As I’ve written before, I don’t do “New Year’s Resolutions”, I just like to work on things all year round. So since it’s a new year, I wanted to write about the projects I’m currently working on, and those I plan to start soon.
I’ve been wanting to try this out for the last couple of years, and I’m doing it now! I’m taking a class at a local Aerial Arts school. Fun!
Learn to Sew
My first step in this project was to make myself a Renaissance Festival dress, and I’ve started it!!! I’ve already learned a lot. I will post about it when I’m done. I would also like to learn how to put in a zipper, make pockets, use a dress-form, and use a real pattern (I’m using a home-made pattern for my dress).
Cut The Cord!
I’ve been wanting to ditch cable for the last few years, and as online options have become better, I’ve taken steps toward cutting able until I finally took the plunge this month!! I got a basic tv antenna from Amazon for local channels, and I use Roku to watch stuff from Hulu, Netflix, Amazon, etc. on my tv. I plan to make a blog post detailing how to do this, since I think no one should use cable anymore.
I started this project this past fall, and my main goals were to reduce my sugar intake and increase my exercise.
Reducing Sugar Intake.
I’m always trying to eat more vegetables and protein, but my biggest problem is that I LOVE sugar, and I eat way too much of it.
So here are the things I’ve done so far:
-I stopped drinking soda at lunch. Yes, I used to have about 4-8 oz of soda or juice almost every day with lunch. So that was the first thing to go. I’ve been doing just water since September. I’m surprised at how easy this was for me. Because I LUV soda.
-Next, I’m in the process of cutting out soda almost altogether. I used to order a cherry coke any time I would eat out (because it is yuuuumyy), and I would keep mini-sodas in my fridge for dinners at home. I’ve switched to mostly water at restaurants (once in a while I’ll treat myself; I’ve had 3 glasses of soda in the last two months), and no sugar-added juice in my fridge. At some point, the goal will be to cut back on the juice as well.
-I used to eat cereal every morning for breakfast, and even “healthier” cereal can have a lot of sugar (and just also not much actual nutrition), so I’m trying to mix it up a bit. Now I’ll have maybe one bowl of cereal during the week, a couple of toast-and-peanut-butters, and I’ve started eating EGGS!!! This is insane for me since I’ve always felt like I don’t have time in the morning for eggs, but I recently discovered that you can scramble eggs in the microwave, which seems to make it faster.
-I still eat more sugar than I should, so a future goal would be to reduce the amount of “treats” I eat (cookies, ice cream, etc.). Baby steps.
2. Increasing Exercise.
-I don’t like going to the gym, so I usually get my exercise through various classes (and outdoor walks when it’s nice out). This fall, I made sure to set up my schedule with a good mix of classes.
-I do Irish Dancing once a week, as I have for the last 7 years. In October, I added a strength training class on Wednesdays (it’s not dance, which I usually prefer, but I needed something that was more muscle building than aerobic. It’s a beast.), and in November, I added Zumba on Thursdays. My aerial class is also strength-building, particularly in the upper arms/shoulders and core. So this adds up to at least 4 hours of exercise a week, which I think is pretty darn good for the Deep-Winter Lazies.
-I did a lot of yoga last year, so I’m a little yoga’d out right now, but I’ll return to it at some point in the future. I really should take up jogging some day, but at this point, running for any length of time is my personal hell. Another future goal would be to exercise for at least 30 minutes every day, and/or to sit less at work. Baby steps.
When I started my new job last year, I had been placed in a shared office attached to a busy classroom. But it’s hard to do something as sensitive and confidential as counseling in a busy, public area, so as soon as an office became available, I elbowed my way in there asap!
It had been considered an ugly, tiny, closet of an office, but I saw a lot of potential. Plus! The left wall had already been painted in “my” color. Serendipity!
First things first, I shoved that desk to the wall. I can’t stand putting a desk between myself and my students. I may as well just stand over them with my arms crossed.
Then I got rid of any unneeded (or unliked) furniture, replaced it with furniture that better suited my tastes and needs, and jazzed it up with some wall decor. (There’s a lot of wall in this office.)
Got the chairs on sale at Target this fall. The rug had been rolled up in my basement for years. The map poster is from allposters.com.
I got this cute mid-century-style bookshelf off of craigslist, and the chalkboard is from Home Goods (my heaven).
I love it. Some co-workers are surprised when they see that I put so much time, energy, and money into designing my office, but I’ve always done this anywhere I’ve worked. I figure if you’re going to spend most of your waking life in one place, you might as well love the way it makes you feel. It’s worth it!
I was talking with a co-worker about movies, and found that we have similar interests in things that are strange and disturbing, so he recommended this book to me. It’s described as “infamous” because it is so depraved. haha It feels wrong to begin this post with such a disturbing book, but I make these lists in the order in which I read the books.
So what did I think of this one? It was okay. It definitely contained a lot of offensive material (to the exclusion of anything else), but it was so devoid of anything real that it wasn’t actually disturbing to me. There has to be some sense of reality, of humanity, of something you can relate to in order to evoke any real emotion or response, but because it was all just a jumble of outlandish lewdness and violence, it was almost like reading a string of unrelated words. I’m glad I read it, because it’s different from anything else I’ve ever read, but basically it was boring.
Also, I will reiterate that my Book Report posts are not book recommendations, just documentations of what I’ve read. I would definitely not recommend this particular book to 99% of people.
The Psychopath Inside
I’ve been interested in serial killers for a while, and understanding what in the world makes them the way they are. Over the years, I’ve learned more about psychopathy and sociopathy (basically the same things), not only in relation to serial killers, but just as a way to understand those individuals we see regularly who seem to have no concern for anyone but themselves; people that I wouldn’t otherwise understand at all.
I heard about this book while listening to the author’s TedTalk on a podcast. His TedTalk was all about his neuroscience research and his discovery that he himself is a “low-level” psychopath. He breaks down what psychopathy is, and possible causes of it, as well as how it might be beneficial in some ways. Very interesting!
The Woman In White
This is considered to be one of the first mystery novels written, which sounded interesting to me. Unfortunately, I found it boring. It was a bunch of mess around inheritances because no one actually had real jobs back then so they had to just kill each other or pretend to be someone else in order to “maintain their status in life.” Also, it was too long for what it was. Meh.
Before Ever After
It’s like a time-travel romance fluff. Meh, it was okay.
The Secret History
So good! It felt really meaty, like I was reading a “real book.” I’m not sure exactly what that means, but that’s what it felt like. It’s about a tight-knit group of college students who find themselves in a sticky situation. The timeline is the most interesting part, as we learn *what* happens before we learn *why* it happened.
The New Jim Crow
I read this for work. It’s about how our criminal “justice” system targets young black and brown men, and the name alludes to how it has become our society’s new way of segregating the races. I have no real response other than a sad, “yup.” This system is terrible in many ways, and it needs to be dismantled and rebuilt entirely.
A Visit From The Goon Squad
The story follows a handful of characters whose lives intertwine, and the timeline is disjointed (you never know if you’re reading about things that happened last week or 2 decades ago). The characters aren’t particularly likable, and they don’t really do anything of interest. It wasn’t my thing. I think you need to read it in just a few sittings because picking it up a couple times a week (which is how I read) makes everything too messy. You can’t keep track of who’s who and what’s happening when. Oh well.
I tend to like westerns, and this one seemed to have a cool heroine, so it seemed like a good prospect. It was okay, but I didn’t have much respect for the female protagonist (she made terrible decisions, and was a bit of a pawn), so it was kind of a let down. Though, one of the characters complained about the The Woman In White, which made me giggle.
My dad mentioned this book to me (though he doesn’t remember it) when we were talking about economic/social structure, and communism/socialism/idealism. It was kind of a “You think things could be better? Read this book. You’d probably agree with him [you silly idealistic communist].” But in a nice way.
The book is essentially the author’s description of how he thinks society should (and possibly would?) be organized in the future. He wrote the book in 1887, imagining (fantasizing about) life in the year 2000, when everything is perfect, there is no poverty, no greed, nothing bad whatsoever, basically. He never uses the word “communism” (my favorite euphemism he used was “living in concert”), but socialism was pretty much what he described.
I mean…I don’t have any problems with his ideas, but throughout the book I was just imagining patting him condescendingly on the head like, “Yeah Edward, that’s a nice idea.” Kind of how people do to me. Of course he’s being naive. Of course it’s too perfect to ever occur in reality (especially expecting such a drastic change in just 100 years and without any growing pains, or sense of what steps it took to get to the end point). But I don’t think it’s unrealistic to believe that our economic and social structure could be drastically improved, and that we should work toward something like this. It was a nice model for inspiration.
A page turner! It had a lot of similarities to The Woman in White (hidden identities, inheritances, mistaken parentage, accidental commitment into an insane asylum), but it was much more interesting. It was fun, suspenseful, and sometimes scary. Loved it!
We reached Edinburgh in the afternoon, and after checking into our hotel, we wandered down the Royal Mile, Edinburgh’s tourist area with shops, restaurants, and tons and tons of outdoor performers. We were there during the world-famous Edinburgh Fringe Festival, in which the city hosts hundreds of shows and performers, ranging from free outdoor buskers to plays and concerts in theatrical venues.
Edinburgh has a cat cafe (a place where you pay to hang out with cats for a while), and I’d been wanting to try out a cat cafe since they first started popping up a few years ago. So I reserved a slot at Maison de Moggy:
It was a cute place, and the staff were very nice, and I’m really glad I was able to finally see what this thing is all about, but it wasn’t what I’d hoped.
There were about 10 cats, and about 15 humans. The cafe schedules customers for 8 hours a day, 7 days a week. Have you ever met a cat? I love cats, but they’re not THAT into human interaction. It’s too much. The cats were really nicely socialized (they were all adopted into the cafe as kittens), so they very patiently tolerated the attention and accepted pettings, but they weren’t into it.
In order to interact with the cats, you had to wait until no other humans were pestering them, then stalk them, and trick them into not running away from you. Then when you pet them, they just sit there. It’s no fun petting a cat who doesn’t particularly like it. I did more observation than interaction.
But like I said, I’m definitely glad I got the experience.
After my hour with the cats, I connected with Aunt Lyn for dinner at Mamma’s Pizza. After dinner, we watched some more performers, and headed back to the hotel.
On our last day in Edinburgh, we returned to The Royal Mile to do some shopping and to watch some more performers. We caught a performer named Able Mable, who was really great, and as she pointed out, was one of only 5 or so women (I can’t remember the exact number) out of the 60 or so paid street performers. She described her character as “a hapless showgirl, eager to entertain but manages to mess up everything she does with comic results.” She was fantastic, though I couldn’t get a shot that did her justice.
Because of the festival, the whole Royal Mile was always packed, and it was a challenge to find good any places for meals. We ended up grabbing a soup and sandwich at the tiniest cafe you can imagine. It felt like a convenience store counter in a place the size of a closet, with a plastic table and chairs in the corner. It was pretty good though. I’m sure they make all their money during the month of the fest.
After lunch, we toured the mighty Edinburgh Castle!
We took a free tour of the castle with a great tour guide. There was a little spot up there that was the *only* place I remembered having been before. It was like a little jolt: whoa! This looks exactly the same. I visited England, Ireland, and Scotland with my family when I was in middle school, but I didn’t have many specific memories of the trip. This is one of the reasons why I wanted to go again (and make these blog posts), so that I could try to really remember it this time.
After the castle, we went to the one “real” Fringe show that we saw. There are so many shows going on, and we really only had time to see one, and I didn’t want to overwhelm myself by trying to pick the exact perfect show, so I tried to be kind of go-with-the-flow about finding one.
On our first night, as we were waiting at the bus stop to return to the hotel, I looked at the cute building to my left, and saw that it was called The Scottish Storytelling Center. That sounded interesting. Then I saw a description of a fringe show called The Man Who Planted Trees on a board outside of the center. It sounded kind of perfect: family friendly (a lot of fringe shows can be pretty raunchy), sweet and humorous, and had really good reviews.
The show was great: very creative and unique (they used marionette-style puppets, wafted essential oil scents and sprayed mists of water into the audience), heart-warming, funny, and was exactly as advertised. It was perfect.
After the show, we grabbed dinner at Rabbie Burns, a pub just down the street from the center, caught some more street performers, and visited some shopping tents where I picked up some sweet-smelling juniper gifts for my mom.
We were beat!
The next day, we took a train to Glasgow, and headed home (with a chilly stop-over in Iceland)!
This is the second to last trip post; aren’t you so sad it’s almost over??
So. We took the train from London to York, checked into our hotel, and visited Clifford’s Tower, an old fortress-castle thing.
The tower was on a big hill, and we looked down from the top and saw this older couple literally crawling up the hill. I believe they didn’t know that on the other side was the actual entrance with stairs. An elderly, disgruntled Jack and Jill. It was odd and amusing.
Next to the tower was a little traveling carnival (or just, like, three carnival rides).
So we rode on the carousel!
We got dinner at the Golden Fleece, York’s “most haunted” pub.
I included the building on the right to show how warped the old buildings were. Look how slope-y the floors are!
During dinner, we had a fun chat with some crusty old [tipsy] local guys.
After dinner, we walked around the city. I kept my eyes open for some of the cats on York’s Cat Trail, which is basically just little cat sculptures and images on the buildings around town, a la this one at the Golden Fleece:
See the little white kitty exiting the window frame above the golden sheep?
We caught a bit of live traditional music coming from the over-crowded Last Drop Inn, but we were only there in time to hear one song before the musicians took a break. Thwarted again!
Our first full day in York, we got breakfast at our hotel (a Hampton Inn), and visited The Shambles, which is a small street with a bunch of cute shops.
We visited a fudge shop, where they tried to give me a sample. I explained that I don’t like fudge, and that I’m just picky, and the lady behind the counter said, “I think you mean you know what you like.” You know what? You’re right, fudge lady, I just know what I like! Harrumph!
Here’s a cute tea shop on the Shambles:
We also visited Bowler, a vintage clothing store, and had THE best time looking at and trying on the cutest vintage and vintage-inspired clothing.
We also wandered around an outdoor flea market, and had lunch at Betty’s Tea House.
It was pretty rainy, so we decided to stay indoors and checked out the National Rail Museum.
Then we napped forever, apparently. I don’t remember that, but that’s what my notes say! Apparently it was a much needed nap.
We got dinner at a place called Nicholson’s Cross Keys. Many of the restaurants in York were named after objects/animals, and they all had images of their names on the outside- a remnant of when most people were illiterate.We had wanted to eat at a place called Old White Swan, but their oven had broken! What?!
We then caught a performance of Morris Dancers in a town square area.
On our last morning in York, we had a very tight schedule and lots of things to get done before catching our train, so it was a fun little challenge. After breakfast at the hotel, we stopped in at the Shambles again so I could pick up a gift for my mom at the tea shop, then we ran over to Bowler, the vintage store because our social media fans had seen our pictures of the dresses we tried on and convinced us to buy them!
But we didn’t know when the store opened and we had to make sure we caught our train. So we waited, practically pressing our noses to the locked front door until the saleswoman finally showed up. Poor girl was probably so annoyed with us for making her rush, but we explained our situation, and she was very nice, and it took us less than 5 minutes to get in and buy our dresses. And THEN we made the poor saleswoman take our picture.
And we high-tailed it to the train station for our last city: Edinburgh!
I know it’s been forever since I actually went on this trip and then blogged about it, but I still really want to get it all down. I’ve just been so busy lately! But I’m on Thanksgiving break now, so I have time!
So we flew from Shannon, Ireland to London, and it was the greatest morning of smoothness. Everything went well, and we were just way too pleased by it. We got to the bus station early, the bus was on time (though the bus fare system was still incomprehensible), we got to the airport way early, got to select good seats, had a delicious leisurely brunch at the airport (chicken sandwich w/ fries and a salad as always), the ride was smooth and short (though holy cow those puddle jumper planes feel like something my 3 year old nephew assembled out of legos).
We arrived in London and were informed that the underground workers were on strike. Greeeeaat. So we took a train to the city and walked quite a ways to our hotel. However, the weather was finally gorgeous. We had the best weather of our trip in London. Low 70s and sunny. It felt like heaven. And though our walk was long, much of it was through Hyde Park, so it was fairly pleasant (aside from our luggage).
And we stopped halfway through for some ice cream:
We finally got to our hotel, the Intercontinental, because my aunt works in the hotel industry and gets special deals.
Here we are enjoying our luxury:
After a little rest in the hotel, we asked our super nice concierge where we could get a big bowl of spaghetti for dinner (because that’s what I wanted), and he recommended Prezzo, which became our favorite restaurant (it’s a chain over there, so every time we’d see one, we’d point it out and get excited).
Look at this perfect dinner:
ANYway. We also checked out Shepherd’s Market, which is a cute little area near our hotel with lots of restaurants and pubs.
After dinner, we walked back into our hotel room, and as soon as I opened the door, I panicked and thought we had gotten the wrong room because the lights were on (but dimmed), and the tv was playing, so I thought someone else was in there! Turns out, the staff had just done the “turn down service” thing which I had apparently never before experienced. They also left little treats (fruit, bottled spring water, cookies). It was fun, but slightly unsettling. Also, the bathroom had a phone in it, and an adjustable speaker that plays the audio from the tv, so you won’t miss a thing!
The next day, we got a really heavy, greasy, authentic English breakfast at a deli called Piccolo.
We took a hop on bus tour, with a cutie patootie guide named Gavin. After that, we napped at the hotel, and then did some site-seeing and took a river cruise.
We visited the bustling Picadilly Circus area (similar to New York’s Times Square), and got some more spaghetti (my craving wasn’t satisfied yet) at a place called Caffe Concerto, where we chatted with some Australian expats sitting next to us.
The next morning we had breakfast at Tyburn Pub, a place on the way to the train station (Paddington) so that I could head off for a day-trip to Bath while Aunt Lyn did some more site-seeing in London.
Bath was lovely, the weather was nice, and the town was cute. I arrived with a bunch of other travelers, who promptly hopped in line at the Roman Bath museum. I took one look at that long line, and waited it out by getting some lunch at a place called The Courtyard Cafe.
The cafe was across the way from Sally Lunn’s, which makes world famous buns.
I went to Bath intending to get one, but when I got there, they just didn’t seem appealing to me, so I skipped them and went back to the museum, which no longer had a line!
It’s apparently a natural hot springs which was in use during the time of the Roman Empire. Of course, it’s been preserved since then, but there are sections that are quite genuinely ancient-looking.
I wandered the town a bit, and came across a cute little flea market.
I got another ice cream cone from Hyde Park on my way back from the train station, and Aunt Lyn and I headed over to Harrod’s, the most extravagant department store in the world. I don’t even know how they let us in.
We enjoyed the children’s clothing area, where we found girls’ dresses for only $2000.
This adorable girls’ headband was like $50. To be fair, it’s real fur. ick.
Most people there were actually shopping. Like, for stuff that they were going to buy. With their money. Who are these people??? We just had fun getting each other to guess just how crazy expensive the next item was.
Outside the store, someone had parked this golden Ferrari:
All of the restaurants nearby were designed for oil barons, so we got dinner at our ol’ pal Prezzo again!
Our last morning in London, we had breakfast at Sofra, a Mediterranean restaurant in Shepherd’s Market, and headed to the train station for York!