HBD, Smagik!

Six years ago I created this blog as an exercise to find beauty in the everyday. It was a dreary, February day and I needed a self induced push and reason to get off the couch. By creating the goal of finding or eating or going to or doing something beautiful, delicious, fun, and joyful everyday, my life began to take on these same qualities. Small, everyday, easy to take for granted moments took on a new significance simply by being noticed and appreciated.

Thank you for joining me on the journey! And here’s to many more years of Adventure, Joy, Connection, and to finding the beauty in all of our everydays!

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@smagikstudio

Detached.

Back in LA for the first time since I moved and ever having lived here feels like a dream.

Back to staying in friend’s guest rooms and houses while here for work. Back to making the 12 hour drive across the desert, to looking forward to seeing and being near the ocean, to making lists of favorite restaurants where I must remember to eat while in town, to being homesick, and to seeing this city from a detached perspective. Back to seeing it as a temporary adventure rather than a chosen home. Back to the existential question “what am I doing here?” that follows me here in ways I can’t answer. Back to my favorite used clothing store, Crossroads, in Silver Lake, to the best lamb sandwich, eaten while sitting at the Bowery Bungalow bar, to traffic, to the smell of jasmine literally blowing in the wind, like a perfume Albuquerque can’t imagine, and back to work.

I like LA. Love might be too strong, but like very much. But, being back reminds me of how totally ungrounded and unanchored I felt living here. The connection I craved always just out of reach.

Family, home, dirt, love…

Drinking a beer after a long week back at work, watching others do the same, I feel nothing but gratitude for all of the twists and turns of the last few years. I’m happy to have learned to navigate this city, to feel comfortable and confident working and being here. But, I’m most grateful to the little interior voice that, upon learning all it needed to, called me home.

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Holidaze’ Backwards Gaze.

IMG_9707Another year almost complete, cookies everywhere I look, twinkle lights, car accidents within feet of each other near the mall, the frenzy is upon us! How to stay present, sane, and joyful in the midst of traffic, lines, and expectations (most often self imposed)? It’s time to practice all that we’ve begun throughout the year, returning to morning routines, meditation, slowing down to breath and to laugh. And making lists helps too.

2018! What a bizarre year. How was yours?

One year ago I was preparing for a trip to India, finishing my improv and writing classes in LA, packing my car to drive East on I-40 for my Christmas trip home and the idea that I would soon move back to New Mexico permanently was nowhere on the horizon. Already that life seems like a dream. I recently hung my California license plate on the wall in my studio after finally re-registering my car in NM, as proof that it did happen, but the dreamlike quality remains.

After the initial chaos of the move back, life is finding a groove and I once again feel in the flow. 11:11 repeatedly appears, the perfect opportunities come from nowhere, old friends resurface, and only now does the level to which I was forcing things in LA seem clear. Not that it was bad. Great jobs came along, I met wonderful people, took classes, lived in a cute apartment, and overall had little to complain about, but the flow was missing. My  life felt manhandled and like something to figure out and to solve, rather than to simply be in.

But, it is also clear that it was something I had to do. I now know without any doubt that “wherever you go, there you are.” There is never anything out there (a job, a relationship, a city) that can magically create joy and contentment if it doesn’t already exist inside. We always come back to ourselves whether we like it or not.

I’m currently mulling over words for 2019. As most of you know, I intuitively choose one for each year and invariably they set the tone for the coming year. Love was my word for 2018 and when I chose it, just over one year ago, I had an inkling that though I would have loved for it to herald the arrival of an amazing new romantic relationship, it might end up being more about the self-love kind. Bingo.

And here I am, with two weeks to go before a new year begins, feeling so full of gratitude, contentment, joy, and cookies I could burst. All that I took for granted prior to moving (like my washing machine and driveway), all that I discovered and experienced while in LA (improv, storytelling, being on location for two months in sublime Northern California) and all that I want to create (an integrated life) are coming together and aligning beautifully. And I don’t take any of it for granted.

Scattered around my kitchen table, along with cookie recipes, shopping lists, and wrapping paper, are lists of words… Alignment. Commitment. Fun. Flow… I’m waiting for the 2019 winner to rise to the surface.

What’s your word for the upcoming year? What do you want to create?

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Gratitude + WTF

There is something about Thanksgiving that I just really, really love. Besides the pie, the cozy fuzzies, and the tradition. I love the craziness of it all.

I worked until 8 tonight and on what other night would I ever come home after working for twelve hours and decide to make a dessert that had terms I needed to google? When else would any of us drive for hours to argue about politics with people we don’t like very much (but do somehow love) and cook gigantic birds when we order takeout the other 364 nights a year?

I swore I bought everything I needed at the grocery store on Sunday and, yet, where was I at 8:10 tonight? Trader Joe’s.

“Do you sell tin foil?” I asked my cashier, hopefully.

“No, oh my god, I hope my wife remembered to buy some. We should, we really should have it. Do you mind if I have Siri text her while you’re swiping your card?”

Bouquets of flowers, bottles of wine, frozen pumpkin cheesecakes… the store looked like a herd of elephants had just run through, though the festive vibe made it seem like a friendly herd. Most shoppers were carrying baskets rather than pushing carts, the true procrastinators or, more likely, the guests; responsible only for appetizers, pie, flowers, and beverages. Maybe a baguette.

I am currently waiting for my hazelnuts to cool. I was supposed to bake them for 10-15 minutes or until their skin darkened and cracked. At that point I need to wrap them in a clean towel and rub them, so their skin comes off. So far, it’s been 20 minutes and the skin isn’t sloughing, no matter how hard I rub. Like a woman in a Turkish bath, scrubbing away, these guys won’t budge. I’m about to put them in the blender with the rice flour, skins and all, heaven forbid.

But, see what I mean? It’s funny.

I just googled ‘fruit curd’ upon realizing I had no idea what my recipe was talking about.

And all over the country people are stuck in traffic or airports or on the couch next to weird Uncle Joe. They are googling gravy recipes, calling their mom or missing their mom.

I will never forget a newscast I saw years ago on the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving. “What is it you love most about Thanksgiving?” the newscaster asked a bunch of people stuck in an airport somewhere. Mom was the overwhelming answer. And pie.

But, back to my hazelnuts and curd.

Wishing you and yours a Smagikal Thanksgiving and, whether you’re home alone, with friends or mom, roasting a turkey or making a tuna sandwich, baking a pie or trying that new 26 step recipe that seemed like a good idea last month, may the craziness make you laugh!

If you want to try the New York Times Cranberry Curd Tart with me, let me know how your skin sloughing goes!

https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1017817-cranberry-curd-tart?grocerylist

Life Taken for Granted

Moving back into my little house in my little city, I was reminded of a story my mom told my sister and I when we were children about Nasruddin, the wise fool found in much Eastern folklore and especially popular in Sufism.

One day a neighbor approached Nasruddin, lamenting the fact that his house was too small for his large family and asking Mulla Nasruddin for his advice.

“Yes,” replied Nasruddin, “do you have any chickens?”

“Yes,” said the man.

“Bring them all into the house,” Nasruddin told the man. “And if you have any geese or ducks, bring them in too.”

“But, it’s already so crowded, I don’t understand how this will help.”

“You asked for my advice. This is it.”

The man went home and brought his 10 chickens into the house. The next day he returned to Nasruddin.

“It’s awful,” he said. “They’re dirty and loud and it’s more crowded than before.”

“Good,” Nasruddin replied. “Now, do you have a donkey? A horse?”

“We have a donkey,” the man said.

“Wonderful, bring him into the house as well.”

“But…ok” the man replied.

The man returned the next day, looking more exhausted than before.

“It’s worse,” he said. “Between my wife and kids and in-laws and the donkey and chickens, it’s just much, much worse.”

“Wonderful,” Nasruddin replied. “Do you have any goats? Pigs? Dogs? Cats?”

“Yes, we have all of these animals.”

“Terrific. Please bring them all into your house.”

“But, I don’t see how this… ok.”

The next day the man returned, looking worse than ever.

“I haven’t been able to sleep” he told Nasruddin. “And now my family is all mad at me for bringing in the animals. Everyone is fighting more than before. The animals are eating all of the food. There’s not enough room for us in our own home.”

“Great,” Nasruddin smiled. “Now go home and put all of the animals back outside.”

Wearily, the man agreed and walked home.

The next morning the man reappeared, smiling.

“Mulla, your plan worked perfectly. Last night we all slept, no one is arguing, and everyone is very content in our little home.”

I’ve always loved this story and think of it often. How easy it is to take our lives for granted until that which makes them up is changed or removed and we are left realizing how good we had it.

Before moving to LA, I never gave my driveway or washing machine a second thought. I was bored with low overhead, believing that my life was too easy and that I wasn’t pushing myself hard enough. So, I traded my home for shared walls, shared laundry, and street parking, increased my overhead by half and made the move.

It was fun, it was new, and it was a change, which is maybe what I needed most of all. And then it was old, the same, and normal. And so life goes. I came to realize how mellow I am and how mellow the life I love is. I cook. I blog. I work. I go to the movies. I visit friends.

The museums and concerts in LA are great, as is the shopping. There is more of everything to choose from. The food is amazing. But, when it came down to it, too much choice actually made me slightly catatonic and I began to crave routine and simplicity over excitement.

Now, back in my funny little desert city, with it’s empty streets, quiet night life, and my own personal driveway, you’d think I’d won the lottery. I’m perfecting my yogurt recipes, riding my bike, and relishing not having to work as much. Sometimes it takes giving something up to realize what you had and to remember that simple can be great.

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When the world trips over itself to make you smile.

Do you ever feel like the world is tripping over itself to show you its beauty, make you laugh, excite you, nourish you, and wake you up, but that, until you’re ready, open, present, and willing, the effort goes unnoticed?

My sister recommends the perfect book that is exactly what I need to read, this relates to the radio show I happen to hear while driving to work, which happens to be down the PCH at sunrise, after which my favorite song begins to play, etc, etc, etc. (Not to belittle the magic, but there have been too many of these moments to mention).

Let go. All roads lead to letting go. Every book, every podcast, every teacher. Let go. Let it flow.

Fly. Trust.

Ok world, I hear you, thank you.

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The Winding Road

We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.

-Joseph Campbell

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Yesterday I stood on the edge of grassy cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean and thought about Joseph Campbell’s words, as salty wind whipped my hair and wildflowers rustled my jeans. With my car parked on the shoulder of Highway 1, somewhere between Carmel and Big Sur, California, I knew that I was exactly where I was supposed to be but also wondered how I had gotten there. Thirty nine, no children, no pets, no husband, a career that won’t let me break up with it no matter how many times I try and for which I am grateful, a month on location in one of the most spectacular places on earth, a full weekend to myself, too may hobbies to count, and a mixture of gratitude, wonder, and uncertainty.

Is this it? Does everyone look around, at their life, and ask that question, not as one of lack, but out of curiosity?

Keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable.

-Mary Oliver

I am not actually sure what the life I planned looked like. I wanted to be everything from an actress, to a window dresser, linguist, and writer. I assumed marriage and children would just happen though I never thought too much about it. They still might. I don’t know where I saw myself living or what exactly I saw myself doing, I just assumed that one morning I would wake up, look around, and think “oh good, finally figured it out and now it all makes sense.” HAAA!

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On Friday I sat in the front seat of the car carrying a famous actress to a movie set. To my right the sun was beginning to set over the Pacific Ocean and, as we curved around the famous 17 Mile Drive, through Pacific Grove and into Carmel, news about President Trump’s decision to launch missiles into Syria played over the radio. Heaven and hell all in one surreal, twenty minute drive.

How do we let go of how we thought it would be, so we can be present and have gratitude for what is actually happening in our lives, moment by moment, and thereby be of service to ourselves and others?

Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive. And go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.

-Howard Thurman

What makes me come alive? Getting in my car with my camera on an empty day with no agenda other than to drive, take pictures of what I see, listen to music as I go, and share the beauty that I find with others. Though finding beauty on California Highway 1 is actually unavoidable, I have as much fun doing the same in Georgia, LA, Colorado or wherever else my job and life take me. IMG_4329

I wake, whether in my LA apartment or any number of hotel rooms, knowing that I want to help make the world a more beautiful place and to help others find the beauty in their lives and I wake with a certainty that I can and will do this, though the specifics remain vague. As I let go of the hows, things fall into place and my life becomes a creative adventure that I, along with the universe, am creating one day and decision at at time.

Back of every creation, supporting it like an arch, is faith. Enthusiasm is nothing: it comes and goes. But if one believes, then miracles occur.

-Henry Miller

Faith. Faith that there is a plan bigger than anything my little imagination can conjure up. Faith that we are always being guided and presented with the next right choice, so long as we are present enough to see it. As I repeatedly let go of my ideas about how it should be and accept how it is, I wake more often feeling that I actually am figuring it out and being let in on the secret.

Let the beauty of what you love be what you do.

-Rumi

Yesterday’s Theme Song- Astral Plane on Valerie June’s album The Order of Time. Snack- sweet potato corn chips, bought at a little camping supply grocery store in the redwoods of Big Sur. Smell- salty, woody, grassy air.

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The moment one gives close attention to any thing, even a blade of grass it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself.

Henry Miller

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