Friday, December 31, 2010

A Happy New Year to You

I hope 2011 brings in much laughter and goodies for us all. I must say 2010 was pretty damn good to me: I learned quite a bit about myself, fell in love again, traveled more than ever before (to nine different places, yeesh!), made it through my freelancing/unemployed stint and just got a chance to chill out and play. So I hope the new year improves on that and I can't wait to see what happens next. It means so much that you've followed along with my random adventures for yet another year so here's to more magic in the future. Stay awesome :)


Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Escape from L.A.

Something always happens when A. and I take to the road. We made our early morning flight with plenty of time to spare so this time it wasn't the commute. He spent most of the flight trying to sleep (unsuccessfully) while I entertained myself with way too many bridal shows on TLC. No matter, I was excited for our trip and to see his family again. It was all smiles until we reached his home.

Shortly after getting the grand tour of the house, laughing and giggly from our arrival, I received a call from my sister. Our grandfather who'd been incredibly sick and frail had passed away an hour before I landed on Christmas Eve. I went from joyful to inconsolable in seconds. My mom and the rest of the family were dealing with it, she said. It was only a matter of time before he left us, we just hoped he'd have more time. I love A. and his family, but I felt so terrible about not being there with my mother as she grieved for her dad. Thankfully A. was right by my side comforting me and his family was supportive despite my fear of raining on their Christmas. I just needed some time and distractions to get through it, but every time I received an update from home, I'd start crying all over again. And still, I didn't not want to receive updates.

I wasn't really close to my grandfather. He was a busy man who spent most of his time in the Dominican Republic and with 11 children that all had at least two kids, I'm sure he had a hard time remembering who most of us were. Still, I cried for his children, for my mom especially, and for the simple fact that I've now lost all my grandparents and I'd never developed a special relationship with any of them.

I can't say enough sweet things about this family. They've embraced me from the moment we met and thanks to them, my Christmas was beyond wonderful. Tears were still involved on Christmas morning, but at least I was crying tears of joy that day. I was blown away by the gifts I received (like a much-needed hat and scarf, notebooks, sexy/skimpy bathing suits and even a Wacom pen tablet for my computer) and could barely sit still when it came time for them to open their presents. A. had given me his gift earlier in the month (a pretty pea coat) and I surprised him with a Lakers jersey on Christmas day.

Afterward we had a family breakfast, bonding time and watched basketball while A. and his sister built a playpen for their older sister's baby. That was so cute to watch, by the way. They cannot wait for their nephew to arrive and even though she's due in two weeks (on my bday), no one thinks she'll last that long. That night, the fam went out to the movies to catch True Grit (really good, by the way) and ended out the night with dinner and drinks at TGI Friday's.

For our last day in town, we headed to a ranch to ride A.'s older sister's horses. I loved when Anonymous and I went horseback riding in DR last year and I couldn't wait to try it again only this time without some 13-year-old guide riding with me. Even though I'm still feeling the effects of our hour-long ride, the experience of handling a horse on my own and marveling at the mountains in the distance on a beautiful sunny day were absolutely worth it.
The weather in NYC, on the other hand, was far from perfect. Our biggest worry throughout the trip was whether the northeast's impending snowfall would affect our flight back home on Monday morning. Yesterday.

I should tell you now that I'm still in L.A. as I write this.

Twenty inches of snow fell in the city, 6,000 flights around the country were canceled, 2,000 in the NYC area alone...ours included. Luckily we were alerted Sunday night so were able to figure out a Plan B. Unfortunately, Plan B doesn't have us getting home til Thursday, but what can we do? Well I mean other than spend more time with the family, enjoy the beautiful weather and thank our lucky stars we don't have to deal with snow and slush for a few more days. "Why can't we be stuck in like the Bahamas?" A. asked before we fell asleep on Sunday night. You know what? Compared to NYC, this right here is pretty damn close to paradise. And who knows, maybe we'll welcome a baby before we leave.

Images: photos of horseback riding courtesy of Michael-Ann Gonsalves

Friday, December 24, 2010

Spotlight: The Holiday Shops at Bryant Park

Every holiday season, Bryant Park becomes a small wonderland filled with artisan boutiques surrounding the skating rink. So if you still need a last minute gift for your family and friends, The Holiday Shops at Bryant Park is a fun marketplace to meander through. (P.S. While you're there, pass by No Chewing Allowed for free French truffle samples and Vegetarian Oasis for a yummy black bean burrito.) There are more than 125 shops to peek into and I wish they all had websites, but alas, I won't be able to show you the cute animal knitted hats and earmuffs Wild Kingdom has to sell. Below are some picks from the other shops that caught my eye on a recent afternoon stroll.

1. Music Sheet Mighty Wallet by Dynomighty Design; 2. Tiny Double Drop Leaf Necklace; 3. Reminder Bow Ring; 4. Delicate Square Necklace all by By Boe; 5. Her Escape travel gift set by Sabon; 6. Tea for Two by Shinzi Katoh Design (found in J-Wave shop); 7. Rosie Cheeks Tootsie Owl Green bag by Nahui Ollin.

Already done with your holiday shopping? Then pop on over and find something for yourself. The Holiday Shops at Bryant Park are open through January 2nd. Happy holidays!

Images: all from linked sources

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Snippets and Thoughts

It's cold, guys. So cold it hurts. All I can think about on my walk home is:
1. I'm mad it's this cold. It's like being assaulted by an invisible ninja every time you go out.
2. Maybe I should buy some earmuffs. Or at least a hat. Yeah, a hat would be nice. One of those cute ones with the little ears...
3. I can't believe I felt the holidays wouldn't be the same without NYC's snowy weather. Screw that! I cannot WAIT to be in L.A. for Christmas.

And before you ask, no, I haven't started packing yet.

I was feeling incredibly anxious today and all I could think about was drawing a nice, hot bubble bath, lighting some candles and listening to my Adele CD before bed. Instead, I've been here doing randomness on the computer when I should be cleaning and packing. I just know I'm going to leave something behind-

Wow, some lady is going BONKERS on her kids again. I wonder how they'll turn out 20 years from now :/

Oh by the way, did I ever tell you that card design class finished a couple weeks ago? Yup, all done. Now I have to draw from my own motivation and willpower to keep me going and let me tell you, it's been TOUGH. Not on the desire side, but with staying positive when things simply refuse to come out as you envisioned. I think I'll start with a new printer.

Thanks to Kottke, I stumbled upon Kevin Smith's advice on being successful doing what you love. The man had some interesting thoughts to dish out, so I'll leave you with this quote:

The secret to a successful life is hardly a secret; it requires you to be 

self-centered as all f--k, is all. So long as it’s not at the expense of others, make yourself the center of your universe. You only get to do this ONCE, so try to take as much stress out of the process as you can.

Aaand breathe...

Three more days 'til Christmas :)

Image: (via

Minimalist Muppets Art Print

I was never much of a Muppet fan (LOVED the Muppet Babies though!), but this simple, modern portrait of the characters caught my eye. Can you identify them all 'cause I sure can't. (via ohdeedoh)


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Tiny Gingerbread Houses...

That perch neatly on the edge of your mug of hot cocoa. Imagine waking up to this on Christmas morning.


Lunar Eclipse Photos

Last December it was a blue moon and this year it was a lunar eclipse on the winter solstice. And did I catch any of them? Nope! (*womp, womp*) But luckily there are plenty of stunning photos that captured the magic. Did any of you catch the show last night?

UPDATE: Catch the four-hour spectacle squished into this two-minute video. Ethereal music included.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Black Swan Like Me

[Warning: This post contains spoilers about the movie Black Swan.]

Never has there been a character I could relate to more than Natalie Portman's in Black Swan. I left the theater in a daze of amazement and slight discomfort. A. quickly picked up on the parallels too and the more we discussed it, the more we realized that Nina's story was very much like mine.

Early in the film we meet her mother, an overprotective single parent who was forced to give up her ballerina dreams due to an unplanned pregnancy. She's nurturing, caring and completely suffocating. Nina knows no privacy in that house, none of the doors lock and her room resembles a child's. I know the frustration of not having a single square foot to call your own and to feel like your parent will never respect you for the adult you are. At least Nina's mom never barges into the bathroom and jumps into the tub with her full-grown daughter.

She (and I) have a hard time being social and tend to hide behind the mask of work and goals, unable (and slightly unwilling) to relate to those around us. We can face an audience when our profession calls for it, but can't seem to break through the bubble in a social setting. Instead of a strong woman, the excessive sheltering has yielded a fragile one, incredibly talented yes, but much too insecure to flourish under the spotlight. The paranoia and fear of failure soon prove too much to bear for Nina and the self-doubt becomes a stunt. My own inability to make a decision or trust my own judgment is enough to make my brain schiz out at times. The constant inner battles between my shy heart and over-active mind are exhausting and realizing that I'm the one who's keeping myself from greatness has been difficult to break through even though the truth is nothing else has been a stronger barrier.

Once we finally do achieve success, it's still not enough proof for us to believe in our talent. We slipped through the cracks, we tell ourselves, and it's only a matter of time before someone better replaces us. In the movie, Lili (played by Mila Kunis) is the source of Nina's anxiety. Lili embodies everything Nina lacks: confidence, effortless sensuality. She lives unapologetically while Nina practically excuses herself for each breath she takes.

Lili also represents a part of Nina that she's never allowed herself to explore: sexuality and pleasure. Therein lies another parallel between us two. Even though the wish to explore certain fantasies are there, we're too timid to give in to those curiosities. Merely admitting that those thoughts are present leave us feeling flustered and clutching at denial. I imagine our insecurity and fear of being judged is what keeps us from finally letting go and doing whatever the hell makes us feel good (or at least figuring out what that is). Before Nina discovers what sets (and gets) her off, her attempts at playing the seductive Black Swan fall flat. They come off forced, like an inexperienced girl pretending to be something she knows nothing about, but once she finds her spark, that inner rebel lets loose. Unfortunately, she wasn't ready to control the demons within.

There's one major character flaw in Nina that made me relate to her immediately, the first clue that she and I were freakishly alike. When stress and anxiety hit, we become destructive and turn on ourselves; we scratch until we bleed.

When her mom discovered her new wounds and forcibly grabbed her hand to cut her fingernails short, I looked down at mine, freshly clipped and painted from the night before. It'd been a rough week. I say long nails would get in my way when the truth has always been that I'd hurt myself more with them. I've done it for as long as I can remember, never realizing just how serious the situation is. In fact, I didn't think it was until T (remember her?) explained how I was cutting myself to deal with my issues. I don't slit my wrists, but I still used that tactic to control pain when chaos surrounded me. Within my family, it's still seen as a "bad habit" and perhaps that's why it's continued for so long. Up until now, one friend and two boyfriends have been the only ones to hear me talk about this. It's embarrassing, shameful and something that seems beyond my control.

As with Nina's, my fingers seem to take a life of their own, causing damage until they've had enough and then retreat - for a quick moment - leaving me feeling sick and disgusted with myself, wondering why I can't simply stop. So I focus on keeping it hidden, only hurting the skin covered by my long, black curls. If no one can see the scars, then it doesn't exist. It remains a "bad habit" and everything's okay. But Mr. First couldn't handle my self-destruction and A. has forbidden me to hurt someone he loves. If it were only so easy. This is just as bad as a toxic addiction, but while smokers can resort to a patch, I only have my mind.

Right now I'm on some uneven path to recovery, but I needed to remove myself from an unhealthy environment first to stand a chance. Luckily, I've been able to seek and receive support from those around me before I spiraled out of control. Nina, on the other hand, tragically crashes and burns, consumed by darkness, before she's able to escape and fly away.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Black Swan

I really wish someone would've warned me that this was a psychological thriller. It was a great film and for reasons I'll explain in a subsequent post, it hit freakishly close to home. Still, there were several cringe-worthy parts that I just couldn't bear to watch.

Black Swan stars Natalie Portman as Nina, a budding ballerina who pushes and pushes herself toward perfection, namely the Swan Queen role for her company's Swan Lake production. Thing is the person who lands the role must be able to play both sides to the queen and while Nina embodies the innocence of the White Swan, Lily (played by Mila Kunis), a feisty new rival, is the epitome of sensuality and seduction, the Black Swan personified. What develops (or deteriorates) in Nina over the course of the film made me squirm not only because of the gnarly bits but because for two hours I felt like I was watching pieces of my own life play out on the screen.

The movie presents an honest psychological portrait of a girl under tremendous stress: an overprotective mother who lives out her short-lived dancing days through her daughter, the all-consuming power ballet has over Nina and the physical and mental toll it all takes on her. Yes, there's a hot scene between Portman and Kunis and I'm sure many of you have heard about the movie through that vein, but the movie is so much deeper than that. In fact, even that part had some importance to the story line. (Don't you just hate it when sex is thrown in just for the attention?)

From the beginning, the movie is in your face. The close-up shots almost feel uncomfortable and I just wanted some distance between the characters and me, but it only intensifies as the plot grows darker. Still, as much as I hate being scared and grossed out, I enjoyed the film for its story, direction and incredible acting. Nina's role seemed hard to pull off convincingly, but Portman made it so believable.

Then again, I'm probably completely biased because when you relate to a character as much as I did, you're pretty much sold as soon as you feel that connection with them and Portman dragged me with her almost to the very end.

Black Swan: 5/5 Toasties


Monday, December 13, 2010

An Update on Toby

Soon after I hit publish on the last entry about Toby, I received a text message from Anonymous saying that Toby was doing well. "Apparently he has a bff now and only likes to sleep on the bed," she wrote.

See, Toby's new owner is Anonymous' brother's girlfriend's cousin (follow?) so at least there's some distant connection there. I'd called last month to check in on how he'd been adjusting, but hadn't heard back...until last night when a picture message of the little black furball arrived on my phone, tongue hanging out as always. I learned that he was very happy and spoiled and that he was helping his new owner get through a difficult health issue.

That sounds about right. Toby's like a hairy little therapist and I'm glad that in some way he's helping someone else cope with life's obstacles the way he helped me. And for that he totally deserves being pampered, cuddled with and spoiled to pieces.

Cinnamon Chasers, "Luv Deluxe"

I'm not sure what to make of this video, but I was transfixed from beginning to end. I liked the music (no lyrics) and the 5-minute movie is pretty deep. Then again, most of the videos I stumble upon involve lip synching pop stars, vulgar rappers and booties rockin' every where.

Hmm...a nice beat and a music video that makes you think long after it's done. Imagine that?

(P.S. Heads up to you employed people: some parts are a bit suggestive.)

And for those who were wondering, yes, I'm still alive. I had a really rough start last week and decided to take a few days to get my mind right. Life is such a roller coaster sometimes.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Happy Friday!

Guess what? Tomorrow A. and I celebrate our one year anniversary! By one year I mean from the day we met at that blogger meet-up because even though we started dating a few days later, we just never bothered to look that date up in a calendar and the 4th just stuck. We'll be seeing Black Swan, grabbing something to eat at some point in the day and then heading to a sexy party at night.

Even though I said no presents were necessary, I just couldn't resist making him a little gift this week. Using this DIY holiday mini book for inspiration, I made A. a tiny booklet made with textured paper and filled with lots of love. And because I'm the worst at keeping gifts a secret (are you?), I gave it to him last night. He was speechless and my head was quite woozy when he finally finished kissing me. I wish I could relive his reaction all over again. *Le sigh*

A Christmas candy box printable (+ tons of holiday tags and labels).
These mugs made me smirk.
WTF posters.
What a divine + sweet idea.
A simple yet festive holiday invite download.
A raindrop melody maker.
Such a colorful little tree, but too much work me thinks.
Loving this lace and stamps gift wrap idea.
A fun DIY advent calendar with window punch outs.

Artsy events this weekend:
Paper Source Brooklyn's Grand Opening Celebration
Martha Stewart Holiday Craft Sale
Holiday Handmade Cavalcade

Hope you have an awesome weekend!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Sweet Paul Magazine and Giveaway

If you haven't heard of Sweet Paul Magazine yet then I suggest giving the online publication a looksie. The latest issue is full of holiday goodies like a recipe for cheddar and chives cupcakes and creative gift wrapping ideas (shown above) for the season and beyond. The magazine is free, but Sweet Paul is currently giving away two print copies so you can have something to read while waiting on all those checkout lines.