blue.

Then there was the time when my friend Celina quit her job and sold her house to travel the world for a year; her going away party entailed an entire weekend of 90s themed shenanigans. SGA strolled the campus and surrounding streets of she and Manny’s Alma Mater UC Davis, clad at all times in items like homemade light-up sneakers, pagers with troll doll accents, acid-wash jeans and all the flannel you could ever hope for.  We took over a local dive-bar, hijacking the juke box to play strictly 90s hits – that is, with a small interlude for the Harlem Shake and Elvis Crespo’s Suavemente. At one point during the weekend, Manny and Nicole sat us all down for a special surprise – a reenactment of sorts of the Baywatch theme song, red swim trunks and high-cut one-piece included.

How then could this wedding of dynamically fun-loving people be anything short of amazing? Set to the backdrop of a picturesque Malibu beach around sunset, the bridal party walked down the aisle to a medley of songs that included Mariah Carey’s Fantasy and Billy Idol’s White Wedding. Our place cards were each hung delicately off bottles of everyone’s favorite sweet and syrupy beverage: you guessed it, Smirnoff Ice. Groomsmen Robbie was the wedding’s surprise Sexy Sax Man, whose rendition of Careless Whisper had half the room roaring on its feet and the other half going, “Who the hell invited this guy?!”

The DJ had us screaming the lyrics to Don’t Stop Believing like it was last call, except it was only 7:46 PM and the night had quite literally just begun. I busted out Britney and Beyoncé choreography like I had any business doing so and a group of the fellas proved that Ace of Base is the best music to grind (with each other) to. Friends Romo and Tyler tried to recreate the famous leap from Dirty Dancing only to be one-upped by the groom who fully committed to that leap and ended up with a facial bruise as proof. There were photo booths and props, non-stop dancing, and parking lot parties at McDonald's afterwards. My friend Julie and I ate half a package of Double Stuft Oreos at 1:00 AM that we may not have paid actually for… and all of this was documented via an epic 500+ second Snapchat story.

Before the bacchanalia and dance-floor frivolity though, Victor and Leandra gave a lovely wedding toast in which they took turns speaking humbly of their role in Manny and Nicole's union. Victor shared hilarious anecdotes of their first arranged meeting (thanks for taking a bathroom break Vito, we owe this wedding to you). Then Leandra summarized their compatibility with one perfectly eloquent thought: Manny and Nicole are so, so different in so, so many ways, but the way they love and approach the things they love is the same. Swoon.

Nicole probably wasn’t looking for a man who on the eve of his wedding would gift warrior spears to his groomsmen after cutting a Star Wars groom’s cake with a Samurai sword to the tune of The Final Countdown. She got one though and he’s perfect for her, for he loves passionately, outrageously, and genuinely – just like she does. I raise a glass, a Smirnoff Ice even, to that same love, the kind of love that makes these two wonderful and distinct personalities such fierce friends, gracious hosts, empathetic listeners and lovers of life. Congratulations to you, Manny and Nicole. May we each find someone who loves like you do, like we do, and never let them go.  


Thirty Onederful

Remember that time I turned 30? I do. I could have sworn that was just a few weeks ago. I celebrated my entrance into the fourth decade of my life with vigor and anticipation, surrounding myself with family and friends for a celebration that basically went on for the entire month of October 2014. I ate, I drank, I danced, I sang; I partook in a bathroom photoshoot at a bar alongside a likeness of Lenny Kravitz (see Exhibit A). I also thought I was Britney Spears (see Exhibit B).

Exhibit A

Exhibit A

Exhibit B

Exhibit B

Low and behold, I am one year older and analyzing my life like birthdays seem to make one do. So much has changed and also stayed the same. This time last year, I was working at my corporate job of 10 years but had announced my intent to resign; I was excited at the prospect of chasing my dreams but wracked with insecurity over the judgments of loved ones. I was single but longing, hopeful but restless. I was ready for change and nervous to enact it.

Today, I’m… well, to be absolutely candid: still trying to figure things out. I’m writing, slowly but surely. I had some great momentum in the beginning and now have slowed a bit. Little gigs have added up here and there but my craving isn’t quite satisfied. I want more, need more. The thing is, I got scared.

For one, I had a few very important voices in my head telling me I was crazy and saddling me repeatedly with questions. “Are you making enough money? What about insurance? Do you still have a retirement plan? Could you buy a house or have kids on your salary?” All valid questions, all posed from a place of love. Still, they ate at me.

So I started doing some temp work over the summer, mainly clerical stuff. One of the gigs, an admin position in property management, was actually a great fit: it boasted an excellent team of very dynamic personalities and required a skill set only too perfectly matched to my own. In August, a spot opened up at the property that I was encouraged to apply for by the property’s Community Manager. I accepted the position and am now that property’s Assistant Community Manager.

I confess that I was conflicted about taking this on. I love my team and am good at my job, and there’s plenty of potential for movement. Let’s not forget the money, which was a HUGE help recently when paying for all the expenses one incurs when two of one’s best friends and a few other assorted friends all get married in one year. Still, when I looked at myself in the mirror as I donned my stilettos and pencil skirt for the first time in months, I couldn’t help but wonder if I’d too quickly betrayed my inner creative. Would I remain dedicated to my passion? Would I find that delicate balance?

The truth is, I’m working on it. Some days I’m better at it than others. Sometimes I wake up on my day off and spend the day writing furiously, or otherwise get home from work, shove a salad down my throat and do the same until the wee hours of the morning. On other occasions, I get sucked up in chores and errands and travel recovery (I have a serious addiction to being busy) and don’t get the chance to write more than a paragraph or two, if that. I feel remarkable pride on the days when I write and overwhelming guilt on the ones that I don’t. I fear that I’m not following up on new opportunities as religiously as I should be, not trying as hard to move in the direction I quit a long-time job to reach.

You know what though? It’s all going to be fine. Just like I made my peace with the unknown that came with quitting a job without another one quite lined up, I now am accepting of the fact that there’s more than one way to get from point A to point B. The type of freedom and creative expression that I said I wanted is still absolutely attainable, even if it will take some time and additional effort to fully possess them. I’ll have to take some more risks, lose a few more hours of sleep, learn to say no to a few dinner invites and airline sales, and above all: be thankful. I have a laptop, a brain, two hands, and a college degree in my pocket. I have a roof over my head, some cash to feed and clothe myself, friendships that soothe my soul, family that has my back. Looking at it that way, it seems silly to be so critical. Life is good and I’m thirty-onderful. More to come…


King Kylie and the Thirst Trap Kids

I’ve struggled with body image issues all my life. Growing up, I hated my face and body so much so that at the tender age of fourteen, I made a list of things I would change about myself as soon as I’d saved enough pennies. My nose was too big, my face too freckly. My hair was wavy, my waistline too thick and my hips were wide as hell without much of a butt to match. My boobs were an ok size but not the shape I wanted; my lips were bird-like and my chin looked like an ass. If someone had handed me a blank check and the name of a decent doctor, can you only imagine what I might look like today?

Why yes, yes you can, actually. I’d look like Kylie Jenner.

Let me start by admitting I am one of those people that generally harbors no hatred for the Kardashian/Jenner squad. Call me crazy but I really do think Kim and Khloe’s’ butts are God-given, and I’d for damn sure give my kingdom but for one hour to pillage their closets. Sure, they’re often pretty ridiculous - North is the only one I’m really and truly down with because that little girl keeps it real. At the end of the day though, I feel like they’re probably halfway decent people who sometimes do frivolous things like so many other people in possession of gobs of money and fame.

That being said, the youngest of this reality TV’s supreme reigning family infuriates me.

Miss Kylie Jenner has become quite the social media giant, boasting over 36 million followers on Instagram and 11 million on Twitter alone. Via these and other outlets, we occasionally see snippets of a young girl trying to spread some love in the word: shots from a recent visit to Children’s Hospital on the eve of her 18th birthday, for example, and the #IAmMoreThan anti-bullying campaign she started up on Instagram. Along with each of her sisters, she recently announced the launch of a newly revamped website: she touts the accompanying mobile app as a labor of love for her fans.

These warm and fuzzy posts, however, are the exception and not the rule. Her followers are more commonly flooded with a barrage of carefully selected selfies, many of them overtly sexualized or dripping in material excess. Every day a different wig, a fresh batch of lip filler; a shot of ample cleavage, a frame focused on her derriere (the young kids call it “thirst trapping.” I call it “conceited as sh*t”). Several months ago, amidst the flurry of now-confirmed suspicions that Jenner’s lips had been cosmetically enhanced, she posted to Twitter that she “was happy w the way God created” her. Honey: it’s hard to buy the authenticity of this statement when your lips are fat full of injectable irony.

I’ll give the girl credit: she’s got an edgy sense of style and one mean makeup game, traits that have millions of teenaged girls (and boys, and grown-ass folk) wanting to cop her look. But go ahead – do a quick Google search. Take a peek at the before and after. Those aren’t minor touch ups and tricks of light. No amount of over-lining is going to get you that pout. This is the part I take issue with - not just the drastic beauty measures but the hyper sexed tone. Kylie’s transformation promotes a dangerous ideal of beauty that is spreading like an (overly contoured) cancer. It screams, “Hey kids! If you weren’t born with it, change it! Blow a couple grand on it! Flaunt it, record it, slap some sex on it; call it a tutorial or #OOTD and poof! You too can be a thirst trap!" 

The part that really, really gets me is that Kylie is a gosh-damn teenager. This girl got work done before she was even of the age to legally consent to it without parental approval. How much is up for debate. And I get it - she’s probably facing formidable pressure to look a certain way – being in the public eye will do that to you, especially when you were birthed by Kris Jenner. Still, she has a very powerful platform and is unfortunately using it for the exhibitionist glorification of her heavily made-up and surgically-enhanced form. She isn't teaching young girls how to be comfortable with the skin they’re in - and how could she when she didn’t learn this trait herself? Instead she’s inspiring her faithful flock to plump it up, push it out and throw it on the gram. Again - Google her. Insert Mexican Abuela voice: "Mira esta sinverguenza!" 

At age 30, I happen to like my wavy hair, and lip liner works wonders for my tiny mouth. A good bra keeps my boobs looking good and these freckles? They remind me of my mom. I’m still often insecure, who isn’t? I’m still thankful that no one ever gave me the option of taking my teenage insecurities under the knife. Kylie sure is lovely, but to be honest – she’s cheating. Girls: take what the good Lord gave you and love it for yourself. Aspire to be more than a thirst trap.

Kylie at 18... you know, chillin'. Reeeeeal natural lips tho.

Kylie at 18... you know, chillin'. Reeeeeal natural lips tho.

Me at 18, swearing I was a behemoth at this size.

Me at 18, swearing I was a behemoth at this size.

On My Bruce Wayne

Buenos Diaz!

Holy shitake mushrooms, people. It’s April 23rd. That means I’ve been 30 for exactly six months. Six! WTF!? I guess time flies when you’re busy shaking up everything about your life.

If you keep up with my blog or are a member of the People Vanessa Texts Entirely Too Much Brigade, you know that I’ve been living that Funemployment life. It’s not all sunshine and roses admittedly, in fact it’s a little bit terrifying. I firmly stand behind my decision though. I needed to be uncomfortable. 

Why? Well, it’s like Bruce Wayne in The Dark Knight Rises. You may recall that painful scene where Bane kicks the living daylights out of Señor Bruce, finishing the brutal beat-down with a crippling blow to the back. Rather than killing him, Bane has his mercenaries dispose of Bruce’s broken body at the Pit, a cavernous prison where Bruce is meant to rot with the knowledge that he could not save his beloved Gotham. Legend has it that only one person, a child, has ever escaped the Pit. After months of recovery and training, Bruce resolves to make the climb.

He starts off strong then reaches the infamous spot where the would-be escapee must take a giant leap to proceed up. Bruce attempts the leap twice but falls short each time, saved only by the rope that tethers him to the side of the cave. A wise old prisoner has some words for Bruce here:

Prisoner: How can you move faster than possible, fight longer than possible, without the most powerful impulse of the spirit: the fear of death?
Bruce: I do fear death. I fear dying in here while my city burns with no one there to save it.
Prisoner: Then make the climb.
Bruce: How?
Prisoner: As the child did. Without the rope. Then fear will find you again.

Now, not all fear is healthy. It can sometimes make you do some really dumb sh*t. For example: when I was seven years old, I burned the hell out of my hands on a hot stove. I endured a 20-minute car ride to my tap dance lesson in tortured silence with second-degree burns, but I refused to admit I was in pain. My skin bubbled, my eyes watered and little beads of sweat dripped down my forehead. I sat there screaming on the inside when I should have been getting medical attention, all because of the fear that I'd be punished if I admitted I'd touched the dang stove. Smart, kid. 

In my adolescence, the burns were of a different nature. Fear made me reluctant to take chances or believe I was worthy of certain affection. It made me keep emotions bottled that ate away at my self-esteem. It made me lie to cover up people's transgressions, and even worse- ignore them at a detriment to myself. Let me tell you, one can only take enough of that before a) people tell you to stop being crazy, and b) you get tired of feeling crazy yourself.   At some point, you have to hold yourself accountable for rising above your issues. If you carry old fears around as an excuse for not bettering yourself, that is the real tragedy.

Right now, fear is triple-dog-daring me to live the life I want to live because I have in order to survive. I know I've taken a risk, I’m reminded of this all of the time. I’m asked if I think I made a mistake, if I should try to turn back, if perhaps all those years of expensive schooling have all been put to waste if I'm making less money than I could if I'd stayed where I was. Sure, I'm hurt by these objections, by words said hastily and hurtfully though coming from a place of love. The temptation to give into the fear of being loved less or seen differently is a potent one, but I'm too damn old to give into it any longer.

So! That's today's lesson from life in my thirties: fear doesn't always have to be unhealthy. Harnessing my fear is giving me so much fight right now. It's my impetus to try harder, do better, and think more clearly. It makes all the clichés I've ever heard (and gagged at) suddenly speak to me powerfully, pushing me to imagine the impossible, strive to achieve it, and Pinterest the heck out of way too many quotes.

I'm ever thankful for my super supportive friends, companions who remind me on good days and bad that naysayers come with the territory. I thank them for reminding me that I can in fact do this. As one friend reminded me, I am indeed MexiCAN, not MexiCANT. On that note, I recently won a contest to have a story published in the San Diego Reader! I will also be contributing to a couple of local newspapers and get to write about the San Diego communities I love. Thank you, Fear. Thank you very kindly. I'll just be over here on my Bruce Wayne game- I'm using my fear to climb.

Bookishly (and writerly!!) yours,


New site coming soon!

Buenos Diaz!

If you've found this page and have taken the time to read this post, you're a pretty awesome person. Thank you for checking in! The site is a work in progress.

For the time being, please continue to follow my blog at it's current web address (www.buenosdiazsandiego.blogspot.com). I hope to have this new site up and running very soon. Thank you for your support!

Bookishly yours,


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All Hail the Queen

Nowadays everyone’s all, “OMG have you read Gone Girl?!?” and “Duuuude, you have to read The Girl on the Train!” I’ve read each of these works and confess that I enjoyed them both thoroughly; who doesn’t love a good thriller?
Impressed as I am though by the gripping prowess of Gillian Flynn, Paula Hawkins and so many other authors doing great things in this genre, they don’t yet for me hold a candle to my all-time favorite author. She was blowing minds as far back as the 1920s, slaying the scene in her decades of writing with epic twists, dizzying turns and bombshell endings you never saw coming. Her collected works comprise a list of almost 100 titles and it is my life’s mission to own each and every one of them. I’m of course talking about the original Queen of Crime: the one, the only, the incomparable Dame Agatha Christie.  

Whether you’ve recently dabbled in the mystery/thriller category or are a seasoned fan of the genre, if you haven’t yet given ol’ Aggie a try, there is no time like the present. Her works are rife with that healthy dose of suspense you crave, wrapped in the unique literary ingenuity of Christie’s own.

Here are my five favorite Christie masterpieces, complete with links to purchase your very own copies in the format of your choosing. Now get cracking!

1.  The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
Let me tell you how hard I want to drop a plot spoiler on you right now. Hard. Set in the village of King’s Abbot, this tour de force features famed Belgian detective Hercule Poirot who comes out of retirement to investigate the suspicious death of the wealthy Roger Ackroyd. Christie deftly drops a trail of breadcrumbs from beginning to end that will lead you in a hundred different directions, each one more convincing than the last until you’re plum baffled and begging to know who dunnit. Then comes the grand reveal and you’re like, “Whaaaaaat?”

Read it, read it now. Click here. Do it fast.

2.  And Then There Were None
This one was just about tied with my number one choice for its creepy mind-blow potential. The plot: ten people each receive a suspicious invitation to an island and are then slowly murdered one by one after arriving. It keeps you guessing at the edge of your seat the entire time, a flawless example of Dame Agatha’s penchant for a psychological thriller with an unexpected mind f*ck ending. Interesting fact: the original titles for this work include Ten Little Niggers and Ten Little Indians. Glad we stuck with the title as it stands now.

And then there was your own copy, which you can purchase here

3.  Murder on the Orient Express
I first became a fan of Murder on the Orient Express before I’d ever read or even heard of it; I was actually cast as Mrs. Hubbard in my sixth grade class production of this famed Christie classic, and in case you’re wondering: of course I stole the show. Set aboard the Orient Express, the glamorous train service best known for its service from Paris to Istanbul, it once again features Hercule Poirot as he tries to solve the perplexing mystery of a murder committed on board. This piece has been turned into a film not once but twice and is featured as an episode on British television series Agatha Christie’s Poirot.

As Monsieur Poirot would say, cliquez ici! (click here)

4.  A Murder is Announced
So I’ve always had a thing for smart & sassy old ladies (hence my obsession with Sofia Petrillo and the rest of the Golden Girls crew). My favorite spunky senior though has got to be Miss Marple. This dowager detective of Christie’s is not really a detective at all but rather a sharp-witted spinster from the fictitious village of St. Mary Mead; she is especially known for using observations of small-town life to solve complicated crimes. In A Murder is Announced, a murder is (you guessed it) announced mysteriously in the village of Chipping Cleghorn’s gazette, complete with date, time and location. The town’s locals show up out of curiosity expecting perhaps a fun little murder-mystery parlor game. It’s not a game at all, and Miss Marple is called upon to find a killer.   
Read the announcement here.

5.  Crooked House
The last but not least of my bunch of favorites has an ending initially considered too bold and shocking even for the likes of Agatha Christie. It is the tale of the Leonides family who all live together in Crooked House, and among them lies one guilty of the poisoning of patriarch Aristides. Like in And Then There Were None, the murder represents a dark interpretation of a nursery rhyme and will give you a mean case of the Oh-No-She-Did-Nots. It made me blurt, “Oh SNAP!” out loud in a coffee shop, so you know it’s going to be good.
Get in on the crooked fun here.

So that’s my list!  I have my eighth grade teacher to thank for introducing me to dear old’ Aggie, and I often wonder if Mrs. Geraldine Nau knows she changed my life forever when she did. In any case, I’m ever thankful for the suggestion and hope that you will be as well. Happy reading!
Bookishly  yours,

Peep This

Buenos Diaz! Allow me to provide you with a quick update on Funemployment. I’ve gone to bed late and woken up whenever I’ve damn well felt like it. I’ve visited museums, I’ve picnicked in the park; I’ve read by the beach; I’ve gone from being the girl who doesn’t drink coffee to finding myself four drinks shy of a Starbucks Gold Card. In short: I’ve taken a moment to breathe.
I’ve also been writing my face off at all hours of the day. I confess that I’m still trying to figure out a routine, playing around with how to make the best use of my time in order to be as productive as possible. I’ve learned that leaving the house is essential in staying disciplined. At home, it’s too tempting to watch reruns of Say Yes to the Dress, get up and fix myself a snack, or decide that my bookshelves need reorganizing. To avoid falling into this trap, I leave the house in the morning with gym bag and laptop in tow and try not to come back until close to dinner time. Spending all this time at libraries, book stores, coffee shops and even the occasional brewery has reminded me that life is much more interesting when you’re not sitting at home.
Yesterday for example: my day started with an hour long walk around a beautiful lake with my cousin. Not wanting to go all the way back to my house to shower, I decided to head to the nearest gym instead where I could get in some weight work and then just shower and get ready there. That’s exactly what I did, which seemed like a great idea… that is, until I found myself dripping wet in the gym shower and realized I’d forgotten my towel. Awesome. Picture me toweling off with a tiny hand towel I’d found in my gym bag. That was fun.
Later after a quick visit to my favorite bookstore/coffee shop and a lovely picnic lunch at a waterfront park, I set up shop at my favorite library for my usual writing session. It started off well enough- we all know I’m generally at peace anytime I’m surrounded by books. Today I happened to pick the floor (did I mention this library has NINE of them???) where library etiquette apparently went to die. A woman let her toddler scream unbridled while the child demanded a soda, a teenager answered his phone and proceeded to tell his caller at full volume that he has a new stash and to meet him at the crib later, and someone else refused to silence their ratchet rap ringtone while the phone rang and rang and rang.
I was cursing myself for having left my headphones in my car when I suddenly noticed that a man in his forties who’d been walking back and forth in my field of vision was hovering and trying to get my attention. I’d actually been annoyed with him earlier too for also neglecting to use his indoor voice, still I obliged and whispered, “Oh I’m sorry- what was that?” He told me I looked just like Judy Polish-sounding-last-name-ski, so I asked who that was; he let me know that this Judy gal was indeed his ex-girlfriend and then tossed me a folded up library card application. I was about to ask what the deal was when he interrupted me to say, “Just, just you know, do me a favor and read this. Nothing urgent, nothing important. Just read it, you can toss it. Ok. Ok bye!”  He then scurried away as quickly as he’d come. I felt several pairs of nosy eyes on me and suddenly felt quite embarrassed, so I left the note untouched for several hours before finally picking it up when it appeared no one was looking. I give you Exhibit A:
I had to laugh at the last part: “I swear I’m not creepy, I just have this super creepy request.” When I did get up and leave the library eventually, I kept looking over my shoulder and peering around corners like a paranoid freak. I kept expecting him to pop up from around a corner to accost me with his flash photography. My friend Carlos says the guy probably snapped a pic from his flip phone 60 yards away. Excellent.
Lastly, I made my way over to Target to pick up a couple of items. I was minding my own business in the lotion aisle when a screaming child came tearing towards me, clearly attempting to flee from his parents who were in hot pursuit just a few yards behind him. He didn’t see me standing there when he came charging around the corner and thus ran smack into me, falling backwards on his rear end as a result. He looked at me with fury in his eyes then took one of those long, deep breaths that you just know is the precursor to a cringe-worthy fit. Sure enough, the fit was had. He screamed and bellowed as he angrily tore open the item he was holding like a tiny little meth addict, which unbeknownst to me at the time was a packet of Peeps. He proceeded to grab a little yellow chick and hurl it in my direction, and it made contact with my face.  His parents appeared to haul him away walked away with a renewed gratitude for birth control.
So. Lessons learned. Not having that towel forced me to walk from the shower to the locker room in my bra and underwear, which is a huge step for me since I generally dress immediately after showering. Body positivity is a cause I like to champion, but I am only human and admit freely that fighting that nagging insecurity about my body is an active and uneasy process. As it turns out, no torch-wielding villagers appeared to demand that I cover my hideous body or face death; I didn’t feel as self-conscious as I usually do, which was a nice feeling.
The creepy can-I-take-your-picture guy may have been, well, creepy, but I’ve decided that sometimes the universe senses that you need a compliment and throws one in your direction; who am I to question the source? I mean sure, I’d be smitten if it was Chris or Liam Hemsworth calling me fine; I’d have posed for that photo in two shakes of a lambs tail and invited Liam to play out my own special rendition of the Hunger Games. Still, this library man took the time to approach me and had the balls to do so in what is supposed to be a quiet, leave-me-alone-I’m-reading setting. I’m going to give him some credit and take the little pick-me-up to go.
As for Little Beau Peep, well… his antics made me want to kick him into next Tuesday, truth be told. I am no mother, but if my spawn decided to fly into a Hulk-like fit of rage while tearing open a package of sugar crusted, animal-shaped marshmallows to then chuck at innocent bystanders, he or she would be doomed to learn a hard lesson from their mother about how to act in public. Really though, my annoyance gave way to amusement pretty quickly. I mean… the kid threw a frickin’ Peep at me. A PEEP! What’s more- his little tantrum assured me that I am where I need to be in life, i.e. that I’m not quite ready to have children just yet. Peep this though: there’s something fabulous about the freedom in that statement. That time will come for me someday, that time just isn’t now.
Bookishly yours,

That's What Friends Are For

Buenos Diaz! So, remember those awesome friends I touched on last week? About this one particular group of them...
It all started a couple of years ago in early December: a group of friends found themselves in San Diego on New Year’s Eve. This group of 10+ descended upon the Hilton San Diego Bayfront for a big fancy NYE celebration. After a few get-me-while-my-makeup-is-still-fresh photo shoots, bottles of 5 Hour Energy were passed around to rally the masses. The air was filled with shouts of “Dude, I only want a little bit! How about like 17 minutes worth?” or “Hey! Hit me! I need a full three hour swig!” Because once you’ve reached or are approaching the ripe ol’ age of 30, you need staying power to keep the party going till midnight.
Once adequately fueled, we entered the hip hop ballroom and got down like fools without cares or fear of camera phones and Facebook. We ate pieces of cold pizza and washed them down with tonics and liquors of choice.  At one point, someone set their drink down in the middle of the dance floor and we all danced around it Flamenco style to Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop.” Why? If you have to ask, you don’t know my friends.

Before anyone expected it to, the clock struck twelve. We went until our livers and feet allowed us to before heading to lobby where we found a giant line of people. Clearly someone was giving away some free shit, or a Kardashian or One Direction member was hosting a late-night meet and greet. Alas, no- this stupid queue that went from here to mother-effing Whoville was the line to catch a freaking cab out of this place. Neither my feet nor my spirit were prepared for this nonsense. My feet hurt. I was thirsty. I was tired. I wanted a bed.

Right when the crowd appeared to peak at both its inebriation and lack of patience, out rang like a shot in the dark, “NAAAANTS een-VEN-YAAAAAA ma-ba-GEE-chi-ba-va!!!!” A friend I’ll call Espiderman was belting out the intro to Circle of Life. You know what else? He sang the *whole* gosh damn thing. The rest of the group chimed in and at full throttle volume much to the amusement of some and the sheer and utter annoyance of countless others. Why? Again- if you have to ask…
It didn’t stop there. These weirdos transitioned seamlessly to “A Whole New World” then slid right into “Friend Like Me.” They crooned out “Part of Your World” then moved right on to “Under the Sea,” complete with some impressive onomatopoeia for the sounds of that steel drum intro. All the while a bottle of Fireball was passed around like a canteen. I tried to dodge the bottle but someone got me like one of those rude sombrero and zarape clad dudes in TJ, rudely tilting my head back and accosting my mouth and throat with cinnamon-flavored octane.

For reasons that should be obvious by now, I joined a group of these same friends down in Baja California for wine tasting in the Valle de Guadalupe for NYE 2014. A few of us headed down a day early to stay at the Rosarito Beach-adjacent home of my friend Celina’s family friend, who happens to manage 15 or so properties down in the Las Gaviotas community. The house was an amazing ranch-style home with gorgeous terra cota detail, a courtyard begging for an outdoor fiesta to be had, and views of the ocean could fool you into thinking you’d been teleported to Santorini. We dined on a delicious and simple meal of (AMAZING) beans, guacamole and quesadillas, all with locally sourced ingredients and with bottomless refills of a lovely red wine. I slept comfortably by a toasty fireplace on a very fancy air mattress with blankets aplenty. It was delightful- property managers are excellent hosts.
This courtyard tho...
 Santorini Poptla, BC, Mexico
 Hugs from Baja
The next day we headed to the wine valley and went in search of our B&B, a property out in San Antonio de las Minas. Right as we made the turn from the main drag on to the road that would lead us to our destination, it became apparent that the route to our destination involved a wet, uneven and muddy road. We braced ourselves and drove forward in Celina’s low-riding old school Lexus…
SKKRRRRRRRRR went Celina’s poor gas tank as it scraped against hard-packed dirt, reminding us that a Lexus sedan doth not an off-road vehicle make. Celi slowed to a mere roll and tried to maneuver around the uneven patches, but the weight of a driver, four passengers and all of their luggage was not helping the cause. There was only one thing left to do: lose some passengers. Imagine, if you will, the odd Chinese fire drill of sorts that ensued each time we came upon a puddle:  three of the five vehicle occupants getting out of the car then using sticks as puddle-depth measuring tools to determine which way to best navigate Celi’s car. Now throw in the appearance of some very hungry and fearless dogs that sent us running back to the vehicle every so often. Adventure time!

Still onward we went, only partially convinced that we hadn’t been sold a bill of goods. We drove for some time, proceeding semi-confidently only because of the occasional 8 ½ X 11 signs nailed to some fence or tree stump assuring us that the property was indeed still ahead. The terrain was rough and there just didn’t appear to be anything remotely resembling a bed and breakfast nearby, to the point where we half-kiddingly joked that an abandoned warehouse, a dilapidated shack or a Fisher Price playhouse by the side of the road might be our illustrious place of lodging.

We did eventually arrive and met up with the other 10 or so of our friends. Soon after checking in, we hopped on a shuttle en route to wine country, and though the number of stops was limited due to New Year’s Eve winery closures, a good time was had. I mean, with that many people and wine flowing freely, we were going to enjoy ourselves one way or another. I knew this when we were poured some Grenache and someone in our group said, “St. Grenache is a dog, right? Like what Lassie was!”
Really ready.
Remember us? La Gitana y La Bookworm
Celi enjoying a snack of Takis with her red wine, trying most unsuccessfully to convince my friend Leandra that this constitutes a delectable wine pairing.

"Quick, Vane! Before someone sees me!"
All the Single ladies.
After the wine tasting, we shuttled back to the B&B for a dinner prepared by the staff, which started around 6pm and was intended to stretch out course by course through midnight. We ate the soup appetizer and main dish but at 9pm ran out of enough patience to sit and wait around for dessert or midnight. We went back to our rooms for a little while and some of us made it back downstairs later for a toast and/or bachata dance-off at midnight. Several members of our group went on to stage yet another Disney Sing Along in the property’s communal dining room. I held on till around 12:30 before throwing in the towel.
It suddenly hit me that it was cold. SO cold. So gosh-damn bloody COLD! Colder weather than the property manager was prepared for, the kind of cold that made me, the girl who hates sleeping in bulky clothing, go to bed wearing leggings, two pairs of socks, a sports bra, a thermal top, and my big USC sweatshirt with the hood pulled so tight over my face that I looked like Kenny from South Park. I covered even my head with the blankets when I realized I could see my breath if I left my face exposed. When the girl I was sharing a bed with finally came to bed at 3am once she was all partied out, I thanked sweet baby Jesus for the gift of body heat. If she’d asked me to cuddle, I probably would have. Warmth is warmth, yo.

The next day, we all roused slowly but surely (I of course was up at 5:45 am reading on my Kindle) and enjoyed a delicious, made-from-scratch breakfast before parting ways. My friends were kind enough to get me back stateside by noon so that I could book it to the airport to hop a jet to Vegas where my girl Karina and I saw the second to last show of our boo Justin Timberlake’s 20/20 Experience Tour. Oooh child, that man can sang! I danced sexy in my seat to that little but of “Don’t Hold the Wall,” swayed in an emo haze at the outro to Love Stoned, screamed out “Yeeeeesssss!” to “My Love” (I STILL love that choreography) and closed my eyes and vibed to my beloved “Until the End of Time.” Karina and I sang our faces off the whole night and loved every minute off. JT can get it.

 V + K

Go 'head, be gone with it.

I caught a flight at 7am the next morning back to San Diego, which means that when all was said and done, I was in Vegas for about 12 hours, the same amount of sleep I’d had in a span of four days. Exhaustion is an understatement, but I’d do it again tomorrow. The lesson here is not to take yourself too seriously. These friends of mine are spread across the continental US but come together at random just when I might need to lighten up. They break up my tendency to overthink things and slap me in the face with some fun. They force me to delight in and appreciate the awesomeness that comes with laughing out loud and not giving a smooth f#%k about how you look to the world as long as you’re enjoying yourself. They also build me up and remind me how loved and supported I am at every hour of the day, I am so thankful for each and every one of these crazies. They’re the shit.

Do more of what makes you happy in 2015. It’s sometimes easier said than done, but MAN does it feel good when you pull it off.
Bookishly yours,

Cheerio Girl

Buenos Diaz! Can you believe it’s December already? It’s a little hard to believe considering I live in America’s Finest City and the weather has been in the high 70s and low 80s for most of the fall. We just last week got some cooler temperatures at last, including a couple of spots of rain that lasted all of 48 hours and backed up our traffic for just about as long.  Usually I complain about this sort of warm-weather-winter thing because I like my holidays a little less on the tropical side.  Really though…. It ain’t so bad living in paradise.

Today’s blog post was inspired by a friend of mine (who so happens to be a bitchin’ stylist in San Diego’s East Village). My girl Briana has somehow managed to pop out four adorable children by the ripe age of 30 and has perhaps even more impressively managed to stay, if I may say so, real as f*ck, even as she rides around in her swagger wagon Toyota Sienna. I went to see her just a couple of weeks ago and she reminded me of a story she’s told me already once before but that never gets old. To be perfectly honest I forget most of the details. All I remember is that her second youngest, a sweet and innocent little toddler, upon making his first black friend, proceeded to walk up to the child, lick his face and yell out, “Mmm! Chocolate!” I just about wet myself. Out of the mouths of babes, I tell you. The innocence, the simplicity… it slays me.

So this blog post is in homage to that simplicity, a flashback to my own childhood. It’s a trip down memory lane to when things were simpler and when I was still a nerd, just a slightly smaller one. I hope these little stories will serve as a happy interlude to your day and perhaps inspire you to view the world as you did as a child. Without further ado, I give you: Cheerio Girl.


Once upon a time, I was but a wee little toddler, chubby-cheeked, white as snow, and with bangs for mother-effing days. I loved books (duh), Barbies and this raggedy stuffed dog, and I really loved to dance around the living room all dang day. I LIVED in particular for the VHS tape of Madonna’s The Virgin tour.  It was my jam.

I can actually recall these days quite vividly. I’d open my eyes, wipe the sleepies away, brush my teeth with bubble-gum toothpaste and then get dressed. Usually I chose a tshirt and pants, but if I was feeling particularly festive I’d throw on about 20 bangles and this sweet get-up that consisted of a crop-top with bottoms that looked like a skirt with leggings underneath. My grandmother used to sew back in the day and sold her goods at a local swap meet on the weekends. This particular outfit was one of my faves, so I’d happily model it at her swap meet stall if I got to take it home with me afterwards. Picture me walking up and down that asphalt with attitude in a variety of colorful 80s prints. Uh huh honey.  

So I’d put this sucker on and make my way to the living room where I would carry out the sequence of steps my mother had taught me to do on my own and not bother her for: “Press ‘On’ button on TV and VCR. Press number ‘3’ then ‘Enter’ on TV remote for Channel 3. Put tape in VCR. Press ‘Play’ on VCR.” Then the magic began. I believe the opening number was “Dress You Up,” where Madonna started off at the top of a small set of stairs and descended them two or three at a time whilst striking something akin to a Heisman pose. She was decked in a very colorful concoction of lace and studs and fingerless gloves and did that classics 80s arm-swing move as she belted out the chorus. Naturally, I followed suit. I twirled, I spun, I toe-tapped and sang my little heart out song after song after song.

I loved Dress You Up, Holiday (CELEBRATE!!!), Into The Groove and Lucky Star; I had signature dance moves for each that often left me dizzy and exhausted. My absolute fave however was towards the end of the tape. Right when Like A Virgin was about to wrap, I’d haul toddler ass to the kitchen and pour some Cheerios into a Ziploc bag then run back to my spot in front of the television screen in perfect time for the next number to start. I’d pop little handfuls of cereal in my mouth and dance furiously in place as the verse built up to the chorus. Then came my moment, so I screamed at the top of my lungs: “Cause we are living in a-a Cheerio world, and I AM A-A-CHEERIO GIRL! You KNOOOOW that we are…” Yeah. It was another cool five or six years before someone took the time to correct me, and I didn’t accept this correction quietly.

In telling this story to a coworker a few weeks ago, I made an interesting connection: I apparently felt compelled as a child to tie my snacks in with my chosen activities. For instance, I was really obsessed with a cartoon on Nickelodeon called David the Gnome. David was a little gnome doctor who lived in a forest with his wife Lisa. He had an awesome sidekick fox named Swift who would take him places when other gnomes or animals needed healing, and Lisa would always bake them a loaf of bread to take on their journey to save the world.

I thought this loaf of bread much resembled a particular type of pan dulce (Mexican sweet bread) called a puerquito, a golden brown pig-shaped pastry that tastes somewhat like gingerbread. Since we often had this in our house, I felt the need to bake one up to coincide with the loaf Lisa baked for David. By “bake,” I mean I’d use every ounce of my strength to heave our toaster oven from the lower cabinet onto the counter and would then place my puerquito in said oven for five minutes.  I’d take care to carefully pull it out with oven mitts when the timer went off and blew on it to make it cool enough to touch- even though I never actually turned the oven on or even plugged it in for that matter. I’d then sit in front of the TV and munch on my little pig while David and Swift went off to save the day. If there was no puerqito available to me, I’d settle for ripping the guts out of a loaf of French bread, smashing it and molding it into a smaller loaf and putting that in the not-turned-on toaster oven. I’m aware the loaf of bread was already, well, a loaf. But the guts were my favorite, so… leave me alone.  

I also had a food-related Cinderella-watching ritual. Remember that scene from Disney’s Cinderella where she’s doing her chores and goes out to feed the chickens? I was absolutely convinced that she was feeding them teeny tiny pieces of American cheese. So yes- I’d pause the film just before the chickens were fed and make my way to the kitchen. I’d grab a Kraft American single, peel off the plastic and then fold that cool, clammy slice over and over, creating little cubes that I thought looked just like the chicken feed. I’d pull out my shirt, or dress, or pajama like Cinderella did to her an apron and place my cheese cubes there for easy access. Cinderella tossed her feed to the chickens, I tossed cheese to myself and sang along with Gus Gus, Jaq and Cinderelly.

I could go on about my weird food obsessions, like how I freaked the hell out when my mom gave me cream of wheat for the first time because I thought she’s tracked down the fairy tale people and gotten the recipe for porridge (which I thought was a mythical food of sorts). But let’s talk instead about how inquisitive a tyke I was. I was that kid, the “but why?” kid. I was every bit as hell-bent then as I am to this day on finding a way to know things. For example, I asked my mother to explain what a maxi pad was. She bought them on a regular basis, seemed to try hide doing so, and these times were something she used and I didn’t. Naturally, I demanded to know what they were for and why they were only intended for adult use. My mother went with the little-white-lie route and told me they were really durable tissues for grown-up ladies. Fine. That sounded plausible. I mean, why would my mother lie?

It was most unfortunate (for my mother, anyway), that not soon after this incident, a gathering of women found itself at my parents’ home. My mother was hosting a bridal or baby shower, I believe, and one of the women in attendance sneezed. I’d been playing quietly in a corner when I heard this call to service, this opportunity for me to save the day and show how well I pay attention. I popped my head up like a mischievous meerkat then darted to my mother’s bathroom where I grabbed a “durable tissue for grown-up ladies,” peeled the plastic off that bad-boy and slapped in on my palm. I ran back out into the living room and beelined it for the woman who’d sneezed and with my arm stretched straight out and in front of me beamed, “Here you go!” Mama dearest walked in the room holding a tray of beverages and mustered every bit of her strength not to drop them or keel over from embarrassment.That’ll teach her alright.

So remember kids: sometimes made-up lyrics are just better. Fancy cheese is great but American just does the trick sometimes. Bread  of all kinds is amazing. Porridge is a real thing. Maxi pads are stupid. Don’t lie to a kid who remembers shit.  

Bookishly yours, 

P.S. so when I said I had bangs for days...

Ale looks thrilled. and hey- bangs!

I like Easter eggs. and bangs. 

Me, a fake turlte, and my bangs. 

Ballet and bangs. Lots of bangs. 

Mother-Daughter bangs! This *may* just have been the maxi pad day....