Friday, July 22, 2016

Animation Block Party Will Satisfy Your Cartoon Cravings

If you love animated films and live in or near New York City, you'll want to check out the 13th annual Animation Block Party. Discover new movies for the young and young-at-heart, creations both local and from abroad, student films, and experimental projects. Then reminisce about your childhood with a look into old animated ads (you know, back when they were almost as good as the shows we were watching) and beloved classics like the Pink Panther, Cowboy Bebop, and the Transformers. Screenings during the four-day event will mainly take place at BAMcinématek in Brooklyn, but there will also be a free outdoor screening at Brookfield Place in lower Manhattan to kick off this year's festival July 28. Cartoon lovers can then gather with other like-minded souls at after-parties taking place Friday and Saturday nights.

For more info, visit or grab this week's issue of Time Out New York with my article on this year's screenings.


Wednesday, July 20, 2016

A Koala Goes on a Cruise

A couple months ago, I mentioned that my friend had begun crocheting cute little animals as part of her daily project for the year. When I saw that she had put a Winnie-the-Pooh up in her Etsy shop, I immediately jumped on it. (Pooh Bear was my absolute favorite character growing up.) Then I saw her little koala and I adopted it for Alex due to an inside joke we developed early on after watching this YouTube video on our first date. She'd named him Toby, by the way.

When we planned for our cruise, Alex had a funny idea. Why don't we bring Toby along and take photos of him "having fun" on this trip? And so I present to you Toby's travel photo album...

Monday, July 18, 2016

A Cruise to the Bahamas + Miami Beach

I’ve never taken a cruise before so when my two friends asked if anyone would like to join them on their trip to the Bahamas, I strongly considered going with them. I asked my friends to see if anybody else wanted to come along, but no one seemed interested. I hesitated because I was also trying to save money, but eventually decided that it might be a good escape.

Alex and I were only a month or two into our relationship when I proposed the idea of him coming with me. It was crazy to go off on this romantic trip to the Bahamas with a man I’d just met, but our courtship up until then had been speedy and crazy already and it still felt good. As nervous as I was about committing to a trip months down the line - I had to take a few inhalations before we booked the cruise and flights - I really wanted to experience this adventure with him. Meanwhile, he didn’t hesitate to say yes when I asked. In fact, he suggested that we add a leg to the trip since we’re both freelancers who can work from anywhere. Didn’t have to ask me twice. We decided to stick around Florida for four more days after the three-night cruise returned to Port Canaveral in Orlando.

I always knew a cruise ship would be huge, but damn. Carnival Magic has fifteen floors of cabin rooms, restaurants, clubs, bars, a waterpark, ropes course, pools, spa and fitness know, in case you want to work off all that food you were eating. And there was so much to eat. You could nosh 24/7 if you wanted to - and there was a good chunk of the population that did - and the amount of choices were beyond comprehension. Breakfast was a variety of eggs, grilled deliciousness, pancakes, waffles, sausages, bacon, fruits and veggies, cereals, breads, potatoes, etc. and etc. When lunchtime came around, platters of sandwiches, salads, hamburgers, soups, sautéed veggies, pasta, desserts appeared. I mean I could go on and on. A self-serve soft-serve ice cream machine was always on hand. It was right next to a burrito bar and a Guy Fieri hamburger joint, which was pretty damn good, I have to say. I just wish they weren’t so damn stingy with the fries. Everything else they give you heaps of, but fries?!

Any who, the main dining area was buffet style: grab a plate and fill up as many times as you’d like. At the “fancier” sit-down restaurants on board, we were seated at a table and waited on by a server. Alex and I aren’t big eaters and seconds were needed at our dinner outings, but the waiters would let us know that the same gluttonous rules applied there. Once, we told our waiter that wouldn’t be having dessert because we didn’t want to be late meeting our friends for drinks afterwards. He looked flabbergasted. Another, told us to just order one of everything on the menu when we couldn’t decide on what treat to share. It’s been three months since we went on that trip and I still wonder why we didn’t feel like stuffing our faces more often. It was, after all, completely paid for by our booking. The whole situation just seemed so excessive.

The cruise made a day-long stop in Nassau on its second day and Alex and I disembarked early for our Bahamian adventure. We didn’t feel like shelling out even more money for this trips so when the masses lined up for their tours at the port or hopped on a taxi to head to the beach, he and I walked two miles along the island’s coast. Downtown Nassau, which contains the wharf where cruise ships dock, was gritty and quiet on that Thursday morning. It almost reminded me of the city center in the Dominican Republic if it were completely devoid of the maddening traffic and crowds. It was good to see this side of Nassau and notice how the landscape changed as we walked closer to the resorts.

With no real plans or route to get to a free public beach, Alex and I decided to crash Atlantis Paradise Island Resort. We could spot the sprawling high-rise hotel in the distance as we crossed over the Sir Sidney Poitier Bridge onto Paradise Island. And beyond that, turquoise sea.

The key was to act like we belonged there. Don’t look lost or confused. Hide your wrists so security can’t note that our guest bands are missing. Chat. Laugh!

That last part wasn’t too hard to manage considering how silly we felt creeping around this resort as if we were staying there. As much as I craved a dip in any of its swimming pools, we couldn’t risk getting found out. When Alex glimpsed a sign pointing towards an aquarium of some sort, we decided to check it out instead of the rope bridge and lazy river we were initially heading towards. We suddenly found ourselves inside a clear tunnel surrounded by marine life swimming around us and above our heads. It was all worth it if only for the fright on Alex’s face when he turned and found a giant sawfish swooping up over him.

We would’ve called that a win for the day, but we decided to push our luck even further and headed towards the resort’s beaches. Dodging security while walking along the shore was a breeze, but we probably needn’t have worried much because we kept spotting the blue towels from fellow cruise mates sunning on Paradise Beach. By this point, we’d already been walking for several hours without sitting down to rest. I really wanted to drop dead on the beach and relax, but Alex wanted to keep plowing through the sand to find a better spot. I was tired, but I’m so glad we continued our search because past that first beach and at the very end of Cove Beach, we found the white sand beach and beautiful waters we’d caught a glimpse of from the bridge earlier in the day. Best part: we practically had the whole stretch to ourselves. There was one other couple nearby, but the sea was all ours.

The water was so clear and calm, you could see schools of little fishes trying to nibble at our legs, which was freaky as f so ran the hell out of there. Eventually we ventured back into the shark-infested waters to splash around and show off my swimming skills. Guys, after three months of swimming lessons, all I can manage to do is swim backwards. What the hell?! I laughed so hard that day, diving under the water, trying to propel myself somehow, hearing Alex laughing up above, and then jumping up for air and launching myself at him for teasing me during such a vulnerable time. He was right though, I couldn’t swim to save my life, but at least he was determined to teach me how.

The whole time I kept thinking, Jesus, this is probably the most romantic trip I’ve ever taken. Waking up each morning to the sound of waves crashing up against the boat. Clinging to his neck and kissing him while we took a dip in the sea. Relaxing on the deck and watching the sunset in front of us as we left the Bahamas. Getting dressed up for dinner. Dancing. Late-night strolls around the ship when no one was around (all those people and it often felt like we were the only two on the boat). Leaning over the railings to the watch the ship’s wake and the moon lighting a path through the Atlantic Ocean. Hours after we first set foot on the ship, we attended a spa tour and entered for their raffle giveaways. Now guess who won their $200 grand prize? According to the others, my face went into shock when I heard them call out our cabin room number followed by my name. Alex had never had a spa treatment before so I instantly booked an hour-long couples massage for the following morning. That was so lovely…

I couldn’t pass by Orlando without visiting a dear cousin I don’t get to see nearly enough. The visit was much too short, but the three of us had a fun time goofing around, exploring downtown Orlando during an Earth Day festival and catching up while watching TV and discussing the merits and pitfalls of online dating.

Alex and I left for Miami Beach the following morning and aside from a stressful rental car experience, I have to say our first road trip was a success and we both walked away unscathed. I was really anxious leading up to it because of past history, but he was so calm and collected even when both our phones were glitching with directions, that it helped ease my worries that we’d find ourselves into a huge argument in the car.

The next three days were spent going to the beach day and night (our Airbnb apartment was right across the street). The ocean was much choppier here, but I was able to make some progress on my swimming technique, and a sandbar allowed us to trek far into the water without going in too deep.

We’d start our day with lunch at corner restaurant Sazón so I could get my fill of Cuban food and Alex could satisfy his coffee addiction with a café con leche so good he was sad to leave Miami and it behind. One night, he drove us into South Beach for dinner and our usual moonlit stroll to sit on the beach and chat. Sometimes we’d just sit there in silence, probably lost in our own thoughts, but happy to have each other’s quiet company.

You can learn a lot from traveling with a partner, including how they handle stressful situations, running around from one activity to another in a foreign setting, socializing with strangers, and, most importantly, seeing your face for days on end. Those cabins on the cruise ship were bigger than I expected, but still very cozy, and we didn’t get on each other’s nerves. We respected one another’s need to slow down for some “me” time during the trip and compromise came easily because we wanted to make sure we were both having a good trip. If someone felt off, feelings were quickly validated, a discussion ensued, and we were able to kiss and move on with the day. My anxieties over whether this adventure was “too much too soon” subsided and I tried to leave behind feelings about the past or concerns about the future by being mindful about where I was at the moment - having the time of my life and getting in so much sunshine and beach time. And it was a cherry on top to get to know my partner better during all of this and share a new experience with him.

How have your past trip with partners gone? And have you ever taken a cruise? This was my first and I think next time around I'd like to spend more time at a destination. This one was much too short!

Friday, July 15, 2016


I've had Ruth B's song "Lost Boy" stuck in my head on and off for the past couple of weeks and it's one of those tunes I don't mind looping through over and over.

"There was a time when I was alone
Nowhere to go and no place to call home
My only friend was the man in the moon
And even sometimes he would go away, too..."

What songs are you listening to these days?

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

So There's This Guy...

When a close friend nudged me to get on OK Cupid last November, I told him I couldn’t be any less interested in dating. After the crap I’d just been through, all I wanted to do was break hearts and burn the world. I was still hurting from the end of such a long, draining relationship and the thought of giving my heart to someone else just seemed like a cruel punishment. I didn’t want to be that vulnerable ever again.

But he persisted and to get him to shut the hell up, I fixed up my account, answered some match questions, posted new photos, and then proceeded to ignore every single message I received. The messages started to become another form of entertainment, to be honest, with most of them being crazy missives from either weirdos who clearly never bothered to read my profile or dudes who were looking for a quick hookup. In the span of two months, there was no one who piqued my interest enough for me to write back. Until Alex sent me a message.

It was a nice, thoughtful, well-written note from a guy who had a great command of the English language and seemed like he had a lot of interesting things going on. I immediately wanted to know more…so, naturally, I freaked the f out.

“What should I do?!” I asked my friends. “What if we chat and he doesn’t like me? Or worse, what if he does like me??”

I was so anxious about finding myself in another relationship just when I was starting to crawl my way out of the last one and feeling happy again. I didn’t want to mess up my process by getting wrapped up in somebody else.

But I just couldn’t resist messaging him anyway.

We spent the next four days sending each other the longest messages on Earth (even my online-dating obsessed friend had his mind blown by the length of our messages). We told each other everything: past relationships, current situations, about our families, goals, creative pursuits, love of travel, his childhood in Holland, and our shared wish to leave New York City someday. I found myself eagerly awaiting his witty messages every day and learning more about this stranger.

But then he wanted to meet and it was back to freaking out. It was easy to open up when there was a screen and distance protecting me from him. Maybe I was only good on paper and photos. Maybe he’d find me totally lame and too silly. I kept looking at his pictures, which weren’t exactly the clearest, and wondering if he’d turn out to be cute or not. My friends kept saying yes, but I just wasn’t so sure. There was only one way to find out and, as he said, after all we’d shared with one another, it’d be better if we met sooner rather than later. I swallowed my nerves and said yes to his invitation.

We met at a coffee shop during the craziest blizzard of the year on January 23. I ran into the warm shop, dwarfed by my furry coat and giant scarf completely covered in snow, shook the flurries off my face and looked around. He was sitting right by the entrance, laughing at the sight I must have been.

First thoughts: “Holy crap he is cute!” and “Thank God I wasn’t catfished.”

People, we ended up having a nine-hour-long date that day. Putting aside the alarms that probably should have gone off before inviting this guy back to my place after the coffee shop closed shortly after our meeting due to the storm, it was an amazing time. We spent the day chatting about our lives and watching animal videos on YouTube. When I offered him little marshmallows for a snack, he joked that we could make teeny roasted marshmallows. Why stop there though? Soon we were putting little marshmallows on toothpicks, roasting them over tea lights on my coffee table, and cracking bits of graham crackers and chocolate coins for tiny s’mores. Tiny s’mores! Needless to say, I was smitten. We had our first kiss at my front door before he left for the night.

The first weeks were a mix of *whoosh* “This feels so nice!” and “Oh no! But maybe it’s too good too soon?” He’d jumped in with both feet and deactivated his online profile as soon as he met me. Meanwhile, I was navigating my anxieties over realizing that I still had the ability to fall for someone again.

I’ve always loved doing romantic gestures and I’m slowly learning that it’s not stupid or selfish to want the same in return. When he emailed me a love poem that was so on point with our budding relationship, I thanked him and thought wow, that’s incredibly sweet of him to wake me up with this. Then he told me he wrote the poem and I think my mind went *poof* I just didn’t know how to respond.

For Valentine’s Day, he searched and searched until he found a bouquet of roses in the same dark purple shade he referenced in that poem, along with chocolates, a handwritten card, and a tiny bear. Neither one of us takes Valentine's Day super seriously, but it was nice to have someone who wanted to buy into the cheesiness anyway. One night, around midnight, he said he wanted to go for a walk around his neighborhood after a long day of work. “Bring your headphones,” he told me. When we reached this garden/park I never even knew existed alongside the East River, he plugged a headphone splitter into his phone so we could each listen to a playlist he’d created just for us while we strolled through the park. I kept squeezing his hand the whole time. I thought this stuff only happened in movies.

As a sensitive guy himself, he doesn’t make me feel dumb or self-conscious if I get emotional. He validates my feelings and helps me reinforce whatever I’m learning in therapy. I so appreciate him being interested and invested in this part of my life since right now it’s a huge focus of mine. He’s a freelance programmer and we’re both impressed with each other’s ability to successfully work from home all the while pursuing other creative ambitions. When he’s not honing his carpentry skills by building a floor-to-ceiling tall workstation or a new bed, he’s teaching himself how to tailor and make his own clothes from scratch. If he’s not zipping around the city on his bicycle, he’s hopping on his motorcycle to go spend quality time with his family every week.

I've always been skeptical of online dating sites because I felt like it took the magic out of finding someone special. I thought it'd be more romantic to stumble into someone on the street or look up from your laptop at a coffee shop, lock eyes, and have the stars align or something. Turns out you can turn anything into a sweet story if you try.

One thing that apparently didn't come across in my kick ass profile is how cuddly and silly I can be. Thankfully, it's not only been well-received, but also totally matched.

Monday, June 20, 2016

National Stationery Show 2016 Recap

The National Stationery Show was back in New York City last month and I decided to suck up whatever residual shame I felt over pulling out of last year’s show and go say hi to my paper peeps. The future of Porcupine Hugs is still a question mark at the moment especially now that my freelance writing has kicked into high gear, but I still do enjoy being around so much creativity, talent, and pretty paper. Below, a few of the goodies that caught my eye this year.

1. My Etsy NY teamies had a booth at NSS this year! Doo Daa Studio, Angie Colombo Jewelry, Bugged Out, Soluna Soluna, Black Lamb were doing their thing in this year's debut booth. | 2. Free lemonade (and a look through their felt party decor) courtesy of Maypole. | 3. I know friends who'd be perfect for each of these Sapling Press mugs. | 4. More snarky magnets from Sapling Press. | 5. Katie of Idlewild Co. turned her painted patterns into this beautiful wallpaper for her booth. | 6. This Cherry Blossom Calendar by Brooklyn-based Quick Brown Fox Letterpress show the passage of time via these sweet letterpressed illustrations. | 7. I hosted Lark + Raven at my place last year when she was preparing to debut at her first NSS. Now look at her, killing it in year two! | 8. Pretty wrapping paper from Paula & Waffle, another sweet friend I made while preparing for last year's show. | 9. Letterpress + rose gold foil = satisfied bridezillas thanks to Kiss and Punch.

10. Congrats to the totally awesome Wild Ink Press on their Louie Award. This veteran has been exhibiting at NSS since 2011...right when I first started walking the show. | 11. Another second-year exhibitor, Canadian Sea + Lake Paper Co. showcased her style by painting them right onto her booth wall. | 12. New pencils by Offensive + Delightful for those who really just don't give a fuck. | 13. More colorful words from Offensive + Delightful. | 14. This year, Paper Lovely transformed into Ramona & Ruth, but Kim's style is still as sweet and delicate as ever. | 15. Each month of Made in Brockton Village's 2017 calendar features a gouache-painted cityscape and words from a literary writer describing that place. | 16. So many cute love and friendship cards from personal fave Fugu Fugu Press. That hug card in the middle is giving me the feels. | 17. Albertine Press press caught my eye with her chalkboard wall with a map of the U.S. showcasing their collection of city postcards. | 18. Mr. Boddington's Studio also pulled me in with their new city art prints.

19. Gold foil, color, and stars from LaLa Grace. | 20. This year's gold foil obsession continues... Gorgeous hand painted notebook covers paired with a bit of shine from Our Heiday. | 21. Mixed media cards made from cotton linters left over from the textile industry from fellow Oh My! Handmade Goodness creative Colleen Attara. | 22. Precious watercolored critters from Chic + Nawdie. | 23. Stuffed softies from fellow Etsy NY teammate Jumping Birds. | 24. Congrats to Paper Bandit Press on their Louie Awards (they're basically the Oscars of the greeting card industry)! "I love you more than Madonna loves pretending to be British." | 25. Fun new gift bags from Emily McDowell. Who else gets around the problem on that first bag by buying yourself a little sumthin' sumthin' when you go shopping for others? One for me, one for you... | 26. Sloth (!) art print from Pickle Punch. There were so many wonderful animals on her booth walls it was difficult to choose just one. | 27. I need these empowerment cards and art prints from Dayna Lee Collection wallpapered around my desk. "Push through the negative things you've been telling yourself for far too long. You are amazing and deserving of all you desire. Believe in yourself because you're believed in."

28. Foreignspell hand carves each stamp and then uses them to create her greetings, textiles, and wooden art prints. | 29. For the new P+C Poolside collection, Foreignspell teamed up with Chill Pins to add a little swag to these cards. | 30. Those cheeky Crassholes know how to get a party started with their pro foul balloons. | 31. Receiving this card by Everyday Valentine might be grounds for a breakup. #freelancelife | 32. I think Violet Clair should've included breakfast sandwiches as her giveaway because I could have totally gone for a bacon and egg sandwich after walking the show all day. | 33. That's a wrap on this year's National Stationery Show recap! It was so nice seeing my paper peeps while they were in town and can't wait to see them again next year. (Sign by Printable Wisdom)

Monday, May 30, 2016

What's In a Name?

Growing up with a name like Dorkys hasn’t exactly been fun times. Quite frankly, it sucked. Kids can be cruel little punks and will tease and torture their classmates just for the sake of either feeling superior or like they’re part of the cooler crowd. And with a name like mine, I was just begging for others to make fun of me. The first days of school made my stomach hurt because I just knew that a) my new teacher would butcher my name and b) my new classmates would start giggling at the idea somebody could actually have such a name. I still get anxious when I meet new people because I just don’t know how they’ll respond. It seems that becoming an adult does nothing for the naturally immature.

Last week, I wrote an essay on learning to accept my weird name after discovering its roots and although I would’ve preferred a more conventional name over mine, being named Dorkys has come with its special set of benefits.

Did you ever get teased for your name? And if it still happens please share because it’d be nice to know that I’m not the only one dealing with some ignorant fools.

Friday, May 27, 2016

{Happy Friday} I'm Trying to Make It So

Today has been anything but a thrilling Friday after an all-nighter spent in the emergency room (not for me) and then a botched MRI attempt (for me) this afternoon. I'm wiped out, but trying to find little things to make me smile before the beginning of our three-day weekend. Any fun plans for the coming days? I'm kicking mine off by snuggling on the couch and watching my favorite childhood movie, Anastasia. Below, a few more bits that have been lifting my mood this week.

The wiggle is too powerful.

Kwabena Foli's poetry Tumblr.

True facts about marsupials.

Poetry rains down on Boston.

Do you have an Instagram husband? (Don't lie.)

A poignant comic explaining heartbreak and healing.

A site that offers delicious menus and how to make them really cheaply.

In January, I took on a #366project on Instagram and have been sharing my calligraphy (almost) every day. I've also been writing a bit more and just landed my own weekly column yesterday! I'll be publishing personal essays and my thoughts on relationships, sex, issues that pertain to Latinas and women in general. In the past months, I've shared my mental health journey and learning to love my naked body.

By the way, I have some talented friends that you all should check out. There's my friend Danny, who years ago read a poem that was seared into my brain, moved to Portland last year, and has since been writing up a flurry of wonderful words. There's sweet and self-deprecating Cassidy who mesmerizes me with her songs. And my friend Ky has also taken on a #366project of her own by crocheting miniature creatures and has started putting them in her Etsy shop.

Enjoy your weekend!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Sass and Strum

Last fall, I mentioned that I had taken on a few new hobbies to get me into the swing of focusing on me. I took swimming lessons for the summer and signed up for ballet and guitar in the fall. I spent months running from one class to another and there was rarely a day where I had absolutely nothing going on for the entire day. It grew to be exhausting after a while, but it served it's purpose: to get out of the house and slowly crawl out of my depression. It was a joy to meet others and, even if it only lasted an hour or so, to forget about the mess that my life was at the moment.

I was thrilled when my family and friends came to see me at my first ballet performance in December. (Our choreography was set to the music from the Spanish dance in Swan Lake.) I walked out wishing I had done a better job than I did, but had to remind myself that I was a total newbie and had accomplished so much after just six week's worth of practice. A couple weeks before the dance recital, I concluded the end of my first guitar course at the New York City Guitar School. My classmates and I chose Jason Mraz's "I'm Yours" for the required performance held on our final class and even though I love that song, I wanted to throw up on myself all day. The idea of singing AND making sure I got the chords right AND doing this in front of strangers just made me sick. Thankfully, those jitters gave way once my bandmates and I started jamming and it was all over too quickly.

I have to admit that those fun activities have fallen to the wayside since then. I took the guitar course that followed, but without the people I'd connected with in the previous class, I quickly lost interest. That and I was officially tired from taking on too many distractions and not resting enough (I was sick on and off for a good chunk of four months). I clearly overdid it, but I still miss learning fun, new skills. I did get some swimming lessons in when my boyfriend (!) and I took a cruise to the Bahamas with friends last month and then added a second leg to our trip with a stay in Miami. (Yes, I'll tell you all about it soonest!) In the interest of saving money, I stopped attending ballet class and instead took a few television production courses that were all free of charge via the local public access station. As for guitar, I still dream of getting my own instrument and plucking away at those strings with the help of YouTube videos and the talented musicians I get to call friends.