Tuesday, December 29, 2015

New Year's Res recaps

2015 is almost over, and I can say without irony or sarcasm that it's been a nearly perfect year. The high points were plenty - booking my first Broadway show, getting engaged on the beach in Mexico, meeting dear friend's children for the first time, wandering around Ireland and Paris with friends and loved ones, starting the wedding planning process, and discovering the wonderful world of Zumba. But don't worry, this isn't a post detailing how awesome my life is (because that would be obnoxious). It's time for me to see how the goals and resolutions I set way back in January have held up - did I make an effort to better my life in any way, or did I just sit on my butt all year and maintain the status quo?

Read more non-fiction
Grade: A  While this wasn't necessarily the hardest goal in the world to achieve (I simply had to switch one type of book for another), I still had to make the effort to do so. And I was more than pleasantly surprised by the results! There's a whole world of non-fiction out there, and much of it is very good. Some of my favorites: Blue Mind (Walace J. Nichols), a look at how water affects evey aspect of our lives; Maphead (Ken Jennings), about the history, development, and current relevance of maps; and The Almost Nearly Perfect People (Michael Booth), an insightful and in-depth study of the people that make up the five Nordic countries.

Grade: D  Outside of an annual one-day charity event and the requisite four-hour CSA shift, I did not volunteer an extra minute of my time. I again found it incredibly difficult to find opportunities that worked in tandem with my schedule, abilities, and interests. Note to self: fix this for 2016.

Get out of my culinary rut
Grade: B+  I was a bit worried that I would fail this goal completely - but then I joined that fateful CSA and was immediately transported into a world of strange and wonderful vegetables. In addition to adding things like beets, kohlrabi, rutabagas, turnips, and bok choi to my weekly home dinner menus, I also forced myself to carry that spirit of innovation when dining out. A previously unfamiliar dish is now one of my go-to Thai orders (Pye Boat's Beef Boat Noodles), and I also found the nerve to try a shark sandwich from a stall at a street fair  - something I cannot wait to eat again next summer.

Make time for doodling
Grade: C  Except for the few nights I played with a new set of watercolor pencils, I really didn't spend any time putting pen to paper. I even bought two books to help me (an adult coloring book and a cartoon drawing guide), but they sadly remain unopened. This is a shame, because I found a lovely sense of relaxation simply fiddling with the watercolors - but every subsequent time I thought about bringing them to the table again, I let myself believe that other matters and concerns took precedence. I will make more of an effort to find some doodling zen in 2016!!

Quality, not price
Grade: B-  Three times this year I made the choice to spend a little more money on a quality product (Pyrex casserole dishes, Tom's shoes, and a London Fog coat) and I'm so glad I did - they're already outlasting their cheaper alternatives, and I notice I take much better care of these items than I would if they were cheap knock-offs. I gave myself the (-) though, because there were a few times in which I caved and bought some cheap t-shirts from Old Navy and a scarf from a street fair. So really, it's all about finding a balance that works for me while keeping in mind that in the long run, it pays to spend a bit more money on quality goods.

Grade: B+  I made a HUGE effort to remove myself from every nonessential email list in my gmail account, and except for a couple pesky companies that resurrect themselves every few months (I'm looking at you, overstock.com), I ran a pretty successful campaign. I think this is an ongoing project though - I'll never be fully done with unsubscribing (these email listserves are like cockroaches, I swear), but the push I made this year cleared out a whole bunch. In fact, I'm going to pivot this project over to my junk email account and see if I can't make at least a small dent in the hundreds of promotional and random messages I get each day.

How did you fare on sticking to your resolutions?

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Literary superlatives 2015

I'm no literary critic, but I read quite a lot. In fact, whenever someone asks me what my hobbies are, my first instinct is to proudly proclaim that I took second in a recent BMX competition or that I donate all my time saving Guatemalan sea turtles from extinction, but then I realize that I've never downshifted in my life and wouldn't know what to do with a sea turtle if it bit me in the nose. So I instead meekly say something to the effect of "I kind of read a lot," which I realize a.) immediately turns me into a hapless and uninteresting creature and b.) assumes that reading is not a lofty pursuit, both of which are not true. So I need to stop downplaying the fact that I'm a pretty voracious reader, and instead shout it from the rooftops - I like to read!!

2015 was a year gloriously full of books. I had a few longer commutes that allowed me to plow through books in record time, and I finally mastered the art of the Queens Public Library (a feat I am ashamed to admit took me nearly five years to figure out), which saved my wallet from the Amazon Monster. I also started prioritizing reading for the first time in a while. One of my most cherished moments each day is when I crawl into bed and read a few pages before falling asleep - but for years I ignored this desire, instead letting myself drift off during the Tonight Show and then groggily stumble to bed never having turned a page. But this year I decided to put the kibosh on that bad habit and get into bed BEFORE I was actually falling asleep. Lo and behold, a reader was resurrected.

Instead of doing the typical "best books" roundup, my list is going to be one of superlatives and suggestions and a gentle nod to Friends (because why not). Did you love or hate any of the books I've listed below? What were your favorite books of 2015? And what are you most excited to read in 2016?

The one that made me cry
Olive Kitteridge (Elizabeth Strout) Whether you read the book or watch the movie (but please do both, and please read the book before you watch the movie), you'll need some kleenex next to you. Strout's tragically beautiful portrayal of small-town life in Maine made me question my own relationships and confront the inevitability of death, all while tears rolled quietly down my cheeks.

The one that surprised me
Magnetic North (Lee Maynard) I literally judged a book by it's cover (grabbing it off the shelf at the library and only opening it after I'd checked out), and was more than pleasantly surprised to discover that a book about a hardened Vietnam vet-turned-even-harder-biker-dude on a motorcycle ride to the Arctic Circle was a beautiful portrayal of the inability to cope with grief and loss.

The one that made me angry
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (Marie Kondo) This one topped the bestseller's list for months, but I honestly can't figure out why. For all it's suggestions on cleaning up one's living space, this 200+ page book could have easily been condensed into a bestselling pamphlet - and I think the irony of buying a book about decluttering was lost on millions of readers.

The one that made me think
Man Seeks God (Eric Weiner) The author took a lighthearted but thoughtful approach to a serious subject (which happens to be my preferred way to face nearly every situation), and delivered a fascinating overview on many of the world's major and minor religions. I firmly believe that familiarity breeds acceptance, and in light of current political situations, it is more important than ever to understand where others are coming from.

The one that turned me into a temporary artistic ninja
The War of Art (Steven Pressfield) A thin but dense text filled with thought-provoking quotables revolving around one's artistic journey and process. Lines like "the amateur believes he must first overcome his fear; then he can do his work. The pro knows that feat can never be overcome. He knows there is no such thing as a fearless warrior or a dread-free artist" will have you first rushing for that Moleskine you bought when you felt "creative" and then rallying your craft into a much more focused and driven narrative.

The one that was a classic detective story
The Long and Faraway Gone (Lou Berney) Even though I love good ole' detective stories, I don't normally read them, feeling like my time is better spent on more serious literary pursuits (note to self: it isn't). So it was almost by mistake when I checked this book out of the library - but thank goodness I did, because it was a delightful adventure through and through. Classically noir with just the right amounts of grit and grime, this was a story I could not put down.

The one that made us all argue
Sex at Dawn (Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha) My book club chose this for our Valentine's Day read and though it was way too dry and academic for my liking, it nevertheless generated a fascinating debate on relationships, monogamy, and if humans really are meant to be with multiple partners in a lifetime.

The one that should be required reading for all lit majors people
This is the Story of a Happy Marriage (Ann Patchett) A beautifully curated selection of Patchett's essays and short stories, this is a book to savor and digest. With the exception of one essay, she never specifically lays out tips or advice on how to be a writer, but by the end of the book you will find yourself convinced you just took a master class on the written word.

The one that nearly turned me into a hipster
Eating Wildly (Ava Chin) Here's the thing - I dislike getting dirty, I'm suspicious of unknown trees and plants, and I have a serious and nearly debilitating fear of worms. So imagine my surprise when I found myself googling "foraging trips in NYC" after having read only half of this memoir-turned-cookbook-turned-instruction-manual on digging for your dinner in urban areas. I eventually came to my senses and went to the grocery, but not before saving a few of the recipes included in the book.

The three written by the same author
The Diver's Clothes Lie Empty, The Lovers, and Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name (Vendela Vida) I'm a huge fan of reading more than one work by the same author (last year I binged on all 1,191 pages of Donna Tartt's novels), and was more than excited to discover Vida's "women in crisis" series. Diver's Clothes was by far my favorite, and acts as a precautionary reminder to keep a vigilant eye on your belongings at all times while traveling. The other two novels were not as cohesive or tightly wound which made them harder to enjoy, but as a literary oeuvre, Vida creates compelling and complicated female protagonists - which I really appreciate. There are two more books of hers that I have yet to read (a novel and a non-fiction piece), but those are going at the top of my 2016 list.

The one that was my favorite
The Sunlit Night (Rebecca Dinerstein) It's probably wrong to assign the prize of "favorite" because a mother should love all her children, but whatever - this book was my favorite of 2015. A beautiful and lyrical narrative that is also captivating, charming, and with the slightest twinge of fantasy, Dinerstein created a literary cocktail using my favorite ingredients. I haven't bought a book in a while (see: no more clutter!) but I may treat myself, and my bookshelf, to this one so that I can read it again and again.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

afternoon delights

you guys, it's December already and I'm convinced this year flew by but also slogged along in some kind of time warp - does anyone else have that particular and complicated relationship with time? no? Bueller? moving on...  the internet is a wild and untamed frontier, and here's some of the best and brightest it had to offer this month. 

*Finally, an explanation for why I pronounce it "pasta guhgootz"
*King tut
*Photog crush of the month
*Pay no attention to the man in front of the camera
*I'll take one of each, please
*Another one?
*This is good advice

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Museum of Feelings

Because I'm a sucker for both long lines and over-hyped art installations, I spent my day off at the pop-up Museum of Feelings. Ok, I guess I didn't exactly spend my entire day - more like just under four hours, including the time it took me to get all the way down to Battery Park and back, and the majority of those hours were spent in transit and in line. I was emotionally prepared to wait for quite some time before getting in because a.) the "museum" is free to the public for the entirety of it's brief existence and b.) New Yorkers love lines, (see: Rain Room). Surprisingly however, I made it to the front of the line in a mere 45 minutes. You may think I'm being sarcastic here but I'm not - when I arrived 18 minutes after the museum opened, the line had already snaked back on itself, so I was legitimately impressed when I got inside in under an hour. This probably speaks volumes about what living in this city does to one's levels of expectation, but that's a post for another day.

The pop-up itself was short on feelings and high on "experience" amidst a virtually non-existent "museum." I personally expect to learn something while visiting a museum, and I can honestly say I gained no knowledge of feelings, emotions, human interaction, or the nature of human existence. That being said, it was a free event, and you get what you pay for. Each room of the museum roughly corresponded with an emotion and the rooms were designed to evoke and arouse those specific feelings in each visitor - or something. Honestly though, it was all just a bunch of (literal) scented smoke and mirrors that was kind of cool for about five minutes but then turned annoying when, at the end of the tour, I realized the whole thing was sponsored by Glade and that I was being given the opportunity to purchase the unique scents I'd just inhaled in both candle and plug-in forms.

But again, it was free and I didn't have much else going on (#gottagetahobby), and I did manage to get a couple of cool pictures. So really, I can't complain ;)

If you go: The Museum of Feelings is located at 230 Vessey St. in New York City, and opens daily at 11am through December 15, 2015. Go if you're in the area, but don't schedule your day around it!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Dear Michael Flatley,

On the evening of my 11th birthday, my parents surprised me with tickets to see your show. I was so happy I cried – both before and during the show. My pre-teen self was enchanted by everything I saw on that stage – the beautiful choreography, the gentle nod to Irish culture, and the strong dancers, both male and female. So when I recently found a $25 ticket to your current iteration of Lord of the Dance, I was elated. Here was my chance to relive that wonderful memory! I was also intrigued. I’d read that this was an updated version of your old show, and I was so interested to see what changes you made to what was originally a pretty solid dance piece. What story were you going to tell to set this beloved but cheesy show from the 90’s in our current 2015?

I knew the production wouldn’t be perfect. I was prepared for the gaudy costumes, the canned music, and the supreme self-confidence. I was even prepared for that weird nymph narrator thing. I knew that in the true spirit of Lord of the Dance, you probably had to stay pretty true to your original creation.

It appears that I was wrong.

I’m not talking about your absurd use of projections, your egregious use of pin spots, or even the color scheme of every other scene that looked as though a Lisa Frank poster threw up all over the stage. (Even though I should be talking about those pin spots. Really, you know things are bad when you notice the lighting). I’m not even talking about the minute-long commercial for the show we had already paid to see that began the entire performance.

I’m talking about your portrayal of the female dancers. Back in my day, your dancers wore exquisite, traditional, Irish step dancing outfits that perfectly showed off their carved and athletic bodies. I’m sure the actual history of the Celtic symbols wasn’t quite accurate, but I remember thinking that the women on your stage were the very ideal of Ireland brought to life. It made me proud to be ¼ Irish.

So imagine my surprise when the show I saw last night had not one gentle nod towards anything. In case you haven’t seen the first hour and 53 minutes of your show in a while (since you only graced us with your presence during the finale number and two encores), allow me to refresh your memory of the female dancers’ trajectory. They begin as Virginal Concubine (clad in all-white harem pants), then progress into Pastel Princess, and finally reach their character apex when they, wearing literally nothing more than black rhinestone bras and pantyhose, play the role of Vamp and reward the men with a sexy striptease for valiantly fighting those weird light-up lizard creatures who have kidnapped the nymph thing.  This narrative arch is repeated almost point for point in Act II, with the only exception being a bizarre scene in which the women are in sports bras and yoga pants and the men, wearing pajama pants and open leather vests, look like 90’s boy band rejects.

These tropes – Virgin, Princess, Vamp – are out of date and detrimental to young women. Where was the strength or the empowerment? How come a gang of dancing females couldn’t help save the nymph thing? Why is it that the only scene that featured a female duet was one in which the two women literally fought over another man? Mr. Flatley, you managed to fail the Bechdel Test without saying any words.

I was so looking forward to an evening of fun nostalgia and delightful dancing. What I got instead was an insulting portrayal of women. Your vapid and trite storyline and poor use of costuming overshadowed the fact that the men and women on your stage are some of the best dancers in the world – and in spite of your machismo, still managed to create some very graceful moments.

In developing this swan song of your career, it appears that you forgot about a very important demographic – the young audience member. When I went home after seeing your show all those years ago, I put on my school uniform skirt and jumped and hopped around in an imitation of the women I had just seen, because that skirt was the closest thing I had to traditional Irish dress. It saddens me to think that now, when today’s 11-year old girls imitate the show they just saw, they will instead be tempted to remove the majority of their clothing.

I’m all for updates. After all, I once put Jesus in an FDNY t-shirt and called it Godspell. But your take on what modern audiences need to see seems to be more behind the times than ever.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

month in objects: november

photos: because analogue surprises are fun / film: see #1 / koop: because we're talkin' wedding rings / iPad: because book club rocks my socks / rush: because I finally got a haircut I'm happy with / ID: because I can't seem to stay away for long / mary: because thanksgiving is not complete without place cards

month in objects is my documentation system for 2015 - each month I create and photograph a collage of items that represent that month - and then toss most of the actual items in the trash. By the end of the year, I'll have 12 photographs and (hopefully) a lot less clutter. read january's story and the origin of this project here. want to see previous months? february / march / april may / june / july / august / september / october

Thursday, November 26, 2015

giving thanks

for wine and cheese and long talks with good friends

for bright green plants on cold and cloudy days

for on-time trains and snagging the last seat

for netflix and bingewatching on all lazy days

for take out and cozy nights on the couch

for wedding plans and big honeymoon dreams

for long phone calls with parents who live far away

for first holidays with new families

for unknown futures that hold infinite possibilities

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

one final thought about the CSA

It was the penultimate week for our CSA, and frankly, the offerings were paltry. Some combination of weather/rainfall/lack of rainfall/point in the growing season caused that week's haul to be noticeably less than usual - and after splitting amongst my two co-share-partners, my take was little more than a half a head of cabbage, three potatoes, some rutabagas, two carrots, and two handfuls of what I think was something in the kale family. You'd think by this point I'd be able to identify a vegetable from 30 feet away, but despite over six months of googling strange vegetables, my foraging skills sadly remain at a whopping level of zero.

I was also a little bit over the whole vegetable thing. I was tired of trying to figure out new and interesting ways to incorporate these vegetables into my meals, and I was also slightly frustrated with the fact that splitting a whole share into equal thirds meant that we never got a full serving of any one vegetable. More often than not, I'd receive two carrots in the CSA and then have to go buy three more at the grocery because the recipe I'd found called for a whole bunch. And really, there are only so many things you can do with a half of head of cabbage, and I was not interested in revisiting any of them.

But it was lunchtime, and I was hungry. Feeling my usual level of mid-day lazy, I decided to just reheat some of last night's dinner. I'd baked salmon and sautéd broccoli and made a surprisingly delicious cranberry sauce to top the whole thing off, and I was really looking forward to reliving the experience through the magic of the microwave. But then I saw the pile of vegetables sitting on the counter, just begging to be used. Or at the very least, considered. Was it so much to ask to incorporate just one of the fresh veggies?

Le sigh. Without really putting too much thought into it, I diced some garlic and grabbed a pan, heated some olive oil, and threw in the garlic, kale-like greens, and two cranks of the salt grinder. 90 seconds later, I scooped the greens onto my plate next to the salmon and the cranberries.

They were fantastic. Sweet and garlicky and packed with nutrients and not at all slimy. I could feel myself getting healthier with every bite. And then I realized - this was the point of the CSA - to give me the freedom and opportunity to experiment with a million different new (to me) vegetables so that eventually, some of those recipes would go right into my wheelhouse and become second nature. A year ago, I never would have known to sauté unidentifiable greens to the point of deliciousness. But after being confronted with bags and bags of leafy greens each week, I learned a very simple way to make them edible. Was every CSA-driven meal I made this year a winner? Not at all. Did I grow to love swiss chard? Absolutely not. But do I now cast a wider scope when I'm at the grocery store and consider (and purchase) so many more different vegetables than I used to? One hundred percent yes.

The following week's yield was massive - and conveniently, just in time for the Friendsgiving potluck I was attending. I'd had a hunch that there would be at least a few potatoes or parsnips in the mix and offered to make a "root vegetable gratin" for the dinner. My clairvoyance paid off. Not only did we get every root vegetable found in North America, I was the only recipient of that final CSA. Kristen was out of town for the holidays already, and Claire told me to fold her share into whatever I was making for Friendsgiving. As I got to work comfortably peeling and slicing eleven pounds of vegetables that I had had literally never seen in person prior to the start of this year's growing season, I decided that I probably wouldn't be joining a CSA next year. But when I later added the largest casserole in the history of holiday parties to the overflowing dinner table, I sure was glad I joined one this year.

Friday, November 20, 2015


Weeks ago, I began the process of closing up the balcony garden for the winter. We had one random night where temperatures flirted with dipping below freezing, so I frantically pulled all the plants inside for the evening. My schedule got the best of me that week, so they lived in the living room for about five days until J kindly reminded me that I was neglecting our kids and could I please do something about the plants? So I dutifully pulled and washed the basil and plopped the leaves into ice cube trays filled with olive oil to freeze over the winter, did the same for the mint (substituting water for olive oil), bid adieu to the failed oregano and lavender, and made a futile attempt to salvage some of the dill before admitting defeat. And then I turned to the two giant rosemary branches flourishing in their pot. I had looked up various methods of preserving the herb and decided that I'd try oven-drying the leaves - but at a later date, because it was getting late and we had dinner plans. So the rosemary went back to the balcony to enjoy a few more days of unseasonably warm weather (thanks, global warming!).

As weather is wont to do, it suddenly went from kind-of-autumn to it's-actually-fall to oh-crap-I-think-winter-is-coming - and I needed to deal with the rosemary once and for all. So I grabbed the pot and ripped off a piece of parchment and turned on the oven - and then took another look at the plant. It was full and vibrant and nowhere near ready to be preserved. I shook my head. There was no way I had room for any more plants inside the apartment, and I feared that J would have a conniption if I added one more pot to the kitchen windowsill.

But as Our Lady of 90's Fashion Cher Horowitz has so poignantly reminded us this week, "it does not say R.S.V.P. on the Statue of Liberty." So I hauled ass to the kitchen, redistributed the oils and vinegars, and squished in another plant. And you know what? The rosemary totally fits. She's right at home in between the giant succulent and tin of cooking spoons, as if she'd been there all along. The more the merrier, indeed.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

afternoon delights

The air is crisp and the colors are outstanding and suddenly my to-do list includes shopping for presents and baking and decorating and attending every holiday party in Queens (and some in Brooklyn). Here are the links and clicks to the best and boldest of what the interwebs had to offer this month.  xo, M 

*On eating and walking (also known as one of my favorite pastimes)
*I spent a Sunday in the kitchen and made this roast again - it does not disappoint
*Equally hilarious, terrifying, and probably true
*I'll be celebrating on the lanai
*Good advice
*I might do this (I've always wanted to be a patron of the arts)
*Who else is watching The Great British Bake-Off?? Why it's so good and when it's truly bad
*This is everything I've ever wanted
*The luxury of service
*Whatever you do, please keep on traveling 

Friday, November 13, 2015

Save the date

I'm quickly learning that nothing in wedding planning will be simple. Or fast. Case in point: our Save the Dates.

When we picked our date and venue in August, I knew the next major item on my to-do list was to send out save the dates to our guest list. While we're not having a destination wedding in the traditional sense (i.e, a beach wedding in Mexico), our guests who don't already live in the Chicagoland area will be coming from both coasts and all over the Midwest - 10 different states in all. So in the interest of giving people as much time as possible to get their flights and hotel rooms booked, I figured it would be best to send some simple info cards as quickly as possible.

Little did I know that a "simple info card" would take nearly two months to organize. First, we had to pick the cards themselves. A quick internet search told me that there are approximately 500 different stationary companies that each offer dozens, if not hundreds, of different styles and designs for you own personal, customizable, save the dates. There are also apps like Makr that allow you to design your card online but print at home. You could also just design and print the whole thing yourself using downloadable designs. Or you could hire your own private calligrapher to handwrite each save the date and then have them all dipped in gold leaf and unicorn tears. The possibilities are literally endless.

So there I was, plunging deeper and deeper into my privately curated Pinterest hell, when finally J couldn't take it (or me) any longer and grabbed a friend's save the date off our fridge. "Just use Vistaprint! It worked for Eric & Alexis, it'll work for us!"

Fantastic. Vistaprint would be our papetier of choice. Cheap, easy, discount codes galore, provider of the 983 business cards holding court in my desk drawer. And I was even able to fairly quickly pare down their options to my top three, one of which J liked best. So we're done, right?

Noooo. Even after I spent three hours messing around with fonts, colors, and font sizes, I still needed to send a proof to my mother (at her request), teach her how to download a PDF to her desktop, increase a few more font sizes, remove a few embellishments, send three more proofs to my mother, argue with my father about the difference between "elegant" and "whimsical," print out a proof for myself, and then discuss with J which of our seven credit cards we should use for this purchase to maximize spending points. And then I ordered our save the dates.

BUT. I also needed to finish compiling guests' names and addresses, create and order an address stamp (a Herculean task I was able to accomplish only after using all those graphic design skills I never bothered to learn), buy a stamp pad for said address stamp, create an independent wedding website to house all the information we didn't have room for on our save the dates, make an adorable infographic for the "about us" page of the website, buy postage stamps, address labels, and one of those envelope sealing spongy things, attempt to learn the finer points of mail merge, curse the existence of mail merge, give up and type the damn addresses in myself, and finally create a stuffing-stamping-sealing assembly line set to the tune of Sunday night football. Then, and only then, were we able to mail out 78 save the dates. Most of which will end up in the trash the second people bookmark the website.

And to add (a small) insult to (a small) injury, I stupidly ordered WAY too many save the dates when my normally dependable brain thought "150 guests means 150 save the dates, so we should probably order 200 just to be on the safe side." Any sane person would have immediately realized that all but three of those 150 guests are either already-formed couples or simply a +1. Even if I included the handful of envelopes I ruined with a bad stamp-job, I would have been more than fine with just 100 save the dates.

(In an unrelated note - does anyone need any very specific, non-customizable save the dates? Kidding. Sort of.)

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Farmer's market

I recently found myself downtown at 5pm on a Friday, which wouldn't normally be cause for notice. But instead of going to work, this time I was leaving work. I was not on my way to a theater, I was not frantically grabbing ice packs and throat coat in anticipation of an actor falling during a fight call or having the sniffles due to the air conditioning, and I was not fielding calls and texts from well-meaning but very tardy crew members about how they're stuck underground and might be only a half an hour late. On this particular and unseasonably warm Friday evening, I was calmly and gracefully ending my work day at an interior design firm for which I have recently started working part time. Now, I get that all this - the job change, the bizarre fall weather, the lack of texts - is still not really enough to warrant an entire blog post. BUT - after leaving said design firm, I realized that I had nowhere I really need to be in the next few hours and decided that a long walk for some fresh air was an order. So I headed north, figuring that I'd grab a Queens-bound train whenever I got tired of walking. This meandering quickly led me to Union Square, where I was pleased to discover the last few minutes of their Friday Farmer's Market. With time on my side, I wandered through the stalls and gaped at the giant vegetables and even bigger flowers. I got inspired and made some tentative plans for an upcoming Friendsgiving dinner (I have been tasked with "a savory side dish"), and I marveled at the pulse and rush of people that even after six years of living in New York, still astounds me. I'm still emotionally navigating my way through the sheer amount of spare time I have thanks to not working on a show, but I relished in the fact that last Friday, I had nothing better to do then wander around a farmer's market.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

No alcohol beyond this point

Welp, I did it. 30 days of no drinking, thanks to my own self-inflicted rules of Sobetober. And while this certainly wasn't the hardest thing I've ever done, it did provide some surprising insights. First of all, was actually quite easy to substitute my one-finger of bourbon nightcap for a cup of equally aromatic tea. I even found a few new flavors, using this month as an opportunity to branch out from my familiar chamomile. My wallet also took notice of my teetotaling ways, and I admit that it was nice to spend that $30 or so bucks I normally would have spent on alcohol on a cute new sweater. And I do feel pretty great, but that might be due in part to an unusually light work schedule that allowed me to get to the gym many more times than I normally do - but it's also entirely possible that my drive to go to said gym was increased because I didn't have pints of beer sloshing around in my stomach, preventing me from even thinking about getting off the couch.

BUT - there were four specific instances in which I sorely regretted my personal ban - and not surprisingly, they were all social situations.  A double date in which the other couple inquired about the wine and beer list, a girl's night with someone I hadn't seen in two months, a quick get-together with friends at a bar for Halloween, and an opening night party at which two different acquaintances blatantly asked if I was pregnant when they heard me ordering a seltzer with lime (there's no shame in theater). It's not as though I had a bad time at any of those occasions - the dinner was lovely, the girl's night was exactly what we both needed, and the conversation at the bar was animated in spite of the lack of alcohol. But while I certainly enjoyed the play and subsequent party, I definitely ducked out a bit earlier than I normally would have - mingling with awkward techies is just not as fun without the assistance of a signature cocktail.

So what does this all mean? Not a heck of a lot. Many people give up much more and for far longer and don't write a pithy blog post about it. But it's good to set and stick to personal challenges, and I think this was a good one for me to attempt. It set me up nicely for the next 11 months of getting "wedding ready," and I may in fact do it again in February and September of next year. I will say though, that as this post goes live, I will be in Day 3 of a Very Large and Very Lengthy Event - and I will enjoy nothing more than sipping a wonderfully cold and salted margarita at the wrap-up dinner.

Monday, November 2, 2015

month in objects: october

lanyard: because there's a trade show for everyone / crumpled paper: because shopping lists are my jam / cough drops: because 'tis the season / bhldn: because I bought the dress / stamps: because we're making (tiny) strides to get this wedding going / concert ticket: because a free ticket to the Roots makes for a good night out / tea bag: because sobetober meant a trying some new beverages / stubs: because I'm still finding these in all my coat pockets / seat assignment: because our friends got married and they served pie

month in objects is my documentation system for 2015 - each month I create and photograph a collage of items that represent that month - and then toss most of the actual items in the trash. By the end of the year, I'll have 12 photographs and (hopefully) a lot less clutter. read january's story and the origin of this project here. want to see previous months? february / march / april may / june / july / august / september

Friday, October 30, 2015

book report #6

*Magnetic North (Lee Maynard) - I quite literally judged a book by its cover and grabbed this one simply because I liked the look of it. It was a good thing I did, because I normally wouldn't have willingly read a story about an aging and angry Vietnam vet-turned-hardened-biker dude who, along with his equally rough friend Slade, ride their motorcycles from Arizona to the Arctic Circle and violently rough up anyone who dares cross them along the way. Turns out, it's a gorgeous story - beautifully written with rich and raw portrayals of the road and the lonely characters they meet. Maybe I need to judge more books by their covers.

*The Long and Faraway Gone (Lou Berney) - I love me a good hardened detective story, and this novel was a perfect piece of noir. Two alternating storylines, red herrings, scorned women, colorful supporting characters, and revelations that I truly didn't see coming. I read this on the plane from Dublin to Paris and when we landed, I was about 30 pages from the end - and I actually wished the flight was longer so that I could finish it.

*This is the Story of a Happy Marriage (Ann Patchett) - a beautifully curated collection of some of Patchett's lesser known (to me, at least) essays, stories, and articles. This is required reading for anyone who is a writer, aspires to be a writer, or simply one who loves the written word.

*Astonish Me (Maggie Shipstead) - while this novel was a bit too meandering for me (it went from the 70's to the 90's to the 80's and back to the 70's, etc., and I tend to prefer more streamlined narratives), it was nevertheless an interesting story about people's rise and fall in the ballet world. I fear that my interest was mainly sustained due to the subject matter (I love a good dance story) since it did take me a little longer than usual to get into the book, but all it took was one late-night-reading-in-bed session to get me to plow through the last third.

*Eating Wildly (Ava Chin) - a memoir that made me want to trek right over to Astoria Park and start foraging for my dinner - and I am not one to willingly comb through dirt and brush. It also was refreshing to read a slightly lighter-themed memoir (one that wasn't all death/war/abuse). Granted, Chin had the requisite absent father, self-obsessed mother, dying grandparents, and string of failed relationships to warrant said memoir, but she nicely interspersed the bad stuff with fascinating details of the foraging world and mouth-watering recipes to accompany each forage.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

around here

October has been a funny little month. First I had no work, then I had too much work, and now I may have just the right amount of work. It was really hot, then it was cold, then it warmed back up, then it went down to freezing, now I have the window open again, and my allergies can't handle any of it. I went to a beautiful wedding in the Berkshires, saw a concert in Central Park, found a rooftop garden in the middle of Queens, had a million heart attacks as I watched my beloved Cubs make it to the finals, and then lost a bit of my soul (along with that ball) in the ivy sometime around the middle of Game 2. But there's always next year, right? We made some more headway in the wedding planning department, but then got delightfully sidetracked when we started talking honeymoon destinations. Galapagos Islands? Adriatic Sea? Vietnam and Thailand? The world is our oyster right now, and it's exhilarating but also overwhelming because the world is just so big! But I can't complain - this is a good problem to have ;)

1.) astoria park / 2.) bagel date / 3.) central park / 4.) sunbeam / 5.) crunch time / 6.) coffee talk / 7.) farmer's market / 8.) modern art / 9.) pepper time / 10.) hot date / 11.) rooftop farm / 12.) questlove

Monday, October 26, 2015

Keep it simple

I don't claim to be an expert on organizing, streamlining large processes, or living a simple life. However, I recently noticed that some tiny and basic changes I've made to my every-day living have proven to be HUGE time savers and brain comforters. These are actions I've automated, items I've doubled, and small investments I've made to help calm down my frenzied, free-lance brain. Some of these things took me actual years to figure out or get around to doing, but once I made the switch I realized how silly I was to have not been doing so from the start.

*I keep a second set of all everything I need on a daily basis wherever I'm working. This includes:
   - Computer charger - I finally invested in a second charger and it has made a world of difference.
   $80 is a small price to pay for not having to check if I have my charger every time I walk out the
   - Phone charger - same as above.
   - Water bottle - gotta stay hydrated, and my bag is too heavy already without adding a water
   bottle to it.
   - Silverware set (fork/knife/spoon) - I eat too many meals at work to constantly be using
   plasticware - I say no to the set they try to throw in the bag at the salad place (it's not good for the
   environment anyway) and using real silverware makes eating dinner at my desk a slightly more
   pleasant experience.

*I have phone chargers everywhere!
   - I live in a small, one-bedroom apartment - and we nevertheless have two dedicated chargers for
   the bedroom and a third for the kitchen/living room. It is a giant waste of time to constantly unplug
   and replug chargers, and I want to be able to easily plug in my phone regardless of where I am or
   what I'm doing.

*I switched from a key lock to a combo lock at the gym.
   - This was a ridiculously small change that made a world of difference - I used to have to clip my
   key to my waist while on the treadmill, which was annoying at best and worrisome at worst (what
   if it fell off and I couldn't get back into my locker?) By switching to a combo lock, I no longer have
   a physical key to worry about. Simple, simple, simple.

*I set all of my reoccurring charges - phone, Netflix, gym membership, etc., to auto-charge my credit card
   - I've actually been doing this for a while, but I feel it's worth mentioning because I'm constantly
   surprised at the number of friends who don't do this and instead pay each reoccurring charge
   individually from their debit cards. They spend precious minutes each month figuring out what is
   due when and remembering to pay everything on time. But by utilizing the auto-charge feature,
   I have not thought about paying a phone bill in years - I simply pay one credit card bill
   each month that covers every reoccurring charge at once.

*I make use of multiple iCal calendars and their color-coding features.
   - I have one sharable calendar for J and myself that is for all of our combined activities - parties,
   weekend to-dos, etc., I have another sharable calendar for my part-time job that keeps track of
   my office hours, and I have a third calendar that is only for myself. I admit that it can get
   overwhelming if I click to show all three calendars at once and I do also have to double check that
   I'm not adding an event into the wrong calendar, but this is by far the best solution I've found to
   managing my freelance schedule.

*I use Gmail's Boomerang.
   - Sometimes I get an email that I don't need to deal with just yet, like airline ticket confirmations or
   cursory information about a project that won't begin for another few months. I don't want the email
   clogging up my inbox, but I also know that I'm not going to remember to dig through my email
   archives when I do eventually need that email - so I Boomerang it - a simple and free feature that
   allows me to set a date and time when I want any email to come back into my inbox. It takes
   seconds to utilize and saves me so much brain (and inbox) space.

*I started using a Diva Cup.
   - I'll spare you the gory details, but this thing has been a lifesaver. I no longer have to keep track of
   how many tampons I have left or waste a dinner break running out to buy more, I don't have to
   worry about running to the bathroom every few hours, and though I was initially turned off by the
   $25 price tag, it's already paid for itself after just a few months. I didn't even know Diva Cups
   existed until a few years ago and I was really hesitant to make the switch once I learned what it
   was - but I am SO glad I did.

What simple changes have you made that have help streamline your life?

Friday, October 16, 2015

the dress

There are a lot of wedding dresses out there. Like, A LOT. Some are fluffy, some are slinky, some have sleeves, some don't, and many (MANY) are bafflingly mermaid-shaped. There are beaded dresses, lacy dresses, simple dresses, ornate dresses, and dresses covered in so much bling that only a Kardashian should wear them. There are dresses pretending to be wedding dresses but actually are not, there are dresses pretending to not be wedding dresses but totally are, there are bridesmaid dresses you can wear as a wedding dress, there are wedding dresses you can wear as a rehearsal dinner dress, there are cocktail dresses you "can wear again," and then there's this whole world of cream-colored satin rompers and jumpsuits that I think are supposed to be wedding-dress alternatives but really just look like rejected Saturday Night Fever costumes.

And then there's my dress. The one I passed over on the website because it didn't catch my eye. The one I didn't put in my "to try on" pile in the store because I assumed the waist would be wrong. The one I thought I'd hate because it was white and "white dresses are for other people." The one that made me smile when I tried it on. The one that didn't make my legs sweat or my boobs sag or my shoulders look like a linebacker's. The one I didn't buy in Chicago but that I kept thinking about, week after week. The one I tried on again in New York and said, "yep. this is the dress."

I have to get it hemmed, I have to decide how I want the adjustable straps to lay, and I have to do about 5,000 pushups between now and next October to tone up those arms of mine. I need shoes, nude-colored Spanx, and maybe a veil. I don't know how I'm going to wear my hair, and I think I want my makeup to make me look "sun-kissed" but I don't really know what that means. But I picked a dress (and one that was way cheaper than I expected, which I'm calling a very happy accident) and I am one step closer to walking down that aisle.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

afternoon delights

It's October and the weather is bipolar which makes my allergies angsty (who gets allergies in the fall? this girl does), which makes me cranky. But a weekend upstate for a friend's wedding gave me the chance to walk deep into the forrest (ok, like seven feet into the forrest) where I could stand and be surrounded by nothing but trees and quiet and feel like I'm the only person in the world. Which was awesome. Anywho...here's what's good on the interwebs this month ;)

*Considering both sides of the Great Tipping Debate
*and all sides of that other debate
*it's an art form
*Seriously crushing on this 
*"Wedding inspiration" has gotten completely out of control (and I couldn't agree more)
*Far away from home 
*Made these and they were so so yum
*Bought this dress for a rehearsal dinner and it's as cute as it looks but now I'm officially a hipster
*So I'm putting this advice on repeat
*If I were looking for a new rug (which I'm not but if I were) I'd get one of these
*Even though I do NOT look that good running for a train
*I'm never leaving