Friday, October 31, 2014

Giant Atomic Iron Giant Robot Halloween Decoration: My New Favorite Thing. Ever.


I was driving  to my parent's house one night when I saw Him. An iron giant, a lit-up atomic man, a giant damn robot! "How does he have the robot from The Iron Giant in his yard?! I want it!" I exclaimed to my mother beside me. I was awaiting a new camera battery in the mail, the day after it came in I knew I had to go capture the giant as soon as possible! (I have never outgrown the childish desire to have my own giant robot friend. Never will.)

The homeowner, Larry, happened to be in and I chatted with him about the gorgeous robot and his amazing Halloween decorations. People in Jacksonville, Florida just don't do it like this anymore. Not from what I've seen. His house stands out. "I love Halloween," Larry explains. "We used to get very few trick or treaters, now we get hundreds." I love that ethos, that spirit of sharing.

The Giant himself, though strikingly similar to the title robot from The Iron Giant (an amazing and underrated cult movie, watch it if you haven't) was created without knowledge of the movie at all! Larry made him with intent to create a very 1950s style robot, I love how two artists working independently arrived at the same design. I was shocked to learn the robot was built entirely by Larry himself with styrofoam from a church ceiling! The level of craftsmanship is astonishing, the giant robot is perfect. Flawless craftsmanship. And Larry is not a "trained" artist.

The yard was filled with other creative creations made from the hard church ceiling.

This dinosaur looks like it was bought from the store, it's so perfectly crafted.

And these space aliens carefully cast in a green light are equally spellbinding.

Some altered target skeletons decked in hulla gear add some whimsical kitschy charm to the yard.

I love a good "overdone" yard with loads of kitsch to behold. There was a lot going on, it was beautiful.

But of course, my absolute favorite is the robot. My lifelong robot obsession cannot be denied. The detail! The lights! The way he lights up the darkness like a beacon in the night.

Thanks for sharing your imagination with us, Larry. Your giving and creativity is what this holiday is all about. (Also, Larry, is your robot for sale?! Juuust asking...for...a friend...)

Happy Halloween! What are you getting into? I think I'll kindnap my brother's kids for some trick-or-treating (some mansions by the river a short walk from my humble apartment always have lovely decorations and generous hand-outs.) Then perhaps a little partying with the BF.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Is it Greedy to Thrift for Resell? Should We Leave Thrifts for the Truly Needy? Let's Discuss.

"Are you a reseller?" you may be asked by a voice dripping with distain while you're thrifting. Many people have the attitude that resellers are greedy, taking items that "truly needy" shoppers should use. A smaller number say thrift stores should be reserved for those in dire need and those who can "afford" to shop retail stores should do so.

Katy over at The Non-Consumer Advocate recently wrote a post about such a comment on her Facebook group:

“I have seen several posts on this group as of late about buying an item for a low price just to sell it for more. What gives? I would think being a NCA you would want other people to find a good deal or sell something at a good price. Not sure my thoughts follow the greedy mentally I have seen in the last several posts that have graced my newsfeed.” - See more here
I'm a lifelong thrifter/dumpster diver/re-purposer/upcycler and frugal-ass person as my mom was and her mother before her. I have seen first-hand, a lifetime's worth of overflowing excess on curbsides, in dumpsters, at yard sales, flea markets, and thrift stores. There is more than enough to go around, painfully enough to go around. There is so much unclaimed free and next-to-it "junk" out there it makes me dizzy. I've had to stop hunting because there's too much and I have picked enough!

I can't fathom fighting over anything with so much abundance out there.

Similar to this conversation is the debate on whether or not it's "greedy" to buy thrifted finds for so little and sell it for a "high" profit. This is ridiculous because that's how business works. It's the rule of retail, everyone buys low to sell higher for a profit. There's no shame in it and everyone's entitled to sell whatever they buy for whatever they want to make a living for themselves and save up for their future and/or their family's future. For some reason it's just more stigmatized for a reseller because we seem to be getting such a good deal and "ripping people off" when we sell it for more. We're providing a hunting service, uniting customer's with an item they truly desire, all while avoiding the big retail machine that wastes precious fossil fuels, pollutes the planet, and mistreats overseas workers. Factoring in hunting, gas, cleaning, photographing, research and listing a "higher" price is justified just to get ourselves paid and then making some profit on top of that.

Furthermore, when everyone shops at thrift stores supporting charities it's a win/win situation. Many thrift stores support those in need with their profits.

I say we all have the right to unapologetically use the thrift store as a resource to make a profit or a resource to save our hard-earned money no matter what our income is.

What do you think? Should thrift stores be left for the needy, are resellers and casual "non-needy" thrifters being greedy?

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Raw Vegan Chef Kelley's Tips on Healing and Energizing Naturally with Herbs

I come from a long-line of herb growers and users. My grandma grew everything they needed to make delicious food and medicines in their garden and I helped my mom grow the same, in resourceful, traditional Mexican fashion. My childhood is rich with memories of picking fresh mint and lemon balm for delicate, fragrant teas that clear up your sinuses and make you feel better when you have a cold, or teas that were just damn delicious and good for the soul.

Herbal tea and raw vegan quesdaillas I had with mom. Sena. It worked too well. Never again.

My favorite part of working part-time in a raw vegan kitchen (Shakti Life Kitchen) are the amazing connections I make with the co-workers and customers; people looking to improve their health that I'm happy to help and others I can learn from. Kelley has been a raw vegan chef for six years and has decades of experience learning about, taking classes on, and experimenting with herbs. Her daughter is going to school for herbalism. When we got to talking about herbs one shift I could tell she had detailed knowledge and had to pick her brain to learn more. Seeing is believing with Kelley, she is gorgeous and glowing with health. Her eyes and skin are clear and bright and she beams with radiant energy. Here's how you can get some of that energy for yourself, naturally:

1) Can you tell us a little about yourself and what you do?
My name is Kelley, and I'm still not completely sure of what I want to be when I grow up. At present, I'm a raw chef and an artist.  : )

2) What's your morning routine. Any particular teas/smoothies?
In the mornings, first thing upon awakening, I try to keep a journal of my dreams. Then I'll have a glass of detox water (see below), then make an herbal (medicinal) hot tea, then later a green smoothie.

Beautiful herbs and spices that I sniffed and enjoy at The Hostel in the Forrest. 

3) What herbs do you recommend -everyone- should take?
There are so many amazing herbs, it's very hard to choose only one. Particularly since every person is different and every day is different. Age, gender, general health, particular aches, energy levels, deficiencies, and mood all play such an important part in choosing supportive herbs.

4) How have you learned so much about herbs? 
I am constantly reading, speaking to herbalists,  taking classes, and experimenting on myself. It cannot be denied that nature supports us with her many plants.

5) How long have you been using them?
I remember making "magic potions" up in my jungle gym in kindergarten.  Wait, does that make me a budding herbalist or witch? hmmm.

Fresh herbs from the new Shakti Life Kitchen garden. 

6) What results have you seen?
I think about results a lot. I secretly wish that I had a contrary twin who didn't care about her health so I could compare us.  Otherwise, I guess I enjoy very good health, abundant energy, no aches or pains, and a (usually) balanced mood.  ; )

7) You take herbal remedies instead of caffeine for energy, what do you recommend for energy?
I stopped caffeine in my twenties. That alone, ironically, seems to have given me much more energy. Besides that, every morning I take maca, a very clean burning non-stimulating form of energy that athletes prefer as well.

8) How about for general detoxing?
A day with nothing but water is always a great idea. Also, a gallon of water infused with lemon, cucumber, and ginger (I peel off skins and chop up) which I let sit overnight, then sip on for a couple of days chilled in the fridge. There are, of course, herbs for detox as well.

 "Eh, mom? What are this you have here? Om nom nom nom." My kitchen always has fresh and dried herbs.

9) What herbs do you recommend for anti-oxidizing your body?
Most common herbs have the phytochemical activity that supports health. They are bundles of intensely concentrated antioxidants. I have read that oregano is the gold medal winner if you're looking to add a single herb to your life.

10) What are your favorite herbs?
My favorite herbs are dandelion, red clover, slippery elm, schizandra, chaste berry, damiana, lady's mantle, cat's claw, horsetail, holy basil, nettle. My favorite barks: cat's claw, slippery elm, mushrooms, and roots are maca, pau d'arco, reishi, chaga, ginger, and turmeric. I love sea veggies, algae, and cacao, too. My cabinet is ridiculous.

Loads of dried herbs available to buy by the ounce at Midnight Sun in Five Points, Jacksonville, Florida.

11) Are you full or mostly raw vegan?
I am nearly mostly organic, local, raw and 100% vegan. : )

12) How long have you eaten this way?
My lifestyle has come in stages. Losing my father 20 years ago, too young due to poor diet, had an enormous impact on me. Becoming vegan as part of a Buddhist path was 9 years ago. Raw came right after that.

13) What do you feel the results are?
Absolutely amazing.  I'll never be any other way. Unless I become that witch and freak everyone out by living forever.

14) Are you trained in cooking raw food or do you come up with the recipes through experimentation?
My very dear friend Valerie and I trained ourselves to be raw chefs when given the priceless opportunity by my other very dear friend, Carrie. We were a part of Shakti's beginning, and grateful every day for that.  We never stop playing with new recipes.  : )

I love foraging for herbs! This garden at The Hostel had loads of wild growing Holy Basil to enjoy.

15) What's your favorite recipe?
Favorite recipe, hmmm. It's shameless, but it would have to be my brazil nut ganache chocolate dipped darlings. but a whole bunch of other chocolates come right behind them. 

16) Any awesome smoothie recipes to recommend?
I absolutely have a favorite smoothie! Every morning I have a rendition based on my fridge's bounty. The super foods are ALWAYS in there.

The Mad Scientist Smoothie: spinach, kale, carrot tops, sprouts, any other green (including spring mix in a pinch), frozen banana and pineapple, hemp seed, cacao, maca, mesquite, slippery elm, marshmallow root, turmeric, chaga, chlorella, cordeceps!! :D

Nature's bounty. Holy and sweet basil mix. Fresh mint. Eggplants, hot peppers and ocra.

17) What healing foods do you feel are vital to consume?
I believe that as close as you can get to nature is the best way to eat. It seems that more people are beginning to understand this. I won't be surprised when, driving down the boulevard, we see herds of people happily grazing, eating straight from the plant with roots still firmly planted.

18) How about healing spices or minerals?
A terrific spice to add to your life is cayenne. A pinch will blow the cobwebs from mind and body! I know it sounds weird, but I add a quartz crystal to the ceramic base of my water dispenser.* Also, a tiny pinch of pink salt will add 84 trace minerals to your water. Egad.

19) Any books/websites/resources to recommend?
My Facebook page has really become for me a thread of information. I have liked so many things that have led to so many things. My bookcase is also ridiculous. Oh, and Stumble Upon is another great tool for personalizing a stream of knowledge that can change your life, or at least the way you see your world.

20) Final words?
Be well.  

*Kelley once told me to try adding salt to my water because it helps the water permeate the cell's membrane for better hydration. I've been trying it with pink Himalayan sea salt, available at health food stores or online. Another post to come but drastically increasing my water intake and greatly improved problems I was having. Do it!

Thanks so much for sharing all of these tips with us. I'm excited to grow a lot of these plants (Holy Basil, come to me, I've heard it's an amazing adaptogen everyone should have in their diet. Smells amazing, too) and incorporate them into my routine. I'm enjoying some pau'd arco tree park now. If you're local Midnight Sun has all of these herbs available in bulk buy, otherwise, Mountain Rose Herbs has high quality herbs and spices available to order. Try Amazon as well. 

NOTE: Always do your own research before trying new herbs, particularly outside of the conventional oregano/basil/mint/etc. grocery chain available canon. Never take huge doses, look up the dosage amount for each herb. Go slow and be cautious. Plants can be potent. If you have health conditions, consult with a doctor. I don't believe herbs are cures for diseases, but I do believe they are health-promoting and very preventive when used along with a healthy lifestyle with ample fruits/veggies/water/exercise/sleep.  

Have you tried adding any teas and/or supplements to your diet? I'm definitely trying Kelley's smoothie and herb recommendations.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Creative Last-Second Thrifty Halloween Costumes: For Couples, Singles, and You

It happens every year. You have ambitious plans for Halloween costumes when's the last week of the month. What are you going to wear? The best costumes are often the last-second ones you creatively put together with what you have or from thrift store finds. Here are my easy-to-thrift ideas for 2014:

American Psycho Costume

A chainsaw or murder weapon covered with blood really complete the look. And/or a murder victim in a hideous 1980s dress, abundant at Thrift Stores.

Janice Joplin Costume

Wild brown hair, circle-frame glasses, and a loose retro blouse top. You -will- be recognized. Janice is such an icon. Have fun with layering. You can't have too many layers, bracelets and beads.

Romance Novel Couple

She's about to let one...what?! What?!! I adore romance novels. For laughs. They're hilarious. Just the covers and copy and the back and alone can send one into peals of laugher. Channel your inner Fabio Lanzoni. Guys wear a lady's blouse- or none at all, with boots and tight black pants. A long blonde wig works for the guys and the girls! Actually the girls and guys can almost wear the same costume, but finding any kind of romantic typical period-piece off-the-shoulder dress for the girls is best. I see them while thrifting pretty frequently, actually.

Furthermore, my Google Search history is now tainted! I did it for you!

The Walking Dead Gang

This one is pretty open ended. You can cosplay as the main "family" we've come to love or make your own. Include your weapons (I think a frying pan should be in there) dirty up a lot of thrifted clothes (or old ones of your own) add some blood and maybe throw a zombie into the group. Fun times.

Miami Vice

Thrift for loafers, white pants, and a white sports coat- don't you dare button that coat, don't you know where you are!? It's Miami, it's hot as balls down here! Complete the look with your (fake) gun, sunglasses, and 1980s swag. And moose. Lots of moose.

Playboy and his Bunny Costumes

A little trite for Halloween, but so easy. Find a black or red robe, pinstripe pants, and pipe and black slippers for the playboy. The bunny can wear a slinky black dress or black one-piece body or swimsuit with net stockings, black pumps, and of course, the ears and cotton tail. You can make a retro playboy bunny with a beehive and heavy cat-eye make-up.

Breakfast and Tiffany's Costume

Perhaps a bit trite, but so easy, who can resist? All you need is a little black dress, black opera gloves, and a string of pearls to create the iconic costume.

Barbie Costume

Again, been done to death, but it's only a few day to Halloween and you gotta get shit did! Thrift for all pink accessories and wear a blonde wig if you're not a natural blonde. Easy peasy.

Creeper P.E. Coach Costume

Did you have a creeper P.E. coach? Aren't they at every school? Nightmare educing. Retro short-shorts and high socks really make this. Add a fake pedo-stash, a headband, and a white tank if you don't have your own.

Previous year's ideas: here

Got any last-second Halloween costumes you'll be making this year? /comments off

Monday, October 27, 2014

Positive Body Image: My Favorite Tricks and Websites for Overcoming Body Insecurity

I've hinted at it before but I'm a huge fan of "natural beauty" (no make-up, using natural products, DIY toothpaste, coconut oil and baking soda alone for most "cosmetic" needs). This extends to our bodies in their "natural" forms: sans photoshop and societal expectations. My busy creative brain would be bored to tears if everyone fit the "conventional beauty" mold. Give me diversity, fat and slim, tall and short. Give me the fascinating "flaws" to document, photograph, and contemplate. You likely agree. Yet we all get down on ourselves, hating the same "imperfections" we love in others. I'm working out, trying to find the best way to feed and actively working to change my body and it can lead to a lot of self-loathing over my progress. We've all be there, it's rare to find a person completely content with their looks. When I'm feeling down I go to these tricks and websites to remember what really matters and get over the self-doubt:

About to leave for the gym. Drinking all the water!

1) Do This: Write all of your negative thoughts, brain dump it. It's very freeing.

2) Read This: The Militant Baker is chock full of images and words that will inspire you with body positivity- at any size.

3) Do This: Tackle what's stressing you outside of your body insecurities. You'll feel healthier overall. For me this is cleaning/organizing, something I'm always working at. A clear, clutter-free space always makes me happier.

4) Read This: I always suspected there had to be some primitive way to "photoshop" before photoshop, see it in action here on Joan Crawford! It wasn't just expert lighting, make-up, hair and staging but photo negative alteration. Even the "naturally perfect" stars of the past you admired where "photoshopped" into goddess status. Read here

5) Do This: Eat at least one salad, 8 to 16 cups of water throughout the day and or green drink a day. It's hard to hate on yourself when you know you're giving your body the right nutrients. Go an extra step and replace breakfast with a big smoothie or lunch with a big salad. I have a raw vegan series here if you're curious.

6) Read This:Expose: Shedding Light on Collective Beauty.

NSFW. Beautiful, real nudity is photographed.

Tell me something. 
When was the last time you opened up your browser and saw a beautiful image of a body shape that looked just like yours? 
When was the last time you saw an image of skin markings that looked just like yours? 
When was the last time you saw an image of breasts that looked just like yours? An ass that looked just like yours? Scars that looked just like yours? A belly that looked just like yours?  
Unless you're a celebrity look alike and have real time Photoshop (like, a program that follows and moves with you) I'm going to guess that for the majority of us... it's been a while. It's been a while since we've (or maybe we've never) seen our body positively represented within that overwhelming flood of images that fills our social media feeds, televisions, and magazines.
I adore Expose: Shedding Light on Collective beauty. All sizes and shapes are represented, un-photoshopped. We finally see shapes like the "real us" and it's a beautiful reminder that what we see all the time in magazines isn't real.

7) Do This: Move More. Again, not just good for physical health but for your mental well being. If you're not moving yet, start with inspiring walks around the neighborhood with your camera. Maybe get a gym membership. Again, when you know you're moving and being healthy it's harder to get down on yourself at any size. I have my novice gym-bunny experience here with near-falls from treadmills for laughs.

 I hope these body positivity messages and websites inspire you. As a society we're constantly bombarded with impossibly-perfect images of bodies and faces, it's easy to get discouraged.

Have any tips or links to add? Would love to read them.
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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Coffee and Productivity: 10 Reasons Why I Avoid Caffeine for Creativity and Health

Ah, caffeine, the lifeblood of the Creative. Can you survive without it? Mountain Dew Code Red with a sugary cereal bar was my high school breakfast, I used to bounce off the walls then crash midday. Code Red had the highest caffeine content of any soda with an addictive red dye to boot. When I started working full-time as a bill collector I drank three cups of cream-and-sugared coffee for the comfort and taste. When I transitioned to finding writing work I was drinking instant espresso and wondering why I couldn't sleep, it was all mindless consumption. Weaning caffeine out was easy, I switched to trying various green teas for the taste. When I switched to veganism then semi-raw veganism I transitioned to no caffeine at all. It's a rare treat now. Sometimes with dangerous affects.

Green tea latte I ordered in a cute seaside cafe in Okinawa, Japan

Recently I made a very strong cup of green tea. Shit got did: organized, listed, cleaned, decorated. I felt my old "Writer's voice" returning, my "real voice" trained out by copywriting. I crave that lost voice with the same mad passion Ahab has for killing his whale, and green tea was a vessel that bought it back. But the green had its price; I woke up destroyed. That's my usual cycle with caffeine: a ton gets done one day, but the next day I move like a zombie. It's a zero-sum game.

The little booth we enjoyed our treats in. I adore cafes and still want to open one. I have a conflicted relationship with caffeine...but still try to avoid it!

Many doctors say coffee and tea are healthy. Many of the healthiest countries in the world drink it. Some of the oldest people in the world credit a black cup of coffee a day for their longevity. Yes, it boosts creativity and metabolism.  But I have to call bullshit on it's purported Wonder Powers for Perfect Health. Here are my issues with caffeine:

1. It's addictive. Plain and simple.

Any substance that creates a chemical dependency can't be good. Caffeine produces withdrawal headaches and even scarier, dependance for functioning. When I stopped drinking coffee and replaced it with ample water my semi-frequent migraines vanished. I don't miss 'em!

2. It's an unnecessary addiction.

I've been stopped here and reminded that air, water, food, and love* are also "addictions." I shouldn't have to point out we need those things to live but we don't need caffeine to live? If we're healthy and getting the correct amount of sleep, healthy food, exercise and ample water we shouldn't need caffeine to function with ample energy. I'm not saying I do all of that "right", hell no I don't! But I'm striving to improve my general health all the time and don't want caffeine to impair the judgement of my results. More on that below...

*That love-high you feel is your brain producing oxytocin, the love/addiction chemical. Next time you see your S/O say "You're my wittle oxytocin-producer... yes you are, yes you are!"

3. I want to use energy levels to gauge progress with my health.

I'm always trying new vegan /whole food/exercise combinations and striving to be as frugally healthy as possible. I want to hyperactively productive with my creative passions. I don't like caffeine messing up my ability to judge if my lifestyle improvements are working. I want to be naturally energetic as a reflection of proper hydration/sleep/diet/exercise.

4. Even in small doses, you develop a tolerance and need more for the same high.

A 1995 study showed that you develop a tolerance for the amount of caffeine you're drinking and will need more to function as well as your initial dosage in as little as 8-12 days, even if you're only drinking a tiny bit of caffeine. Furthermore, you can crave more in a matter of hours! I can't stand being dependent on any particular thing to get by other than healthy food and water.

5. I don't want to need it to be creative.

Caffeine gets you creative for a while...until the inevitable crash. I don't want to be dependent on any substance to be creative, I'm going to try natural methods like the ones in the classic book The Artist's Way.

6. It's nice to keep on-hand for emergency use only.

The less you drink it, the more if will be effective for emergency deadlines. Sparingly.

7. It's like those "speed shoes" in Sonic The Hedgehog. You're faster but it screws you.

I used to avoid the box you crush to make you much faster in Sonic The Hedgehog. You're faster but you almost enviably lose all your rings and/or  fall pray to the dozens of enemies and booby traps. It's no different in real life for me. (Phase 1) I get coffee high, over-ambitious and start on several projects and once, (Phase 2) The caffeine wears off and I'm left my a giant project-pile and house mess that sets me back a day or more and (Phase 3) The next day I'm sloth-slow after working too hard the prior day or staying up too late from not being able to sleep due to caffeine and I'm set behind.

It tends to be a hinderance and not helpful at all if you're not careful. And about that coffee high...

8. The Coffee-High creeps me out.

Caffeine increases dopamine and adrenaline levels, creating the mood and creativity boosting coffee high. I loathe taking anything that changes my mood, I'm that rare creative person that's never tried illegal drugs. The creativity boost is delicious and being happy is good, in theory. But it weirds me out. It's "fake" happiness, I don't like the thought of having to drink the coffee to be happy. And it can cause cranky withdrawals or tiredness later. I prefer to improve my mood and creativity naturally.

9. Cost.

The coffee you pick up from Starbucks, the cans of healthy or not-so-healthy energy drinks or teas add up! Let's say you buy coffee five days a week at it's average retail cost of $3.65*, that's $73.00 a month and $876 a year! A lot of people I know buy little energy drink pick-me-ups throughout the day that add more to that cost.

A cup of coffee at home costs 65 cents on average, that's the better way to go if you're going to drink it and a preparing a cup of tea can be a relaxing


10. The Cult of Coffee.

The smell of coffee is heaven for me and many others. I grew up influenced by big-time coffee culture being Hispanic and raised in Naples, Italy.* My mom would make daily cappuccinos and let me taste the sweet, frothy goodness. Coffee is nostalgic and comforting. It has a cultured, old-world association. Cafes are soothing spaces to work. The process of making it is a relaxing ritual. It's also culty and occasionally snobby.

*Want to feel your eyes twitch involuntarily? Test the might of a real Italian Espresso. The "Americano" coffee was invented from American soldiers in Italy during WW II that needed the stronger Italian coffee watered down.

Coffee smells and tastes delicious, it's a decadent treat and I'm not saying you should stop drinking it. I did, after all, recently share a pumpkin spice latte recipe. I know it affects everyone differently. But I hope you consider how much you drink, where you buy it, and why you drink it. I'll share alternatives healthy/tasty caffeine-free drinks and energy boosting methods in future posts.

A great post to read is The Best Time to Drink Coffee According to Science, with information on timing your coffee according to your natural circadian rhythm.

Do you need your cup of joe or tea to survive? Let's discuss coffee and creativity. I'll confess it's tempting to drink it occasionally for that creative boost
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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

A Relaxing Birthday Celebration at the Hostel in the Forest, Inspiring Daily Peacefulness


For my birthday I wanted to get away to the peaceful hostel where the trees sway in the breeze like a seductive whisper. "Come back, whhsssswhssswhsss" they call it my dreams. Pulsing, throbbing, beckoning. The Hostel in the Forest is my new favorite place in the world and the only thing stopping me from living there is my lease, my wonderful roommate who wouldn't come with me, and my macbook pro being a necessity to make a living- a machine they probably wouldn't like plugged in to one of their staff huts.

This time I could only snap photos with my broken smart phone, I'm waiting to get a new DSLR battery charger in the mail. Living without my SLR is torture! I feel like I have a limb missing and I wanted to photograph some abandoned spaces, kitschy Halloween things and crafts sooner, grr! Yet, it was nice to take a break from pedantic photo capturing and relax without feeling the need to capture every single moment of the trip. We stayed in "The Turtle Room"- a cute clandestine cubbyhole that along with "The Mushroom Room" is unobtrusively tucked beside the laundry area. It was a tad chilly (for us, got to 53 or so those nights) so we were grateful to stay in a space a bit warmer than the tree houses which are less insulated.

I loved seeing ample pumpkins on the front porch upon arrival!

There was lots of reading in the heartbreakingly gorgeous and peaceful library, trail exploring, making, and resting. Engrossed in Stephen King's Carrie, a stack of books beside me, I realized I hadn't felt this relaxed and contented in months. After franticly running around (right up to when we left- I had to pack orders, write, clean and take care of "last-second business" that dragged on for 5 hours!) it was a much needed break. I felt like I was gently swaying side-to-side like being cradled...yes I know this sounds insane, I swear I wasn't drinking special hippie kool-aid, drinking, or taking drugs. I was just so relieved and at peace.

The library is our favorite space at the hostel and I'm inspired to carve out some type of "no work/no tv" studios nook full of books in my apartment and future homes. A quiet shoes-off space for relaxing, reading, and writing.

This stay was quiet and cool. We explored more trails than the last visit, but not all of them. I love how we'll have something "new" to explore with every stay at this rate. There's still more T-Trails, photos to take, the lake and pool to swim in (clothes optional), and nearby driftwood beaches and more to drive out to.

During this visit we explored "The Corral" which houses guests when all the tree houses and rooms are full in true hostel-style. I was surprised to discover what was on the top floor, though.

There was an art studio! Filled with ample supplies, yarns, inspiring books and completed works, surrounded by the peaceful trees. A dreamy space to create.

A couple of sheets concealed a couple more bunk beds in the back of the art studio.

The ceiling hosted a giant art piece.

The Corral downstairs was surprisingly appealing, I'd imagine it would be fun to stay here with different guests from around the world.

Of course I had to test the hammock for a while. For Science!

I loved the string light and all of the quotes on the bed, floors, and wall left by past staff  members and guests.

The Disney freak in me loves the quote from Mufasa to Simba from The Lion King. At my now
advanced age of 28 [hyperbole] I actually think of that one from time to time. "Look inside yourself.You are more than what you have become." - indeed, time to get cracking and make things! Sorry Mufasa, I'm working on it! I'll return the Pride Lands just don't haunt me from the grave anymore! Aaaah...!

I loved the little sink in the corner of the room. Ramshackle, but in perfect working order.

And the bookshelf in the front of the room replete with dinosaur toy and a huge stack of National Geographic magazines to enjoy. I love how this place encourages so much reading and nature exploring. Life should be more like this.

At one point during the trip my boyfriend AJ announced that he must mysteriously disappear for thirty minutes or so. I was confused and a little twitchy about the secrecy of it all but he surprised me with a birthday fruit platter! (He overheard me tell my mom on the phone that I didn't want to eat a conventional birthday cake. Trying to keep more consistent with my healthy eating. Don't get me wrong though, if someone had bought me a birthday cake instead I'd have eaten it. Guiltily, but still.) He put a couple candles from the room on it for me to blow out.

And all the beautiful fruit was devoured in one day. 'Twas a very sweet gesture and I actually didn't see it coming. I think I'm still on-edge and adjusting to having such a sweet boyfriend.

My camera died but a trail to the "mystic willow" was recommended, I was told it holds another secret to the hostel's beginning. The trail took us to a porch that once belonged to a couple that lived behind the hostel that the original owner became close friends with. When they died he moved the whole thing to face a beautiful willow tree. The sweet tribute story was left in a hammock on the porch for visitors to read. Rocking back and forth on the hammock AJ said "sometimes I don't believe you're real, it's too good, what's the catch." - oh the sappiness! This is stuff I couldn't repeat aloud, I'm 12 going on 28 when it comes to sappy stuff. Ew, gross! Too cliche! Look at pictures of trees, forget I said anything:

The trails inspired me to get out to nature more. I can't wait to do some wild herb, berry, and flower gathering.

The main building here (where you check in and where the kitchen lives) houses a big book of literature on how the hostel was created that I'll read in full with the next inevitable trip.

I ran out of time/light to take photos of the hot bath we took in the middle of the woods. (Not seen above, that's another shot of the pool.) There's an area with a deck, shower, and big retro tub called "The sexy shower". We took two hot baths underneath the bright stars and later walked to the lake at night. The indigo sky was velvety, illuminated with clusters of twinkling stars. The black trees shiloetted on the horizon were reflected in the lake. It was a stunning tableau that looked like a painting come to life. Here, while singing back and forth on a swinging bench we wished the whole world could be like this. We considered how others came into the bathing area with us after their lake swim to wash up and no one was ashamed of the nudity and how free and friendly it could be, but also agreed it's nice to have the juxtaposition and the mystery. It's nice to a have a choice between chaotic urban life and peaceful living and to go back and forth and reap the benefits of both.

And now I have a beautiful image to go back to when meditating. When times are tough I can close my eyes are remember the peace at the hostel. I'll bring its lessons with me to the home and remember to go out and explore more, keep the TV off more often than not, create, read, and really live. I also left with more ideas for cooking creative vegan dishes, everything served for dinner was delicious. The travelers we met were equally inspiring, one was living the dream and biking the whole country. (And commenting it on Crazy Guy on a Bike an awesome journal site for bike travelers around the world. I'd love to do the same!) It was a lovely way to spend a birthday. We'll be back for you, hostel!

For those who missed it, I have a post on my first visit to the hostel that shows more of the space and information on staying there here
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