Inspiration: Be a Secret Santa!

It’s that time of year again… time to don a red hat with a white puffball, start singing countless holiday jingles and become a Secret Santa! Sure, there’s a zillion and one things to get for everyone on your list, but Secret Santa is a refreshing, fun way to add some holiday magic back into your grown-up life. Secret Santa is exciting! You have no idea what you’re getting, and you get to give someone totally different a gift, without zero stress about if they’ll like it or if this object if really representative of all your love.

Plus, you can add a really awesome accomplishment to your bucket list by participating in the world’s biggest Secret Santa exchange.

Reddit, the large internet forum, currently holds the Guinness World Book of Records for it. Last year, nearly 90 thousand people participated, including celebrities like Bill Gates and Arnold Schwarzenegger. This year, already almost 170 thousand people, from across 179 countries, have signed up!

This will be my third year participating. You don’t have to be a Redditor to join – the Secret Santa exchange is its own website. And if you get addicted, you can take place in any of the other wacky gift exchanges they run during the year (the sock exchange, ugly mug exchange, and awesome smell exchange are some of my favorites)

Tardis Cookie Jar

The Tardis Cookie jar of ’12. I can date pictures by my hair; it’s a great skill.

I’ve received wonderfully dorky things. I have some beautiful paper decorations in my room that came from Germany. A poem about Anne Boleyn. A Tardis cookie jar, Tardis notebook, Doctor Who bookmarks, and a hand-painted watercolor of a Direwolf with the words ‘Winter is Coming’. (The Tardis cookie jar was especially fun, as the box it was delivered in kept making the swooshing noise til I opened it.) My nerd self is delighted, because I’d never be so indulgent to buy these things for myself. My favorites have been the ones with the personal touch, like the poem and the hand-painted picture. It’s kind of nice to know a perfect stranger actually put some thought into you, another stranger.

And you get to pay that forward. It’s so much fun to surprise people and be surprised in return. You can even sign up as a rematcher, for those people whose Secret Santas drop out and don’t send them anything. Or you can choose be matched up with an international recipient for some multicultural gifting.

Winter is coming watercolor

The Direwolf watercolor. King of the north!

It’s not too expensive, either. Obviously you can spend however much you want, but the average is around $20-25. Of course, if you’re Bill Gates and get me as a recipient, you can cut me a nice big check… that I would then feel guilty about and donate to charity. (Sigh. Pesky conscious, ruining everything)

So sign up, if you want to add a little more magic into your holiday and someone else’s. Remember to fill out the form that asks you your preferences with all sorts of details. Otherwise who knows, maybe you’ll just get socks. Which are still awesome. But they could have been geeky socks! Think of the possibilities!

Happy holiday season, fellow Santas.

Love always,
Gabriele

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Inspiration 11.23.14

Happy early Thanksgiving! This week, I shivered and huddled in my giant eskimo parka each morning before work. I really need to invent a little bubble I can live in safely and warmly. What else? We celebrated my dad’s birthday yesterday with lots of cake! Sometimes, his birthday falls on Thanksgiving so he ends up with birthday pumpkin pie. My brother’s birthday is sometimes on Easter, and mine has been on Mardi Gras, and my mom is right after Christmas. Hmm. Maybe we should all be like Jack Skellington and rule over a holiday?

Stop me before I start writing that terrible idea into a story. Without further adieu, this week’s links!

Have a gluttonous, devouring, insatiable week!

Love always,
Gabriele

The Sniffles

Sick. Ever since I both got the flu and triggered my body into loathing gluten in one shot, I detest being sick. My body is a temple and in the words of Gandalf, YOU [evil pathogens] SHALL NOT PASS. Usually this deters most of the sniffles and sneezes that come my way.

But, sometimes even my mental Gandalf isn’t enough. Like right now. I am in the throes of my first cold this year. Luckily, I am prepared. And I’m going to share the wisdom with you, so you too are ready to throw the germs into Mordor.

Sick Gaby is Sad Gaby

A young Gaby bundled up to hide from the germs

Hydrate
Drink lots of water. Then more water. Make an entire pot of tea and share it with no one. Make sure to drink it when it still feels like liquid fire, to burn the nasties out of your sinuses and back to hell where they came from. And then there’s the secret weapon, which takes three steps:

1. Squeeze a lemon into a giant mug
2. Pour in hot water
3. Sprinkle in some cayenne pepper
4. Drink up, and pretend each burning flake of pepper is a bomb dropped on the germs

Raw Garlic
Okay. I see most of you cringing. BUT THIS WORKS. Or it’s the placebo effect. Idk. But apparently, aside from keeping away vampires (and anyone who might want to kiss you), raw garlic is antibacterial, anti-fungal, antiviral, anti-BEING SICK panacea. Smash a clove or two. Chop it up all finely, scatter it on your veggies or rice or protein source. I’ll warn you, raw garlic burns. But that’s the magical fires of garlic on its way to incinerate your cold. 

Stay in bed
For those of us whose brains don’t have an off-switch, this is the hardest part. If you don’t have a job to get to, spend a day burrowing into your blankets. Don’t work out, don’t drag yourself out into the cold. Keep your body put, so that it can focus on getting better. This leads into my next point…

Watch TV. Binge on it
I actually have trouble watching tv. I get bored. Reading is more stimulating, but when I’m sick, my brain shuts down and refuses to do any heavy lifting. Last year, I watched the first two seasons of New Girl during my annual horrible cold. This year, I’ve got my eyes on Parks and Recreation. Make sure it’s silly and not too taxing. (I totally recommend My Mad Fat Diary!) 

Drugs
Alright. Time to bring out the big guns. Reacquaint yourself with your friends, Sudafed, Benadryl, and Mr. NyQuil. Maybe even invite EmergenC. It’s a cocktail party and everyone’s welcome. A drug cocktail party. 

Whine
Eh. Sometimes you just need to bemoan your faith like the trapped four-year-old we all have inside us. This often results in me making “why me” and “alas, my body has betrayed me” and other various noises at my dogs (or whichever unfortunate member of my family happens to be around). This usually only lasts til the drugs kick in, but is quite cathartic, all the same. 

Of course, prevention is always the best. If you exercise regularly, you reduce your chances of getting sick. Eat your veggies. Wash those hands, keep Purell handy. Subtly edge away from any sick folks near your sacred bubble. And you know, secretly plot to move far away to a tropical island where winter and getting colds are both myths.

Love always,
Gabriele

Inspiration 10.19.14

So. It snowed. On Friday. The end is here. I’m already having far-fetched fantasies of moving to Hawaii and taking up hula dancing. Or to the center of the earth. That could work too. Just hang out in the earth’s molten core for a while to warm up.

Anyways! This week, I saw the movie Big Hero 6, and caught up with friends. I can’t believe November’s already half-done. I haven’t done a scratch of Christmas shopping. I should get on that.

Enjoy these inspiring links!

Have a vivacious, vigorous, valiant week!

Love always,
Gabriele

Tea Time

This is part of my new hobby series, all about exploring new hobbies. Because bucket list items don’t just have to be one-time things. They can be a big part of cultivating your own personal growth. 

According to Snapple facts, “an average of three billion cups of tea are consumed daily worldwide.”

This means that five billion people on the planet do NOT get to drink a cuppa during their day. And that, is a travesty and a tragedy. You see, tea makes everything better. Feeling under the weather? Drink some tea. It’s gross and bleary and so nasty out that you’re considering relocating to a tropical island? Well, have some tea. Already happy and cheerful? Have some more tea anyway. Stay hydrated, kiddies.

So how to go about finding your tea groove?

My grandma wasn’t fancy about hers. She made Lipton on a kettle on the stove that gave a shrill cry when it was ready. She served it milky, in porcelain cups balanced on saucers, and with cookies that crumbled in your mouth after you gave them a good dunk. Oh, tea is such a comfort. While I could never turn my back on coffee, there is something self-soothing about waking up with a cup of tea instead.

Tea time!

I’m all about the tea in November, when it’s National Novel Writing Month

And sure you can be hoity-toity about it. I went to school with a guy who was a big connoisseur of tea, and of spending money on dried plants in general. Still, it was lovely one day when I was sitting out in our complex’s quad with my roommate and he came out with a fresh brew of this delicious pomegranate black tea. We had a little tea party right there out on the grass. It’s such an easy way to pamper oneself.

But where to start? There are so many different flavors! I’ll give you a bit of a my likely inaccurate assessment of teas, to take you beyond just the Lipton teabags.

Earl Grey tea saw me through my trip to Europe, and when I came back, it was all that I wanted. I bemoaned our American culture of paper cups and rushing through everything. Was it too much to ask, to take the time for a proper tea cup?

Irish Breakfast is hearty. Green or White tea makes you feel healthy, like you could be one of those fabulously fit people who have yoga-themed Instagram accounts. Oolong is slightly whacko. Roiboos is even more so. Chai tea tastes nothing like a chai tea latte so be prepared for disappointment. (Or arm yourself with a LOT of sugar)

Herbal teas are good to mix things up and silly, and technically not tea, but hush, don’t ruin my fun. Chamomile is calming, but I overdid it with it years ago, so now I find it terribly boring.

Cinnamon Apple Spice will destroy your tea tin. It will infect all of your other tea bags with a faint taste of cinnamon and lies. Leave that vile stuff far, far away.

Where to buy your tea? Teavana is overpriced and basically the IKEA of teas. Don’t start there. I like to go to my local foreign/ethnic markets and peruse the different kinds they have. And there are some odd things out there that people have thought, “Hmm, let’s throw this into hot water for a bit and drink whatever leeches out.”

Like dandelion root. St. John’s Wort, which is allegedly, a natural antidepressant. My friend and I once conspired a way to sneak it into her crazy mother’s diet, but alas, our plans never fully steeped.

People can get extreme about any hobby, and tea is no exception. You can get the swankest metal pots. You can take the temperature of your water, time your steeping to the millisecond, and only use the loose leaves.

But you don’t have to. Just take comfort in your cup. Let it be a moment of tranquility. A moment to breathe. A moment of taking care of yourself. Just sip, and let the warmth chase away the winter inside of you. It’s easy. It’s reclaiming a space, one small moment that is devoid of the technology and the hubbub that clogs our lives.

And it’s lovely.

And if you want to read your tea leaves, well, silly superstitious me, certainly isn’t going to judge you. Just be sure to invite me over for a cup, too.

Love always,
Gabriele

Inspiration 11.09.14

Happy Sunday! It’s finally properly nippy out. Which just serves to remind me of my yearly pledge to move to a tropical climate. One that I never actually do. Oh well. Eventually, eh?

Let’s talk about what happened this week. Danielle and I met one of our heroes from our teenage years. Anne Rice, the vampire queen. I still feel faint. Some people want to meet movie stars or celebrities. I want to meet authors. But at the same time, I feel as though I’ll end up spontaneously combusting like a mortal when a Greek God reveals their true splendor. Oh my god, she told me I had a beautiful name.

In other news, I’m plodding along with NaNoWriMo! I was so excited to see that an author I quite admire is participating this year! Here are some links if you’re procrastinating your daily word count like me.

Have an uncharted, unexpected, upbeat week!

Love always,
Gabriele

Accomplished! Attend New York’s Village Halloween Parade

There’s a long list, when you live somewhere notable, of things you really ought to do, but never get around to. As a New Yorker, this list is pretty long. Tourists who are here just for a day complete the list quicker than we do in decades of living here.

As New Yorker’s we really should get around to going to the Empire State Building and Statue of Liberty. We should see the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center, followed by a Broadway show or ballet at Lincoln Center. Have a picnic in Central Park, and spend a summer day on the rides at Coney Island. The list of New York musts goes on and on.

Well, this Halloween I finally crossed off an item on the list! Along with some awesome friends, I gallivanted down to Greenwich Village to see their famous Halloween Parade.

Halloween 2014 costumes

Little Red Riding Hood and the Witch are super excited for the parade. But first, coffee.

This was the Parade’s 41st year. It grew out of being a walk from house to house for the neighborhood children, into the wild event it is now. It’s estimated that 2 million people spectate each year and 60,000 participate! The Parade has been honored by past New York mayors and transformed into a cultural tradition of the city. I’ve been dying to go since I was little and watched it on television after trick-or-treating.

(Last year, due to a new taxi driver and some bad directions, my friends and I ended up in the last dregs of the parade as it was being cleaned up and broken up in the rain. So that didn’t count. No, this year it had to be seen good and proper.)

And oh my goodness, it was amazing! We decided to watch rather than walk in the parade. The theme this year was “The Garden of Earthly Delights” and the parade’s 2014 Grand Marshall was none other than the fabulous Whoopi Goldberg. I still can’t believe I saw Whoopi Goldberg.

At the Parade

Skeletons jangle their bones, serpents alight the sky, and the wonderful Whoopi Goldberg blesses Halloween with her presence

There were floats and people on stilts, over 50 marching bands, and a man in a bunny suit with a sign that read, “I thought this was the Easter parade”. The whole thing was super crazy, over-the-top, which you have to expect when it’s put on by New York’s spectacular and artistic LGBT community.

And, be still my gluten free heart, because there were two vans from the company KIND and their granola bars were being tossed into the crowd. My friends, always looking out for my delicate intestinal track, snagged me two. Nom.

I love that anyone can march in the parade, so long as you have a costume. You can even volunteer to be one of the puppet holders in the parade. If we go next year, I think our names will definitely be on that list!

Now that Halloween is over, there’s another New York tradition looming on the horizon… The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. I already was wearing four or five layers of clothing to this one… I don’t know if I’ll be able to handle 6 am in late November! Still, we must make sacrifices for our bucket lists!

Love always,
Gabriele