Life Lately According to My iPhone

^^ Last day at my power desk before moving to the 6th floor with this beautiful masterpiece. ^^

Life lately has been a lot of changes and a lot of growing. Some, the graceful kind of growing that you write about in letters to your loved ones as you drink tea and cheers yourself. But mostly the kind of growing that keeps you up late at night stuffing your face with popcorn and asking all of life’s big questions. You know, the usual.

Somewhere in between catching the world’s ugliest fish in June Lake and learning to make cinnamon scones, Summer has grabbed its hat and coat and is seeing itself out the door. Soon I’ll be trading my slogan tshirts for animal sweaters and having to argue with baristas about why they should be serving ice tea all year round. But at the moment, my apartment smells of freshly baked scones, the kittens are asleep in the other room, and Billie Holiday is serenading me into my day off tomorrow. All is well.

Above is really the story of my life lately. I’ve been devouring book after book after book like they’re about to go extinct. I  had a craving for Agatha Christie and like any dedicated bibliophile couldn’t settle on just one book, bringing three home instead. Then onto Ann Patchett’s memoir “The Story of a Happy Marriage” and Ian McEwan’s “Nutshell” — both of which I would recommend to everyone, I couldn’t put them down. Those two might be my favorite books I’ve read in 2017 and if nothing else, fueled my literally crush even more for both authors. I’ve taken every little moment — on the subway, after interviews in Central Park, on the walk home from work — to pull up a seat and read. Even 15 minutes does a wonder to be away from the computer screen and relaxing within the world of someone else’s imagination.

I’ve been spending a lot of time in my neighborhood this summer especially as my work schedule is beginning to change. Two and a half years later, I’m still so thankful to live here. I now have my muffin place, my walking routes through the park and off to overlook the water. I find myself falling into a routine of visiting the local bookstores or grabbing an ice tea especially out of the way in order to just have more time outside. When walking past this fountain at Grand Army Plaza, I almost always find a bride and groom taking wedding pictures. Though a passing ship, I get to spend a tiny moment observing their monumental day before slipping back into the hustle of the traffic circle. That’s the thing about New York, you’re always weaving in and out of the lives around you.

I also had the fanciest day of my New York life a couple weeks ago. My sweet friend Jillian and her husband invited me along on their adventure to the rooftop pool of the 1 Brooklyn Hotel. It’s bragged to be one of the best views of the city and from the 12th floor, I couldn’t disagree. It quick surreal drinking champagne and binge eating guacamole with people who clearly did not take the subway to get there. Comically, the pool was only three feet deep so it was more of a standing situation where everyone claimed a bit of wall to ogle the view and try not to stare at the rich and famous spread out (in some cases, not gracefully) along the chaise lounges lining the pool. Jillian and I spent the majority of our five hour stay making up back stories for everyone around us — deciding who we’d hang out with, whose jewelry we’d borrow. Jillian is also a chief multitasker, interrupting our musing with frequent reminders for me to put on more sunscreen. Bless her.

Since coming back down to earth, I’ve been working on greeting cards for my mum’s birthday and checking bakeries and BBQ joints off my bucket list. I used a recent interview on the Upper East Side as an excuse to finally try out Two Little Red Hens bakery. Their Brooklyn Blackout Cupcake is the best piece of chocolate cake I’ve ever had. And I’ve eaten a lotttt of cupcakes in my time so trust me on this one.

I’m also now a big fan of Pig Beach in Gowanus. It’s a big backyard where groups can binge eat BBQ smoked on site, grab a beer, and if you’re lucky, get in a game of corn hole. I was also lucky enough to enjoy “Moonrise Kingdom” at Prospect Park’s last movie night of the summer. Even better, my friend Charles packed an entire picnic for the occasion so I left five pounds heavier and happier. There was also a rare moment last week when all the stars aligned and Bree, Maria, Imali, and I were all able to catch up over french fries and nightcaps in the East Village. With everyone’s busy schedule and frequent travels, this has become a rare occasion and one I don’t take for granted. Alas, it never feels like we have enough time to properly discuss and joke and debate about everything we’ve had to tell each other, but then again, we just pick right back up the next time.

For better or worse, I spent most of this weekend scheduled to work but in the midst of spreadsheets and video watching, got to see these two shining faces from halfway across the world. It’s always funny to me how I won’t chat face-to-face with Howard or Joe for months and the minute Facetime turns on, it’s like nothing has changed. Same jokes, same closeness, same support, and mostly, same mutual decision by Joe and I to make fun of Howard — who’s usually quite a good sport about it. But both boys are doing excellent and blowing me away with the lives they’re crafting for themselves. They even so patiently let me show them my pottery pieces and obliged me with conversations about the cats. They really are gems.

And of course, it would not be a proper life update without a note about my cats. These last couple weeks, I’ve been going through a transition at work (all exciting things to be announced!) which has meant my brain is essentially mush at the end of the day. I did learn to make my first pie chart last week and while it took me over 25 minutes to create, I was deeply proud of it. But through all the long hours and even working this weekend, the kittens and yoga have kept my brain level. I’ve spent almost every night cuddled up with a cat reading. I’ll look up from writing and find them a foot away, constantly keeping an eye on where I’m going and if we can all cram on the couch together.

In the photo above, you can barely see Albert my red yoga mat in the front there as the Saturday morning classes fills up quick! This was also the class where a centipede feel on me during Shavasana which is not ideal for relaxation.

All in all, life lately has been good, food-filled, and content. Could I really ask for more?


72 Hours in Nashville

^^ Let it be known that it was my mum’s request that we visit Nudie’s Bar! This dive bar did not disappoint with its live music, red ales, and tri tip quesadillas. ^^

Lately I’ve been trying to make more of a concerted effort to break from routine. To plan trips that take more than five minutes to organize and possibly involve a plane, train, automobile, and cat sitter. Sometimes life in the city can feel so unnecessarily draining and between running (literally!) errands around the city, working full-time, freelancing, and still trying to (kind of) be a social human being, I lose sight of planning trips in the future. Sometimes I just look at my bucket list and think… damn, this is a lot.

So when my parents asked if I wanted to join them during the first portion of their Tennessee adventure, I thought what better time to flex my new habit than now! We all met at the Nashville airport where I got to pick them up at their gate, and off we went to eat our body weight in BBQ-ed meats and hash brown casserole for the next 72 hours.

I’ve always been really curious about the lifestyle of Nashville after accidentally getting hooked on the soap opera-ish show “Nashville.” Turns out, much like “Sex and the City,” the show didn’t prepare me in any way for my visit — though it did teach me that you should never keep papers identifying the real father of your daughter in a box in your closet. And that Connie Britton is defying all the rules of aging.

During our first day, we ran all around the city, but not before consuming about 1700 calories at Cracker Barrel. I hate to admit it, but we ate there three times during our three day vacation because you cannot deny the deliciousness of those homemade biscuits. We visited the Country Music Hall of Fame and then hopped on a bus to tour Studio B — the most famous recording studio in Nashville. If you have the time and the means, this tour is absolutely amazing.

I couldn’t help but get a little chill walking through the recording studios where Dolly Parton, Elvis, the Everly Brothers, and hundreds more made history. The studio is tiny and personal, and with each recording having been done live, the talent of these “A-list” musicians and country artists is so abundantly clear.

I’ve never been a huge country music lover. But listening to the works of so many aspiring and talented artists — not only at the museum but on Honky Tonk row — I love how the genre has become a melting pot of blue grass, jazz, gospel, rock, and even hints of pop. It’s such a fusion but still carries such old school messages of courtship, heartbreak, and love.

Also a lot of references to fishing which, having fished my entire life, is a very unromantic sport. I think of it like I think of building Ikea furniture, it will either make or break your relationship, but there is absolutely nothing in between.

^^ Downtown Nashville from the Cumberland River Bridge. ^^

After listening to an amazing rock band at Nudie’s and walking the couple downtown blocks, my family indulged me and visited author Ann Patchett’s bookstore. As a book nerd, this was the coolest! Patchett is not only phenomenal author (she wrote “Bel Canto” and “This is the Story of a Happy Marriage”) but believed so much in the communities that form around local, home run bookstores that she opened her own in the height of Barnes & Noble and Amazon taking over. It’s a really quiet, sweet place full of handwritten book recommendations, a shop dog, and has a calendar stock full of author events. Should this sound up your bibliophilic alley, I HIGHLY recommend it.

^^ My dad was taking in the beauty of the Jackson’s smokehouse. ^^

On our second and last day, we decided to ignore the humidity and head to the Hermitage, President Andrew Jackson’s house. In these situations, my dad has an especially good knack for giving me the giggles. The quieter the museum, usually the worst they get, and this trip was no exception. If only there hadn’t been a sign sharing all the things President Jackson was the first president to do (Ex. Get his photograph taken, ride a train) then maybe my dad and I wouldn’t have started a 45 minute joke marathon. That and finding out President Jackson preferred to be called General Jackson by his family. Just saying, Pop Pop Jackson rolls right off the tongue. Then we filled ourselves with brisket tacos before cleaning up for the Grand Ole Opry. There were six acts before Chris Young came on and moms from around the country starting throwing their bras on stage. My family and I were blown away by how good he was and endeared by his awkward stories and nervousness.

Despite its brevity, this trip was perfect. July was a bit of a rough one for me, and getting to take an adventure with my family in a new place left me lighter and more content. I mean not physically, obviously, I ate mac and cheese or a potato of some type with literally every single meal. I’ve since downloaded a bit of country music and am enjoying wading through the pools of love and devotion. It’s even inspired an article I’m pitching right now.

Nashville you were a blast, thank you for filling our ears with music and stomachs with all the delicious food. Until next time!

^^ On the way to the airport in, yes, Batman Detective comic book pants. HEYO! ^^

California Dreamin’

^^ This has been my favorite restaurant since I was four and even after living in Brooklyn where good food is everywhere, Grand Panda can still hold its own. ^^

Somehow its already been a month since I was in California and I’m now just getting around to sorting out my photos. It’s mostly come down to “photos with people” and “photos of pine trees” because whenever we’re in June Lake, I feel the need to document every single tree. In another life perhaps I was a tree portrait photographer and the aftereffects of that profession are now trickling into my life today.

This trip home was one of the longest I’ve had in a while (15 days!) and it was broken down into a lot of mini trips. One thing I no longer take for granted in Valencia is just how easy it is to do everything. Doing laundry doesn’t require carrying a giant Ikea bag down the street and hoping you’re not dropping your bras along the sidewalk. Everything is just a little slower and my goals are a little smaller. Go to yoga, get a breakfast burrito from Dinks, eat it on the porch with my dad.

Since my dad retired a few years ago, one of the sweetest parts for me has been getting to spend time just the two of us. On weekday mornings, my mum bids us farewell to go teach the children and my dad and I sit on the porch and read with our caffeinated beverage of choice. Somedays, he’ll go shopping with me if I need new clothes or we’ll take a hike or go to Costco. Then wait for my mum to come home so we can plan the rest of our day together. They aren’t big adventures, but they’ve become really meaningful moments to me.

After a couple days of working and visiting with family and friends, my parents and I packed up the truck and set out sights on our favorite place, June Lake (previously fawned over here and here). For some reason during this trip I had the worst jetlag. I didn’t get on west coast time until the day before I left for New York so my family was extra patient with my car naps and me kicking them out of the cabin living room at 9pm so I could pull out my sofa bed and fall asleep.

But in the ascent from Bishop into the Sierras, even still there is no feeling quite like it. It’s like the world gets quieter and all the problems and stresses of normal life start to make their exits from my mental space. The highway is completely lined with trees and scattered among the forests are cabins that have been there for 20+ years, always bidding their hellos as we pass on the way to fish. June Lake can often feel like nothing has changed, but this trip, we definitely enjoyed the new brewery and Hawaiian food truck that grace the downtown. I use downtown loosely since there is one main street that has no stoplight.

It was a super quick four day escape but we made the most of it — or what the weather would allow us to do. There were definitely debates about if we should continue fishing in a tiny metal boat during a lightening storm or if there were actually any fish in Gull Lake, as the only thing I caught was the world’s ugliest blue gull. This trip to California was a really busy one between still working full-time and trying to see everyone before the jetlag would set in. So this time to June felt extra special being able to log out of everything and just enjoy hikes (birthday resolution complete!) and homemade dinners with my parents. No laptop, no deadlines, and lots of books, obviously.

Then back home I headed into the completely opposite environment of VidCon. I think my boss describes it best, “VidCon is something you only need to experience once to understand it.” And as this is my fourth time going, it can be a lot. But the best part, hands down, was getting to see this handsome bear who treated me to a night at Disneyland because he’s a gentlemen.

^^ This was taken after I spent the morning trying to find wifi (thanks Downtown Disney) and hadn’t slept. Clearly. I look like I’ve been hit by a truck compared to a glorious Churro. ^^

I don’t normally take a lot of pictures when I hang out with Churro because his always come out better anyway. But this IS the latest masterpiece of him after I tried to tell him the importance of owning the Marnie the Dog app. Clearly I made my point.

^^ Love, love, love. This was right before the woman in front of us started screaming, “I don’t like this!” and we were still in the station. ^^

A long post for a long trip, thank you for indulging me. While it started with the worst plane trip of all time (thanks drunk guy), it was so memorable and wonderful to see everyone I love so much. So a big thank you to everyone who made time to see me, to plan our dinners super early so I wouldn’t fall asleep, and tolerated all the texts I kept accidentally sending at 6am. Thanks to the post office people for not judging the amount of books I was sending to Brooklyn and thank you to my family for giving me the best gift of all, home cooked meals. It’s the best gift you could give anyone who lives on their own.

Cheers until December California! I’ll see you and In-n-out before we know it.

PS. “Stranger Things” season 2 trailer is out and OH BOY, I cannot wait.

And Summer Begins in NYC

The best — and I admit, sometimes, hardest thing — about living in a place like New York City is there are always a million things to do. Museums, theaters, food, pubs, mermaid parades — my bucket list since moving here has only continued to multiple like a pack of rabbits. So today, in the hopes of escaping jet lag once and for all, I set my sites on abandoning any form of normal routine and visiting the Cloisters instead.

If you’re like me and didn’t know anything about the Cloisters until this year (or perhaps even this moment), the Cloisters is a branch of the MET Museum that houses Medieval European art. Located on a 4-acre park (Tryon Park) in Washington Heights, the Cloisters resemble a medieval church and are filled with art, architecture, and artifacts made between the 1100s to the 1400s. It’s pretty incredible and to really get in the mood, I took a friend’s advice and hummed the “Game of Thrones” theme song while walking up the drive.

Unlike the black hole that is the MET Museum, the Cloisters don’t take long to get through, and with benches surrounding the courtyards and balconies, it’s a brilliant place to bring a book/sketch pad and enjoy the views. My two biggest takeaways: One, the incredible amount of detail that went into everything from unicorn tapestries to amber-carved chess boards. As all of these pieces were considered offerings to God, it’s the level of detail and care craftsmen put into their work that allowed them to stay so well preserved all these years later. Two, medieval religious artwork is intense. It takes little imagination to understand why people living during this period were so concerned (obsessed?) with escaping eternal damnation. With few people in Medieval congregating being able to read, this artwork served as a connection to understanding religious stories and instilling (or intimidating) messages of right or wrong. There is a lot of fire and brimstone, and the enormous statues of saints even made me feel a little intimidated. But all in all, this escape to the Cloisters made me feel like I wasn’t even in New York City anymore. And the best part, it’s totally accessibly by subway!

^^ Found this little lady across from Lincoln Center waiting to take her bows. ^^

I decided to make an entire day of it and instead of taking the subway all the way home, hopped off at 59th street and made my way to my favorite tea parlor, Alice’s Tea Cup. I then took my scone and tea to Central Park and ended up stumbling upon Strawberry Fields where I watched people sing along to the musical troubadour who calls this specific spot his own.

I’ve been in need of a long meandering New York walk lately. The kind of walk where you walk for so long that you go between thinking about everything to thinking about absolutely nothing. So off my backpack and I went from Central Park down to 14th Street where I caught the subway home just as the first thunder clap sounded and people began realizing it wasn’t A/C fluid sprinkling from above.

^^ Life in my neighborhood has been pretty beautiful lately. I mean a double rainbow right outside my door?! WHAT! ^^

I still constantly pinch myself that I live in New York. I mean, sitting eating a scone at Strawberry Fields? Going to the MET twice in four days? It’s such a neat balance to go between having a new adventure, absorbing the life of the city, and then coming home to my own little sanctuary within all the chaos. It’s days like today that help me reset my compass a bit, and come home excited to write. They are often the days I am most thankful for.

PS. Here is a picture of Fitz because I’ve taken about 162 in the last six days since coming home from California.

Montauk: Part I

^^ Navy Beach. ^^

This weekend I packed up as many books as I could carry in my duffle bag and put Brooklyn in the rearview mirror as I set my sights on Montauk. I’ll be honest, I knew nothing about Montauk until about a month ago. If someone had asked me how I thought one gets to Montauk, I would probably replied, “Is that in upstate New York? Train? Flying on the back of a large bird?” So after a bit of research (thank you Bonnie!) and an actual sit down with a map, I’m now perched on the tip of Long Island traipsing around with my raspberry backpack and letting my Nikes take me from one bakery to the next.

With the summer crowds yet to descend on the island, Montauk is quiet. So quiet in fact that I’ve been here four days and already run into a handful of the same people numerous times. It helps walking everywhere, though after covering 10.2 miles yesterday I parked myself in front of “When Harry Met Sally” and didn’t move again for two hours. The Main Street is small, with restaurant gems such as John’s Pancake House, Naturally Good Foods, Montauk Bakery, and Left Hand Coffee. But with the beach just a few streets away, I’ve loved just being able to walk for miles on the sand enjoying the positive ions rolling in. Sure, I’ve had some life revelations but mostly, I’ve just spent the days giving my brain a rest and thinking about nothing in particular at all.

My bucket list still includes a bike ride to the lighthouse, eating at Joni’s, a candlelight yoga class at Yoga Lila on Wednesday, a hike within on of Montauk’s many state parks, and a final visit to Montauk Bakery for more jelly-filled crescents.

^^ One of my favorite places in Montauk. ^^

^^ The neighborhood walk between my hotel and town, Ditch Planes beach, and a look on top of Millionare’s Row overlooking Navy Beach. ^^

It’s been easy to fall into a routine here. Walking on the beach or within the sprawling neighborhoods around my hotel, hiking to delicious restaurants (Navy Beach, you were a stupidly long trek until I discovered a shortcut coming back), and reading within the one coffee shop I’ve found open. At night, the allure of curling up with a glass of wine and books (which yes, I bought more of at the local bookstore) is like a Siren call I can’t deny.

Before traveling up here, I couldn’t shake the nagging fear that I would get lonely. Or if I didn’t get lonely, that made me a “funny girl” as they say in “Beauty and the Beast.” It’s no secret that I enjoy A LOT of alone time. It’s how I recharge — especially in a city like The Big Apple. But what I’m learning overtime is that loneliness is a natural emotion, it happens to everyone. It’s okay to let the wave hit you and then to let it go by calling a friend, reading, or doing something active. No, I’ve yet to be lonely in Montauk. I’ve spent my days making my own adventures, on my own time schedule; shedding the dead skin of winter and not setting a time limit on things. I’ve made an effort to stop rushing myself as well and man, I am enjoying it. I spent an hour reading book covers in Two Sisters Bookstore before selecting exactly what I wanted. This little action then lead me to sit down and fully finish articles I’d bookmarked for months and enjoy Hasan Minhaj’s White House Correspondent Dinner Speech. It’s funny but by giving myself permission to fully enjoy my time, suddenly I seem to have so much of it.

Well, I’m off to find Joni’s Wraps and maybe a beer at the Montauk Brewing Company. Then a day of writing and edits — cheers!