required reading for humanity

There’s a big confusion in this country over what we want versus what we need,” Morrie said.You have to be honest with yourself. You don’t need the latest sports car, you don’t need the biggest house. The truth is, you don’t get satisfaction from those things. You know what really gives you satisfaction?… Offering others what you have to give…I don’t mean money, Mitch. I mean your time. Your concern. Your storytelling. It’s not so hard.”

Regret, emotions, family, forgiveness, death, marriage, money, and fear of aging are just some of the topics Tuesdays with Morrie addresses. Every chapter is chock-full of valuable lessons that anyone could benefit from. If I could make everyone on the planet read just one book it would be this one. It’s perfect because the book is extremely motivating and reflective, however, it’s not too deep and a pretty easy read. I genuinely believe the world would be a way better place if everyone just picked up this book.

Before reading Tuesdays with Morrie, I hadn’t read anything by Mitch Albom. Actually, I hadn’t read much non-fiction (at least not much that wasn’t in a textbook), so I wasn’t sure what to expect. But the story drew me in very quickly. Mitch Albom spent each Tuesday with Morrie, his former professor, who was very ill. As I read about these visits, I realized that this book was really about how we spend our time.

Tuesdays with Morrie reminds us to slow down and appreciate each other. I’m not much for reading but I have absolutely enjoyed this book.


my humble restaurant reviews

If you get a chance to visit downtown Brooklyn NY, you must go to Celestine. Walk right past those long lines at the river cafe and vinegar hill house, and check out this terrific Mediterranean restaurant. It is right next to the bridge on the river, so the view is fabulous. The food is almost as good I promise. I got the mezze platter and wild mushroom gnocchi. I don’t even like mushrooms and I licked that bowl clean. But the mezze, oh my god, it tastes like an amazing home-cooked meal. Every single sauce was wonderful. Order it, I promise you won’t regret it. 11/10

Modern Pizza feels like a New Haven staple. If you’re having pizza for the first time on the east coast, chances are that it’ll be at the famous Modern Pizza. The good news is, you have a lot of delicious options! I’d opt for their Margarita, but I’m also a huge fan of their white spinach, which is crazy because I love tomato sauce. If you have the chance, try the calzones or bruschetta if it’s in season. These are two fantastic appetizers that present a couple of unique flavors.

Cafe Boku is my mom’s favorite restaurant. I’m no expert on their health club superfood stuff but I am an acai bowl connoisseur. I’ve been to every acai restaurant in America, but Ojai’s very own Cafe Boku is the definitive best. It’s what all the cute vegan spots in Manhattan think they are. First of all, their bowls are huge. They’re like $14 and you’re getting triple what that would get you anywhere else (that usually charge like $16). I recommend ordering their plain BoKU bowl and asking for some honey. When it comes to texture and granola: smoothie proportions, Boku does it best. Even if there was no flavor, just eating the bowls would be a pleasure. Also, their blue sky parfaits are incredible, but a little pricey.

(This is Celestine, it is a total dream at night)


my recent poems

“An Old Farmer’s Smile” 

The dirge of a battered life

Wrinkles his weathered face, 

A life of work and little grace, 

But in his eyes, there is still a fire, 

And his smile is warm, like summer mires.

He surveys his earthy prize,

It speaks of love and toil and pride, 

Of hard-won peace that can’t be denied, 

For the dirt and sweat of his daily chore,  

So when you see that farmer smile, 

Take a moment, stay a while, 

For his happiness is worth a fortune, 

And his simple smile, a true accomplishment.

“A Bird’s Last Look”

The bird takes flight, with a weary sigh

Against a sky of blue, he soars high

His eyes take in, the world below

So much to see, he doesn’t know

Where to go, what to do

With just one life,

So he dips and dives, on graceful wing

A dance of life, a symphony to sing.

And as the sun sets in the west

The bird slows down, his time at rest

One final look, at what he’s known

Before he’s gone, and off he’s flown.


The Art of Trying New Things

There is no one I feel more sorry for than those who live life without ever branching out. Those who stick to what they know and play it safe.

I don’t know a lot about how I want to live but I do believe in trying new things. To me, it’s about discovering what life has to offer, pushing boundaries, and most importantly, growing as a person.

I have my finger in a lot of pies. I’ve dabbled in crochet, tested my skills at the piano, and even explored my artistic side through painting and ceramics. I’ve learned discipline through martial arts and ballet. I’ve challenged myself physically through volleyball, basketball, and cross country. My most recent passion has been chess. Every new experience has taught me something valuable. Whether it’s patience, perseverance, or just a new appreciation for the world around me, I’ve come out the other side a little wiser and a little better.

Trying new things can be scary, I won’t deny that. But the rewards are worth it. You might find a new hobby, a new skill, or a new friend. The point is, you can only improve yourself or find new opportunities by stepping out of your comfort zone. So don’t be afraid to try new things. Embrace this art and see where it takes you. Life is an endless canvas, and it’s up to you to paint the picture.


little spanish farmstead

The other day I saw a video documenting a woman’s year restoring an abandoned smallholding in eastern Spain all alone. She left her husband in the city to live simply in the countryside. The 4-acre property and the house had no furniture, running water, tools, or heating. And this woman, from scratch, completely transformed it into a full-fledged smallholding. Anyway, the whole video is watching this process: thrifting the furniture & decor, painting the walls, landscaping a whole garden, and doing some handiwork. She meets a whole new community of people like her and builds a big tipi outside for guests and visitors to stay.

What an incredible difference she made in just one year, and to think she went out there on her own, knowing so little, and gained all the skills she needed. She absolutely deserves all the fruits of her labor.

Now she spends her days hanging out with stray cats, gardening, building things all on her own, and raising animals, instead of working 9-5 just to get by. The energy is so positive I can’t help but think this is the way we’re meant to live: healthy, happy, eating the best food, and loving life.


take me back to little harbor (reflection)

Yesterday morning was my first day back from a fantastic camping trip in Catalina. As I was sitting in class, for the first time I felt really sad I wasn’t biking in the mountains or snorkeling with garibaldi. What’s funny is I did the exact same trip last year but by the end of it I couldn’t wait to get back home and take a shower- this time I wanted just one more day out on the sea.

We hiked from twin harbor to little harbor which is a really pretty bay on the island right next to the beach with long green grass and thick, low, palm trees everywhere. It is the perfect place to camp- there’s wonderful views and at night you can hear the ocean. Because of the recent rain, there was a river between the campsite and the ocean- but luckily there was a big log nearby so we used it as a bridge to walk on which was really cool.

All the hikes, mountain biking, swimming/boogie boarding in shark harbor, and especially paddle-boarding with my friends was magical. There was a lof of little fun stuff too like boat races and campfire singing and night beach games/talks- all of it made this trip really special.

Above all the fabulous night skies and activities, the bikeride back to twin harbor was the best. There was a long, grueling 2 hour uphill at first- but it was more than worth it. Dropping from that peak was unforgettable, I soared down steep, winding orange roads, on one side of me the pacific and the other lush green mountains. It was like I was on Pandora- I was on a different planet.

I so needed this break. The days leading up to the trip were stressful and too busy. I’m so glad I had the opportunity to go to Little Harbor a second time, my only issue was that it was all too short.

pc; me

my bohemian friend

my parents are busy people. So from pre-school to the sixth grade, they asked someone to take care of my brother and I.

They found a Portuguese woman in her 50s/60s, a former teacher with hair always up in some crazy bun -pencils sticking out. Now she is like a surrogate mother to me.

She did what she was supposed to do- help us with homework, drive us to school, pack our lunches, and cook our dinners.

We did so much more together though: she took us thrifting, riding on the trolley around Ojai, showed me what great movies were, and she taught me how to garden in her own yard. We even spent our summers with her, reading on the hammock in her backyard and cooking fabulous meals in her kitchen. Museums, grocery shopping, sewing, we’ve done it all. Some of my favorite moments though were all the card/board games we’d play. We’d use monopoly money to play poker and take Nab-it too seriously.

She is hilarious in her own, unique way. Between her, my brother, and I, we have several inside jokes. Something about the way she talks and the way she says things just makes you laugh. I can’t explain it, but the way older people, like her, words things are just so charming to me. She uses words like ‘lousy’ and ‘baloney.’

I love how practicable and sensible she is, and so down to earth. One of her best traits was always her common sense and wisdom.

When middle school came, we stopped seeing each other every day. Unfortunately, my brother and I were independent enough to take care of ourselves.

It is impossible to put into words the impact she left on me and my life. She played a big role in shaping the person I am today. I can honestly credit her for my love of gardening, Portuguese music, rainbow bridge tea, and a million other of my little traits. She’s the reason why I read the news every morning because she made me. It’s because of her that I say “Oh well” whenever something bad happens. I owe my exclusive love for Annie’s white cheddar mac n cheese to her. I know also, she is the reason why a lot of people comment I’m so different from my own Mom (whom I still love of course).

This winter break I got to visit her for the first time in 4 years, and I am happy to report she is as funny and witty as always. The chemistry between her, my brother, and me is no different. We probably would have never stopped catching up if it weren’t for my Mom practically dragging me out of her house because of a doctor’s appointment or something.


3 things I treasure

The world is constantly changing. When I’m older it will be a lot different than it is now. No matter what though, I will always cherish these.

1.) The rain. I already wrote a whole blog post about it but I love the way the sky looks when it’s cloudy. I love the smell outside. The music sounds better and the mountains look better.

2.) Sitting on the beach and looking out at the ocean at night. Watching the boats or lack of. And of course watching the night sky, if I can see it. (Far from light pollution).

3.) What is really special to me, uniquely me, are the numerous points in Southern China where I can see these beautiful vistas every Summer. My special spots in Hunan where the flora is incredible. And there’s this unforgettable temple too- it’s high in the mountains with very few people. It’s enormous- it has a whole lake, completely flat and silver as the sky. Long, winding stairs carve across the entire temple surrounded by fog. So you’re just walking around from breathtaking building to building, it’s incredible. I can’t believe somewhere like that actually exists.

PC me swimming in Wangling

cry, the beloved country

I watched a new movie this week that by any standards is brilliant and moving. And in my opinion, one of the most underrated films.

“Cry, the Beloved Country” is based on a heartwrenching book that deals with really complex topics in such a unique way. I can’t even remotely relate to the characters yet I still suffered with them. This movie deals with issues of segregation and protests against apartheid in such a beautiful and moving way, combined with topics of fear, corruption, death, and forgiveness.

James Earl Jones was incredible. He manages to convey and make you feel so many things through really minimalistic acting. He doesn’t waste himself on meaningless gestures & histrionics, he lets you see the suffering of his soul.

The movie does a great job illustrating the battered country of Africa– where the land itself is described to be the essence of a man– as he navigates through Johannesburg and experiences all its corruption and violence. Many of the political, economic, and societal issues within Southern Africa in the 1950s are brought to light in this film,

This is a movie about black and white. A well-known theme in Hollywood, but I’ve never seen a movie deal with this subject so excellent as this one. The plot is unlike anything I’ve ever read or seen before. Alan Paton, the author of the book it’s based on, is one talented man.


scent of a woman

Of the many many movies I’ve watched, only four have made me cry. “Scent of a Woman” was one of them. This movie is more touching than Forrest Gump, funnier than Airplane!, and makes my heart pound more than Whiplash. It is just dripping with passion, has fantastic characters, and in my opinion, is home to one of the best cinematic scenes in history. I can’t think of enough adjectives to praise this movie. You can watch it with high expectations and you will be satisfied.

SPOILERS: (PLEASE don’t read if you haven’t already seen this movie)

This movie. I don’t even know where to start. I went into it totally blind (haha get it). I watched it just because Al Pacino got an Oscar for it – but I was not emotionally prepared for this 2 hr plus rollercoaster.

To be honest I was not very impressed in the beginning. Before he got to New York, I didn’t like Frank Slade’s character. But oh boy does he grow on you. His wit, constant bellowing and all. Even though it was really rocky at first, his relationship with Charlie is moving. Mentor-mentee dynamics are one of my favorite tropes. Also, I relate to aspects of the movies because every week I help elderly people, and they remind me sometimes of Slade- nosy and upfront.

The best moment in the movie -and one of the best in cinematic history- is the powerful scene where Frank Slade comes in defense of Charlie against Baird’s directors and that anal principal. It was so good I replayed it right after my first time watching it. I have never heard a more powerful, intense, and moving speech. I hoped he would keep going after every line. I hoped he would never stop talking. The Gettysburg address wishes it was as eloquent as this.

When Mr. Trask yells to Lt. Slade that “he’s out of order,” Frank just goes off, it is just so satisfying- the expressive way he talks, the words he chooses. I wish I could be half as articulate as he is.

I believe I cried during that one, pivotal scene in the hotel with the gun. I almost cried during the family dinner one too- but back to the hotel. Wow. When Charlie was crying and telling Slade his reasons to live, my face looked like his. Such a stressful and intense clip. Dead Poet’s Society is a cakewalk compared to this.

You need to watch the movie to feel the whole experience. “Scent of a Woman” is a movie that masterfully displays drama, comedy, and sadness. It will move and provoke in you an internal reflection of how you act towards life and its burdens.


here’s the best scene: