Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Animated Short Alive: When Society + Monotony Kill Creativity


A good friend of mine shared this mini film on Facebook weeks ago and it’s stuck with me ever since. Alike is an animated short on what happens when society kills creativity with its standards of success, productivity and “proper adulting.” It starts early on when schools focuse on test scores and passing marks and continues on to the 9-to-5’s and cubicle jobs. Wake up, work, repeat. Education and making money are important, but so are creativity, the arts, music, free writing, expression. Coloring outside the lines! Or within the lines if that’s what makes your heart happy.


How many times haven’t we forgone the chance to pursue creativity or measure success by our own out-of-the-box standards just because someone else has dismissed how much it could nourish our soul? Or because they tease that we’re just goofing around or wasting our life? (Lord knows I’ve felt that way myself.) How many schools haven’t closed down arts programs when funds start to dwindle? Kids need the space to imagine and create without being forced back into the box and adults need the chance to brainstorm and tinker on the job instead of only pushing themselves to complete daily tasks on time. Who knows what innovative things we’d dream up during those opportunities? And how much more nourished would we feel?



Images: vimeo.com

https://vimeo.com/channels/alikeshort

Friday, July 28, 2017

{Travel} What to Do in Tarrytown, NY


For Fourth of July weekend, I wanted to get away for a bit because I hadn’t been on vacation since the cruise April of last year. While I wanted to leave the whole country behind in search of seas and sand, I ultimately decided to keep things more local. So I chose a town north of New York City, hopped on the Metro-North, and got off at Tarrytown, NY.

The town, though much much smaller than NYC, is full of nice and calm things to do. Would I live there for a stretch? I don’t know, maybe? It definitely has its draws when NYC stress is wearing you out. Regardless, Tarrytown makes for a really nice day trip.

The current issue of Time Out New York has my tips on where to go and what to do while you’re there, but below are a few other spots you should check out that weren’t included in that story.


I saw a sidewalk sign outside Silver Tips Tea announcing it sold $1 lemonade to go and I couldn’t resist. I sat down on a street bench under a tree sipping my juice and watching the people walk by. I liked that this town actually had a pedestrian life with people milling about, popping into shops and eating outdoors.

Yogurt La Crepe, a self serve fro-yo place around the corner offered crêpes so I chose to have lunch here, opting for the imported prosciutto and fresh muzzarella with a mini salad. It wasn’t the best, especially because it wasn’t a true crêpe at all, but rather some type of panini pocket, but it was good enough. Also, I might have been really hungry by this point.

A 10-minute walk from Main Street will take you to Tarrytown Lakes Park, a 72-acre preserve with bike paths, hiking trails, and two lakes. Because its trail head was closer to the road and I didn’t want to venture too deep into unknown territory on my own, I walked toward the smaller lake. A few yards in, I found a clearing right along its shore, sat on a fallen tree trunk and just looked out at the water. All you could hear were birds or leaves rustling in the wind. I wish I could say I was inspired to write or whip out the sketch pad I’d brought along, but nope. A person or two would walk by, some would go, some would stay, but for the most part, that slice of land and water was all mine until I got up and walked away.


I can’t lie, I was still attached to my phone more than I would have liked. I took photos of the lake, messaged friends, sent them photos of this piece of serenity I’d found, and while walking and texting, a deer ran right in front of me! Had I been looking up, I would have seen it coming. Luckily, it stopped just a few feet away to hide and eat behind some bushes. I stood and stared and slowly walking closer to it until it’d had enough and walked deeper into the woods. And what did I do? I immediately text my friends, “A deer just ran right in front of me!”


A search for a comfy seat, air conditioning, a snack and WiFi led me to Coffee Labs Roasters back on Main Street. I enjoyed a hot chocolate—on which the talented barista drew a cute bear!—and did a bit of writing. It was starting to get later and I didn’t want to stay in town until dark. Also, my phone battery was getting low and I also didn’t want to be in town with a dead phone. So I went for my final treat of the day, a scoop of blood orange sorbet at Lighthouse Ice Cream and Coffee right by the Scenic Hudson RiverWalk. I stared out onto the water and the new Tappan Zee Bridge just until the sun set. Then I walked up the road to the Metro-North station and headed back home. It was a good day.


Tuesday, July 25, 2017

What It Was Like to Have a Double Mastectomy [Part 1]


I never wrote about my mastectomy surgery and recovery. Probably because I wanted to put it behind me as quickly as possible instead of explaining how difficult and terrifying it was to approach it. Funny enough, it was my reluctance to sit and face the change that made it all the more frustrating. When I couldn't do certain things on my own, I wanted to kick things or break down and cry. I hated everything about this.

In the week leading up the surgery, I was an emotional mess. I'd hide and cry on the bathroom floor, heaving because I was scared and I didn't want to go through with it. Deep down I knew it was the right choice, but that didn't offer much comfort—this was all a gamble in the hopes that the cancer wouldn't come back a third time, possibly, maybe, in the future, fingers crossed. It's not like I'd know then and there that it worked, and before all that I'd have to go through the pain of recovery and learning to accept my body's changes from here on out. I was scared of looking mangled and ugly, as superficial as it was. Everyone would remind me that my health and being alive was more important. Some people get to have that without giving anything up though. Why did I have to?

The night before the surgery, my sister asked me over to her place and when I got there, her and her boyfriend presented me with the most heartfelt gift I have ever received: a compilation of video messages from friends and family near and far. Each time a new face would pop up on the TV screen my eyes would well up all over again, completely floored and amazed that these people would take time out to wish me good luck and tell me they loved me. That was seven months ago and I haven't been able to look at it since because I know that big lump in my throat will come right back. Just thinking about it is enough to stir up the feels.

On surgery day, December 2, 2016, I woke up, climbed into the shower, took one last look at my breasts, and just lost it. Alex came and gently pulled me out, helped me get dressed and we headed down to the hospital.

My family was already there in the waiting room. When I'd gone in for my last lumpectomy, I'd had time to sit with them and settle in for a few moments. This time, I was taken in immediately. I changed into my gown, brushed my teeth as required before surgery to minimize risk for infections, and tried to pee into a cup. I was way too nervous to do so, way too nervous to have drank any water and after all that crying, I was way too dry. Vitals were taken, forms were signed and more tears were shed. I kept waiting and asking for my family to be let into this area because I couldn't handle being alone. My parents came in first, they kissed me and reassured me that everything would turn out fine. Then my sister and Alex came to spend those last few moments with me.

Except I couldn't pee. And they couldn't operate on me until they knew for sure that I wasn't pregnant. (I wasn't pregnant.) So they had to rush blood samples to a lab and wait 20 minutes for the results to come back. I don't know if it was better or worse to have that extra waiting time. On hand, I calmed down a bit as my sister and boyfriend joked around, but I also wanted to get it over with; if they'd told me to go home, I might have never returned. Luckily for them, the test came back negative and it was time for the show to go on.

I kissed them both goodbye and when I started panicking, Alex held my face in his hands so that I could really look at him as he told me that I would be alright. A mixture of no's and mhhmm's was all I could muster between shaking my head and wanting to be brave. I was pleading at him with all my silent might to please take me away. I didn't want to walk down that hallway a third time, I didn't want to lie down on that scary table as the surgeons swarmed around me, I didn't want them to console me or dab at my temples as the tears dripped into my ears, I didn't want them to cut into me. In my past surgeries I might have stifled the sobs so as to not embarrass myself in front of these doctors, but this time I didn't care—I didn't want to hold back how scared I was.

But five minutes later, I couldn't care about anything anymore. It happened and I was asleep.

Image: pixabay.com

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

{Travel} An Eco-Friendly Trip to Miami


Miami isn’t just a bachelorette party hot spot where you can hit the beach all day and dance all night. It’s also a city with a rich ecosystem that provides a chance to reconnect with nature. Here’s how to how to make the most out of a green trip to Miami and come back fresh and renewed.

Where to Stay

To crank up the luxury level several notches, check in at the Epic Hotel located right where the Miami River meets Biscayne Bay. You’ll have a room with a stunning view of downtown Miami, full service marina at your disposal, spa and fitness center and outdoor swimming pools located on the 16th floor deck. The hotel brand features environmentally responsible initiatives, including the use of eco-friendly cleaning supplies and toiletries, low-flow faucets, showers and toilets and in-room recycling bins among other measures. Its restaurant’s name, Area 31, refers to the ecologically sound fishing region where much of the Mediterranean menu’s seafood is caught.

Where to Eat

Sushisamba’s menu features a veritable fusion of Japanese, Brazilian and Peruvian cuisine. Traditional dishes are served alongside more imaginative fare and the sushi and ceviche are unbelievably fresh. The restaurant has also been committed to sustainability, doing its part to protect at-risk fish – such as the endangered Bluefin Tuna – and raising awareness among its customers.

Jaguar Restaurant, a ceviche spoon bar and Latin American grill, offers signature dishes from Mexico, Peru, Argentina and Chile with a broad selection of flavors and salsas like its Peruvian Ahi Amarillo. You’ll also get a chance to taste some of the South American wines. And while you’re there, check out Dionisio Ceballos’ original paintings decking the walls. The Mexican artist was once invited to reproduce several of Frida Kahlo’s works for the 2002 film Frida.

What to Do

Not only does the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden focus on conserving and growing an incredible tropical plant collection, but it also serves as a backdrop for the works of artists from around the globe. Among the permanent installations are Dale Chihuly's colorful glass sculptures.

Miami EcoAdventures offers up a menu of excursions – such as the Sea Kayak and Snorkel Adventure – all led by Miami-Dade Parks’ naturalists. Kayak along Key Biscayne, jump into its shallow waters to snorkel and discover cool facts about the diverse environment that surrounds you.

Now what’s an eco-trip to Miami without exploring the Everglades? For a memorable experience that’ll zap any creepy images of murky, dirty swampland, sign up for Dragonfly Expeditions’ Everglades Backwater Tour. Field biologists will guide you through the cool waters while pointing out the history, plants and wildlife that make this ecosystem so incredible. Alligators may make an appearance.

Afterwards, stop by The Pit Bar-B-Q for a chance to taste gator meat and a sweet slice of key lime pie while you sit outside and take in the beauty of the Everglades.

Image: unsplash.com/Lance Asper

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Obsessed with Mint/Teal Everything


I recently realized that I've slowly been amassing items that fall within the mint/teal color palette. From my iPhone case to clothing, backpack and other desk accessories, most of my current favorite things are in this same tropical hue. Looks like over time I've gone from being obsessed with purple to constantly gravitating towards blue and now on to this summery hue. Below, a few of the mint/teal items in my collection and links to where you can find these goodies.


1. Spigen iPhone Case Wallet | 2. Linda & Harriet Day Journal | 3. H&M Cardigan | 4. LifeFactory Glass Water Bottle | 5. Poppin Aqua Double Tray | 6. Herschel City Backpack | 7. Yoobi Document Organizer | 8. IKEA TJENA Box | 9. Essie Nail Polish in Mint Candy Apple*

*I don't have this nail polish shade just yet, but after seeing this pretty collection, I might have to grab it just to keep the trend going!

What colors do you find yourself gravitating towards these days? Do you find they change with the seasons?

Images: unsplash.com/Anubhav Saxena, spigen.com, lindaandharriett.com, hm.com, lifefactory.com, poppin.com, herschel.com, yoobi.com, ikea.com, and essie.com

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

MoMA PS1's Lumen Transforms from Breezy to Otherworldly


Last week, I spent a few hours at MoMA PS1 for a preview of its newest outdoor installation Lumen, an interactive canopy that responds to light and proximity. During the day, the hanging tubular structures float in the breeze, spray mists of water whenever someone walks near, and collect solar energy. Come nighttime, the fibers glow and the courtyard makes an otherworldly transformation that will make an amazing setting for the museum's Warm Up summer concert series, which kicked off July 1.

Lumen will be on view at MoMA PS1’s courtyard from June 29 though August 27. To read more about my visit and see the transformation via photos, click here.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Happy Independence Day, America


Here's to keeping this country the Home of the Free and the Land of the Brave. Even if we have to fight our own government for it.

Image: unsplash.com/Trent Yarnell

Monday, July 3, 2017

How to Fall in Love with Your Hometown Again


When you’re settled in a city for too long, let’s say your entire life, everything about the place could start to wear on you. The pace, the sights, the things to do…to you it all seems so “been there, done that.” But if you can’t pack up and move somewhere new just yet, there are ways to soothe that jaded side of you and fall in love with home again. Below are nine things you can do to rediscover all the little things that make your town great.

1. Invite out-of-towners into your home for a visit. The whole city will be completely new to them and you'll be able to feed off of their excitement. You’ll be forced to show and tell them about the cool spots in your town and, in turn, start appreciating your town so much more because you'll see it through someone else’s eyes.

2. Take a walking tour of your own city. Learn about its history, architecture, and its key figures as you actually pay attention to the sights. You can either find free tours you can print and follow online, borrow guides from your library, or sign up for a walking tour through town.

3. Explore a neighborhood you've never visited before. Find cool places to see, eat, and do while you're there. You might fall in love with a different part of town that could someday become your next zip code.

4. Watch movies set in your city and squeal when you recognize a landmark on the screen. Great cinematography can really make a place come alive.

5. Leave town for a while. There's nothing like being out on the road for a couple weeks or even days to make you feel grateful to be reunited with family, friends, and your own bed.

6. Write a list of all the things you haven't done in your hometown whether it's something you've always felt was too "touristy" for a local like you or are more obscure, and then make plans to tackle each item on your list.

7. Join local Meetup groups based on your interests. Finding awesome people to do the things you love instantly makes a place feel much more inviting.

8. Ask your parents or older family members about the places where they hung out when they were younger. Have them drive you around pointing out how things have changed since then and try to see your town through their eyes. Bring along old photographs for comparisons and lots of reminiscing.

9. People watch. So much of life zooms right past us when we fail to take a moment to actually look. Humanize your town again by paying attention to the people who inhabit it.

What do you do to keep that spark between you and your hometown alive?

Image: Unsplash/Wojtek Witkowski

Monday, June 26, 2017

IKEA's "Cook This Page" Recipe Series Is a Coloring Page for Food!


Remember how much I loved Ikea’s minimalist cookbook way back in 2010? (Side note: can you believe that was 7 years ago? Yipers...) Well now everybody's favorite build-it-yourself-because-you're-too-broke-to-buy-pre-built-furniture furniture store is injecting a little more fun and play into cooking with parchment recipe sheets that resemble its assembly instructions. In order to get people comfortable with cooking—and buy its kitchen gear, obviously—ad agency Leo Burnett Toronto designed “The Cook This Page Parchment Paper Recipe Series.” Various recipes, each of which could be made with IKEA items, are illustrated and printed on parchment paper with food-safe inks. All you have to do is fill in the illustrations with the necessary ingredients and amounts, wrap it all up and pop it into the oven, recipe sheet and all. It’s like a coloring page for food!

Though I can't lie, am I really going to lay out each shrimpy one by one like that? And I might have to stack that ravioli recipe about four high just make a dent on this hunger...but I'd totally do it for an Instagram post.

The “Cook This Page” campaign launched in October 2016 at 18 IKEA locations around Canada and all 12,500 parchment recipe posters were gone within hours. And just last week, the campaign won a Gold Lion in the Outdoor category at the 64th annual Cannes Lion International Festival of Creativity. It’s such a simple concept—that still had to overcome lots of challenges to execute properly and safely—and completely on brand. Hopefully, they decide to test that idea out over here!

Image: leoburnett.ca

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

All the #DessertGoals Met at Spot Dessert Bar


A couple months ago, my friend invited me and a few others to Spot Dessert Bar down in the West Village and holy yum! I'd never heard of it before, but I was certainly glad we went with a group so that we could each order—and taste—a few things on the menu. In fact, Spot encourages this by offering these dessert tapas in sets so you can share or indulge your taste buds. I loved that the Asia-inspired seasonal desserts were really satisfying and delicious without being over-the-top sweet. In clockwise order from the top left:

Yuzu Eskimo: frozen Japanese citrus cream bars with chocolate ganache, strawberries, and Oreo crumbs.

Golden Toast: crispy honey buttered toast with fresh strawberries, whipped cream, and condensed milk ice cream.

The Harvest: layers of berries, soft cheesecake, meringue kisses, raspberry sorbet, and black rose milk tea.

Milky Puff: warm flaky puff pastry served with milk ice cream, corn flakes, brûlée bananas, and white chocolate honey comb.

And yes, they all tasted as delicious as they look. Not pictured are my Nutella hot chocolate, which tasted so much better and less sweet than one I'd ordered days earlier, and my friends' bubble teas served in plastic light bulbs! A+ for cuteness and presentation, no?

By the way, I've been on such a dessert kick lately thanks to work. I've been writing so much about sweets, including safe-to-eat raw cookie dough, an all-you-can-eat ice cream festival, fancy banana pudding, kids' birthday cakes, and the best rainbow foods around NYC, that I've been wondering if I shouldn't just say goodbye to my teeth and hello to becoming the resident dessert expert.

Monday, May 29, 2017

New Leaves


Hey all! I know I keep popping in, disappearing for six months and then coming back in, but things are getting better…

Health

I’ll start off with a health update since that was still in topsy turvy mode when I last checked in. After my mastectomy in December, I underwent radiation for five weeks ending in February. I remember struggling with it much more the first time I went through this in 2013, but the fatigue set in strongly about midway through. I could hardly stay awake during my commute into midtown for my daily sessions and then I was staying up too late come nighttime. Thankfully, it didn’t last terribly long and towards the end, I was feeling much more rested and alert throughout the day.

What did hit me like a bomb was the skin discoloration around the radiated area. DAMN did I get fried. Hormonal therapy injections are still going on, but I’m almost done and after this week’s injection, I’ll have just three left to go. That’s a hooray!

You know what’s not a hooray though? The fact that the hormonal therapy plus the new medication have led me to develop osteoporosis. Fantastic. Moving on because this crap is depressing.

Work

A few weeks ago I finally jumped back into the office/full-time magazine life. That’s right! After six years of freelancing, I'm now the associate editor for Time Out New York Kids! I’d been freelancing for them since last fall and for Time Out New York for the past year so the transition has been pretty smooth—I just have to get used to the commute again. Here’s a positive point for the commute though: I’ll have time to write blog posts again! Those of you who’ve read Dry As Toast since its early days back in 2008 remember how often I’d publish (Every. Single. Day.) and how many ideas I’d generate from traveling to and from work every day. So there’s that! Plus, maybe I’ll have time to read all these books I keep collecting on my Kindle. Has anyone read The Handmaid’s Tale yet?

Porcupine Hugs

There’s also a HUGE bit of news I wanted to share with you. I exhibited at the National Stationery Show last week!! As some of you might remember, I was set to make my tradeshow debut with Porcupine Hugs at the National Stationery Show in 2015. It had been a longstanding dream of mine, to showcase my cards and my art at the Jacob Javits Center here in New York City alongside big greeting card companies and smaller business I’d come to know and respect. After five or six years of walking the show and befriending so many in the community, I felt ready to take the leap. Unfortunately, a few weeks before the show, life exploded and I had to back out. It took me a long time to feel confident enough to try again. Funny enough, it was while I recovering from my mastectomy in December that I decided I wanted to exhibit this year. I figured if I’m not going to be living in Europe, I might as well make the most of my time here. So NSS 2017 it was! More on that journey later, but I’ll just say that I’m so proud and thrilled that I finally accomplished that goal.

Life

As for the rest of life...I feel like that's only just about to start back up now. My time and energy has been consumed by surgeries, treatment, and recovery and it overlapped with preparing for the stationery show. Now that the most stressful parts are behind me (I hope!), I'm looking forward to tackling my next business and career goals, becoming social again, and enjoying my summer. More goodness to come as I get the writing juices flowing again...

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Hello 2017 + Hello 35


Hi all, just popping in since it’s been a while since my last update. In case you were wondering, I am alive and well. In the coming weeks I’ll share more details on December’s mastectomy, recovery, the ongoing hormonal therapy, and the new round of radiation treatment I just started a few days ago, but for now just wanted to wish you all a happy new year. I hope 2017 is filled with goodness, strength, and health.

Last week, I also hit the 35th year mark and celebrated the occasion with a surprise dinner, drinks with a whole wonderful group of friends Saturday night, and then ice skating around Bryant Park on Sunday. I might have packed in quite a lot - and might have been dreading the ice skating commitment early Sunday morning - but every year I’m humbled by the love I receive on my birthday. That reminder of how much warmth is around me has been helpful because the last month and a half hasn't been smooth sailing throughout. Not super hard, but not incredibly easy either. I’m usually thrilled to reach another birthday and have never dreaded turning a year older. In fact, I love it! And probably will for as long as I continue not really looking my age, but this year’s was a bit different and it wasn’t until I woke up the day after when I realized man, I AM LAME.

I hid under the covers thinking about my current circumstance: I’m sleeping in my mom’s living room on an air mattress borrowed from my sister. Most of my belongings are still in a storage room. I’m dealing with cancer again. I’m still recovering from surgery. And I have a serious case of "I just don’t give a crap" in regards to many of my work commitments. It’s been really difficult to get rearing back into life and career again when I'm trying to juggle so many appointments and side effects from medications. It’s as if my brain has filtered out whatever it’s deemed unnecessary for survival and joy.

I think I was especially eager for 35 because it sounded firmly adult, a good milestone, but my life does not mirror that to me at the moment. But onwards, right? I’ll try to be gentle with myself, honest with those around me - including friends and colleagues about what they can feasibly expect from me in the coming month - and seek out more things to feel genuinely happy about. More details on the other goings on to come. I promise there’s some good + exciting mixed in!

How has your 2017 begun?