I am a teacher and aspiring writer, and keep a blog to keep up with writing and document the daily moments that make up my life. Working with my students & travel writing are my biggest passions. People, art, food, wine/spirits, and culture are other writing interests. Thanks for coming by!

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Ups and Downs of Christmas

Christmas IS a wonderful time of year. Time with loved ones, sparkling lights, holiday cheer, parties....but for many, it is also a difficult time of year.
We went to a nice holiday party that my husband's company put on, and also got to spend a really nice evening with friends. We also got to see both of our families to celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve and Christmas day. Our time spent with friends and family was undoubtedly the highlight of our holidays season this year.
However, my grandpa also passed away about a month ago, and it was a strange and sad realization that I'll never spend another Christmas with him. Also, a week or so before Christmas, a friend's husband passed away of cancer at only 43 years of age after a valiant but brief battle. He should have lived twice as long. They hadn't even had to time to start their family, which was their biggest dream.
Another friend lost a dog. Actually two of them did. One dog died of old age and the other one, I can't even go into it, but the whole situation broke my heart.
I am not trying to focus on the negative here, but I'd be lying to say that none of this affected my Christmas experience this year. A lot of people also get lonely at Christmas. I wasn't lonely, as I have my wonderful husband and dog, but I definitely felt waves of sadness for the other reasons I mentioned.
For some reason, everything is kind of magnified at Christmas. Maybe because the stakes - and expectations - are really high for things to be really special. And life just isn't always perfect. In fact it rarely is, especially on occasions when we really badly want it to be, like at Christmas.
Losing expectations is part of it I'm sure, which is a tough thing to do, but helpful probably.
Being grateful for what is, whether it matches how you want it to be or not, is probably another helpful coping mechanism. And realizing that life is never perfect, even at the holidays, is probably a good thing to remember too.
But since I'm no good really at making these changes despite good intentions, maybe I'll just spend my holidays somewhere else next year, away from the fray. What? The tropics you say? They're calling my name.

Saturday, December 3, 2011


We spent a week in Cabo, and mostly relaxed, swam in the pools, took beach walks and hung out with our friends we were down there with.
Rob went deep sea fishing one day, and we also cruised around downtown Cabo quite a bit. I tried nopales (cactus) tacos, which were really good! And we met lots of cool folks, locals and visitors alike.
One of the best days we had was the day we spent at the infinity pool, called the "Sky Pool," with the Santa Cruzes and the Mauros. We drank Cuba Libres, swam and hung out all day in the sun, then went to "The Office" (a beachside restaurant in Cabo) where we got to have a wonderful dinner on the beach with our toes in the sand.
We got to see sunsets, eat wonderful meals and fall asleep to the sound of the waves crashing just a few hundred yards away. We got to wake up to the incredible beauty of sun, the sea, sand and swaying palms trees. Oh, and the people there were incredibly nice. I feel truly blessed for the vacation. I think we both needed it.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Small Wonders in San Francisco

On the Thursday before last, I went to a meeting with the Bay Area Travel Writer's Group which was held at the SF Aquarium of the Bay. I learned a lot from the presentation that they gave, like how they capture animals from the open sea to display in their aquariums, but they also release them all back to sea after a short stay at the aquarium. The aquarium has also been able to do several studies on many of the species that have stayed with them for awhile. According to the woman who spoke to us, the octopus is the most intelligent creature they have there, or is at least the most intelligent in ways that can be quantified. I guess they give their resident octopus different games like a lock and key (or sometimes a rubics cube!) to keep him entertained.
My favorite sea creatures though are always the jellyfish and the sea stars. Somehow both truly evoke a sense of wonder in me every single time I see them. I think it is pure visual delight. The jellies are truly enchanting with their translucence and their floating movements. As for the sea stars, I like their shapes and colors, and also for some reason I just think it's really cool to see stars (something I associate with the skies and heavens) underwater.
To the underwater wonder makers: I love it that I get to share this Earth & Sea with you. You will forever enchant me.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Top Ten Favorite Books of All Time

Top Ten Favorite Books of All Time

1. The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho

2. Journal of a Solitude, by May Sarton

3. The History of Love, by Nicole Krauss

4. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, by Robert Pirsig

5. On the Road, by Jack Kerouac

6. Molokai, by Alan Brennert

7. House of the Spirits, by Isabel Allende

8. Dreaming in Hindi, by Katherine Russell Rich

9. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

10. Small Wonders, by Barbara Kingsolver

Sunday, September 18, 2011


Life has been a whirlwind lately. Work started back a month ago, and with several packed weekends, we've been burning the candles at both ends lately.

However, we were lucky enough to have Rob's cousin Nicole come to visit, she came all the way from Chile to see the family.

We took her to the Mendocino Botanical Gardens, which was heaven on Earth!

There were all kinds of gardens there, and each was exquisite in its own way.

We took a few walks on the beach too, and got caught by a rogue wave!

We took a path along the bluffs, and Rob got so close to the edge that he gave me a panic attack!

We saw seals playing in the waves and had some yummy meals.

We even got to meet up with my mom and some old friends for a barbeque in Albion, where we ate, drank, laughed (a lot), and played ukulele.

All in all, it was a sweet, relaxing weekend.

A few tips for anyone headed to Mendo:

The gardens were incredible. If interested you're in going there, more info is here:


We stayed at the Atrium Bed & Breakfast in Fort Bragg. It was charming, clean, affordable, and included a nice breakfast.


Pinot Noir grapes are grown in the region, and you can find some great Pinor Noirs there. I recommend the Pinot Noir by Carneros, 2009. It was incredibly good.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Baby Birdie Onesies

For some strange reason, I have wanted to make baby birdie onesies for a very long time. I love fabric and have daydreamed about how pretty all of the different fabric patterns would be as birds on baby onesies.

My friend Meghan was awesome enough to join me and we had a great night "getting crafty," drinking wine, (and later gin limeades), and talking and laughing into the early morning hours.

It was a pretty simple process:

We bought the onesies.

We cut out the fabric using a bird shaped silhouette.

We stitched the birdie appliques onto the onesies using embroidery thread.

(We did use hoops to keep the onesies in place as we stitched.)

In order for these onesies to endure washing, they may need another set of stitching outside of the embroidery thread in order to avoid letting the applique fabric fray around the edges.

Other than that, it's a pretty easy (and fun) project, with a nice reward for very little work.

It's kind of addicting, I may just do a whole series of them.

Xo, Jeneka

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Love this

This photography team, collectively called Tinywater Photography, is pretty great. Portrait photographers in Sac & SF who specialize in babies, weddings, and dog portraits, they produce some of the best portrait photography I've seen. Check them out!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Latest & Greatest - Getting Crafty!

The latest and greatest finds for getting crafty are here!

Let's start with a fun site for printing photos in novel or unusual formats.

Printstagram, a printing outlet for Instagram, has options to print out tiny photo albums, a poster full of thumbnail sized photos, your photos in sticker form, and/or your photos in the form of a polaroid print. Gotta love it!

Not sure if you're into fabric, but I for some reason love finding beautiful fabric swatches & daydreaming about cool appliques I could make out of them. My next project is birdie appliques on baby onesies and women's tees with some of the fabrics at Imagine & Marimekko.
Check out all the options here, some of these fabrics are too lovely to believe!

(This list was composed by the author of the fantastic blog Design Sponge, a great blog on design!)

Getting crafty with paper is always fun.

All about birds!

And more birds!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Enchanting Encinitas

Adorable Ari, among the rocks.

Amazing Lilah, doing kartwheels on the beach!

Piper and her girls ~ all such beauties!

Catching the sunset and sharing some wine with the lovely Karissa at Kai's.

With Piper and her girls ~ I miss them!

Another perfect day at the beach with my girl Karissa.

Some great friends, some great wine, and a great night: Matt & Paula, myself, & Kacia.

I just returned from one of my favorite places on Earth. Encinitas, California. It's about half an hour north of downtown San Diego, and is a wonderful little beach town with lots of great surf breaks, vegetarian restaurants, tropical flowers, and friendly people.
In addition to it being a wonderful/beautiful place, some of my closest friends live there. I went to spend the week with my dear friend Karissa, and we spent it taking long beach walks, catching the sunsets, swimming in the waves, and shopping for lovely beachy gifts for friends and family.
I also got to see Piper, one of the best friends I've ever had, who I met in college but hadn't seen in years.
I lived in Encinitas for three years, from 2002-2005. I learned to surf there, and spent some of the best times of my life there. I left because there were some deaths in my family, and I wanted to be closer to the people I had left. I still miss it there, and I still miss my friends there dearly.
Watching the pelicans swoop overhead, hearing the "whoosh" of their wings as they flew by, seeing the sun melt into the sea, breathing the salty air, watching sailboats float by, watching surfers catch waves & kids building sandcastles, diving waves in the ocean, & getting covered in seaweed - these small moments are so rich for me. They are the kinds of moments I live for. As with my time in Hawaii, I left a little bit of me there when I left. But I also brought those places with me, & these places are in my heart forever.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Sunset Sailboat Trip

For our one year wedding anniversary, we did something we've wanted to do for a long time: we took a sunset sailboat trip in Santa Cruz. We'd done something similar a couple of years ago on our one year dating anniversary: we'd taken a catamaran on Lake Tahoe at sunset. It was such an incredible experience that we'd wanted to get back out on the water ever since. We finally got the chance this past weekend in Santa Cruz. We saw pelicans, sea otters, seagulls, seals, and lots of other sea birds. It was a wonderful way to celebrate one year of marriage.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Summer Time Fun ~ To Do List

1. Eddie Vedder concert on July 11 in Oakland.
2. Celebrate our one year anniversary in Santa Cruz on a sunset sailboat trip - weekend of July 16 & 17.
3. Go swimming every day or as much as I can.
4. Lots of coffee dates and/or lunch dates with girlfriends.
5. Solo road trip to San Diego! July 22-30.
6. Lots of early morning and late evening trips to the dog park with Coco.
7. Submit at least 3 more articles this summer to Valcom News.
8. Mendocino with Rob's cousin Nicole, who is coming to visit from Chile!
9. SF for meetings with Bay Area Travel Writer's group.
10. Learn some great new summer recipes.

Happy Summer time everyone!

Xo, Jeneka

Friday, June 17, 2011

Hawaiiana Dreams


I picked up the latest issue of Hawaii Magazine yesterday, and my imagination was once again ignited for all of the dreams I have of Hawaii. I have a pretty long bucket list, but I at least half of the items on my bucket list are things I hope (and plan!) to do in Hawaii someday.

So here is my bucket list for the Hawaiian Islands:

1. Attend the lantern floating festival in Oahu. It happens every year on Memorial Day weekend at Ala Moana Beach Park in Honolulu, and is a ritual for remembering loved ones who have passed on. Their names are written on a paper lanterns and floated out to sea. What a beautiful way to remember someone, and what a wonderful thing it would be to participate in one day.

2. Take a tour of the Hali'imaile Pineapple Plantation in Maui where the world famous Maui Gold pineapples are grown, and then eat a Maui Gold pineapple then and there, of course. They are supposed to be the sweetest, most perfect pineapples in all the world. I am in a state of bliss just thinking about it!

3. Visit Papakolea, the green sand beach in Ka Lae, on the Big Island. Supposedly created by olivine crystals that form from cooling lava, this green sand beach is the only known green sand beach in the world. Word has it that it's no easy feat getting there - a long winding drive, and then a two mile hike in - but I think it would be worth it.

4. Go on a tropical flower photo odyssey. There are more rare and endangered tropical flowers and plants in the Hawaiian Islands than anywhere else on Earth. I learned this while working as a tour guide at Waimea Falls Park in Oahu back in 2001. We had a collection of more rare tropical botanicals than anywhere else, according to the head botanist there at the time.
I would love to return to Waimea Falls Park one of these days to visit, and also really want to see the storied Allerton Gardens in Kauai.

5. Visit an orchid farm on the Big lsland like this one in Waimea, Orchid People of Hawaii.

6. Watch ukuleles being handmade at the Ko'aloha Ukulele Factory in Oahu.

7. Attend at least one Merrie Monarch Festival in my lifetime. The Merrie Monarch is an annual event in Hilo, on the Big Island. Dozens of the best hulaus from throughout the South Pacific come together to compete in hula every March. Mark my words, I will get there some day!

8. Attend Jack Johnson's Kokua Festival. I love Jack J, but I also love most of his best buds, who often play at his festivals. Past participants have included Eddie Vedder, Ben Harper, and G Love. Can it get better than hearing those guys all playing together in Hawaii?
Apparently, the festival didn't happen this year. Jack was on a world tour, and on top of that he was busy raising millions of dollars for the tsunami victims in Japan. What a great guy. I think his foundation, Kokua Hawaii Foundation, is definitely worth contributing to.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

People & Their Passions

Aaron Callahan brewing his latest batch of Belgian Ale.

Photo by Robert Ossa

Today was a special day. An article I wrote recently was published, and it's been over a year since I've had anything published. But the thrill of getting published is nothing compared to seeing the joy of the people I write about. I wrote about a good friend of ours who makes his own beer, and is really good at it. It's his passion, or one of his passions. And I realized today that writing about people and their passions is one of my favorite things to do.
For one thing, it's so much fun to write about someone doing something they love. Also, the excitement and joy that people have in their passions is contagious. Profiling someone doing what they love is not only fun for the writer and the subject, it's fun for everyone.
Because on some level, people love to see other people happy, and doing what they love. Maybe because it inspires people to follow their own dreams, or maybe just because it is comforting to know that others are doing it, which opens up the possibility for the rest of us to follow in their footsteps.
My friend Aaron didn't become an awesome braumeister overnight. He kept at it for years, not giving up on his dream. And it paid off. He inspires me to not give up on what I love too. One of those things is writing. And so many times along the way I could have given up, but now I am more determined than ever not to give it up, because it's something I love to do.
For the article I wrote on Aaron Callahan, go here.
To people and their passions: keep on keeping on!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Speak Your Truth and Set Yourself Free

It would be an understatement to say it's been a rough year for me when it comes to family relationships. I'm not going to get specific as to who I'm talking about, and it has been different family members at different times, to tell the truth.
However, due to these challenges, I've had some revelations.
I already knew that I hated confrontations.
But what I didn't realize, until tonight, was how much I held inside because of it.
And what has holding it in done for me? I believe it's one of the reasons that I've gained weight, because I internalize the feelings of anger, sadness, and disappointment that I feel. It has caused me health problems and kept me up at night worrying.
I was so afraid to communicate and speak my truth that I would have conversations in my head about what I would say to someone I was upset with, or what I was going to say, but I would never say it. What was the cost? All of the things I already mentioned, and so much more. The disentegration of these relationships because I could not speak my truth, yet was harboring anger or resentment at the way people treated me.
But tonight, all of that began to change. After a VERY upsetting exchange with a relative, I wrote to her and told her everything I was thinking and feeling. It wasn't derogatory, it wasn't awful or horrible, but it was honest. Honest about how I really felt about the way she treated me. And I didn't hold back. And it felt SO DAMN GOOD!
It felt good because instead of being the constant people-pleaser (look where that's gotten me - nowhere!) I finally spoke my truth. I honored myself. And I don't think I've ever done that. Ever. And I'm 34 years old.
I always cared way more about everyone else's feelings, but kept stifling and squashing my own.
Well, not anymore. I am one of those people with a very long fuse. I take a lot before I reach my limit. And it used to be that when I reached my limit, there would be an implosion. Those days are over. There's going to be an explosion, and everybody better look out. Because I am going to speak my truth from here on out, and I don't care what anybody thinks or says anymore.
Life is too short to waste it walking on eggshells hoping everybody is happy or wondering "why aren't they happy?" or wondering if it was something I did or said that made them unhappy.
I want people to be happy, but I also think that everyone is responsible for their own happiness. It's not my job anymore. It never was. I was just under the very false impression that it was for a very long time for some reason.
I'm going to be real and speak my truth and I don't care about who cares or who listens.
All I know is that I'm being true to me, and that's all that matters.
For the first time in my life, I feel free.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Latest and Greatest

It's going to be a brief post tonight because I am tired! But wanted to write about a few great new finds before I forget about them.

GOOD EATS: For starters, the East Sac/Midtown corridor just got what we've been missing for far too long: a neighborhood Vietnamese restaurant! The new place, located on the corner of Alhambra and Folsom Blvd, is called Star Ginger.
Icing on the cake? Our favorite soup, Thai Kao Soi, is served there. Rob gets it with chicken, I get it with tofu. He gets it spicy, I get it mild. Either way, it's super tasty! And...we used to have to drive half way across town to get a bowl of Kao Soi! This place is clean, spacious, well-priced, and most of all, yummy! From what I hear, the owner, Mai Pham, also offers cooking classes.

A GOOD READ: The Happy Isles of Oceania: Paddling the Pacific, by Paul Theroux. The author begins his kayaking trip as his marriage is ending, so there is an emotional depth to this book that is provided by this devastating life event. As the book begins, it is clear that the author living between two worlds: his old life and his new life. His new life begins with this kayaking trip through the South Pacific, which provides a world of insight and discovery in and of itself.

GOOD TO KNOW: Sacramento is definitely not at the top of the list when it comes to dog friendly cities. I am always wishing there were more places that I could bring Coco. Imagine my excitement when I found out about this site, Bring Fido. All of the dog friendly restaurants in town (or most of them) are listed here. Perfect!

FUN NEW SPOT: Summer is just around the corner, which means we get to ride bikes to our favorite frozen yogurt stand. We've tried a few places, but my favorite one at the moment is Yogurt-A-G0-Go. With unusual flavors like Lychee, Red Velvet and Taro, there is always a fun selection. And it's good too!

Have a happy night!

Xo, Jeneka

Monday, May 9, 2011

Neat Things that Neat People are Doing

Ok, so it's been awhile since I did one of these posts, so I figured it was time to dust it off, and bring it back! It's been long enough that I've gotten a chance to collect a few little tidbits on people, places and things worth mentioning.
So here goes...

THE RECENTLY DISCOVERED DO GOODER: While in Half Moon Bay a few weeks ago, I met a man named Lewis Edwards. From what I gathered, he was a business man who had done well in life, and wanted to give back in some way. So he started a private school in the Phillipines with a focus on college preparatory classes, so that these students would have a great chance at a bright future. He soon realized that many of the families in the school were having trouble paying tuition, even though tuition was not very high. So he began offering night classes for free for elementary through high school students. He also made sure that all of the students who needed reading glasses got them. His grandson even fundraised to get the students at the school sports equipment, as they had none. I would love to go there one summer to volunteer. I was awed by this man's dedication to helping these families in every way he can to ensure a brighter future for their children.
You can visit his foundation at: http://www.abetterchancefoundation.org.ph/

BEST NEW BLOG: I don't even know how I came across this blog. It must have been through reading another of my favorite blogs that I came across it. But this blog is damn good! She is awesome, I'm sure you will love her too. http://youaremyfave.com/blog/

BEST NEW DISH: My neighbor Corina is starting up a fish taco stand, and O.M.G! I have lived in San Diego, and I know a good fish taco when I find one. She went to culinary school in San Francisco, and this girl knows what she's doing! Her fish tacos consist of deep fried cod drizzled with what tastes like a creamy cilantro lime sauce, and are topped off with some purple cabbage and pineapple salsa. Her fish taco stand, called Carina Corina, is going to be set up at the Concert in the Park every Friday all summer, located in the beer garden. After that, she's permanently setting up camp downtown. Her new restaurant, "Blackbird," will be located at 1015 9TH ST, in Sacramento, CA., and will open in the Fall. She will serve fish tacos there, and is also planning on including an oyster bar too! She doesn't have a website up yet, but in the meantime, you can follow her on Twitter@CarinaCorina.

BEST WAY TO QUENCH WANDERLUST BY LIVING VICARIOUSLY: Julia & Yuriy got married last Fall in Seattle. For their honeymoon, they decided to, oh, just travel the world.
When they aren't traveling the world, they work as wedding photographers, so on top of great travel stories, you get incredible photos too.

BEST FUN NEW HANGOUT: One of my favorite Sacramento Summer traditions is heading down to the Concert in the Park every Friday, and it just started back up last Friday! We meet up with friends, have a beer or two, and listen to some good music. We always ride our bikes there, and we ALWAYS have a good time!

Hope you all have a lovely week!

Xo, Jeneka

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mama Love

Happy Mother's Day dear Friends! I want to take a moment to wish a wonderful day to all of the mamas everywhere. From what I hear it is simultaneously the hardest but also most rewarding and meaningful job ever. I truly feel that I won the mom lottery getting the mom that I did. She has always been endlessly supportive to me. When people talk to me about having problems with their moms, I can't relate because I've never had any problems with my mom, ever. Sure, we go through little disagreements about trivial things: she tends to rush everywhere, I hate to rush. She drives fast and weaves lanes, I like to drive slow(er), and am a very cautious driver. I am a worrier, she is not, therefore finds it hard to understand how I can worry about so much. But for the most part, I feel like I got just the mom I needed, and definitely the mom I want. She is my best friend, and to know her is to love her. She is so full of joy, and her happiness is contagious. She truly enjoys life and lives in the moment, and is an inspiration for me to be more like that. She loves to help people, and her whole life revolves around taking care of people. She takes lunch or dinner to my grandpa several times a week, babysits my niece constantly for my sister, drives all over the state to visit friends who need help or need a friend due to the death of a spouse, illness, or other life challenges, has taught homeless women basic life skills, teaches art to preschoolers, and generally lights up people's lives wherever she goes.
She is such a special lady and I am BEYOND BLESSED to be her daughter. I love you to the moon and back mama! Thank you for EVERYTHING!

Friday, May 6, 2011

It's Friday!

It's Friday, and we're drinking Moscow Mules with our neighbors, some of the nicest, coolest people you could ever meet. In a few minutes, we're riding downtown to the Concert in the Park. Rob and I met at a Concert in the Park way back on August 22, 2008, so this is a fun (and special) tradition. I love Fridays! And it's almost summer time too, I have just 2 weeks until summer breaks. At this very moment, I am feeling like life is very very good.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

I Made It Into Islands Magazine!

Ok, ok, it was just a post in response to a question that Islands magazine online asked, but still, I feel so lucky that they chose my response to publish in their magazine! What were the chances? To see my post about why Kauai is the most romantic island, go here.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Monterey Getaway

It was a quick trip but we fit so much into such a short time. On Saturday morning, we took a long walk through Monterey along the walking path that winds through town, and saw otters playing in the waves, and baby seals sunbathing on the beach.

We drove to Big Sur for a wonderful lunch at Nepenthe, a place with unbelievable views of the Pacific. I even discovered a new favorite cocktail, the Moscow Mule.

After lunch, we took a long walk on the beach in Carmel. It was windy, but otherwise nice, as the sun was peeking out for us for a precious few hours.

We stayed in Monterey, but had a blast hanging out at my parents' room & drinking wine at the Tickle Pink Inn in the Carmel Highlands. The views were incredible! We even made some feathered friends, who were keeping us company on my parents' balcony.

For dinner, we found a lovely little place called "La Bicyclette." We ate yummy wood-fired pizzas and drank Sauvignon Blanc. Rob drank his Chimay of course!

This morning we had some coffee with my parents then headed to Easter brunch at the Highlands Inn, overlooking the Pacific. The fog had rolled in but I was still in heaven breathing the salty sea air, and enjoying the view, good food, and time with my husband and family.

I feel tired but happy. It's been a nice Easter and Spring break. Hope you all had a great Easter too!