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.

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Damn You Writer’s Rut

I believe myself to be in a bit of a writer’s rut and let me tell you, there are many things I can handle with grace and poise, but a writer’s rut is not one. When the writer’s rut starts to seep in from the edges, I’m like that crazy old woman who grabs her cats and yells at the sky, “What the hell am I supposed to do now?! This is it. THIS IS THE END!”

Neither my neighbors nor cats appreciate it.

In my opinion, writing inspiration is a mixture of hard work and perseverance. I rarely sit down and feel like the words just magically flow from my finger tips. Actually, I don’t know if that has ever happened. The majority of time, I’m just sitting at my desk, listening to the serenades of Billie Holiday, and hoping anything I’m putting down is coherent. To me, the most important thing about that is setting up the routine of writing and showing up to do it multiple times a week. That way, when I’m feeling particularly lack luster or overwhelmed by the enormity of my to do list, I can hopefully push through the initial wall of procrastination and get my articles or pitch letters written.

But this past month, I’ve just found myself in a bit of a rut. I’m excited to write so many ideas, but feel on where to start or even if anywhere will take them. I’ll put aside entire nights to write and in the end, come out having watched too many of useless YouTube videos and completely frustrated with myself.

So this post is more of an inquiry into what you do when you’re in a creative rut? Should I start taking the Ernest Hemingway approach and move to an island with only my cats and all the pens I’ve stolen from YouTube? Should I buy a typewriter so I can’t keep editing each line before I’ve had a chance to write the entire piece? Should I delete Instagram, my procrastination enabler?

At the moment, I’m viewing this time as the period in which I’m meant to consume, rather than create, art and writing. I’m taking more time to read, try new bakeries in my neighborhood, visit exhibits around the city, sweat all over my yoga mat, write letters to friends, and dare I say it, go to bed at a decent hour. I’ve also had many dance parties to Whitney’s “Dance With Somebody” around the house.

In looking at it a bit positively, this rut has given me time to rewire my desire to do everything at once. While I love to be ambitious and try all types of pitches and articles, my standards for what I can get done in a week — while also working full-time — aren’t realistic. So how do I remedy a desire to keep growing as a writer with the need to find a more balanced existence? I’m currently on the hunt for some answers and until I get to the bottom of it, at least I have three seasons of “Doctor Blake’s Mysteries” to keep me company.

^^ Also, my favorite video this week. Sorry mum, it has some “language” as you would say. ^^

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.

Book Recs for Your Summer Holiday

One of my favorite parts of packing for any trip is the books. I am the definition of a book overpacker. For six day trip to Montauk, three books seemed in order. But then I bought three more books while there and had to lug them all home. For my upcoming two week trip to California, is six books too much? It’s the longest part of my packing process as I like to weigh how the subject matter will fit into the mood of my trip. For Montauk, I was feeling particularly creatively drained and so loved taking along books like “Big Magic” and the “Life Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck” as a little pick me up. And after the enormous amount of birthday book generosity my family sent my way, this upcoming trip to California, I’ve got A LOT of choices to choose from.

But should you be scavenging to figure out what to take as your carry-on companion, here are a few I recently finished that might just be up your alley.

All We Shall Know by Donal Ryan – If you’re a fan of unique narrative structures, this book is one for your bedside table. Not wanting to give a lot away, “All We Shall Know” is set from the perspective of a woman whose life completely changes after getting pregnant from a secret, and illegal, affair. What makes this novel great is the realistic, flawed character of the narrator, whose past secrets and present actions collide as she attempts to become a better person. I ordered it after hearing one of my favorite Booktubers Ariel Bissett rave about this tiny novel for months and after starting it, I couldn’t put it down.

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How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran – A famed journalist in the UK, Caitlin Moran’s feminist memoir is chalk full of advice on how to grow into yourself, understand and embrace your body, and make decisions that aren’t easy but right for you. Moran uses her tell-tale wit and humor to discuss topics of obesity, love, marriage at a young age, periods, birth, abortion, and the experience of being the only woman at the table. If this seems up your alley, “Eat Sweat Play,” “Dear Sugar,” and “What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding” are also great feminist pep talks.

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“The Life Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck” by Sarah Knight – If you feel like your life could use a little bit of a tune up and a hint of emotional decluttering, this book is a fun and super helpful guide for discovering where and who you want to give energy towards. It’s worth it for the worksheets alone. I’m also excited to read Knight’s other little book “How to Get Your Sh*t Together.”

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Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert – This book was the pep talk I needed at the exact moment I read it. A must for anyone pursuing a creative endeavor, “Big Magic” is Gilbert’s musings on motivation, passion and how to stay open to inspiration. Gilbert uses her own life as a canvas to show that it’s only when you’re taking care of yourself, pursing curiosity, and enjoying a project that great things will happen. Also mentioned in this book, which I read after, was Ann Patchett’s “State of Wonder.” Set in the Amazon rainforest, an Indian American doctor from Missouri goes on the hunt for her lost coworker and a famed doctor working on a game changing fertility drug. The book is like a well-tuned clock, moving beautifully between the action and the interior life of the narrator. But in true Patchett fashion, what shines most in this novel is the complexity and depth of the many characters whose actions cause the reader to ask: What would I have done in this situation?

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Any book recommendations you have in mind? I have a couple more here if needed and am almost done with “Lincoln in the Bardo” which everyone has been raving about. Will return with a full review soon!

Happy reading,

C

 

27 Hopes for 27

Whenever I tell people I was born on May 24, the inevitable question of signs come up. “I’m a Gemini”,” I reply, always proud to be the twins. But without a doubt, the next thing out of everyone’s mouth is, “So you’re two-faced then?” Gemini’s just can’t escape the reputation some charming horse theft gave us millions of years ago (*I’m guessing here) and now, much like Scorpios, people are a little cautious of us late May and June babies.

But the other day, my yoga teacher started talking about yoga being a balance of opposites. In each pose we’re drawing forward and backward to find balance, pushing and pulling to stay steady. Much like life, yoga is a blend of relaxation and strength.  This really struck me as I started to see all the ways contrasts and opposites play out in my daily life: Routine vs. spontaneity, Staying driven vs. taking time to relax, Needing to be alone vs. loving being around people. It’s not that Gemini’s are two-faced, I think instead we’re are a strong collision of opposites trying to find a balance. As a Gemini, I can be anxious and then unusually relaxed; calm and then stressed; curious and open, then immediately decide something isn’t for me; loving until a button has been pushed to far and then not into it. In a way, I like to think we all have a little Gemini inside of us as we attempt to carve our own little niches in the world.

So today is this Gemini’s official 27th turn around the sun. My family helped me celebrate over the weekend with a trip to the Brooklyn Street Fair on 5th, empanadas, delicious beer, book browsing, and movies. We also sat around my TV and yelled at a British house hunting show. It was my perfect birthday celebration so today is really just icing on top of an already delicious cake.

Last year, in the wake of turning 26, I wrote a letter about the 26 life lessons I’d learned for 26 years. The act of documenting birthdays has come to mean a lot to me on this blog. It’s shown me how I’ve grown and come into my own. It’s provided me portals into past moments with my loved ones and has given me time to reflect on what I hope the next year will entail. This morning I spent my third birthday in a row with Alfred my yoga mat and together, we created this list of 27 hopes for 27 because no birthday is complete without a good list.

27 Hopes for 27

Land my first yoga handstand.

Take more meandering walks and dessert breaks throughout the city.

Build an herb garden on my fire escape and plant succulents in my pottery pots.

Learn a song on ukelele so I can finally stop writing this in every post.

Be able to make and share pottery presents (vases!) with loved ones.

Laugh until my crinkly-eyed smile might burst.

I deeply hope I will always be confident and enjoy the person that I am. Compassion, it turns out, is much better than comparison with others.

Pitch and publish two more articles from my writing wishlist.  (And hopefully many others in-between!)

Send more just-because mail, drop off more just-because baked goods, and plan more just-because moments for friends and family.

Hike the trail to June Mountain ski lodge.

Spend long afternoons reading in different cafes around the city.

Learn how to make scones and invite people over for tea.

Continue to be an attentive and present cat mum.

Travel outside of the country and take another solo trip somewhere in the U.S.

Allow myself to enjoy downtime.

Respect but don’t surrender my time to writer’s block. Keep focused and keep writing.

Visit Governor’s Island and the Cloisters.

Enjoy a day at Disneyland.

Take the time to understand and care for Voices.

After being on this listserv for close to a year, it’s time I actually went to the Graphic Novel bookclub in Brooklyn.

I can only hope my community continues to deeper and expand in New York.

I become better at calling people back. This might take a miracle but hey, this could be the year!

Continue be open to new people and not overthink interactions.

See two new Broadway musicals and a new play.

Begin volunteering at a local shelter or animal rescue.

Become a morning yogi.

Stop worrying I’ll forget or miss the little moment that would chance my life either professionally or personally. Like the red string of fate, I like to believe that the things that are meant to be will happen. No matter which direction I sail, or the side trips I take in between, I will eventually land where I need to be. I won’t forget and neither will Time.

^^ 27, I’m already feeling like you’re going to be a good one. ^^