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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Pintester Movement: DIY ribbon tank

Many a night I've spent repinning things I love on Pinterest - recipes that look amazing, tutorials on how to do pretty much anything, places I'd love to go but probably never will, etc. - but never really get around to doing or trying any of these things.  In the past few months, I've at least tried some of the recipes - I will say that for about every 2 or 3 that are successful, there is one that is an absolute total failure (the Buffalo Chicken Meatball Massacre will haunt me for years, I tell you) and I always think, "why the hell would someone pin this?!"

The lovely and hilarious Sonja at Pintester has been taking the guesswork (and grueling hours, and tears, and ultimate failures) out of some of our favorite pins for trying them for us.  Her experiences are hysterical, and make me feel like less of a loser when I try a pin and it ultimately sucks.  Recently, she proposed The Pintester Movement, where the blog world attempts a pin they've been staring at for months, and writes about it.  Originally, I had wanted to do something food related, but trying to find the time this week has been difficult, so I went with something else - DIY t-shirts.


 My shirt is an XL and has been previously washed and dryed, so I know it's done shrinking. (I hope.)

The instructions were simple and visual (my favorite) and showed me exactly where to cut on my oversized t-shirt.  (I also realized, doing this, that I own a LOT of oversized t-shirts.  Will this pass the test?  Will I suddenly have a closet of DIY ribbon tanks?  Time will tell.)

Pretty easy - cut arms, making sure to cut inwards and also further down, and cut a deep neck.  Also cut bottom.

The final result?

Pretty cute, eh?
 
I tried it on and it fits great.  I may have to cut the arms a little deeper and the neck a little deeper, as it bunches more and isn't as loose as I would like it, but this is one of those DIY's where its really up to your preference, and how large a shirt you're working with.  I will definitely be doing this to a few more of my insanely oversized t-shirts, especially with the summer heat creeping up.  I may rock this to the beach this weekend!

I'd say this one is Pinner approved.
 

5 songs.

Long before I had an iPod (but everyone else did) I would make mix CD's for my discman.  Usually it was some sort of mash-up of songs I had heard recently and liked, mixed with some older songs I had rediscovered.  Since I hated writing the titles of the songs on the discs themselves, I would label them based on when I made them or what the occasion was surrounding it, or, when I got real creative, a lyric from the first song on the CD.  It was a terrible organization system - many a person has flipped through my giant CD book, pulled out a random mix, and stated something like "What's on 'Florida Mix '03'?" (S Club 7, Whitney Houston, Disney covers and a little JC Chasez.)  But it was a system that worked for me, and, ultimately, attached lots of memories to a random playlist that I can recall the second I listen to it.

Because of this, choosing just five songs was really tough.  There are probably thousands of songs that I have a memory attached to.  Charlie will comment that, quite often, while we are driving, a song will come on and my immediate response is "oh, man, this song reminds me of _________" and then I go into a 20 minute story that means absolutely nothing to anyone else but me.  Sometimes, those memories aren't great ones, and I'd ignore a song for a long time because it was instant heartache.  (It took me a very long time to recover from "We Might As Well Be Strangers" by Keane, "Cautioners" by Jimmy Eat World, and "Dreaming With a Broken Heart" by John Mayer.)  But for the most part, one of my favorite things about music is how much it can transport you.  To instantly listen to a song and be sucked back to a point in your life you haven't visited in a while?  That's pretty cool.

"Springsteen" - Eric Church
This is one of those songs that not only has a memory attached to it, but also brings back a certain feeling.  Its that kind of song that you hear and you're like "whoa, this reminds me so much of being 17/18 and yet I just heard it for the first time at 24."  When driving cross country with my dad almost a year ago (crazy!) we listened to a lot of local radio stations through the midwest, and it was mostly country.  This song was very, very popular on the airwaves at the time, so we heard it often, but the one thing it reminds me of the most is Kansas.  Wide, flat, goes-on-forever Kansas, with its sweeping plains and the random gas station or farm you would pass every 20 miles or so.  While this song was playing, I watched a crazy thunderstorm literally roll in from the south, and knew I was approaching it miles before I was in it.  It was beautiful, awesome and a little bit haunting.

"Nothing Left to Lose" - Mat Kearney


I spent my first semester of college at Arizona State, in a single dorm room on the south end of campus, settled up right against a railway.  I also discovered this song right around the time I got there, and I took my iPod with me everywhere.  This song was on the Top 25 rotation for a very long time, and there's a line where he says "I can still hear the train outside my window" which always reminds me of the nights I'd fall asleep in that dorm room, hearing the train.  It brings me right back to that campus the second I hear it.

"Dreamgirl" - Dave Matthews Band


I was never a fan of this video but loved this song.  This was on heavy rotation the summer after my junior year of high school and makes me think of long, hot summers.

"Waiting in Vain" - Annie Lennox


This is one of my absolute favorite covers, from one of my favorite movies, Serendipity.  It also reminds me of my semester at ASU - I had my iTunes set to alphabetize by artist, so this was one of the first songs that would come up, and it was a great way to start the morning.

"Boston" - Kenny Chesney


Last but not least.  I've seen Kenny in concert twice, and being from Massachusetts and a little biased, I have always loved this song.  My favorite memory, though, is the last time I saw him at Gillette Stadium.  It had been drizzling all day, on and off, which made for a not-so-great tailgate.  By the time his set was half over, it was full on raining, yet when he started this song, surrounded by hundreds of thousands of Bostonians, the vibe totally changed.  I will never forget how amazing it was to be surrounded by great friends, singing along to this.

Friday, May 24, 2013

3 worst traits for a 3 day weekend.

IT IS FINALLY FRIDAY!  This hasn't been a tough week - its actually been quiet, work wise - but for whatever reason, my brain is struggling to keep up.  I mean, I almost left the house without shoes on yesterday.  I think that says enough.

Day 24 of this challenge calls for me to list my top three worst traits.  I think there are way more than three, but I singled out the three that I'm trying my hardest to improve on and/or having the hardest time with.



I struggle with finding myself valuable.  Whether its work, or relationships, I have trouble confidently saying "I am valuable."  Work, especially, is the hardest.  I will find all sorts of excuses as to why I'm "just doing my job" and not necessarily recognize when I am going the extra mile, or am a positive asset to a company.

I can not take compliments.  I really can't.  Never have been able to, whether its a compliment about my outfit, or a job I did, or how I am as a person.  I mean, when we first started dating, I spent three whole days texting with C about whether or not I was beautiful.  (I'm also stubborn, but I don't necessarily consider that a bad trait. :) )  I will say thank you when getting a compliment, but then brush it off like its NBD.  This goes a little hand in hand with trait number one.

I'm easily excitable.  This comes in handy when I'm ramping up for a full day of excitement at Disneyland - it does not when I'm treading on the edge of an argument.  I've been working on trying to take deep breaths before instantly going into crazy-defense mode, which is made worse by my voice getting louder, and its been a challenge.  I have learned that sometimes I do need to close my eyes, take a deep breath, or even, briefly, walk away, just so I can gather my thoughts and try to continue the conversation in a mature fashion.

It's been challenging on working on all three, especially when they come hand-in-hand quite often, but it is nice to feel like I'm making some growth, you know?

--

This weekend is getting kicked off by taking in a Dodger game tonight, where we're treated with fireworks afterwards.  Although I enjoy baseball, I will wholeheartedly admit that the major reason why I go is for the food.  Big Kid Dog, anyone?

(I realize that this comes on the heels of reports that hot dogs cause disease, but I've eaten so many hot dogs in my life, I'm already playing that hand anyway.  Plus, MAC AND CHEESE.  Helloooo.)

Tomorrow we're celebrating C's birthday at a new BBQ joint with friends.  Good BBQ is hard to come by in Los Angeles, so I'm hoping this one will win me over.  I judge my BBQ joints by their cornbread and coleslaw.

Sunday we're taking round 3 on our new hike at Griffith, and bringing some friends along.  I just found my Camelbak (buried deep in my trunk for goodness knows how long) and between that, my new fitness belt (that's right, I said it, FITNESS BELT), a bottle of water and a bottle of Vitamin Water, I'm hoping this will be the one-two-three punch to keep the headaches at bay.  The hike will be a nice challenge, but we all know I'm just in it for the post-hike meal of burgers or tacos.  I'm already itching for some solid pico de gallo.

Monday is a clean slate for now, although, after everything else, it'll probably be a day hanging by the pool, and possibly followed by a bike ride.  I'm sorry to my loved ones in New England who'll be dealing with rainrainrain, but its supposed to be in the mid-70s all weekend.

But for now, there is a Law & Order: SVU marathon that is calling my name.  Happy Friday!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

A little life schooling...

Do you ever a moment where you think something and you immediately follow with the thought,

"ohmygoodness, my parents/guardians/adult figures in life were RIGHT."

My dad has always been the school/career/cooking advice giver, while my mom has always been the person to encourage me to brush my hair/wear clean undies and let me know that "those shoes don't match that outfit."  It took me a long time to admit it, but they were (and are!) pretty spot on about a lot of things.  That took a lot of getting used to... and admitting.  Phew.  I feel better.



I remember being a kid, and my dad trying to get me to watch the original Star Wars movies, telling me how much I'd love them.  I was totally not into it.  Not even a little bit.  And yet, there that 3 VHS tape set sat on our TV stand, staring at me every day.  Not sure when, or how it happened, but I stumbled upon "Return of the Jedi" first, and the immediately needed to see the other two... and "Return of the Jedi" again.  I loved them.  And he was right.

Another time, he had been trying to encourage me to listen to a lot of bands from "his generation" including The Beatles.  Again, so not into it, I'd rather listen to my Britney Spears CD.  But then, one day, while driving around, "Come Together" came on the radio, and I admitted it was a really cool song.  Dad wins another one.

But Star Wars/Beatles love aside, the biggest life lesson my dad ever tried to impart on me was "it's not what you know, its who you know" and its true.  Its 100% true.

Education is important and by no means am I implying that it isn't.  I'm a huge supporter of a college education because you not only learn things in the field of your choosing but (guess what) you also learn a lot of life lessons.  And one of those life lessons, a lesson my dad had tried to teach me years and years before, is that establishing and maintaining relationships with a lot of people will help you out.  A lot.  I'm not talking romantic relationships, or even close friendships, but just meeting people and keeping in touch with them will eventually come in handy.

Here's an example, just to sort of explain my point further.  I can look at each one of my jobs, and in almost every one, point to the exact person who helped me get that job.  Here's the list:

- 15 years old, teller at a local bank; a family friend worked there and encouraged me to apply, and put in a good word for me.
- 16 years old, bear builder extraordinaire at Build-A-Bear (yes, seriously); my friend Amanda was already working there, and put in a good word for me.
- 18 years old, summer camp counselor in my hometown; my old tee-ball coach ran the program, remembered me (after years of running into him around town, and because I went to school with his son) and offered me the gig.
- 20 years old, selling books at Barnes & Noble; a friend of a friend is an author, and did a lot of signings at this store, and had established a relationship with their staff.  Say it with me - put in a good word for me.
- 21 years old, internship for a local television station; a professor had a friend who worked at said station and passed along my resume on my behalf.
- 22 years old, internship at a major movie studio; another friend had a connection at said studio, and reached out to see if I could meet with that connection while in LA, which then turned into the interview for the internship.
- 23 years old, first real big girl job at a non-profit; a friend from high school, Dana, had been interning there at the time, knew of the job, and again, put in a good word for me.
- 25 years old, current dream job; two different co-workers at studio knew I was looking for a job, heard about this one, and both recommended me for it.

See how that works?  Kind of crazy, right?

I certainly didn't get many of these jobs without having a skill set or some experience to back them up, BUT I can't say that I would have gotten any of them, had I not had a friend in the mix.  That is something no college class every prepared me for, but it has never steered me wrong.  Not once.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

BE NICE.

I've been waiting for this day since the Blog Every Day in May challenge has started.

There are plenty of things to complain about on a daily basis.  One of my resolutions this year was to complain/whine less, and I feel I've been doing a pretty good job.  (Plus, who wants to read post after post of me just kvetching about things, right?  Answer: no one.)  One of my biggest issues as a human being is that I'm naturally inclined to take everything personally.  It's something I'm working on, for sure, but it has not been easy, especially in a business where people are easily ramped up and excitable, both positively and negatively.

There is one thing, however, that really grinds my gears.

When people are not nice.


Most of my job is spent sending emails and handling phone calls, and the majority of the people I am emailing with and/or talking to are doing a similar job.  Some of us have higher-stress environments than others.  I get that.  But I also don't think it necessary to be an ass to me just because I'm asking a question.  We're all trying to do our jobs, right?

This really came to a pinnacle of "THIS IS DRIVING ME F'ING CRAZY" a few weeks ago when I was in the process of setting a meeting with another office.  Myself, and the other assistant (we'll call her Mary) had to set this meeting with a lot of people in a very short time frame.  She emailed me with a date, time, list of attendees, and I confirmed.  All good, right?

Well, a few days later (about 2 days before the meeting) I realized in her original email she forgot 2 people I knew were supposed to attend.  So I emailed her, apologizing for my oversight, and letting her know that they'd be attending.  She immediately called me and the conversation went something like this:

Mary: why wasn't I informed of this sooner? You didn't mention this last week.

(btw, she didn't even say hello, or anything of that sort.)

Me: I apologize, I knew it had been discussed on the call. I should have double checked your email and that was my fault.

Mary: no, it was NOT discussed on the call, this is the first I'm hearing of this!

(I'm using an exclamation point because she was snappy and loud, but unfortunately there is no real way I can convey that with punctuation.)

I won't go into the rest of the details (mostly because its boring) but she eventually accused me of lying, accused my boss of lying, and then hung up on me.  Yes, she HUNG UP ON ME.

Okay, I lied.  This is a rant about two things.  One, can't we all be nice? and two, IT IS SO DISRESPECTFUL TO HANG UP ON SOMEONE.

I have to admit, normally, in situations like this, I find myself getting all ramped up to meet that person at their crazy level.  In this case, I was calm cool and collected, and kept expressing to her my want to help solve the "problem" and hopefully come to a resolution.  In the end, there ended up being no problem at all, as she could have handled it internally (without involving me), we didn't have to move the meeting, and all was good.  But SHE HUNG UP ON ME.

I'm trying to be better about being less judgmental and therefore trying to justify others terrible behaviors, like, maybe she spilled hot soup on her lap this morning, or, maybe she just found out her health insurance premium is going up $50 a month (another story), but this one was tough.  Especially when I spent that afternoon asking all of my other assistant friends who all agreed that they'd never hang up on someone else.  Maybe I just happen to have friends who are nice.  I don't know.

The moral of the story is, I don't know why we just can't all be nice to each other.  I'm not even asking for you to say please or thank you necessarily (but that would be great!) but just not to scream at me for something that isn't my fault, especially when I'm trying to help.

oh, and lets not hang up on each other.  thanks.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Struggling with too much sun.

That's a quality problem, right?  Getting too much sun?  "Oh, poor you, you live in Southern California where it's sunny ALL THE TIME!" says everyone I know who I mention this to.  And trust me, I'm not complaining about the fact that we generally have great weather.  I'm complaining about my inability to handle the great weather in large quantities.

Before I began my one lone semester at Arizona State, I had to sit through hours and hours of orientation.  (Remember your college orientation? Remember how FUN that was? Not.)  The only thing I remember - to this day, seriously, the only thing I remember - is the discussion regarding sun exposure, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke.  To summarize, ASU gets a whole lot of out of state students, and many come from areas of the country where temps don't get crazy hot, and even if they do, its only for like, a day.  Because of that, one of the things they were trying to drill into our heads was to be prepared - to keep water bottles on us at all times; wear loose fitting, light colored clothing; and, if possible, work out during the early morning or evening hours.  My mom heard this and got totally freaked, and bought me 3 cases of water from Costco (which actually was one of the best things ever) and a huge bottle of sunblock.  I can say that in the first two weeks of classes, I would have to change my clothes twice a day because I'd sweat through them (TMI?) and I got some pretty awful sunburns on my feet.  I also melted two pairs of Old Navy flip flops and instead of gaining the freshman 15, I lost it.  Despite my difficult transition into 115 degree days, there were many a day where I would walk past the student health building, and the line was out of the door, filled with kids who didn't drink enough water.  Seriously.

That being said, I think I re-acclimated myself to this kind of weather pretty quickly, but the one thing I have yet to conquer is hydrating properly while hiking.  Back during my Team In Training days, I would listen to coaches explain all sorts of strategies on how to fuel and hydrate during long runs.  I learned how beneficial a salt packet is during a marathon (yes, really) and how chocolate milk is one of the best things ever at the end.  But, admittedly, I didn't pay a whole lot of attention to how often to hydrate while exerting yourself in any situation, and I should have.  I regret it now because I'm struggling with it on our weekly hikes. 

I haven't gotten sick (yet - knock on wood) but I've come close.  This week's hike was a little longer, and definitely tougher.  Since we only had my one bottle of water, and had to share, I didn't drink as much as I normally do, and didn't prepare with a bottle of water in the car.  My post-hike feeling is normally a headache that takes an hour to kill with rehydrating and usually eating something, but this week was the first time where I felt nauseous enough that I couldn't eat (and the burger I had ordered look SO delicious, too!) and it took me much, much longer to recover.

After doing some research, it seems the general rule of thumb with running is to drink water only when you're thirsty, and with hiking, to drink one liter of water per hour.  With the one liter rule, I'm right on track, but its possible I'm not hydrating enough before hand, or, in cases where its warmer out, I should be drinking more.

My plan of attack for next weekend is to definitely drink more before we leave; bring an extra bottle to leave in the car, plus a bottle of Gatorade (need to get that salt and electrolytes back in!) and maybe even wear a hat (my face gets the hottest the fastest - hopefully this will keep me a bit cooler).  Hopefully this'll get me on the right track to finishing a hike without a headache for once.

How do you hydrate or rehydrate during your workouts?  Any tips you'd recommend?

Friday, May 17, 2013

Happy Friday! (And favorite photo.)

I'm not really a fan of how I look in all most pictures, so I had to do some digging to find one I would consider a favorite.  My worst are candid photos.  If I'm listening to someone talk, focusing on something, talking myself, whatever - my face looks awful.  Someone once told me that they had seen me at a bar with a few friends and wanted to come up and say hi, but that I looked really angry.  Apparently, when I am not actively aware that I am smiling, I just look mad, even when I could be spacing out or totally fine.  (I'm working on that, trust me.)

This photo was taken at my favorite hometown bar, on trivia night, in 2010.  It was a few days before I left to move to LA (the first time) and I was spending time with my parents (briefly) and friends.  I love this photo 'cause I have a great tan, I'm only wearing mascara (oh, those were the days) and I loved how much the sun had bleached out my hair.  It's crazy to think that this was only 3 years ago - my hair is so long now in comparison - and I think I donated that shirt.  3 years doesn't seem like a whole lot of time but sometimes it feels that way!

Before I bow out for the weekend, here are some of my favorite things from the week:

This article about visiting Disney as an adult without kids.  I have this discussion with a lot of people who think I'm crazy, but apparently I'm of the "majority" in the world, as an adult, who doesn't have children, who loves Disney.  Despite the author's apprehension, she does seem to finally give in to the magic.

Reading my Twitter page in "gangsta slang" thanks to Gizoogle.  Type your Twitter handle (with the @ symbol) in search and see for yourself.  My personal favorite was the following: "I'm glad da most thugged-out hard as f@#! decision I gotta make todizzle is which book ta start reading.

The best part of the series finale of The Office.  (Spoilers if you haven't watched!)


Bill Hader is leaving SNL, and that means Stefon is also leaving SNL.  Here are the top 5 Stefon moments.  I seriously can not watch a single Stefon sketch without crying from laughter.


This coffee mug which is oh. so. true.

Happy Friday, everyone!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Perspective.

Today's prompt is to write about our "lot in life" and something difficult that we are trying to overcome.  I've been thinking about this one for a few days now, because at first glance, there is really nothing for me to complain about - I had a wonderful childhood, I am thoroughly enjoying adulthood; I am healthy, my family and friends are healthy; I have a roof over my head and shoes on my feet and food in the fridge.  I have a wonderful boyfriend and fantastic, supportive, kind friends.  I have a great job and a steady social life.

After spending almost a year working with blood cancer patients, their families and friends, I can look back and say that it had brought me perspective.  Lots and lots of perspective.  The job was great; I was constantly meeting new people and learning new things.  But it was also emotionally taxing.  It was hard not to be affected by each persons story, some hopeful and promising, and others tragic and heartbreaking.  If there is one thing I learned from that job, it is to life your life to the fullest extent you can.  Cancer doesn't discriminate; it doesn't care if you're getting married, if you're having a baby, if you're starting college, if you're the healthiest person you know.  To wake up every day and say "I'm healthy" is a gift, that is for sure.

But along with that lesson came the strong desire to then live that full life, and that, I suppose, is where my difficulty lies.  Difficulty is a strong word.  I suppose it is an obstacle, an ongoing obstacle, that is a struggle everyone is having now, and that is money.

I have a steady job, with a steady income.  But, much like everyone else I know, I also have debt.  Lots of lovely student loan debt.  I'm able to pay my loans each month (for the most part) but it is a constant, looming cloud of doom, hanging over everything.  I will probably be paying off that debt for a very, very long time.  Not quite something I was hoping for.

But, again, perspective.  Outside of that, I really don't have anything to complain about.  And I have learned, many times in the past, that the universe has a way of helping you out, when you express gratitude for the things you do have, and acceptance for the things you can't change, and ask for its help in return.  So that is what I'm trying to focus on - the good, and the present - and making sure that I ask for the appropriate kind of help when needed.  And fingers crossed the Universe helps me out.  Again.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

3/4ths of a day.

...because here on the west coast, my day is far from over, and yet anything remotely worth photographing and documenting has already happened.  The rest of my day will be filled with what I like to call the home stretch at work (the last 2 hours always seem to last forever), attempting a new dinner idea (I'll post the "recipe" if it actually works), getting in my squats/planking/leg lunges (more on that later) and watching reruns of Full House until I fall asleep (don't judge).


Admiring my gerber daisies I bought yesterday because the florist ran out of lilacs.  Bummer.
 I aim to wake up every morning somewhere between 7 and 7:30.  I've been using this nifty app called Sleep Cycle, which allows you to set a time frame that you wish to wake up in.  After it figures out how you move in your sleep the first few nights, it then figures out when you are in the least deep sleep in that time frame, and slowly wakes you up with sounds or music you pick.  It also allows you to set notes of things you did that day, like eating late, being sick, or having a few too many glasses of wine.  You can then track what things have positive and negative affects on your sleep.  (For whatever reason, I sleep terribly on Sunday nights, when I've spent the day at the beach, and when I eat after 8 pm.)

My makeup case takes over my bathroom counter.  Its like makeup vomit.
 I absolutely have to get dressed first thing in the morning.  Even though I work from home most of the time, I can't stay in my pjs all day.  I'd fall back to sleep if I did.  Getting dressed at least makes me feel like I've sort of started my day.  I don't trust doing my makeup until I've at least had my first cup of coffee.

I have drank coffee every day in that Wonder Woman mug since 2010.  I'm not kidding.
This is generally what my day consists of.  Computer, coffee, phone, repeat.

Making grocery lists is SO much easier when you have a cute chevron striped pen from Target.
New meaning to the term "liquid lunch."  I'm becoming addicted to this smoothie.
I typically eat lunch at home since, well, I'm at home and I can and its less expensive.  I'm trying to eat healthier or at least be more aware of what I'm eating and how often, so today I opted for a OMGSODELICIOUS Naked smoothie for lunch.  Have you tried this one? It tastes like a pina colada.  Its amazeballs.

Oh, Beverly Hills.  How I loathe thee.
I had to run an errand in Beverly Hills this afternoon.  (I know, there are worst things, right?)  But I truly do not like Beverly Hills.  It is one of the few places in LA that you can not get in and out of easy.  There's always traffic and the streets are confusing.

So many pens, so hard to choose.
My last stop of the day was Staples, where I always get distracted by everything else except what I actually came in for.  I've always loved office supplies, and I am very thankful that Staples has kept their offerings pretty straight and narrow, because if they started selling things in stripes or covered in glitter, I'd have a problem.

Happy Wednesday!



Outfit of the day - Mint obsession

ootd 5.15

ootd 5.15 by frenchvanillaextraextra featuring a heather t shirt

California's hothothot days and cool nights make layering super easy - and I think that's one side of the New Englander in me that I may never be able to get rid of.  Layering here usually means some mix of cottons that are swingy and breezy and light.  Ever since I bought this top, I have been wearing it all. the. time.  Last summers color obsession was coral; this summer is definitely going to be mint.  Plus, those sandals are on sale (thanks to Dana at Sequintessential for pointing them out to me!) and are so comfy!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

10 things that make me really, really happy.

In no particular order:

Listening to the birds chirp in the morning.

Catching up with friends who you haven't spoken to or seen in a while, and its like you just saw each other yesterday.

Disney!  (Such a surprise, right?)


I'd like my backyard to look like this some day.

Mecca.

Beignets are better when they're Mickey-shaped.

Best. Photobomb. Ever.


Reading a book I literally cannot put down.  Where'd You Go, Bernadette? and Reconstructing Amelia were my most recent.

New clothes.  (Also included in that category is new shoes, a new bag, new accessories...)

Rainbow sprinkles on ice cream.  (Duh.)

Rainbow sprinkles on a cone do wonders, too.
The drinking-iced-coffee-while-driving-on-a-summer-day-with-the-windows-down-listening-to-country-music combo.

This is how I like my cupholders to look.

Summer weekends in Maine.  Unfortunately, now that I've moved, I don't get to partake in them any more, but just thinking about them makes me happy.

Dance parties.  (Especially impromptu ones!  Get down with yo bad self.)

And last, but most certainly not least, spending time with loved ones.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Dear Self

Day 13, a public apology.  While most I've read are public apologies to significant others, slighted best friends, or the mailman you just love to hate, my public apology is to myself.

I think generally, as humans, we are too hard on ourselves often.  Far too often.  It is good to be hard on yourself to a degree, for its how you learn to grow and overcome obstacles and learn from mistakes.  But I'm hard on myself all the time.  ALL THE TIME.  If I'm not so great at something, I feel like I'm failing as a human being.  A few weeks ago, I really wanted to try making these buffalo chicken meatballs I found on Pinterest (if you give them a shot, let me know) and I was convinced that I could take one recipe, which required attention and the oven, and mix it with another recipe, which only required my crockpot, and make magic happen.  (Obviously, I've been watching one too many episodes of Chopped.)  They turned out to be steamed balls of chicken mush which made our entire apartment smell like Frank's hot sauce to the point where I now smell it and my stomach turns.  I was so upset that I failed at it that I cried.  I cried because they did not come out right, I cried because I was hungry, I cried because ground chicken is mighty expensive, yo.  And while dutifully throwing out the hot-sauce-chicken-mush, Charlie kindly reminded me that no professional chef got to where they were without burning a few dishes here and there, and he's right.

So, here's my apology:

Self, I'm sorry I'm so hard on you sometimes most of the time.  I'm sorry that I want you to succeed at everything you try, because when you fail, you get hysterically upset and its kind of exhausting.  You're allowed to fail!  You're allowed to make mistakes.  Like you now know that baking in the oven and using the crockpot are two totally different things.  You learn so much from mistakes, and I'm sorry you struggle to embrace that.

I'm also sorry that I didn't listen to you more in the past, like the time you really wanted to do a semester abroad but let fear of losing a boy keep you in the states.  Or the time you wanted to try something new but were too afraid.  I should've encouraged you to give it a shot, even if it was just to learn you didn't like it at all.

I'm also sorry I didn't take better care of you in the past.  I don't always listen to what you're trying to tell me, and I should.  I don't let you communicate what you want, what you need, or how you feel, and sometimes I let you pretend it doesn't matter.  But it does.  It does matter.

Self, I want you to start doing new things.  I want you to try new things without fear of failing, being judged or maybe even the fear of being successful.  I want you to realize you're allowed to try something and not like it, and you're allowed to change your mind, and that's okay.  I want you to realize that if you make a mistake, take a deep breath and move on.  The world is not going to implode if you screw up.  And, finally, I want you to start communicating more.  Catch up with old friends, communicate your worries and fears, and talk it out when you feel you need to - you always feel better after you do.

I'm sorry that some of our years have been rocky, but I am going to work harder at cutting you some slack.  I hope you'll forgive yourself.

Love, me.

Most embarassing ice cream related moment.

On Friday, I was supposed to tell you about my most embarrassing moments.  Today I'm supposed to tell you about something I miss.  Since my absolute MOST embarrassing moments are way too inappropriate for the interwebs (but I will totally share them over a glass or two of wine!) I thought I'd share my 4th most embarrassing moment which also has to do with something I miss.

Summers in New England are quite magical.  Despite what anyone from New England will tell you, while they're complaining about the heat and humidity and the mosquito bites (I definitely don't miss smelling like bug spray all the time) there is something very beautiful about summertime in New England.  One of the great things about New England are ice cream stands.  Homemade ice cream stands.  They're on the side of roads, you generally park in a gravel or dirt filled lot filled with picnic tables, stand in long lines, just to walk up to a window and order some sort of crazy combo of hand scooped, homemade ice cream.

This is what I'm missing today (and lately):

Rainbow sprinkles are filled with magic.  Don't let anyone else tell you differently.
A few years ago, a friend and I were out one summer evening, attending a play for a very last minute school assignment I had due.  We decided to stop for ice cream at one of the two ice cream stands in my hometown.  This was also the same summer that I had started gaining a little weight, and was in complete denial about it.  I had a pair of jeans that I had been wearing for YEARS and absolutely loved, but they were starting to feel snug around the waist.  I ignored it, and kept pretending like they still fit, even though they were busting holes in the knees and the thighs and around the hips.  On this particular evening, I was wearing those jeans.  I was driving, and as I went to slide into the front seat of my car so we could head to get ice cream, I felt something give behind me.  I assumed that it was a spring in my seat, as my car was old and the seats were starting to sag, so I ignored it.  We pulled up to the ice cream stand, the line carrying out into the parking lot, and I started to get out.  That's when I heard the sound of a seam ripping.  I stopped short of getting out and my friend came to my side of the car to ask if I was okay.

"I think... I ripped my pants."

She started laughing til she realized I was serious.

Since I couldn't tell how bad the rip was without getting out of the car, I had to stand up, and slowly turn away from her.  She gasped.  I hadn't just ripped the seam completely up the middle, I had also ripped it around my thigh, meaning the pants had a huge flap with a gaping whole and you could literally see one side of my butt.  I also didn't have anything I could wrap around my waist to hide it, so, I was basically flashing one half of my butt to the entire line of people.  Since there was no way I was not getting ice cream, she stood behind me and we shuffled our way into line, and I kept my fingers crossed no one was judging the bright kelly green undies I was wearing that day.

There are four valuable lessons to learn from this:

1 - remember, as a kid, when your mom used to harp on you about wearing clean underwear every day? Here is a perfect reason why you should.  You really never know who is going to see them.
2 - if your pants are quite literally busting at seams, and in random spots without seams, they probably don't fit you any more.
3 - always keep a spare long-sleeved shirt/hoodie/jacket in your car.  Your parents will think you're being responsible in case of an emergency; in this case, the emergency is the potential for the whole community to see your butt.

And finally, the most important lesson:

Never, ever, let anything stop you from getting ice cream.  Ever.


Friday, May 10, 2013

A moment of my day.



(I'm a day late on this, but that's because my moment didn't happen until the end of yesterday.)

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Advice: follow your dreams. No, seriously.

I'm back on the blog every day wagon, and since I had to play catch up this morning, today comes with 2 posts!  As if I haven't already bored you to tears, now you get to read TWO DIFFERENT THINGS.  Aren't you lucky?

Today's assignment is to give a piece of advice I have for others.  So, here goes.

Follow your dreams.

That's it!  Just kidding.  That isn't it.  And I know it sounds cliche and boring and how many conversations can we have about this but, truly, if you're even remotely intrigued as to why this is the advice I'm giving you, hear me out.

Do you remember when you were in high school, and you started looking at colleges, and you had to choose which colleges you wanted to apply to because of what you wanted to major in?  Basically, society is saying to you, at sixteen or seventeen, "hey!  Figure out what you want to do with THE REST OF YOUR LIFE and now find a place to do it and get on with yourself."  I don't know about you, but at sixteen, I struggled with decided what to eat for dinner... planning out my life wasn't exactly the easiest task.

Thankfully, I've never quite diverted from what I originally wanted to study, and although there had been some distractions - philosophy was enticing but I couldn't figure out a career path; I wanted to train dolphins but hated bio - I never quite left the communications world behind.  But I sometimes I wondered what would have happened if I did.  What if I truly focused all of my energy on studying science, just to find out I didn't enjoy hanging out with dolphins?  Okay, that probably wouldn't happen, but still, that curiosity was always there.

I was lucky in that I got to do two internships in the media world; one for a local nightly newsmagazine, and one for a major film studio.  While I was interning at the studio, some outside factors had a serious negative affect on my life outside of my internship, which then caused my internship (and time in LA) to become less than stellar.  I went back home disappointed in myself, and feeling the need to write off LA forever.  I finished up school, interned at the newsmagazine again, and then got my first big girl job at a nonprofit.

Even though things were going well at my new job, I had this nagging in the back of my head that wouldn't go away.  It sort of sounded like Fran Drescher, and it kept reminding me that I studied film in college, that I should be working in film, that I should be giving the film industry another try before I wind up with a house and kids and unable to just get up and move.  It kept at me long enough that I knew it wasn't a passing feeling, so I started to entertain the idea.  Once I entertained it, it had its hooks in me, and I knew it wasn't going to let go.

Luckily for me, I had stayed in touch with many of my contacts at the studio and had the opportunity to use vacation time to catch up with them and remind them of how awesome I am.  But by no means does that mean the road was easy.  I sent my resume out to many openings, never to get a response.  I did two interviews and was turned down both times.  I had one person who gave me an hour of advice, and that advice was to pick one thing and be good at it, because this world doesn't allow you to have multiple passions (just an fyi, I ignored this advice) and I seriously started considering just quitting my job, moving across the country and starting from scratch, which absolutely scared me.  Then I got the call about the job I currently have, and the rest is history.

What I'm trying to say is, if you have a dream, or multiple dreams (because everyone has multiple dreams) you should follow them.  You don't necessarily have to make a whole career change, but if you want to, why not?  There are certainly many factors to consider and I am NOT endorsing quitting a stable career on a whim, but I do think that there is opportunity to try and see if other things may interest you.  Many of my coworkers at the non-profit became interested in jobs there after volunteering their time.  My cousin enjoyed working PR for a heart-related non-profit so much, she studied nursing and is now a clinical nurse specialist at a major metropolitan hospital.  A friend loves food and writing so much, she turned that into a job as a local food columnist for an online news source.  One sunny spring afternoon, a friend asked if he could take photos of me since he had just bought a new camera - now he's a pretty successful freelance photographer.  The point is, you can easily test the waters of a new venture by volunteering, taking a course or two, or just trying it out as a hobby.

If there's something you're itching to do, if there is a nagging voice in your head (maybe it isn't Fran Drescher but you know what I mean), if there is something you're dying to try and could regret not doing later, then do it.  Find a way, stick it out and give it a shot.  You may be surprised at the results.

Life stories (and a little tiny bit of Ojai.)

Remember when I said I was really into this Blog Every Day in May challenge because one of the rules was that I didn't have to beat myself up if I missed a day or two?  How about 4?

I have a great excuse, though.  Saturday morning we had to see a matinee of Iron Man 3, and then it was home to get ready so I could be a friend's plus one at a reunion party she was going to.  Although I was a wee bit apprehensive as I only knew two other people attending said party, I promised I'd go and figured it would be a nice Saturday night out with some lady friends (and it was!)  However, I spent a good portion of the evening chatting up a gentleman who holds some pretty interesting jobs, and when I came home, that was all I could talk about.

I've always been fascinated by people's life stories.  I suppose you could trace it back to when I was in the 3rd grade, and we had a new classmate, a boy from Florida, and I asked him if he had ever seen snow.  (He had, which I was a little disappointed about - I mean, I didn't know a single person who had never seen snow!)  Ask anyone I used to work with - when I was making phone calls to recruit volunteers, which generally should have only taken about 10-15 minutes, I sometimes would spend up to 45 minutes on the phone, learning so many things about the persons story.  I think part of it is because we generally don't think our own lives are that cool/amazing/interesting/incredible.  Recently, I posted a photo on my instagram of me straddling a small crocodile, which I had totally forgotten about.  A few days later, a friend asked me about it; how old I was, where I did it, how cool that must have been.  See?  Something I completely forgot about ended up being really cool to someone else.  (Okay, I will admit that when I did it, I did think it was really cool, which is why I have a framed photo of the whole event.)

Sunday, we headed off to Ojai for a night away from Los Angeles.  Ojai is only about an hour and 45 minutes away, but it feels like an entirely different world.  It's settled in a valley surrounded by gorgeous mountains and has an adorable downtown area that has street parking without meters(!) and it's wonderful.

Pretty, even in the rain, right?
Unfortunately, the weather forecast was calling for cool temperatures with a chance of showers, which then eliminated our options of horseback riding, hiking, and laying by the pool in the sun.  Charlie then suggested we schedule massages, but I just couldn't swing the close to $100 price tag at most of the spas.  (I realize that $100 is about what you'd pay for a massage anywhere decent, but I've got college loans to pay, you know?)  We decided to wander around and window shop instead, since there really isn't much else to do in Ojai (and that's kind of the point).  As we made our way through one of the plazas, there was a sign in front of a door for a salon that said "Massages: 1 hr, $50" and I immediately pointed it out to Charlie.  It didn't take us long before we were in the door, scheduling our massages back to back, and looking forward to a blissful afternoon.

I walked out of that room feeling like total amazing jelly, and since Charlie's massage was right after mine, I had an hour to kill.

I was in that post-massage haze where you are struggling to walk because your legs are jello/your feet are still greasy from the oil, and thought a little retail therapy would help.  The boutiques in Ojai are adorable, but a little out of my price range, so I wandered in and out, probably looking like a lost puppy.  The last boutique I wandered into had an amazing collection of funky jewelry that I was fawning over, and I complimented the lone woman working there on her display case.

Next thing I knew, I was handed a coconut and chocolate macaroon, a bottle of water, and having a discussion about asking the Universe for help and receiving it.  I chatted with this woman for the entire hour, finding out that she once lived two towns away from my hometown.  She has a daughter close to my age.  She's a clairvoyant.  She wants to write a book.

I suddenly realized how much time had passed and I had to meet Charlie after his massage.  She gave me her business card, a tiny piece of general info about my "future" and some spiritual advice, and a hug.

Many times in my life, the universe has pushed me towards a place, or a person, or an event, for a purpose.  For the last few months, I had been feeling cabin fever-ish, muddled and distracted, wanting a night away but never mentioned anything... and Charlie planned it without me even suggesting it.  I had desperately needed a massage (its been two years since my last one!) but couldn't afford it.. and I had an incredible massage for the price I could afford.  I had been feeling a little down, like I was spinning my wheels, and the conversation with the woman in the boutique gave me a little bit of renewed faith in what I am doing and, more importantly, in myself.

Even though it was just an hour conversation with a total stranger, it brought me a little bit of insight and some much needed reflection.  It's a nice reminder that sometimes someone's life story can just be cool and awe-inspiring, and sometimes it can do a whole lot more.

Friday, May 3, 2013

That time I got mistaken for Miley Cyrus at the airport.

Day 3 of this challenge is discussing something (or many things) that make you uncomfortable. This is a pretty lengthy list for me. When I was in middle school and in high school, I had that weird ability to roll things off my shoulders, even if inside I was totally dying of awkwardness, but somewhere around the age of 19 or 20, I started to become hyper aware of things that got under my skin and made me uneasy. Some things were silly, like certain words, and other things were legitimate "I can not handle this situation" things, like wearing wet socks. (I'm shuddering just thinking about it.) Met with one of those things, and I can shake it off after a few moments. Met with a bunch of them at once? That's a whole other story.

A story I've appropriately titled "that time I got mistaken for Miley Cyrus at the airport."

(Because really, there isn't any other way to title this story.)

Long before dear Miley cut off all her hair (see below), I was mistaken for her every once in a while. Mostly it was friends and family commenting on how much we looked alike, but every once in a while it would happen in public, which made no sense since I lived in suburban New England and why the hell would Miley Cyrus be at J.Crew at the mall? It was kind of strange, but happened frequently, so it more or less became a part of life. (This is not one of those things I'm uncomfortable about.)

She's just being Miley.


Around the same time, I had turned 21, became recently single (after a 2 and a 1/2 year relationship) and developed a debilitating fear of flying. Since I had been in a relationship for most of my first two and a half years of college, I missed out on a whole learning experience - how to handle guys who hit on you that you aren't interested in.  I had been an uncomfortable flyer for my teen years, but managed to handle it easily, so it became as a total shock when I realized I had become truly afraid to fly. All of this came on the heels of me booking a trip to visit one of my very best friends in Arizona. 3,000 miles away.

The trip went fine, fun was had by all, and I was then faced with a long travel day back to the east coast. I had a layover in Dallas, a long one (close to 3 hours), and I was starting to realize that I also didn't like doing things alone. The idea of going to a movie alone frightened me; sitting in a Starbucks by myself doing schoolwork was not even on my radar. It dawned on me that sitting in an airport for three hours over dinner time only meant one thing - I was going to have to eat alone. The closest restaurant to my gate was Chili's, which seemed pretty quiet despite the hour. When the hostess asked me where I liked to sit, I responded with "as far away from anyone as possible," which she laughed at until she realized I was serious.  I sat down, pulled out some magazines, and started reading to take my mind off of the fact that I was SITTING ALONE IN A RESTAURANT. My server came up to the table, called me ma'am, and I ordered a beer without so much as looking at him. He left, and I scanned the menu as soon as I could, finding something to order so the next time he came back, I'd be ready. He approached with my beer, I ordered my meal, and he left again, all while I was 3 paragraphs deep in something like "what guys really think about your outfit." He came back to check on me, without the food, and I finally looked up at him. He was cute and polite and made quick small talk with the standard airport line "are you traveling for business or pleasure?" It was totally innocent banter and I thought nothing of it when he left the table again. He didn't come back while I ate, but the hostess did.

"Ma'am, I'm sorry to interrupt but, can I ask you something?"

Sure. Why not. I'm only trying to hide from the world over here in this corner.

"You look awfully familiar. Have you been here before?" When I gave her a blank stare before responding, she giggled and leaned in closer like we were sharing a secret. "Are you someone famous?"

It is then that I realized my server had apparently taken the fact that I wanted to sit away from everyone else, that I didn't look up from my magazine, plus my similarity to one Disney Channel star, put them all together and assumed that I was Miley Cyrus. And apparently told the hostess that, too. I kindly corrected her, saying that I got that all the time, but no, I wasn't her.

"Oh. Well, if you were, your secret would be safe with me." (Good to know, if I ever become crazy famous, that I can hide out in the Dallas Int'l Airport Chili's without a problem.)

My server brought me my check, not even mentioning his mix-up (which, at that point, I had assumed the hostess had corrected him) and left. I paid in cash, since I had finished my magazine and therefore had nothing to distract myself with and wanted to get the hell out of there, and hustled my way out the door. As I started towards my gate I heard, "ma'am!" behind me, and thought, great. I left something behind. I turned around and the hostess approached me with a piece of paper.

"I just wanted to tell you that your server today thought you were real cute, and wanted to give you his number."

In my head, the following responses popped up:

"Thanks, but I just got out of a damaging relationship and shouldn't be near men."
"I don't know when I'll be in Dallas again and don't do long distance relationships."
"I barely looked at the guy, are you sure I'm the one he thinks is cute?"
"Don't you think its strange that he's trying to take me a on a date when I only have half an hour before my plane lands?"

But what came out of my mouth was, "Okay." In retrospect, I shouldn't have taken it. But I needed to catch a flight, was already uncomfortable just because I had to eat alone, and spent a portion of that time convincing someone I wasn't a celebrity, in addition to the fact that I had yet to learn how to kindly reject someone when it came to dating, even if it was thousands of miles away. I spent most of the plane ride trying to convince myself the plane wasn't going to crash, while also entertaining the idea of calling, at the very least to say I wouldn't be calling again. The gentleman next to me sparked up a conversation, and a while later, I mentioned this encounter to him. "Don't call him," he said, moving his hand like he was brushing away a fly. "I'm sure he meant well, but Southern boys are all the same. I bet you he gave out his number to at least 10 other girls in that restaurant today."

Great.  You can add "feeling like a total idiot" to the list of things that make me uncomfortable.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Disneyland: A Beginner's Guide

It's day 2 of the Blog Every Day in May Challenge and today's topic is to educate readers on something you know a lot about or are good at. After writing down a list of things that I know a lot about (which was short) and a list of things that I'm good at (which was even shorter) I decided that there was one thing I would have no problem giving lots of unsolicited advice about, and that is navigating Disneyland.

Just get me to Space Mountain ASAP.

If I wrote down every piece of advice I had regarding all of the parks, we'd be here for days.  DAYS.  Instead, I decided to write down a few things I would recommend to anyone who is going to Disneyland for the first time.  (Not to be confused with Walt Disney World.  They are two entirely different beasts... and they are on opposite sides of the country.  If you're still not sure, you should check to make sure you know which resort you're going to, so you don't get on the wrong flight.)  I've broken it up into sections: getting to the parks, navigating attractions, and of course, my favorite, eating.

Getting to the parks
  • Disneyland is located in Anaheim, CA, NOT Los Angeles.  It is within driving distance from Los Angeles (about 30-60 min depending on traffic) but it isn't actually in Los Angeles.  So no, you can't walk there from Hollywood.
  • If you have any sort of choice in when you're going to visit the park, know that Saturdays and holidays are the busiest.  Like, so busy that the park can hit capacity and you won't be able to get in (and if you only have one day and you already bought your ticket, that will SUCK my friend.)  Tuesdays-Thursdays are the quietest, but the park also closes earlier in the evening.  Keep in mind school vacations, and events, such as Micky's Not So Scary Halloween Party, or the Disneyland Half Marathon weekend.
  • Get there early.  I can not emphasize this enough.  A day at Disneyland is not a day where you sleep til 11 am and then stroll into the park.  If you are staying at a Disneyland hotel, you can take advantage of the Extra Magic Hour option on certain days which gets you into the park before it officially opens to the public, which equates to at least 2-3 spins on Space Mountain or substantial amount of time with the characters (if you're into that.)  If you are staying at a Good Neighbor Resort (area hotels that have transportation to the park) you won't get the Extra Magic Hour BUT you don't have to deal with the parking structures, and can hop on the designated bus outside your hotel.  If you are driving to Disneyland, I highly recommend trying to arrive to the resort area around the time the park opens to the public.  The parking structure located on resort property hits capacity quickly, and the closest two lots are a 10-15 minute bus ride back to the park.  Arriving early will also eliminate the potential for the park to hit capacity and keep the tears at bay.  And the kids will be happy, too.
Navigating attractions
Disneyland is shaped like a hub, with Sleeping Beauty's Castle in the center, and the themed lands surrounding it.  You enter the park via Main Street USA; once you arrive at the courtyard outside the castle, you can choose to go to Adventureland, Frontierland, Fantasyland, or Tomorrowland.  New Orleans Square is just northwest of Adventureland, Critter Country is just north of Frontierland, and Mickey's Toontown is north of Fantasyland.

Don't get used to this - this RARELY happens.
  • Get a map.  Park maps are easy to find at the entrance, and great to have on hand if you've never been to a Disney park and are unsure of where everything is.  They also list things to note, like what rides have Fast Passes, where the closest bathrooms are, and what time to expect the parades.  You can also download the Disney Mobile Magic app which is free and a great tool to have on hand if you don't want to keep a map around.  (It also tells you the current wait times for rides!)
  • Get a locker.  Renting a locker is a huge help.  Unlike the Disney World parks where the heat and humidity sticks around, evenings in California can cool down drastically; having a locker allows you to store a sweatshirt, jacket, hat, spare socks (for when yours get soaked on Splash Mountain) - you name it.  You can rent them for the entire day, just make sure to remember your locker number and access code.  It also helps eliminate the amount of stuff you have to carry, and therefore, have to shove into those tiny mesh bags on the rides and keep your fingers crossed none of it falls out.
  • Fast Passes.  The invention of the Fast Pass was genius - rides that typically have long wait times usually have a Fast Pass option.  Lets say you want to ride Splash Mountain, but the stand by line is a 2 hour wait.  Head over the Fast Pass kiosks, enter in your ticket and a FP will pop out.  Each FP gives you an hour window in which to return to that attraction and skip the majority of the line.  Up until last month, Disney never enforced this and you could return to that attraction and use your FP at any time AFTER that hour window started; however, now they are beginning to enforce it, so make sure you remember when you're supposed to head back!  Also note that if you get a FP for one attraction, you can't get another until that hour window begins, so make sure you check the return time sign posted above the FP kiosks.  Fast Passes are limited for each attraction as well, so the most popular attractions on a busy day will usually get rid of all of their Fast Passes early.  The best example of this is the Radiator Springs Racers in Cars Land at California Adventure - Fast Passes for that will sell out within an hour of the parks opening, and the stand by line is typically over a 2 hour wait.  (I'm not making this up.)
  • Try to plan at least some of the day.  Imagine this - lets say you don't have a Fast Pass, and you stand in line for Space Mountain for 2 hours.  You get off the ride, and realize that the stand by time is now only 30 minutes, and you're like, say what?!  I just waited two hours!  Then you hear the sound of a parade in the distance, and realize that the line just went down because the parade began.  During certain times of day, the wait time for certain rides will lower substantially, allowing you to do more in less time.  It's not an exact science, but you can generally expect that when a parade is going on, the rides will quiet down.  Same goes for the lunch (11:30-2) and dinner (5-7) hours, as well as during the fireworks.  If you could care less about a parade, check the parade times on your map and plan to visit some rides during that time.  If you're staying at one of the resorts, use that Extra Magic Hour wisely.  If you're planning on staying in the park til close, consider checking out Space Mountain or Big Thunder after the fireworks - a large portion of the attendance will clear out after the fireworks are over.  With the addition of the apps as well, you can keep an eye on which attractions have a shorter line, and even which attractions are currently out of service.
  • Ask, ask, ask.  Last time we went to Disneyland, we wanted to ride the Matterhorn, but the wait was over an hour.  A friend had told me that some rides (not all) have a single rider option, meaning that if your party is okay with sitting with strangers, you can get through the line faster.  We asked a cast member at the Matterhorn about this, and lo and behold, she gave us passes to a separate line and we only waited 10 minutes.  If there is one thing that Disney does NOT like, its unhappy guests.  If you don't know where something is, ask the closest cast member.  If you stood in line for 2 hours for Big Thunder and it broke down, ask for a pass to come back later.  I could write a whole other blog entry about the times in which something has come up and a cast member has helped me out tremendously - but then we'd be here for days, remember? ;)
Eating
Here is where I would insert a disclaimer and say this is the part where I am more of a beginner than novice.  I haven't eaten everything at Disneyland yet; however, I've eaten enough to have some recommendations.  Eating at any Disney park can be a stressful situation.  It's good to plan ahead a little bit, because the last thing you want on a long, hot day is a hungry human who's reading to snap at you because you can't decide what you want for dinner.  (In case you're wondering, that person is me.)

Any food that comes in a container I can also eat is a serious win.

  • Read the menus.  Between the official Disneyland website and fan-supported sites like AllEars.net, you can generally find the official menus for all eateries in every park, or at least get an idea of what they serve.  A little research ahead of time will keep you aware of what your options are, especially if anyone in your party is sensitive to certain foods, or just really picky.
  • Call Disney Dining.  Certain restaurants will take reservations up to 180 days in advance of your trip, so if there is a restaurant you want to try, book it ASAP!  (This applies to all Disney parks, by the way - I feel its far more useful at Walt Disney World, but its good to be aware of.)  The restaurant you'll have the toughest time getting a reservation for inside Disneyland is the Blue Bayou, but trust me, its worth it.  Disney Dining is happy to make reservations for you, or find other restaurants that may be a better fit if Blue Bayou is booked.
  • Have a game plan for meals.  Taking a break to eat, especially in the heat, is wonderful; standing in line for a long time or wandering around trying to find a table is not.  Try to plan ahead with what you're willing to put up with, or, alternatively, what you aren't.  Some people I know will only eat their big meals at the full service restaurants; others only do counter service and eat entirely on the go.  However you want to do it is up to you, but knowing what you're willing to do and aren't willing to do ahead of time will help.
  • Get out of the park.  Thankfully for Disneyland guests, Downtown Disney literally lies in between Disney and California Adventure.  This means you can leave the park, stroll Downtown Disney, and come back later.  Disney Dining can also help with reservations at the restaurants in Downtown Disney as well, and there are plenty of options to choose from.  It also gives you a break from the crowds inside the park, and offers much more commercial options for anyone who isn't interested in park food.
  • Ignore your diet.  I'm half kidding.  Obviously if you have a food sensitivity or are on a particular diet for health reasons, you should eat within your parameters.  (Nothing is worse than getting sick while at Disneyland - ask me about the time I ate too many pickles.)  But part of the fun of going to a theme park is indulging, and Disney is FULL of indulgences.  There are plenty of healthy options every where you look, but you should definitely eat a Mickey ice cream bar, a churro or a bag of beignets and you should definitely NOT feel guilty about it.
Those are my lengthy beginner tips for navigating Disneyland for the first time. What are your tips?  Do you think I'm crazy for revolving my whole day around Space Mountain?  (I will allow anyone to argue with me on this.)

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Challenge: Blog Every Day in May

When I was in high school, I wrote practically everything down in a weekly calendar.  Everything.  I kept up that habit in college, as it was easy to keep track of homework assignments, a crazy/weird retail work schedule, and any other responsibilities.  I still keep a planner that I carry around with me wherever I go, but lately I've been falling off the wagon in terms of writing things down.  I suppose part of it is because my lifestyle is shifting from super-organized-crazy-busy-plan-every-second to a little more fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants, which I'm enjoying, but it also makes me drop the ball/forget about things, which I don't like doing.

Today, one of my favorite blogs (Blue Paper Lanterns) posted a Blog Every Day in May challenge she's working on, started by Jenni at Story of My Life and it got me thinking - despite the fact that some of the prompts are challenging, I like the idea of being held accountable to a challenge that'll require me to plan ahead a little, do some thinking, and require me to write every day (which, I might add, was on my list of New Years resolutions which I am clearly NOT sticking to very well.)  I haven't quite decided if I'll stick to each and every prompt exactly as is, but I am going to do my darndest to complete the challenge regardless.  I can also appreciate that one of the rules of the challenge is that if I miss a day or two, I can play catch up instead of beating myself up over it, which I most certainly would do.  I challenged Jillian to join me in this venture as well, so I have a person holding me accountable, instead of just my calendar.

Today's prompt: the story of your life in 250 words or less.

(Can I just say, before I begin this, that writing something in 250 words or less is challenging in and of itself for me, as you can probably tell by now?  So I may go over the 250.  Actually, I probably will go over the 250.  Challenge fail?)

I was born on March 4th in a quaint seaside city in Massachusetts.  I've lived in my hometown the majority of my life, aside from the 4 months I lived in Arizona and the 6 months I lived in Los Angeles, until last spring when I moved back to LA for good.  I spent vacations traveling to Orlando, where I fell in love with Disney World, and summers in Maine, where I fell in love with country music, beer and bonfires.  I attended 4 different colleges/universities in 5 years, taking a semester off to do an internship, and graduated with a B.A. in visual communication.  The most exotic places I've been to are London and Puerto Rico.  I've driven cross-country twice, completing each trip in a little over 3 days.  I wanted to be a dolphin trainer until I realized I was bad at biology, and then wanted to be a Disney character until they rejected me from their college program (okay, part of me still wants to be a Disney character, I guess.)  My first real job was working for a cancer non-profit where I helped recruit volunteers to train to run a marathon or do a century ride while fundraising, and met some of the most amazing and inspiring people I'll ever meet in my life.  I'm currently learning how to cook by reading cookbooks, living with my boyfriend in my first real apartment, and getting back into exercising.

(Was that around 250?)

If you're interested in the challenge, you can get the skinny here: