Wednesday, January 30, 2013

One line at a time

For Christmas 2011, I was given one of those 5-year journals where you write a line each day and then the next year you start back at the beginning and write a line under the first (continued theoretically for five years...but I'm presently on year two). It's a neat idea because, when I'm being good about it, it's a nice way to record the little intricacies of each day that don't make it to the blog, as well as the exact day that events both big and small occurred. And then, more importantly, unlike this blog, which theoretically I could go back and pour over if I didn't have anything better to do, having to write the line for each year under the ones above it causes me to actually re-read what happened to me previously. In doing so, I've learned a lot about my writing style, patterns of which I was not aware, and how honest I can be when I'm assuming I will be the only reader.

For $11.53 on Amazon, you too can own one of these bad boys.

Since January is coming to an end, I thought I'd share a couple of things I've learned about myself from re-reading last year's journals while adding this year's:

-I always feel like I'm in a rut in January. (Note, I'm going to throw the word "always" around with impunity despite just explaining that my sample size here is only two.) I think it's because after the holidays and my birthday, the winter in New York can just be kind of depressing, with very little to look forward to until spring happens. Last year's January bitching was mostly centered around grad school woes and how I'm probably not good enough to get in. (Keep in mind that these self-pitying entries were long before I'd even finished applying, much less been rejected). This year's complaints are more about certain aspects of my job which just seem that much sillier when I look at how much worse my job was in January of last year. Lesson to be learned: clearly this has less to do with my ability to write or how many vacation days I have, and I should just suck it up and go ice skating or something because winter really isn't that bad. 

-It will always take me at least three weeks into the new year to stop writing the date for last year in the blank. Again, sample size of two, but I feel like I can accurately predict this. 

-I enjoy little ironies like the fact that we won the first two weeks of a trivia tournament at the same bar where two days later and a year earlier we won trivia night for the very first time. Are we growing smarter? Or have we just learned to figure out the way the trivia woman thinks, like finally understanding Will Shortz's clue code through constant cross wording? I tend to think the latter, but I have finally gotten to a point where I can remember the capital of Australia is Canberra, and not Darwin as I always try to make it. 

-Regardless of what else happened that day, whenever possible I try to get a line in about food. What I ate, what I made, which recipes were failures. I don't really see that changing any time soon.

In addition to mulling over the past, writing in this journal gets me thinking of the future. All of those blank lines, yet unfilled. What will I be doing December 31st of 2016 when the last entry is written? I've always had a soft spot for writing messages to my future self. From swapping letters to friends to be sent later to writing myself emails on, I guess I just like the idea of writing to this person who is technically me, but who is so much more knowledgeable about what I'm doing in the future. I think part of this stems from laziness. Future Me is hopefully reaping the benefits (or consequences...) of the work Present Me is doing today. I actually had a dream about this (or technically not a dream because I never remember mine, so to be more exact: a fully conscious daydream of sorts while riding the subway). Me from 6 months in the future was holding a perfectly finished, printed, and bound screenplay. She said it was perfect (which is further proof that this is a dream, because I can't imagine ever feeling that about any piece of writing, let alone my own), but then held it just out of reach. The implication was that I could have that in 6 months, but only if I actually, you know, put the work in today. Future Me just seems so much better at that. 

I feel like this whole post is a bit more stream of consciousness than I originally intended. I just wanted to take a moment to assure readers that I'm not having a psychotic break wherein I start conversations with my future self on the subway. I've seen that particular unhinged subway rider, but it's never been me! Looking forward, I think my main focus will be on actually finishing one of the projects I've started. At the very least, I can say I've committed to writing every day. Even if it's just one line. 

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Having my faith restored in the Internet, Or: How I became a lunatic cyberstalker in just 2 days

It began with a pair of shoes. When I tried on wedding dresses back in Houston, I also tried on a pair of shoes by a designer specializing in comfortable, easy-to-walk-in heels (two things I think all heels should be, but I digress). The look wasn't quite right (they had a giant poof on the front) and they were too expensive, because evidently cushioning that makes you feel as if you are walking not in 2-inch heels but rather on a padded bamboo floor does not come cheap. Nevertheless, I kept the designer in mind and found a pair that I loved that were perfect but for the fact that they were even more expensive. While I mulled over the cost and the wedding industry that is slowly seeping into my psyche and convincing me that spending as much on the shoes as the dress is a completely logical move, I also turned to ebay. I started routinely searching the site for any shoes by the designer in my size. What I learned was that she makes a lot of ugly, although still very comfortable looking shoes, and some very lovely ones in bright, non-wedding appropriate colors.
Non-wedding appropriate. But aren't they cute in a weird-mix-of-greens-and-browns sort of way?

Having mostly given up the search after a week long ebay hiatus, I happened during a bored moment at work to search one more time. Lo and behold, there was a pair of the exact shoes and in my size. They were half the cost of buying them new. After excitedly consulting with a couple of friends about rather or not this constituted a "sign" that I should spend the still sizable amount (definitely far and away more than I've ever spent on shoes, with the possible exception of a pair of really nice winter boots that after being re-soled twice have lasted me 5 years), I made the purchase. I was gleeful about it for approximately 2 hours, planning how I would wear them for a few hours, just as their first owner did, and assuming I didn't destroy them, could also resell them.

Within an hour of the purchase, I got a notification that the shoes had shipped. That was very fast, I thought, but then they were coming from Houston, so an hour time difference gave the person more time to get to the post office before it closed. I mentioned it to Sam, and he made the offhand remark that would slowly consume my sanity: "Hopefully, it's not a scam." I laughed that off, and casually looked at the seller's profile, something having not used ebay for about 10 years, I completely forgot to do before the sale. The screen name was a fairly nondescript series of letters and numbers (something a Nigerian prince could create in moments) and far more damning was the fact that she had joined just 2 days before posting the item. She was selling a bunch of other wedding related items (including about 10 tiaras) so I couldn't rule out that she, like myself, was an ebay novice just trying to offload some post wedding items. Nevertheless, coupled with the fact that the tracking number I received implied that the package hadn't actually been sent, I found myself at midnight on the phone with the ebay fraud department.

They, not unkindly, told me to chill the hell out. And that if I received a tracking number, I should just wait to see if something arrived. There was some logic to that, I had to admit. It didn't stop me from emailing the seller just to check in on an address discrepancy with the ulterior motive of making sure he/she wrote back and in non-typoed English. While waiting for her reply, I couldn't just sit around. Instead, I started googling the handle to see if it had been used previously. What I learned is that the screen name had been used by a 43-year old Christian single (which I know because I found her cached dating profile that was since shut down, no doubt because she just got married in very cute shoes) who definitely did live in the Houston area. When she wrote me back to assure me that the package had shipped and to let her know when it arrived, I felt a little guilty for knowing so much about her.

I felt more guilty still when the package showed up yesterday (which really is record time considering I ordered it Tuesday night) and the shoes were lovingly wrapped in pink tissue paper. She even included a small carrying case that had presumably come with them, in addition to the shoe box. There was also a handwritten note thanking me for my purchase and speedy payment. I made sure to leave some very positive feedback on her ebay account so that the next person ordering from her won't wonder why she doesn't have any. So I guess I just wanted to share this saga because so often we read on the Internet about getting scammed, or at least, that's clearly the narrative constantly running through my head. Sometimes things that seem to be too good to be true, really aren't. And in the end you just end up with cute shoes for half price. But the secondary moral is this: there really are crazy people on the Internet, and if you sell something on ebay, you might just get cyberstalked. Oh and also, you apparently can't delete dating profiles on Christian Mingle. That stuff is cached for life. Fair warning.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Happy inauguration day/MLK Day/Monday

Last week, I promised something of substance this week, after setting the bar pretty low for what that would actually entail. As regular readers, it's safe to say you weren't expecting political discourse, Petrarchan sonnets, or elegantly photographed tutorials of anything. If you were, manage your expectations now. What I can promise is a look at my weekend, during which I did things infinitely more interesting than comparing the relative firmness of IKEA mattresses and writing about auditing (arguably more boring than actually doing an audit). There was South African food; there were steel drum bands; there was a red velvet cake worthy of a Petrarchan sonnet (although again: expect none); at one point, there were penguins.

On Saturday, we went to the New York Times Travel Expo at the Javits Center. I have previously only been to the Javits Center on my yearly trip to Book Expo America, and was sorry to see that the travel show was much smaller and gave out a fraction of the number of tote bags (BEA basically fills my tote bag quota for the year). We'd planned to go to do a little research into travel companies to figure out if it make sense to go with a package deal for our honeymoon trip, and also to see if there were any cool destinations we hadn't considered that would sway us from Thailand. What we learned is that we'd rather plan something on our own than go on a planned out group trip, and also that while my dream of going to Antarctica is still out of reach, going to the Greenland is surprisingly affordable (plus: polar bears, which is the one thing really missing from Antarctica). Either way, it was still fun, and since we still plan to honeymoon in Thailand, we got travel literature on basically every Thai island in existence. We haven't booked it yet, but we're thinking June, so if this is the last post you read for a while, definitely check back in July for pictures of Buddhist temples and whatnot.

There were also some live penguins as part of this exhibit. They were apparently Argentine penguins, but looked very similar, if slightly bigger, to the penguins of South Africa. Interestingly, this was not an exhibit on going to Argentina, but rather to see the Antarctica exhibit at Sea World--easily the lamest travel destination at which you can see penguins ever. 

This woman at the Tourism of Thailand booth did some incredible things with fruits and vegetables. If Thailand hadn't already been our first choice, learning about their culture of artistic garnishing surely would have added it to the list. 
 After we tired of the travel show and collected enough literature to wallpaper a travel agency, we headed to Brooklyn to visit a florist and go to a friend's birthday party at a delicious South African restaurant. We got there a few hours early, but just enjoyed meandering through Williamsburg and visiting fancy grocery stores. This is an equally enjoyed pastime for me and Sam because I love looking at food, and he loves taking pictures of the labels.

The sunset over the bridge. One of the many perks of having an iPhone is that no event need go un-captured.
The rest of the weekend was spent in New Jersey, which is always a lovely time. Well, the rest of the weekend not counting today, which, unlike a typical Monday involved counteracting my morning workout with ricotta pancakes. I hope you are all having equally productive and enjoyable MLK Day's!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The 27 club

I haven't updated much (er I guess at all for the last week or so) for two reasons. 1) I've been super busy at work, which let's face it, is when most of my updating happens. And 2) I've been super busy at home but doing super boring things like writing a book about accountants, going to the gym, and buying chairs. And who wants to read about such things?
Since I just turned 27, I have a good 358 days to both become a rock star and develop a crippling drug problem. 

I promise to become less busy and also more interesting in the upcoming days. In the meantime, I'll leave you with a few (not entirely) random links:

For what I imagine to be the large cross section of Downton Abbey fans and gingerbread house makers, this is a thing of beauty.

For those looking for what I consider to be the definitive brownie recipe. They are fudgey and moist but still maintain a brownie texture. I made them for the first time in a few years last night, and they were the perfect cure for a long day.

This. Just cause it's cool.

Back soon! Next time with substance!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Scenes of a January weekend

For all my big talk in the last post, I spent the first weekend of the new year enjoying life and doing very little work. I decided I get a pass on this first one as it was a sort of early birthday weekend. And anyway, I can't use that excuse again until next year, so nice to get it out of the way straight off! In addition to having some friends over for brunch and dinner (different friends on different days--my money saving plan for the new year is to make friends come over and eat my food instead of going out to eat as often), Sam took me out to a nice dinner and opera on Saturday night. He has also recently broken down and gotten back on the iPhone train, which means rather than just telling you I went out to a nice dinner and opera, there is photographic evidence of what I ate. Not that I will be taking constant pictures of my food now, mind you. Only when I go places schmancy enough I'm shamed into ordering bottled water.

The view of Columbus Circle from our table. Asiate is located on the 35th floor of the Mandarin Oriental, so while it might draw a tourist crowd, it makes up for it with the view. 
This isn't my food, but Sam's was more photogenic than mine.  I guess I should be less boring and not order salmon if I want to get on the photographing-my-food bandwagon. 
I'd never been to the Lincoln Center at Christmas. You can't really tell in this photo (even the iPhone has its limits) but there's an awesome airplane and train chugging around the base of the tree.
Nice photo from a walk through the park on Sunday. There are birds. That's what makes the photo nice.  Stupid iPhone, you can't even see the birds!

Curious puppet from the Museo El Barrio cafeteria. It's the only place you can take pictures in the museum. It's also the only place you can buy empanadas. 
Now to continue what will surely be a far more productive week! Well, except for my birthday. I'll probably take that one off too.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Customary start-of-the-year introspection

I think I might have missed the boat on the whole "recap of the previous year" thing. Probably should have taken care of it in 2012 if it was all that important. Overall, I would say it was an excellent year for me (and perhaps an "okay" year for Dinah who passed it in largely the same as she did 2011, but who did not appreciate our attempts at trying to get her to lose a pound). I got engaged to a wonderful man who makes Christmas cards with mammoths on them at my behest and has seen every episode of Kojak but thankfully no longer quotes from it. I traveled to Iceland in the winter and Switzerland and Austria in the summer, with a few side trips to visit friends and family in Chicago, Boston, DC, Vermont, and Texas. I joined and was indoctrinated into the cult of crossfit (and funny how once you're in, it doesn't seem like such a cult anymore...). I applied to and rejected (or, in many cases, was rejected by) grad schools and started working from home full time. And I dyed my hair for the first time with a non-permanent dye which is somehow still present 6 months later. Here's hoping 2013 will see a return to my natural color!
Celebrating the last eve of 2012 with a mystery man shrouded in darkness! Photo by my talented friend, Marla
I don't tend to make resolutions. At least not on New Years. (It's just easier to save those for periods of depression.) I do however periodically set goals. The problem is I seldom meet them. I'm great at meeting deadlines set by people who give me money, but pretty terrible at meeting self-imposed goals. In my screenwriting class last night, a few of us were discussing our shared inability to finish writing projects. The teacher said to think of it as a matter of self respect. That by not meeting goals you set for yourself, you're basically telling yourself you're not good enough. I tend to think of it as simply my work ethic and commitment to a project as lacking rather than an overall personal failing, but he might be onto something. In addition to being easier to not finish something simply because it means more time for Facebook stalking and Law & Order re-runs, there's also always the fear that maybe it's not good and spending more work on it will just be a waste.

So that's my current goal in a nut shell: develop enough confidence in my abilities that I'll feel like I'm truly disrespecting them by allowing a project to languish. If something is shit, it's because it's in the early stages and further work will only serve to improve it. My usual excuse is that I'm too busy, which with wedding planning, full-time job, freelance projects, and just living in New York always feels authentic. But until I'm actually too busy to be fully abreast on what guy-I-went-to-high-school-with's wife made for dinner, I have time to write a damn screenplay/novel/what-have-you. So here's wishing a happy 2013 to all my readers and hopes that you will make much progress on your own goals! Whatever they may be.