My Takeaways: Canyon Ranch 2017

Hi guys!

I wanted to check back in and write a little bit about my recent trip to a resort called Canyon Ranch in Tucson, Arizona.

When telling my friends that I was going to a resort for spring break, I described it similar to the one in High School Musical 2; the Lava Springs. After my trip, I noted that the main difference was that there weren’t any wild Javelinas strolling around Lava Springs. At Canyon Ranch, it wasn’t unusual to witness a Javelina scurrying across the path to join its friends while they were snacking on some freshly fallen Mesquite beans.

It’s hard to believe how much we did during our three day stay. We took Zumba classes, cardio workouts (deadly), yoga, meditation, boxing, cooking classes, drumming, and art classes. I know, what a variety! All I can say is, by the end of this trip, my muscles ached but my mind was a ease.

I had tried some meditation at school before (my photography teacher made us meditate for the first five minutes of each class), but I had never really felt centered while meditating. It was mostly just more time for me to continue stressing about the math test I took the period before.

From going to some classes, I saw what meditation really was and I experienced its benefits.

A lot of people think that meditating is the absence of thoughts. While this is quite intriguing, it’s not completely the case. Meditation is about noticing the thoughts that come into your brain, acknowledging them, and letting them go.

Thoughts are natural, and aren’t meant to be looked at as a bad thing in meditation.

Something that really helped me with centering mediation was breathing, and focusing my attention to each breath and how it felt. In my head, I thought of the words rising, for inhale, and falling, for exhale.

Another option is to visualize scenes in your head while you meditate. It’s nice to think things that go well with the words, rising and falling, such as tides in the ocean. Of course, this is not the only way to meditate, and I would encourage you to find out what works for you.

Although meditation may seem intimidating, it really isn’t. It’s just a time that you can set aside to relax and de-stress. And remember, thoughts are not bad, acknowledge them, and move on.

On another, more upbeat note, my mom and I tried ZUMBA! We had so much fun that we’re planning on taking more classes back at home.

It was refreshing to bust out our most crazy-funny moves, and nobody was judging us. In the end, people were more focused on their own reflection in the mirror.

My mom and I ended up taking a total of four different art classes! We learned how to make whimsical paper flowers, how to draw realistically (or somewhat realistically), how to paint with watercolor, and how to make collaged jewlery.

With the brush in my hand, a set of watercolor paints, and a white page in front of me, I let my imagination run wild and put my own creation on paper.

But first, if I’m being totally honest, I actually felt quite anxious. The questions of what I should do and how to make it look good ran through my brain. I didn’t know where to start. Once I realized that I could make mistakes, and whatever I was creating was my own creation, I let the brush do its work.

A few strokes turned into an outline of a hill in the distance, and then soon enough, I created a finished desert landscape.

I didn’t know that I could make something like that with watercolor, and now I’m definitely inspired to do some more watercolor back home!

Although I’m by no means a pro, here’s a tip for any newbies to watercolor.

TIP: Make sure to have a blow dryer in hand to dry your piece during the painting process. Dry each layer before adding another if you don’t want the colors to bleed into each other or blend.

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When my mom and I saw collaged jewelry in the class selection booklet, we knew we had to go!

I’ve always been interested in jewelry making, but I never knew how to make it. This ended up being a perfect jewelry craft for beginners, and it’s great craft for a party.

TIP: If you’re trying to re-create these necklaces, make sure that you don’t use magazine paper! My mom’s design totally bled from the glue 馃槮

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This trip was packed, literally with classes every hour, and we only took breaks for meals (which were super healthy by the way…they don’t use added salt!). I’m happy to come back home with a bag of new things that I’d like to try, and a new perspective on caring for my well being.

Healing comes from listening and loving your body.

Mexicali 2017

Hi guys!

I would love to tell you a little bit about my service trip to Mexicali, Mexico.

Every year, my church (Menlo Church) hosts a trip to Mexicali, a city right across the border. Menlo has been taking High School students on this trip for thirty three years now, and hopefully for many more years to come.

This year was my second year coming to Mexicali, and I can already tell that it will become a yearly trip for me (hopefully even after High School). The relationships formed, the love I witnessed, and the closeness I got to God are all such incredible things to experience.

Many times, it’s easy to think of mission trips as foreigners coming to a less fortunate place to help the people there. That’s fair, but not even half of the whole picture. From being apart of the Mexicali trip, I know that my participation did more service for me than I could ever give to another person.

I learned so many things, I loved so many things, and I saw God through so many people in Mexicali.

My favorite part of the whole trip would have to be getting to play with all of the children.

In the village that I was assigned to (Nuevo Le贸n), there weren’t that many kids there on the first day. We unpacked our vans, and stood in front of the Nuevo Le贸n church with slight disappointment.

“Where were all of the kids? ” we thought.

Our concerns vanished when about fifteen children showed up at the church the next day, all of them excited to see us. It was one big reunion. Many of us from Menlo Church had formed relationships with kids from last year’s trip, and seeing each other again was so overwhelmingly joyful.

A girl named Lucy, who has gone on the Mexicali trip for the past four years, was able to reunite with her close friend named Abby (7 yrs. old). When they saw each other for the first time in a year, they ran to each other for a long-emotional embrace.

I particularly bonded with an eight year old boy named Dav铆d from my last trip, and I really hoped to see him again this trip. My wish was granted. When we were at the yearly BBQ where all of the different villages come together, I was eating my veggie burger, and I saw Dav铆d just a few feet away from me! A jolt of excitement flooded my body, and I couldn’t help but exclaim, “Dav铆d!”

I ran over to him, and something inside of me was sure that he remembered me. My gut feeling was confirmed with his eyes lit up and he timidly came to give me a big hug. That’s a moment I’ll never forget.

I was so happy to see that he was okay, and I was so happy to see his kind face. It was like no time had passed, and we were meeting once again.

The connections that I formed on this trip are set apart from any others that I have experienced. They are so sincere, loving, and good. Not to say that I don’t have great relationships back home, but in Mexicali, it seems like it’s an ongoing frenzy of love for one another.

I think that the main reason for this is because we are all coming together in God’s name. Every high five, every smile, every word shared with one another were praises to God.

I’d like to carry that mindset into every relationship that I have. Back home, It’s so easy to get caught up in all of the everyday stresses, and forget about all of the goals and lessons you have learned.

The day I got back home, I already started having anxieties and moments where I felt far from God. Although this will happen at times, I’d like to constantly keep reminding myself of the “me” in Mexicali.

The true test is if you can continue the great things you’ve learned back at home.

Another amazing highlight of my trip was hearing and sharing testimonies. All of the testimonies were so incredible, and it was interesting to learn how God has intervened and worked through so many people’s hearts, including mine. I learned more about so many different people, and their story really grew my respect for them.

Not quite as good as the amazing testimonies, but close, were the tacos.聽As many of you probably know, Mexico is home to the Taco, and it does it great justice. Just a few blocks from the Nuevo Le贸n church, there’s a taco place called Homey’s. It’s the best place you’re ever going to get an authentic taco. For all those living in the Bay Area, my recommendation would be to take a bus down to San Diego, drive a rental car across the border, and stop for a nice lunch at Homey’s. It’s worth it.

I’m going to leave you with one last memory from my trip. As I was helping to make Empanadas with some other girls from Menlo as well as a few from Nuevo Le贸n, I took a break and walked outside to see what everyone was up to.

The sight was so beautiful. There were kids flying up and down non simultaneously on swings, giggling and having the time of their lives, while others weaved around them trying not to get hit while playing chase. People from Menlo were scattered among them, smiling with joy.

These are the moments where you think, “Wow, this is truly a gift from God.”

Although the trip has come to an end, I will always cherish the many memories made and the people I met. I come out of the trip with so much to be happy about, and I have learned more about who I want to be.

I’m so thankful for all of the people who made this trip possible, and I’m thankful for the people of Mexicali, always opening their arms out to our Church.

Mexicali 2017

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Nuevo Le贸n and Menlo Church

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Emily

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Madison

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Lucy and Abby Reunite

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Blowing bubbles @ the BBQ

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Empanada Dinner

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Jump In

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So we got a lot of tacos…155 exactly.

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All group: Menlo Church

Mexicali 2016

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Me & Dav铆d

Photos in courtesy of Kat and and many more!聽

Pasta Carbonara

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Happy belated Valentine’s Day! I know…I’m a couple days late, but it just went by too quickly!

For Valentine’s Day, I decided to make my family dinner. I’m not a cook, so this decision was quite ambitious for me. The last time I made my family dinner…well, let’s just say it didn’t go as planned.

This time, I was determined to make it work. After reading the recipe countless times, and double checking that I was following it word for word…I ended up pulling it off!

It was so rewarding to serve my family something that I was proud of, especially on a day that’s made for showing appreciation and love.

If you’re family likes pasta, and you’re an armature cooker, but want to look like a pro, then you should try making this dish. It’s delicious!

If I can do it, you can do it!

-Pasta Carbonara-

Creds to聽Simply Recipes聽+ added a few of my own tips and tweaks:)

What You Will Need

~1 Tbsp olive oil or unsalted butter

~1/2 pound pancetta or thick cut bacon, diced or聽white mushrooms, sliced

~1-2 garlic cloves, minced, about 1 teaspoon (optional)

~2-4 聽whole eggs *

~1 cup finely grated parmesan or pecorino cheese

~1 pound spaghetti pasta (or bucatini or fettuccine)

~Salt and black pepper to taste

*amount of eggs depends on how creamy you would like your pasta-I used two eggs and 聽found that it made the pasta perfectly creamy and light

Directions

1 Heat pasta water: Put a large pot of salted water on to boil (1 Tbsp salt for every 2 quarts of water.)

2 Beat eggs and half of the cheese: In a small bowl, beat the eggs and mix in about half of the cheese.

3 Saut茅 pancetta/bacon/mushrooms and garlic: While the water is coming to a boil, heat the olive oil in a large saut茅 pan over medium heat. Add the bacon or pancetta and cook slowly until crispy. Add the garlic (if using) and cook another minute, then turn off the heat and put the pancetta and garlic into a large bowl.

4 Cook pasta: Once the water has reached a rolling boil, add the dry pasta, and cook, uncovered, at a rolling boil.

5 Toss pasta with pancetta/bacon/mushroom:聽When the pasta is al dente (still a little firm, not mushy), use tongs to move it to the bowl with the bacon and garlic. Let it be dripping wet. Reserve some of the pasta water.

Move the pasta from the pot to the bowl quickly, as you want the pasta to be hot. It’s the heat of the pasta that will heat the eggs sufficiently to create a creamy sauce. Toss everything to combine, allowing聽the pasta to cool just enough so that it doesn’t make the eggs curdle when you mix them聽in. (That’s the tricky part-my tip is to toss the pasta around for about a minute or so, and once the surface is not burning hot to touch, immediately add the egg-cheese mixture).

6 Add the beaten egg mixture:聽Add the beaten eggs with cheese and toss quickly to combine once more. Add salt to taste. Add some pasta water back to the pasta to keep it from drying out.

Serve at once with the rest of the parmesan and freshly ground black pepper.

If you want, sprinkle with a little fresh chopped parsley聽

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La La Land

After watching La La Land, it’s hard to tell yourself that it’s just a movie. The catchy soundtrack, the dazzling choreography, and the passionate actors make you want to jump inside and live in it for awhile.

Here’s my short review.

Music: Spot on! The soundtrack was amazing, and is well deserving of praise and recognition. Some stick-out songs would definitely be Someone In The Crowd, City of Stars, Audition (The Fools Who Dream). I absolutely loved the catchy tunes; they’ll be stuck in my head for days to come.

Acting: Well done. Mia and Sebastian’s characters were so believable. Their easy relationship and natural connection made it seem like they weren’t on camera in some parts, more like friends hanging out.

I loved that failure was brought to light, and successes were well fought for. Musicals can often lean towards the cheesy side, but this movie was very real. Two people chasing their dreams in a city where everyone is trying to get the spotlight.

When Mia and Sebastian faced challenges and their confidence was put to the test, the viewer could actually feel the exact emotions that they were feeling. I remember one specific scene where Mia was at Sebastian’s car in front of her house, and she deeply questioned her whole decision of leaving school to follow her dreams of being an actress. When she was questioning, the audience too was questioning, but rooting for her all the while. That’s a sign of good acting.

Ending: I’ll be honest, the ending was kind of confusing. It took you on a ride where there was no getting off. You didn’t really know what was real, and what was imagined. That was part of the excitement though, and it really put you on the edge of your seat. I’m not going to spoil the ending for those who haven’t seen it, but I’ll just tell you that it’s a crazy two dimensional roller coaster.

This movie lifts you off your feet and takes you on a journey, and when you land back on the ground, you come out with something new.

Hope you enjoy it!

Listen to the soundtrack!