Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year's Wishes

This morning, A. woke me up and asked me, "Do you remember where you were a year ago?"

"In Thailand, surprising you for New Year's Eve."

Standing here on Dec. 31st, I can honestly say that despite all the sucky bits, 2012 was a good year. I traveled to Asia, San Antonio, Alabama, California, Virginia Beach, Miami and drove around the U.S. in an RV with four friends and a stranger. I played with white tiger cubs and busted my ass to make A. a wonderful birthday present. I turned 30 and started my own stationery company. I developed a liking to new bands, new friends, and fun hobbies. I took burlesque and photo classes and discovered that gambling simply isn't my thing. I cut my hair! I said I liked girls. Toby popped back into my life and 20 years after she made a beautiful mark on my childhood, my fifth grade teacher found me again.

I pushed myself. I stumbled. I dusted myself off. I grew.

As the clock strikes midnight I'll be wishing for strength and acceptance. I'll be wishing for light when the hopelessness arrives and the reminder that while this new weirdness is now a piece of me, it is not my entire existence. I hope to finally learn how to be gentle with myself and realize that it's okay if I put myself first, if I treat myself kindly, if I laugh while I cry, if I yell, if I squeal, if I do nothing. I wish for patience with those who only seek to love me in whichever way they know how. I wish for peace with whatever comes next.

Here's hoping the mountains we currently find ourselves up against turn out to be nothing but hills in the rearview mirror. Happy 2013. Here's hoping it is so.


Thursday, December 27, 2012

Christmas Retreat

First off, thanks so much for the warm messages you all wrote to me last week. It was really touching to know that though we've never met, you guys took some time to send over words of encouragement and kindness. Here's hoping this all blows over soon and as painlessly as possible.

So how were your holidays? A. and I spent Christmas with his family in L.A. and it was really nice to get away for a few days. We'd made the plans in late November and after I received my diagnosis I was so intent on not changing my vacation plans no matter what happened. It was great not having to answer calls, accept invitations, entertain family, or spend my days thinking of what's been going on or what'll happen. I really needed to run away for a bit.

Can you believe that A. and I actually thought it would be a good idea to buy presents once we were there? We were running around malls on Christmas Eve still wondering what on earth to get the family and each other. Never again. We also went bowling (I sucked), played Catchphrase (so fun!), A.'s mom and I had a movie date to catch Les Misérables (did you watch?), and we all played with A.'s nephews who are the two cutest kids ever (see exhibits K and C). It's always hard saying goodbye to them so when I hugged and kissed the older one - who will be a whole two years old in a few weeks - my voice caught in my throat and I could only manage a whisper.

"Goodbye," he whispered back in imitation.

Each time I go, I could just stay there and on this trip I couldn't believe that it almost became real. A. and I had been seriously preparing for a possible move-in with his parents. After only being employed for three months out of the last 16, his finances were seriously dwindling and he was contemplating moving back to California at the end of the year to go for his college degree. Completely self-taught in his field, A. was starting to doubt how far he could go without a bachelor's degree in something or other. And because I would gladly support him and am fortunate that my current job only requires a computer with Internet connection, I would have left New York City with him. About a couple weeks before he would've had no other choice but to leave, he got a call back for a job he's been enjoying since.

Who knows what could have happened if we had left? With these recent events, I'm actually glad we stayed home where I have the support of family and friends and health insurance coverage. I still have every intention of moving away someday. I just have to take care of a few things first.


Thursday, December 20, 2012

And the Battles, They Are Never-Ending

My family seems to have the worse luck with this holiday month. Seventeen years ago, we lost our grandmother due to complications from her diabetes. Last year, we woke up one morning to discover that we had lost a young cousin due to a shoot-out and two years ago, I landed in California on Christmas Eve to spend my first holiday with A.'s family only to receive the call that my last living grandparent had passed away. Still, we manage to celebrate life, to enjoy the time we have while lifting those who are mourning. Initially, I'll struggle with what's okay to share and what's too personal to release into the world, but ultimately I'll concede to writing because no matter how raw it might still be, this is simply how I've learned to deal with my emotions when they can no longer be contained.

Two weeks ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Getting that phone call after a week of questions, lab visits, a biopsy, and "it's highly unlikely" was devastating and surreal. I took down the surgeon's info, shaking and fighting back tears, to then fall apart on A.'s lap as soon as the call was over. I kicked, I screamed, and cried into my hands, wondering what the hell did I do to deserve cancer at 30 years old. I clung to his neck afraid to let go and face that this was real. In the days that followed I let myself believe that perhaps I'd heard wrong, that maybe there was simply a possibility that needed to be vanquished with a few more tests. A visit with my gynecologist days later dashed that delusion and since then, the waves have kept coming and going, sometimes suddenly, leaving a jumbled pile of hope, helplessness, determination, ambivalence, and fear strewn upon my days. One night I'm twirling around the room with complete abandon and the following morning I'm being handed my bib for a race I never even knew I'd entered.

Dealing with cancer has become a whole new full-time job and I haven't even begun treatment yet. Between back-to-back trips to the hospital, MRIs, mammograms, PET scans, and giving out more vials of blood in two days than I have in years combined, my veins and I are exhausted. Maintaining an actual full-time in between all these visits has been a struggle, but I refuse to let this become my whole life. While I welcome the distractions of work and social outings, I can't deny that I also wish I could allow myself time to grieve and come to terms with what could happen down the line, but the silence of being alone and what lurks in those quiet hours scares me.

The cancer is in stage 1, which is "good," they say. I can think of better things to have. Two whole boobs for instance. The final step is discovering if the cancer is genetic, which will determine whether a lumpectomy or a more aggressive double mastectomy will be the surgery of choice for my "pea-sized" lump. Produce: good for juicing and indicating tumor size. I can't fathom losing my breasts over such a tiny thing. Then again, I think I've already begun losing my mind. Being handed my options as if I'm simply deciding between soup or salad isn't exactly comforting either.

What other little lumps could be hiding in my gut? If I beat it this time around, will I someday go in for an annual and receive news that it's returned? What about the increased risk my mother, sister, and my future children will now face? And once I go on drugs for treatment, when could I finally have a baby?

"I love you," A. says to me.
"I'm sorry," I reply.

I'm sorry that this has now become his fight, too. That after years of pulling through one issue after another, petty fights, personality differences, multiple lay-offs, and dwindling finances that nearly had us moving to Los Angeles, we now have to weather through this, too. He, along with my family and friends, has been amazing through this ordeal, my mood swings, and the questions that still have us all in limbo. The not knowing is prime recipe for panic attacks as my overeager mind will swoop in and fill in the missing parts. Staying in the present has proven to be difficult when all I can think is "What if? What if?"

I'm terrified, I'm sad. I'm still slightly detached because that's what's helping me to take on each day and joke about this absurdly ridiculous and shitty thing that I have to deal with now. I have to look at my films and laugh at the odd grey blobs on the sheets. Otherwise it's just too unbearable and the crying won't ever stop. I'll be fine one moment and the next I'm bawling into A.'s chest or my father's shoulder, blubbering on about wanting to hold it together, but being so tired of pretending that I'm strong. I never asked for this fight, I never wanted to be the face of anything, wave banners, or be anyone's inspiration. I don't want to have to pull through anything, but now everyone's expecting me to do so. The walks, the pink, the "survivor" title, I don't want any part of it. I just want my life to go back to how it used to be, mine and unconsumed by fighting for a healthy future.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Porcupine Hugs Holiday Cards

I'm so excited to announce that my stationery shop Porcupine Hugs is now open for business! The soft launch for the holidays features three card designs with my hand-drawn illustrations. It's taken me so long to get to this point (can you believe I first dreamt this up back in 2007?!), but I'm super proud to have finally taken this leap. Looking back I can see how I beat myself out of the excitement and motivation simply because I was too nervous about falling flat on my face. Then one day I just woke up and stopped giving my doubts so much air time. Sometimes things just roll into place it seems.

I typically go crazy over all things cute and sweet and papery so I tried to create that feeling with my own company. Over the coming months I'll be prepping to launch a full collection of stationery, paper goodies, and greetings cards for all occasions. For now, get a little taste of what's in store through Porcupine Hugs and get those merry wishes out to your peeps.

Oh, and did I mention there's free shipping involved?

Monday, November 26, 2012

A Brief Moment

Well it looks like a girl can only try to squeeze so much into her time before she finally realizes she needs to hunker down and focus on the big stuff. Between working full time and prepping to launch a small business, I hardly have much energy left for writing fun posts. *Womp, womp* I know, but instead of struggling to squeeze in my hellos to you, I think it'll be better if I step away for a wee bit and then come back fresh and brimming with ideas. At least I hope I do.

In the meantime, tell me how were your Thanksgivings? I rarely eat much at those things because I just get so excited about catching up with the family over dinner and before I know it everyone's gone and I'm...hungry. And because I value my life more than I do shopping, I didn't venture out into the madness on Black Friday. Have you gotten started on your holiday shopping yet?

I'll be popping in soon with some cute holiday cards for sale so sit tight and I'll be back before you know it. (Maybe even sooner if you're lucky!)

Image: taken by the Bantu Girl and edited by A.'s friend Tommi

Monday, November 19, 2012

Sometimes It's Okay to Quit

Last week, as I left my therapists office, she said something that resonated with me in the days that followed.

"If you really wanted it, wouldn't you have done it already?"

She was referring to all the goals I keep going on about, always complaining about why my dreams haven't come true yet and the issues that I still haven't managed to overcome. She was right, if I really wanted these things as much as I keep saying I do, then why haven't I done them by now?

As I walked out and made my way back home I considered how tired she must be of hearing all my reasons for not changing my circumstances. Here I am blaming her for not directing me through my life choices instead of just taking responsibility or taking action myself. There's only so much she can do. She can help me figure out the root of my insecurities, the why behind my flaws, but she can't live my life for me. If I want to feel better, that's going to be all on Dorkys.

So I became a quitter because after a while you just get tired of yourself, you know?

I quit being scared of what could happen if I make a decision - any decision. I'm working on not going to everyone for advice instead of trusting my own tastes. If I like something and it makes me happy then that's what I'll go with. Feedback is great and I'll still seek out intelligent criticisms, but gone are the days when other's opinions automatically override my own. People pleasing hasn't brought me too far because I'll just never make everybody happy. That's quite all right. It makes the decision-making stages go by a lot quicker when each draft doesn't need to be approved by so many.

Last Thursday, I woke up and without giving it another thought I registered my limited liability company with the state. I'd been talking about it for so long that I needed to finally shut the hell up and bring to life the little dream that will not die - managing my own creative business. I'll be doing a soft launch of holiday cards soon and then prep for a 2013 debut. So stay tuned for updates on that journey as I figure it all out.

I also quit being so wrapped up in my hair. There's no reason why I should hold on so tightly to something that'll eventually grow right back. I've been wanting a different look, but the thought of ending up with a botched cut was enough to keep from taking the leap. So after hearing enough excuses about why I should just settle for how I am despite being unhappy with it, I'd had enough and made an appointment with Bumble and bumble (asking for the best curly hair stylist they had because, I said, "I don't want to be traumatized."). The experience turned out to be really pleasant and Carrie knew just what to do. Each snip had a purpose and she skillfully worked and styled my hair until I walked out with a bouncy head of curls instead of the mop I had before. I've finally found someone who won't make me anxious when she approaches with the scissors.

A. was pushing for me to keep my long locks, but I knew I wanted to chop it off so shorter I went. Once he saw the final result and how awesome I looked rocking out to a MarchFourth Marching Band show that night, he was happy I did, too. Want to see?
Now don't think that it's been an overnight transformation over here. I still stumble. I still have the urge to ask someone what they think of a design rather than sit down and discover the answer myself. Either way I'm about to get a hands-on crash course in sinking versus swimming when it comes to owning a small business and I'm learning to trust (and hope) that my instincts will guide me well.


Friday, November 16, 2012

Adorable PSA: Dumb Ways to Die

Metro Trains Melbourne has teamed up with Tangerine Kitty to create "Dumb Ways to Die," a musical PSA about all the stupid ways you could kill yourself if you don't pay attention to what you're doing. The cute video introduces us to a cast of little blobs that think it's totally cool to poke grizzly bears, auction off your kidneys, and eat superglue (yum!). They've even made each incident into separate GIFs that you can send along to your common sense-deficient friends.

"For the majority of us, this advice is totally unnecessary," the site states. "Most people are able to recognise for themselves that trains are big, fast and not to be messed with. But sadly a few people just don't get it. And that's why we're running this campaign. To stop them from that brain fade, from doing something dumb and being hit by a train."

Hopefully the catchy tune (that's also available on iTunes) gets the intended point across because it's so darn cute it's almost hard to take seriously. I just want these adorable little morons to be my friends.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Thanksgiving Pecan Pie

Can you believe Thanksgiving is almost a week away? Yipers, this year (and all the other years before it, I know) has flown fast. After that the winter holidays will be upon us and let me tell you I cannot wait until the city is decked in lights and non-stop Christmas carols start playing on the radio. As much as the place irritates me at times, I still can't imagine being away from New York City during that time. The shop windows are already showing off holiday outfits and cozy wintry gear and the city received its first snowfall last week. I've also been drawing and painting up designs for this year's holiday cards so really I'm just waiting for when it's officially a sane time to be all about Christmas and the new year.

In the meantime, my close friend and master baker the Bantu Girl is selling gluten-free and corn syrup-free pecan pies made on a shortbread crust for Thanksgiving. The last day to place an order for her $15 6-inch pies is this Saturday, Nov. 17 so get your order in soon and you won't be that loafer that just eats and runs from your family dinner.


Monday, November 12, 2012

{Monday Inspiration} Dare to Fail

It's scary, but maybe if we focused more on doing rather than doing it perfectly how much more would we accomplish? I've been working on a little project for a friend and the thought of not creating something amazing has completely frozen me over. So I've been stuck between not wanting to let her down and wanting to give up. I've still a bit of fight to commit to the latter just yet, but it's really getting down to the wire. What will you be tackling this week?

Image: via

Friday, November 9, 2012

The Color Run

Have you ever run a 5K? How about a 5K where people are throwing fists of color as you run the three miles so that by the time you cross the finish line you're covered in a rainbow of paint?

When my sister sent me a link to the Color Run, I wanted to sign right up (but NYC will have to wait a bit to register for March's race). The event is taking place in 50 cities around the country and looks like the most playful race. I've participated in the March of Dimes and the Revlon Run/Walk for Women in the past and while both raise awareness to two very important causes, sometimes you need a little craziness, too. I think this sweet mess of a race would do just that (and you don't even have to run the thing). Check out the video below and tell me if you don't agree. Then sign up for updates here and see if there'll be a Color Run near you.


Thursday, November 8, 2012

Skinny Girl Diary: A Non-Relationship with Food

To me, food is just something that'll keep me from dying. There have been times when I've had an amazingly satisfying meal that makes me do my happy dance, but more often then not I just wish there were someway to throw food into my tummy without actually having to sit and eat. If I'm not too preoccupied with any number of things I need to get done, sometimes I'm just not hungry enough or motivated enough to stop for a meal. Clearly it's no way to sustain a healthy lifestyle.

I've never cultivated a healthy relationship with food. As a child, dinnertime was a stressful scenario in which I'd be forced to stay in my seat for hours until I cleared my plate, a huge mountain that even an adult would find challenging to get through. Cue the yelling and the tears, bribes, and stubborn cheeks full of food that would empty into paper towels as soon as I got the chance. To this day, I could be hungry and order apps and entrees only to lose my appetite as soon as it arrives.

Malnutrition and dehydration not only affects you on the inside, but also shows in your physical appearance. Over the last few months I've noticed that no matter what conditioners I use on my hair, I can't get my curls to look soft and healthy anymore. My face and lips are eternally dry and all the beauty products in the world won't seem to work because it all starts with the nutrients I put into my body - or lack thereof.

A couple weeks ago, I downloaded the MyFitnessPlan app onto my iPhone to keep track of my caloric intake each day because the funny thing is that the headaches and thirst aren't good indicators that I need more food and water. No, I need numbers and exact figures to tell me just how deficient I am. So when I saw that I was barely eating 900 calories a day, it was an alarm. At the very least that number should be 1,500 and so there I was wondering how I'm supposed to eat double the amount when it was already a struggle to eat as much (or little) as I currently was. The app has helped raise that number a bit as I've made a game of reaching my daily mark, but it's also made me realize how crazy it is that I have to put so much thought and effort into something many do naturally.

I've met with my doctor (who, gulp, recommended I gain 12 to 15 pounds) and will be seeing a nutritionist soon to map out a diet plan and learn how to eat properly. In the meantime, I've been making use of a gym membership to meet with a trainer to convert extra calories into lean muscle. It's been a long struggle for me, but seeing how my exterior is starting to look like how I've been feeling inside has been a wake-up call. It's never too late to get on a healthier path, right? Here's hoping a good habit finally sticks. I'd drink (water) to that.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Four More Years

"I have always believed that hope is that stubborn thing inside us that insists, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us so long as we have the courage to keep reaching, to keep working, to keep fighting." -President Barack Obama, Nov. 6, 2012

I stayed up late Tuesday night watching Election Day coverage all the way up to President Barack Obama's victory speech. At our friend's house, we had a nice view of the Empire State Building as it marked each candidate's race to 270 electoral votes and were so happy when the whole thing went Obama blue. While everyone says Mitt Romney's concession speech was a gracious one, I can't help but shudder when I think what it would've been like for me as a woman if he and Paul Ryan had been elected instead.

It took me about 45 minutes to vote and much, much longer for others, but I'm glad that we pushed through and made our mark no matter what side we stood for. Here's hoping the next four years bring job growth, health care improvements, equal rights no matter whom we choose to love, and that these politicians stop trying to tell me what I can and can't do to my own body.

Now, anybody else elated that this never-ending campaign is finally over?


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween, everyone! Anyone dressing up this year? Since our annual Village Halloween Parade has been canceled/postponed and there's no subway system to hit up to check out the freak fest that would have ridden it, I will be staying home and telling Toby to hush whenever someone rings my door bell. Because unless those kiddies want some hummus and baby carrots, I've got nothing for them.

P.S. How cute are Liz Climo's Halloween happy creatures? (via NPR)

Image: via

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Hurricane Sandy

Hey all! Just popping in to say we've pretty much made it through Hurricane Sandy in New York City. There was a lot of damage along the shores including flooding and loss of power, but thankfully everything's okay on my end. I've spent the last few days quietly tucked away at home, reading, taking hot baths, and listening to the wind raging outside. Because I was in Europe when the last major storm came our way (here's looking at you, Irene), I was a little nervous about what might come especially once the city decided to shut down, but I barely felt a thing compared to others who weren't so lucky.

Most of us will be stuck in our neighborhoods since our subway system will take a few days to drain out and repair, but limited bus service will begin this evening. Hope everyone made it through the storm safely and without any major losses. Enjoy the mini break if you have it. Being a freelancer + slave to the Internet, I'm not as lucky.

P.S. Did any other hurricane survivors spend Monday just stuffing their faces? Because according to my Facebook newsfeed a whole lot of people just used Sandy as an excuse to gain 10 pounds in 24 hours.


Friday, October 26, 2012

A Fall Weekend in the Catskills

Last weekend, A. and I went on a fall getaway to the Catskill Mountains. We'd been talking about it for a couple years so I was glad that we finally made it happen. Now, because fall foliage peaks at different times depending on where you go, I had been stressing over picking the right spot at just the right time. The Catskills sounded like a beautiful destination and located only two and a half hours from New York City, it'd be an easy drive up. Ideally we would've made our trip on Columbus day weekend so we could take part in the area's festivals and chair lift rides, but I couldn't be happier with our time there. Well, maybe if I wasn't sick the entire time we were away.
For our bed and breakfast accommodations, I picked the Catskill Lodge, a charming house located in Windham, NY along the northern edge of the mountains. Finding an inn that wasn't full during this time, was affordable, and didn't look like it was decorated by your great-grandma was a challenge (and truly there were so many pretty places, but they cost $140+ a night!), but I really lucked out with this pick. The seven-room house was cozy and clean and you'll feel comfortable living there almost straight away. As someone whose shyness typically keeps her from connecting with strangers during her travels, I was a bit nervous about breakfast the first morning. "There will be people eating at the table with us, too!" I whispered as I tried to stall in our room.
What on Earth was I worried about? Eating with other travelers was such a nice piece of our first stay at a b&b. We chatted through our meal with some older couples about the places we'd visited, local history, and what trails people had checked out in the area. Innkeepers Mike and Kellee Yount were absolutely wonderful. She shared stories of interesting guests they'd recently accommodated and suggested activities, restaurants, and scenic routes to check out during our stay. And with Mike throwing it down in the kitchen while we all got to know each other at the table, the second morning had me eagerly looking forward to breakfast time. (I'm still thinking about his pancakes on Sunday morning. He added in cinnamon, vanilla, and pumpkin pie spice to the mix and it was just out of this world. Delicious bacon, too.)
Because we'd arrived at the lodge late Friday night, our fall foliage viewing began with a drive down Platte Cove Road the following morning. We hiked a bit through a Long Path trail right off the road, but the rain from the day before made a stream cutting through the forest impassable without the proper foot gear. The trees were beautiful though. Many in the area had already shed their leaves, but there so many that were still basking in all their…yellowness.
As we kept driving down the road, I wished we'd made our way to the mountains a couple weeks earlier, but felt myself relaxing because the view was still so pretty and we were lucky to be able to experience it under such great conditions. Here A. and I were driving through the Catskills on a gorgeous warm fall afternoon enjoying each other's company. I was severely congested and yet completely happy.

And then the road turned a corner to reveal a clear view of the colorful expanse before us and I don't know how I didn't jump out the car window right then. I wanted to be enveloped by all that vibrancy and dance under that yellow canopy of leaves and light. You remember the double rainbow man? Well I wasn't that crazy, but I can understand how someone can be so overcome by the beauty of nature. Even now, looking at these photos, I can't believe what a show this earth can put on. If that road was all we got to enjoy during our stay in the mountains, I would've returned to the city entirely content. It was just what I had wanted.
But we kept driving on. The rain from the day before would guarantee that the nearby Kaaterskill Falls would be gushing so after sharing a sandwich and fresh smoothies at Maggie's Krooked Cafe & Juice Bar, we made our way down Route 23A for the falls. Landing a parking spot in the tiny lot off the side of the road was a nightmare, but once we did, we climbed our way through the rocky wet trail along the side of the waterfall. It was a fairly easy-to-moderate hike (and I was fighting through my illness as best I could) that took just a little over an hour to complete both ways.
Once we made our way back to the side of the road, I requested we sit on the the metal barrier so I could catch my breath, watch the hikers pass us by, and enjoy the sun starting to set behind us. But mostly, I just wanted to stop time for a while and simply absorb the moment.

That evening, we had dinner at Millrock Restaurant and while A. didn't think his salmon and penne pasta was that good, I really liked my baked shrimp. Back at the lodge, we popped open our complimentary champagne (a little bonus if you're celebrating something at the b&b) and toasted to A.'s 30th birthday and my general awesomeness.
There was no way we were going to rush back into the city and leave all this breathtaking nature behind so quickly so after bidding farewell to our hosts, we drove to North-South Lake in the Catskill Forest Preserve. It was chillier that day (so thank goodness we squeezed in all we did the previous day), but we were happy with taking the day slowly and wandering around. We walked to a lookout point and from there were treated to a view of the Hudson Valley spreading out below. We cuddled on a bench and talked about our ideas, personal wishes, and where we want our lives to take us. It's hard not to be inspired or want to take on so much more when you're sitting on top of a mountain.
My big wishes for this trip were to enjoy the fall foliage (check!), spend time with my boyfriend at a cozy bed and breakfast (check!), and stop into a local farmer's market for produce and some cider. Before we left, Kellee suggested a visit to Vinnie's Farm Market, which was conveniently located on Route 32 and on our way back to the New York Thruway. The place was filled with fresh fruits, veggies, rows and shelves of baked goods and jams, and such kind service. We walked back to the car with our arms full of cider, apples, banana walnut bread, applesauce, cider donuts, and pies filled with strawberry rhubarb (for me) and pumpkin chocolate chip (for him), satisfied with how we capped our fall weekend retreat in New York. It was the sweetest way to celebrate my favorite season.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

What Kind of Music Turns You On?

A couple days ago, while A. and I were enjoying dinner at one of our favorite Asian restaurants "Let's Get It On" came on the radio (because naturally that's what you'd expect to hear while munching on dumplings). When I half-jokingly asked why we don't ever listen to this kind of music when we're being intimate, he simply answered, "Because it's cliché."

So true. We'd probably just goof through the whole thing instead of getting turned on by it. But then yesterday, Spotify sent over a study that backed up that very cliché: people still get it on to Marvin Gaye's track (and, of course, his "Sexual Healing") among others. You'd think people would be tired of these tunes being part of their bedroom soundtrack, but A. offered up a good theory as to why these songs keep topping lists. There probably are lots of other interesting songs being offered up, but the votes don't pile on for those as they do for the iconic ones.

Played out or not, I love listening to music and have a few that are pretty special to me in this relationship. Ben Folds Five's "Brick" was playing the first time I whispered I love you to A. I remember sharing my headphones with him in a California hotel room so we could listen to "Wonderful Tonight" and then falling asleep holding hands. When Adele's "One and Only" comes on, I quietly sing it to him and even though he doesn't have the best voice, laying in bed with A. while he serenades me with Imogen Heap's "Hide and Seek" or Yeasayer's "I Remember" is one the most romantic things he could do to me.

Does music play a role during your intimate moments? Which ones are your favorite?

P.S. Spotify members can listen to playlists of the top 20 tracks to play during sex and the 20 that'll serve as foreplay.

Image: via

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Tatzu Nishi's Discovering Columbus

While A.'s mom was in town we took her to see Tatzu Nishi's Discovering Columbus public art installation. The Japanese artist created a living room around Manhattan's Christopher Columbus statue that was erected in 1892 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the explorer's journey to the Americas. Feel as you wish about the man, the monument has been an icon at Columbus Circle, just yards away from Central Park, and the fountained area serves as a little piece of repose as the traffic and crowds rush around you. Nishi's latest installation attempts to provide a more intimate perspective to a statue that has marked that spot for the last 120 years - or at least it would be if a stream of viewers weren't constantly marching into the room along with you.
The fully-furnished living room, which sits atop the statue's granite column at more than 75 feet above the street, houses the 13-foot-tall statue and makes it seem as if it's just part of the contemporary décor of some well-to-do couple's home. A collection of books on various topics line the bookshelves, the flat screen TV is turned to the news, and the wallpaper is detailed with American pop culture references that Nishi gathered from watching Hollywood movies and television as a child.

As someone who's only rushed past the statue her whole life barely stopping to squint up into the sky for a better look at it, it was cool to see the marble piece from so close and in such a different environment. The column rises up through the wood floor and the room is built around it, but it's so seamless that it looks like someone cut off the statue and placed it on top of the table. We sat on the comfy couches just inches away from his feet pretending that we lived in a fancy home that could house such a giant art piece and provide such an amazing view of the city.
Discovering Columbus will be on view through Nov. 18 after which the enclosed space will house workers as they restore the statue during the winter months. For free timed passes visit

Monday, October 22, 2012

Blog, Inc. Q&A with Joy Cho of Oh Joy!

A couple weeks ago I attended a launch party that Joy Cho hosted in New York City's West Elm for her new book Blog, Inc. The handbook, which contains advice on starting and growing your blog, finding your voice, design tips, attracting readership, and interviews with established bloggers, is good for both newbies and those who want to take their site to the next level. I only wish I had this book when I started out five years ago, but have already gleaned ideas from the first few chapters.

At the book party, we were not only treated to hors d'oeuvres, fizzy cocktails, and chats with fellow (and future) bloggers, but Joy also had a question and answer session to address some of our blogging concerns. I have to say she gave so much thought to each question and is such a doll in person that you can't help but admire her. So from nailing down a topic and beating writer's block to turning your blog into a full-fledged career, here are some of the tips she shared with us.

How do I find my authentic voice and know what subject to blog on?

I think this is the thing the intimidates people about starting a blog because you feel like there are millions and lots of them are so awesome that you wonder well what am I going to add to this awesomeness that's out in the Internet? Well I feel everybody has something to say, everybody has something to contribute. There's something that you're interested in whether it's something that you do for a living or maybe it's something that you do on the side as a hobby or maybe something you wish you did on the side as a hobby and those are things that drive the content of a blog. It's something that you're really interested in, that you're passionate about, and that you can think of something within that topic that you can blog about regularly.

Now what ends up happening is a lot of people have 10 things they're interested in and they're like okay, so how do I narrow it down? Basically you narrow it down by the things you think you can talk about most often, the things you're most interested in, and also the two or three things that can work well together.
Do I blog about one very specific niche thing or do I have a broad combination of things?

In my blog there's a combination. There's food, fashion, a little décor, and a little of my personal life and that's pretty much how I started. I've stuck to that along the way, but now I think it's a little bit different. If you're starting a blog now when there is so much out there, I would really try and focus on a niche if you can, if there's one specific thing that you absolutely love and that you absolutely have to talk about at length every day or every other day. But if you really do love a mix of things as long as they can kind of live together and they feel like a cohesive lifestyle, there's still a story that can still be told in that.

There's no rules. If anything, when people are just starting out, I say just blog a bunch. If you like a few different things, blog that, see what continues to feel good for you, what feels easy, what feels natural and it'll start to evolve from there.

How do you balance your life as a mother, wife, and entrepreneur?

For me it's about getting help because you look at people online, people on TV, you look at celebrities who are moms and you just think that everybody's doing everything so perfectly. You think that everybody's wearing heels while they're sweeping the carpet and while they're cooking a beautiful chicken for their husband and nobody's doing all that. I certainly am not and for me it really is about getting help, choosing your battles and choosing what's most important. Certainly once I had my daughter a year ago there were a lot things that I was like you know what? Those things are not going to happen. Luckily, people in your life are understanding as well, but it's about choosing what's most important and it's also about getting help.

I have an amazing part-time nanny who helps watch my daughter so I can work focused part-time during the week and other times I'm with her I work during naps. I basically use that time knowing that my life has changed to really focus on quality over quantity and I wish that was something that I learned sooner even before I had kids, but this has really helped me to prioritize things in my life.
At what point did it click for you and say, "I can do this to support my family?"

I actually do a few other things in addition to blogging. There are a lot of bloggers who blog full-time and that is their thing, but I think I'm one of those people that likes to do a lot of different things and I don't see myself just yet only doing blogging. I'm a graphic designer and for a while I had a lot of design clients. I design various products with licensers. I also write books, of course, and I do consulting so for me I like to have my head in a lot of things. As a self-employed person and as a blogger, for me it took a few years to click. I started my blog and my business in 2005 and the first year or two I'll be honest, I was struggling. My husband was in med school, I was just starting my business, we were totally racking up credit card debt because neither of us gained that much money, we'd moved to a new city, and it was one of those times in your early 20s when you're really figuring things out. I love that I went through that time because I can appreciate this time more when we got through that hurdle. It's much better.

I think for me it took probably about three years for my business as whole before I went oh my gosh, this thing can really work. Within the first six months to a year is when I decided to do it and I saw the potential. Because I don't have a job where someone's giving me a paycheck every two weeks and I don't have health insurance from a job and so you really want to feel like things are going pretty well to feel confident about it. And to be honest, it's one of those things where you can never rest in laurels. Tomorrow people could stop reading my blog, people could stop hiring me to do consulting or freelance work so you always want to be pushing.
How do you manage all of your different social communities?

So there's a lot of them and I'm sure everybody's so overwhelmed with all the social media that there is. For me, it's about choosing my favorites. So in addition to my blog, I love Twitter. Twitter is one of those things where I can just say something, it can be an image, it can be about a thought, and those are the things that do best because it's something I can do quick. I don't have to think about it too much. Some other bloggers prefer Facebook because that's a way they can communicate with their audience in a different way. They can show outtakes from a style blog or they can show behind the scenes from some other type of post.

If you're pretty new at blogging and you need to choose one other thing, choose which one just feels most comfortable to you. I think people feel a lot of pressure to have their hands in everything. Don't feel like you need to start all those things all at once. Slowly add in what feels comfortable. I would join all of those and if you just came up with your blog name, I would reserve that name for all of those different social media portals, but I would use them freely and see which ones stick.

Would you say that you're an extrovert and is that important as a blogger?

I would actually say that I am not. I think that people view a lot of bloggers as being extroverts because you are like, "Hey, look at my outfit! Look at my life!" The funny thing is a lot of bloggers are actually not like that in person. It's easier for us to type things out, take pictures from the comfort of our own families or our friends and put that out there, but I do understand that people that are a little more introverted are probably a little bit shy about it. A lot of people say to me, "I want to blog, but I know that it's good to show your life, but I'm really shy and I don't really want to show myself." And so I think you show what you're comfortable with. If you don't feel comfortable showing yourself at all, then don't, but I do feel like these days people do like to connect with the person.

For the first couple years of my site, I didn't show any photos of myself. Nobody really knew what I looked like unless they went to my About page, but now I'm there pretty regularly, at least once a week, and I found that people really do want to connect. It's kind of like watching reality TV and even though you know it's so bad for you or you know that your life is not like theirs, you connect with these people and you watch it because all of a sudden you start to know their life, know their personality, you know their good sides and their bad sides, and everything in between. So the thing that in a more positive and less trashy way you want to bring to your site is that connection because people really enjoy that.
As an artist should I be worried about people copying my content?

It's a catch-22. I think the nature of the Internet is such that somebody who's a little-known artist could become super well-known in a matter of a month or a couple clicks. It could catapult somebody into a huge career because somebody discovered them online. You could be the next whomever because you put your artwork on a blog and somebody finds it. So it's sort of that risk that you take. Now can you copyright your artwork? Sure, there's plenty of legal things you can do and there's a section in book where I talk about the various ways that you can copyright, but on same side sometimes people are super protective. Photographers especially is an example where people will want to watermark their photos and you understand why they do it, but it does take away from the image. So it's one of those things where I feel like the risk is worth it.

I know that for me the things that I've put out there I've certainly seen some of my images or even my posts on other sites. Most of the times it doesn't happen. It will happen from time to time, but usually I find that the risk of the exposure is worth the potential small percentage of somebody copying from you.

Has blogging ever become a chore and if so, how do you get excited about it again?

Honestly just like any job, I'm sure there's nobody here who's had a job and said oh my gosh, I love my job every single day of my entire life and if you do then you're like the luckiest person ever. I feel lucky that I do love my job 95 percent of the time, but certainly there are times when I wake up the next day and maybe just haven't gotten my post done in advance. I try and do them at least a day or two in advance and some days I don't get to it. Maybe I'm too busy or maybe I'm just tired or something in life just pulled me away and it happens. Sometimes I feel bad because I'm like "Ahh! People are waiting for whatever I'm going to post that day."

For me it's really about thinking outside the box, going outside of my comfort zone, and doing something different. I say in the day-to-day life if you need a change, if you're feeling burned out, step outside your comfort zone and do something different. I sit at my computer all day long and I'm so used to it, but you know sometimes I cannot sit in front of that computer anymore. I need to go outside. I need to go look at things. I need to remember there are libraries out there. There are museums and there are places where you can go for inspiration that are not in front of your computer and I have to remind myself of that, too. So within those times I do that and it's not necessarily always art-based or creative-based. Maybe I just have to go to the gym or do something that takes my mind completely away from what it is that I'm struggling with or what it is that I'm trying to do. Usually something like that or a series of things like that helps to bring me back.
How did you choose your blogging platform?

I use Typepad, but there are a plethora of ones. There are so many of them that are similar in so many ways and based on what you need there are usually two or three that might serve your needs and I usually recommend doing a trial period. You can kind of test it out, you can see okay, how does this work? How do I upload images? How do I insert text? Does it feel intuitive or is it something where I need to know HTML? And depending on your HTML knowledge or not various ones are better for you.

Typically I recommend Typepad or Squarespace or WordPress. I think that those are three of the strongest ones unless you're going to build your own site from scratch, of course. I think that Blogger is one of those sites that is a default site for a lot of people because it's free and is one that most people know about, but I find that people tend to switch later on because they get frustrated with HTML or they don't necessarily know coding and they find it harder to navigate. Also, Tumblr is really great for image driven sites. So there's probably about five or six that are the most common ones and so within the book I talk about it in more detail and you just have to see what's right for you.

When you started your blog in 2005 social media wasn't what it is today so how did you go about growing your blog?

Well at the time I didn't think about growing my blog. I wasn't purposely trying to grow it because I didn't know what it could become and I think now it's a little different because people know the potential of blogs so I always recommend you start small. Think about it as having a new business. How would you tell people about your business? You would tell your coworkers, you would tell your friends on Facebook, you start to tell everybody that you know. And then with blogging you reach out to bloggers. I know that it sounds like one of those things where people feel intimidated to write to blogs they think are so well established and be like oh, those people won't read my site, but you never know. It's worth it to send a short, sweet, and polite email to other bloggers you think would like your blog and just have them check it out.

So start small, reach out to other bloggers, and also via Twitter, Instagram and various social media networks you'll find other people who are also trying to grow their sites. A lot of times you guys can support each other and link to each other. You're all finding other sites that you really like and then you support and help to grow each other.

Friday, October 19, 2012

{Happy Friday}

Happy Friday, my little monkeybutts! What are you doing for the weekend? Today A. and I are heading up into the Catskill Mountains for a fall weekend getaway at a cute bed and breakfast. We've been talking about it for two years so I'm glad we're finally making it happen (the fact that I'm currently sick and it's raining won't dampen my spirits). I hope to sleep in, stroll into farmer's markets, and enjoy the changing season. We've started wearing our favorite jackets and cuddling under our duvet and last night, we enjoyed some homemade caramel sauce with apple slices and over vanilla ice cream so I think we got this whole autumn thing locked.

Hope you have a beautiful weekend. Here are a few links I loved this week:

Caramel apple coffee cake.
A simple and sweet costume based on The Red Balloon.
A modernist dollhouse.
Have you ever said these crazy things to your children?
DIY striped notebooks.
A tent for sale!
I want this lamp for myself (or this one that's a bit more mature).
Parcel inspired social icons.
Love letter napkins.
A free art sharing project in San Francisco.

Image: via Roni Dé on

For A. From Us: A Collaborative B-day Surprise

The Welcome to New York City goodie bag wasn't the only thing that kept me busy the last three weeks. With A.'s 30th birthday coming up I wanted to surprise him with something big again and after Thailand's New Year's Eve scheme, I was pretty confident I could pull another one over on the man. Enter this idea for a book of tiny envelopes filled with messages and goodies from A.'s family and friends. Did you ever read The Jolly Postman when you were a child? Well it's reminiscent of that and a similar project I made when I was younger.

For A.'s book, I reached out to so many loved ones, friends I'd yet to meet in the states and overseas, people he'd never even seen in person but had bonded with thanks to the Internet. I sent out Facebook messages, emails, and mailed out with small gift card-sized envelopes that I wanted them to fill in any way they wished. I was thrilled by how excited people were to join in (one of his favorite authors even emailed a little quote for me to include) and felt like it was Christmastime every time I opened the mailbox and saw that another self addressed stamped envelope had made its way back home.

People sent along notes, photos, money, creative treats, and random affections, even larger gifts that I had to sneak into A.'s apartment. It was fun to watch him open up an envelope and then go around the room opening drawers and cabinets to find things that were hiding there all along.
I was nervous that someone would spill the beans in their birthday message to A., but thankfully I was able to keep it under wraps until he, his mom, and I went out for a nice dinner at Dylan Prime (amazing filet mignon by the way). Right before dessert, I told A. I had something for him and soon into my little speech about my love of sweeping gestures and surprises he got really nervous.

"Chill out, I'm not proposing to you!" I laughed.
"Oh good," he exhaled with relief. "I can relax now."

First, I presented him with a letter opener because, I said, I'd asked for help with this present and that he'd now need help to open it up. Then I made him close his eyes and placed the thick black book in front of him. By the time I was done gluing in everyone's messages, which were still coming in at the last moment, the book wouldn't even close. Over one hundred red, white, and black envelopes made their way in. It was such a wonderful feeling to see A.'s reaction to the gesture, I almost teared up along with him. He was so overwhelmed, so overcome, that he didn't know what to say. So he just took the letter opener and started tearing into the envelopes one by one smiling, laughing, and in disbelief that people would go through the effort to show how much they care. That and the fact that his girlfriend is so damn sneaky and completely in love with him.