Accomplished! Chinese New Year Parade in Chinatown!

Happy belated Lunar New Year! For the first time, I went to the Chinese New Year Parade in Manhattan’s Chinatown. I’d been to Chinatown once or twice before but never for the Lunar New Year. And with it being the Year of the Ram beginning, I had to go. One’s Chinese zodiac year only comes around every 12 years, after all.

Luckily the weather actually agreed. I felt warm in the sunshine, despite the slush under my feet and the piles of snow on the sidewalks. Vendors sold firecrackers along the parade route, while business went along as usual for some. Fish markets laid out their catches openly and my friends joked I should have a raw fish or two while they pigged out on dumplings. We ooh’d and ahh’d over all the jade figurines and fans we wanted to buy. But… later! There was a parade to see!

lunar new year 2015

Once the parade started, it was magnificent! Performers drummed and danced along the street, decked in colorful costumes. Floats all flaunting pictures and symbols of rams drifted by. There were even people dressed in adorable lamb onesies. Oh, and of course there were dragons, which were my favorite! Oddly enough, some of these floats were sponsored by the most random assortment of companies: Wells Fargo and Verizon among them. Even Senator Chuck Schumer was there.

Firecrackers went off all around us, sending glitter and confetti twirling into the sky (and tangling impossibly in our hair). People watched from the rooftops, and some on the fire escape even joined in filling the sky with more confetti (and… our hair). A child on the shoulders of their parent reached out to catch the confetti in his tiny hands.

We went exploring for dumplings and food after a while. But since my friend’s family owns a Chinese restaurant, we didn’t consider it too big of a sacrilege when we settled on a Japanese barbecue place!

gyukaku

I’ve never been to Gyu-Kaku before, but there are several in the city. You order some meats or veggies (all veggies, in my case), and they marinade them in different soy sauces. You then get to have the fun of grilling them right in the center of your table, like your own little hibachi. Chef hats not included.

As someone with celiac, I always worry about cross-contamination and getting ‘glutened’ but there’s a fresh grill on the table for each use. And I just grilled my veggies before my friends had their food. So yummy! Will definitely need to go back.

So. My celebration of the Lunar New Year is complete. I hope this year of the Ram is a fantastic one! My next related bucket list goal is to see Lunar New Year in an actual Asian country! Maybe by the next year of the Ram?

Love always,
Gabriele

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Inspiration 02.22.15

Happy weekend! I had a tremendous week, getting to see Neil Gaiman and Daniel Handler speak in Brooklyn. I also had the joy of getting to catch up with two of my journalism professors, whom I still love and adore. Plus, Thursday was Chinese New Year. And guess what, it’s my year! Year of the Ram, represent!

Today, I’m venturing into the city for the Chinese New Year parade in Chinatown. It’s my first time going, but if I’m going to go, it might as well be my animal’s year! Plus… it’s rumored to be warm. After the crazy polar vortex, 40 degrees is positively balmy.

Here are some links for the week ahead!

Have a fantastic week.

Love always,
Gabriele

Accomplished! Seeing Daniel Handler and Neil Gaiman

Ahhh! One of my dreams came true this week! I saw Neil Gaiman and Daniel Handler, aka Lemony Snicket, have a talk at the Brooklyn Academy of Music on Tuesday. I’m still giddy with fangirl mania.

It’s been hard to have adventures in the cold, but I packed on layers and layers of clothes and trudged down to Brooklyn for the chance to see two of my absolute favorite authors.

I met up with BiblioSmiles editor and fabulous friend Danielle, and her equally lovely roommate Caitlin. We had dinner at the Haitian restaurant La Caye. I’d never had Haitian food before, and I think it needs to make some regular appearances in my diet now! Yum!

Too excited to be cold!

Too excited to be cold!

Then we went into the splendor of the Brooklyn Academy of Music, which was way classier and swanker than we had expected.

I was nearly bouncing up and down in my seat. Two chairs awaited on the stage below. The talk was called ‘En Garde!’ but despite Daniel Handler practicing his best evil laugh, he and Neil Gaiman did not engage in any sword fighting.

So fancy. Brooklyn, you did good.

So fancy. Brooklyn, you did good.

Last May, I had already seen Daniel Handler at Book Con. But this was my first time seeing Neil Gaiman, who is kinda, sorta, my favorite author. Daniel Handler is also in that top five. You couldn’t have chosen a better two matched authors for this talk; both Neil Gaiman and Daniel Handler are known for their quirky, dark humor in their writing and their wry honesty.

I’ve loved Neil Gaiman’s writing since way before it was appropriate for me to. In middle school, I became obsessed with The Sandman and that raised multiple eyebrows as adults asked my parents if they thought I really should be reading that. (I have a lot of strong feeling against censoring kids from books, but that’s a whole other blog post). And then my mom and I both read Coraline, which is supposed to be a children’s book but is delightfully creepier than any children’s book I had read before.

Daniel Handler, meanwhile, is best known for A Series of Unfortunate Events, which I didn’t finish reading until college. His writing is terribly funny for both kids and adults. He goes and finds the boogeymen in children’s nightmares, and basically provokes them until they attack. Give them a read, if you haven’t!

Where the legends sat.

Where the legends sat.

So, some cool things about the talk?

  • They both picked Reykjavik as being the place to visit aside from the US/UK. More Iceland love! Yes!
  • Speaking of Iceland, each country seems to have something gross they get away with, according to Neil Gaiman. Fermented shark in Scandinavia, natto in Japan, the UK has marmite, and the US has… things that aren’t cheese
  • They both write longhand as opposed to on the computers—apparently having to name your work when you save it is too much pressure, says Daniel Handler
  • Daniel Handler’s favorite word is defenestration. Neil Gaiman’s is sinople
  • On Poetry:
    • Neil Gaiman: Publishing poetry is like throwing rose petals into the Grand Canyon and waiting for the boom.
    • Daniel Handler: I’ve heard it’s like wetting yourself in dark pants—you feel warm but no one else knows.
  • When Neil Gaiman read Stardust translated in French, he was alarmed by the inclusion of footnotes that were describing it as an allegory to Pilgrim’s Progress. It’s not.

Clearly, I’m still geeking out about this amazing talk!

I have no cares about ever meeting a A-List celebrity or sports player. For me, authors are the ones that I would love the honor of meeting. They have such vast, infinite worlds inside them. Their stories are such a gift to the world! I’ve been very blessed for having been able to see so many of my favorites already: Rick Riordan, Anne Rice, Ann M. Martin, Gail Carson Levine, Daniel Handler, and now Neil Gaiman too.

Do any of you have someone you’d be completely starstruck to meet?

Love always,
Gabriele

Inspiration 02.15.15

Another Sunday, another round of links! This week, I caught up with some of my favorite people and had a total deja vu moment as we sipped coffee in our old stomping grounds. Several of the kids I work with gave me Valentines. I’ve also recently been shown the web series, RWBY, which is totally incredible and a perfect combination of Final Fantasy meets a Joss Whedon-esque cast of kickbutt girl heroes (and villains!).

Here are some fun reads for tomorrow’s morning coffee.

Have a amorous, amazing week.

Love always,
Gabriele

Learn all the things!

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. 

In college, my roommates had a nickname for the random tidbits of knowledge I’d share with them on the daily. “Gaby-facts” were bits of history, culture, or general eccentricities that I gathered like the Katamari Damacy guy rolling up debris. Although my friends may not have been as interested as I was in these random trivia, they at least indulged me.

It comes down to a hobby of mine, which is constant learning! I want to know absolutely everything there is to know about the world. Well, not everything—not beatboxing or butchering my own meat or bug-collecting. But generally everything else.

Infinite knowledge awaits on my kindle!

Infinite knowledge awaits on my kindle!

How do I do this? I read. I read everything. Then I read some more.

What do I specifically read? Endless amounts of fiction, as evidenced by my articles on BiblioSmiles and endless lists on GoodReads. But also the New York Times, NY Mag, Slate, and reputable forums on Reddit like AskHistorians or AskScience.

Even Tumblr can supply mildly interesting facts. (though, it’s dangerous to go on Tumblr alone. It’s a journey you can’t return from easily)

But there are other ways to engage our brain cells. I’ve shared some of my favorites below so you can get your learning on!

CodeAcademy: Languages are fun! Whether it’s German or Java, there are many ways to begin a new language. For those looking to get into coding, CodeAcademy is a great place to start. It’s actually pretty cool to be able to make your own app, website, or blog, and know what you’re doing. I made some pretty snazzy GeoCities sites back in the day.

DuoLingo: And learning a language is easier and interactive with apps like DuoLingo. Add a new language to your collection, even if only a few sentences. Learning about languages helps you learn about the world, cultures, and even improve your thinking and comprehension skills.

Khan Academy: Well. Maybe this isn’t really your cup of tea (it’s not really mine, though logic problems are fun) but if you’re looking to take the GRE or anything, you’ll need to brush up on those old, dusty skills.

Free Rice: Learn some words and donate food to developing countries at the same time. The English language is full of awesome words like bailiwick, flibbertigibbet, and syzygy. You’ll definitely improve your Words with Friends prowess.

Television: Yes, I’m saying to watch some tv. Not your regular reality show drivel or whatever ABC Family’s playing (unless it’s Harry Potter), but some history or travel shows. I’m endlessly fascinated by different cultures and the ways different people live. Samantha Brown and Anthony Bourdain are my favorites. To be fair, even shows like Top Gear, MasterChef, and — are worthwhile, if you’re learning something new!

Museums, galleries, and libraries: These should be obvious! Libraries have so much cultural programming from theatre to classes, and museums and galleries are full of fascinating trinkets and artwork. I would live in a library or a museum, like the kids who run away to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

Above all else, be curious. Look at the world with the same childlike wonder you had growing up, wondering what the inside of rocks looked like, if you could really dig a hole straight to China, what astronauts ate up in space.

Having a goal in mind can help, if you’re not insatiable to learn everything like I am. Plan a trip to Nigeria, with your new Hausa skills. Read the Canterbury Tales untranslated. Code an app.

The whole world is out there for us.

Love always,
Gabriele

Inspiration 02.08.15

February is seriously showing off this year. I thought January was supposed to be the cold one, but February is ruffling its frosty feathers and channeling its inner Elsa. In other news, this has been the week of insanity. My car got stuck in the snow twice, there were mishaps at one of the offices, the horrific train tragedy, and lots of other miscommunications and upsets. I’m tempted to make a Mercury in retrograde comment.

Still, there’s good times to be had too. Indulging in Valentine’s chocolates, catching up on the Oscar nominations, endless cups of tea, and having impromptu dance parties in your room. That last one might be just me.

Here are some lovely links for your weekend.

Have an absolutely charming, perfect week.

Love always,
Gabriele

Lucky Charms

Talismans, charms, amulets.

It’s human nature to find comfort in objects. The devout Catholic wearing their cross, or keeping a horseshoe above your door (the right side up, so that the luck doesn’t fall out!). Combing the summer grass for hours to find a four-leaf clover. And, most of us feel rather out of sorts, when our cell phones are more than a foot away.

A talisman is defined as “an object, typically an inscribed ring or stone, that is thought to have magic powers and to bring good luck.” In Japan, people continue to flock to shrines for onamori, wooden painted tags that can cure a multitude of ills, from hernias to heartache.

This guy's good luck too, but I don't have one of my own!

This guy’s good luck too, but I don’t have one of my own!

In middle school, my best friend gave me a amulet necklace of a blue stone, that she got on vacation in China. I wore it ceaselessly, imagining it came across the world to protect me. My mother gave me tiny worry dolls to tell my worries to, like a sort of anxiety dreamcatcher.

I consider quotes to be good luck charms too. There’s a quote from A Song of Ice and Fire that the young Daenarys Targaryn always tells herself, as she leads armies against unfathomable odds and faces men who wish her harm. “If I look back I am lost”, she thinks, and to me, that is an important mantra to repeat when I feel troubled. I have the quote printed on a bracelet, turning it into a tangible talisman.

There’s a leather bracelet I picked up in Florence when my grandfather passed away – Florence had been his favorite city he had ever visited. Evil eye beads from Greece and Turkey, from my aunt. My grandmother gave me endless trinkets from garage sales over the years, telling me that every time we use something that came from somewhere or someone else, we should send them a little prayer of love. I wear at least one thing she gave me, every day.

Another friend gave me a polished metal stone with the word Luck on it, because his family always seemed to have a rather perplexing amount of luck and he wished to share some with his amigos. Who knows if luck is so easily transferable, like a scarf you can lend!

And when my family went to our summer shack on the north shore of Long Island, I would always come home with my pockets heavy with fragmented shells, peculiar rocks, and bits of sea glass. So even in the winter months, the beach and summertime would still be with me.

I know I talked about finding your own luck, and plunging ever bravely forward into your wolves’ mouths, à la In Bocca Al Lupo. But I like the idea of talismans too. And most humans seem to, since they date back to our earliest days. I think they’re a comfort. And if holding onto an object you believe in, that gives you strength to face your wolves is what sparks your courage – well then, there’s hardly anything wrong with that.

I don’t know why I write so much about luck and paths and our true natures. I like the idea of hazy variables in life that we can’t see. There are things just out of sight – feelings we can’t brush off, thoughts that come unbidden, unbelievable coincidences. There is infinitely more mystery in the world than there are things we can be certain of. Explore, discover, prod and poke at the unknown.

And bring your lucky charms with you.

Love always,
Gabriele