Monday, December 28, 2009

Hello darlings of the blogosphere,

Apologies that I haven't been here - though it's possible that after my blogging streak it's a welcome break. I know it was a lot of posts, of which I apologize, but hopefully it was at least an interesting read!

How was everyone's Christmas? I do hope it was absolutely lovely and Santa was wonderful and your bellies are full and you now weigh 20 pounds heavier. Mine was fabulous, if not absolutely exhausting. This year was extremely different in that my family had celebrations on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day; normally it's only the Eve and Day is saved for my immediate family. But anyhow, my cousins are the usual: plentiful, energetic, and slightly annoying. Aunts and uncles are invasive and amazing. Grandparents, lolas, and lolos are adorable and also invasive and slightly rude. So, all in all, everything is as it should be.

Anyway. Rather than give some big write up about why I will be scarce, please allow the following picture to speak for me:

Wednesday:Photobucket(lunch with a friend)
Photobucket (a long drive)

Thursday-Saturday:Photobucket Vegas! con mi famiglia.
Saturday evening:Photobucketbrother's best friend's birthday celebration.

So...yeah. I'm not sure I'm going to be breathing after this week, but fingers crossed!

Hopefully tuesday or wednesday i will be able to stop by a bit, but if not I hope everyone has a fabulous New Year's!

Lots o' love,


I can tell you what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.

Friday, December 25, 2009

The summer when I was 9 years old, my family and I moved from Belgium to Italy. It was difficult, as I'd just spent 5 years in Belgium (the longest I'd been in a country) and was inconsolably sad having to leave my friends. I was adjusting to my new life in Italy, missing my friends, trying to figure out what was going on in my life; all during that odd, awkward adolescent stage. Additionally, in late November we decided to move from the house we were in to an apartment building in Caserta, moving farther away from Gricignano and Pinetamare and Lago Patria and all the few friends we had made since.

This Christmas was also different because my father was assigned overnight-duty at work from December 24-25. Having always lived in Europe and never been around relatives for the holidays, it was normally my parents and brother all together for Christmas Eve, having a special dinner and watching movies and playing board games - only once was he ever away on a ship for Christmas, but I was too young to remember it. For the first time that I could remember, my dad wasn't going to be there.

Everything was set up to be a devestating Christmas for a 9-year-old girl: no friends, no dad, changed routine, most of our stuff was still in boxes. We hadn't even done St. Nicholas day that year! (Apparently it's celebrated differently and on different days in Italy.)

But that Christmas is actually one of my favourite memories.

We made do with what we could; we set up a small, sparse tree behind the couch in the middle of a bunch of boxes. We turned on the TV to any english-speaking movie we could find (it was Wizard of Oz). I remember my mom wrapping some of my dad's gifts, sitting there watching with my brother and I. And I especially remember the bean bag game my mother had made stitching pieces of felt together with beans in the middle. We used an empty Tide box and spent hours tossing the bean bags into the box across our massive living/dining room area, making up games and challenges. My mom said we could stay up, even though Santa was coming, because we could wait for dad to come home. Santa would work around us, it was no problem.

I don't remember what gifts I got that year, I don't remember playing with toys, I don't remember all the things a kid would probably remember about their Christmas. I do remember falling asleep way before dad got home, and way before Santa came to the house. I do remember waking up at 8am to the sound of my dad coming home from work, and my brother and I running out to the living room to wish him a Merry Christmas and being delighted to see a mass of presents magically under our tree. I remember having breakfast together as a family, knowing that I made it through my first Christmas in Italy, and it was different--but wonderful. Because my family makes it so wherever we go, whatever circumstance we're in.

That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.

apologies for the rudimentary "colouring" going on in this - i only have the touchpad mouse, so Photoshopping for colour was a bit...harrowing.


How Twitter Saved Me (Once)

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Despite a love/hate relationship with Twitter, it comes in handy.

One blustery February evening, I decided to go to a house party with a few of my friends. I had to be talked into it because of the 16 friends I went with, only one of us had a connection to the host (and it was just a mutual friend). Rolling up to a house 16 deep without knowing anyone is a bit intrusive, in my opinion.

Anyway. We go, we drink (water for me, as I was driving back to my apartment that night), we be merry. We see a few people we knew; one of which is a guy that I will refer to as Frenchy. Because he is French. Not just having french ancestry, I mean that he was born and raised in France and was an exchange student at our University and speaks mostly in French. (For future reference, oui, je parle courament le francais.) Frenchy...is creepy. He looks like a meerket and has beady eyes that seem to judge and follow you everywhere. In addition, when you speak to him, he often whispers (for no reason) and darts his eyes around rather than look at you. Very off-putting. As it happens, he very rarely talks to me one-on-one because he 1) hates Americans, and 2) thinks we have a language barrier. I've never told him otherwise about 1, nor have I corrected him on 2.

Now, my entire group of friends shares the feeling about Frenchy -- to the point that we have developed a sign of distress for when he engages one of us in conversation. Two quick tugs on an earlobe means "I am not enjoying this interaction and desire to promptly be removed from it with your assistance, if you please" (more or less) and should result in rescue.


Standing outside on the patio, happily having a laugh with four of my friends, I feel a tap on my arm. Turning, I see a very drunk Frenchy. "Hello," I say to him cautiously.
"Can we talk?" he asks softly.
"I...what?" Before I can do anything else, he grabs my arm and pulls me away from the group to a dark corner of the patio.

Alarm bells. Ear tugging ensues.

"I'm so sad," he tells me, one arm around my shoulders. "My girlfriend was going to come visite-moi, mais she didn't!" Had I not been so freaked out - or tugging my ear so much - I probably would have found his french-english hybrid amusing. But I did not.

Tug Tug.

He continues, telling details about their relationship and how he misses her and how it was weird doing long-distance and how he cheats on her because he feels as though he's alone.


Somehow it has melded into how he feels misjudged and how Americans don't understand the French and how France knows what is right and if Americans just fucking listened we wouldn't be so screwed up in life.


I try to get away from his grasp, I push slightly against his chest, I try anything to seem engaged while pulling away. And when I slightly turn my head, all I see are my friends standing there, staring at me, eyes wide. One of them takes a picture.

Bastards. You will RUE this day*.

Having not been listening to him, I am completely taken by surprise when he throws both his arms around my shoulders and pulls me in for an uncomfortably tight hug. Giving up any attempt at being polite, I jam my hands into his chest, struggling to push away. Heart failure as I feel one of his hands snake up through my hair and hold the back of my head. "I'm just so lonely," he whispers into my ear.

And then it happens: hope. My phone starts to buzz loudly in my back pocket.

"What is that?" he asks, loosening his grip.
"OH MY GOD A TEXT I HAVE TO CHECK IT LET ME GO!" I yell, shoving him away.
"A text?" he asks.
"Yes, my friend is having a bad night and she needs me," I lie quickly. I flash him my phone screen so he can see the new message, but none of the content.
"That sounds important. Ok," he concedes, walking away.

When I finally check my phone, I see that it was Twitter, alerting me to a friend's new tweet.
When I went back to my friends and inquired as to why no one rescued me, all of them laughed and said they wanted to see what was going to happen.

And that, my friends, is why Twitter is useful: because it will save you when 16 asshole friends won't.

*they rued it. i put Frenchy on an invite list to one of my friend's parties i wasn't able to attend. i'm told he went and stuck with them all night, hitting on 5 of the girls and 2 of the guys. they were all angry at me for about a week, but it. was. worth. it.


Teaser Tuesday (Not How It Sounds)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Today is Teaser Tuesday, a weekly book meme from Should Be Reading!

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!
I've been meaning to do this, but I kept forgetting. Hooray for my Google Reader reminding me!

"No," she said as she put her head against the side window and looked out at the road. "Have you ever believed in someone completely, then found out that that person wasn't at all what you thought?" (pg. 156) Lavender Morning by Jude Deveraux

This is kind of a random read, I was literally walking out of the library when I stopped at the "New" section and grabbed this book. To be honest as to why, it's because the colour caught my eye and I thought the house in the picture was absolutely beautiful. So I read the jacket, and because I am a sucker for a light read with slight mystery dealing with small towns (a mentality I will never understand), I had to pick it up. So far, so good--a bit simple and the names are a tad confusing, but it's still interesting! I very much want to know what the hell happens.

Though I have to say, my one complaint (and it's a bit obscure) is that Ms. Deveraux does not have the best timing within a scene where eating takes place. What I mean is that a character will finish a massive lunch meal in the span of 5 sentences of dialogue - it's just not realistic! There is one section that has the main character finish two bowls of soup, a tuna sandwich, and a sizable piece of a massive double-layer chocolate cake within 2 pages and 25ish lines of dialogue. Either these characters eat in acceleration, or they are completely silent while eating. Whatever it is, I'm finding it increasingly distracting.


Do I even need a title for this?

Monday, December 21, 2009

Notes For the Past Few Days:
- Must remember to transfer Photoshop over onto this laptop.
- Putting on thigh-high socks is much more difficult than I imagined.
- How is it almost 80 degrees here while the rest of the world has a snowstorm? Conundrum.
- Target at 11:30pm is a sad place.
- Watched a rerun of the TV show Bones today, and Tom Wilson was on it (Bif from Back to the Future). Still very weird to see my friend's dad on my tv screen.
- Still considering doing my MA in London (or around there). Would love if someone just told me the answer.
- My closet is no longer accessible, as a very large pile of gifts have taken root in front of it.
- Am super psyched to read Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer because it has been so highly recommended, but am also terrified since it deals with 9/11 and the aftermath. I don't think I'm ready to face that past, but I don't think I will ever be, either.
- Been craving Starbucks for the past 4 days. Resisting, but feel it's making it much worse.
- Google Reader is evil. Should never have clicked "Popular Items," because that is 4 hours I will never get back.
- On the upside, however, I discovered this gem: A Pictorial Guide to Avoiding Camera Loss. Funny, adorable, and incredibly useful.

Let's get on with the Best of 2009 Blog Challenge, shall we?
Day 20: New Person. She came into your life and turned it upside down. He went out of his way to provide incredible customer service. Who is your unsung hero of 2009?
This is incredibly difficult because I've just realized I met the Italians this year. What a whirlwind, having met, befriended, become so close, and said goodbye to them all within a seven month span. I was incredibly close with Michele, Alberta and Endria, and they are probably my favourite new people from this year. They're such intelligent, kind, interesting people with hearts much bigger than they realize.

In terms of an "unsung hero," though, please refer to this post.

Day 21: Project. What did you start this year that you're proud of?
NaNoWriMo. Start and finish (hooray!). Terrifying, intimidating, insane, exhilarating.

Day 22: Startup. What's a business that you found this year that you love? Who thought it up? What makes it special?
Disney Expo.  Obviously I know Disney is not a "new" business, but this year was the Expo's first year, and I was lucky enough to go. The choice is a bit random, I know, but it was actually a pretty good time - if you can get past all the screaming tweens (Wizards of Waverly Place forum), haughty Disney lovers (Pixar Forum), and obnoxious teenagers who think they're too cool for a Disney convention (even though they're there, sans parents. Think about it). Yes, Disney is pretty overrated and has such an influence on today's culture it's an abomination, but the Expo was pretty fun despite it all. You can't help but get caught up in all the excitement of seeing your beloved Toy Story characters or special previews of Toy Story 3 (June 18, 2010!) and Prep & Landing (now aired, but back then it was the big reveal).


Unsung Hero of 2009

While doing the Blog Challenge, Day 21's prompt was about a new person in your life, and the furthering of the prompt asked about an unsung hero. When I realized I had to split it, I also realized that my unsung hero(es) deserved their own individual post. They actually deserve much more, but it's all I can give for now.

Thanks to an amazing program called Humanities Out There (abbreviated HOT. Yeah.), I was able to tutor/mentor 10th-grade students at Century High School in Santa Ana, CA. Myself and a group of 10ish students went to the school once a week for roughly 20 weeks to teach History. I can't even express how much this program changed my life. It is so rewarding and I am so proud that I got to be a part of it. Don't get caught up in the fact that the school is in Orange County. Where the school is located is not the safest of areas, and most of the students are classified as "at-risk." I'm not saying there are kids shooting up in every dark corner of the campus, but I am saying that these children are not the Prada-toting, Chanel-headband wearing you see in The OC or Gossip Girl.

When we first came to the classroom, most of the kids in there were a bit hostile, uninterested in school and learning, obnoxious, and hardly looked at us once they realized we were there to be "teachers" to them. They were only there because they had to be, and even then they still might not come. Often a class could be 35 kids one week, and 15 the next. I remember sitting with the group of 4 kids who I would eventually call "mine" on that first day and being terrified. First, none of them would speak to me. When they realized I wasn't letting them go anywhere until they did, I found out most of them had problems reading (a reminder that these are 15-16 year old kids), and all of them weren't even considering college. Not because they didn't want to, but they were positive they wouldn't get in and that all it did was impede a life of working to survive. I quickly learned to never know what to expect, because their lives are so different from what mine was at 15. In a way not meant to be disrespectful, I had the shock of my life during our 12th week when we found out over half our students didn't even know what Hawaii was, much less where it was located. It's a strange shock when you discover that, because it almost seems absurd...but then it makes you realize just different life can be.

By the end of the program, I am extremely proud to say that all of our kids raised their hands when we asked them if they were going to apply to college in 2 years. My kids not only said they were going to apply, but they had choices picked out and majors they were considering. They were raising their hands to participate in class discussions, volunteering for presentations, reading on their own. I can't even describe what it's like to see your kid walk into the classroom and immediately smile at you and start telling you about their week, knowing that it took over 2 weeks for them to even speak their name to you. It's nothing short of amazing to be able to see the difference individual attention makes. They were craving education and were so confident in themselves and their future...I imagine this is what it feels like to be a proud mother.

The entire program and all its participants - tutors/mentors/advisers and students alike - are all my unsung heroes, but I do have to mention two of my kids. I adored all 8 of my kids, but two specific boys left a very deep mark on my heart: Oscar and Eric.

Eric was the introverted one, always drawing on his papers and not paying attention. In the first 10 weeks I worked with him, he never finished any of his assignments and I heard maybe 3 sentences from him total. The first time I ever saw a light in his eyes and a response in him was when I asked him about the basketball he was carrying; apparently he was a point guard for the school team, and he thought basketball was his one defining feature. It was brief, but it was an opening. The day we had a writing assignment where the children were assigned to write a 12-line poem about their life was his turning point. He had never been given the freedom of writing about his life. He had never even considered that his life was something of worth to be written about. But when he saw how eager us tutors were to hear their thoughts, something in him came alive. For the first time I think he realized that he was important to someone, and that he mattered. In the last month of our meetings, he and I had a 10-minute conversation about music (I should have told him I listened to Public Enemy from day 1!), he turned in all of his assignments on time and completed, and he even started making jokes with me. I literally went back to my apartment crying the day he came to me to tell me about his week on his own. He was still quiet, but it became a characteristic, not a crutch. The last day of our meeting, he said I was the best person he had ever met, I inspired him, drew me an absolutely beautiful butterfly (not entirely appropriate since he drew it on my evaluation form, but I take what I get), and hugged me for a good long while when the bell rang. He wanted to go to college, and I have faith that he will.

Oscar was almost the complete opposite of Eric. I will always remember my first impression: he didn't come to my group the first week we met because he wanted to stay with his friend rather than be split. So he lied and said he was in another mentor's group. When I found that out, I was definitely thinking, Oh man, here it comes. The second week we made him come to my group. Oscar was the class clown, always raising his hand but never listening to questions. He had brief glimpses of trying, but most of the time he just said whatever he wanted whenever he wanted. In terms of education levels (which I wouldn't put too much stock in normally), Oscar was definitely the farthest behind. He had the most trouble reading, his spelling was atrocious, complex sentence structure was a no-go, and most of the period was spent telling him what words meant - forget trying to finish the assignment. I honestly believe Oscar just needed attention and a little pushing, because unlike Eric, he never really had a turning point. Eric was like a lightswitch; Oscar was the student you can track the growth of on a constant increasing scale. He was willing to learn, he'd just never been pushed to. The more work I gave him, the more he tried; and the more he tried, the more he did. It was stunning to see him grow, and I'm confident that when the program ended, he was probably one of the brightest in the class. Oscar was an incredibly charming, likeable guy, and he eventually realized that he could be well-liked and intelligent as well. In one of our lesson plans, we discussed street art, and I could see his self-image change. Oscar would not admit that he has done graffiti before (seeing as how it's illegal), but he constantly writes everything in graffiti-style on his papers. During our lesson plan, we told him that even though it is illegal, graffiti is a form of art, and if you learn how to do it in a legal fashion, it IS art, and it IS ok. I saw the revelation in his head that he was an artist, not a criminal. As time went on, his self-appreciation and confidence continued to build. Oscar was the one who broke my heart by telling me he saw no point to college, that it wouldn't help him survive in his neighbourhood, that he wasn't worth the money to go to college. But the last day we met, I asked him if he was going to go to college - he gave me a list of seven colleges he was looking into, and three areas of study he wanted to do. One of which was art. I was absolutely and completely floored, and I don't think I've ever been more proud. When we hugged good-bye, he told me he felt smart--something he had never, ever thought before. Then he told me I was one of the best people he'd ever met in his life, and I meant every word when I told him the same thing.

Oscar and Eric give me hope in this world. Their stories are ones that encompass so much of what I love about humanity. We struggle, we have problems, we think so little of ourselves sometimes. But with pushing, love, a little attention, and a lot of faith, we become something. We learn that we can become something. It's the human capacity to learn; about life, about others, about oneself. And more than that, it's the human capacity to grow, to develop.


Noteworthy moments & BC09 continuation

Friday, December 18, 2009

Ladies and Gentleman of my readers, I present to you a brief summary of my past two days:
- While at the post office, a man shipped 43 boxes. Literally, 43. He had to use those big orange roll-carts that postal workers use to collect mail to get all his boxes from the car and to the shipment desk. And you know how USPS has their new "if it fits, it ships" flat-rate boxes? This man definitely utilized that to its fullest extent; most of the boxes were bulging BIG. What a good Christmas for his relatives.
- While parking at Borders, I stopped my car to let a woman cross in front. First she smiled and held her hand up in thanks (standard)...but then she stopped in front of my car, met her hands in front of her chest (meditation style), and bowed to me as she said "thank you." She wins the most unique way someone has thanked me.
- The day before, I exited Borders after my book purchase and slowed in front of the store as I fumbled with my purse/keys/wallet/etc. A man was standing outside it, smoking and talking on his cell phone, and I overhear this part of the conversation: "Dude, just give him the 20 grand and be done with it! Don't do it again!" I did not stick around.

- While perusing the toy section at Target in search of my 8-year-old cousin's Christmas present, I saw two men, probably late-20s, crouched over one of those learn-the-ABCs baby toys that says the letter and a word that begins with that letter when you hit one of the keys. And they were so into it I had to stop and watch them for a few minutes (like a creeper, yes). What also caught my eye is that one of the guys was wearing the pink Princess Santa hat you see at the side there. Is it weird I wanted to introduce myself?
- While on the military base, I saw my fourth man in 2 visits at the jewelry counter picking out an engagement ring. As much as I find Christmas engagements cliche, I still have to smile at the thought of what a lovely Christmas it will be for those 4 couples.
- My mom made apple crisp. I don't care if I die fat, I will die happy.

Jumping ahead because the next two days are packed with a friend's 25th birthday celebration (clubbing! Haven't done that ever in San Diego) and two separate Christmas parties with two very separate groups of friends, the Best of 2009 Blog Challenge continuation:

Day 17: Word or Phrase. A word that encapsulates your year.
2009 was heart-wrenching.

Day 18: Shop. Where you spent all your money this year.
Seriously? Target. When I lived in Orange County, I had 4 Targets all within 5 miles of me. It was a one-stop-shop for all my needs! On a serious note, I started going there my first year to escape my dorm and all the hell that was happening. Target is an odd haven for me, somewhere I can go and be assaulted on all my senses by everything and forget whatever is going on. A side effect was leaving all my money there, that's all.

Day 19: Car ride.What did you see? How did it smell? Did you eat anything as you drove there? Who were you with?
Tall Andrea (An-DRE-a) was driving; it was the first time I'd been in a car with one of the foreign exchange students driving. The Italians and I were celebrating Tall Andrea and Giulia's birthdays. Myself and Katja (our Swedish-Italian) were in the back, Nadia up front. From my apartment to Newport Beach, I remember the blur of passing lights, talking with Katja, watching Nadia and Tall being awkwardly couple-but-not in the front seat, and laughing. A lot. I remember smelling a mix of salt and vague barbecue, since we were by the ocean and we'd had our pool party earlier in the day. We were headed to Rudy's (one of our frequent bars) to meet up with Fabio, Emiliano, Endria, Other Andrea, Francisco, Riccardo, Red Michele, Roberta, Giulia, Yun, Alberta, Max...and a whole slew of others I no longer remember (thanks two Long Island Ice Teas and part of one Adios MotherFucker!). I believe the reason it stands out is because it was the first time I had ever gone out with the Italians without another friend (who I will refer to as "R"). R was the one who introduced me to all the Italians, and I refused to go to anything unless R would be there. But this night was the first time I'd been without R, and it solidified my friendship with the Italians. Up until that point, I'd always feared that I was just tolerated; but that night I was accepted. And I absolutely LOVED it. Even the part when Emiliano discovered I was strong enough to carry him and he drunkenly made me give him a semi-drunk piggy-back ride to our cars at 2am when we were leaving.


The Changing Times of YA Fiction

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Is it just me, or is YA Fiction not so...YA...anymore?

I could just be old, maybe I'm just losing touch with "teenagers" of today, who really knows. But honestly, a lot of the YA fiction I've read lately, I cannot believe that it's classified as YA. I know I wouldn't want my 13-year-old reading things like that!

Yes, I do read YA fiction. It's a nice in-between filler when I feel as though I've been reading too much "heavy" material, or when I feel like a quick read, or when I just want a break from adult reading. And I admit, when YA books get a lot of attention, I can't help my curiosity to read it and see if I agree or disagree with the hype. I'm a sucker like that.

First case: the ever-talked about and muchly-overhyped Twilight series. Since this isn't going to be a review (that would take entirely too much space), I'll leave my opinion in this one sentence: REALLY, STEPHENIE MEYER?! Moving along, I know that Meyer tries to skirt around the issue and leaves her descriptions as PG as possible, but I still don't necessarily feel it ordinary to have a YA book focus so much on obsession and wanting a man to take over your very being. Whilst reading it I can't help but feel almost as if I'm reading a weird version of Teenage Erotica. Strange. And dirty. But not in the good way.

Second Case: The Mortal Instrument Series. I realize I shouldn't exactly put this on the list because I'm only about 150 pages into the first installment (City of Bones, as pictured), but there's already one part where my mind tripped a bit and thought Hold up, what? I'm a bit turned off that the front cover's quote has the word "sexy" in it, but there's a dialogue section that has the word "manacles" and "kinky" together. I mean, I understand everyone has their thrills, but I don't think I want bondage and S&M to turn up in my teenager's book.

Third (and last) Case: Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist. And come to think of it, pretty much all of Rachel Cohn's books. First, I want to say that Nick & Norah is one of my favourite books (not the movie, I have to admit, as much as I liked it), and I'm not necessarily knocking the book. But I can say that I was 20 when I read it and was even a bit uncomfortable. Yes, the characters are 18 (thankfully), but when this is marketed towards the teen crowd, I find a quickie blowjob in the ice machine room of a hotel that has someone walking in on them to be pushing it just a tad. Tad.

I'm not naive enough to believe teenagers aren't engaging in such acts, but I'd still like my literature to not perpetuate it so overtly. Especially since I started reading YA books when I was about 7 (early reader...unavoidable when mother works in a library).


Ahead of the game

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

I'm going to push myself ahead a bit of the whole Best of 2009 Blog Challenge since tomorrow's challenge will be quite easy for me to do, and I know the closer I get to Christmas day the less time I'll actually have. Hopefully this is within the "rules" -- but we've already seen that I don't quite adhere to them anyway.

Day 15: Best Packaging
This doesn't actually exist (I don't think), but I definitely believe it should.

Smoking is perhaps one of my biggest pet-peeves and my biggest turn-off. I have legitimately turned down men and dates on the basis that they smoke, no matter how intelligent or good looking or appealing he is. I just can't stand it. There is no point to smoking; all it does is lead to terrible smelling fingers and breath, addiction, and an early death. Honestly, if you're stressed, go to the gym or something. No one finds your smoker's cough attractive.

Day 16: Tea of the Year
Easy: I have none. I don't drink tea. How is this possible, you ask? I just don't. Every tea I have tried (and believe me, that is many; I was born in England, after all) I do not like. Green tea? Food-coloured water with an aftertaste. Chai tea? Weird spiced water. Milk tea? Dairy water. Earl Grey? Dirty water. Blackberry tea? Weird tasting liquid with a hint of dark, somehow. I just...can't. Ick. It goes along with the fact that I am the pickiest eater in the world. Sorry, tea-lovers. Please don't hate me. I'm open to suggestions.

Also - for those that see my blog rather than just through Google Reader - you may notice the change in layout (again). I'm still tweaking trying to find the best colour combinations and how I want to set it. I also became annoyed with how wide my page was, so I reverted back to a minimal column width. I'm hoping this also helps me keep pictures smaller, since larger ones are obnoxious and distracting.


Blog Challenge Catch-Up & Blog Shoutout

Monday, December 14, 2009

I am happy to report that December 13 passed uneventful - not entirely, but nothing bad happened. So yay for that! (Please see post right below to understand why this merits a note.)

Second, before I play catch-up with the Blog Challenge, I want to highlight a blog I've recently stumbled upon. I decided to join 20sb (see icon on the right for details) in an effort to connect through this blog with others, and one of the blogs it led me to is Insomnia and Short Attention Spans. I like his blog - it's interesting, it's diverse in its subjects, it introduced me to a sport called chess boxing (really. Google it.). Not meant to be a pun, but I really do have a short attention span when it comes to blogs sometimes. His writing keeps me reading. And, in the ultimate win of my appreciation, he not only made a Friends (the tv show) reference, but worked it effortlessly into a blog post! That, my friends, is talent.

And lastly, the Blog Challenge catch up!
Day 13: What's the best change you made to the place you live?
When I moved back in with my parents after being laid-off, the re-creation of my room was definitely interesting. Before I left for college, I packed up everything and put it in boxes in my closet and around the perimeter. During my four years of college, things just built up in there; my family stored stuff, each year i brought things home to keep out of my college apartment, friends/family came to stay and left things. So when I moved back, having to sort it all out and then work 4 years of college life back in...that was a challenge. But I've made it entirely liveable, and I feel it reflects who I am now.

Day 14: Rush. When did you get your best rush of the year?
Cliche as it may be, my graduation from college. Specifically, walking the stage. It's standard and stereotypical, but it really is transitional and meaningful. Crossing from education into "real" world was the biggest rush I've had yet...for better or for worse.


Day's absence & In Memoriam

Sunday, December 13, 2009

It's December 13. Fuck.

December 13 is typically not a good day for me. Bad things happen. I may be jinxing it as I type (seriously, i'm knocking on wood as I type this--no lie), but it really isn't good. My personal history reveals that terrible things happen, that things go wrong on this day. Not every year, so there's a bit of hope; but it still terrifies me.

So, I'm going to hibernate today and hope no one's health goes down or nothing is lost or anything of that sort. I am very aware that this is selfish and not the mature way to handle it, but I'm not ready to face it.

Dear angels or whoever watches over me: extra help and care would be appreciated for the day. I'll return on the 14th to resume the Blog Challenge and actual, real blog posts.

On a related note...RIP Army Spc. Peter Navarro.

February 5, 1985 - December 13, 2005.
Just as I will always feel your loss, I will always love you, respect you, and remember you. You've been gone four years, but you'll never, ever leave the hearts of those you touched.


Best of '09 Blog Challenge: New Food

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Best of 2009 Blog Challenge, Day 12: New Food

If you know me, you know I don't eat anything. I'm perhaps the most picky eater in the entire world. It's much easier for me to name the foods I do eat, because the list of food I don't eat is way too long. That said, it's a tough thing for me to find a food that I do eat, making this blog entry difficult.

The only thing I can think of that I added to my short food repertoire this year is gyros.

I have to say that I've only ever had Greek food from Daphne's Greek Cafe, so this is of course based on crummy chain americanized versions. But anyway, i go to lunch with a friend often whenever I'm back in Orange County. She works during the week, so it's always during her break; thus limiting our time and the distance in which we can go. As it happens, a super stellar pizza place is perfectly within distance, but when I used to go to lunch with her at least 3 times a week, we couldn't keep going to the same place (well, I could, but she didn't want to). So, Daphne's Greek Cafe is in the same complex, and that's where it began. I have to say, it was pretty yummy. It's lucky that all the things in the gyro are things I eat (pitabread, seasoned beef, lettuce, a small bit of onions, and a sauce), and it happens I find it to be quite yummy.

So, yeah, I guess that's my "New Food" of this year...not because it stood out as amazing from the rest, but mostly because it's the only new thing I eat this entire year haha.


Best of '09 Blog Challenge: The Best Place

Friday, December 11, 2009

Best of 2009 Blog Challenge, Day 11: The Best Place

Admittedly, this is a hard choice for me. There are a select few places where I am a regular (Target, for one...hi Mr. Security Guard who recognises me!), and even fewer where I go when I need to find that Zen state. But I don't necessarily have a spot that's "best" for me.

Having split this year between Orange County and San Diego, there are a few choices in both cities that I loved. In San Diego, I have to be all unoriginal and say the beach. But not any ol' beach...I mean Coronado and Hotel Del Coronado and the entire island itself.

And in Orange County, I have to say that I freakin' love Downtown Disney. But again, not just for any old reason--it's because I love to people watch there and do homework. Yeah, that's right, "homework" and "Disney." Everyone thinks I'm weird for going there to study (finals week!) and get some research done, but it's seriously one of the most relaxing places I can go. I love noise and music, and where else can you get a plethora of it? People are there from literally all around the world, and it's packed every single day. The parking is free for the first 3 hours (plus 2 more if you eat at one of the food places and get it validated), which was a perfect time for me to set a goal to get a book done or research. I can grab a beignet, park it at a table outside the Jazz kitchen, and watch people spill out of House of Blues or run towards Mickey or hike it over to the ESPN zone or rush to make a movie at the theatre. Love it.


Best of '09 Blog Challenge: Album of the Year

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Best of 2009 Blog Challenge, Day 10: Album of the Year

This was unfortunately the year of my computer going kablooey, so much of my iTunes counts and album loads were lost. I can't verify when I got these albums so I'm guessing if they are from this year. And because I suck at keeping to prompts, I have to cheat and choose 3. In no particular order...

Glee Soundtrack/Music from the TV series
Words cannot express how much I love this damn show. Yeah, the acting can get pretty cringe-worthy, the lip-syncing is like Britney Spears circa 2001, Terri Schuester makes me want to rip my eyeballs out and chuck them at her, and it has storylines even soap operas would turn down. But the musical talent on this show is mindblowing. If you don't believe me, YouTube the versions of Somebody to Love, And I Am Telling You, or Proud Mary. I even loved the Lean On Me version, and I consider anything not the original to forever be a degrading bastardization.

Laura Izibor - Let the Truth Be Told
Who knew crummy-yet-entertaining movies like Step Up 2 the Streets would lead me to an amazing artist? Laura Izibor is all the things you love and not the things you despise about Alicia Keys, Beyonce, Estelle, Leona Lewis, etc. She is soulful. she is talent. she is heartwrenching and heartwarming and heartstring-tugging. she is brilliant.

Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog
I was trying to find another blog challenge that it would fit into so I could dedicate a whole post to it, but I can't really find one. So, suffice to say, this is the best, most awesome and amazing and brilliant piece of music/show/showtunes/webisode/media EVER. Swiping from the amazing Neil Patrick Harris's other brilliant show (How I Met Your Mother shout out!), this really is fucking LEGEN--wait for it--DARY.

Honourable Mention:
John Mayer - Battle Studies
Musically, I love this album as much as I love Continuum (one of my favourite albums of all time). But the lyrics fall short to me. That being said, I haven't really stopped playing it yet since I got it, so...there is that.


Best of '09 Blog Challenge: Challenge

Internet problems result in a late post. Grrr...

Best of 2009 Blog Challenge, Day 9: Challenge

The obvious would be to choose my graduation from college this year, but it never really felt like a challenge to me. It was something that I was supposed to do after working 4 years. So the next thing I thought of was the challenge of all my Italian friends leaving to return back to Italy after their year of exchange student studying--it was tough having all my friends that i'd become so close to leave me behind. But in my life, I'm used to it; it has definitely been awhile since that's happened, but it is standard. Then I was 90% sure my biggest challenge this year was when I chose to take the job of web designer that was offered to me; it was the first real job I'd had, full time, doing something I had to train for and learn. All in addition to really living on my own away from my family paying my own rent and bills.

But honestly, my biggest challenge is right NOW. The time after I was laid-off, after I've just moved back in with my parents after 4 years away, when I have no idea where my life is headed. I'm at a point where my future can probably be whatever I want it to be, but at the same time I have amazing parents who are supporting me as I get my head around the fact that I'm no longer a student and letting me take the time I need. The time I want.

My challenge right now is living. Figuring out who I am, what I will become, how I want to become it. The challenge is throwing myself into a life that I have no idea what holds for me. The challenge is the fact that I am a 22-year-old girl with ambition and heart and a desire to write, a Bachelor's degree in one hand and absolutely nothing in the other. My biggest challenge of the year is to acknowledge what a blank slate I am right now, and accept it while not letting the fear of what could and will be written stop me.


Best of '09 Blog Challenge: Moment of Peace

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Best of 2009 Blog Challenge, Day 8: Moment of Peace
An hour or a day or a week of solitude. What was the quality of your breath? The state of your mind? How did you get there?

I know I reference this trip a lot, but it honestly meant something to me. And my response may be shorter than the prompt, but that's ok--apparently I change it often. While at Monument Valley, which goes between Arizona and Utah pending where you are in the park, there's a small part that's at the very back of the driving portion. Only a few of us made it out that way since most of the group decided to do a horseback ride through the park, but myself, Ruthie, Michele and Claudio opted not to and went on through the roads.

The most peaceful moment of 2009 is at a place called Artist's Point. This is us looking out into it.

It doesn't look like much in the picture, but believe me when I say it stretched for miles and miles. You don't see it in the picture, but there are massive monuments that you see as well, and a small river at the bottom of the cliff (that's what the bar is there for). And the thing is, this place is Silence Itself. You're in the middle of one of the biggest Valleys in the world, honestly in the middle of nowhere, and the silence is astounding. All of us were whispering because we felt like we were interrupting something.

It was absolutely beautiful. We stood there for about 10 minutes in complete silence, just looking out. When you're there, you have no choice but to think of your position in the world, in the entire Universe. There are things so beautiful and so astounding, and yet the center of the world to you, is YOU. And you have to wonder why. And how. And should it be. And then you try to figure out how to make your life worthwhile of something so breathtaking and miraculous in front of you.

Me, Claudio, Ruthie, and Michele at Artist's Point

That's us; you can see the Monuments that you see beyond. They look small, but they are literally miles and miles tall. You're dwarfed and put in your place and as small as ants in the grand scheme, and I have never felt so blessed being miniscule and completely unnecessary.


Ask and ye shall receive

Remember when I made a post about Google Wave and how I was irritated because I didn't have invitations to give to friends, and therefore could not properly use GWave to its fullest extent?

I was just given 25 invitations to hand out. Woo!

Get at me if you'd like an invite, I have about 10 to give before I have to get choosy.


Best of '09 Blog Challenge: Blog

Monday, December 7, 2009

Best of 2009 Blog Challenge, Day 7: Blog

So, I can't quite remember when I discovered this blog...it could have been last year, but i remember it mostly from this year. I bring to you: Inspire me, now!

He posts the most awesome, inspiring things ever. I mean, look at these gems:

3,604 cups of coffee = Mona Lisa

Spaghetti packaged as a 3D model of the Chrysler building

that’s crazy. Ambi Pur: Now that’s an eau de toilette

and that's just a sampling from the first 3 pages so far. Everything is so creative, i can't help but be impressed and inspired. So, I guess mission: accomplished!

and a mini-cheat of mentioning two, but another one I love is The Daily What. So random, so interesting. And as I've said on my own Tumblr blog, I usually reblog all the posts simply because i love their commentary. Awesome.


Christmas Stats

3 of 27: Christmas cards done
2 of 4: mini Christmas trees set up in the house
3 of 4: stockings hung
5 of 5: mini-stockings hung
1 of 9: people I'm finished buying Christmas gifts for
2 of 7: garlands hung
0 of 12: presents I currently have in the house, wrapped.
3 of 3: TP rolls decorated in my bathroom with ribbon. yeah, you read that right.
3 of [x]: bags of Christmas candy I have bought with the intention of giving them out but have opened and eaten some of already.
4 of 4: gifts ordered but not arrived.
3 of 4: wreaths hung
0 of 5: strands of lights hung, tree included.
1 of 1: main tree set up
0 of 1: main tree decorated
1 of 4: mini trees decorated
0 of 2: pies to bake
0 of 10: batches of cookies to make
0 of 2: Christmas party invitations i have yet to respond to.
3 of 18: boxes I can't find that have decorations/Christmas paraphernalia in it.

...it's a slow start, but I'm gettin' there.


"I'm a lot better before you know me."

Sunday, December 6, 2009

PostSecret: Confessions on Life, Death and God from Frank Warren on Vimeo.

Around the 3:35ish mark, there's a girl who takes a second, thinks, then says, "I'm a lot better before you know me."

Who knew your own personal thought would be broadcast world-wide on a video by someone across the country you've never met?

That is the exact thought I've had in my life since I was 12. I often think that's the reason I have "Friend ADD" (as my brother calls it); the longer you spend with me, the less I think you will have reason to stay. When people first hear about me or first meet me, I'm told I come across as a pretty decent person. I'm witty in an off-beat way, I find a lot of humor in a lot of things, I'm relatively sharp (pending topic of conversation), and I have a knack for keeping a conversation going if I really want.

But then. The longer you're with me, the more I have to expose. And then it becomes the battle of what do I expose to who? Do I tell you about my less-than-normal childhood? Do I tell you where I went to college? Do I tell you about how my major is not the major I wanted? Do I tell you how that major went on to save my life? Do I tell you I still feel guilty about how I treated a friend in 6th grade? Do I tell you that I have multiple best friends? Do I tell you that I have one real, true best friend but still call several others by the same title? Do I tell you which one of those last two statements is true? Do I tell you that every question I ask and ever question I offer an answer to never has my actual feelings in it?

And really, I don't feel as though I live up to my hype. I'm the writer girl, I'm the girl in the know, I'm the pop culture machine of trends, I'm the one who can always think of a comeback or mean remark. I'm snappy and snarky and sneaky.

But what if I can't? What if I'm not those people? It haunts me that I don't feel as though I am actually that person. I don't think it's bad if I am, I don't think it's bad if I'm not. But what is bad is that people expect me to be, and I don't think that I am. I fear that I won't make you laugh, you'll find me more annoying than witty, that you'll be disappointed by me.

The truth is, I think I'm a really boring person--and when I'm not boring, I'm really mean. I don't like to go out to bars and drink, I don't like to go shopping often, I don't like to grab dinner with a bunch of friends for no reason. In this entire last week, the only people I have made real contact with are my parents and the sales associates who I ask something for Christmas presents (I'm not counting the phone calls I made because those were out of guilt and feeling obligated since I'd put them off for 2 weeks for no reason). And the thing is...I don't mind any of it. I like sitting at home by myself. I like laying in bed for hours without talking to anyone. I don't mind that I haven't made a phone call to anyone in 7 days. There are times when i do feel like grabbing a bite to eat, or taking in a movie, or chatting on IM with someone, or going to a show...but it's rare. Most of the time, i feel as though I'm being a big bitch. I sound a lot more negative than I feel, I criticize without being asked, and I judge much more before I accept.

What I'm saying is...keep me at a distance, and you'll like me more.


Best of '09 Blog Challenge: Workshop/Conference

Best of 2009 Blog Challenge, Day 6: Workshop/Conference

I'm kind of cheating on this one, since I didn't attend any. I'm not in any position, career or otherwise, to do so, but a few of our required classes in the Literary Journalism major are called workshops since they are done in that format. I only did two this year, but one of them does mean something to me.

I took Amy Wilentz's Personal Essay workshop, and it turned out to be one of the best experiences of my life. It wasn't your typical journalism class--it was so much more. It was creative writing, it was reflection, it was exposure, it was learning. I was forced to think about who I am and who I was and what made me. For all the pieces we worked on and the in-class writing, we had to talk about ourselves and what has happened to us personally (hence...personal essay...WOAHMAN).

One piece in particular came out of this class, and it forced me to go back to a place I never wanted to go. Since writing it, though, I've had the courage to show it to multiple people. Yes, the reactions have all been positive, but what mattered is that I actually showed it to people. It spoke of one of the darker times in my life, a time when I was hopeless and lost and searching for a way out. The piece made me explore what I was going through, why it affected me so much, and then let me tell how I was able to come back. It was a piece that, for me, had to be written.

At the same time, this class also exposed me to how I really felt about certain things. When we had to pitch our ideas, things that I thought were meaningful really weren't as important as they'd seemed. Or, likewise, things that I thought about in passing turned out to be major turning points in my life.

Taking the Personal Essay workshop was putting my life under the microscope, so to speak, and as painful and terrifying as it was...I'm so glad I did it.


December Nights in Balboa Park

Saturday, December 5, 2009

One of my favourite things of the holiday season is December Nights in Balboa Park. It's basically the official Christmas kick-off of the San Diego holiday season. What's amazing about it is that not only is everything Christmas-ed out with lights and trees and santas, or that there's tons of vendors and sales merchants and all the artist's open their galleries; it's that all the museums open up to the public for free and you can walk in and out of any and all as much and as often as you please.

In general, Balboa Park has always been one of my favourite places in the entire world. All the museums are breathtaking, the botanical gardens have a mystical quality rarely replicated, and the park itself is absolutely beautiful. The architecture continually stuns me. So when it's all covered in bright lights and tinsels and stars...it's pretty much my own personal heaven.

I went first in 2004, and returned last night for the first time and I'm glad to report that it is every bit as awesome as it was the first time (and a lot more crowded). One of my favourite parts has to be the opening ceremonies...the speeches are boring, but the singing Elf choir is spectacular. The Elf Choir (I should probably find out the real name of the choir....hold please as I Google.) is comprised of a bunch of elderly men, and their voices are pretty damn amazing. Plus, they tell cheesy jokes and dance. Who could want more than that?! (Thank you, Google: the Elf choir is the Sun Harbor Chorus.)

Because of the open museums, I went into the Museum of Art, which was pretty damn cool.san diego museum of art Pictures, Images and Photos

I'm not generally a fan of Asian-inspired art, but I did enjoy their exhibit of Oceanic (specializing in art from the Pacific Islands) and Asian art. It's pretty stunning seeing original Picasso works and walking upstairs to see an original Monet (one of my favourite artists!), then walking across the entryway into the Italian Renaissance room (my favourite kind of art). And, there was another choir inside the Impressionist room singing traditional hymns and songs (hmmm...should Google again...hold please). We missed over half the museum, but I definitely want to make my way back there again. I even think it is worth it to pay the entry price. (Thank you, Google, Part 2: the choir is Pacific Camerata.)

I feel the need to add a special shout out to the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center, whose Interactive Science exhibit is the coolest place EVER. Totally worth it to spend over an hour in that room, and we didn't even get to hit all the experiments! Really, who could ask for more than experiments you're allowed to touch and play with and move?

It only goes on for 2 days (the celebrations and vendors, that is...the rest of the month has all the decorations), but there is no question to me why so many people make it out to December Nights. It's free AND fun.


Best of '09 Blog Challenge: Night Out

Best of 2009 Blog Challenge, Day 5: Night Out

2009 was a big year for me in the fact that I actually went out with my friends. The first part of the year was devoted to the Italians, and I attempted to keep up with that wave when they left. I was doing pretty well until I moved back with my parents, but I'm ok with that. I've had many a night out that was memorable for so many reasons, and as much as I love me my Italians, the most memorable of 2009 has to be one of the nights with the girls.

Photos don't exist of it, sorry...mostly because a lot of us are trying our best to forget it.

It was early June, and myself and 3 of my best girl friends from high school decided to go out downtown to celebrate one of our birthdays. We'll call the birthday girl K, R will be the girl whose house we were staying at, S will be the driver, and E will be the roommate of R. Got it? Good.

So, K's birthday. We started out pretty damn well, bar hopping and having a grand ol' time. We hit up Double Deuce, the most awesome country bar in Downtown San Diego that does actually have a mechanical bull. So much fun, so many good stories, lots of dancing and some drinks were going around. Me, K and S weren't drinking much (as we never do), and R and E were drinking their share, our share, and more (as they always do). We decide it's late enough, we're good, it's time to head home and continue our party there.

Now, R/E do not live in the um...safest...of parts. It's not like we were getting shot at at every stop light, but it's not somewhere 5 girls all gussied up should be at by themselves. We're driving home, no more than 1/3 of a mile from the house, and...BAM.

We hit a curb. I can't even explain how S hit it because...well...there are a lot of factors that shouldn't even have been, but she hit it. And somehow managed to pop both her right-side tires, break her front axle, and fuck up the alignment on her car. Here we are, 5 girls in dresses and heels on an unlit stretch of road in a bad spot, 2 of whom are drunk as a skunk, 1 is crying her eyes out trying to get to insurance, and the last 2 are lost about what to do.

It's not a good memory. There was a lot of fighting and yelling and crying that night between certain pairs of the girls, and it resulted in one friendship that will never, ever be repaired. But it is definitely the most memorable, since we were accosted by a group of asian guys in a rice rocket trying to pick us up on the side of the street, who then threw something at our windows (effectively cracking it and messing up the mechanism) when we turned them down. There was also a cop involved.

We're all fine in the sense of health and sanity (or at least restored to what we were), and most of us look back on the night and laugh at the absurdity of what happened. But its deeeeefinitely something I will always think of with this year.


Best of '09 Blog Challenge: Book

Friday, December 4, 2009

Best of 2009 Blog Challenge, Day 4: Book

The book that stands out to me most this year is See Jane Write: A Girl's Guide to Writing Chick Lit. I'm not a big fan of non-fiction usually, and I rarely ever read books giving advice--much less advice on writing. I've always been a big believer in trusting your own instincts. As long as you are an avid reader of the genre you are attempting to write in, then I feel as though you can tell what will and will not work.

But I was recommended this book by several people, so I thought it couldn't hurt. And while I'm not turned onto reading non-fiction or advice books, I thoroughly enjoyed this one. I loved the idea of a chick lit author and editor writing it together. It's like having two opposing views that are actually working towards the same thing. It was a cutesy style that was enjoyable and actually helpful at the same time. I also enjoyed the graphs and visual ways they gave advice as to how to write a typical chick lit book. It was interesting to see things laid out that way. I'm not necessarily a visual writer, but it always helps to have visual graphics to enhance the words.

Probably the biggest help in the book was the list of chick lit books and authors provided in the back, whether it was plain recommendation or an example/contributor to the content of See Jane Write. I'd read about half of the books on the list, but it definitely made me think towards the style and order in which things were written.

So, the way that it changed me was actually that it made me doubt that I wanted to write a chick lit novel for NaNoWriMo! Interesting influence, I know, but it's how it happened. It kind of made me see what exactly chick lit was and what goes into it. While I always knew what it entailed since I read that genre most often, I also got to see the "superficial" ways of the writing and the little tricks to it (gay best friend? Yep). One day I may attempt it, but my writing vernacular is not up to the task today.

I know it's kind of weird that the book most memorable to me in 2009 is one that actually turned me off from it's subject, but I guess that's how it made me remember it. Likewise to all who told me, I definitely recommend for anyone considering chick lit.


Best of '09 Blog Challenge: Article

Best of 2009 Blog Challenge, Day 3: Article

Since this year was the year I finished college as a journalism major, I was exposed to a shit-ton of articles. Yeah, that's definitely a real measurement: shit-ton. I don't think I could choose a single one that impacted me...I have an entire 10-inch deep drawer filled with all the articles that I found to be worthy of keeping, and that doesn't count the online articles I archived into my hard drive. So, again, I'm going to have to change the prompt a bit (am I really following this Blog Challenge if I keep changing the prompt? Hmm...) and choose a writer. His articles have consistently meant something to me. To be fair, he as a writer has affected me well before this year (since the year 2006 actually), but every month when I read his stuff I'm constantly surprised how much I love it.

My best of 2009 articles are by: Mike Sager.

For those that know me, this is no surprise. I've loved his writing from the moment I read my first of his pieces in a random Esquire I'd picked up when I was still in high school--at the time, I paid no attention to the writer. The article wasn't about anything mind-blowing or life-changing--in fact, it was about Diane Lane--but I remember that something about his writing style stuck with me. When my first journalism teacher in college made us read one of his pieces ("The Man of Tomorrow Goes To the Prom"), it clicked who he was to me. And then when I found out he was a guest teacher at my college once a quarter every year, i knew i had to have him. I just knew. To make a much longer story short...his class saved my life. He renewed my love for the craft, he helped me grow as a writer, he inspired me to continue on with it. If I hadn't done his class, there's a good chance I would have transferred away from UCI as I'd been planning. Sager encouraged me at a time I had no hope for myself.

Sager is a Writer-At-Large for Esquire and currently has out 3 "compilation" books and one fiction novel. Every month, I pick up Esquire just to search for his writing and make sure I read it. I do own all of his stuff, though I can say I've only completed 2 of the 3 compilation books and half the fiction novel. Good a writer as he is, I couldn't get into his fiction because it's not my style or normal content. I still can see his talent in it, though.

There's something about his journalism style that speaks to me. I know it down to the detail because of his class (and won't "reveal" it here), but how he writes conveys just the right emotion and detail to make you become involved but not attached. It's a weird balance where you care so deeply about a subject you had zero previous care about, but can still step away from it.

I don't even know what to recommend since I love it all. I enjoyed the article about his name and the people who share it, and I will always remember his profile on Bobby Jindal. Really, just click this and you can browse all of his work for Esquire. I even recommend his website, because he has tips for writers and editors.


Best of '09 Blog Challenge: Trip

Thursday, December 3, 2009

(catch up post)

Best of 2009 Blog Challenge, Day 1: Trip!
There is no doubt in my mind what the best trip of 2009 was, because it is possibly the best trip I've ever done in my entire 22 year old life.

The Utah trip. 11 Italian exchange students, 3 americans, 1 French Exchange student, and 1 Japanese Exchange Student. All of us road tripped Memorial Day Weekend to Utah (a friend has a farm there), and we visited the 4 Corners, Zion National Park, Lake Powell, Monument Valley, Arches National Park, and Antelope Canyon.

First of all, the landscape was absolutely breathtaking. And I actually mean that, at times none of us could catch our breath because we couldn't believe things like this actually existed.

Monument Valley

Lake Powell. Click for credit.

Zion waterfall
Zion National Park

Zion and Monument Valley pictures have not been doctored in any sort of way, they are straight from the camera. I can't say for the Lake Powell one because my photos are on a separate computer and that was taken from a website, but I can assure you that even if it is doctored, Lake Powell really does look like that. Vibrancy and all.

In the Zion photo, please note the people in the bottom left hand so you can get the scale of what we were hiking in and being around. At the top you can see the faint beginnings of one of the waterfalls there -- since it was a dry day, the waterfall wasn't that big but we were walking behind it.

Bigger than the grandiose setting we were in, this trip was the absolute best thing for me to go on in that time of my life. Perfect timing. It was the last few months of my college career with my closest friends at the time to places I had never been. It is one of the few times in my life where I was honestly, truly "in the moment" and completely carefree. Even though that trip resulted in several missed classes; my first missed journalism deadline ever; fights, bruises, and cuts; and a renewed wanderlust, my life is different because of it. The things I saw, choices I made, feelings I felt have impacted me forever.

And even though my relationship has changed with most of the people on that trip, every single one of them means something to me and plays a major part in who I am today. I'm never going to forget the exhilaration and meaning from this trip.

Zion National Park
(+1 more boy, he wasn't present at Zion with us.)
We were on a ledge, hanging over one of the many valleys in Zion. You can't see the sign that we're behind that reads "Danger Beyond This Point."


Best of '09 Blog Challenge: Restaurants

(Catch up post)

I'm 2 (or 3) days late on The Best of 2009 Blog Challenge (which I found through Ali, an old UCI Literary Journalism buddy), but I thought it sounded interesting and might add something fresh to this ol' blog here, rather than my monotone topics. I considered just entering in from Day 3, but I realized it was just because I didn't necessarily want to do the first two. I have rationalized that if I'm going to do this, I may as well do it all! So, in an attempt to catch up:

Day 2 - Restaurant moment!

I have to be honest and say that I just don't go out to eat much. I mean, I do, but I keep it to quick trips to the fast food joint or a standard dinner with a few friends. If you know how picky I am with food, you understand why I don't add much variety. I wish I could be much more original or hit you with some local, unknown piece of culinary gold...but I can't. Because of this, I decided to change the prompt of "restaurant moment" to "restaurant" because I just don't have many moments in restaurants.

So! Best one for me: Lucille's Barbecue!(hey, this is the actual one I go to! Click picture for credit.)

Yeah, I know, chain restaurant, BBQ, unoriginal. But seriously, some of the best memories are here. The food is actually damn good, and it's one of the few places I will choke down a vegetable. I highly recommend the grilled chicken BBQ sandwich and the pulled pork--though really, I've never heard anyone be unhappy with their meal from there. Even all 3 of their standard BBQ sauces are top notch, and I don't like to add extra sauces and dips to my meals.

What seriously clinches it though, aside from the stellar BBQ, honourable food, swell atmosphere, nice employees, and talented entertainment in the corner of the bar room on certain days, is the apple butter.
(If I were to say I'm drooling right now, would you think I'm lying? Click for credit.)

I can't even describe how effing good this apple butter is. It's not an overpowering flavor, it's not a heavy, disgusting butter texture. It's just good. I don't like biscuits, but I damn well eat them at Lucille's because that means I get to eat the apple butter, too.

And if that doesn't convince you, here are 2 other reasons it's pretty good:
1) Kobe Bryant eats there. No, really, he was there when I was there. I was in the waiting area with him and his family and friends, and then we ate at the table right next to the roped off room they gave him. I don't actually care about him, but I'm told others do.
2) There are Tootsie Pops for the taking upon your exit. Who doesn't want a free lolly?


Blog Title change!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Man, I am a blogging machine! Really it's because I can't do one thing all at once, I feel the need to spread it all out and clog everyone's Google Reader with my posts. :)

So, I changed the title of my blog. It happened as I was searching for the perfect Christmas banner at the top of my site--the current one is a placeholder until I remember to transfer Photoshop over onto this new laptop and can make a proper one.

Anyway, as I was searching for an image from A Charlie Brown Christmas, it struck me that "This Is Not A Love Story" does not fit it at all. And I realized...I don't think that's the tone I want to set for this blog. I know that not everyone will understand "You're the Charlie Browniest" if they're not familiar with the Peanuts comic strip, but I think this one holds well. It may not be the best, and he may be kind of a sad, loser kid in the most endearing way possible...but he always holds out hope for that Christmas card, or the curly red-haired girl to talk to him, or that bitch Lucy to hold the football in place.

Normally I frown upon changes so major in a blog, but because this is still relatively new and really only like 5 people read this anyway, it's not a big deal. I'm still searching for a better blog description since this one makes me sound obnoxious, but that's ok. Baby steps.

And with the new blog title comes a new color scheme! Yaaaaay!


Christmas Time is Here...

I was bothered that my last entry was so negative and mean, so I thought I'd add a bright, cheery one on top of it.

Exactly 24 days until Christmas! I cannot believe that. Where the hell did all my time go?! It feels like just yesterday I was living in my Irvine apartment, being like ptsh i have all the time in the world to find a job, it's cool. Yeah, that's not true. Time is a-tickin' for sure.

So, come Thursday morning, all our Christmas boxes will be taken in from the garage and my house gets to be my canvas. And...ok, I'm a pretty over the top person. It may not seem like it, but to completely bastardize a line I heard in a TV show, everything I love I love too much. And Christmas is something I absolutely, totally, 100% adore. So I take care of EVERYTHING decoration and Christmas in my house. I set up the regular tree and put up the stockings and garlands and line the windows with the shimmer garland and hang the wreath and put the Christmas ribbon on various things in bathrooms to bring Christmas cheer to every room and put fake poinsettias in objects that are not for flowers (real or fake) and place the mini-wreaths on door handles and set down the Christmas floormats and the holiday tablecloth/tablerunner and
(deep breathe)
put up the M&M themed mini-tree and the non-themed mini-tree and the present-themed mini tree -- and this year I will be adding my own personal 2' mini mini penguin-themed tree -- and bake holiday cookies/sweets and coordinate all the giftings between my immediate family, my friends, and my extended families and i wrap every single gift (boxed, wrapped, sometimes double wrapped, always ribbon-ed) and write out Christmas cards to tons of people and set out the holiday figurines and conveniently place all 50+ of our Christmas CDs at the top of the CD case pile.

Seriously, if I could get a snow-machine in this house, don't even think i'd think twice about it.

It's kind of weird, because this year I was a bit lethargic about everything (I didn't even decide who I was buying gifts for until the drive over to the stores at 4am for Black Friday--usually by the beginning of November I've gotten presents bought already!), but my dad keeps insisting I put everything up and decorate soon. Usually he sits at his computer and bah-humbugs as I annoy him with all my bells and shimmers and curls. This year, he's bugging me to get a move on.


Buuuut not complaining. I am extremely excited for Thursday when I can drown in baubles and bells!


Pet-Peeve 1 of [x]: Not Saying "Thank You" When the Door Is Held Open For You

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Dear asshole who did not say "thank you" when that nice patron held open the door for you,

You're a douchebag. It is not an obligation to hold open a door for someone, but it is good manners. In that same vain, it is polite to say "thank you" when it is done for you. Do not act as though you deserve to have that door opened for you, because quite obviously you do not. You have two very capable hands and feet, as evidenced by the big fat bags of Panera food you carry in your pudgy hands and the feet you walked through the door on. If you have enough time to come into Panera during the end of the lunch rush, you certainly have enough time to say a measly show of gratitude to someone nice enough to extend manners to you.

In conclusion, you're a big fat ungrateful blowhard.

Hoping a door hits you on the ass,

Dear every other person I have seen come into Panera today,

Thank you for being considerate enough to hold open doors for other people, or say thank you to those who have done this nice deed for you. It is very heartwarming to see that manners do, in fact, still exist somewhere. A special shout-out to the man who held the door open for the stream of 6 people, as well as the three straggling women who were still crossing the street while you were at the door. I especially loved when you were leaving and let the door fall, only to quickly glance behind you and dash back to the door to hold it open for the two women leaving who were carrying baby carriers. I hope you have a merry holiday, and only wish I could have given you something for being such a well-mannered man. If there is a next time I see you, I promise to buy you a bagel.

With love and affection,



Monday, November 30, 2009

Final count: 52,134


Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Yaaay Turkey day! Can I just say how effing adorable the Google logo is for the day?! Anything with Peanuts will win my heart. Except actual food peanuts--then I'll just vomit.

Seeing as how I probably won't be able to post tomorrow or Friday due to the festivities of food and finding fabulous fashions (I was trying to stick with the "f" alliteration, but that was a big fat fail on trying to phrase "Black Friday"), I thought I'd do it now. Because I'm cliche like this, I'm going to do a list of things I am thankful for.

BUT. It will not include friends or family because you all know that's a given.

So, without further ado: What Ashley Is Thankful For Right At This Moment (including but not limited to)
- John Mayer's Battle Studies album, which is providing the soundtrack to this list.
- John Mayer's Continuum, because it's one of my favourite albums ever.
- John Mayer. I'll just stick with that.
- awkward conversations overheard at Coffee Bean
- the laptop I'm currently working on, because it allows me to blog, work on my NaNo, stay connected through the internet, and generally waste my time.
- my passion for writing. life isn't on the uphill right now, but the writing will always keep me steady.
- Neil Patrick Harris (because if John Mayer can be on this list, so can NPH)
- my car, which puts up with my breakneck speeds and terrible voice as I belt it out like Whitney (circa 1985-1992).
- lolcats
- my health. Even though i have an irritated stomach on Thanksgiving, cramps from hell, a bruised and possibly broken pinky finger, bad ankles, a weak knee, and stiff shoulders...I'm still here.
- Google and all programs therewithin, though most notably gmail, google voice, google wave, google reader, google books, and google documents.
- NaNoWriMo, for its discipline, opportunity, stress, self-doubt, torture, insanity, and conversation starting abilities.
- Peppermint mochas from Starbucks
- Hazelnut ice blendeds from Coffee Bean
- Panera, though mostly the one my brother works at because all the employees, managers, managers in training, trainers, and assistant managers love me and allow me to abuse my sisterly-privileges.
- JJB, my faithful messageboard. You have been with me longer than most of my friends. I'm going to pretend that is way less sad than it sounds.
- Automatic spellcheck on my computer, which alerts me with a red squiggly line and makes me appear much smarter than I really am.
- Glee. HELL YES.
- Snowball, my Christmas-themed teddy bear that I still sleep with.
- iTunes, because it saves how many times a song has been played and I get a weird sense of pride when I see I have played Josh Groban's "My Heart Was Home Again" 1,709 times.
- iTunes again, because it reminds me of my love for *NSYNC when I see I have played "God Must Have Spent" 2, 341 times. And this is only since getting a laptop--imagine how much it has been played before then!
- *NSYNC. I remain loyal and disillusioned, and I wear my Loser tag with pride.
- the movie Love, Actually because nothing can make me happier in an instant.
- I lied. I am thankful for Christmas music.
- Wait, I lied again. I am thankful for Ferrero Rocher candy. Heaven in a hazelnut chocolate ball.
- kleenex, because I just sneezed.
- Harry Potter
- Josh Groban (same reasoning as to NPH, John Mayer)
- My bed, which includes 3 heavy blankets and 4 pillows. Comfort.
- College-ruled paper
- Windows Media Player, for the days I'm irritated with iTunes not wanting to play my music until I update.
- Microsoft Word
- Penguins


About Me

My photo
I'm fairly obsessed with penguins, Peanuts (the comic), and the TV show Friends. Parentheses may or may not be (over)used in this blog, and books will pretty much be the only thing I ever talk about because they are my One True Love.


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Zoe's bookshelf: read

The Dragon's EyeAngelsThe Lightning ThiefThe Man of My DreamsCity of GlassCity of Ashes

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