Sushi Fridays

So life can’t be CRAZY EXTREME ADVENTURE all the time. I don’t think so at least. I’m sure there’s a 1% somewhere who is going sky-diving one day, climbing Mt. Everest the next, then wrassling sharks with lazor beams on their heads for dessert.

Yeaaaah. Not the other 99% of us. But I love finding everyday adventures, whether it’s a impromptu trip to our favorite out-of-the-way smoothie shop, going on a run and taking roads I’ve never explored, or even just acting like a tourist and doing things I should’ve done years ago.

One of my favorite adventures (and somewhat of a tradition now) is trying a new sushi restaurant every week or so with a few of my friends. They started the tradition on their own and I’ve sort of glommed on. It’s a pretty delicious adventure.

sushi

And I mean, I especially benefit because sushi is generally gluten free! Win!

(Though fun fact, I ate California rolls for ages after being diagnosed with celiac, because I didn’t realize the imitation crab was full of gluten and thus out to kill me)

We’ve gone pretty hardcore dorky with this hobby. We even have a Google spreadsheet we share with each other, where we rate restaurants on very important things: ambience, price, food, and of course, the quality of the miso soup.

There’s a section for comments too, which was meant to talk about specific dishes, but has devolved to our comments about weird things at the restaurants. Such as, ‘families with mail-order brides here’, ‘children eat here by themselves’, ‘drunk, creepy man pawing at woman in pink pantsuit’. We’re nothing if not honest.

The furthest we’ve gone for sushi together is Massachusetts, though only because we were there for a wedding. Still, we’re traversing the county and surrounding areas that we’ve spent the majority of our lives in.

Maybe it’s not the most exciting thing to that 1% skydiving, mountain-climbing, shark wrassler. But I love reconnecting with my friends after a week, and going somewhere new. It’s our version of a weekly family dinner, except… sushi.

One of my favorite things in college was the ‘family dinners’ my roommates and I occasionally had, or meeting up at Starbucks and chatting away for hours. We were in Starbucks nearly every day. Sometimes… three times a day, no shame. Thank goodness they took my meal plan.

So now I get to repeat those mini-adventures again. I love sushi, I love my friends, I love car rides and seeing new places. So it’s win-win-win.

We do branch out to other cuisines too–smoothies (totally their own food group), tacos, and whatever strikes our curiosity. I’m sure once we have our own places, we’ll cook more too, and I look forward to future potluck dinners. That’ll be the next tradition!

Love always,
Gabriele

Traditions: The Dyeing of the Eggs

The purple crocuses have been peeking their bright petals out of the thawing earth. There’s still snow on half my lawn, but the sun has finally stopped hitting snooze on its alarm button. Spring might just finally be here, on the coattails of Easter.

I’ve gone on about how I love traditions and rituals. I love seeing how people mark the passing of time with holidays, events, and ceremonies that are special to them.

I’ve been lucky enough to experience and learn about other rituals, like Chinese New Year, a Passover Cedar, and hey, the summer solstice in Iceland is certainly on my bucket list. But this week, it’s about sharing one of the traditions I’ve grown up with: dyeing eggs.

Dyeing eggs in tea cups, because we are classy

Dyeing eggs in tea cups, because we are classy

Fun anecdote. I got my friends and myself kicked out of a particularly religious Spanish teacher’s classroom after-school in high school once. Why? We were playing video games in her room, and I was blathering on about the origin of Easter Eggs, when she came out of her backroom and thumped a bible on the desk in front of me.

“Find where it says that in the Bible!”

Quizzically, and taken aback, (for this was public school, after all, and speaking of religious matters was verboten) I asked her if she had heard of the Dead Sea Scrolls and whether she believed they were canon.

She said yes. And then I quipped, “Well, those aren’t in the bible”, and after being at a loss for words, she promptly kicked us out of her room.

Ah, religion, y’all.

Anyway. Where do Easter Eggs originate? Like all religions and cultures, they were appropriated from somewhere else first. (We get the name Easter from the pagans). According to Wikipedia, decorated, engraved ostrich eggs have been found in Africa and are an amazing 60,000 years old! And decorated eggs have been found in the graves of ancient Egyptians as well.

It gained its Christian aspect when Mesopotamians dyed the eggs red (a practice still done in Eastern Christian churches) to symbolize the blood of Christ. Cracking the egg is supposed to be like cracking open Jesus’s tomb for his resurrection.

It’s so fantastically morbid, I love it.

Of course, eggs have meaning all of their own. They connote new life, and a multitude of other faiths and cultures, from Iran to the ancient Zoroastrians to the Pagans, use painted eggs at their springtime holiday. The earth is cracking open from its frozen shell of winter. A new start begins.

My mother used to hollow out the eggs, and decorate the shells with little drops of fabric paint, turning them into shimmering, textured, fragile spheres. They seemed like eggs for tiny dragons maybe, or fairies.

eggcollage

I like trying to do very simple designs. I made Pabu and Aang from the Avatar-verse. Unfortunately, that’s pretty much where my craftiness both begins and ends. I don’t need to dye them all to symbolize blood, you know. I appreciate them for their burst of colors, their promise that spring is on its way, just still playing hide-and-go-seek with us.

This year, my friends and I have around 50 eggs to dye. It’s going to be messy and wonderful, and we’re doing a photoshoot with bunnies and the finished eggs. Hmm.. Easter bunnies. There’s another tradition, but this one I’m going to leave a mystery for today.

Love always,
Gabriele

My soundtrack

Do you have a soundtrack to your life?

I’m not suffering from auditory hallucinations or anything, don’t worry. Though… those could be fun. I do like to listen to movie soundtracks when I write and I can only imagine how fun it would be for us if our daily lives were accompanied by the music of an Oscar-winning composer.

I have playlists that are full of time-tested songs that I listen to for every mood. When I’m waking up and getting pumped for the day, when I’m folding laundry and want to dance around the house, when I need strength. When I want to be melancholy and moody. When I want to pretend I’m a Disney princess. When I want to scream and break things.

My playlists all have names like, ‘smile in the morning’, ‘dance, clean, whatever’, and ‘anytime, anywhere’. I have playlists for stories I write and for people in my life. In high school, I made ‘fan videos’ for my friends with songs I felt best fit them. Oh goodness. I half-cringe thinking back on that, but also, it was pretty gosh darn adorable of me. 

But, more than the playlists, there are certain songs that come up, time and time again in my life. Like a siren, they call to me to listen to them, find refuge in their melodies and words engrained by now in my heart. Here are ten songs I feel connected to.

“Far Away” by Ingrid Michelson
When I’m feeling dreamy and very Pisces, this song is full of yearning and head-up-in-the-clouds ideas.  

“Fallen” by Sarah McLachlan 
I make mistakes. Everyone does. Sometimes, I make really, really, terrible, horrible mistakes. This song is my crutch to get through those times. 

“For Fruits Basket”
This song is embedded in my soul. I have such a problem coming to terms with the decisions and mistakes I’ve made. The chorus of this song reminds me the mistakes are okay. It’s okay just to do better as I go on. 

“Moth’s Wings” by Passion Pit
This song is my childhood, summed up.

“Breathe (2 am)” by Anna Nalick
Another song that gets me through hard moments, moments when I feel like I can’t breathe. If I’m having a panicky moment, this song is a good reminder to calm down, chill out, and just breathe.

“You Make My Dreams” by Hall and Oates
For moments of silliness, and shaking it out and off, and time-traveling back to the 1980s. 

“Sleeps with Butterflies” by Tori Amos
Tori gets me. We are the odd girls, the dreamers, the quirky ones with starlight words spilling out of our lips and our ears, and we know we’re not quite at home here, like we would be among the clouds. 

“Dear Prudence” by The Beatles
I’m moody. Sometimes I need to get out of my own head. This song is a reminder to stop worrying, chill, go out and smell the roses, feel the sunshine. 

“Welcome to the Black Parade” by My Chemical Romance
My anthem. Get up, get out there, life is going to be legendary. Also, MCR was my teenage self’s absolute favorite.

I could probably go on a longwinded rant about why I love each of my favorite songs, cheesy or otherwise. But I think I’ll just leave my Spotify list of my ‘Anytime, Anywhere’ songs. The songs I can listen to endlessly, over and over.

Anyone else have some theme songs to their life?

Love always,
Gabriele

Little Town, It’s a Quiet Village

Have you heard of the other name for the Millennials? We’re now also the boomerang generationcalled such because after we move away to college, many of us have to move back home for a period of time before we have the financial freedom to kickstart our independent lives. I never expected to be part of it, and hopefully I’ll be boomeranging back out soon enough.

I’ve lived in the same tiny hamlet for nearly my entire life. I went to elementary, middle, and high school here, with the same group of 200 or so kids from kindergarten to senior year. I know it inside and out, from the Fol-de-Rol that sets up in June, the frozen hot chocolates at our coffee shop, and how Broadway pizza is infinitely better than Amore’s.

Still, while I look forward to living in capital-letter The City, or somewhere else new and exciting, I’m sure there will be things I’ll miss about living at home in suburbia.

autumn roadtrip

Drives under autumn trees – one of the lovely things in suburbia!

Nature
Even when I’m driving to work, I drive past trees, the beautiful waters of the Kensico Dam (especially breathtaking at sunset), and … . There is a copse of trees in the back of my yard where deer peep out their heads and bunnies hop, noses twitching and eyes wide. Once, there was even a black bear who lazily ambled past. You can get lost in the woods here. I miss walking to my summer job as a teenager, where I’d skitter through my neighbor’s backyard, down a hill, and through a park!

One of my favorite spots in my town is in a nature preserve, where once you’ve climbed down and up hills (and sloshed through mud if it’s been raining), there’s a pond. You can carefully walk across a narrow stone ledge in the water to sit on a giant boulder at the other side and watch the water and listen to the birds. It’s a treasure.

Kids, Kids Everywhere
Everything in suburbia is really kid-centric. Especially in a town like mine, where people move here solely for the school district. It’s fun seeing kids running around in a safe place, playing outside, and being bounced around in carriages. It satiates my warm and fuzzy feelings of ‘awww look, a baby’, which is good, because I am in no way old enough or prepared for a child. 

The Uniform
If you’re an adult woman, it’s totally acceptable wearing yoga pants all around town, whether it’s stopping at the crazy-overpriced supermarket, the five or so nail salons, or our town square, which wants to be historical but is actually brand new. I’m all about wearing yoga pants and boots. 

No Chain Stores
I complain about my town being sleepy and quiet, but it’s also kind of nice not to see glaring McDonalds or Subway signs everywhere. It’s nice going into my local coffee shop, and falling into warm conversations with the people who work there, who’ve seen me grow up and know my family. 

Quiet
In the city, there are always sirens and cars going by, people talking. The whole city is pulsing with life. It’s nice to be home and have moments of utter quiet and stillness, where you can hear the soft exhalations of your breath and find peace in your head. 

Driving
I actually reaaaaally don’t like driving. I can’t wait to live in a place where I don’t need to drive (or at the very least, don’t have to dig my car out of the snow). But… I like road trips! Even just half-hour road trips to that magical smoothie shop or to check out a different sushi restaurant. I love being in the car with my friends during summer, with the windows down and wind streaming through our hair and carrying our laughs away with it. 

Of course, there are other things I’ll miss! Spending as much time with my family. Not having to think about going to a laundromat or carrying groceries sans car back to an apartment. One of my hellhounds, er, I mean dogs.

…But, there’s a whole wide world out there! And I’m looking forward to exploring more of it.

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

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

Fears

You know, it’s probably a terrible idea to list my phobias and fears out for the internet to see. BUT I’M GOING TO DO IT. Because I like making bad decisions. They’re fun. And most of my phobias are probably hard to recreate unless I’m actually a Sim, in which case… I’m probably already destined for some bad times.

Anyway. Everyone’s afraid of something, aren’t they? If they’re not, I’d like to meet them, because they must be exceedingly brave. …Or they’re a sociopath, in which case, mmm maybe not.

Some of my fears are serious, some are silly, and some are fairly bizarre.

Find a happy place, find a happy place!

Find a happy place, find a happy place!

1.Driving in the snow
Maybe it’s the feeling of my car wanting to end my life prematurely. Maybe it was the time my mom and I saw a tractor-trailer jackknife and flip over on the highway in front of us. I get really freaked out about driving on icy, snowy roads. Which is why I terribly would like to live either a place where I don’t have to drive or one where I don’t have to deal with winter.

2. Jellyfish
Bleah. Oh gosh. I can’t even think about jellyfish too much. I’m always tempted to fast-forward through that section of Finding Nemo. They’re just gross and look like they shouldn’t exist and then there are the really deadly ones in Australia. But then again, pretty much everything is deadly in Australia. I live in fear of going in the ocean and having one brush up against my leg with its feelers. Something about them is really squelchy and icky, just like the word…

3. Moist
I just shuddered typing that and hearing it in my head. Ugh. Let’s move on. 

4. Being trapped/stuck somewhere
My nightmares all follow a common theme, ever since I was little. Generally I’m stuck in some sort of dystopian world and can’t escape, or I’m lost and kind find my way out. When I was little, there was one nightmare where an evil witch destroyed my home and so my family was moving to a new home but I couldn’t find them or keep up. A funny variation on this nightmare was during high school, I dreamt that my best friend’s mom thought I was my friend and locked me in a pantry and wouldn’t let me out. (Don’t ask). But this translates to real life too. I don’t like being stuck, physically or metaphorically.

5. Obesity
No, I’m not afraid of fat people. I’m afraid of succumbing to the average American prototype. So I work out like a hamster on a wheel. I find exercise to be restorative, both mentally and physically, but I also am afraid of the possibility becoming so unhealthy that my quality of life is impacted. When I think about how sedentary my life is as a grownup, I get itchy and need to go run off some steam. 

6. Dummies/ventriloquist dolls
Or any sort of uncanny valley type toy too. My brother was given a furby one year when we were little. I dismantled that vassal of Satan and locked it up in a trunk AND IT STILL MADE NOISE AND GIGGLED TO ITSELF. Pure evil, man. Stuff of nightmares. 

7. Space
No, seriously. I’m really afraid of space. I like it on a conceptual level. I love Star Wars and Doctor Who and Futurama. But… the people who first signed up to be astronauts had to be some crazy, crazy people. Beyond that, thinking about space in any seriousness overwhelms my brain, especially the whole sun exploding bit, and gives me an existential crisis for a while. Then I need to usually distract myself with Tumblr. 

8. Mediocrity/banality
The immortal enemy of any perfectionist. 

9. Gunk in the sink
Oh my god. I can’t. That’s the one chore I can’t do. I have done some pretty gross things. I have cleaned up a friend’s vomit, plunged toilets, changed diapers, collected dog urine to test it for ketones, unclogged my college bathroom shower (clogged with someone else’s hair, no less). But I cannot, cannot deal with bits of old food in the sink. Especially, like in my house, where people put utensils that have pet food still on them in the sink without rinsing them. Omg. A clogged sink is my nightmare. 

10. Daddy Long-Legs
They disturb me on a deep, emotional level. Like jellyfish, they also seem like they shouldn’t exist. Honestly, I don’t care about your regular variety of spiders, but daddy long-legs are just wrong. They’re like orange floating dots with spindly lines for legs and they move and they want to kill you but they can’t because our skin is too thick. Creepy little buggers.

Anyway. Now that I’ve listed my most bizarre fears, I need to go watch videos of pugs or turtles eating strawberries to get these visions out of my mind.

Love always,
Gabriele