Cabin Fever, Strep Throat, and Gypsies

The last time I left the house was last Thursday for a doctor’s appointment. I wasn’t feeling well, and was feeling steadily worse over the course of a week. It was time to visit the doctor.

The doctor told me I had strep throat. I’ve been in the house ever since.

One such feverish night, after having sweated out my night clothes for the first time that night, I started wishing that I was a gypsy. I blame the cabin fever for this. It could’ve also been my actual fever, and the fact that my throat is so swollen, that getting oxygen to my brain has been difficult.

For a girl like me, it takes nothing for me to get cabin fever. I love to be out and about, even if it’s just to go to work. I take public transportation to work, and that’s always an adventure.

As I was lying in the dark soaked in sweat, all I could think is that I wished I was a gypsy nomad. My only true desire in that moment was to loose myself of the bonds of sickness, suburbia and convention, and travel the world with no set itinerary in mind.

I’ve often dreamed of leaving job and all just to travel: no set time to stay or go to or from a place, and no set date to ever return.

What is it that keeps us in a place? Is it because of what our ancestors always did? Is it because we feel obligated to different responsibilities–children, spouses, jobs? Why do we feel an obligation to convention (the set way of doing things)?

I have a theory on why the idea of commitment often makes me itch (yes, sometimes literally):

When you have a “real” job, get married or get into some type of long term relationship or have children, you’re bound to that. It’s not to say that these things are bad or boring, but something about the idea of staying in one place doing the same thing day in and day out makes me cringe inwardly. Whenever the idea of being forced into some societal norm comes to mind, I freak out internally. All I want to do is run. Like an animal that is freed from a trap, I just want to run straight into the wild.

Sometimes I picture myself like a wild horse with the mane and tail flying in the wind. If I ever decided to get a tattoo (it’s not likely that I will, but maybe when I’m 80 if I’m still around), that’s probably what I’d get. It would definitely be a wild horse with the mane flailing about in the wind. To me, that is the symbol of freedom.

All I want to do is run wild, unfettered and free. There are times where I’ve come close to giving away all the things that I’ve amassed (since they don’t fit in my little room anyway), and just buying a one-way ticket to Lord knows where.

I crave adventure like some people crave cake. I need it like oxygen. Without that feeling of an adventure flowing through my veins, I feel like I’m dying inside.

I think I just need a good chunk of time in my life where every day is an adventure, and that said adventure could lead me anywhere in the world.

Which leads me back to why the idea of being a gypsy nomad tugs at my heart strings. One day I need to do this, and I hope I won’t delay. Sometimes you get caught up in the “routine” of convention that you lose the fight to buck it. I knew a long time ago that being unconventional was more my speed. It’s about time that I embraced that and really ran after what it is that I want right now.

It’s a brave thing to do, and sometimes I lack the “courage of conviction”, as Julia Child called it. I hope to summon up just enough of this courage and bravery to run with the wind through my mane, and not look back.

For a little while, anyway.

FUEL-ing up in Philly

Here’s a given that I cannot avoid no matter how many times I try:

Whenever I go into Philly, I spend money.

I’ve had times where I’ve managed to go down and have days where I spend little more than the cost of a modest, yet delicious lunch (which is sometimes compliments to Groupon). The art museum is a lovely way to spend your day downtown without having to spend too much money, especially if you go on the one day where you can pay what you like. I believe that day is either Wednesday or Sunday. What’s nice is that even if you do pay an admission, you can use that same admission to the other buildings in the museum AND that admission is good for two consecutive days as long as you keep the ticket.

Since I am a member to the art museum, I may have the days twisted… so check with information in case you do visit. I know it’s my town and all, but I highly recommend visiting the Philadelphia Museum of Art when you visit. Not only are the more permanent exhibits marvelous to behold, the special exhibitions are well worth the visit.

However, yesterday was not a cheap day. I went and spent some money. Let’s face it; I’m one of those females that likes to shop, and I’ve discovered a favourite consignment shop as well as other places that I like to haunt. We all know how this is going down.

I always tell myself that I’m going to the art museum when I go downtown, but this time, I knew that was a lie. Today was a food adventure day. I was fitting to shop, and try a coffee place that I had never noticed before. One day, I was coming home from 69th Street on the trolley, and I saw a coffee shop called Five Points Coffee. “Hm”, I thought to myself. “I need to try that place”.

The next day, I was on the trolley and got off at the stop where I could see the coffee shop about a block away. The location of it is good because you can see it from the 101 or 102 trolleys. Just get off at the Fairfield Stop and walk straight to it.

I walked in and I liked the feel of it. It felt like a calm place in the midst of the hustle and bustle of an urban neighborhood. If you know anything about 69th street and how busy it is, this place was a nice contrast. I really wanted to order one of the coffee drinks, but I always think “hot” even though you can get iced coffee products there. I settled for a peach smoothie with whipped cream. There was no line at all when I went in.

The peach smoothie was tasty, and I sat for a moment and admired the pictures on the wall. Something about them reminded me of the pictures I’ve seen of Morocco. I reminded myself that I need to make plans to go, no matter where I may find myself living. I don’t know about anyone else, but no matter where I find myself living, or what work I am doing, I want travel to be priority.

After the few minutes of contemplation, and looking over the receipt that was sent to me by text message (I love this option!), I walked out and went down to 69th St to catch the el.

I got off in Center City, and walked down to H&M to do a little shopping. I had been procrastinating for a good couple of years on getting some basics, so I decided to get on that. As much as I like boutiques, if you need affordable wardrobe staples and basics, I recommend H&M. I didn’t appreciate this store as much as I should, but after being in NYC, I have a newfound appreciation for its prices on things. I left there with 4 basic tees, including one white and one black plain tee, and a great mustard yellow cardigan.

By now, it was mid afternoon, and I was hungry. I walked my way up to the 12th block of Walnut St to use the Groupon I got for Fuel. I’ve seen this place a few times and had heard of it, but hadn’t tried anything in there. Today was the day.

Even though I looked at the menu online before going, I was still indecisive about what to get. It’s just that everything looked so good! After taking approximately 5 minutes shy of forever, I finally ordered the Spicy Spanish Skewered Shrimp and the Deconstructed Guacamole Salad.

Here are my thoughts:

The shrimp wasn’t bad, but I did expect it to be spicier than it was. It was on a stick, though; most anything on a stick is automatically good. I liked the sauce that was served with it, too. It tasted like something very familiar, but I couldn’t put my finger on it.

The salad?

Let me tell you guys… this thing BLEW. ME. AWAY. If you are like me and obsessed with guacamole, you will be addicted to this salad. In fact, it will mess with your head a little. It tastes so much like guacamole, I found myself thinking “Man, I wish I had more chips to dip into this!” It’s clearly not a dip when you look at it, but this is what you will think. That’s how much this salad tastes like guacamole. Even the choice of greens with it was perfect for translating the flavor of guacamole.

Editor’s note: I’m so sorry for not having pictures! I didn’t have enough storage space on my phone to take any! Since I plan to revisit this particular eatery, I’ll be sure to have pictures for you all. Everything looked as good as it tasted. :End Editor’s Note

If this wasn’t enough to keep me coming back for more, the flourless chocolate cake did it. It was served with a raspberry purée type sauce. I will add a caveat here: unless you’re a real chocolate fan, don’t get this. It’s not for the faint of heart. If you exclusively eat weak chocolate (mainly, anything chocolate confection that has a percentage higher than 62%), you won’t survive this dessert.

It was rich and tasted like they cut a piece of fudge and put it on a plate… but who’s complaining?? The raspberry sauce with this was brilliant because it cut through the richness of the slice of chocolate. There area times where I’ve had raspberry sauce with something chocolate, and felt it was completely unnecessary or didn’t work. Even for a big time rich/dark chocolate fan, this was a rich piece of cake;  this sauce was the perfect compliment.

I left lunch feeling satisfied, but not weighed down, even with dessert! Everything was delicious and, to my delight, reasonably priced… which left me more money to shop, of course!

I hit up two shops before going home, one of which was Greene Street Consignment. I’m obsessed with their feed on Instagram. It’s a groovy consignment shop with a few locations in the Philadelphia area, parts of New Jersey, and one location in Soho in NYC (which I got to visit). Not only did I make friends with the young woman that rang me up, I finally got a romper, and a $5 pair of pants with very cool embroidery down the side.

After all this, I finally went home. It was a full day, but a fun day.

I forgot how much I enjoy going into the city. I’ll have to make plans to go back sooner rather than later. Thankfully, a transpass will make that possible for me. Transpasses are wonderful things, especially when you travel into a city. Let’s face it: no matter how nifty cars are, parking in a city is difficult and expensive. Even when I had a car, I was more likely to take public transportation into the city and to get around the city.

Here’s to more Philly adventures.

Cheers!

Comfort in Potatoes

As much as I loved being in NYC, I found myself missing certain things… and by things, I mean certain foods.

When you’re living with little money and even fewer cooking utensils, there’s precious little that one can do to create a good meal. Thankfully, my roommates and I were able to thrive off of the goodwill of others. Pots, pans and bowls were borrowed from our neighbors, and at least once every day, we were able to cook something.

I missed quite a few foods, which are staple foods in my house here in PA. Usually, the things that we always have are: popcorn, potatoes, and the fixings to make waffles. These are the foods I missed the most when I was yearning for something late at night. Sure, I could’ve used microwave popcorn (and I did once or twice), but it’s just not the same when you’re used to making it over a stove. I don’t know, something about that act makes me feel more connected to it.

I even bought potatoes when I was away with intentions of making fried potatoes. Fried potatoes is something we make often here at home. My first memory of it was my grandmother making it. I was always excited when I would go to Nana’s house, and see a pan of fried potatoes sitting on her stove. The “recipe” has evolved since I started making them, and it now includes fresh garlic. I bought every base ingredient in fried potatoes with all intentions of making them… until I realized that there was one major thing holding us back: neither I, nor my roommates, nor anyone we knew owned a knife that would cut potatoes. It was a sad realization, but we ended up making loaded roasted potatoes instead, which was quite delicious.

When I came home from New York, of all the things I could’ve cooked, fried potatoes ended up being the first thing I cooked when I arrived home and had the energy to stand at a stove. Admittedly, this took a few days.

Maybe it’s the influence of my Irish twice great grandmother, but I love me some potatoes. Most applications I enjoy when I prepare it, but Nana’s potato salad is good no matter who decides to make it. That influence could also explain why french fries are my weakness. Then again, if you don’t like french fries, I question whether or not you’re human. What’s not to like?? If you eat enough of them, you may not like how they tighten your pants around your middle, but besides that… they’re delicious, salty and amazing!

I have no real recipe for making fried potatoes, and I don’t think I posted one here. However, I did take a picture when I made them that day. Call it a tribute to my most homey dish.

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This version included green bell pepper, which was a suggestion that my mom made. It worked out quite well, actually. I may have to make it a more permanent ingredient in this recipe.

If we’re so blessed to have some that survived another day, I like topping them with an egg (usually over easy). The egg I used the next day was more like over medium/over hard because I got a little overzealous because I was using our small cast iron pan to do it, and I kind of forgot about it.

I was little out of practice in making over easy eggs since, oddly enough, I really didn’t make any when I was away. I did make a lot of eggs, but it was more in an omelet form. I’ll have to try making “sunny side up” sometime; I haven’t done that since cookings school!

Well, that’s it for me. I know that when I’m away from home the next time, I have to be SURE that I can make fried potatoes. It’ll bring home a little closer, and what better place to remember home than on one’s plate?

 

The Power of Being Thin

This is a post I’ve wanted to write for a while because it’s something that I’ve witnessed and have experienced before. No matter what the smaller pockets in society say, there is a pressure to be thin, or “skinny”. It’s bad enough that people (mainly women) may feel inferior because of their skin tone or economic status, but on top of this, they feel an enormous pressure to be no more than the circumference of a toothpick.

Just like there is white and male privilege, there is also a form of privilege that comes with being thin. Most decent clothing isn’t made above a certain size. The options for plus sized women wanting to look fashionable are few and quite abysmal. Having shopped with women that are considered “plus size”, I’ve seen the selections. There are very few retailers that cater to a fluffier woman. Let’s not even get into high end designers; some of their clothing won’t even fit an average sized woman, let alone a woman with more girth!

In addition to the whole clothing debacle, the way people look at you is different when you aren’t skinny. This includes the way the opposite sex views you. People will judge you on a lot of factors merely based on your size, like: work ethic, sometimes economic status, even personal hygiene! It also seems like men respond more to women that are thin. Heck, sometimes I even feel like nothing around women that are thinner than me, and I’m not considered fat.

There are also challenges that come with being what most would consider “skinny”. It mainly comes in the form of people serving you “haterade”. Folks, mainly other women, that know of this privilege envy you and start making snide remarks. If they don’t say anything, they’ll treat you coldly and may shun you. I’ve had this happen many times when I’ve lost weight.

The other thing that would bother me sometimes is when I would go away, and come back thinner because I wasn’t eating enough. People would say “you look good!”.

So… you’re encouraging me not to eat enough?

I think the worst responses I’ve ever experienced was when I lost around 20 lbs last year. Whether I needed to or had it to lose or not is arguable. I just changed some things about the way I ate, and was working 40 hr days in a job where you’re constantly walking and standing. The end result was weight loss.

Well, folks had a LOT to say about that. Some people said I looked great, other people thought I was too thin. One person even asked if I was sick! Yet another person made reference to my former size, making me wonder if my former size (which I was happy with at the time) was a decent size to be! I was dismayed by all of these comments! I was made to feel like I didn’t look good before I lost weight, and that I didn’t look good now either!

After the dust settled, it took me a few months to reconcile with the new size. I was given no moment to decide how I felt about it before the gallery started throwing their peanuts. For a long time thereafter, I thought I was ugly and skinny, and hated how I looked. Honestly, I would’ve felt better if no one had said a thing… but that’s not going to happen. Everyone has an opinion on weight and size, and some will boldly proclaim those opinions.

Even at my current size, and the size I was before, people thought of me as “skinny”. It just goes to show you that “skinny” is relative. I don’t know if this is just a United States problem or what, because I never seem to have thoughts and feelings of unattractiveness when it comes to men that aren’t American. No matter what size I am at the time, non-American men celebrate it, and love everything about this black American girl.

A girl in my acting class did a scene where she was at a party, and she catches her boyfriend cheating with a girl that’s thinner than her. Her reaction was “That skinny b—-h!” Then she proceeds to jiggle her stomach, lift up her shirt, and write “F— skinny people” on her stomach before ending the scene.

What’s sad is that “skinny privilege” has caused this divide, and has made women feel that way about each other. I know I’ve felt that way about girls that are thinner than me. Not all skinny girls are mean, and it’s not their fault that “skinny privilege” exists. For all you know, they could be feeling as awkward as I did when I got skinnier.

If you’re going to be angry about this, let’s be angry at those that instituted skinny privilege. Shall we?

 

 

Sweat, Chocolate, and Chinese Food

Sunday was a crazy day. It always feels a little surreal when I’m in New York. I don’t know why this is; maybe there’s something in the Manhattan air.

The crazy things that happen when you’ve only had 4 hours of sleep lead to all types of ridiculousness, including the series of events that took place when I was trying to catch a train to NYC at 5:15 am. The reason I only got 4 hours of sleep was because I was in a desperate search through my drawers to find something that would qualify as “business casual”. What happened after that is the result of having had such little sleep.

I tore up my room for several precious minutes looking for a Metro Card. Yes. The Metro Card that I had for a month when I stayed in New York… for some crazy reason, I chose the minutes I should’ve spent driving to the train station looking for this Metro Card. Never mind the fact that I could just buy another for $1. *sigh*

Not only did I not find the Metro Card, I ended up getting to the train station approximately 3 minutes before my train was supposed to leave… and I was 2 city blocks away. I might’ve been there sooner if I hadn’t been a ditz and decided NOT to take the highway. I hit every stop light there was to hit on the way there.

I went to pay for a parking ticket at the machine, and only paid for 12 hrs. I needed 24 hrs. Desperate to not get a parking ticket or be towed, I paid another $20 for the same amount of time, and threw both receipts in the window. Grabbing my things, I booked it to the train station. I really shouldn’t have bothered, because I missed the train by a good 5 minutes.

So there I was… sitting on the platform waiting for a completely different train that would connect me to the New Jersey Transit. It was the only hope I had of getting to my location in time.

I was supposed to be in NYC at 10 minutes before 7am. I actually got there at about 8:37am. Let’s also throw in the fact that I had to figure out where this place was. After getting on the wrong train and asking 1.3mil people which way to go, I got to the place 1 hr late! I was so embarrassed! My first time appearing for any film shoot, and this happens. Thankfully, the crew and everyone else was late, so I may have only appeared shortly after everyone else, but it didn’t make me feel any less bad (of course, I found out that fun fact a little later about everyone else being late).

The film shoot was a lot of fun; I made a few friends! I “feasted” on pineapple and black coffee, and chit chatted with a girl there that is a nanny and an actress. She’s from Colorado, and moved out here to pursue acting. The whole experience was copacetic, and everyone there was easy to talk to, which is nice for a shy girl like me. In the down time that us “extras” had, I managed to read a book I rented from the library, and examine a few paintings on the walls.

After one last shot, we were released 1/2 hour earlier than scheduled. They were even nice enough to comp me for the price of taking the NJ transit! I wasn’t expecting that; it was very kind. I used that comp to buy lunch. This led me to my “old hood” (the place where I lived for my month in New York). There’s a Chinese food place there that has the BEST Chinese ever! I got some fried rice, chicken wings, and an egg roll.

I also walked down the way to “The Chocolate Room” for a small scoop of their house made Belgian Chocolate ice cream. After all the self-inflicted foolishness I endured in the morning, I deserved a little chocolate. I got a child-sized scoop on a cone because it’s what I could afford. It was truly delectable. *wink* Next time, I shall get a bigger scoop. It was thoroughly chocolatey and altogether satisfying.

The sun had come out, and the subway was sweltering, as usual. After having walked around in the heat, I was hot and tired. I munched greedily on my egg roll with duck sauce on it. Some man opted to sit next to me, bless his heart. A couple of times, I felt like he was watching me. I’m sure it had a LOT to do with how greedily enthusiastically I was eating that egg roll. Or probably from the interesting stench “aroma” emanating from me. I could only imagine what I smelled like: salty with a little body funk, and the faint scent of chocolate. Oh, and let’s add in the smell of Chinese food, shall we? Yeah, that’s a thing of beauty right there. (hashtag: why I’m single).

Now after the transportation fiasco I had this morning, I still managed to miss my bus from Chinatown to Philly. I left in plenty of time this time, but the train that I should take wasn’t running to the right stop. So, yet again, here I was running to catch the bus… and I still missed it. In fact, I received the “privilege” of watching it pull off. *sigh* Thank God they run every hour; I was able to hop on the next one.

I’ve never had so much transportation drama in my life. I’m one of those people that is normally an hour or so early for planes and trains! Apparently, all of that went to crap yesterday. Well, what are you gonna do?

Two and a half hours later, after a crowded ride on the Chinatown bus, I was back in PA. It felt like a cold harsh reality to be back, like someone waking you up by mercilessly dumping cold water on you. Thankfully, when I walked from 11th St to 28th to get my car, it was still there… and there was no ticket.

Despite the day of transportation mishaps, I’m already planning another trip to New York. Hopefully, I can catch my train and bus on time the next time around… and use stronger deodorant.

Predictions Epilogue

A while back, there was a daily prompt titled “Predictions”. We were asked what we thought we’d be doing on Day #211 of this year. I calculated that day to be July 30th. I gave two different answers. Now that the day has come and gone, I can tell you just what I was doing that day.

On Wednesday, July 30th, 2014, I was in New York City, New York. I was attending an intensive for acting at the New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts. From 9:30 to 17:55, I was in classes. I took: stage combat, speech, film, and commercial classes. I was stressed out and hungry. I swear hungry was my default for how I felt at any given point during the 20 days I spent in class.

The day before that, I had interviewed a woman cop for a role I had in acting class, and auditioned for a spot in the conservatory program the previous evening. By the next day, I was feeling relieved, and feeling good about the audition and interview. I’m even happy to report that I enjoyed it. I told the man that I was auditioning for that I felt less like crapping my pants when he asked me how I was. I was supposed to go out somewhere Wednesday evening, but I ended up staying back and rehearsing lines with a partner instead. Or I was practicing an assignment for stage movement.

A couple of days before that, I had written a one-line diary entry that read “I think I lost my freaking mind.” I was stressed out by all that we were learning, was desperately trying to absorb it all and keep up with the many assignments that we had. When I look back on it, the assignments weren’t that many; I just wanted to do them well and not embarrass myself. I think it just felt like a lot because this was at least a 13 week curriculum that was being jam packed into 4 weeks. It can be stressful.

Thinking back on it, though, I can’t have imagined a better way to spend my summer. On Day #211, I was in the middle of my 3rd week, with but one more week left in the intensive. One more week in New York. One more week with people that I was used to seeing and liked being around. It’s been a long time since I’ve been around people that understood my craziness. In fact, they shared in it. Although I was stressed out, broke, and hungry most of the time, it was one of the best days of my life. It was the most well-spent month of my life thus far. I know that’s a huge thing to say, but what price can you put on finally feeling free to be your crazy, ridiculous self? And, for that matter, people–peers and teachers alike–are encouraging you to be so! I felt hard pressed, yet released in that month… all at the same time. I’d do it all over again.

Although I forget the specifics of that day (because I forgot to do the entry on the actual day), I remember the whole of what I was doing and whom I was with. I was with people that I became very attached to (even though I didn’t want to admit to that), and that liked being around me also (even though I was scared they wouldn’t). It felt like having a family: a crazy, partially international, mixed-up impromptu family. I love ‘em all and miss ‘em all.

This picture was taken the last day of our stage combat class. This was the second to last day, and the only picture I have with all of us in it:

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Much love to my acting family. I miss you all a whole lot. I haven’t started listening to depressing songs yet, but give it a couple of hours. Much love to NYC as well. I hope it will be my next home sooner rather than later.

 

Hoopers on Coney Island

On my last official weekend in New York City, a group of my classmates and I decided to go to Coney Island together. It was a Sunday, and since it marked our last full weekend in NYC, we decided that we wanted to be together. I made the mistake of not bringing my hoop the last time I visited Coney Island. This time, I refused to make that mistake.

The initial group was rather large, but it did split itself into two smaller groups. The first thing we did was hit up Nathan’s for food. The cheese fries are great, especially if you get them with bacon. Sorry guys, I didn’t get a hot dog there. Maybe I will next time.

I had put my travel hoop together because we were taking a while to decide what to eat. I didn’t end up hooping right at that moment, but I kept the hoop connected, and handed it off to a friend while I placed my order. After I got my food, I found my group of friends sitting on a spot on the boardwalk that was closest towards the railings where the beach is. Of all places that they decided to sit, there was a young woman with a bunch of hula hoops on the sand close to us. “Finally! A hooper!”, I thought excitedly.

Normally, I can be quite shy and introverted, but all shyness goes out of the window when I see someone with a hoop. It’s like I become a child once again that has no fear of what anyone will say or think. I immediately went up and talked to her.

I found out her name was Sarah, and that she had been hooping for a couple of years, just like me. Also, like me, she claimed to be shy; however, she brings the hoops to the beach every week so that people can play with them. After talking with her for a couple of minutes, I told her I’d be back once I ate something.

I couldn’t eat fast enough! Shortly after, the band of classmates had dispersed, and I ended up with a group of new friends… other people that were just like me, and understood the magic that came with hoop dance. For the next 2 hours, I was in hooping bliss, performing on the hot Coney Island boardwalk. Some people stopped and watched, and others joined us! At some point, we were about 10 hoopers deep, which was amazing! There were a couple of hoopers that ended up playing in my personal hoop. I even learned a new trick!

After a couple of hours out there, I decided that I should probably find my schoolmates… mostly because they had my wallet, which held my phone and metro pass. In the meanwhile, I managed to earn $4. Sarah and the other hoopers were nice enough to split some of the donations we got with me! That made me feel cool and special. What made me feel even more special was when she gave me her card.

“Hit me up when you come back; I’d love to hoop with you again!”, she said. I readily agreed to do so.

After wandering around for who knows how long, I finally found someone from my group. I had lost all track of time, and didn’t realize that I had been hooping for nearly 3 hours until I got my wallet back and checked the time on my phone. We arrived at almost one, and it was about 5:30 pm when we went to leave! Thank God I wasn’t getting tired because I was getting old. Though I’m not really old, I did fear that this was the issue.

I sat on the F train going home, and I was tired, thirsty, and tanned, but happy. It’s a beautiful thing when you connect with someone that understands a portion of your madness.