You can take the girl out of Minnesota...

...but can't take the Target out of the Minnesota girl. 

East Palo Alto just opened a new Target store on Sunday, and naturally I had to check it out after work/the gym yesterday. Guys - I basically blacked out in a Target-y haze. They were fully stocked. They had everything. The store was pristine. I had SO MUCH FUN. 

Target's killing it currently with their Who What Wear collection, and I may or may not have found myself in a dressing room with legit fifteen things to try on. Ended up coming home with...

...this off-the-shoulder, bell-sleeved white wonder...perfect for refreshing my tired wardrobe of summer whites (and kind of adjacent to this fantastic Anthropologie top, which I just can't justify at that price)...

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...and this dress, which I saw on a blogger I follow and was intrigued by to the point where I had to try it. Still not sure I'm keeping it, but we'll see. 

They are, however, sadly discontinuing their Merona and Mossimo lines to introduce twelve new brands, and I'm kind of sad. Merona had great work basics and Mossimo has produced most of my casual "idgaf" sundresses for the past several years. I justified an oh-so-trendy cold-shoulder, bell-sleeved top (that I cannot find ANYWHERE on their admittedly awful website!) because it's basically going to be a collector's item once Merona stops being produced...and also it's a super cheap way to try a trend that, I'm sure, will be out in about five minutes flat. (Plus, it's blue and white striped. I'm powerless.)

A few other quick Target faves:

I love the Sonia Kashuk lipstick, and have since Courtney surprised me with a few way back in 2014! I bought "Peach Passion" last night and it's an excellent subtle, not-neon coral for summer. 

One of the first things to get dropped in the face of a California budget was regular shellac manicures and pedicures. Instead, I'm embracing the art of the self-mani with basic nail polish. My problem, however, is that I'm incredibly hard on regular manicures, with most lasting just a day or two before I've bitten and scraped and cracked and smudged them beyond acceptability. So I picked up some Essie Gel Couture to try, in a nice, basic pale pink. I don't have high hopes - but we'll see! 

Also, I'm obsessed with L'Oreal Pure Clay masks. My mom and I bought a couple when she was here helping me move in June, and I do one at least once a week - I'm a huge fan of the charcoal Detoxify, but also love the Purify&Mattify. (Plus, seriously, they're sooo cheap. It's heavenly!)

A final item of note: Target's candle selection is absolutely bonkers, friends. And the best part is that a lot of their candles are manufactured by Illume, the same brand that produces ridiculously fragrant (and expensive) candles for Anthropologie, Patina, etc. I tend to find myself lost in the candle aisle most times I go to Target, but my favorite spot for absurdly cheap hidden gems is actually the dollar section right in the front of the store. You can thank me later! 

Inventory: July 2017

As of 8pm last night...hiiiii, guys, did you miss me?!

Making: time to write - finally - after several weeks of choosing to pursue other things instead (oops). 

Cooking: a giant batch of shredded pesto chicken from this recipe, which I can't wait to use to throw together a perfect Caprese...on Wednesday, once the madness of work and classes slows down for the week.

Drinking: the last of today's 100 oz of water, out of a Notre Dame Band pint glass, naturally.

Reading: Aziz Ansari's "Modern Romance" (which I borrowed from Dave, and can't stop laughing at), Marina Keegan's "The Opposite of Loneliness," and "Riches, Rivals and Radicals: 100 Years of Museums in America" (for my museum class!). Also just finished "Commonwealth" by Ann Patchett and it is remarkable. 

Wanting: tickets to Joshua Henry's revue in downtown San Francisco next Monday night. Alas, class!

Looking: at the palm trees outside my bedroom window and still marveling over the fact that I live here. 

Playing: with the New York Times crossword puzzle app, daily (Dave and I are addicted). 

Listening: to La Cenerentola in advance of the Merola Program's performance on August 5th!

Wishing: that this past weekend's Schwegfam reunion here could have lasted like...five more weekends in a row. Too much fun, campers. 

Enjoying: Laura's shared affinity for candles (you should see how many we've got hoarded in our extremely girly apartment, oh dear). 

Waiting: for next month's trip home and October's NYC trip to see "Dear Evan Hansen" and "Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812!"

Liking: HAIM's new album, quite a lot. 

Wondering: what area to explore this weekend. I'm leaning toward the Presidio...

Hoping: that tonight's opera class midterm went as well as I thought it did. 

Marveling: at NorCal sunsets. Can you get over that sky up top?!

Needing: to find the perfect blackout drapes and hang my double curtain rod (can't wait for better sleep in a pitch-black room!). 

Smelling: my bedside Lilac Blossoms candle, which is olfactory crack in its best, most deliciously floral form. 

Wearing: this nightshirt from J.Crew, which I had monogrammed (because, duh, I've never met a monogram I didn't loooove.).

Following: a handful of awesome new literature-centric Instagram accounts (Reese Witherspoon Book Club, Hot Dudes Reading, Books and Abe, The Shelf, and Subway Book Review).

Noticing: how heavenly-cool it gets here after dark. I'm coming to love sleeping with my window open.

Knowing: that I really should set my alarm for ten minutes earlier tomorrow morning. Also knowing that, realistically, I'm not going to do that. 

Thinking: about my own mortality, but not in a morbid way, in a healthy way that's largely inspired by recent reading material and class discussions and my conversation about goals(z) with my boss earlier. 

Bookmarking: options for wall-hanging wine racks for our kitchen - the "join four wine clubs in a month" choice might've been a tiiiiiny bit excessive.

Giggling: over this hilarious analysis of which past American president would win in a mass knife fight - a longer read, but it's hilarious and well worth it! 

Feeling: pretty damn good about things. 

Goalz

So, starting off with a joke, or rather, a funny little back story – when I was typing the title of this post, I didn’t mean to call it “goalz,” I meant to call it “goals.” At least initially, in its roughest draft form – but I just instinctively keyboarded in “goalz,” and it made me giggle, and so “goalz” it shall be.

I’m really enjoying getting to know my colleagues a bit more, particularly my two bosses (both of whom are fantastic so far). In a one-on-one touchbase earlier today, one boss (we’ll call her “K”) and I got on the subject of performance measurement and goal-setting. K, like me, is relatively new to Stanford, and is very achievement-oriented. We’re entering the performance/goal-setting phase of our year as employees, and I was asking her about goals to set. We ended up on a huge tangent, talking about how people measure success, what makes people feel satisfied, and whether an accomplishment has to have a tangible outcome to truly be called an accomplishment.

K encouraged me to set personal, private goals outside the formal performance/development module, and shared that it was one of the best ways she’d managed to feel like she was making progress onboarding here. Hers weren’t all business-based, either – they ranged wildly and covered a huge gamut of areas that are affected when undergoing a job change. She was quick to point out that the changes I’ve elected to make recently are much more far-reaching than merely changing jobs – moving cross-country, starting a new job, trying to make new friends and establish a routine and build an entirely new life. These changes and choices all conflate to create an environment that could easily feel unsettled, transitional and insecure. Goals (goalz, hahaha), in K’s eyes, provide a framework by which to reduce some of that uncertainty.

And so here I am, sitting at my desk and writing a blog post about goals, with my boss’s permission and, moreover, encouragement. (What is my life?!) It feels like I’m preparing to set New Year’s resolutions again – and I think that this fits right in with my big theme for 2017 of trying to be intentional.

Without further ado:

Lizzie’s California Goalz

1. Get to know my coworkers. Have lunch with someone new at least once a week, and ask someone at least one non-work-related question a day.

2. Move every single day. Keep taking two quarterly fitness classes through Stanford, and keep making use of the on-campus gyms (bonus: I can get in the athlete gym, and watch football/basketball boys work out while I work out. Eye candy for days.).

3. Explore one new neighborhood in San Francisco, or one city/town, every weekend that I don’t have company. Get to know my new homeland.

4. Have regular phone dates with Kelsie and Hannah, my Minnesota loves, on designated/scheduled days if possible, to ensure that we stay in the best touch that we can.

5. Write or journal for at least ten minutes every day.

6. Get involved in one community/club/interest group of some kind outside of Stanford.

7. Make it back to Minnesota at least three times a year.

8. Create and stick to a balanced, conservative (but fun) budget in this land of insanely high cost of living.

9. Take some time every month to look back and reflect on how things went last month, and to plan and prioritize and set mini-goals for the next.

10. Remember to be excited and happy and positive about this change, and grateful for everything it brings. Change leads to growth, and it’s scary and unsettling, but it brings so many good things, and I can’t wait to see what those will be for me!

My day as a mad scientist

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One of my favorite aspects of my job at Stanford is that I get to go on adult field trips on the regular. My first, last week, was probably one of the coolest I’ll get to attend…the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, also known as SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. SLAC was founded in 1962 and was, at the time, the longest linear particle accelerator in the United States. Today, it maintains a partnership with Stanford, and is fully funded by the Department of Energy. Scientists from all over the world apply to perform experiments there, and we, as Stanford employees, got a major peek behind the scenes at some of the amazing experimental science happening there!

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Our tour started with an informational video that lasted about 15 minutes – 15 minutes that officially proved to me that, while I’m pretty smart by layman’s standards, I’m actually pretty freaking average. We all kind of looked shell-shocked at its conclusion – I’m pretty sure I only understood the very barest minimum of the topics that were barely touched on in the video. SLAC’s scientists/work have earned 4 Nobel prizes, and discovered 3 of the 6 known quarks today, among dozens of other major scientific advances and achievements. As we all exchanged totally incredulous “wow we’re idiots” looks, our SLAC guide, Enrique, loaded us onto our fancy coach bus for our first stop – an open segment of the Linear Accelerator!

What is a linear accelerator, you ask? Well, campers, in Lizzie terms, it’s essentially a racecourse for atoms, and when they hit the finish line, they smash into a target and create collisions or impacts that are study-able. SLAC is home to the longest linear accelerator in the world, although these days, only about 1/3 of the original accelerator is still in use. The accelerator cost $100 million to build in the 60s, and would cost well over $1billion today.

We were able to view a section of the accelerator designed for models/demonstrations – the actual accelerator emits too much radiation to make casual tourism possible. The accelerator itself is 30 meters below ground, insulated by a layer of loose rock and dirt to minimize seismic impact. Even a shift of a few millimeters can shut the accelerator down, which is costly and detrimental to those doing research. When one factors in the length of the accelerator – 2 miles – and the level of precision required, the results are staggering. SLAC is officially the longest, flattest single building in the world, and when it was constructed, they built a highway bridge for Highway 280 over it before Highway 280 even existed. The level of exactness is necessary in order to ensure that the accelerator can force electrons to hit speeds of 99.9999999% of the speed of light (that’s right, 7 percents!!).

Hitting that absurd speed requires an enormous amount of energy, of course. SLAC is on the Northern California power grid, and pays an energy bill monthly just like everyone else…theirs simply runs to the tune of tens of millions of dollars every few weeks. These guys are largely responsible: invented at Stanford in the 30s, the “klystron” microwave generator was named by the Stanford Classics department from Homer’s Odyssey. The term klys is ancient Greek for “waves crashing on the floor,” appropriate for a microwave, huh? These 2 miles of microwaves, however, have the collective power of 14.7 million American home microwaves. (I think my jaw actually dropped when Enrique shared this factoid.)

Nowadays, the majority of the accelerator has been decommissioned and is being redeveloped into an entirely new form of accelerator that is based on cryogenics…with the idea being to eventually to create a plasma Wakefield accelerator, which packs a lot more power into a lot smaller space. Once developed, these accelerators, per Enrique, could someday enable hospitals to zap single cancer cells rather than using radiation, to make particle colliders accessible to college science programs and smaller research facilities, and to revolutionize general approaches to particle research worldwide.

Our second stop was at SLAC’s Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Light Source (SSRL), the most powerful x-ray laser in the world. Most of the science behind SSRL went way over my head, but essentially the SLAC crew noticed that the accelerator was throwing off x-rays that were up to 10 million times more powerful than traditional hospital x-rays. Using undulators (magnets that force electrons to wiggle, for lack of a better term), those x-rays can be further amplified to 30 billion times more powerful.

One of the most exciting uses of the SSRL is as a high-powered camera, essentially, using x-ray diffraction images to see things that would otherwise be impossible to study. Think of it as the fastest aperture speed in the world…a femtosecond exposure. To put a femtosecond in perspective, a femtosecond is to a second as a second is to 32 million years. Again, jaw dropping. The lightning-fast speeds of the SSRL enable scientists to photograph infinitesimal reactions, like atoms actually splitting or photosynthesis in process. I wish I knew more science-y things and could better explain this - it was incredible to hear it firsthand from SLAC scientists, who actually know what they're talking about!

So what’s a SLAC tour guide to do for a big finish? Let a bunch of finance people play with a gamma ray, of course. SLAC is experimenting with using diamonds to further amplify x-rays, and as beam splitters to enable multiple beams from one laser. We got to witness this in action, from within a lead-lined room, and yours truly got to push the button. I literally fired a short-term molecular gamma ray laser, guys. If I knew what that actually meant, I’m sure I’d appreciate the experience even more – but as it was, it was pretty freaking crazy.

Having watched the insane data spikes after firing (sorry crew, no photos of the action allowed), we loaded the bus up again and headed back to our decidedly less mad-scientist desk jobs, visions of laserbeams dancing in our heads (or at least in mine, anyway!). As fascinating as our SLAC trip was, knowing we barely scratched the surface is the most fascinating aspect of all to me…looking forward to following SLAC’s research in campus and world news now that I’m basically an expert!

Pinot noir and opera stars

This weekend was such a blast! One of Jonathan’s bffs from college lives in San Francisco, so Jonny spent a long weekend here. Seeing him was so great – I haven’t spent much time with him at all lately, as he’s living in Detroit and I’m (duh) here.

He and Tyler took the Caltrain down to Palo Alto on Friday in nearly 100-degree heat, with plans to go on a mini campus tour of Stanford courtesy of yours truly. Instead, we decided to scrap the tour in the face of the heat, and headed back to my place for ice-cold Chardonnay and a little chill time before dinner at my personal favorite restaurant in Redwood City, Vesta. While their wood-fired pizzas and wine selection are out-of-this-world good, we definitely made a mistake in selecting a restaurant with no AC with the temps as high as they were. By the end of the meal, we were all…dewy, to put it gracefully. Didn’t stop Dave and me from heading downtown with Jonny and Tyler to go out!

Or so we thought. We ended up heading back to Tyler’s gorgeous Nob Hill apartment to play drinking games…with a bunch of 23-year olds. I felt REALLY old, campers. Old like, one-foot-in-the-grave ancient next to these fresh-out-of-college children.

Jonathan, on the other hand, continued to live his best life by refusing to drink beer (as always) and instead enjoying a “healthy pour” of his two-for-one white wine. Always classy, Jonny D. Proud of you, boo.

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After enjoying the insane view of downtown for a while, Dave and I departed around 11pm...but not before we kicked serious state-school kids’ ass at both flip cup and XL beer pong. (I may be old, but I’ve still got it.)

Saturday dawned bright, sunny, and hot for our planned trip to Sonoma! I picked up two moderately hungover boys early, and we made the quick 1.5-hour shot straight north to the Alexander Valley.

Our first stop? Hanna, a favorite from our family’s trip last Christmas. Perched high above Alexander Valley, I think the Hanna tasting room boasts some of the best views in Napa. Another claim to fame? Their delightful tasting staff, Ted and Carol, who took advantage of a fairly slow day to spend over an hour with us, pouring off-menu tastes, chatting about microclimates and local favorites, and ultimately convincing me I needed to be in the wine club. I walked out with a half case, utterly charmed by their personal attention and pride in the Hanna product.

The boys, meanwhile, made sure to keep me humble by reminding me that I was mostly a glorified chauffeur and that, obviously, Saturdays are for the boys. (I kid, I kid…)

After enjoying quite a bit of wine on very empty stomachs, we needed a quick pit stop, so we hit the Healdsburg Grill for salads. And Captain Morgan poses on empty wine barrels. It’s Sonoma, after all. We also swung over to Noble Folk Ice Cream and Pie, where Jonathan slaughtered an Oreo cone and I fell hard for the vegan passionfruit sorbet.

Thoroughly refreshed, we made stop #2 at Iron Horse! Another perennial Schwegfam fave, I think their summer tasting setup overlooking the vineyards is among the most picturesque in the entire area.

We scored prime spots right at the front of the overlook, under the shade of the giant umbrellas with champagne soaking in ice baths close by. Absolutely idyllic!

The boys agreed.

The primary reason we headed to Iron Horse was so that Jonathan could make a purchase he’s been low-key obsessing over since the holidays…the Iron Horse champagne saber. Long story short: he and Tyler borrowed my penthouse apartment at Eitel on the New Year’s Eve when I went to the Fiesta Bowl. Jonathan, being a smart and thoughtful houseguest, decided to use one of my Wusthof kitchen knives to saber a bottle of champagne in my living room. That Wusthof knife is now missing a quarter of an inch off the tip…yes, laugh with me at the plethora of “just the tip” and circumcision jokes we could all make (and have made) here. Jonathan’s been into sabering champagne ever since, and the Iron Horse saber is the perfect excuse for him to do it all the time.

Let it be known, I was against the saber purchase. Direct conversation was, I believe, as follows:

Lizzie: Think about how infrequently you’ll use it, Jonathan.

Tyler: Whateverrrrr. He’s gonna be sabering open like…bottles of ranch dressing. You know it.

Needless to say, I lost this particular battle, and we spent the rest of the afternoon yelling at Jonathan to put the saber back in the box while the car was in motion. He is SUCH an adult, you guys.

Stop 3: La Crema, where we totally scored with our sweet tasting host, Hannah! As I joined the club (yes, if you’re counting, I’m now in FOUR wine clubs, omg help I have a problem), the two Select Reserve tastings we purchased quickly spiraled into ten glasses on the counter, with wine flowing insanely liberally. We had their Nine Barrel ultra-reserve again. We tried a Gewurztraminer and their rosé. We sampled, at my count, seven different pinot noirs. And I, being a complete fiend (I HAVE A PROBLEM SERIOUSLY), left with half a case of La Crema…bringing my purchase total to a dozen bottles in under four hours. You guys. I need my wine country access revoked. Or restricted. HAAAALP.

We grabbed a bite in Santa Rosa, and on the way home Tyler had the inspired idea to stop at the Marin Headlands at sunset for one of the best views in the Bay Area. I was in heaven.

Jonathan, on the other hand, was COLD. Temps had dropped from over 100 degrees in the Russian River Valley to a brisk 55 on the Headlands, and yiddle brudder was having none of it. We stopped quickly, and hopped back in the car to drop the boys back in Nob Hill. It was so great to see Jonny…and the best part is, he’ll be back with my whole Schwegfam in just two weeks for a full Schwegman Party of 5 reunion!!

Sunday found me going full opera nerd, as my friend/fellow Minnesota native/soprano GODDESS Alex performed in the SF Merola Program’s Schwabacher Concert Series at Stanford’s Bing Concert Hall! As a professional fancy person, I would like to officially confirm that, while I may no longer be dominating the Twin Cities arts scene, I’m already deeply committed to exploring the Bay Area’s.

Bing, while a beautiful space, was not acoustically suited for the format of the Schwabacher concert, which bummed me out. In spite of the technical challenges, Alex, as well as Edina guy Tommy, and all their peers in the Merola program utterly killed it. Opera selections ranging from classics like Thais and Lucrezia Borgia to newer, more avant-garde works like Street Scene and The Ballad of Baby Doe highlighted and showcased each performer’s formidable power and dramatic range. I was spellbound.

We grabbed pitchers of sangria and toasted to the amazing performers in downtown Palo Alto after the show…already looking forward to continuing to check out the opera world’s up-and-coming stars at Merola’s two remaining summer performances!

All in all, a weekend for the record books. I’m loving starting to feel more at home here, and am so grateful to the friends and family who are making it possible for me to show off the west coast, best coast mentality firsthand!