Thursday, May 21, 2015

Adventures in London and Paris

This week, I'm back from a beautiful, lengthy, and probably totally undeserved European vacation. Did you miss me? It's cool if you didn't. You had a lot going on, I'm sure.

But in case you happen to care even a little bit, just know that my hubs and I had a crazy good time. It truly was the best trip of my life, unforgettable in so many ways, and yet now that we are back, it feels like it was all a dream. Did we really just spend eleven days drinking wine, eating cheese, and putting our eyeballs on some of the most beautiful architecture and art this world has ever known? Did we really walk over 100 miles across Europe in shoes from Payless? Did we really eat pig's feet and LOVE it?

We really did, folks.

Going into this trip, we really had no expectations because -- and don't be mad at us for this -- we didn't exactly make any plans. Besides booking the sites of our AirBnb residences in London and Paris, we really didn't come in with any sense of what we were going to see. We didn't learn French. We didn't buy a guidebook. We just sort of...winged it.

Wait, sorry, that's not entirely true. We had a lot of helpful suggestions from our friends. Like, A LOT actually. Shout out to Jess, Jo, and Aaron (who made us an interactive MAP! I mean, are you kidding me, bro? Talk about generosity). We basically would have mistakenly wandered into brothels had it not been for you three. Instead, we knowingly wandered into places like this:

But apart from our friend's suggestions, we wanted a sense of spontaneity to our trip. Here's how things went down: we flew into London (Gatwick Airport, to be specific), stayed there for about three days, took a train to Paris, stuck around there for about four days (plus a quick jaunt to Versailles), and then traveled back to London where we stayed for another three days. We lived in AirBnbs, sometimes with hosts, sometimes without. We did some touristy things. We did some less touristy things. We consumed a hearty English breakfast, various cheeses, onion soup, crepes, croissants, baguettes, wine (SO. MUCH. WINE.), beer, tea, fish, chips, curry, crumpets, finger sandwiches -- every expected Parisian/English dish imaginable (along with several unexpected ones). We went to museums, parks, cathedrals, and gardens. We saw famous paintings, landmarks, and places where famous dead people are buried.

Anyway, you get the idea, folks -- we did the damn thing.

And now that it's all over, I'm left with the daunting task of detailing the wild tales of our European adventure. In fact, the first thing one of my friends asked me upon our return was, "Did anything crazy happen to you?"

And the honest answer, and potentially disappointing depending on what you're expecting, is that nothing all that crazy happened to us. Things went smoothly (save for one tense moment upon our arrival at the London Bridge station when we couldn't figure out which train to take and the wind was whipping us around and I wondered if the weather in London was always like this Mars hellscape nightmare and if we would ever make it out alive). Really, we just enjoyed ourselves. And each other. And all of the locals. And ALL of their food.

But while I can't offer you a thrilling account of us scaling the side of the Eiffel Tower with our bare hands or meeting Mr. Bean at a nightclub, what I can provide is categorical observations of things we loved throughout our trip. Think of it as an awards ceremony for our vacation. Here goes:

Most jaw-dropping view (London): Sky Garden

Sky Garden is located at the top of 20 Fenchurch, which sorry London, but that building looks like a giant melting toaster oven. At the top, however, it's absolutely breathtaking. I mean, hello, it's a the sky. But actually, don't get too excited about the garden portion of it. It's basically filled with a bunch of nondescript plants that you could find in any mall in America. BUT the views are seriously top notch. Just magical, really. Thanks to our London-based friend, Jo, who gave us the heads up about this place (aaaand who basically planned the last half of our trip for us)!

Most jaw-dropping view (Paris): Pompidou Center

Of course, the Sacré Coeur, which is clearly visible in this photo taken from Centre Pompidou, also has some insane views. Basically, there are plenty of places to get high in Paris.

Tastiest dish (London): Okra Fries at Dishoom

I haven't been able to get these out of my head, and I WILL have them again.

Tastiest dish (Paris): Quiche at L'Eté en Pente Douce

I didn't take a picture of this because I ate it. Quickly. After walking the steps up to the Sacré-Coeur on our first night in Paris, I was famished, hangry, and ready to eat my own thumb. Then I was served this quiche, and who even knows if it was actually any good, but at the time it was the best thing I'd ever eaten.

Favorite area (London): Shoreditch

When we told our AirBnb host that we were going to spend the day in Shoreditch, she laughed. She said that she typically has two types of guests: people who go to Piccadilly Circus and people who go to Shoreditch. For the uninitiated, Piccadilly Circus could be compared to a place like Times Square and Shoreditch could be compared to some trendy neighborhood like Williamsburg. But man, this place kicked it up a notch, hipness-wise. Every single storefront we passed was just so. damn. cute. We especially loved coming upon the above bookstore on a BOAT!

Favorite area (Paris): St. Martin Canal

This was our hood in Paris, and man, I'm so glad it was. Definitely off-the-beaten path, away from tourists and full of beauty and local flavor. Also, restaurants on boats. I'm finding that I really like when businesses are on boats.

Happiest surprise (London): The availability of prawns

First, a linguistics lesson: in England, they call shrimp "prawns." In retrospect, I have no idea what word they use for our version of prawns. Probably "wigglies" or something similarly whimsical. But anyway, you can straight up buy precooked prawns (or shrimp, AKA my favorite food) as a snack for next to nothing. It's like getting a small container of grapes or celery sticks or crackers only it's SHRIMP, and it's delicious. This was the first thing I ate at Gatwick Airport upon arrival at an establishment reminiscent of a CVS, and my brain basically exploded. I feel like Americans need to get over our unwarranted fears of expired shellfish.

Happiest surprise (Paris): The people

Whenever I've heard people accuse the French of being rude, I have always rolled my eyes. I am of the belief that shitty people and wonderful people exist EVERYWHERE (I've met both wherever I've lived) and that they are not simply relegated to certain areas. That being said, as a person of pride, I must confess that I was a bit worried that my theory wouldn't hold up. Rest assured, though, that the people of France were positively lovely to us. As I fumbled through limited French, no one ever made me feel like a jerk. I received smiles and help whenever I needed it. Lay off the French, guys.

Best overall metro system: Paris

It was hard to go back to the freaking MTA here in NYC after my experience in both Paris and London. But I've got to give it up to Paris for its ease, comfort, and lack of a rush hour.

Best overall goats: These goats just looking for some shade at Luxembourg Gardens

Sorry, London. Paris won this one too.

Best best BEST thing overall: Versailles

I mean, look at that, guys. This place was heaven. I won't even try to dignify the experience of Versailles with fruitless words. Here's more pictures instead:

City I would choose to live in: up...

Probably neither, honestly. I'd miss drip coffee too much. But man, it's fun to dream.

I honestly haven't even begun to scratch the surface here, and perhaps this warrants a future blog post, but you get the picture: we had fun. Copious amounts of fun. And now I'm home, and I just wish I could go to my local deli and pick up some prawns.

Are you dreaming of a big, fat vacation?
Where would you go if you could travel anywhere right now?

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Guest Post: Lessons Learned From Road Trip Mishaps

If you are a regular reader, you may or may not have noticed that things have been rather quiet around here over the last couple of weeks. Not to worry, however, because the reason for my sudden silence is a good one. I've been traveling. Like, really traveling, y'all. Over the last ten days I've been on the longest and best trip ever to London, Paris, and back to London once again. For proof of this adventure, please see the above picture of me looking rather dignified while sitting on a canal at the Palace of Versailles.

Anyway, because I'm still out and about galavanting across the globe, I asked a travel expert to take over my blog this week. Ashley, who writes a blog called Under The Ash Tree, is here today to talk about some lessons she's learned through America's favorite form of travel: road trips. Take it away, Ashley!

Road Trip Mishaps:
A Guest Post from Under The Ash Tree

There are few things I love more than starting a Road Trip. As a kid from a big family, road trips were our jam. Each summer, the ten of us (yes, ten!) would pile into our 12-seater van, our dogs jumping from seat to seat, our luggage crammed into any available space, an audiobook (usually Harry Potter) playing to keep us entertained, and we would drive somewhere for a week. My sister, Ally, and I always took the back, because then we’d each get two seats, we’d sit with our backs against windows, our feet stretched out alongside each other and we’d grab as many pillows as we could and create a giant, pillow-y bed, to nap or read. Eventually, one of our brothers would get jealous of our extra space and start complaining. Names would be called, tears would spill, and our mother would outlaw talking for the next hour. This would be repeated for the remainder of the week.

As an adult, road trips have remained my favorite way to travel. The smells of summer and vacation are sunscreen and gasoline, and to me nothing beats the exhilaration of putting together the perfect playlist, buying mass amounts of unhealthy road trip snackage (Corn Nuts & Beef Jerky, anyone?) and heading out on the road knowing that anything can happen.

Then again, that’s one of the main problem with road trips. Anything can happen, unlike planes and trains, in automobiles no one is in charge of your trip other than you. If your flight get cancelled, you call Delta, but if your car stops working or you run out of gas, there is no one to blame, but yourself...or your your road trip companion. Luckily, I made a list of a few road trip mistakes I’ve witness/made so now you don’t have to!

Know What Day Your Are Getting To Your Destination

In 2011, I studied abroad in Florence, Italy. It was a dream semester and I while I was there I managed to convince my parents to come visit. My parents aren’t the most adventurous humans. My mother hates being lost, so when she does travel, she has to know every second of the itinerary. Sometimes it’s helpful, usually it’s annoying, but I wanted them to come so I let her make the plans. She planned a road trip from Rome to Venice to Florence, which was pretty unlike her as driving in foreign country is not something she does. But she told Dad if he got an automatic car with a GPS she would be okay with it.

My mother is also a bit paranoid of flying (sometimes I wonder how we’re related) and—long story short—my parents don’t fly together just in case something unspeakable happens. My dad always gets in first, so I met him at the Rome airport 5 hours before my mother landed. We decided it made the most sense to go get the car so that when Mom arrived, we could go explore immediately. My father gave his name to the attendant so she could check him in.

She typed, stopped, typed again and looked up at him:

“Sir, you rented the car for yesterday,” she said in a thick Italian accent.
My father looked at her and said quite calmly, “No, I rented it for today.”
“No.” She said curtly, and motioned for the guy behind us to come up to the desk. I felt frantic, but Dad stayed calm pulling out his phone, switching on the WiFi and checking.
“Oh” was all he said.
“What?” I snapped at him.
“I booked that car for Saturday.” I stared at him and we looked back the lady who was ignoring us now.
“Excuse me, Mama” Dad said politely, “There was a misunderstanding, is the car we rented still here or if not can we make a new reservation”
“Sir, this is Easter in Rome. There are no cars.” Both us had forgotten that it was the holiest day in Italy. Now, we were both frantic. We bolted from stand to stand asking for a car, any car at any price. None of it mattered to Dad, he just wanted a car and he wanted it before mom got here and realized his mistake. Finally, we found one. It was three-times as expensive as the one Dad had pre-ordered online, it was older, it was manual and it had no GPS. But he didn’t care. He threw his credit card on table, signed the paperwork and headed out.

“Just don’t tell Mom.”

Ask Someone for Directions

On the same trip to Italy, in the same five hours before we had to pick up Mom, my dad and I decided to take a mini-road trip around Rome before she got in. We were stressed from the car insanity and just wanted to get away. We decided to try and find the Colosseum. It took about an hour to get away from the airport and another 20 minutes to find a gas station with a map, but with three hours to spare, we set out on the one main highway that circles around Rome. It was beautiful: the vast Italian mountains, the small towns, all on the outskirts of the major city. There was some traffic it was Easter after all, but we kept driving looking for the exit that would get us to the center of the city. Forty-five minutes later, we stopped to get gas and take pictures. I went inside to grab a coke and, as I was paying, I asked the shopkeeper (in my limited Italian) where the Colosseum was. He looked confused, so I took the map out and pointed to the highway and pointed to the Colosseum. He shook his head and pointed to Vicovaro, a small town about 40 miles outside of Rome.

“No we’re headed to the Colosseum” I said in English.

“Yes, but you are in Vicovaro.”

I froze for a moment, paid for the coke and ran back to the car.

“WE HAVE TO TURN AROUND!” I yelled as I jumped in and Dad and I sped back towards the airport, our Colloseum dreams vanishing. We showed up an hour late to the airport between my jet lagged dad and my cranky mother, I immediately regretting having them visit. It ultimately ended up being a blast, but that first day was a disaster.

Keep Up With Car Maintenance

I learned how important oil changes are the summer of 2010. My family had just moved back to New York, and I was spending the summer in Ohio, working. My parents had four cars and had driven two of them back east, but they wanted to get the other cars back as well. So Brandon and I volunteered to drive them in trade for getting to keep one of the cars for the summer. We decided to extend our trip, road tripping up to Maine and then back to Ohio, since Brandon had never been so far east before. After we dropped the other car off in New York, we began our trip. It was pretty easy-going for the most part; we spent our days driving around from Cape Cod to Boston to Maine, we slept at janky motels and ate more lobster than was probably good for us. On the last day of trip, we decide to push through the night. We were going through in Erie, PA and only had about three hours left in the trip when we heard a loud pop and Brandon realized our tire was flat.

We pulled over on the pitch-black highway, called the cops so we’d have a little bit of light, and Brandon, the car guru, went to change the tire. It wouldn’t budge. He pulled it, kicked it, and finally got the cop to give him a sledge hammer which allowed him to yank it off. He changed it, but our dummy tire wasn’t going to cut it for nearly 200 miles, so we found a hotel and decided to go to a shop for a tire change in the morning. The next morning, though, was a Sunday and the only “mechanic” open was Walmart. On our way, our engine started making a funny click, we were a bit concerned, but figured it was something to do with the tire. At Walmart, the guy gave us a new tire and then told us our other front tire was weak and would probably go flat. He had the same troubles getting the wheel off as Brandon had had the night before, but this time he was completely unable to get it off. He told us he didn’t think it would make it back to Columbus. I called my Dad and he suggested we spend one more night in Erie. We also decided to get an opinion on that clicking sound. Everything seemed to be running fine so we hoped it was just something minor or a part that was rattling loose.

It wasn’t. The next day, at an actual mechanic, we learned the wheels were not the main problem, but that the engine noise was, in fact, the end of our engine’s life. I cried and called my dad and he promised that I wouldn’t have to move to Erie. They ended up completely replacing the engine and keeping the structure of the car, B and I ended up spending a week in Erie while they found a decent engine and fixed everything which actually turned out pretty fun. However, if we had just gotten our oil changed a few weeks earlier, we probably could have just gone home. 

Plan For Traffic

Brandon and I were road tripping up from North Carolina back to Westchester to spend the fourth of July with my family. We probably should have left earlier, but we were convinced we could do the drive in one day and make it back in time for fireworks. After all, who goes on a road trip on the 4th of July?

As it turns out, lots of people do. That night, we sat in 4 hours of traffic on the Manhattan bridge, not moving, cranky, and sullen because my family was all together and I was here in a car. The sun set, and the fireworks began. We sat in the car on the Manhattan Bridge watching the fireworks of Fourth of July, both horrified that this was how we were to spend our holiday and a bit happy because no one could get as close to these fireworks as we were in that moment.

How do you plan ahead for a successful road trip?

For more from Ashley, check out her blog, Under The Ash Tree!

Friday, May 1, 2015

What I Learned By Playing 'My Idol'

Man, guys, this world is an amazing place. I mean, think about it. Here's a list of awesome things that this spinning, watery orb has to offer:

-Crab cakes
-Those restaurant mints that melt in your mouth
-The Marvel Universe
-Bras with front clasps
-Twinkle lights
-Food samples
-Toddlers wearing glasses
-The peach emoji 
-Wrap dresses
-Pastry chefs
-Munchkin cats
-Kristen Wiig

And speaking of wondrous things that this world has to offer, can we talk about the My Idol app? Because, seriously, guys, it is everything I love about living on Planet Earth. 

If you haven't heard of My Idol (you have, though, because it's been everywhere), it's an app by Chinese developers that creates strikingly realistic avatars. It's pretty much what dreams are made of, and by dreams, of course, I mean nightmares. Feast your eyes upon this:

If it is't plainly obvious at first glance, that's me. And if you are quite familiar with my appearance, you'll note that this avatar really looks like me. I've seen a lot of pictures of myself in life and I look in the mirror just about every day, and I have to admit that this creepy as all hell app got it totally right.

I first heard about My Idol whenever my sister sent me this article from Buzzfeed last week. Without it, I'm sure I would have been completely lost because as you may have realized by now, the entire app is in Chinese. Sadly, I've been putting off learning Chinese for a while. My bad.

Anyway, the way it works is that it constructs your avatar based off of an image. And it doesn't even have to be a particularly good image. Here's what I started with:

Ignore the crazed expression and hair. I was trying to get my bangs out of the way so that my avatar didn't look like it had random strands growing out of its forehead.

From there, the app constructed an image for me. For some reason, it seemed to guess that I was female, but I've heard stories of ladies ending up with guy bodies and the other way around. Here's what my avatar looked like at first: 

I'm rocking a giant head and a significant thigh gap just like I do IRL, obvi. 

Of course, there are tons of ways to customize these things. Here I am as a cowgirl:

Here I am in a dignified red suit:

Here I am as some kind of giant, sexy ram:

It's shocking enough to look at a still version of my avatar, but it's downright terrifying once these things start moving. Here I am jubilantly distributing pills out of a giant suitcase, because of course:


Here I am chilling with my surfboard while still being genuinely concerned for the wellbeing of others:


Plus, there's a million other things My Idol lets you do such as sing Chinese pop songs, ride a motorcycle, be a zombie, pole dance -- pretty much everything you've always wanted to do. The app used to have a feature in which you could dance to a Justin Timberlake song, but I'm pretty sure they didn't have the rights to it, so it has since been replaced. Sorry, I guess your avatar can't bring sexy back.

As I was using My Idol, a thought occurred to me: what would it look like if I tested this whole thing out with my celebrity doppelgänger? By the way, if you're new to this blog, let me catch you up to speed. My celebrity doppelgänger just so happens to be the #1 person on your mom's celebrity sex list: Josh Groban.

If you're not sold on this comparison, that's fine. Still, the similarities have been pointed out to me by friends and strangers alike ever since I was in high school. When I look at pictures of Josh Groban, that part of my brain that signals that I'm looking at a picture of myself fires like crazy. I see the resemblance, for sure, but I figured My Idol would be the perfect arena to test this out. Here's how it went down:

Test #1: Turn Josh Groban into myself.

I grabbed this picture of J-money from a good ole Google image search.

After a significant makeover, here's the Christyfied version:

I'll be the first to admit, it's not great. He looks more like a terrified Zach Braff with no eyebrows (no idea how I did that). Of course, I didn't want to put anymore effort into finding a better picture of Grobes, so I just did the next logical thing:

Test #2: Turn myself into Josh Groban.

I think we can all agree: I nailed it. 

So after all of this time spent on My Idol, what have I learned? Well, for starters, nothing. I learned absolutely nothing. But if I had to make something up, I guess I would say that --

1) Chinese fashion is ON POINT. I legitimately want that cat sweatshirt, like, now.
2) Regardless of how many times I've watched myself aggressively rapping in Chinese, this game has yet to lose its novelty.
3) The uncanny valley is a real thing.
4) I am not my own idol.
5) I look really cool on a motorcycle. I should get a motorcycle.

Also, before I go, please enjoy this "Early Morning" version of myself that I created by taking a selfie just as I was waking up:

She keeps me grounded.

Have you played My Idol? What was your experience?

UPDATE: Josh Groban has since confirmed that I did indeed nail it. 
The Internet is a wonderful place.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Spring-a-ling-ding in NYC

It's finally happening. After months of icy winds and exploding manholes and snowpocalypses, I think we can officially call it: Spring is HAPPENING! It is no longer this illusive concept which simply exists on the Instagram feeds of all of my friends back in Texas. It is here. In New York. New York City. WHERE I LIVE.

And this Saturday was the springiest of all spring days that I have ever experienced. Honestly, I'm trying to think of the perfect cultural reference to describe the sheer joy that was Saturday afternoon, but I'm coming up short. The closest I can think of is that scene in The Wizard of Oz when the house lands in Munchkintown and Dorothy steps outside from her world of black and white to a world of vivid color. Only, it was better than that, especially because nothing about Saturday afternoon involved inadvertently murdering a witch (seriously, shouldn't Dorothy be, like, at least a bit more traumatized over that whole thing?)

Every New Yorker flocked to green spaces on Saturday. We ate Mister Frostees, gave each other knowing glances and smiles, and drank cocktails at outdoor tables. All of us. At least that's what it seemed like. The population of NYC genuinely seemed to double in size. The picture above was taken in Union Square, where I spent a good part of the day, but Gothamist shared some pretty amazing pictures of Central Park looking like a giant quilt of humans. Needless to say, we were excited.

This weekend reminded me of how much I love living in a place with actual seasons. Back when I lived in Texas, even though we had queso and bluebonnets and pretty much every wonderful thing on the planet, what we didn't really have was a vast difference between our seasons. It would be hot, it would be less hot, it would be semi-chilly, and then it would be hot again.

But living in New York, I feel like I get to experience the full scope of seasonal beauty. This weekend, as I marveled at how the trees seemed to explode with blooms, I was reminded of the blatant ways in which seasons accurately mirror the human experience. If you'll indulge my sentimentality for a minute, allow me to say this: In life, a metaphorical sun really does come after a metaphorical snow, even if it comes later than we would like. Metaphorical blossoms really do metaphorically bloom from things that once appeared metaphorically dead. I know it's cheesy, and I know it's been said before, but give me a break, I'm still new to this whole seasons thing.

This weekend, I came to realize that while flowers are beautiful things at any time of the year, they are practically a miracle after a miserable winter. And maybe life is like that too.

How are you enjoying Spring (literally or metaphorically)?

Thursday, April 16, 2015

A Good Ole Catchup Post

Here's a scenario which occurs in my life more often than one might think: I'll meet up with a friend who I haven't seen in a while, we'll chat for a bit, and suddenly they will look slightly embarrassed and say, "To be honest, I don't even know what to ask you. I feel like I know everything that's going on in your life because of your blog."

On one hand, they've got a point. I get pretty revealing up in here sometimes. For example, if you frequent this blog, you not only know oodles about my professional life, but you also know more obscure things like my favorite podcasts, what the inside of my home looks like, and hell, you even know my exact weight.

But the notion that my entire life is on this blog is honestly a misconception. While I pepper my writing with anecdotes and candor, I'd say that not even 5% of my day-to-day makes it onto the pages of Avoiding Atrophy. Actually, I'm pretty intentional about keeping it that way. Like you, I think it'd be pretty creeptastic to let the whole world into all my bidness.

Still, there are definitely details of my life that I want to share with my readers because, let's be honest, I like you guys. Sure, a lot of you are strangers to me. For all I know, you're just hanging around this blog to collect information so that you can Catfish me and rob me blind. But I take my chances because at the end of the day, dammit, I just like you. And when you like someone, you tell them what your deal is.

So on that note, here's a bunch of stuff that has been/will be going on with me lately:

I'm ALL IN for Next Creative Collective.

Next Creative is a collective that I've started alongside my friend Alex Shellhammer. Through monthly meetups and workshops, our aim is to provide a community for bloggers, makers, and entrepreneurs. Our first meetup back in March was an absolute smash, and our next one is coming up soon! It's been so fun coordinating with my girl, Alex, but I've got to admit, it's also a lot of work. It's the kind of work that feels really satisfying and character-building, like churning your own butter, but still, it's work. I'm stoked for this adventure, and if you want to take part (and by the way, you don't have to be in NYC to take part), click HERE.

This is part of a madlib that we passed out at our first meetup!

I finished Improv 301.

I've been pretty quiet on this blog regarding my comedy dabblings, but just so you know, I still dabble. I finished my third level improv course at the Upright Citizens Brigade, and it was certainly the most challenging yet. With the help of my truly phenomenal teacher, I really ended up feeling successful by the end of my course. I'm still not sure what improv means for my future, but all I know is I love it, and I can't wait to sign up for 401.

I signed up for ClassPass, and I can't stop talking about it.

If you haven't heard of ClassPass, here's the deal: for $99 a month, you can go to unlimited classes at tons (and I mean TONS) of awesome boutique fitness studios. My friends Robyn and Alex twisted my arm into signing up, and I'm so glad they did. Since I started last Friday, I've been to FIVE classes, and I just signed up for my sixth. I'm pretty much always sore now, and basically, I'm going to be ripped as hell in what I assume will be a few days. Look out, world.

I'm going to Europe.

In May, my hubs and I are heading to London and Paris for what will, I'm sure, be eleven glorious days. So far, all we've done is book some plane tickets, a train ticket, and a few AirBnbs. Other than that, we honestly have no plans whatsoever. Neither of us have ever been to Europe before, and the prospect of planning a trip of this magnitude is semi-intimidating. I'd LOVE some recommendations from you guys, so shout em out in the comments section if you've got em!

I've been eating a LOT of restaurant-quality ramen.

Just, like, a ton. Like, whatever you're imagining, add more (but also remember that I'm doing ClassPass, so I don't think it will kill me). Ramen is without fail my new favorite food, and I've been making it a point lately to visit some of the most reputable ramen restaurants in the city. Last week, I tried the ramen at Ippudo, and I pretty much left my body the entire time I was eating and dined in a spiritual realm of spicy, noodly delight. It was that good.

I should note that this ramen, while delicious, is NOT from Ippudo.

What I'm reading:

The Complete Stories of Truman Capote by Truman Capote, The Magicians by Lev Grossman, and Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. I recently finished reading Wild by Cheryl Strayed along with half of the rest of America, and you know what, it was fine. For sections of it, I found myself desperately wanting to go to REI and buy a bunch of backpacking equipment to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. But for the most part, I felt like it sort of dragged along. If you've read the book, I'd love to hear your thoughts.

What I'm listening to:

Every episode of Comedy Bang Bang, and like, not a ton of music. I'm in a musical rut. Feel free to make some recs.

What I'm watching:

Oh, everything. I watched The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt three times through like a crazy person, and I'm still not even sure I love it (I think I do, but it's no 30 Rock, that's for sure). Also, I just finished up the first season of Better Call Saul (meh?), and I'm currently working my way through its predecessor, Breaking Bad, which I've been avoiding for years because I'm tenderhearted. I'm loving Last Man On Earth, and of course, I never miss an episode of New Girl or The Mindy Project. The season premieres of Veep and Game of Thrones aired on Sunday, and they were both glorious. And then let's not forget reality TV. As always, I'm devoted to another season of Survivor. The theme this season is "White Collar, Blue Collar, No Collar," and it's honestly ridiculous, but regardless, I'll probably never stop loving that show. I'm also watching The Amazing Race for the first time ever, which never really appealed to me before, but suddenly I'm hooked. It is weirdly satisfying to my wanderlusty heart.

Aaaaand this is getting long, and I haven't even begun to scratch the surface, but you get the idea: I'm a person and I do stuff.

Catch me up on your life. What have you been up to?

Friday, April 10, 2015

What Makes You Hustle?

Yesterday, in the midst of an embarrassingly bad bout of writer's block, I slapped on this "hustle" temporary tattoo from Tattly. This was one of the many inspirational tats that my friend Alex and I included in a gift box for our first ever Next Creative meetup. I've been saving it for a special occasion, a creative emergency of sorts, and yesterday was exactly that. As I pressed a warm rag against my arm and peeled back the waxy layer of paper, suddenly I felt invincible.

Hustle. It's a word that really resonates with me. Whenever I hear it, my mind is immediately transported to my days of Little League softball. I'm nine-years-old, and my coach is hitting grounders in my general vicinity. I make feeble attempts to field the balls. "Hustle!" my coach bellows. "Hustle! Don't just stand there. Hustle!" To be fair, he's got a point. For the most part, I am just standing there. He calls out again, "Hustle! Hustle hustle HUSTLE!"

Truth be told, I had no business ever being on a softball field to begin with. Back then, I'm honestly not even sure I understood what the word "hustle" meant, no matter how loudly it was screamed in my direction. 

But today, when I'm feeling particularly lethargic or I'm struggling to get moving on my writing, I find myself chanting "hustle" like a mantra in my head. Something about it really motivates me. It's one of those words with a sound that seems to imply it's meaning. Its Dutch origin word, hutselen, means "to shake." I love that. Here's my definition though:

Hustle: to work hard, to move with haste, to put your whole self into what you are doing.

While I may not have hustled much on the softball field, I'd like to think I'm hustling now. The thing is it's hard to hustle for something you don't care about. It feels futile to waste energy on something that doesn't really matter to you. But for something you love, it's essential.

Today, I have a lot of things to hustle for. This blog, my readers, my community, my family, my friends, my future -- these are things that make me want to move and shake. There is room for grace, forgiveness, and sometimes a touch of laziness, but at the end of the day, these are the aspects of my life that I want to pour my whole self into.

So today, even though it's a Friday and all I want to do is close up shop and watch a million episodes of Breaking Bad in a row, I'm not going to do that. I'm going to stare at my sweet temp tat for a quick second, and then I'm going to hustle.

What makes you hustle?


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