Coming Up For Air

The last few weeks have been a crazy whirlwind. Work has kept me so insanely busy I don't even know how to describe it. I have worked Saturdays. I have come in early and stayed late. I put in a 17 hour day. 

And now, things are finally slowing down. For once, I came home with enough energy to clean my kitchen. I feel like a real person again. I can spend time on house projects. Maybe even make plans with friends. I could decorate for Christmas! 

It feels so good to slow down and catch my breath. I'm definitely not one of those people who can push themselves to their limits day after day. I like working hard, and I like to be busy, but I don't like my life to be taken over by one thing. Balance is key for me, so I'm hoping that this is a long-term change, not a short-term lull. 

My Fall Reading List

I read a lot of fluffy, fun reads this past summer. And now that fall is going full tilt, I found I've kept on with those fun reads. That is, when I've been doing any reading at all. But fall, for me, always feels like a more serious time, mostly because I associate it with going back to school and learning new things. So I thought I'd give myself a little challenge and pick some more difficult books to work through. 

My only criteria for deciding what books to put on the list were 1: do I actually want to read this possibly challenging book, and 2: will I enjoy it wrapped in a blanket while drinking some peppermint tea? 

Anna Karenena. I've been wanting to read this for a long time. The story sounds interesting, and I love a good dramatic novel. Everyone I've talked to about it has loved it, so I'm really exited to get started. For an added incentive, I promised my friend Jason that I'd read it, so now I have to follow through. 

Anne of Green Gables. I love Anne. I've seen the movie countless times. Last summer I read a biography on L. M. Montgomery's life and where she found inspiration for Green Gables. When I was in grade 4, I started reading the book, but never finished. This fall sounds like the perfect time to curl up and read about Anne, Marilla, Matthew, and everyone else on the island. 

Austenland. It is a true fact that I've never finished a Jane Austen novel. I've started Pride and Prejudice three times. I once almost made it through Sense and Sensibility, but then I had to return the book to the school library. I like Jane Austen a lot, but for whatever reason I have a hard time finishing her books, so this seems like a step in the right direction. I loved the film adaptation, and I'm hoping that the book will be just as good. 

Northhanger Abbey.  Fall seems like the perfect time for a good gothic novel. I don't know why, it's just one of those things. Besides, it looks like it could be a quick read, which should increase my chances of finishing something by Austen.

Yes Please. Amy Poeler is one of those women who I'm going to follow forever. She is funny and smart, and has an advice column for teen girls. If her writing voice is anything like her real voice, this book is going to be fantastic. 

Bird by Bird. My aunt first introduced me to this little book on writing a few years ago. I finally bought a copy and plan on working my way through it slowly. This is a book I don't want to read and be done with. I want to pour over it, making notes in the margins, so I probably won't finish it for a while. 

The more I sit and think about the books I want to start reading, the longer the list gets, so I should probably end the list here. I love getting book suggestions, so please leave your favourite fall books in the comments! 

Book: Revenge Wears Prada

I started reading this book on a cold February day while I was in New York. I was supposed to meet Luke for lunch, but he got delayed, so I went to the library to kill time for a little while. I only made it through the first few chapters before I had to leave, and I finally got around to finishing it up in August. This book is the sequel to The Devil Wears Prada, which I read last summer, so I kind of knew what I was getting into. 

The story picks up 10 years in the future, where Andy is now running her own magazine, planning her perfect wedding, and no longer has any contact with Miranda Priestly at all. As it turns out, her new mother-in-law hates her, which introduces some good conflict early on. While this conflict is a slow burn during the first half of the book, it isn't until about halfway through the novel that anything really starts to come of it. It's also at this point that we find out Miranda wants to acquire Andy's new magazine, and is relentless in her pursuit. 

I won't give away the juicy bits, as they are pretty stellar, even though it was a bit obvious what was coming. The climax and resolution comes fairly late in the novel, but it comes in spectacularly, with Andy finally speaking her mind and standing up for herself. The novel wraps up on a hopeful, but uncertain note as Andy considers her future possibilities. This ending makes me think that perhaps someday there will be another sequel, but I'm not holding my breath. 

If you're looking for a dramatic read that pulls you in, this is the book for you. It's a page turner, but there are a lot of pages. It's not a quick read, but it's hard to put down. If you need a little more drama in your life, this is the book to pick up. 

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

It's been a long, wonderful summer. I've taken several trips, eaten too many snow cones, and had one bad sunburn. I should probably also mention that I started a new job in May. But I don't really have any pictures of that. 

It started with my brother's wedding back in June. 

I think this was our first picture together since NYC

Then I got a new phone. And took my first selfie. 

Dum de dum de dum. Coming home from work. 

And we went to Bear Lake for a long weekend. 

The beach

Sunset in Bear Lake 

In July we went back to Southern Alberta for a family reunion. 

Alfalfa fields in my parent's backyard

Luke and a kitty!

Hiking break in Waterton

My favourite sister!

We went back to Bear Lake in August for more family shenanigans. 

Beach photo!

At the secret lake, pointing at the future location for our dream summer home

The last weekend in August, Luke and I went on a picnic up Provo Canyon. And I learned how to use the panorama feature on my phone. 

Almost-eaten picnic

Valley selfie

My first successful panorama! I moved from left to right...

I'm still in denial that summer is ending. 

Summer Slacker

I have been horribly remiss in posting anything remotely interesting here in weeks and weeks. And, terribly enough, I'm not going to post anything here tonight. Instead, have something funny, and hopefully soon I'll have some pictures to share, a few stories to tell, and maybe even a helpful list or two. 

I may possibly feel like this puppy. 

Calling Myself a Writer, Redux

Well, it's been a bit more than a month since I wrote about whether or not I feel like a real writer. I've done some serious thinking about it, and a very small smidgen of doing something about it. I've come to an important conclusion. 

I'm calling myself a writer. 

Not a good writer, mind you. But a writer all the same. I feel like I have strong writing voice, and I'm pretty decent at putting some sentences together. I just need to get more words out of my head and down on a page. 

So here's my plan: 

1. Write something, anything. Work emails and memos do not count. Other than that, there are no rules. It could be an email to my grandparents. It could be a blog post. It could be a short story. No length limits, no time limits. Just a bit of writing every day. 

2. Read something, anything. Again, work emails and memos do not count. Mostly I've been reading interesting books I found at the library, and fun blog posts that I found around the internet. I enjoy what I read, I just want to read more of it. 

Now, with that being said.....

Can I Still Call Myself a Writer?

As of late, my personal writing has taken a bit of a backseat to my every day life. For a while, I told myself that things were all right, since I was doing a lot of writing for work. And for a time, that was enough. I saw my writing improve, and my {professional, at least} style change and evolve for the better. 

The past few months, though, things have stagnated. I told myself it was because I'd been sick, gone through some personal struggles, and started a new job. I made excused. Now I'm afraid that I'm just not a writer anymore. You would think that someone who feels "called to the profession" would use any part of the day to write - whether it be short journal entries, character ideas, pages of dialogue, or just a to-do list. 

But I don't. 

That's not entirely true. I write to-do lists at work, and I send upwards of 15 emails a day. I write notes back and forth with friends on Facebook, and every once in a great while, I'll write a quick journal entry. 

This isn't enough, though. I'm no longer progressing like I was. In fact, I've begun to feel like my ability to wordsmith is tarnishing. And I need to start polishing it up. 

I'd like to finish this lament about how I'm going to set a bunch of goals, buy a new notebook, and set out 8 hours a day just to write. But I won't do that. Setting my sights so high will only cause me to fail even harder when I can't live up to these ridiculous expectations. 

Instead, I'm acknowledging that I'm not yet where I want to be, and reminding myself that I'm not so far gone that I should give up hope on a dream I've had forever. 

Maybe I'll set some goals. I'll probably set some goals. But I'm going to take it slow. And maybe, in a little while, I'll have some words worth sharing. 

How to Feel Rich: Books and Chocolate

I swear, there's nothing better than lazing around, reading a really good book, and eating really good chocolate. It just seems so luxurious to me, being curled up with a blanket, reading something really interesting, and then every once in a while, stuffing square after square of fancy chocolates into my mouth. 

It means I have the time and place to settle in to a story, plus enough spending money to splurge on a bar or two of gourmet chocolate {at least when they're on sale}. 

Book: Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

I finally finished a book from my reading list! Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress has been on the list for forever, and now I can officially cross it off. 

The story is set in China during the Cultural Revolution (around 1972), and tells of two teen boys who are sent away from their family to a remote mountain village to begin their "re-education". They work hard in the village, learning how to farm and live off the land. During their time there, they meet many local people, including another boy who is being re-educated in a nearby village. Through a series of events, they find out that this boy has a suitcase full of books, which have been banned due to the revolution. They do chores for him in exchange for his books. 

The plot of the story isn't quite what I was expecting. The way the back of the book reads, it sounds like the Little Seamstress has a lot to do with them finding the books. However, that is far from the case. In fact, it is the two boys who introduce her to the books, by telling her all about them {as she can't read}. By telling her these stories, she is inspired to live her life. 

At less than 200 pages, it's a short read. I learned a lot about China and the Cultural Revolution, which I'd never heard of before. The writing was simple, but very effective, and I liked the voice of the narrator. The only hiccup was near the end of the book, when the narration changes between several characters. This happens for no reason that I could see, and was a bit jarring. Despite that, I would highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to step out of their comfort zone a little bit. 


Back to Regular Scheduled Programming?

Since leaving for New York {and even a bit before that}, I've been focusing solely on that particular adventure. At the time, it made sense, since that's what I was doing with my life. But now, looking back, I wish that I'd written more personal anecdotes in addition to the travel-related posts. After all, that's what a blog is for, right? So for those who are interested, here's some random nonsense that I feel like writing just because. 

I've been going through phases of wanting to set ALL THE GOALS and then deciding that maybe taking things one at a time is going to be much more productive. Or maybe just not setting any goals at all. 

It feels really good being at home and not having any major events coming up in the near future. I've had some good adventures, and now I'm ready to not have any. Well, maybe just some mild adventures. 

At 25, I still feel like I'm still trying to figure myself out. Some days I wear old band shirts and jeans, and other days I wear maxi skirts and cardigans. Sometimes I do yoga, and sometimes I see how many muffins I can eat in one sitting. At one point, I thought it was a quarter life crisis. But the more I think about it, the more I think that maybe that's just what life is - trying different things to see if you like them or not. 

I've been reading voraciously since getting back. We've been home almost a month, and I'm on my 5th book. It feels so good. 

BYU's graduation is this week, and then most of the students will leave for the summer. It's my favourite time of year when the city empties out. 

Lately I've been feeling very cautious. Not scared or afraid, just, like I'm doing things too deliberately. As if I'm taking myself too seriously. I need to not do that. Adventure and mistakes make things interesting. 

I pinned a funny cat gif on Pinterest, and people have been re-pinning it and following me like crazy. I feel like a very minor celebrity. And now I feel dumb for typing that out.


Coming Home

Once we arrived at the airport, we realized that it wasn't really open yet. We'd arrived by 3am, but the check-in desk doesn't open until 3:30. So we had to stand around and wait for awhile. We got checked in, after a little confusion from the woman behind the best {I don't blame her. Starting work at 3:30am would make me confused, too}. 

Then, it turns out that TSA agents don't start work until 4am. We wandered around the airport, but it's pretty small, so there wasn't much to do or see. I did find this statue: 

Fun, right? Turns out it's done by my mom's favourite artist, Romero Britto. 

Look who it is! Don't mind me, I've only been up all night, packing and stressing. Also, this photo makes me think that maybe I could pull off a pixie cut. Thoughts?

Finally the security area opened, and we went through. I once again had a bit of trouble, since the names on my ticket and  passport don't match. This time, though, I was prepared. I had a friend send me our marriage certificate, so I was able to get through without needing a thorough pat down

We met up with everyone else in our little group, and settled in to wait until our plane could begin boarding. It wasn't a long wait. We settled into our seats before realizing that the flight was less than half full. We all moved farther back, so we could sit together. After waiting more than 20 minutes to take off, we were informed that our plane wasn't fit to fly. We were moved onto another plane, and set back by about an hour. I am of the opinion that our flight wasn't cancelled due to maintenance, but to the convenience of combining to nearly-empty flights. 

The upside to this unexpected delay meant that we wouldn't make it to our connecting flight. Yes, I know I said upside. We were put on a later connection, with enough time in between to stop and have lunch. Our connecting flight went much smoother than our first flight. No maintenance issues, no delays, no nothin'. 

We landed in SLC around 2pm. One of Luke's coworkers was kind enough to offer us a ride back to Provo. As we walked out of the airport, we were all amazed at the drastic change in weather. We'd left the damp, freezing NYC air and returned to Utah's warm desert climate. It was wonderful. 

Our apartment was just as we'd left it, thanks to two great friends. Never have I been so glad to return to Provo.

NYC: Week 10, Plus Monday and Tuesday Morning

This last week in the city was stressful. I had lots of little loose ends to tie up, plus packing, and a brief move {don't worry, I'll get to that}. 

Monday: Since we leave in a week, I need a new suitcase {the one I brought to New York got damaged by the airline}.  I considered just mailing everything home, but then thought better of it. I looked up a few places, then headed out around noon to begin shopping. I looked at JC Penny and a few boutique-ish places in Midtown, but I didn't have any luck. I met up with Luke for dinner, and went home empty handed. 

Tuesday: Day two of the suitcase search continues. I looked up a few more places, and headed out. I heard that there were some good shops in Brooklyn, but I didn't have any luck. In Manhattan, after striking out at a few more stores, I finally found one at TJ Maxx. It's blue and shiny, making it look kind of like a mermaid. But it suits my style, it's super light, and I'll be able to find it on the baggage carousel. 

Wednesday: I talked with our "landlord", who asked us if we would be willing to move to a different apartment for the last few days of our stay. He had some other people book our apartment for after we had gone, and then they changed their dates, and wanted to come in sooner. Since there was only two of us, and we didn't have that much stuff, we agreed to switch apartments for a few days. We decided that we would move over on Sunday. 

Thursday: Souvenir shopping! I went back to the NY Public Library and a few spots nearby, before heading down to Chinatown and Little Italy. I got what I needed, plus a few things for myself. Then I went back home to do a little cleaning and get the laundry done {last time at the laundromat!} Sad story: I left my quarters at home, and had to go all the way home and then all the way back again. 

Friday: A little more shopping! Mostly I stuck around Midtown. I wandered, shopped, and got myself a little lost. This was also Luke's last day of work! We talked about going out for dinner, but decided to just stay home and eat whatever we had left {I hadn't been grocery shopping in about a week}. 

Saturday: Today was pretty uneventful. After working so hard for the last 10 weeks, Luke just wanted to have an easy day. So we sat at home for most of the day. I did a bit of packing and cleaning, since we're relocating tomorrow. I also may or may not have started a countdown until we get to go home...

Sunday: Today was the day of the switch. Our new place is just a few blocks away, and much bigger than where we'd been staying this whole time. It has three bedrooms and has two floors {I guess it's kind of a split level}. We missed church because of the move, so we just bummed around all day. We napped, and then later we went out on a walk in our "new" neighbourhood. 

Monday: Our last day! I can hardly believe it! We straightened up, then went out for one last trip around town. We went down to the Brooklyn Bridge, saw the Statue of Liberty {sort of}, walked around the financial district, visited the World Trade Center memorial garden, and stopped for dinner in Times Square. Late in the day, we headed back to get ready to go home. We packed up, and decided that we'd be better off staying up all night, since we had to leave for the airport at 3am. 

Tuesday: Our "landlord", as a goodwill gesture for making the apartment switch, offered to drive us to the airport. He picked us up a little before three, and dropped us at La Guardia. The rest of the day really deserves it's own post, since it was a bit stressful. 

What Up, 212?

The best part about living in New York City is just wandering around and discovering new things. Here's a few of my discoveries, shown in to particular order. 

I went to see "Ladies and Gentlemen...The Beatles!" at the NYPL Museum. I enjoyed it, but I liked the museum in Liverpool better.

The Manhattan Temple spire. Usually a temple has pretty extensive grounds, making it easy to take a picture. Not so when you're in uptown. This was the best I could do. 

One of my last days in the city, I went down to Little and Italy to do a bit of souvenir shopping. Let me tell you, this is the place to do it. Everything much cheaper. Plus, once you get off the main street, you find some really quaint restaurants, interesting shops, and some great archetechure. The only downside is that it's quite south (one stop away from One World Trade Center). 

One night, Luke and I tried to get dessert at Serendipity, but it was cold outside and the line was long. We walked down the block, and found this place instead. They have every type of candy you can imagine, and an ice cream bar upstairs. A much better alternative, if you ask me. 

Bloomingdale's is HUGE! It takes up a whole block, and it's several stories high. 

Gorgeous architecture on 5th Avenue.

Quite possible the most perfect townhouse ever. I found it while walking on the lower east side. 

A hotel across from city hall. While most of the buildings around here are boring office buildings, there are still a few intricate buildings like this one. 

This is probably my favourite find. One day, after a long day of errands and exploring, I was trying to find the closest subway station so I could head back home. After checking my map and walking for blocks, I still couldn't find it. So headed one street over to a different station. As I walked, I noticed a little space between buildings. Soon, this little space came into view. Tucked away from the busy streets is this little oasis, complete with trees and a waterfall. I only wish I'd been able to come back and read, eat lunch, and do some writing. 

Brooklyn Bridge

Our last day in NYC we headed allllll the way down to the Brooklyn Bridge {took us almost an hour, when all was said and done}. We'd been waiting until the weather was nicer, but it was still pretty chilly. I loved seeing the bridge. I highly recommend it, especially if you aren't going to be in the city for very long, since you can see everything from it. Just watch. 

The typical picture 

You can see the Statue of Liberty from here!

Midtown/Uptown Manhattan. You can see the Empire State Building, as well as the Chrysler Building. The view was even better in real life. 

Downtown/Financial District. The bridge's suspension kind of got in the way, but you can see One World Trade Center on the right. 

Look, it's us!

Washington Square Park

One place that I really wanted to see was Washington Square Park. There's this one scene in Gilmore Girls, where Rory goes to visit Jess, and they meet at this park. The weather was nice, the arch was awesome, and I got to do a bit of writing there. 

 The famous arch at the end of 5th Avenue 
Arch again. I'd really love to live in that apartment building on the right. 

Facing west in the park 

Looking east. That building with the green roof is a part of NYU

Our Apartment

I probably should've shared this back in January, but I figured I'd wait until now. Just because. Here's what our apartment looked like. Granted, it seems a bit bigger than most NYC apartments. But since we were living in Queens, rather than Manhattan, housing was a bit cheaper. Also, please note the size of that kitchen. 

This was the view out of our living room window. I took this back in Januaury, at the height of the polar vortex. It was terribly cold. 

Our tiny bathroom. At least we had a full sized shower. 

The living room/dining room/office {desk on the right}. Yes, we used the couch in it's "futon" position. Otherwise, it was way too narrow to sit on comfortably.

Facing back the other way. You can see the kitchen off on the left. 

Our bedroom. We had two beds, a queen and a double. So we slept in one, and used the other {smaller} one as a dresser. We lived out of our suitcases the entire time. 

Kitchen, part one. Despite it's small size, it was hard to get the whole thing in one shot. Note how much counter space we had. 

Kitchen, part 2. Little stove, little fridge, both very blurry. Sorry.