Monthly Archives: June 2011

Whoopie! Pies!

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Today is a much-needed day off after a couple weeks of being stressed out.  I have not left the house or changed out of my PJs.  It’s necessary sometimes, don’t judge me.

I did engage in a baking adventure, one of my favorite things to do in my free time.  I found this Whoopie Pie recipe on Bakerella.  As soon as I saw the chocolate and peanut butter combo I was sold!  I also took the opportunity to practice my food photography, although I still have a long way to go.  Our kitchen is not super cute and my creations never look that beautiful. (I’m not patient enough!)  They taste delicious though!

1. Mix the batter. 2. Mix the filling. Make sure to enjoy the excess on those beaters!! Baker's privileges! 3. Bake. 4. Assemble the yummiest sandwiches ever!

Hopefully Zach will be happy to see these when he gets home from his first day at his new job today.  It would happen that he finally got called with a job on my first day off in forever.  To make up for all this butter and chocolate, I’m planning to try this Lemon-Scented Quinoa Salad for dinner.  But for now, I think it’s time to curl up with a book.  I can already feel this rest day rejuvenating me!

Support Letter for La Aventura Project

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Hi all! This is an easy post, but important. We finally got our fundraising underway for La Aventura Project.  I figured the easiest way to share this is just to copy and paste the same letter I sent out to family and friends detailing what we’re doing and what we need.  Of course you should also click over to the La Aventura Project website (link in the right sidebar) to see the trailer and more.  And please, please ask questions if you have them!  I’m feeling the vibe of a lot of doubts expressed by non-supportive silence by certain people who are close to me.  And it really hurts.  I’ll probably write more about that later, but for now, here’s the letter:

Dear Family and Friends,

Greetings!  I hope you all are well!  What is going on in your lives???   Since I’m fairly bad at keeping in touch, I wanted to write to you about what is going on in my life at the moment.  I’ve been living in Williams, Arizona (near the Grand Canyon) for almost one year now with my amazing boyfriend Zachary Minnich.  This is the first time for both of us to live out west and we’re loving it!  The many mountains, creeks, and canyons to hike and explore keep us endlessly entertained and active.  Most of our time is spent working, however.  We both work in Flagstaff, Zach as an electrician and me as a server at a nice restaurant.  We are saving as much money as possible for travel.  We both have the same desire to see the world.

That brings me to our other main activity right now, which is planning a year-long backpacking/filmmaking/volunteering adventure in South America.  On October 27, Zach, our good friend Melissa, and I will be departing from Chicago and flying into Colombia (which I assure you has become very safe and pleasant for tourists recently).  We plan to work our way around the continent in a counterclockwise direction through Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, and Venezuela.  We have budgeted $17 per person per day for an entire year of travel.  In order to live cheaply and really learn the language and culture of these countries, we will be doing lots of volunteering, mostly through World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (www.wwooof.org).  We so look forward to building relationships with locals this way, and to learning about and contributing to sustainable agriculture on our planet.  We also will be finding other volunteer opportunities at orphanages and schools along the way, couchsurfing (www.couchsurfing.org), and camping.  To finally put my film degree to use, we will be filming our experience every step of the way, telling our personal stories and searching for everything else worth documenting.  Because it’s hard to predict what will happen on a journey like this, it’s hard to say exactly what our film will be about.  Right now the working title is La Aventura Project and we are focused on telling the personal narrative of our journey and showing how travel and exposure to different cultures affects three 20-something Americans.  I am hoping to tell our story and eventually edit a feature-length documentary to show in film festivals.

And now the part you probably knew was coming and that I hate to write…the request for money.  Although Zach, Melissa, and I have all been working hard and saving, leaving on a year-long trip is quite expensive.  We are each trying to raise $7000  for travel and living expenses, plus cover our loans and US obligations for the year, plus purchase some filmmaking equipment.  Our film equipment alone will be about $6000 once we have everything we need.  We are so, so close to having the money ourselves, but we need just a little bit of help.  We are trying to raise just $5000 to split between the three of us to assist with equipment and travel costs.  We really feel that this project will make the world a better place by enabling cross-cultural learning, challenging and growing ourselves, and telling what is sure to be an awesome story through film.  We believe that world travel is the best education you can get, and that explorers and artists have and continue to change the world for the better.  If you believe this too, and can spare even $1 to help La Aventura Project, we would greatly appreciate it.  We are accepting secure, tax-deductible online donations via indiegogo.com.  Our project link is www.indiegogo.com/LaAventuraProject.  You can get some awesome perks for donating!  Please also visit our website, www.laaventuraproject.com, where you can find our film trailer and blog updates throughout our preparation and travel.  If you know anyone who would be interested in our project, please pass along those links!  And if you have any questions, please reply and ask away!

Thank you all so much!  And for those of you in Ohio, Zach and I will be back in early October and would love to see you before we leave!

Sincerely,

Carrie Hoffman

“What’s the difference between exploring and being lost?  The journey is the destination.”  –Dan Eldon

Guest Post: How Zach Became an Almost-Vegetarian

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As a lot of our friends know, I have been vegetarian for 5 years now.  Zach is not vegetarian; so many people ask him how he deals with me and if he misses meat.  I asked him to write a guest post on the subject.  One thing I want to clarify is that I have never asked him to not eat meat; he can do whatever he wants!  My policy is just that I won’t buy it or cook it; so if he wants some it’s up to him.  And, honestly, Zach doesn’t really cook for himself much so he doesn’t really eat much meat.  And, as he says, over the past year he’s found that he likes it this way!  But there was never any pressure from me.  I encourage everyone to rent the documentary “Food, Inc.” for a vastly more in-depth explanation of this subject.  I also encourage questions on this post as this is a subject I am passionate about and would love to discuss more.  Without further ado, my lovely partner Zach:

When I met Carrie in 2009, one of the first things I heard about was her vegetarianism.  This plays a big part in her life and at first I thought “she must be crazy” and “what do you eat?”.  Of course she educated me.  After cooking together almost every day for the past year, meat has been almost completely eliminated from my diet.  How do I feel?  Better probably.  Every time I eat lots of meat nowadays, I feel disgusting when finished.  All the fats in my belly and greasy fingers.  Not that I won’t eat meat if someone is making it for me, but I haven’t gotten any from the store since Safeway gave me a free Turkey for spending $100 last Thanksgiving.  (Note from Carrie:  And that turkey is still in the freezer.  As I said, Zach doesn’t cook for himself.)  There are some very logical reasons I see to not eat meat.

Reason 1: Health.  Have you ever seen how the meat you buy at the grocery store is raised?  “On the farm” you might say.  However, that is unfortunately not true.  Most meat we eat is raised in a factory.  Unless you buy meat that says “local/organic” or “grass fed” your meat is probably made it a factory.  And I choose “made” over “raised” because most chickens we eat don’t even see the sun in their lifetime.  Some don’t even stand.  What does encompass the majority of a chicken’s life?  Lying on the ground in a pile of all the other chicken’s shit waiting to die a fat unhealthy bird.  All they eat is food fueled with growth hormones to make them unhealthily fat, and did I mention they live life in a house full of shit?

Reason 2: Morals.  Does it seem right to raise millions of beautiful creatures just to make them fat and eat them?  Some never get the right to stand.  They are born, grown at unnatural rates, then killed.  If they die before they are big enough, they are thrown into the mix that feeds the rest of the fat creatures about to die and be eaten.  People tell me that we should eat meat because we are at the top of the food chain.  How many animals have you actually killed and eaten because you are stronger?  I would be willing to bet that most americans have never killed an animal that they planed to eat.  That is not to say that there isn’t a large portion of the nation that does shoot their own food.  I did shoot a rabbit once, and ate it.  I shot it and it didn’t die, so I had to club it on the head with my rifle.  This wasn’t fun for me, since the rabbit was so cute.  Think of all the meat you eat in a given month.  If you had to personally decapitate every one of those chickens, you would at least appreciate your food a lot more.  I would even be willing to bet that you would choose to plant a garden instead.

Reason 3: Cost.  I don’t have hard facts on this, but I have noticed that we spend way less money that carnivores.  We can get a whole bag of veggies at the farmers market for under $20.  You know I’m right, enough said.

The reasons go on and on but the point I try to make remains the same.  I’m not trying to convert everyone to vegetarianism, but it would be nice if people at least thought about what they ate.  For that matter, I wish people thought about half the things they do in their lives.  Don’t do something just because it’s the only way you know how.  Educate yourselves.  Don’t be on of the millions and billions of ignorant people who do things because they are told it’s the only way.  Do things because you have decided that it is the best way.

Nomadic Tendencies

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How does one become a nomad?  Especially after being raised in the USA?  Sure, we have mobility between cities and states but we are definitely not a nomadic culture.  In fact, I think very few cultures are nomadic in the sense I feel nomadic.  I want to constantly be on the move, exploring new cities, countries, continents.  I know there were small signs as I was growing up, like when I declared at age 11 (half-joking, half-serious) that I wanted to be “a hobo” when I grew up.  The fact is, I’ve got the itch and I’ve got it bad.  It’s now been over a year that I’ve been back in the US, 10 months that I’ve been living here in Arizona.  The mountains, deserts, rocks, and beauty of the southwest is great, and we’ve had amazing day and weekend trips out here.  But I’m getting to that inevitable point I always reach, where I just feel done with it.  I’m done working, done coming home to the same house, I’m ready to GO!  Unfortunately this point usually hits a good few months before my actual departure date, and this time is no exception.  Zach and I have a little over two months before we’re bookin’ it out of this town.  This is necessitated purely by finances; if they were not an issue we’d be long gone by now.

We have such insatiable wanderlust. Our happiest times have been on the road, on the trail, approaching a new city or mountain or anything NEW.  There is nothing like the thrill of constant movement.  We can’t stay in one place for long without feeling stuck and beginning to desperately plan a new adventure.  And now, we are so, so close to get-up-and-go time.  On August 22 we will pack the car and drive to California–camping in Death Valley, Yosemite, then Lake Tahoe before swooping down upon Black Rock City to experience another world at Burning Man.  From there we’ll head back west to spend a week in San Francisco and NorCal wine country.  Then Salt Lake City to see all the Mormons, and a good two weeks in Colorado for lots of hiking and brewery tours.  Iowa City and Chicago will be our final stops in the midwest before arriving back in Columbus.  This will be our longest road trip yet and it is only the prequel to our big adventure, the escape to South America.  We’ll be back in Columbus for a few weeks, just long enough to pack it up and say goodbye to friends and family before our flight to Medellin, Colombia, on October 27.

It takes a certain kind of person to really understand wanderlust.  We’re lucky that although our families and many of our friends don’t get it, we’ve found a vast network of other wanderers through Couchsurfing and are sure to meet more at Burning Man and in South America.  Honestly, I would be fully open to the idea of NOT coming back to the US after a year down there.  Who knows what opportunities may present themselves?  The ultimate dream is to find a way to travel indefinitely.  Maybe that dream will change someday, but for now we are embracing it and chasing it at full speed.  We’re young.  What better time than now to live out of a car, a backpack, a tent, to watch the man burn, to hike the Andes, sail the Amazon, and create countless other stories?

Mexico trip pics!

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TentSurf 2011 was  A BLAST.  I’m still recovering.  We camped on Sandy Beach in Rocky Point, Mexico for 4 days with about 50 other couchsurfers from around the southwest and Mexico.  I might write more about it later, but for now here’s a photo recap.

The beach! This is how far away our tent was from the ocean.

Zach does an Axel Rose impersonation with seaweed. (Credit: Mike Huang)

Jumping off the booze cruise boat. Look at that turquoise water! (Credit: Mike Huang)

Whole group of crazy Couchsurfers. (Credit: Mike Huang)

Flying a tent at the end of the event.

Zach and me with our good friend Jeremy. (Credit: Jez Seidner)

And with that, it’s back to naptime for me.  Mexico took it out of me and I’ve now got a nasty bug.  I’m just dreaming of the even bigger adventures we’ll be having a few short months from now!

Productivity?? What????? I’m Gonna Go Cry…

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This is Why I’ll Never Be An Adult by Hyperbole and a Half is one of my favorite blog posts of all time, and it greatly describes how I’m feeling right now.

Ahhh!!!!  I AM OVERWHELMED!!!  Who knew that working full time and planning a year-long trip and fundraising to make a documentary and going to the gym everyday and continuing to keep the house in order and having a social life would be so much to do?

I am especially discouraged right now because I was trying so hard to break out of my usual “really-bad-at-delegating-just-do-everything-myself” ways, but I pretty much failed.  Turns out, not delegating doesn’t work, but delegating doesn’t work either!!!!!  At least not when the others involved are just as busy as you are and just flat out don’t care as much, because they’re not the ones who went to film school and whose infant career is depending on this project.  Which is understandable, but still, just leads me back to doing everything myself.

I ended up a big PMS-ey, bawling mess last night because I was just so stressed out and felt like I was carrying the whole world on my shoulders.  And Zach can’t understand because he’s just Mr. Super Laid Back, like “There’s no hurry; it’ll get done when it needs to!” And I’m screaming, “I know it doesn’t NEED to get done now but I WANT it done now and DON’T YOU WANT TO MAKE ME HAPPY?????”  Ahhhhhhhhhh CRAZYPSYCHOGIRLFRIEND unleashed!!!  So we are at the impasse we always reach: my Type-A Stressball tendencies vs. his procrastinate ’til the last minute/just have fun/don’t worry about it ways.  Which I love about him to some degree, but sometimes…honestly….I want to take a syringe and inject a shot of pure stress right into his rear.  At what pharmacy can I find that?

This is an emo post with no real solution.  I’m ranting.  For something real to read, look at the posts Zach wrote recently: one on his blog about our Courchsurfing story, the other on the La Aventura Project website about our Arizona adventures.  He doesn’t think he’s a good writer but he really is.  I love him.  I’m just frustrated by life right now.  The end.

Celebrity Encounter!

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I had the most exciting night I’ve ever had at work last Wednesday!  An encounter with a minor celebrity left me slightly starstruck.  So who’s seen the movie Into the Wild?  It’s one of my favorite movies.  Well, Wednesday night the actor who played Rainey was at one of my tables.  I didn’t see them sit down but another server came up to me and said “You have a table.  And it’s the old hippy guy from Into the Wild.”  At first I thought she meant someone who looked like him, but I walked up and it was totally him!  Ah!  He had the same long braid, same sexy deep voice, and was just a HUGE man in general.  So of course I tried to provide the best service possible and probably neglected my other tables.

Here’s the backstory on the guy:  His name is Brain Dierker; he is from Arizona and was originally hired by director Sean Penn to be the marine coordinator for the kayaking scenes in the Grand Canyon.  As he was helping with those scenes and working with the cast and crew, Sean Penn eventually began to see him as the perfect person to play Rainey (the part was still uncast).  He asked him to play the part and Brian, having never acted, was originally hesitant but eventually agreed.  And aren’t we all glad he did?  Wasn’t he awesome?

So I knew the backstory of his unconventional casting and that just made me love his performance even more.  What I didn’t know is that he is actually from Flagstaff and owns one of the ski shops in town!  So apparently other servers knew this and had seen him around before, but this was news to me so I was still super excited and a bit giddy!  Of course I didn’t ask for an autograph or let on I knew him cause I didn’t want to seem like an unprofessional and annoying fangirl.  He seemed very down to earth and laid back and you could tell he was a good guy, much like his character in the movie.  What a great encounter!  I can’t believe I spent several years in NY but had to come to Flagstaff, AZ to meet a real celebrity for the first time!  Oh, and yes, he tipped a solid 20%!  Good thing, would’ve been a major turnoff if he hadn’t!