Monday, June 29, 2015

New Year's Res - midpoint check-in

Somehow the month of June has come and almost nearly gone, which means that 2015 is almost halfway over - so I guess it's as good a time as any to do a bit of a check-in regarding my New Year's Resolutions. Back in January, I made a few bold statements as to what I was going to work and focus on during the year - and while they weren't major, swooping resolutions,  I did identify five small areas that I felt could use some improvement. So how am I doing?

Read more non-fiction
This one gets a resounding yes! I've read 9 non-fiction books since January, which is about 8 more than I usually do. It may be silly, but I made a really focused attempt at loading up my library loan requests with non-fiction choices. I haven't loved everything I've read (but I don't love every fiction book I read either, because, duh), but pleasant surprises include Man Seeks God (read it for comparative religions), Blue Mind (read it for a scientific look at all the water in your life), The War of Art (read it for a creative kick in the pants), and Maphead (read it for the love of maps). I feel like I opened the door on an entire library full of possibilities and I am beyond glad I did so.

Back in January, I worried that this would be the hardest-to-achieve goal, and sadly, I'm proving myself right. Thus far, I've spent exactly one day volunteering - and while it was for a good cause, it was a recurring gig for an annual event - so not exactly a stretch in terms of developing a relationship with a new cause or group. The difficulties haven't changed - my erratic schedule doesn't allow for a consistent block of time in which to volunteer, and outside of that one aforementioned event, isolated and/or one-day volunteer opportunities are few and far between. That being said, there's a chance that my schedule will even out in the near future, and with that will (hopefully) come a wider range of volunteer options.

Get out of culinary rut
I could be doing a whole lot more to fulfill this goal. While I did make a beef stew for the first time in February AND added pickled daikon to my Just Salad the other day, the Chipoltles and mac & cheeses greatly outweigh any other exciting culinary choices I've made this year. The outlook for at least the rest of the summer is good, however, thanks to my one-third share of this CSA. I've already incorporated turnips into two separate dishes, and even though I'm not new to leafy greens, figuring out how to use the massive amount of kale/swiss chard/spinach/dinosaur leaves is proving to be a really interesting challenge.

Make time for doodling
Even though I haven't quite made it to the "sit at a giant empty desk while I mindfully doodle charming and heartwarming designs on a gorgeous sunlit afternoon" stage (what, your daydreams don't look like that?), I have managed to make some (very small) headway on my next knitting project, I finally bought a gym membership and have logged some much needed hours on the treadmill, and I've spent more than a few afternoons turning off the TV and doing nothing more than curling up with a good book. I'm learning that the times in which I engage in an activity that falls along the lines of what I WANT to do versus what I SHOULD do, I end up happier, more relaxed, and more ready to face whatever I do actually have to do later that day. I still haven't filled a notebook with idle doodles, but I certainly have given myself permission do do something just for me, even if it's for only 15 minutes at a time, and it's made a difference.

Quality over price
I get a B+ for this - I did say no to Payless and yes to a pair of Tom's AND I plunked down a few bucks to get some really nice Pyrex bakeware, but I also fell down the Old Navy rabbit hole and bought a bunch of cheap shirts and dresses. So, I still have a bit of work to do. It's just REALLY hard to walk away from those colorful $5 tank tops!

I'm convinced that emails are the cockroaches of the internet. I swear that I hit "unsubscribe" on every last unwanted promotional email that shows up in my inbox and everything is all fine and good for like two wonderful days - and then slowly but surely the "Promotions" tab in my gmail fills up with all sorts of junk. It's a Sisyphean task, but my vigilant unsubscribing has made a noticeable difference, so it's not entirely in vain.

Bonus resolution - Fitbit every day ;)
On January 1, I charged J's old Fitbit that had been sitting in his desk and slapped it on my wrist. Six months later, I've hit the 10,000-step mark 124 times (I use this fantastic goal tracker to log my steps along with the Fitbit iPhone app) and I am a Fitbit fanatic. Irrational choices I've made as a direct result of the tracker on my wrist include: getting off two subway stops earlier to increase the distance I walk to work, choosing to go to the salad place instead of the wrap place simply because the salad place is farther away, and marching in place during commercial breaks to get those last five hundred steps. I will undoubtedly have a separate post solely dedicated to all things Fitbit at the end of the year, but for now I'll say that while I had no idea of the rabbit hole I was throwing myself into, my Fitbit is pretty much my favorite thing ever and I'm considering having it permanently attached to my wrist. (#kidding). Now if you'll excuse me, I have to do some laps around my coffee table.

How are you doing on your new year's resolutions?

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Visiting the (new) Whitney Museum

I've said it 500 times before, but I love me a good art museum. And when the Whitney Museum opened to the public in its new downtown location (after its midtown home closed in 2014), I knew that I simply had to be there - except that I was in the middle of a crazy rehearsal process and could barely get to the grocery, let alone spend an afternoon at a museum. But somehow the show happened and we stopped rehearsing and at the first sight of an afternoon off + the museum being open + gorgeous summer weather (a more complicated equation than you'd think) I headed downtown.

Let's get one thing straight - I am not a professional art critic, historian, or reviewer. I am simply someone who took a few art history classes in college and enjoys spending free time amongst works of modern art. That being said, I have some thoughts on the new Whitney Museum.

First of all, the Renzo Piano-designed building is gorgeous. But of course it is gorgeous - there's no way a newly constructed, starchitect-created building would be anything but visually stunning and skyline-changing. And some aspects of the building are truly great - there's what looks like a delightful little restaurant in the lobby, and almost all the floors have outdoor terraces with to-die-for views of the Meatpacking District/Hudson River/Statue of Liberty/Jersey. But it's as though everyone thought so long and hard about the building itself (and it's subsequent money-making aspects, i.e, a restaurant AND a cafe AND a heavily-branded bookstore) that they forgot about the art.

Not that there isn't art all over the place. There absolutely is, and it's all interesting and reflective and very important to the history of American art. But the problem, as I see it, is that the art gets lost in the building. Each floor has little nooks and enclaves that suggest different galleries, but I found there to be no obvious flow to any of the floors. I had to double back many times thinking that I had missed a section, only to get trapped by a giant group of people going around a corner. As is the case with most museums, various works of art were grouped according to a theme or subject matter indicated by a short blurb printed on a nearby wall, but it was nearly impossible to figure out where one collection ended and another began.

And then there were the staircases. As I said before, nearly all the floors had access to an outdoor terrace, and some of those terraces also had staircases leading to subsequent floors - but only some of them. So If you are trying to see the entirety of a floor and then spend time on the terrace and then head directly to the floor below you, sometimes you will be able to accomplish this, but sometimes you'll have to double back through the gallery to find the indoor staircase that then leads to another floor. These indoor staircases, though, are cramped and industrial, and made me wonder if I was supposed to be using them at all. I guess the idea is for everybody to take one of the two giant elevators, but the crowd of people in front of the elevator bank was most off-putting. That, and shouldn't we be taking the stairs for our health anyway?

And lest I forget to mention the noise level. High vaulted ceilings and hardwood floors are gorgeous to look at - but there's a reason that assembly and concert halls also employ those two architectural features. It. was. so. loud. in. there. From the sonorous teachings of a tour guide to the squawking of small children to hearing-deficient old ladies discussing their lunch plans to the constant click of an iPhone camera, I half wondered if the ambient sounds were an ill-advised immersive installation piece. Dear Museums: alongside the popular #empty days, how about you also provide some #silent hours? If I were so inclined to re-visit the Whitney, I'd give some serious consideration to paying a premium for a child and phone-free morning.

I guess what I'm saying is that I'm disappointed in the museum. It was frustratingly crowded for a Monday afternoon (I hate to see what it's like on a free Friday evening), but I think that is largely due to the design. Tiny and confusing galleries created a sense of claustrophobia, and most patrons had looks of mild confusion and angst - the very opposite of what I'd want my museum-goers to feel. The opportunities to stand back and contemplate a piece were few and far between. In fact, the largest collections of chairs and benches were, ironically, not in front of art works at all, but placed in front of giant picture windows that looked out over the Hudson. Great views, sure, but I don't go to an art museum to look at a river.

I get that many museums have to make do with the building they're given - whether they're housed in an old mansion, converted castle, warehouse, etc., there are some instances in which you have to simply deal with an oddly placed support beam or random staircase - but the Whitney was created from scratch. It could have been anything, and they chose to focus on everything but the art.

That being said, I'm probably being way too harsh on a successful new art museum. I'm all for the creation and support of new venues for arts and culture in any city. I also realize that my thoughts are completely unfounded and based on one three-hour visit, so my data points are in no way comprehensive. But, at $22 a visit for adults, it's probably going to be a minute before I make another journey to that museum in the Meatpacking.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

#tbt - traveling though the heart of Japan

In the fall of 2009, I joined two of my college besties on a trip through Japan. It was, for all practical purposes, a trip that shouldn't have happened in the first place - I had JUST moved to New York about two weeks beforehand, I had basically no money due to having recently written two giant checks to both my new landlord and my broker who found me the apartment I couldn't really afford in the first place, and my next gig wasn't going to start for another month, leaving me completely unemployed for my first full month of living in one of the most expensive cities in the country. But, give me any sort of recognizable free time and even the slightest suggestion of the possibility of a trip, and you can bet I'll be on the first flight out of town. Which brings me back to Japan - Brian was spending the year teaching English about two hours south of Tokyo, Rachel was looking to clear her mind of a recent death in the family, the three of us hadn't seen each other in a while, and why not catch up over some really good sake? What resulted was one of the best and most memorable 9 days of my life - fish markets and imperial gardens in Tokyo, conveyor-belt sushi and a soak in the local onsen in Shizuoka, a bullet train past Mt. Fuji, and a long weekend of bike riding and temple viewing in Kyoto. We laughed, we reminisced, we caught up on each other's lives, and we remembered that travel is good, but travel with friends is great.

I didn't have this blog back then. Heck, my first iPhone wouldn't show up on my doorstep for another two full years. But I did recently find an old jump drive containing the (gazillion) pictures I took on my old and trusty Sony Cyber Shot, and realized that this trip down memory lane would be even more fun if I were able to share it with you all - I hope you enjoy it!

women shopping / chef searching / students training / photo making / window gazing / bike riding / temple viewing / maiko sighting / ramen cooking / ladies walking / sumo wrestling / architecture  recognizing / bullet training / mountain toping / prayer scrolling / sun protecting / leaf peeping / funicular driving / pachinko playing

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

afternoon delights

Summer is here! But will it ever stop raining? I mean there was that one perfect day last month but that was last month and now it's this month and I would really like to go sans-wellies at least once before fall. But the internet is a mystical and phantasmagorical place, and here are some of it's highlights to entertain you in between rainy walks to work.

* All the single ladies

* The only map I'll need in Paris this fall

* Cooking with Jackson Pollock

* From here on out, I'll be using one of these brilliant portmanteaus each day

* Get ready for some overgramming! I finally bit the bullet and joined the Astoria CSA, giving me fresh goodies from Golden Earthworm Farm - bring on the greens!

* Photog crushes of the week - her and him

* Stop being afraid (and while you're at it, how about you bring back the award for Sound Design?)

* Happy opening!

Friday, June 12, 2015

Porchetta and mozzarella pizza

This is a quick and easy recipe, because sometimes you're rushing around with too much to do and not enough time to get it all done before rehearsal starts and you're hungry because breakfast was a million hours ago but you also need to make enough food to take to work for dinner and you just really need something that's salty/savory/cheesy/delicious that can be made in the next 10 minutes because oh good lord I have to leave like five minutes ago.

Do make sure, though, to get high quality porchetta and fresh mozzarella from the deli, because life is too short to eat low-grade cured meats. Also make sure to get a pre-made pizza crust (I go with Boboli) because one day you'll figure out how to make your own whole-wheat-healthy-homemade crust but today is not that day because you're a working woman dammit and really really have to catch a train.

1 pre-made pizza crust
1 tbs olive oil
1 tbs pesto
5 oz. fresh mozzarella.
5 oz. thinly sliced porchetta
2-3 fresh basil leaves
1 tbs parmesan/romano cheese

How to
Preheat your oven to the directions stated by the pizza crust - Boboli recommends 450 degrees. Brush or blot the entire pizza crust first with olive oil, then with the pesto. Make sure to get all the way to the edges of the crust with the oil, that will ensure a wonderfully browned and crispy slice. Unwrap the mozzarella and slice it to your desired thickness - I usually keep it to around 1/8 of an inch, otherwise it may not melt quickly enough. Add your toppings to the pizza - first the sliced mozzarella, then strips of the porchetta. Sprinkle on the basil and parmesan/romano cheese and bake for about 10-12 minutes, depending on your oven and your desired level of crispiness.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Book report #4

* Like Water For Chocolate (Laura Easquirel) - just as the book jacket says, this story is part fairy tale/fantasy, part tele novella, part cookbook, and part myth. But it's beautifully, if not simply, written, and I specifically chose it to read on my south-of-the-border vacation because it's set in Mexico (is immersive-enviro-reading a thing? Let's make it a thing). It's a beautiful story, a quick read, and perfect for a lazy day at the pool or lake.

* Blue Mind (Walace J. Nichols) - a fascinating look at the power of water on the body as a whole. It never gets too "science-y" (but also never patronizes the reader) and I was pleasantly surprised that some of the quoted books and specialists throughout were texts and people I'd read and/or heard of. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and it resonated so deeply with me that I even started having my "water dreams" while reading it.

* The Girl on the Train (Paula Hawkins) - captivating and innovative right up until the very end. I won't give anything away, but I felt like the the author kind of copped out during the big "reveal." Nevertheless, this was a compelling thriller (think Gone Girl) and I easily plowed through it in a few days.

* can't and won't (Lydia Davis) - every couple of years, I get on a short story kick, and this collection fulfilled that need. It started out strong, but either it fizzled out or I remembered that I don't actually love short stories, and I ended up skimming through the last quarter of the book.

* The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (Marie Kondon) - I have so. many. thoughts. about this book. First, all 224 pages could have EASILY been whittled down to a trifold pamphlet - Kondon makes about four points in total, and spends the rest of the book either relaying past client success stories or repeating her four "secrets." Second, Kondon never once discusses the very-real possibility that while her techniques may work well for single/solo-dwelling individuals, every step of her method will go out the door the second a subsequent, and most importantly, unwilling member of the family gets roped into the cleaning process. She makes a few decent suggestions - I do think that categorizing your stuff by item instead of location is a good idea (go through all your magazines at once, not just the ones in the living room), but I'm sorry Kondon, I'm not going to throw out the last letter my dying grandmother wrote to me just because you think it's "sentimental clutter." Read this book if you must, but please don't buy it - get it from the library and save your pennies for any other book.

* The War of Art (Steven Pressfield) - I had assumed I'd page through this thin little book in a day's worth of subway travels - but then I realized that each page is stuffed with such thought-provoking statements that it took me days to digest it all.  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 things as a fearless warrior or a dread-free artist" will have you first wondering why in the hell you ever thought that being an artist would be fun, but then rallying your craft into a much more focused and driven path.

* Maphead (Ken Jennings) - you wouldn't think a book about the history, development, and current relevance of maps would be a page-turner, but honestly I couldn't put this one down. Filled with fascinating facts and anecdotes about maps in general and "cartophiles" in particular, this book had me pining for not just the days of my early 20's when I lined my walls with maps indicating my travels around the world, but also that fateful day in 7th grade when I won the school-wide geography bee with the answer "El Nino."

What's on your summer reading list?

Monday, June 8, 2015

Playa del Carmen on film

Sometime in mid-April and fed up with the never-ending winter that encased all of New York City for months on end, J and I decided to (temporarily) rectify the problem. We cashed in a ton of points and spent the week at the über-luxurious Paradisius Playa del Carmen La Perla, where we pretty much did nothing but lay in a thatched-roof Bali bed for hour on end, punctuated only by a dip in the pool or a plate of nachos. 

One afternoon, however, we decided to get off our butts and head in to town. Since we were told it was a 30 minute walk and it was approximately 115 degrees out, we had the hotel call a taxi - a wise choice considering the heat and the possibly not-so-safe trek we would have had to make along sparse Mexican roads, but also a not-worth-it choice because the round-trip in a cab came to about $30 for what amounted to two 10-minute drives. But whatever, when in Rome, right?

The town was dusty and touristy. Vendors hawked every tchotchke imaginable, and though brightly colored "authentic" Mexican goods lined 5th Avenue (the main street), the chain restaurants, jewelry stores, and two shopping malls made clear that it was quite obviously a cruise ship port city. Nevertheless, we walked from one end to the other and back again (about 2 miles round trip), stocked up on the requisite magnet and keychain, and enjoyed the carless and colorful street.

I also took a ton of pictures. I'd intentionally left my DSLR at home for this trip (which turned out to be the right choice), but I did bring my Diana Mini, my new(ish) 35mm plastic-body toy camera. There weren't a ton of opportunities to use it while wandering around the resort, but downtown Playa del Carmen proved to be the perfect place to take it out for a walk.

This was my third roll of film with this camera (see the first one here) and easily my favorite. The pictures have a rich and creamy quality to them, and though I had some resolution issues scanning them into my computer, in person they are quite vivid and noiseless. There's also that magic of snapping a photo and having no idea if it'll come out or not. I made the bold choice to not use my iPhone once while walking around the town - so if something had gone wrong with the loading or the processing, I'd have no pictures from that day. Granted, nothing too monumental took place that day - we ambled around a tourist trap that looked like every other Caribbean town I'd ever been to. But still, I took a chance. I obviously will not be retiring either my iPhone or my DSLR, but I'll have a bit more confidence from now on to maybe leave those other cameras back in my bag in the spirit of the photographic unknown.

These photos were shot on a Lomography Diana Mini Camera with Photo Porst Chrome X (100) film. The negatives were processed at one location (let's call it Wrong-Aid) and developed at the Lomography Lab when I realized that the first place couldn't deal with the alternative square sizing of the pictures.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

month in objects: May

Ireland: because we're already planning our next vacation / tiny playbill: because when your show closes early you open up your opening night bottle of wine and drink to a job well done / get to work book: because organization is key / kate spade: because sometimes a girl needs a new wristlet / preludes: because that first preview was actually pretty stellar / chapstick: because it is sooo dry backstage / rope/tape/plastic flowers: because the random assortment of crap that ends up in your pocket during tech is astounding

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 

Monday, June 1, 2015

25 Things

While sitting backstage during a very long and boring moment in tech during which light cues were altered and sound cues were fiddled with, I scrolled though my phone in an attempt to stave off the tedium (since the changes to neither the lights nor the sounds directly affected my track). In between the something-something-Hilary and blah-blah-Kardashian, I landed on this article that sang the praises of an Us Weekly feature where minor celebrities list "25 Things You Didn't Know About Me." I'm not 100% sure why I clicked on this particular story, because I've never once read an issue of Us Weekly and I'm not particularly interested in celebrity gossip, but it was clearly a slow news day (and an even slower tech). It got me thinking about what I would include in my own list of fun facts, which quickly turned into an actual list of personal fun facts, which even quickly-er morphed into this very blog post (the creative writing process is alive and well, folks!). I actually had a lot of fun delving into the "brain archives" to come up with this list, and I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it ;)

  1. I have held over a dozen different jobs (outside of stage management) ranging from the mundane (receptionist) to the typical (waitress) to the bizarre (Easter Bunny in a shopping mall in Green Bay, Wisconsin).
  2. The tune that I default to when mindlessly humming to myself is a 17-note melody from the musical Seven Brides For Seven Brothers.
  3. Every time I get together with my parents, we sit around the kitchen table and complete a geography quiz found in the back of each issue of National Geographic Traveller. Doing these silly quizzes is my favorite family tradition and makes for some of my most treasured memories. 
  4. I obsessively set multiple alarms in order to wake up in the morning, but they are all set at 1 minute past the quarter - so 7:01, 7:16, 7:31, 7:46, etc. This drives my partner crazy.
  5. I used to lifeguard at a waterpark during my high school summers. I rescued three children in the four years I guarded, and I've always wondered who those kids grew up to be.
  6. I self-diagnose my allergies, and am convinced I'm allergic to down feathers, nickel, mineral oil, and roll-on deodorants.
  7. I despise the taste of green beans, and will avoid ordering something if green beans are listed as even a side dish for fear they will contaminate everything with their stench.
  8. Knock on wood, I've never broken a bone.
  9. I'm not a big crier, but the end of Field of Dreams gets me every. single. time.
  10. I've worked professionally on over 100 theatrical productions in the past 11 years.
  11. I used a dishwasher for the first time two years ago.
  12. Even though I spent nearly a decade of my life working as a waitress and hating every minute of it, I still fantasize about opening my own coffee shop/bar/b&b and love coming up with names for sandwiches and cocktails.
  13. I have only attended three schools - one for pre-school thru 8th grade, one for high school, and one for college.
  14. I have been to 28 states and 22 countries on 4 continents, and will be adding #23 to the country list later this year (Ireland!).
  15. For better or for worse, I was raised and remain a die-hard Cubs fan.
  16. As a child, I wanted to be a marine biologist, magazine editor, cartoonist, dancer, and (very briefly) a shoe salesman.
  17. I find pleasure in shopping for, scheduling, prepping, and cooking a large multi-course meal.
  18. I grew up in Chicago, but thanks to childhood summer camps, friend's lake houses, and my college years, I consider the state of Wisconsin to be as much of a home to me as my actual hometown.
  19. I am terrible about laundry - doing it, folding the clean stuff, paring socks - it stresses me out and is my least favorite chore.
  20. My eyesight is horrendous, and one of my biggest fears is that my glasses will get broken while I'm on the subway platform and I'll have to call someone to come get me.
  21. I am a fast and impatient walker. If you can't keep up with me, don't bother walking with me.
  22. I love wandering around art museums, but sometimes I spend more time assessing what it is I love about art museums than actually looking at the art.
  23. In my pre-teen years, I read a Chicken Soup for the Soul book and was inspired to create a "List of Things To Do Before I Die." I've made a few revisions over the years, but at 31 years old I'm 1/3 of the way through the list.
  24. I wore a uniform up through my senior year of high school, and thus never quite figured out the whole "dressing myself" thing. If I won the lottery, one of the first things I would do is hire someone to help me shop for clothes.
  25. I have always had incredibly vivid dreams, and can recall specific details from many of my dreams even years later. I also have frequent bouts of short but intense déjà vu. I have no idea if these two events are related, but I can't help but think they are.