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.'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

Monday, October 12, 2015

a day in my life

October 9, 2015
8:52am - the eternal question - do I or do I not sign up for Total Body Workout?

8:56am - ok fine, I will

9:22am - but first, coffee

10:17am - I had over an hour to get ready. how am I nearly late to class?

10:22am - ok TBW (total body workout), let's see what you got

11:34am - it was a full hour of circuits and jump rope. I can't move so I'm just gonna look at pretty flowers

1:09pm - what did I do for the last hour and a half? I have no idea. I think I did the dishes or something. I probably took a shower? I need lunch.

1:10pm - food truck friday!!

1:26pm - falafel pita ftw.

3:50pm - I finally sat down to organize my notes and send a bunch of email regarding a meeting I had three days ago. also, the glamorous life of a stage manager.

4:16pm - thank you, queens public library. one book in...

4:21pm - ...and one book out.

4:32pm - another week, another csa haul.

4:52pm - oh right, I think it was supposed to rain today

4:54pm - yep. definitely rain.

5:03pm - 5:46pm - not pictured: Epic Balcony Garden Rescue

5:47pm - the plants are safe, I've dried off, and it looks like we're all hunkering down for a cozy night in.

7:29pm - pizza arrived on time and the cubs made it to the post-season. life is good.

9:01pm - ok well that game sucked but I finished another square for my blanket-to-be. now it's time to read in bed because when you're in your 30's there's nothing better than crawling into bed with a good book and a warm blanket before 10pm ;)

I used the popular Day in the Life photo/scrapbooking prompt to inspire me for this post. I've never been able to take part in the annual event where people all over the country document their lives on the same day (I think it's sometime in May), but I decided to change up an otherwise unremarkable Friday with my version of that exercise. All of the pictures were taken on my iPhone and, in the spirit of authenticity, remain completely unedited.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

le weekend à Paris

For some reason, I've been struggling to write this post. What can I possibly say about a weekend in Paris that hasn't been said a million times before? How in the world do I begin to describe the beauty of my favorite city, the familiarity with which I walked the streets even though I'd only been there once before, the sheer awe and surprise of turning the corner into the windowed room of Sainte-Chapelle, the comfort of indulging in meals so rich, savory, and buttery that they should have been deemed pure gluttony, the cosmopolitan independence I wore as I sauntered down the Champs-Elysee with shopping bag in hand, or the thrill of being asked for directions in French and then answering correctly, also in French???

The answer is, I can't. Tomes have been written about the joie de vivre one discovers somewhere deep in the winds of Montmartre, and though I often like to don a large bowtie and handlebar mustache and nibble on some madeleines, Proust I am not. I was in Paris for nearly three full days, but I felt as though I were there for months. That's probably due to the fact that we trekked to every sight and overlook on both sides of the Seine, but I like to think the elixirs of rosé we slowly sipped over a late afternoon lunch on the Ile Sainte-Louis had something to do with it.

Thanks to some serendipitous scheduling and a cheap inter-continental flight, I was able to tack a trip to Paris onto the end of my week in Ireland and meet two of my New York besties for a much-needed girl's weekend. Kristen was finishing up her own family vacation in the British Isles and Claire was just beginning a three month audition tour for European operas, so it was only natural that we set our monthly wine and cheese night a bit closer to the source of said wine and cheese. With the click of a few buttons and even fewer emails, we reserved an Airbnb, kind of coordinated our arrival times, and agreed to meet on a random street in the middle of the city. And somehow it all worked out perfectly.

We sat in front of Notre Dame and contemplated it's history and architecture. I led us all on a walking tour to find Satie's house. We napped in front of the Eiffel tower, and then helped Kristen complete a life-long goal of ascending to the top where were witness to one proposal, five very drunk Russians, and three zillion selfie sticks. Claire sketched in the Rodin garden while I practiced my high school French, and then we sat on the banks of the Seine and ate gelato even though it's an Italian dessert. With blue skies and perfect temperatures for all three days, the only way our weekend could have been more clichéd is if we had put on berets to meet Alexander Petrovsky in a smoky café.

I was not ready to leave Paris. While I fully understand that visiting a city for a few days is entirely different from actually living in a city, I felt such a sense of "livability" that I very nearly started researching European work visas. But since two weeks is more than enough time for my unemployed self to be spending on an opulent vacation, I dutifully made my way to the airport via the Metro I had gotten so good at using. But not before taking an extra lap around the block and ordering one last pain au chocolate, making sure to converse with the shopkeeper entirely in French.

If you go: Paris is one of the most-visited destinations in the world and I only spent a few days there, so I obviously don't think I'm an authority on the subject. That's not going to stop me from giving my opinion though!
Museums to visit: Unless you have an entire day to kill, skip the Louvre. It's too big and crowded and overwhelming for a quick trip, and you'll regret it if you do the two-hour highlights tour. Instead, get your Impressionist fix at the Musée d'Orsay and grab a breath of fresh air in the surprisingly affordable gardens outside the Rodin Museum.
Churches to see: The options are dizzying, so stick to the biggies - Notre-Dame because it really is that impressive in person, Sacré Coeur because the views from the plaza are stunning, and Sainte-Chapelle because I've never before gasped out loud at a church's beauty.
Restaurants to try: We splurged on two big meals (and by "splurge" I mean spending around $30 for one meal) - the touristy yet tasty La Brasserie de l'Isle Sainte-Louis, and the sublime Jeanne B in Montmartre. I also ate approximately four pain au chocolates each day and have no regrets.
On the Eiffel Tower: Go to the top if you must, but know that a.) it's pricy, b.) the wait to get tickets is nearly an hour unless you buy them ahead of time c.) it's INCREDIBLY crowded and claustrophobic at the top, almost to a prohibitory level - and I normally do just fine in large crowds.
Some more good advice: Get yourself a guidebook! I highly, highly recommend Rick Steve's Paris - his walking tours are incomparable, and the description of each sight and location is infused with such fascinating facts that you'll consider yourself a history buff by the end of your trip. A little information never hurt anyone, and knowing the importance of the church or monument you're visiting makes the experience that much richer.
Where to stay: We needed to save our pennies for more pastries, so we booked ourselves an Airbnb property near the Luxembourg Gardens. It was cute, clean, and in a great area - I'd stay there again in a heartbeat. Are you planning a trip yourself? Use this link to save yourself $20 on your first Airbnb rental!
I was neither sponsored nor compensated for my travels, I simply share my thoughts and opinions because they might help you out on your next trip to Paris!