The 30’s Are the Foundation to a New Beginning, Not the End of Life

30-something age quoteBy: Karina Velasco, Her 30’s Guest Blogger

Ten years ago I was 35 and at the most I possibly looked 25. Yet I was certain my life was on a spiral to its end, the end of my being relevant anymore.

Although, I had experienced this to some smaller degree as many of us do at the end of our 20’s, the subliminal information about the upcoming end of my 30’s and the sense of a powerful and NOT positive ending was looming stronger than I even realized. And as I fantasized about a fabulous 40th birthday party in the future, I was not truly aware how much deterioration I was experiencing emotionally due to this upcoming event.

The “negative” aspect of the upcoming end of my 30’s was subliminal but scripted into every part of my society. The messages that life as I knew it was coming to its crumbling conclusion soon, were everywhere. What would follow was a very deep, emotional and wounding type of death, the end of the things that were positive and full of promise. The process was painful and isolating. I was being conditioned to believe that the end of my 30’s was the end of my viability.

The unceasing commentaries came in direct and indirect explosions. “Are you getting ready for your mammograms?” Or, “You need to be more vigilant about women’s cancers.” “How is your fertility by the way? Are you noticing any peri-menopause yet? Fragile eggs you know, fragile eggs!”

And, “Oh you are 35 now?” You need a more powerful eye cream.” This is what the make-up counter people would mention and then they would look at me, and say, “But you don’t seem to need it. Still let’s be safe, this one is also a firming cream.” And for the love of all that is good and holy, “use sunscreen!”

Yet the loudest, most deafening and crippling sound was coming from within me. I was not married and I did not have children. And that noise was so LOUD and over powering, that I could no longer even hear my own inner voice, my thoughts, my true higher self. That blasting noise that says it is very hard for a woman to find someone to love them as they get older and especially after their fertility naturally wanes, was not only making me deaf, I was living in a constant state of what if’s, while simultaneously being overcome by it.

What would happen to me if I did not do this and that in my 30’s, my small and distant family would ask? And as my 30’s progressed the noise was becoming a daily scream, from people, from the media, from society itself. “What follows after 39 is a downward spin, you know that don’t you? And if you reach the end of your 30’s unmarried and you haven’t had a child, you will be in a depth of despair so great, you won’t be able to do anything, except wish you had done something about it sooner. You will live a life of regret. It doesn’t matter that any other part of your life is successful! That’s how it is, period. The end.”

I actually began to seek information about becoming a single Mother and looking into in vitro should I need it. I even spoke with a family counselor and asked with great care and responsible concern for the wellness of my future child, would a child born to a single mother be OK emotionally? She re-assured me a child that was deeply wanted and loved, would always be fine. I asked a close friend from Jr. High School, would he consider being my donor if I needed to go this route? He took the request very seriously and into deep, thoughtful and careful consideration.

And in the most bizarre turn of events the amazing thing was, that even my friends that did not want to have children were also facing the 30’s death parade. For them it was manifesting in inner battles with their careers, their desires for weddings and meaningful relationships and what seemed the unending concerns about skin! Oh dear God, here it comes, the end as we know it! Pass me the lotion, I need to hydrate.

40th BirthdayIn this haze of hyper, unrealistic madness, I met a man. He asked me to marry him and to have a child. I had just made it. I was 5 months pregnant when I celebrated my 40th birthday. I had literally beat the end of my 30’s dooms day parade by only months. Thank goodness. “You made it girl! Just before your expiration date came to its full fruition,” I thought to myself. And this is where the happy ending would seem to come in, but what would follow, would leave me broken beyond measure.

Within weeks of giving birth I faced the very difficult but very necessary end of my marriage. In part due to the fact that marriage should not happen because one is panicking their eggs are ready to fall out, their boobs are going to droop, or their skin will begin to wrinkle and you will no longer be as valuable or desirable or worse, lovable. On a deeper level, marriage should not be entered into because everyone says that the end of your 30’s signify a time when things start to decline for human beings, especially women.

That ending of a very toxic situation just after my child was born was followed by what a friend would call the perfect storm. The economy crashed, loss of work, a barrage of difficult circumstances, the absolute and most deserved demands of parenting taking hold of a lot my time. Within a year, I had lived quite a list of “real” things. I had overcome serious health problems at this point in my life, which included the loss of another baby, the house was gone, the car was gone, and all of the bullshit, and unrealistic worries of my 30’s were pebbles of sand, insignificant to the realities of facing raising a child under severe distress, during the worse economic downturn since the 1920’s.

The worries of how many lines had begun to make a miniscule appearance around my eyes were thoughts that had no room in my mind. I didn’t have time to even look in a mirror to apply make-up, so who cares! Those worries that stifle our growth and productivity, that cloud our hearts, had zero space in my life now. And believe me I am a deep person, rarely would anyone describe me as concerned with anything trivial. Yet, even so, I had fallen somewhat victim to this insane script of untruths told to us by a youth obsessed society. In a way not having a moment to even look in a mirror was becoming a true blessing in disguise.

I was shattered into so many pieces that there is not enough space here to discuss it, but it is also what finally woke me up. As I began to pick up the fragments of myself, I would begin to understand reality for the first time in my life. And then I could clearly see the truth. The 30’s are not the end. The 30’s are the foundation to a new beginning!

I had made a lot of choices under the fear of that drowning, social stigma in my thirties, and fear is not the place you make choices from. First lesson of the beginning of my life, fear is not the place from where life is preserved, fear is where life crumbles.

So at 41 as everything was falling apart, the new began to be born in its place. Better, real and guess what, more vibrant, full of life and much more viable than ever before. What was happening was actually radiating the beginning.

Empowered by being a Mother and seeing the perfection of life from its inception. I began to do what I had never known how to do or even understood before. I began to learn and understand the process of loving myself. Although, I had always had a good measure of high self-esteem, I was becoming aware that self-esteem is not self-love and they are not inter-changeable. I had been born a perfect baby as my child and every single one of us is born. Even if someone is born with a missing something or other, life begins and remains perfect. And I was becoming aware of this truth. We are like the sea, the stars, and the tree outside the window right now. We are full of purpose and promise and age does not alter that towards the negative, age enhances it, it deepens our purpose, it builds us, it does not deteriorate us. It shapes our real self.

In these new realizations I began to get very quiet and stopped the external noise. All of that noise that had been so destructive, I silenced it. I got rid of the TV. I have never looked at another fashion magazine again. I stopped listening to the news. People magazine was gone and all I did was listen to myself. I began to meditate regularly and to be with me. Me without the imposed views of the world around me. Me without a partner or a lover. Me without asking relatives or friends for opinions. Me without much socializing, I had no time for it. It was just me with myself. As the days, weeks and months passed, that silence led to the most divine music, and it was not emanating from an external place, it was coming from within.

With that music I danced better, clearer and with more purpose than ever. I created from a place that I am certain has always existed, but the noise being made by those around me had muted it. But now I could dwell in it and truly build from it. Free from the false noise, I was out of my own way.

In my 40’s, the enormous effort I had always dedicated to my work began to give bigger and better fruit. I created work that was deeper, richer, more technically challenging, and riskier. More than that, I began to understand my purpose, my calling and myself. Suddenly, unlike what we are told about getting older, I had the strength to work harder, longer and with more energy than ever. Bigger theaters, renowned musicians, composers, even a nomination by UNESCO have graced this time, all while parenting, running a home, cooking, cleaning, all of it. The time that everyone was trying to make me believe was going to be the beginning of the end, was in fact, a magnificent beginning. Everything before this had been me laying down a foundation for today.

I have learned to love life just as it is and where it is. The present. And as I write this, I know I am a work in progress not a finished one, but a work that is in daily expansiveness, learning, growing, evolving. I see the mess in the room as I type and I think of mistakes I’ve made in recent weeks and the beauty of this time is the grace with which even mistakes come into awareness. Mistakes have purpose as we have more years, and are met with kindness, because we finally understand how dignified we truly are and have always been.

It’s been after the young 30’s that I have found the place to accept myself and believe in myself. Where I have experienced bounties of universal love for all beings around me. Where I work daily to forgive the past and greater than that, most liberating, the time where I learn to forgive myself and stop believing the myths.

Women are rich, deeply complex beings. All human beings are. And I have found out, that in fact both men and women struggle with a sense of desperation if their 30’s don’t look a certain way. Many feel they are facing a form of death as they go beyond their 30’s, a type of ending that is not followed by new beginnings, but they are wrong.

I am here to confirm that this is not true. What follows the 30’s will be the most productive, enlightening, growth filled time you could ever imagine. Life will be more brilliant than you can ever foresee before them. And what is most exciting is that my friends that are in their 60’s smile at me in my newfound excitement. And as I share with them my new awareness, they pat my back and often take my hand as if I am a child and say; “Oh you sweet girl, you don’t know anything at all yet, it’s really the 60’s that are the beginning!” I look at them like a kid filled with wonder and anticipation. Wow, what will that beginning be like?!

 

Juan Antonio Simaro-KarinaCarmenVelasco-Cadiz (3)Karina Carmen Velasco was born in Madrid, Spain and is of both Spanish and Cuban heritage. She was primarily raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico and currently resides in Los Angeles, California.

She is a dancer, choreographer, actor and writer. Since age four, her primary mediums of expression were evident in these four paths, which is why her company is called Cuatro Caminos, The Four Roads.

Studying various genres of dance since early childhood, it was during her work in one of the most recognized theatrical productions of 1999 in Los Angeles, Blood Wedding by Garcia Lorca that flamenco would become inseparably integral to her continued work. In it she recognized a deeply internal and natural form that she intuitively experienced, and by which due to its own nature includes dance, music, poetry and theatricality all of her most integral paths of expression. She returned to Spain to further work realizing herself within it.

With countless performances including The Kodak Theater, The Los Angeles Theater Center, The Saban Theater, among many performance houses. In traditional and contemporary Flamenco, Spanish Dance, Opera, Classical Spanish Theater and Classical English Theater, Musical Theater, as well as innovative contemporary works such as in the nationally acclaimed From The Horses Mouth by recognized contemporary choreographer Tina Croll. She has been commissioned by the Mayor of Los Angeles, the Historic Societies of Chula Vista and San Clemente, the U.S. Government and is recognized by the Consul General of Spain in Los Angeles. She has collaborated with artists from around the world in various disciplines and many mediums.

In 2014 she joined touring Spanish classical and symphonic composer Juan Antonio Simarro on his world tour in Los Angeles and has remained with the Spain based artist production as manager of national and international performances.

She is a grant recipient and has dedicated her work and company to one of her most driving passions, the continued expansion and knowledge of Iberian and world musicology through the experience and conversation of world arts and culture. She further dedicates her work towards one of her most internal callings, the continued development of multicultural understanding, equal rights and gender equality and self-realization through the arts.

She is fluent in Spanish and English and speaks conversational Greek and Italian. Through many years of extensive travel and investigation, she has garnered a wealth of world and cultural arts knowledge and has collaborated on several published books both in the United States and Europe.

In 2014 she was honored to receive notice of having been nominated to become a member of The International Dance Council, UNESCO headquartered in Paris, France. In Summer of 2014 her nomination was confirmed by the UNESCO based foundation.

And she considers the title of Mother an unequivocal honorable priority.

Gluttony and Consumerism: An American Holiday Tradition

cosumerism

sustainabilityatspu.files.wordpress.com

As a woman in her thirties, I have finally found a way to break down and explain that feeling I get as the holidays approach. This feeling starts off at Thanksgiving, carries me through Christmas and doesn’t really leave me until the New Year’s Eve stemware has been washed and put away.

  1. Denial
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance

If you find these terms familiar, it is because they are the 5 Stages of Grief as described in the 1969 Kubler-Ross book titled, On Death and Dying. The holidays can be rough. From extreme gluttony to consumerism as king, it is no wonder that the 5 stages of grief are an excellent way to describe the collective frenzy that takes over the American Holiday season.

Think about it. Do any of these statements sound familiar?

Denial

Example: “I didn’t eat that much at Thanksgiving or at the office Holiday party, or at…”

Anger

Example: “I hate going shopping! The streets and the malls are crowded! People shopping for the holidays are the worse!”

Bargaining

Example: “I’ll give you double the asking price for the last…(fill in the blank with the latest must have toy.)…” or, “I guess I don’t have to get him/her a present this year. They didn’t even send a greeting card last year.”

Depression

Example: “I can’t believe I’ve spent so much money on presents this year! It’s gonna take me the rest of the year to pay off my credit card.”

Acceptance

Example: “New Year’s Eve was uneventful again this year but that’s okay because I’m gonna do so well with my New Year’s resolutions.”

I would be lying if I said that I could completely forgo being part of the American Holiday experience. For that to happen, I would have to move to another country by myself. And honestly, I’ve already gone through denial and depression, so I’m well into it again this year. All I can do is try to consciously embody what the holidays are supposed to be about, family and friends, merriment and good will.

By: W. Castellanos-Wolf

Artists Are Highly Trained, Highly Skilled Employees: Pay Them Accordingly!

https://www.a-n.co.uk/events/paying-artists-living-wage-week-norwich

As a woman in her thirties, I have learned that I have to continuously fall in love with my career choices, because let’s face it, as a dancer and a writer, I’m certainly not in it for what’s reflected on my bank statement. I feel very fortunate to be working and pursuing my life long passions, but it’s not easy nor fun, but for a fleeting moment when I am on stage and the guitar, the singing and my dancing line up, or when someone reads my blog and leaves a thoughtful comment. (hint, hint) These moments, just like me actually working in these fields, feel transient. The rest of the time, it is mundane work like in every other job.

Across all the disciplines, the best artists are not necessarily the ones who work the most. There are many amazing, yet to be discovered writers, actors, singers, dancers, you name it. In my experience, the artists who work the most are the ones who are also the most business savvy. They understand the concept that as an artist, you are your own product. What does this mean?

It means that:

  • In order to sell your product, you have to constantly engage in marketing
  • Networking
  • Keeping up with what is new in your field
  • Earning the respect of your peers by having the reputation of being professional and easy to work with

But most important:

  • Never giving your product away for free

The downfall of the artist is twofold, how they are perceived and the value that society places on art. The idea of the moody starving artist is most prevalent. With the mention of this stereotype one can imagine an artist transfixed on the creative process at all hours of the day, suffering from being misunderstood, refraining from participating in day-to-day society. I’ve yet to meet one of these artist. Dancers, writers, musicians and so on and so forth have to make a living. Only artist with donors or trust funds can afford to embody this stereotype. Which takes me to second downfall of the artists. Why is it that society thinks it can contract artist for free?

I am appalled at how often I have seen ads in artsy job search websites, where the only compensation is a credit, or something similar, but no pay. These ads sell bourgeoning artists on the idea that their resumes, reels, portfolios will benefit from working on said project for free. This is just one example though. I have also seen lots of ads where compensation is basically minimum wage. All of this is extremely insulting. How can we change this?

I know it is not easy, but a first step could be educating artists on basic business skills and by repeating to society over and over again that artist should be treated and compensated like highly skilled workers. Often times, and I don’t think the general public realizes, the artist has been training to work in this field a lifetime. An instrument is not mastered in just 4 years of College, one cannot learn to write a novel in upper division courses, a dance cannot be mastered and composed by practicing a few hours afterschool. Artist are highly trained, personally invested, and disciplined employees. Pay them accordingly.

By: W. Castellanos-Wolf

 

 

Almost-Mid-Life-Crisis: Does it ever go away?

mid life crisisEven though it does not reflect on my blog, I’ve been writing a lot this week. I’ve been mostly writing prose too self reflective and embarrassing to post, so for now it will remain in my journal. I’m filled with a strange energy, somewhere between melancholy and nesting. I attribute this to two factors, one, the impending Holiday season and the end of yet another year, and two, my never-ending-almost-mid-life-crisis. Never ending because I have been going through it since my twenties. Seriously though, does it ever go away?

I am catching up. I’ve been cleaning out my closet, finishing DIY projects, organizing my home and in turn what feels like my head and my life. What I am doing is uncharacteristic of me and I can’t figure out if I am gladly letting myself fall into the quotidian to avoid what I am really supposed to be doing, or if I may just need to do this for a while, lead a quiet and home centered life. I have been on survival mode and worked 2 jobs or more for a long time. Maybe I am finally learning to relax. Maybe I finally have time to really take care of myself and my home and my family and I am deriving pleasure and a different type of fulfillment from it and maybe this is why I am so conflicted. Because really, as an educated American woman in her thirties shouldn’t I want more?

I am an action-oriented type of person. I don’t do well with letting life happen to me. I make life happen to me by consciously pursuing what I want, whether that is a new job, a new friend, or a new way of living. Am I happier for this? I don’t know. I think always taking action and always reacting stresses me out. I have the perpetual eye twitch to prove it. But I have a hard time being still. I have a hard time waiting. I don’t like wasting time. And yet this is exactly what I have been doing this past week almost as an experiment.

I have a couple of people in my life whose capacity to just live the moment and leave it all up to a higher power, is impressive. These people are amazing at manifesting. They just say what they want and wait it for it to arrive. The crazy part, is that it does. This week I’ve done just that. I have proclaimed what I want but instead of aggressively pursuing it, I have just lived my life. It has not been easy. Harder still, is truly believing that by doing nothing I will gain everything. But I guess I’ve already tried the alternative so I’ve nothing to lose. Wish me luck.

By: W. Castellanos-Wolf

 

Dual Income No Kids Yet- Just In Case We Need Another Lifestyle Label

from thesimplemoneyblog.com

from thesimplemoneyblog.com

I am a married woman in her thirties, who happens to be childfree, (if not by conscious choice, definitely by circumstance). I could claim to belong to a growing, somewhat controversial group called DINK, or dual income no kids. DINKs get a bad rep though, often portrayed as selfish, self-centered consumers with the unnatural, character defect of not wanting or needing to procreate. While I haven’t signed up for the Meet-Up groups, liked the Facebook Fan page, or subscribed to the numerous blogs on the topic, my current lifestyle may grant me instant membership. To this, I reply thanks, but no thanks.

As if one doesn’t have enough socially imposed identity labels to live up to on a daily basis, why would I wear this one and all of the connotations that come with it whether they be positive or negative.

The real question and one that I am not certain there is an answer to is, why is there a need to create this lifestyle label in the first place? One: haven’t there been married couples without children throughout time immemorial in all of the cultures of the world? People assumed a couple could not have children and never mentioned it, lest it were a sensitive subject. Two: aren’t DINKs just the Yuppies of the new millennium who have decided to forgo childrearing? Why the need to label this lifestyle choice, or consequence, so specifically is beyond me.

The other part of the DINK lifestyle label that baffles me, is why is it such an affront to people with children? No one used to care. Perhaps because DINKs have come about in the current climate of Attachment Parenting, or as Bringing up Bebe author Pamela Drukerman calls American parenting, the “Child King Syndrome,” that it’s as if the general parent population, feel like DINKs are rubbing their freedom and financial stability in their collective faces. I’ve perused the websites and I see how some DINK couples are portrayed like they belong to the most exclusive of country clubs. On the other hand, perhaps DINKs are products of the “Child King Syndrome,” as well. Warded off from having children after witnessing their friends deteriorate under the terribly high expectations associated with current Middle Class parenting. (I specify Middle Class because let’s be real, a population on survival mode is not concerned with a “parenting style.”)

So while I am not a self-proclaimed DINK, I do share in that feeling of extended youth the DINK Lifestyle website mentions, because I do not have children yet. I am not afraid to proclaim this out loud and I think this may also be part of the controversy. The No Doubt song of my early 20’s, Simple Kind of Life says it best, “the longer that I wait the more selfish that I get.”

DINKs argue that they are not selfish but rather selfless and demonstrate an impressive array of reasons stemming from environmental, emotional and financial, as to why they do not want to have children.

I am selfish. The kind of selfish that I am though is not based on a narcissistic need, but in a newfound maturity that propels me to ask for more out my career, my relationships and from myself. For this, I have needed more time as a married woman with no kids. This type of selfish is often demonized and my asking for and actively pursuing more, confronts social norms. As a thirty-something woman, (and let’s face it, expectations on the female role have not changed that much), wanting more should also include wanting children. And I do. I just don’t have them yet. Can that reason be enough, or will society force me to create an identity label to explain my particular lifestyle choice as well? Perhaps dual income no kids yet, or DINKY for short?

By: W. Castellanos-Wolf 

Food Porn Inspired Moments

My parents always told me that in death, the only things you can take with you are experiences. This is how they have lived their life, (sometimes to a fault but that’s for my future therapist to help me work through), and this is how I have up to now, lived my own.

I am about to get a new-to-me phone, another technology hand me down from my husband, and as I look back through the photos stored on this device, I have come to one realization: my experiences, the moments that will accompany me to the grave mostly pertain to food and wine. So many wonderful and delicious meals documented for posterity, with each photograph I revert back to that initial moment of pleasure, or the foodgasm if you will.

This is a blog post and not a novel. I promise I will restrain myself from looking through my entire library of food porn stored on the family computer, and share only what is on my soon to be retired phone.

Left Coast Wine in GlendaleThe time we rode our bikes to Happy Hour and went to Left Coast Wine in Glendale. On our way home we stole apples from the neighbor because no one ever picked them and they were rotting on the ground. We got caught… Made apple pie when we got home though!

Stryker Sonoma WineThe time we played a blind wine tasting game and even though I had no idea that I was drinking Stryker, I knew I liked it, so I stopped playing the game and just kept drinking from mystery bottle number 5. (My good taste in wine was confirmed that night.)

Bordeaux WineThe time we were in Bordeaux and it was cold and rainy so we had an indoor picnic with just the essentials: Cheese, Baguette, Chocolate, Jam and Wine.

Akelarre in San SebastianThe time we were in San Sebastian, Spain and had dinner at Akelarre, a 3 Michelin star restaurant. We fancy!

Ravenous Russian River RestaurantThe time we were in CA Wine Country and the nephew of our friend took us to the restaurant he used to work at and it was awesome.

Mother Dough in LAThe time I was about to leave to go dance on a cruise for a week and S said he wanted to take me on a date. We looked at LA Weekly’s Best of issue and decided to go to the place voted Best Pizza: Mother Dough. This place truly earned its title.

cuban cigarThe time we were in Cozumel, Mexico and drank espresso and smoked a Cuban cigar just because we could.

By: W. Castellanos-Wolf

#ThxBirthControl

waiting to have childrenI grew up in a conservative Latino home where sex was never acknowledged, in fact its existence was almost denied. My father would make me cover my eyes when people started kissing on TV from the time I was conscious enough to know that I was watching TV, until I moved out at age 23. Everything, and I mean absolutely everything I learned about sex came from my more experienced friends, books and programs I watched on TLC, Discovery or National Geographic, bearing titles like The Miracle of Life, The Science of Babies, and The Science of Attraction. If the topic of sex was never spoken about, certainly topics pertaining to my menstrual cycle and birth control were also nixed.

Had I been a different girl, ignorance on such matters could have led me down a very different path. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, “In 2012, non-Hispanic black and Hispanic teen birth rates were still more than two times higher than the rate for non-Hispanic white teens.” And in the 1990’s when I was a teenager, this rate was much higher still. Somehow, despite being completely ignorant on the natural functions of my body, and where birth control could even be acquired, I escaped becoming just another statistic. I am thankful for this every day.

In my 20’s, out in the world and on my own, I thought that I had learned everything I possibly could about sex, my body and birth control. After all, I had had plenty of practice, successfully navigated the halls of Planned Parenthood, and had even taught Dance at a High School, which facilitated the continued education of pregnant teenaged girls. In typical 20-something fashion, I thought I knew it all, but in hindsight, I knew so little.

As a woman in her thirties, because I have had a genuine interest and have taken the time to research, I have finally learned a great deal about my body, birth control options, pregnancy and birthing. The crazy part is that I’ve had to do all of this on my own. My one-hour class on the menstrual cycle in 6th grade didn’t teach me anything. My Health class in High School didn’t teach me anything. My mom didn’t teach me anything. Why is this vital information so hard to come by for girls and young women? We are blessed with an amazing vessel, for the female body is by any means miraculous, but given no instructions or training, and left to figure it out on our own.

But perhaps this is changing. This morning on twitter I noticed a chat being hosted by Bedsider.org and Upworthy called #ThxBirthControl asking the question, what does birth control make possible for you? Seeing this topic brought up and celebrated in such a public forum was refreshing and filled me with hope. Tweets posted reflected an empowered generation, one that will hopefully destroy taboos surrounding female sexuality, and inspire women to take control of their fertility by becoming armed with a well-rounded understanding of their bodies.

By: W. Castellanos-Wolf

 

Russian River Brewing Company- A Beer Adventure

Russian River Brewing Company

As a woman in her thirties, I like beer. No, I love beer. This was not always the case though. There was a time, a very dark time, when what I thought of as beer was watery, flavorless, slightly yellow drink that came in cans. Tall cans, short cans, blue ones, silver ones, the exterior the only variant, while the actual beer remained the same.

Don’t get me wrong. I drank the beer. It was the drink of choice at college parties and yes, I was your typical girl drinking badly pumped, much too foamy beer, from a keg out of the iconic red plastic cup. Five of those babies early on in the night and I was good to go. Oh youth… While I am saddened to have out grown my ability to pound beers, I am so glad that I have out grown my tolerance for drinking bad beer.

The craft beer movement has elevated beer making and drinking to an art. Makers are experimenting with ingredients and processes, and beer drinkers can now be as snobby as wine drinkers, claiming to like specific beer styles from specific brewers. One such brewery that has steadily gained popularity and managed to consistently produce award-winning beers is the Russian River Brewing Company in Santa Rosa, California.

Pliny The Elder BeerRussian River Brewing is known for Pliny the Elder, an 8% Double IPA that is difficult to find on tap consistently, even in LA’s best known craft beer pubs. This beer is so good that the pubs are always running out of it. We were excited to visit the brewery, not just because we wanted to drink a Pliny at the source, but also because we wanted to taste and discover some new beers.

Getting in to the Russian River Brewing Company is not for the weak willed beer dabbler. We knew the brewery was popular but not to what extent. It was a cold dreary day in Santa Rosa and it was threatening to rain. We came around to the front of the brewery and noticed that some tents were set up and a solid line was formed underneath it and extended down the street. I walked up to the front of the line and the bouncer said that it was a 10-minute wait. I haven’t waited in line to get in somewhere in a very long time. I’ve partied in LA, Vegas and Miami and I’ve never had to wait in line. In an instant, the most unlikely of venues, a Brewery for goodness sakes, had turned me away. I was the girl who went clubbing with 2 men.

We were a little hesitant, but ten minutes was worth waiting for a Pliny. Then, ten minutes turned to thirty and the rain began to pour, starting and stopping sporadically. Everyone began to crowd underneath the tent, united by the longing to end this insufferable wait so that we could drink a good beer. But waiting outside only turned into more waiting inside and at that point, I was resigned to being cold and hungry and thirsty for however long it took. We had come too far.

Russian River Brewing Beer SamplerWhen we were thoroughly checked and stamped, we were let into an extremely crowded bar and told that a table would possibly be ready in 20 to 25 minutes. I found an opening at the bar and was slightly overwhelmed by choice so I ordered the sampler. When my sampler arrived, my companions and I were shocked by the size and variety. Eighteen beers in 3 to 5 ounce glasses, the tray was so heavy, I could not possibly lift it on my own. This first thought came to mind: challenge accepted.

beer sampler at Russian River BrewingThe vigor with which I began drinking my beer sampler waned very quickly. Russian River is not messing around when it comes to beer. I tasted sour beers and white beers and blond beers. There were beers I could only have one sip of, and others that I wanted to drink forever. I drank beer after beer, some good, some terrible, and about nine beers in, the beer Gods showed mercy and three chairs opened up at the bar right in front of us and we were finally seated. At this point, I was on my way to happy drunk, but if we didn’t eat soon, happy drunk would have quickly turned to loud obnoxious drunk. So what does one pair with an 18-beer sampler? Pizza. We ate, we drank, and drank and drank some more. And at the end of our visit, we came home with a box of Pliny. It’s our special occasion beer.

Pizza and Beer

By: W. Castellanos-Wolf 

 

Shunned by Halloween Festivities, Just Another Sign that I’m Getting Old

http://www.seemsartless.comToday I feel like such an adult, to be more specific, an old adult. As a woman in her thirties, Halloween has officially shunned me. This is the first year that I have had no Halloween themed events throughout the month of October like pumpkin carving contests, costume planning and shopping or any party invites. I mean like zero parties to drag S to in matching couples costumes. I really wanted to be a Ghostbuster this year and walk around saying, “Who you gonna call?”

Thirty-somethings, is this how getting old begins? We get too busy to plan anything for one of the most fun holidays of the year, and then we just get too busy to remember to have any fun, laugh or live? Okay, so I’m being a drama queen, but seriously. I was just listening to an audio book called the “Geography of Bliss,” by Eric Weiner and he mentioned a statistic that has stuck with me because it is so scary. According to the book, babies smile hundreds of times a day, while adults only smile 17 times a day. Do we slowly begin to age because we stop smiling or do we stop smiling because we begin to age?

The only consolation I have for the fact that Halloween has passed me by this year is that while I will not get to dress up, I will still be able to participate in another favorite Halloween pass time, drinking beer. I don’t need a special invite to do that.

By: W. Castellanos-Wolf

 

Wine Tasting in Dry Creek Valley

Because as a woman in her thirties life is too short to drink bad wine, this past weekend the newly formed, “Society of the Traveling Boots,” headed off to wine country.

Driving on Westside Road towards Dry Creek Valley was like travelling back in time. Familiar wines, centerpieces to special moments already lived, greeted me along the road to the left, while to the right, the colors of fall, yellow, orange and sometimes red splashed the ocean of vines that could be seen growing, row after row, until they reached the horizon of Pines at the opposite end of the last long curve. October, after the harvest and right before the frost leaves the vines bare and exposed, is a beautiful time to go wine tasting.

Our agenda was simple: visit some old favorites and discover something new. The goal: come home with some new bottles. Both were accomplished.

Old Favorites- Quivira Vineyards

We discovered Quivira about 4 years ago and were instantly impressed by the fact that all the wines on their tasting list, (even the whites, which we are usually not such a fan of), were excellent.

So how was it 4 years later? Crowded. Loud. Which is unfortunate because these outside factors really do affect the tasting experience. The tasting rooms are there to showcase the wines, but also to sell the patron on a fantasy, a feeling, the story of the land, and their winemaking philosophy or ideal. All of these factors are intangible. All of these are impossible to acquire when the bar is crowded, the tastings come sporadically or feel rushed, or when the only info we get on the wine is what is on the tasting menu, and a map that the pourer points to when he fills our glasses.

Ok, ranting aside, the wine is still really good. I am not going to pretend like I am a sophisticated wine connoisseur and explain each wine’s flavor profile. What I can say about the wine is that I like it so much, I am considering being part of their wine club so that I can get this yummy wine delivered to my house, like Christmas presents that come in the mail year round.

Something New- Thomas George Estates

I was sold at wine cave. I know, how shallow of me, but hey, it is my belief that wine tasting is like Disneyland for adults. Each new tasting room is like a new ride. We don’t know what to expect with every pour and if the adventure occurs in an interesting space, like a cave or barrel room, even better. Downside, the cave was really, really cold.

Wine cave aside, Thomas George was pouring from two distinct tasting lists. The first list poured an array of whites and reds, starting with a Sauvignon Blanc and finishing with a Zinfandel. The second list was pouring all Pinots. Like everyone else who became obsessed with the movie “Sideways,” I too went through a Pinot only phase, so this tasting was especially of interest. The tastings were expensive. Like Napa Valley tasting room expensive. So while we were not thrilled to be paying $15 and $30 to taste from each list, it was well worth it.

We tasted Pinots from their various Thomas George estates. The list went from a lighter Pinot to a more aggressive and full-bodied Pinot. It was interesting to compare how the same grape, but grown in varying climate zones with varying terroir, could taste so different. We came home with a couple of bottles of the Cresta Ridge Vineyard Pinot and paired it that same evening with some Spanish style Gambas al Ajillo, or Garlic Shrimp. And in case you are wondering, bold and peppery, the Cresta held up just fine.

By: W. Castellanos-Wolf