Tuesday, November 30, 2010

DIY DSLR Camera Cozy

How adorable is this camera cozy? Makes me wish I had a nice DSLR to go with it instead of this 35 mm SLR I'm about to sell via Craigslist. But I must resist! Besides, I already have a long enough wish list for my budding business ventures.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Arctic Circle

It's nearly midnight and here I am working away, reading up on Starting a Business 101 while fidgeting around with Illustrator. Still, I couldn't resist a little break for an animated short. (Even Tim Burton liked it.)

The Arctic Circle from Kevin Parry on Vimeo.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Happy Friday!

On this uber-chaotic day, here's to feeling light, airy, thankful, focused and hopeful.

It's never too late to give thanks.
How to make fabric nesting dolls.
Hilariously helpful figures with no scientific backings. (They just get in the way.)
My tweets are so LAME compared to these twitterers.
A periodic table of elements I can actually understand (maybe even care about).
National Geographic's 2010 photo contest.
Candy bag bows.
Gift wrap from paint-by-numbers paintings.

Image: 1x.com

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Where to Get My Fave Treats in NYC

Do yourself a favor: forget the Empire State and Lady Liberty and hit up these places instead. Your sweet tooth will thank you.

View NYC Sweet Treats in a larger map

NYC folk and visitors: do you have any favorite sweet spots to add?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Way We "Fight"

At 11 months, it's time to say that A. and I have moved on from the rose-colored honeymoon stage and onto the "Grrr! I love you, but ugh!" phase where sometimes we just cannot see eye-to-eye. Don't get me wrong, we still constantly shower each other with affection and enjoy spending time together, but sometimes, well, it can be a bit trying. There have been moments when we've had to step back and put some effort into understanding where the other person is coming from, whereas before, we were simply flying on the downy wings of lust and love, wrapped up in the fuzzy newness of it all.

We need these trials, he's said, to make sure we have what it takes and that we're right for each other. True, but I'm not going to lie; I liked the air of perfection we seemed to live in and when you grow up in a household where arguing and fighting are associated with profound negativity and eventually divorce, you learn to avoid confrontations. Or at least you do if you're me. If we're arguing now, I'd ask him, what'll happen 10 years from now? Will it be 10 times worse?

My passive aggressiveness and his refusal to participate in it are usually the sources of frustration. I'm one of those girls who will always answer "Nothing" when asked "What's wrong?" even though it's obvious that something's very much the matter. Before, it'd take hours, sometimes even a whole day, before I'd muster the ability to put thoughts into words and verbally express how I feel. (My reaction time has since gotten much quicker.) A., on the other hand, does not play that game. He'll just continue about his business until I stop fuming in silence and if you're anything like me, you'll know that being ignored only makes. it. worse. You want your feelings to be acknowledged! You want the other person to accept that they misstepped - even if they didn't - so that you can feel justified and move on.

Yeah, not this one. We're both stubborn, but eventually one will reach out to the other through a nuzzle or a simple "hi" over instant message and break the silence. And that's all it'll take, a simple discussion to make it better, to try and understand before quickly moving on as if not much had even happened. There's never been any crazy yelling or objects flying across the room so I don't know why I'm so afraid we'll suddenly morph into my parents. We get our time to think things through and then we sit, discuss and learn. I ask myself, "Do you want to be right? Or would you rather be happy?" And so despite what happened, whose feelings were hurt or if we even end up agreeing at all, we always end it with a kiss and a sincere "I love you" because at the end of the day that's all that truly matters.

So, how do you handle disagreements with your partner?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

2011 Calendar Roundup

Now, since we can't talk about organization and priorities without having a proper calendar to remind us what day of the week it is (oh I know I'm not the only one with that problem, right?), here's another roundup with a few nice ones for the coming year. I'm so ready for you, 2011.

Images: all via linked sites

I'm So Sorry to Torture You, But...

I just couldn't bear to suffer alone. How yummy does this dish look?! (Divine, no?)
Anyone fancy a trip to San Francisco for it?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Priorities, Notebooks and To Do Lists

Do you ever feel like you're spreading yourself too thin? Trying to take on so much that some things start to come out a bit, well, sucky? Because that's exactly how I've been feeling lately. It's like this balancing act and suddenly I feel like I'm starting to wobble under the weight of a bit too much. Right now I want to:

* really prove myself at work
* continue to grow my freelance career
* build an amazingly successful stationery line (or at least a stationery line)
* write fun and insightful posts and cultivate a great network of bloggers
* develop myself as a confident, well-rounded person

Pretty vast and general goals I've got there, huh? But it's nothing that can't be remedied with a little introspection and really asking myself "What's most important to me and what can I feasibly manage right now?" So what comes with priorities and goals? Lists! To do lists, shopping lists, ideas list, lists list, etc and because I like new notebooks just as much as I like writing things in a vertical fashion, here's a nice roundup of pretty ones (+ free downloads) that could definitely motivate me to get my life together.

SusyJack* Desk and Demi Notebooks

Lovelydesign Pocket Book

Night Owl Paper Goods Blue Dahlias Jotter

Olive Manna Notebooks

Design Wash Rinse Repeat free To Do List

Jolly Allsorts free Printable To Do List

Images: flickr.com and products all via linked sites

Friday, November 19, 2010

Happy Friday!

I don't know about you guys, but this week was way hectic on my end so major hollerations for the weekend! Tonight, I'm taking A. to a free dance class and show. Bless his heart for being into randomness like this without putting up any fuss. What about you guys? Can you believe Thanksgiving is next week?! Anywho, here are a few webby and non-webby stuffs that caught my eye this week. Enjoy :)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Day I Gave Toby Away

I'd been avoiding writing this post only because 12 days later it still hurts to think about. It happened quickly with no real time to process what I was about to do. She called to say she was in the area and within 30 minutes, he was gone.

I felt myself beginning to detach days before in the hopes of making the separation easier, but the thought of giving him away still pained me and when she called, I just slipped into autopilot. I grabbed his things, swooped him into my arms and placed him in his carrier. When he started shivering once we reached the sidewalk, I placed a hand on the bag's side and softly whispered, "Ish okay, ish okay..." I wondered if it was the afternoon chill or if he felt as anxious as I did.

We ran through the initial pleasantries, if he had his shots, why I could no longer keep him, her two other dogs and the woodsy area she lived in. I let Toby pop his head out of the carrier one last time and pet his head, wisps of hair flying in the wind and clinging to my coat. "He likes to bark a lot," I reminded her, "but just give him lots of attention, tire him out and he'll be good. He's a good dog." The last line wasn't for her; a part of me wished he could understand that. After she cooed over how adorable he is, I tucked his head back inside and zipped him up.

I practically sped away because I couldn't watch them drive off. I just placed him in the back seat and left with my camera still in my coat pocket. No final pictures, no goodbyes, no I love you. I forgot to tell her how much he loves it when you fill his treat toy with peanut butter or that even though his front left leg is a bit twisted, he runs around just fine. I didn't ask her to break up his bigger treats into tiny pieces because otherwise he'll swallow it all in one gulp without chewing like a little beast. I forgot to ask her not to put him in those stupid dog clothes.

The tears starting coming as I climbed the stairs and by the time I reached my apartment, I knew I was going to lose the fight. I locked the door behind me and just ripped the band-aid off. I cried and im'ed, sobbed and chatted. It felt as if I'd just committed the biggest mistake of my life and all I wanted was for someone to make it go away. Toby had only been gone a few minutes and already I wondered if he was okay, if he was scared, confused. See, it was one thing to know that this was for the best and another to actually feel it. Sad thing was, whenever I was upset about anything, I'd grab him and go out for a long stroll. Now what?

Without him, I turned to monotonous chores, repetitive mundane tasks and talking with friends who understood what I was going through. Those emotions have since waned only somewhat, but the little furball still pops into my dreams (I swear he'd better not be wearing dog clothes), his hair will be swept up from these corners long after I've moved and sometimes, when it's eerily quiet in my apartment, my ears will play tricks on me and hear his tags still jingling across the floor.

Image: Daily Drop Cap by Jessica Hische

Monday, November 15, 2010

Ever Need a Vacation from a Vacation?

'Cause right now my body is STILL aching from a crazy/awesome zip lining tour three days ago. And oy vey this to-do list that just keeps growing and growing. Why must reality always smack you in the face upon your return from bliss?

Image: weheartit.com

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Momentary Escape

I just had to post another waterfall picture after today's tour that included a trip to La Paz Waterfalls Gardens. There, we walked a trail that led through its aviary, serpentarium and a felines exhibition (I squealed when a jaguar rolled over and and then kept pawing at me through the glass). There was also a frog and butterfly garden where I witnessed a couple newly-fledged butterflies attempting to emerge from their cocoons. And only a few feet after that we found ourselves surrounded by hummingbirds zipping here, there and all around us only stopping for a brief second to feed and allow us a mesmerized glimpse (and endless attempts to take their photo). It felt like a fairy tale. Or at least that Shrek scene where Fiona sings with the unfortunate little blue bird.

But then the trail led us into the rain forest (and through the rain) and ended with breathtaking views of the La Paz waterfalls. It was there when, wet and surrounded by lush greenery and the roaring cascades just out of my reach, I completely forgot that I had this other life in NYC. I forgot that I had a job and about the concrete jungle that I lived in. I forgot about to-do lists and stress. It was a simultaneous connect/disconnect. I was just that taken by how much nature was around and how loudly it was calling out to me. So this city girl just stood there in semi-disbelief that places like these really do exist outside of dreams.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Heading Out (Yes Again)

This time I'm off to Costa Rica with a crazy cousin of mine who asked if I would tag along and I said um...YES. Sure, I'll be waking up at the crack of dawn to meet up with her in Miami before flying out to Central America, but after the rough weekend I had, I think it'll be nice to get away for a bit. More details on that and the trip upon my return. With all the plane time I'll be clocking in and my limited Internet access (aaack!), I'll be sure to get a lot of writing done down there. Hope you all have a lovely rest of the week!

Image: davesworldtravel.com

Monday, November 8, 2010

Washington, DC and a Rally for Sanity

I'll start off by saying that this trip was one adventure after the next from start to finish and we were able to get the great shots below thanks to A. and his boss' awesome (and way expensive) digital camera.

Flying Out From JFK

So maybe we were running a little too on time for A.'s liking (and maybe it was partly my fault), but as always I left all the worrying to him.When he gets anxious, I have to keep the cool, calm and collected vibe 'cause God forbid we both start freaking out. Luckily, everything went through smoothly and before long we were buckling into our seats and all smiles about our little getaway.

While we were waiting on the tarmac, the TVs came on and we started flipping through the news channels, most of which were reporting live about the escorted Emirates plane that had just landed...in JFK. A few minutes in, we look out the window to our right and what do we see? That same plane slowly making it's way off the runway surrounded by a fleet of blinking lights. At that point, official only suspected that the aircraft could be carrying explosives in two packages sent from Yemen and meant to be delivered to two synagogues in Chicago. A. and I kept watching our tiny screens and then looking out our window, our eyes wide with curiosity and growing nervousness (for me anyway). We took off some minutes after that, but kept tabs on the news until we finally learned that the aircraft did in fact hold explosives. Needless to say it was surreal to watch the news developing in front of you and playing out right outside your window. For a while I was scared I'd see something I'd never be able to forget and still, I just couldn't stop staring. A., on the other hand, wondered if the whole thing wasn't a political stunt to begin with.


I should step back now and give a brief history on how the rally supposedly came to be and why A. booked this trip the minute it was announced. It's safe to say that Reddit.com is this man's beloved site, a place where members post content, links, pics and such and then up- or down-vote submissions to create a cool (and addicting) guide to what's new and hot on the web. If you ever come across a popular page, site, news, anything that's been making the rounds, it's safe to say that it appeared on Reddit long before it reached you. Before the rally, I didn't really understand A.'s obsession, but now I see the good things that can result when those redditors mobilize.

After Glen Beck's DC rally last August, a redditor posted about a vision he couldn't shake off: a counter-rally hosted by Stephen Colbert. The idea quickly gathered up votes and momentum until a strategy developed: grab Colbert's attention through his favorite charity, DonorsChoose.org. Within the first 48 hours the organization received $200,000 from Reddit users and in the 46 days that followed that number went up to $400,000+. Obviously that got some attention and the rally was announced. Even though Jon Stewart and Colbert say this had been in the works since March and didn't give Reddit credit for the idea, Colbert still sent his sincere thanks to all who donated and Reddit is just happy to have been a part of it.

Friday Night Meet-Up

After we checked out our hotel room at the Hilton in Arlington, VA, A. and I met up with some other redditors in the lobby (one guy scored a bunch of rooms to offer us at a discount) to go make rally signs together. We set up shop in a mall bar and went to town with the poster boards and markers supplied by another lovely redditor. Our sign was a joint effort: he came up with the words, I made it happen. As geeky as the whole encounter sounds (and was), I have to say that everyone was incredibly nice. This goes for the entire trip and everyone we met over the weekend. It was just a bunch of cool people from around the country, happy to participate and have a great time. I guess I won't give A. too much crap for spending so much time scrolling through that damn site now. Maybe.

Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear

We left for the National Mall around 8 am and the train station was already filling up with rally goers and signs. Once we arrived in DC a half hour later, you could feel the energy around you. Masses were coming in from all sides, music booming from the speakers and the weather was perfect: a bright and sunny 60-something degrees. Once I caught sight of the Washington Monument piercing the sky and the Capitol Building looming ahead of us, I squealed, "We're really here!" and ran off towards the crowd.

An estimated 215,000 people gathered on the mall that day and we were lucky enough to have secured great spots in the first penned-off area with a small group of redditors. (Those guys were awesome, by the way. One even brought along spoons and a jar of Nutella!) The pre-show started on the jumbo-trons at 10:30 with taped musical guests and clips of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report chronicling how the rally came to be. At noon, The Roots took the stage, soon accompanied by John Legend. Other musical guests included Sheryl Crow with Kid Rock, Tony Bennett, The O'Jays ("Love Train") and others. There was even an odd battle between Yusuf Islam, the artist formerly known as Cat Stevens, and Ozzy Osbourne that was cacophonous to say the least and would've been awesome if it ended in a mash-up of the two, but alas, that didn't happen.

A couple skits dragged on a bit too long, but for the most part I was rolling. Colbert stayed in character the entire time leaving Stewart to be the sole voice of reason. The high point? Stewart's "Moment of Sincerity," a moving speech that came straight from the heart. No gimmicks, just earnestness. At that moment, I realized how lucky and proud I was to be standing there listening to him speak to us, hundreds of thousands from all walks of life, with unique experiences and viewpoints all rallying for the same thing: reason.

Like many others, I can't bear to watch the news when all they promote is fear and anxiety. I don't want to be bombarded with all the badness that's supposedly seeping through the world. Yes, there are troubles, but are they really as bad as we hear they are? Instead of messages of dispair, maybe it'd be best to share how we are or could be thriving. Give us solutions, not more problems. We are a people constantly under attack not by terrorists and bombs, but by sensationalized stories blaring through the airwaves. No wonder we're so hypersensitive and guarded; we're too terrified to see the similarities and the good that lies in the person beside us. "You know, in 15 years I'll be able to tell my kids, 'I was there when Jon Stewart gave his Let's Be Reasonable speech,'" A. said over dinner that night. And I hope by then those kids will have felt some impact from it.

Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear
Jon Stewart - Moment of Sincerity
Rally to Restore Sainty and/or FearThe Daily ShowThe Colbert Report

The Monuments

Like I mentioned in my previous post, I'd only been to DC once in the sixth grade and cannot for the life of me remember anything about it. This is why, although we were dead tired from standing around for 6.5 hours, I just needed to walk what felt like 5,000 miles (but really only two) across the National Mall to see the Smithsonian, the Washington Monument, the World War II Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial and finally the Vietnam Memorial. We even saw a bit of the White House along the way, but alas, from afar. We were just too pooped to walk any more, but still we had another Reddit party to get to at Dupont Circle...1.5 miles away. We stopped along the way for dinner at Nooshi, a noodle and sushi restaurant that made me miss Republic a wee bit (we ate there on Halloween though) before continuing our journey, hanging out for a bit and then calling it a night. I passed out as soon as my head hit the pillow, but was woken up much too quickly after.

Returning Home

It seems that A. and I can't manage flights without some sort of close call excitement. This time we owe it all to our bus driver, a nice young lady with a twang in her voice and a lovely penchant for NOT KNOWING WHERE THE DAMN AIRPORT IS LOCATED! I mean seriously, you'd think the driver in charge of taking a bunch of people somewhere would at least know how to get there, but apparently not. It was wrong turns after missed exits and time was just ticking right by. I was actually in my own little world (read: nodding off) for most of the ride and didn't even think we were in trouble until I caught A.'s face from across the aisle. "We're f---ed!" he mouthed. Indeed. After we finally reached Dulles International Airport (albeit at the wrong drop-off area), someone asked the bus driver if she could just let us off.

"Why sure!" she replied all too sweetly. "Where would you like to get off?"
"RIGHT HERE!" we all cried out in unison.

And oh the running we did. We ran along the sidewalk, we dashed to the nearest kiosk and tried to get our boarding passes, but it was too late - we'd missed the cut-off time. Thank goodness for the lady at the counter and her shortcut to the special security line. Otherwise, we wouldn't have made it into the plane with only a single minute to spare. The doors were locked as soon as we reached our seat. Curse words of frustration were pouring out of A. the whole way there, but once we were safely buckled in, we just looked at each other and laughed, still breathless from our sprint to the gate. We made it somehow, but then again cool, calm, collected me knew we would anyway.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Shop News and a New Blog

Just wanted to let you guys in on what's been going on behind the scenes. Greeting card design class has been going great, so great in fact, that it's created a teeny issue: I keep wanting to hold off on launching my stationery line until I'm as prepared as possible and everything is perrrfect, which only means it might never happen at all! I'm really excited to just jump in already, but then stall when I learn something new each week. There are copyrights and branding to think about. Trade shows and street fairs, honing my style, studying and then developing a cohesive collection for my target audience. Plus, there are fun little details like paper selection, envelopes and plastic sleeves.

But while I keep working on my company, I wanted to finally share its name and blog site with you: Porcupine Hugs! It'll feature cards, stationery and other packaging good with my whimsical hand-drawn illustrations and doodles. I'm having a blast thinking of new designs and verses for my collections, relearning some computer skills (as frustrating as it is sometimes) and really wish I had more time to dedicate to this. But thanks to the new job, I'll be able to fund this a lot more easily than before and will continue to devote my evenings to this little dream of mine. I just want to churn out the best work that I can create.

I've already received some great feedback on my line so far and can't wait to hear what you all think. It's all a work in progress, but I'll post sneak peaks, updates and other designerly/artsy news on that site (and sometimes cross post here) as I figure out my way through this new field. So check out shopporcupinehugs.com and stay tuned for the shop's big debut!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Facebook Lets You Download Your Info

Remember when my computer crashed last year and I lost pretty much everything? Well now at least I'll get some of my old pictures back thanks to one of Facebook's newest features. Last month, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that users will soon be able to download all their info - profile, events, messages, wall posts, friends list and yes, photos and videos - onto their computer. Just go into your account settings, click "Download your Info" and a copy of all the data you've put on the site will be saved on your computer in a .zip file. It'd been rolling out slowly, but now it's finally reached me! And here I thought I'd have to right click and "save image as" for 500+ photos...

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Six Health Myths Busted

Pop quiz: If you get caught in a downpour without an umbrella, your likelihood of catching a cold will sky rocket correct? Not really and if you thought this common myth was true then don’t worry, you’re not alone. These beliefs usually start out as hearsay and assumptions and are spread until they settle in as fact. (‘Fess up: how many came from your own parents?) So with the help of Kent Holtorf, M.D., founder of Holtorf Medical Group, we debunk six medical myths you might believe in the hopes that the truth will set you free.. to go run in the rain.

Does cold/wet weather make you sick? You might think this is true because so many of us get colds and the flu during the winter months, but it’s because that’s when the virus happens to be around. Your immune system might weaken when you’re cold thus making you more susceptible to falling ill, but that’s about as far as the correlation goes. You could also get a stuffy nose, but it isn’t always a symptom of sickness. “It’s called rhinitis,” Dr. Holtorf points out. “That’s when the vessels in the nose dilate and contract and so it has to do with the temperature instead of a virus.” Also, as you breathe in cold air, which holds less water, it creates a fog in your nose. Soon enough the precipitation drips out and voilĂ ! Annoying sniffles appear.

Does the flu shot give you the flu? Depends on your immune system’s health. Vaccines contain either a weakened or dead form of the virus so your system can recognize, destroy and then remember the microbe if it ever reappears in your body. “This means you’ll get some of the symptoms of the flu, but you will not get the full flu unless your immune system’s low and that weakened virus takes hold,” he says.

Does coffee sober you up? If you thought drinking a cup of joe would sober you up or worse, make you fit to drive home, think again. “Alcohol will leave your system pretty much at a constant rate,” Dr. Holtorf explains. “When you drink coffee you may feel sober because you’re less tired and more alert, but you’ll still have the same amount of alcohol in your body.” Something to think about along with breathalyzer tests and DWI laws. And because caffeine dehydrates you, your hangover may feel much worse once it arrives.

Does gum stay in your stomach forever? The next time you accidentally swallow your gum, don’t panic; it won’t be stuck inside you forever. “And rarely will it stick to the sides of the wall because the stomach has a mucus lining,” Dr. Holtorf says. “So it should just pass through like anything else.”

Does reading in dim light affect your eyesight? Did you ever sneak a book to bed at night as a child only to be told that it was bad for your vision? Or perhaps your mom kept reminding you not to sit so close to the TV unless you wanted glasses in the future? Turns out neither one of these habits accelerates your eyesight’s decline. Reading in dim light or close up gets harder as you get older simply because your vision naturally worsens as you age no matter what you do, Dr. Holtorf says. Unlike pumping up the volume on your mp3 player, which can definitely cause hearing damage down the line.

Does cracking your knuckles cause arthritis? Not at all, says Dr. Holtorf. That sound you hear is nothing more than air bubbles escaping from your joints. “There’s no study to show there’s any destruction or swelling,” he adds. “At worse it’s annoying to somebody else.”

Image: ece.nctu.edu

Monday, November 1, 2010

Diabetes Awareness Month

When I was given the assignment to write about diabetes for Latina's November issue, I was eager to dive into it and find out more about the disease and any developments in the field. You see, this is one that hits close to home. My grandmother passed away 15 years ago due to complications from diabetes and just a couple years after that, one of my close cousins was also diagnosed with the disease. Since then it's been one health complication after the other, but still she remains the life of the party, smiling and yelling through every obstacle that's come her way.

Sometimes when I hear that she's checked into the hospital yet again or that she's going in for her umpteenth eye surgery, I think about how unfair it all is and how arbitrary life can be. For no reason at all, she pulled the short stick and because of it has to fight harder than most of us just to do simple things we take for granted. A part of me dreads waiting on blood test results just because I fear getting the same news, but all I can do is learn as much as I can about it, its risk factors, go in for regular screenings and spread the word to others so they too have a fighting chance. Hopefully a cure to this and many others will be found soon, but in the meantime, educate yourself so you don't have to walk along that path someday.

Image: dailynewscorner.com