Monday, January 26, 2015

Day 1 of Juno: The Snowpocalypse

My husband using a flip flip to remove snow from our windshield because we are terrible at winter.

If you are a reader of this blog, then you know me for being the winsome, glasses-wearing, Brooklyn-dwelling woman that I am. Well, right now, as you may already know, my Brooklyn dwelling is under attack: an attack of snow.

That's right, folks. We've got a blizzy on our hands ("blizzy", by the way, is how I am choosing to say "blizzard" at this present moment. Don't question it). Right now, all of New York City is covered in this inexplicable, menacing white powder, and it seems to be accumulating at an alarming rate. If I had to provide a metaphor for this phenomenon, I'd say that this town is being puked on by a ghost. A super mean, super vindictive ghost.

And this ghost has a name: Juno. That's what they are calling this storm. But this Juno is not some sardonic, pregnant teenager. No, no. She is not Ellen Page wearing a fake stomach. She is not the cheese to my macaroni. She is not honest to blog. (By the way, are we all up on our Juno references?)

She is a blizzy, and she is the worst.

Except, actually...she's not really the worst. Truth be told, I've had a pretty baller day surrounded by crazy ol' Juno. I've spent a good majority of my time indoors wearing garments that resemble compression socks (and on second thought, they may actually be compression socks, who knows). I've watched several episodes of Friends. I secretly took pictures of my husband while he napped. It was kind of a perfect day. So perfect, in fact, that I managed to score the last bag of coffee from my local coffee shop after we realized that we were out.


And in fact, much like movie-Juno, I think I'm ready to ride this thing out to full-term. We've got enough food to last us the week, if we need to. This morning, Daniel and I made it our mission to collect the appropriate supplies. I had it in my mind to go to Trader Joe's because, duh, cookie butter. While we were getting ready for the day, I mentioned to Daniel that I expected it to be pretty crowded. "I may have to throw some bows," I said, joking, of course.

But when we drove up to Trader Joe's, I realized I had totally underestimated how seriously people were taking this storm. There was a line around the block of yuppy moms and guys with beards and freezing kids with scooters. It turns out that in order to get our food supplies from Trader Joe's, I would have to do something far worse than elbow a yoga instructor: I'd have to wait in a line. In the snow. What the hell were those weirdoes thinking?

So we said screw that, and we went to a grocery store in our neighborhood that was relatively crowdless. We followed that up with a trip to the hardware store to buy an ice scraper and some ear plugs (our walls are thin, and I don't want the sounds of blizzard romance to interrupt my Doctor Who marathon). After that, we went to the liquor store, and when I went to purchase my two bottles of wine, the guy at the register said, "That's it?" Once again, I was reminded how ill-equipped I am for a storm of this magnitude.

Once we got home, it was chill city. The hubs and I caught up on SNL, and he took a much-deserved nap. Daniel's been sick for the past week, and when he talks it sounds like his voice is trying to get through the seven layers of the Mucus Forest in his face.

Sick Daniel. For the record, I said, "Make a sick face."
Needless to say, I was glad that he finally got a chance to rest. It gave me an opportunity to follow all of the #Blizzardof2015 activity on Twitter. In case you weren't around today, everyone on the Internet has been collectively losing their minds as a result of this potentially historic storm.

But it wasn't just those with access to Twitter. In fact, my cat, Frasier, has been freaking the geek out all day. It's like he knows something is amiss. He can sense it, and the result is pure madness. One minute he's snuggling so close that it feels like he's trying to burrow into my thigh, the next minute he's darting under every piece of furniture he can, and the next he's staring out the window with a vacant expression that suggests he's receiving transmissions from his home planet.


So anyway, to be clear, I am doing just fine. We've still got power. I'm wearing fleece-lined leggings and clutching a glass of wine. Daniel and I are about to have a dance party, probably. So far, Juno has been kind of a blast. And honest to blog, she's actually really pretty.


Are you also experiencing the effects of Juno?
Or are you somewhere warm and wonderful?
Give me a shout in the comments!

Oh, and before I go: Mom, I promise I'm fine. I'm sure you're worried that I'm going to wander out into the eye of this blizzard (do blizzards have eyes?), but I'm not. I promise I'm staying inside. After all, being inside is one of my favorite states of being. Also, I have warm socks on, I swear. Oh, and sorry for all of those Juno references that you probably didn't get. It's a really good movie. It's not on Netflix, though. Sorry.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Misconceptions about people from Australia [Guest Post]

Did you know, that starting tomorrow, those of us in the northeastern part of the United States are going to be plagued with a snowstorm of epic, potentially historic proportions? Yeah, I'm not super looking forward to that. And in fact, I say we just pretend like it's not even actually happening. To help distract us from our impending doom, let's shift our focus instead to a part of the world that presently has a far friendlier forecast: Australia.

Cue Karrine from Momentary Reality. She's an Australian blogger, and she's here today to tell us all about her native land. Specifically, she wants to correct some of the misguided assumptions people sometimes have about life down under. Here's Karrine:



Hey everyone! My name’s Karrine and I've dropped by today from my blog Momentary Reality to address a few of the misconceptions people have about Australians (and thanks so much to Christy for allowing me to do so!) . I should mention first up that, yes, I am indeed an Aussie and that I have traveled the world enough to have been asked about or had commented on all of the misconceptions listed below. Even just this past Christmas my sister had her American boyfriend come and stay with my family and it was especially interesting to hear his perspective, expectations and notions of what his first Aussie summer would entail.

Ok, onto the misconceptions (as interpreted by me, of course)…

#1 - We all love vegemite.

[Editor's note: If you're unfamiliar, vegemite is a popular yeast-based, vegetable spread]

Ick! I cannot stand vegemite. I do not eat it on my toast every morning. I do not pack it in my luggage to take on overseas trips. I do not crave its (very, very, ridiculously) salty flavour. In fact, I do not think about vegemite at all, because I do not eat it… EVER!

#2 - We ride kangaroos to school.


I don’t even know where to start with this one. Have you seen a picture of an average kangaroo? And how exactly do you propose that thing shall carry my weight!?




Look, here’s the deal. If you come to Australia expecting to see Kangaroos absolutely everywhere, think again. You’ll be hard pressed to find a kangaroo anywhere near Sydney (besides the zoo). However, in the small coastal town I live in (about a 6 hour drive south of Sydney) we do have plenty of Roos out roaming the streets and eating the grass in the backyard. Have I ever touched a kangaroo? No. They are not pets, they are wild animals. They remind me a lot of the deer I saw whilst in America, as we spend most our time just trying to avoid hitting them with our cars. Also, some of us eat Kangaroos. Yes, they are part of our national emblem, but the meat tastes good and is one of the healthiest meats to consume. I don’t eat it often but I do eat it.

#3 - We all live at the beach (and it’s always hot and sunny there).


I am one lucky Aussie who did grow up at the beach and my parents currently live in a great house with a perfect view of the ocean.But, for most of the year, I live in our nation’s capital Canberra (tell me you knew it wasn’t Sydney, please!?!). We live in all different areas here in Oz, coastal, rural, desert and even snow in winter. Australia is so often portrayed as sunshine and bikini weather but we DO get winter. If you’re expecting year round Summer be sure to head to the north of Queensland for year round heat.

#4 - We are all tanned, blonde, Miranda Kerr-esque goddesses.


Now I think about it this misconception is probably more England-based than American. You see, we have these two long running soap operas that Australia is particularly well known for in England. ‘Neighbours’ and particularly ‘Home and Away’ portray Australia as having endless sunshine and there being no need to own a jumper (aka a sweatshirt), as well as suggesting that every female ever born in this country was genetically blessed with an olive complexion, blonde hair and a fit bod. Just like the rest of the world, Australians are all different. Luckily, differences are what make life exciting.




#5 - We say the phrase “Throw a shrimp on the barbie”


Prawns. We call them Prawns. I have never used the word Shrimp in my life, so please don’t ever let me hear you use this phrase in a terrible Aussie accent ever again!

Thanks, Karrine, for spreading the word about these hilariously common misconceptions about people from Australia! To follow Karrine, you can do so HERE

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Pros and Cons of Working From Home


In my adult life, I have worked in all sorts of professional environments. Small creative spaces, large corporate offices with views of the Manhattan skyline, cubicles, people's living rooms, expansive outdoor properties, live television studios, Anthropologie dressing rooms -- I've been everywhere, man. But over the last year, as a freelance writer, my office has been my apartment. Just like any job, the place where I work has its pros and cons. I get asked a lot about what my experience is like, so for inquiring minds, here are some of my favorite and least favorite things about working from the same place where I take showers and drool in my sleep.

PRO: I've got a fantastic commute.

At my last office job, I worked in Chelsea all the way over on 11th avenue. Every day, I would walk several avenue blocks from the subway, way past the Highline, with the wind off of the Hudson River whipping my face until it felt positively raw. For those of you who are non-New Yorkers, just know this: it was a far walk, and it was no secret that I hated it. Now I take about twenty steps from my bed in the morning, and I am literally in my office. It never gets old.

CON: I have to be intentional about being active.

When I first moved to NYC, it felt relatively easy to stay in shape. Again, my commute was substantial and I was always running around at work, so I got a lot of exercise without even thinking about it. Working from home, though, is a totally different animal. I could easily turn into a lifeless pile of mush if I stopped being deliberate about keeping my body moving. Considering I run a blog called Avoiding Atrophy, I feel like that would be a bad idea.

PRO: I don't have to deal with awkward office culture.

One thing you need to know about me: I hate small talk. So much. I genuinely wish it was socially acceptable to ask, "Oh hey, what's your deepest, darkest secret?" within minutes of meeting someone, but alas, it's not. And as everyone knows, offices are a hotbed for all of the worst kinds of small talk: conversations about the weather, the slowness of the Keurig machine, the malfunctioning air conditioning, what you majored in, how your weekend was -- BLUH! That is like my personal hell. I do not miss these superficial encounters even a little bit.

CON: It can be isolating.

Okay, maybe sometimes I miss those superficial encounters, actually. As an introvert, I often revel in being by myself. Seriously, whenever I think of my "happy place", I always picture me sitting alone by a window just writing in my journal and eating a crepe (is that weird?). But even with my aggressive form of introversion, there are times where I crave human interaction during my work day. It's this realization that led me to make "collaboration" my word of the year. Working from home doesn't have to mean working in a vacuum.


PRO: I can work anywhere.

So yes, working from home is one way to describe what I do, but I actually spend a good deal of my time away from my apartment. Usually, you can find me at a coffee shop, fighting off the urge to buy a second butter scone as I write the next great American novel. JK, I write emails, but still, I enjoy changing up my workspace and exploring NYC through these unique venues. I'm lucky to live near some of the best coffee shops in the city. Maybe I'm biased, but whatevs.

CON: Working in coffee shops can get expensive.

While the idea of writing at a coffee shop has a sort of romantic appeal, it can also get expensive. Sure, there are libraries and other spots to work that don't require the purchase of a latte, but honestly...I just like working at coffee shops. If that means that I pay $3 a day to do so, then so be it. But yeah, I know that it's a little ridiculous, but just like...shut up, okay?

PRO: I can set my own schedule.

This is by far my favorite part about working from home. I am the type of person who gets really drained by the typical 9 - 5 work schedule, so I feel fortunate to be able to craft my own timeline for the day. I get asked about my daily routine A LOT, and I'll definitely write a post about that in the future, but honestly, it changes all the time. There are consistent creative spikes in my day where I am able to be far more productive. Usually 4 - 10 PM is a good time for me to be doing my actual writing, while the fragile morning hours are better suited for answering emails, doing research, and drinking warm lemon water because, believe it or not, I actually do make some good choices every now and then.

CON: It can be difficult to set boundaries between work and family.

Since my husband is usually done with his work day at 6 PM, it's kind of unfortunate that I tend to be in my creative zone just as he's getting home. In general, since my home and my workplace are the same space, it can be really tough to know when it's time to stop. Any time could be work time. Any time could be play time. So when I'm working, I'm dreaming about play, and when I'm playing, I'm stressing about work. I'll get better about it, I promise. Or I won't, and I'll just live the rest of my life with this mildly sick feeling in my stomach. It's manageable though.

PRO: My cat is my coworker.

I mean, look at this guy!


CON: My cat is my coworker.

I mean, look at this guy...



What are some pros and cons about your work environment?

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

In search of a work of art

Via ebay

I am in search of an oil painting featuring a lady looking demure and bold and just absolutely awesome. Do you have one to spare?

Allow me to explain...

Recently, while zoning out on Instagram, I stumbled upon a brilliant collaboration between the incomparable Jen Gotch (founder & creator of ban.do) and the good people at Chairish. They were hosting a live auction of some phenomenal vintage finds, including a strawberry cookie jar, a giant lighter, and the most delightful goat-shaped bottle opener I've ever seen. 

Now, I don't know if you know this about me, but I'm a sucker for vintage paraphernalia. If I were to describe my perfect day, a huge part of it would include rummaging through old bottles, postcards, and stale-smelling clothing at a well-curated antique shop. It's something I do a lot. A lot, a lot. 

So naturally, a virtual vintage experience on Instagram was intriguing to me. The way it worked was that they would post a picture of an item, and the first person to comment with #sold got dibs. Obviously, everything was moving wildly fast, so I had the hashtag copied and ready to paste just in case I fell in love with something. And, friends, I did.

Via Instagram @chairishco
That's Jen Gotch (with RYAN GOSLING LEGGINGS OHMYGODWHAT CAN I HAVE THEM) holding the artwork of my dreams. When this picture went up, my brain exploded. I fell in love with the woman in this painting. Her white hair, her confident smirk, her ambiguous nakedness -- she just seemed perfect to me. I hesitated for a second, though, because the price seemed a little steep ($158), and in that wretched moment, someone with better decision-making skills commented and stole her from me. Not to be dramatic, but my world basically crumbled. 

Ever since this exquisite sighting, I've been on the hunt for something similar. I can't really explain it. Something about seeing this picture just flipped a switch in me. I am now fixated on finding an oil portrait of a woman who exudes her same level of strength, confidence, and unabashed femininity. I guess I want her to be my spirit animal. I want to hang her in my office and look up at her for inspiration while I'm working. And I want to name her. Maybe something like Delores. Then when a friend comes to visit me, I want to say something like, "Have you met Delores?" and then I'll laugh and laugh with a strange twinkle in my eyes. And as my friend starts to slowly back away from this scene, I want to continue laughing, more maniacally than ever, until they finally exit. And then it's just me and Dolores again, and I give her a bit of a wink, and I keep on working.

I don't know, I haven't thought everything through. But here's what I've come up with so far by googling woman + oil + portrait (by the way, if you plan on searching those same terms, you are going to see a TON of boobs. Of all shapes a sizes. You have been warned.):

Via ebay
Via etsy
Via etsy
Via etsy
Via etsy
Via etsy

To be clear, I'd be happy to hang any of these portraits up in my office and call them Delores. Maybe I'll curate a collection over time. Again, I haven't thought it through.

Anyway...

Have you ever been on an obsessive hunt for a particular item?
Tell me about it so I won't feel crazy!

Also, P.S. If you buy any of these portraits out from under me, I guess that's your prerogative. But if it's on ebay, just know that I'm willing to engage in a pretty intense bidding war. So...yeah.

Q&A | Simple Chronicles of Me

It's Tuesday, folks, and everyone knows that Tuesday is a great day to fall in love with a new blogger. Duh. That being said, I'm so pleased to introduce you to Toyota at Simple Chronicles of Me! She's yet another blogger from the UK, and today she's here on Avoiding Atrophy to talk about the important things of life -- things like inspiration, friendship, and of course, Nutella. Here's Toyota:




1. What inspired you to start Simple Chronicles of Me?

I've always loved writing but what actually inspired Simple Chronicles of Me was being rejected by a boy. It just made me think that life was too short to spend time living for the what could have been and as I had always wanted to write a blog then why shouldn't I so I blundered in blissfully unaware of how much hard work blogging is but I love it!

2. What are some of your favorite things to share with your readers?

I share quite a large range of stuff and sometimes I'm sure people must just think "too much information woman!!!" so I'm not sure if I can pick a favourite but I love sharing book reviews as I love reading

3. What/who inspires you (in life, or as a blogger, or both)?

Mulan, my mumma and Nutella - strong, independent, sassy, delicious (oh wait that's just Nutella)

4. If you had to pick two recent posts that truly represent the Simple Chronicles of Me spirit, which posts would you choose and why?

I'd pick my Organisation Plan post as this really represents what I want my 2015 to be about and hopefully inspires someone else to get organised. I would also pick my post about The Reasons I Love Winter as 1) it includes a picture of me as a cute kid and 2) it reminds me to be less negative!!

5. When you aren't blogging, what might we find you doing?

When I'm not blogging I am generally working (massive workaholic!!) and I'm now starting an Open University degree so that doesn't leave me much time for anything other than sleeping but I also love to read, watch movies, take pictures, drink fruit cider and chat to my besties.

Comments have been disabled for this post, but if you'd like to say hey to Toyota, you can do so HERE

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

6 Podcasts You Should Be Listening To


I recently conducted a reader survey to get a feel for what you guys (my readers) are all about and what you would like to see more of on Avoiding Atrophy. Many of you responded, and to you wonderful ladies (and one dude. What up, one dude!), I am eternally grateful. I learned a lot, and I'll be sure to do a more thorough evaluation of my findings from that survey later in the week. But for now, I want to focus on just one aspect that I found particularly interesting. Take a look at this chart:

I have my own reasons for asking this out-of-nowhere question (which, again, I'll get to at a later time), but I have to admit that I was a bit surprised by just how many people NEVER listen to podcasts. Podcasts are so much a part of my daily life that I guess I just naturally imagine that they are a part of everyone else's. Before I leave my apartment, I always make sure that I have one queued up and ready to play, but I suppose it was a bit ethnocentric for me to assume that everyone does this exact same thing.

Still, I believe there is so much value in listening to podcasts, especially because, for me, they make my commute about a thousand percent more bearable. They keep my mind sharp, they often invoke wonderful storytelling methods, and they certainly keep me distracted from that guy next to me on the B train who has decided that the subway is the optimal place to clip his toenails. 

So for those of you who are new to podcasts, or even for those of you who are seasoned veterans, I thought I'd share some of my all-time favorites. I promise these will be well worth your time. Or maybe they won't. I don't even know anymore.

1. This American Life



This American Life is basically the gateway podcast. It remains my first love of the podcast world, and I know I'm not alone in this since it's pretty much always listed as #1 on iTunes. The show is hosted by Ira Glass, whose delightful voice and mannerisms are reason enough to tune in. Each episode is centered on a theme and each act features a story based on that theme. They are usually interviews told with narration, but sometimes they feature short fictional stories, poetry, comedy -- anything that artistically portrays some human truth. You will laugh. You will cry. You will reexamine all of your life choices.

Typical episode length: One hour
Recommended episode: Episode 484 -- Doppelgängers

2. Serial


Even if you didn't listen to it over the last few months, you probably still heard all about the buzz surrounding Serial. It's a spinoff of This American Life hosted by one of the show's producers, Sarah Koenig. For twelve weeks straight, Serial bumped its parent podcast from the #1 spot and became the most-listened to podcast in the world. This last season, the show recounted and reinvestigated the details of a 1999 murder of a high school girl in Baltimore. The show was so gripping that it even spawned podcasts solely centered on discussing theories from Serial. As in, people were actually making podcasts ABOUT ANOTHER PODCAST. The next season is still some time away, and there is no word on what the story will be, but if it's anywhere near as compelling as this last one, then you should tune in. 

Typical episode length: 45 min.
Recommended episode: In order to do this thing right, you have to start at Episode 01: The Alibi


3. Comedy Bang Bang


Do you like funny? Well, here, have some funny. Comedy Bang Bang, hosted by Scott Aukerman, can best be described as podcast interview improv. Some of your favorite comedians (Jenny Slate, Nick Kroll, Paul F. Tompkins, Lauren Lapkus, and so so many others) come together on this show as either themselves or as ridiculous characters. It's a good time. Don't overthink it.

Typical episode length: An hour and a half
Recommended episode: I could not stop laughing during this episode with Jenny Slate and Nick Kroll.

4. Radiolab


Remember that one biology teacher you had who made science fun? Radiolab is like that. This podcast combines science and storytelling in a way that makes the two seem more related than we ordinarily might think. This show serves as a continual reminder to always be curious about the world around us. Plus, hosts Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich have such a seriously adorable banter.

Typical episode length: It varies. Usually 30 minutes to an hour.


5. The Moth


I honestly can't imagine a person alive on this earth who would not like The Moth, but perhaps, as a storyteller, I'm a bit biased. The Moth podcast features true stories told by real people at live storytelling events. Originally based in New York, there are now Moth story slams happening all over the country, possibly the world, and the podcast showcases some of the very best. If you ever start to lose faith in humanity, please listen to The Moth. After all, storytelling is one of the greatest tools humans have in promoting peace and understanding in this world (if this is sounding at all familiar, it might be because I've written about storytelling a lot on this here blog).

Typical episode length: 20 min.
Recommended episode: Seriously, any of them. 


6. Professor Blastoff


Okay, this one is pretty special to me. Many of the aforementioned podcasts take me on adventures to worlds that I would otherwise not know, but Professor Blastoff just feels like coming home. The show stars comedians Tig Notaro, Kyle Dunnigan, and David Huntsberger. The premise of the show is pretty flimsy, honestly (they receive and interpret transmissions from a genius scientist in outer space). In truth, though, this gimmick is just a platform for everyone to be hilarious. The show usually features an expert in a given subject, and recently, the guests have mostly been other very funny comedians. This is one of those podcasts that makes me look crazy on the subway as I sit there laughing to myself, and I am honestly okay with that. Highly recommend.

Typical episode length: One hour
Recommended episode: I liked this episode on Voice (with guest, Lake Bell)

------

Friends, give podcasts a try. Shove those earbuds in your earholes, and join me in one of my favorite past times. I really think it will be a game-changer for you.

And for those of you already listening to podcasts:
Do you have a favorite? Share! Share!

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