Sunday, October 24, 2010

Listen Guys,

I know the Lorax and I have been gone for a while, but this kind of action really wasn't necessary.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


Don't worry guys. 

Sometimes the most is said by what is not there. So, while I transition to a new city/school and try to stop being a hot mess, fill in my absence with fantasies of your own rendering about my adventures.

Friday, August 27, 2010

My Shoes Took Me So Many Miles And They Never Wore Out

Following the previous entry's pit stop at Cadillac Ranch, I eventually made my way down to Austin, Texas to spend time with one of my best friends. Our schedules are so jam packed that the only opportunity we were going to have to see each other this summer was if I drove fourteen hours to help her move in to her new apartment.

So I did. And it was awesome.

I previously went to school just outside of Austin and have therefore come to love it there. The art, the music, the weather. Oh wait, not the weather. Definitely not the weather. It was 108 when I started my journey back from Austin. Not okay.

While I was there, we hit up all of the classic Austin spots including Barton Springs, Alamo Drafthouse, Torchy's Tacos and, of course, the Lorax wanted to see Daniel Johnston's Hi, How Are You? mural at the corner of 21st and Guadalupe.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Cadillac Ranch

I spent today driving nearly ten hours from Santa Fe to Dallas. Ok, three hours. My mom did most of the driving.

I spent today driving in a car for nearly ten hours.

How's that?

Definitely didn't notice the message on the second car from the front when I was actually there. Haha, how nice.
Along the trip from New Mexico to Texas is Cadillac Ranch, the art installation from the 70s in Amarillo, Texas that features different models of Cadillacs stuck into the ground.

I remember driving past this on family trips a million times when I was younger. Except, I never really knew where we were on family trips so I didn't think we were passing the same place every time. I thought it was just something some farmers did across the nation. Place up-ended cars into the dirt of their fields and paint them funny colors. Seemed normal enough to me.

Having never actually stopped to look at the cars up close, Lorax and I decided to finally check it out today. Unfortunately, it was a rather spontaneous decision so we didn't have any spray paint with which to leave our mark (anyone can spray paint anything onto the ten Cadillacs, but the place is so popular that messages don't stay visible for very long... and that may be another reason I can be excused for not recognizing the site when I was younger since the exteriors of the cars are always changing... nah, there's no excuse for me). We tried searching a nearby shop (aka the only shop in this middle of nowhere site) for some spray paint, but to no avail. Hopefully, we'll be better prepared the next time we pass by, which should be in only a few days time.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

You Holla, We Follow Our Favorite Jock

Anyone been keeping up with the MTV Twitter Jockey thing? Yeah, me neither.

So, anyone who is friends with me on twitter knows that I follow about four times as many people as I am followed by. This is something I actively tried to avoid when I first got a twitter. No, seriously, I did. I felt it would be strange to be following so many more people than I am followed by. I felt like people would judge me for it. I mostly thought this because I judge people for it.

Why the judgement? I honestly have no idea.

Maybe it's something about appearing to want to have lots of friends, but really only managing to have a few. Or appearing overeager. Or desperate. Or something... Really, I can't pinpoint the reason, but it definitely bothers me.

However, something has occurred to me lately. Couldn't it be seen as better to follow more people than you are followed by? Wouldn't that show that you care more what other people are saying than who is reading what you say? Sort of like being primarily a listener rather than a talker.

Don't get me wrong, I am pretty vocal on twitter and have more than my fair share of completely pointless tweets. Yet, I think my unbalanced follower-following ratio indicates that, despite frequent tweets like the ones linked to above, my predominant use of twitter is to see what other people are saying.

Assuming the paradigm that the only people I'm directing my tweets to are the people I actually know, the following chart implies that I am doing much more reading than tweeting and that my main use of twitter is to keep up with the world, not to broadcast my life to it.

Who I Follow On Twitter
I keep my twitter page open whenever I'm online and check it on my iPhone compulsively, but I don't actually post a message every time I check it. I look at the trends to see if there's a huge news story I'm missing (remember last summer when there was a new deceased celebrity in the trend everyday? I still freak out anytime I see the name of a celebrity I admire in the trends in case it means they died) and scroll through my feed for announcements of events happening around town, concert ticket giveaways, contests and typically some brooding quotes from Yoko Ono or Shakespeare.

A few months ago, I blogged about Such Tweet Sorrow, which put Romeo and Juliet into a modern day context and tweeted the play as if in real life with actors tweeting each of the characters. Aciman and Rensin have also live tweeted books in a more modern day context and now there's a man taking three years to tweet the entire Bible by summarizing a passage each day.

There's so much to do on twitter besides tweeting about my salt and vinegar addiction that, at this point, I don't even know how I could be expected to garner as many followers as accounts I follow. All of the people who I follow that I actually know (i.e. not internet celebrities or companies) follow me in return. I mean, I'm not famous or anything so why should anyone who doesn't know me have any clue that my twitter account even exists?

At any rate, this is just something I've been thinking about lately as I try to justify breaking 200 in my following list and barely scraping a deck of cards worth of followers. What can I say? As much as I don't like that new "who to follow" feature, it kind of sucked me in.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Rosewell, NM

Last week, my friend, Josh, the Lorax and I took a day trip to Roswell. The town was the site of the 1947 alien autopsy. In 1995, Ray Santilli made a fake version of the alleged footage and sold it to broadcasting networks around the world. How do I know about Santilli when I was only five at the time the footage aired? Because Ant and Dec were in a movie about him. How else do I learn anything these days?

Roswell itself was pretty disappointing. I mean, I didn't expect much from it, but I at least expected some cool and amusing things at the UFO Museum. I was envisioning something like a children's science museum, but with "alien artifacts" and crazy people wearing antennae à la Muppets from Space.

Here's the Lorax outside of the UFO Museum. Notice the cryptic alien scrawls on the underside of the flying saucer above his head. 
The museum, it turned out, was kind of like a pre-school with no budget. And I'm not just talking about the fact that I'm pretty sure no one in there was actually literate. It was simply a big open room with various newspaper clippings, photographs and artwork pinned onto those cork board room divider things. And they charged us $5 for that.

To be fair, they charge because they're saving for a real state of the art museum. If that ever happens, I'll return, but not until then.

The museum included highly informative documents like the one above
As for the rest of the town... well, it reminded me a lot of Forks, Washington. Forks is the town where the Twilight series takes place. The actual town part consists of a three block strip of stores, restaurants and hotels. That's it. Seriously. There aren't even any other roads. Just the one. And every single establishment on that road is plastered with Edward Cullen photos, using Twilight as a means to boost visitors. Sadly, but truly, Twilight is the only thing Forks has going for it.

I spent all of ten minutes in Forks so I didn't take very many good photos
Roswell, though significantly larger than Forks, was the same story. Aliens were painted on every corner  and the street lamps were even made into alien heads like the Kiss street lamps in Hershey, PA.

click on the collage to see the images up close
Even though I knew I couldn't like go to the exact location where they found the alien, I had still been hoping something equally awesome would exist in Roswell. Maybe a tour of all the important locations during the autopsy. Or a museum that doesn't look like a storage unit. Or something.

At the very least, I can now say I've been to Roswell, which is something, right?

Also, because it is amazing,

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Young Me/Now Me

Ze Frank has started a new project called Young Me/Now Me, where he asks people to email him photos of themselves as kids and then another photo re-enacting the situation, or in the same position or place.

I posted my favorite coincidentally similar photo set of myself last winter, but here's another one from Summer 2003 and this past spring. It's not the one I'm going to submit to Young Me/Now Me because I have better plans for that, but it's still fun for now.

So glad I got rid of those bangs.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Unlike MIA, I Like Ginger(s)

Today I decided to try a recipe for homemade ginger ale I had bookmarked from Green Is Sexy. For refusing to experiment with more than one batch, I think it turned out pretty well.

2 tsp. Sliced or powdered ginger
24 oz. Carbonated water
1 Lemon
Optional sugar
(all measurements estimates)

The first thing to do is make ginger tea using your sliced or powdered ginger. I opted for the powdered ginger because I've seen my brother slicing and chopping fresh ginger before and it seems like more effort than I am willing to exert. I did, however, take the time to snap a photo of the fresh ginger at Whole Foods because it looks so cool. It reminds me of food hobgoblins might eat or, as my mom said, it looks like mandrakes.

So, boil some water like you're making tea, but instead of adding bags or leaves, throw in the ginger. I don't know if this is exactly what's supposed to be done because the "recipe" I used didn't really say. I put in two teaspoons of ginger into 24 ounces of water and stirred it up as best I could.

NOTE: Ginger apparently congeals in water super fast and is pretty hard to get off of stuff once it dries.

I let the ginger "tea" steep for fifteen minutes. Less time would probably be alright. I've been steeping things longer because I'm at such a high altitude.

After steeping, you need to strain the ginger. This is one reason why I should have opted for slices of ginger, rather than powder. Unless you have a very fine strainer, it's going to be hard to get all of the powder out. This means all of it is going to settle at the bottom of the pitcher. If you don't mind giving it a shake each time before you drink it, the powdered stuff is fine, but if you're not down with that sort of thing, I'd recommend going for sliced ginger.

After letting it cool a bit more, it's time to add the fun stuff. I used Perrier because I really enjoy it and it gave me an excuse to drink whatever was leftover from my ginger ale. Again, I came up with my own measurements. I ended up doing half and half. So that's 24 ounces of carbonated water. Following that, I squeezed in half a lemon and topped it off with four teaspoons of sugar. This is really the phase where you should just add and taste until it turns out how you like it.

Overall, mine turned out quite strong and little too lemony, but I kinda like it like that. It also has that whole ginger powder sinking to the bottom problem. But for not really knowing what I was doing, I'd say it turned out quite well. Let me know if you guys try it and if you come up with any tricks for preparing it more properly!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

What Happens In Downing Stays In Downing

That's what my friends and I used to say to each other (and carved into a lecture hall desk) when we studied at Cambridge University in 2005. We were all having ridiculous boy problems and agreed that when we left Cambridge, it would be all over. Our problems would stay at Downing, the college where we lived.

When I went to England this past April, I had planned to keep a video log of my travels. After recording a video at the first place I visited, I promptly forgot about my plans. In fact, I completely forgot I had even recorded that one video until I dug out my camcorder last night for some good ol' YouTube filming. I guess you could say that the video refused to break the rule of disallowing anything that happens in Downing to leave Downing.

For your mild and punitive entertainment, I have broken that rule. Just like I did in 2005.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Now Taking Suggestions For 21 New Things

I'm at a standstill in making my list of 21 new things to try before my 21st birthday in May. I have about twelve right now, which include running a 5K, making candy sushi and doing some left overs I didn't get around to last time.

So, please leave your suggestions here or on twitter or IRL! I think I'm mostly going towards crafty things this year and maybe picking up new skills. I'd also be up for places I should go to/things I should do in the New York area. But any and all suggestions are welcome. Hopefully I can get started before the end of the summer. Until then... Moustache Party!

"You draw on your mustache while I powder my nose... Rose Robert, together we make quite a remarkable pair."

I think this is what happened to the Merry Pranksters' bus when the seventies hit. 

10 points for a mug I desperately want. 20 points for awesome British YouTubers.
property of Charlie McDonnell

baby hipster

(featuring several of my brother's high school best friends who I totally crushed on as a twelve year-old)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Well, That's One Way To Wake Up Early

Early this morning, around six, I was half awake, half dreaming about the run I was going to go for in a few hours time. As I enjoyed the morning breeze sweeping through my open window and the squashiness of my pillows, I heard screaming, tires screeching, swerving and a crash.

The house I live in is along a fairly major road. It's a two lane road, hardly wide enough for two small cars, with a river on one side and a line of houses on the other, but it is a very busy road. Our house is set back about twenty feet from the road by a gravel area where we and our neighbors park our cars. The speed limit is twenty-five miles an hour, but from the late night until the early morning I hear cars driving past at way faster than twenty-five.

That's what first pulled me out of my half awake state. The rush of a car going entirely too fast. I had thought two cars crashed into each other, or into our parked cars, or into our neighbor's house.

Maybe there were two cars at some point, but there was actually no crash and, at first, no car.

I ran into my mom's room first, fearing for one stupid moment that a car had crashed through her front-facing bedroom (not thinking about the fact the house would have shook or anything). She was at the window pulling on a bathrobe with haste, watching a neighbor sprint to the scene. We ran out of the house, but saw no cars. Then we saw other neighbors across the river, leaning over their fence, yelling down to someone.

A girl had swerved off the road and into the river.

Lucky for her, the river had dried up so much that it was only two feet or so deep. The first neighbor was already down in the river, pulling the girl out of the car. She was terrified, but otherwise unharmed. And, miraculously, so was the car. She had definitely driven through a line of slim trees, but her car somehow managed to stay perfectly upright. It looked like she had been hovering above the water and then gently dropped into it.

For the next three hours, medics, fire men, police and tow trucks crowded in front of our house. The girl says there was a dog in the road and that's why she swerved. Maybe that's true, but if she had been following the speed limit she wouldn't have had to brake or turn so drastically.

I'm not a saint when it comes to following the speed limit or anything, but this road is tiny, consists almost entirely of sharp turns and is just feet away from houses (not to mention the river). There's even an oversized yellow sign that the girl passed soon before she crashed that says "SLOW DOWN: BLIND DRIVE."

Even though I often go below twenty-five just to make sure I don't run into an oncoming car around the many blind turns, I can understand not heeding the signs or feeling invincible. Everyone feels that way some or most of the time. You're late for an appointment, you're familiar with the bends in the road, you have to return that call, you're feeling daring, someone's tailgating you or you missed the last reduced speed sign.

But at what cost?

If she had decided to swerve the other direction, my next door neighbor and his two young children could be dead now. My neighbor must have thought of the same thing because, after the road was reopened and the car pulled out of the river, a suburban zoomed past and I heard my neighbor stop the driver and shout at him for exceeding the speed limit.

I am beyond relieved that absolutely no one was harmed, but I've only been here a month. Who knows how often this happens? Who knows how many people have died on this road or how frequently accidents take place? I'd wager quite often. And who knows how it will end next time?

Friday, July 16, 2010

Plugs and Outlets

I haven't posted since, uhm, basically since I moved to New Mexico. But I don't like spending posts apologizing (to who?) for not posting. So I let Saturday Jane do it instead:

"I’ve been avoiding Saturday Jane a bit.  Don’t worry, I’m not mad at you.  I’m not avoiding you at all, and that thing you did?  It’s cool now.  I get it, and I don’t blame you, but you may want to see a doctor.  That’s all I’m saying.
Basically, I didn’t have any good ideas for a couple of days, and then when I started having little eensy ideas, my brain went, 'NO, IT’S BEEN LONG ENOUGH THAT THIS HAS TO BE THE BEST POST IN THE HISTORY OF POSTING.  HAVE YOU SURPASSED THE WORKS OF SOPHOCLES?  NO?  KEEP TRYING.'  I would re-examine my piffling little paragraph about that time the milk went sour and go, oh, well, I guess this has very little to do with Life and the Universe, and I would start over."

Thanks Jane!

Plugs and Outlets:

Amazon is now offering free Prime memberships to all students with a .edu email address. Prime is their premium service that costs about $80/year and, among other things, gets you free shipping on just about everything (the cheapest Marketplace selections tend not to be eligible). Go HERE to sign up.

Improv Everywhere's latest video put Princess Leia, Darth Vader and a handful of Stormtroopers on the New York subway. How can I join this troupe when I get to NY? No seriously. This has to happen.

Lately, I've been partial to Calibri pt. 11 font, but this font video quiz told me I'm New Alphabet. Which one are you?

If you bought an iPhone 4 (like I did), you can now get a bumper (the cases made by Apple) for free. Or if you already bought a bumper (like I did), you can get a full refund. Apple will be posting instructions for how to do this on their site sometime in the next few days.

Have you ever wanted to put gummi bears, Nerds and Cinnamon Toast Crunch on a dark chocolate candy bar? I totally have. Uhm, not. Chocomize lets you put anything from vegetarian bacon to potato chips on a dark, white or milk chocolate candy bar and they ship it to you with an ice pack so the candy won't melt. And not all of the toppings are gross.

And now a picture of a giant horse head in Santa Fe 

Monday, June 28, 2010

Exploring The City Different

I've been in Santa Fe for just over a week now. It's interesting to be in a place that's so sunny, but not anywhere near as hot as Texas. Every morning starts out in the sixties and then it will heat up to the seventies. Sometime in the afternoon there will be a bit of rain and then it cools down again for the night.

Am I really talking about the weather? It's such a characteristically dull thing to talk about. In fact, when I'm speaking with people who I find dull or who I have nothing to say to, I deliberately talk about the weather. Does this mean I'm becoming dull? Efffff.

While I find some way to become interesting again (Kermit the Frog jacket? Carry around a vuvuzela?), enjoy these photos from around Santa Fe.

Front of part of the house

The river that runs through the backyard. Only, it's all dried up right now. 

This is where they filmed the opening of Timeline. Except not.

We invaded St. John's. I almost applied here. Kinda surreal to be on the campus.

Ghost Ranch, where Georgia O'Keefe used to spend her summers. She spent the rest of every year in New York. She was born in the Midwest, but lived in Texas for a while. Clearly, these geographic similarities make me the new Georgia O'Keefe.

This sign was near Abiquiu Lake. I don't get it.

Looking a bit froggy at Abiquiu Lake. It was cloudy most of the day, but I still managed a sunburn. That's talent there. Pure talent.


If you haven't seen the new Deathly Hallows trailer yet, WATCH. IT. NOW. It's giving me slight hope that they've finally got it right and made the film as interesting and awesome as the book. I guess I'll find out in 143 days.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

20 New Things: Over(view)!

FINALLY I am finishing 20 New Things. Only two months late, which is about typical for me.

1. Try Indonesian cuisine - I wish I had tried it more than once to get a better grasp of the cuisine, but I did it once so it made the list!

Buy and learn to use a dip pen - Well, the "learn to use" part didn't pan out because I couldn't find any ink... but at least I now have a dip pen without a fake feather attached to it so I can learn calligraphy without looking like a nerd. Did I just put "calligraphy" and "not... a nerd" in the same sentence? This altitude must be getting to me.

3. Attend a concert in Glasgow, Scotland -
No go. As it was going to take so much time, money and effort to nip up to Scotland during my six day trip to England, I told myself I would only go if a really awesome band had a show on the exact night I could be there. It turned out that the Dropkick Murphys would be playing! I was beyond stoked. Then, a few weeks later, they changed the date of the Glasgow show. In keeping with the rule I set for myself, I scrapped the trip to Scotland and replaced it with a trip to Stonehenge, which worked out rather well for the header, no?

Spend time at a café in Montmartre, France - Admittedly, this wasn't as cool as I thought it would be. Most of my trip to France was kind of a bust (lack of time, company of strangers, etc. etc.). However, now I at least have a mental map of the location of various arrondisements in Paris, which makes visualizing the city easier when I read stories set in Paris.

5. Go to Electric Ladyland - AGH! I am SO upset I did not do this. About four different times, I invited people to go with me and they bailed. I meant to go during my last week in Amsterdam, but completing my final papers took longer than expected and, before I knew it, I was back in Texas. So not ok. I was really looking forward to it.

6. Create a model of an Amsterdam neighborhood using food - So, after buying my first loaf of bread in Amsterdam, I realized that the loaves were more narrow than typical American loaves and it reminded me of the narrow houses that line the canals. I had this elaborate plan laid out that included making bridges out of stroopwafels and canals out of beer. Then I realized my grocery budget hardly allowed me to eat three meals a day, let alone construct edible versions of the city. 

7. Climb to the top of Dom Tower in Utrecht - Why are all of the things I didn't do lumped together in this list? It's making me feel like such a fetusfailcake. Even though this would have been completely plausible to accomplish, I axed it after climbing the Belfry Tower, Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower. That was more than enough climbing for me, thank you very much.

8. Eat at the Sea Palace Floating Restaurant - I kind of didn't foresee how expensive this place would be. Until I'm earning an income, I refuse to eat anywhere with fixed meals.

9. See the cages at St. Lambert’s Church in Münster, Germany - this is tied with Electric Ladyland for how upset I am I didn't do this. I didn't even make it out to Germany! Further reason I need to go back to Europe and soon.

Too many words.... Here's me with a pirate ship!

10. Ride my bike through the Dutch countryside - technically this isn't my fault. The program I was studying with had planned an excursion of epic proportions in which we were going to ride our bikes all day, stopping off for a traditional Dutch lunch and some swimming in the ocean. I was looking forward to it all semester and then it was cancelled due to weather. I tried to rally support for a reschedule, but no one else was as enthused as me.

11. Go to a football (soccer) game - FINALLY! Something I actually did! I went to the US v. Netherlands game and have been a soccer fan ever since. I completely have World Cup fever and spend my time in between matches playing FIFA10 on my iPhone. 

Eat only gluten-free foods for a day - I ended up giving up gluten for a full forty eight hours and miraculously lost weight during that short period of time! Prior to that weekend, I was a total breadhead. I averaged four pieces of toast for breakfast, one or two sandwiches a day and maybe some more toast with dinner. Since taking the Gluten-Free Challenge, I haven't had a single sandwich or piece of toast. I even cut back on crackers. I don't recommend a gluten-free diet for everyone, but it makes my body much happier.

13. Have an extended conversation with a local - Alright, technically I did do this. Plenty of times, in fact. The only problem is that when I wrote this goal, I intended for those conversations to be in Dutch and they totally weren't. I had countless conversations in English with locals, but my Dutch exchanges were limited to alstublieft and dankuwel.

14. Read the entire Percy Jackson and the Olympians series - I didn't feel this one really needed a full blog entry devoted to it. I also thought it was actually going to be a difficult task to accomplish. Little did I know that I would spend my first two weeks in Amsterdam powering through the entire five-book series. Ok, yeah, it's a kid's book, but I didn't expect it to be so intriguing!

15. Send a postcard to no one in particular - Logistically, I wasn't sure how to do this. I thought about generating a random address number and random zip code, but I couldn't figure out how to not make it creepy. So, yeah, I didn't do this.

Attend a film festival - I inadvertently accomplished this one. See the link for the full story.

17. Spend a day only speaking Dutch (or else not speaking) - HAHAHA! Yeah right. Maybe if any of the Dutch had let me actually speak in Dutch this could've happened. Otherwise that whole day would've been spent asking for coffees and refusing plastic bags. 

Eat a true croissant in France - Success! I never liked croissants until this past semester, but being in Europe totally turned me into a croissant maniac. I didn't experience TOO much of a difference between Dutch and French croissants (the French will murder me for that statement), but I had a croissant in a cafe here in Santa Fe the other day and immediately remembered why I've never liked them. I guess Americans just haven't figured out the mystery of the croissant yet.

19. Have a no-tech day (with the exception of keeping my required emergency phone on) - Totally disappointed in myself for not doing this one. It's being rolled over to my 21 New Things list. Ideally, I'd like to go tech-free once a month, but I'll see if I can even manage it once a year first.

 Leave behind some sort of time capsule for the future inhabitants of my apartment - Ah, I'm so glad I get to end this list with an accomplishment. Almost makes me feel successful.

STATS: 8.5/20

Not so hot. But, if you think about it, I began the project eight months late. So, taking into account I only had a third of the time to achieve all of the goals, I actually did pretty well. 

That's what I'm telling myself anyways.

I think the moral of my failures is to not put things off until the end of the semester, especially if you're studying abroad. My friends and I kept saying "when the weather is better, when the weather is better." But the weather wasn't better until mid-May when we were frantically writing research papers, our bikes had broken down and no one had any money left to travel or do anything besides scope out free food.

Despite how this may look like a failed project, some of the things I accomplished ended up being mildly life-changing. I never would've had the motivation to go a whole weekend without gluten if it hadn't been for the Gluten-Free Challenge and then I never would've realized how amazing I feel when my body is cleared of gluten. I also highly doubt I would've gone to that soccer game and now I can't believe I've lived without soccer since 2000 (I spent ages three to ten as left defender for the Sharks and the Scorpions, total baller). 

I'm determined to beat my 8.5 in the coming year! I've almost finished my list for 21 New Things and it's my hope that with an entire year to complete them, I'll be a bit more successful. 

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

20 New Things: Leave behind a time capsule for the future inhabitants of my apartment

This is probably the last 20 New Thing I did that I will actually blog about. I just never got around to writing about some of the other ones I did and now, frankly, I don't feel like it. I will post an overview of what I ended up accomplishing (not much), but this will be the last full post (and too right it should be since I've been 20 for almost two months now).

The apartment building I stayed at in Amsterdam was specifically made for international university students. It was really much more like a dorm. We had one giant room that included beds and a kitchen plus a bathroom and walk-in closet.

The tenants each semester leave behind whatever dish ware they bought so that they next tenants have a few things to start off with (being international students, most don't pack a full set of utensils in their suitcase). Given that, I decided the best place to leave a little note for the next tenant would be inside a piece of dish ware. I'm not sure how well the places get cleaned before new students move in (if the state of our place when we arrived is any indication, not much). So, hiding the note inside the dishes seemed like the best way to avoid the note getting thrown away.

I scribbled (actually scribbled. Look at the state of my handwriting. My first grade teacher would be so ashamed.) a note on the back of a photo of clouds that had previously hung above my bed and stuffed it into an old jar of olives.

I really don't know why we had a jar of olives. When my roommate and I moved in, it soon became apparent that we had significantly less kitchen supplies than anyone else in the building. We had one butter knife, one bread knife, three spoons, two sporks (yes, sporks) and a peeling cast-iron pan. Other rooms had coffee-makers, full sets of utensils, microwaves, multiple pots and even sushi mats. One thing we had that they didn't, however, was an entire shelf of empty jars.

Why? I'll never know. I can only assume our room was previously occupied by Maureen Johnson.

At any rate, I hope someone finds this note eventually. I never took the time to look inside the random collection of jars, but if someone does, I hope it brightens their day. Especially if they are beginning their time abroad in the winter because, honestly, Holland just sucks in the winter.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Freakin it, Sweatin it, Bustin the mic

I've been in Texas for the past eight days trying to stuff in a summer's worth of hanging out with friends and a month's worth of packing. Said packing consists of going through practically everything I have owned since age nine. It's quite the task. On the bright side, I've found plenty of cash stuffed away in strange places (including an entire jar of Euros and Pounds, why did I not find those before I left for Europe??) and some hilarious journal entries/school assignments. I'll include some of the gems in this post.

I wouldn't have it any other way. Stars, noodles and chillaxing on the roof remain some of my favorite things.

On Saturday morning, I move to Santa Fe, New Mexico. Apparently, I went camping in New Mexico a lot as a child. I vaguely remember seeing a woman making pottery. That's about it. So, this move is very much my "Great Perhaps." I anticipate a rejuvenating summer of hiking, reading and finally having an excuse to wear sun hats and bandanas (that desert/mountain sun is no joke!).

Hopefully that rejuvenation will pan out, but in my typical fashion, I've already over booked myself with too many goals. I'm applying for an internship at the public radio station, I've just taken on a few responsibilities with the Harry Potter Alliance (see the bottom of the post!), I'm going to start training for a 5K, I hope to spend 20 hours/week applying for scholarships and another 20 hours/week reading. Not to mention yoga/pilates three times a week, having to do dishes and laundry by hand, getting started on 21 New Things, keeping up with this blog and getting ready to move to New York.

...Yeah. Rejuvenating, isn't it?

Blogs will probably continue to be scarce for the next two weeks as I move and get settled in. Expect a ton of photos of the new place and then some left over blogs from Amsterdam. Wish me luck!

A Note on the Harry Potter Alliance:
The Harry Potter Alliance (HPA) is a nonprofit charity organization. Inspired by Dumbledore's Army in the Harry Potter books, HPA works to alert the public about global warming, poverty and genocide as well as fighting for equal rights regardless of sexuality, ethnicity or gender. Its projects range from large scale successes in raising funding to aid civilians in Darfur and Haiti to small scale book drives within local chapters across the world. Right now, HPA is in second place to win $250,000 in the Chase Community Giving contest. This money would make a huge difference in HPA's ability to mobilize support and continue its fight against real evils in the Muggle World.

To vote and help push HPA into first place, go here and click on the green "Get started to vote" button. After following the instructions, click on the green "Vote now" button. Even your one vote will help, but if you'd really like to help out HPA, share the link with friends via Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn. Thanks so much for your help!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

One Day Left!

Since my last post, I've been working tirelessly on completing two research papers. Then, as soon as I finished, it was time to do every single thing I had been putting off doing all semester. Fun things, mind you. Like going to the science museum and buying souvenirs. Still, it takes up a lot of time. So, as I try to get everything done before leaving Tuesday morning, I haven't had much time for blogging.

There is so incredibly much that needs to be said about my time here. I still have several half-written blogs about Amsterdam that won't get posted until I leave Amsterdam... oops. Most likely I'll be feeling more eloquent and nostalgic once I get back to the underwhelming dead grass and superhighways of Texas. I'll write something nice then.

For now, I'm going to make some lists.

5. Wind. It is a very windy city and it makes biking extra strenuous.
4. Conversion rate. I've been fortunate that the conversion rate has gone down since I got here, but it's still frustrating that everything is priced with the same numbers as it would be in the US, except it's really 1.25 as expensive. For example, a top at H&M might be $12 in the US and 12 Euros here, but that that really means it costs $15. Trickery!
3. Streets. The streets are organized in a semi-circle, at best, and change names in completely random patterns. I still get lost anytime I go to a new place. Also, biking on cobblestone bricks = no bueno.
2. Espresso. They only drink espresso. Even if you ask for filter coffee, they will inevitably give you espresso.*
1. Water. Most places in Europe charge you for ordering water at a restaurant, but Holland takes it one step further. There are no water fountains anywhere here.

5. Being so close to water all the time. Biking along canals is wonderful.
4. Biking. And the fact that so many forms of transportation other than cars exist.
3. Pannenkoeken and stroopwafels.
2. Drinking in parks. Actually, being legal to drink in general. One more year before I'm allowed to order a glass of wine with dinner. A WHOLE YEAR.
1. Climate. Fifty degrees in May. Amazing.

5. Have access to my Netflix account.
4. Return to my full wardrobe.
3. Listen to 104.9 Salaam Namaste.
2. Eat Chick-Fil-A and Bedford Snoballs.
1. Have epic adventures with my friends.

My friends Rose, Rosemary and I on the roof of the NEMO science center overlooking Amsterdam.

* If anyone reading happens to be in Amsterdam or going in the next few months, check out the Stumptown Coffee in Albert Cuyp Markt. They're my favorite Portland-based coffee roaster (on my trip to the Pacific Northwest last summer I tasted and compared as many different coffees as possible) and they've sent a crew of baristas to Amsterdam for three months to show Europeans that coffee is still cool and often better than espresso. Check out the baristas' tumblrs here and here. 

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Mad Tea Party

After our exam, my Art History professor invited the class over to her place for some tea. We ate apple tart and she told us about the time she jumped into a lake to try to impress a male student. She also told us about her "horny" cat (quote from her, which included sound effects), who had two kittens each from a different father. She knew they were from two fathers because one of the kittens turned out to be a Persian. To which the witty Australian in the group replied, "but she's a cat. How can she birth a Persian?"

The endings are beginning. I'm gonna miss this place.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

20 New Things: Eat only gluten-free foods for one day

I actually refrained from gluten for a whole weekend! This month is Gluten-Free Month and, in honor of the celebration, the Gluten Intolerance Group along with Pamela's Products ran the Gluten-Free Challenge. For one weekend, May 22-23, people pledged to eat only gluten-free foods.

Gluten doesn't just mean bread and pasta. It pops up in all manner of processed foods that you wouldn't expect because it's used in several food additives. Fortunately, the Dutch are much better at putting allergy information on food products than the US is.

Lots of websites and blogs were posting delicious gluten-free recipes for people to try this weekend. Unfortunately, almost all of them required an oven or other various kitchen appliances I currently lack.

Being also dairy intolerant and reluctant to eat meat, my gluten-free weekend consisted mostly of fruits and vegetables.

Participating in this challenge was important to me because, for almost a year now, I have been fairly positive that I am gluten intolerant. I hope to finally get tested this summer upon my return to the States. Right now you guys are probably thinking, "girl! what's the matter with you? why are you still eating gluten when you know it hurts you?!"

Here's the thing, cutting gluten out of your diet pre-diagnosis is not recommended. If you stop eating gluten, your symptoms (eventually) stop and it may be more difficult to recognize in the tests. As bread is my favorite food group, I have had no problem whatsoever following the advice to keep eating gluten (my stomach kind of hates me, but whatevs, we've never been bffs). However, I do love experimenting with gluten and dairy free recipes and experiencing the utter joy of being full and not simultaneously having a stomach cramp.

As I mentioned before, my only major kitchen appliance here is a stovetop (i.e. no microwave or oven) and I don't eat meat or dairy products. In addition to those challenges, I have to go grocery shopping in Dutch. Given the language barrier and my rather small food budget (selfishly, I'm glad the Euro has decreased in value so much recently -- down twenty cents to the dollar since I arrived!), I wasn't able to visit an organic food store and purchase fancy gluten-free crackers or bread like I would back home.

Keeping all of those challenges in mind, I'd say that the weekend went by fairly easily. My meals and snacks were VERY basic, but I think they are a good indication that poor, kitchen-challenged college students have the ability to eat gluten-free if they want or need to.

Here's a breakdown of my meals:

Applesauce with cinnamon
Banana with peanut butter
(I've been waking up pretty late recently. So breakfast is pretty much a small snack before eating a full lunch an hour later.)

Mixed green salad with broccoli and oranges

Grilled vegetables and tofu in tomato sauce
     including green beans, broccoli, corn, onions, carrots and zucchini

It was definitely a challenge mentally, but not so much logistically, which is good to know if my future does include a 24/7 gluten-free diet. For now, however, all I'm thinking about is those shortbread cookies and pretzel sticks in my pantry that I get to eat tomorrow.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Mrs. Baird's Fruit Pies

The alternate title of today's blog entry is "Me Not Working on my European Minority Languages Presentation."

So, I want to write about something that I was adamant would never happen to me and, if it did, I was never going to tell anyone that it had.

People tell me that when you're away from something, you're supposed to appreciate it more and see it in a way you never have before. I definitely experienced this my first year at college. Every time my friends and I got back together on holidays, it was like this incredible high. It didn't matter if our activities were lackluster in comparison to our high school adventures because we were ecstatic to simply see each other IRL.

Before coming to Amsterdam, everyone told me I would finally learn to appreciate Texas and America. The truth is, no matter what people may think, I do appreciate both Texas and America. I always have. I just don't particularly like everything about them and most things that I don't like about them tend to be things that I find to be very important in my life. So, I've never really liked Texas, especially.

While being in Amsterdam, I started missing a lot of things about Texas. However, most of the things I missed (Chick-fil-A, Dr Pepper*, my car) are things that I don't really view as positive. Public transportation is better for the earth and junk food should really become a thing of the past. So, I shook the feelings off as needing to adjust to a less inflated, less consumer society.

Yet, when I get away from the concept of "missing things" and think more about the feel of Texas, the undefinable aroma of a home place, I have to thrust off years of antagonism and confess that I like Texas.

The culture of cosmopolitan North Texas suburbia, so different from the stereotypically small-minded rural towns, is a large part of who I am. This Texas is not beefy homophobic men in cowboy hats, the textbook debate or Rick Perry's christening of Glenn Beck as an official Texan.

It's sunny afternoons, driving down freeways for less than five minutes to get a Route 44 Cherry Coke at Sonic. Eating barbecue sandwiches and baby back ribs. Beige living rooms and bright blue swimming pools. Buildings growing wide instead of tall. Musty bookstores. Musty everything. Live music in Mexican restaurants. White T-shirts. Faded jeans. Sweaty faces. Thunderstorms and tornadoes on days so hot the cement begins to steam. Sunsets backdropping the airport. Star gazing by the creek. Being born with larger than life dreams and an enigmatic drive for independence. That's my Texas and I've finally learned to love it.

Here is what I will be listening to for the next 14 days until my return flight. Ignore the Ohio/hopeless girlfriend plot line and this is my favorite anthem to North Texas:

*I just learned that Dr Pepper doesn't actually have a period after the "Dr."

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

20 New Things: Spend time at a café in Montmartre, France

This blog should be titled, "Me Not Writing My Intro to Sexual Studies Report." The report is only one page on the topic of basically anything I want. procrastination has reached a disgusting level and rendered me incapable of working.

Speaking of procrastination, I meant to post this about a month ago when it actually happened.


I was attracted to the Montmartre neighborhood of Paris for the same reason that every cliché trying to be cultured teenager is --- lots of cool artists once lived there and it was the setting of La Vie En Rose, Amelié and Moulin Rouge.

 The hostel I was staying at happened to be only a few blocks away from Montmartre. So, my traveling buddy and I strolled over there as soon as we checked in. On the way, we saw Moulin Rouge.

Moulin Rouge is at the base of a hill, which basically marks the beginning of Montmartre. I honestly didn't spend enough time in Paris to be able to remark on how different Montmartre is from the rest of Paris, but I do remember thoroughly enjoying my few hours spent there. Like most of Paris, the buildings are either painted in very light colors or made of light brick. This is a stark contrast to Amsterdam, where all of the buildings are dark. The Dutch like things to be dark and cozy. They call it gezellig.

After walking around the main streets three times to peruse the various cafés, I finally chose a café that I deemed Montmartre-ish enough to use for my 20 New Things list. What did I think was Montmartre-ish? I have no idea.

My traveling buddy and I drank our espressos alfresco, watching the locals pass by with tiny dogs, bouquets of flowers and sleeping toddlers. The weather was a perfect mix of warm and cold that my Texas upbringing has almost never known.

Ahh, just thinking about it makes me want to go back. I can even remember the smell (cleaner and more flower-y than the dank air here, especially in light of the waste collector's strike). A return to Paris (for a much longer stay) is requisite in my near future.

UPDATE: I have now finished my report.