Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Taking Selfies with Llamas (and other adventures)

Last week, I went with my roommate and another friend to the Natural Bridge Zoo. Natural Bridge is a pretty cool place, and I'm pretty lucky that it's within 45 minutes of where I live. If you're ever in Virginia and you're looking to do some fun, touristy type things for a day, I recommend Natural Bridge.

We decided to go to the zoo because we're basically children and we love animals. And, despite the sweltering heat, it was a really good time.

Behold, our adventure:

They had deer. This little guy was pretty cute, but didn't really change my opinion that most deer have no purpose in the world except to run out in front of traffic.


The llamas were awesome! They would do pretty much anything to get some little food pellets:


I think this was my first time ever actually meeting a giraffe. I knew they were tall, but damn:



I'm pretty sure that this llama is my actual spirit animal. All the other llamas flocked to us to get food, but this guy was apathetic:


This little burro (or whatever he was -- we never actually found his information) became friends with us. He followed us as far as he could while we walked down the fence. He was a cutie. (Please also note that apathetic llama is in the background):


Possibly the highlight of the visit, there was a llama who actually posed for selfies. I got this selfie with this guy, and my roommate got one as well. Her theory is that they've learned posing for pictures will likely get them more food. Whatever the case may be, it has become my new favorite picture:


The camels were pretty cool as well. One of them had really floppy lips and pretty much salivated all over your hand if you tried to feed him. It was gross, but pretty neat:



They also had baby animals:



And, of course, they had goats! I love goats, as I've mentioned before. Here are some cute goats:



Yes, I realize one of those animals was a cow. He was in the same pen as the goats.
After the zoo, we hit up a '50s style diner (the Pink Cadillac Diner) for lunch. It was delicious:


Last but certainly not least, we visited Foamhenge. What is Foamhenge, you ask? Well, it is a random, to-scale model of Stonehenge. But instead of being made of stone, it's built with -- you guessed it -- foam. It's probably the most random tourist attraction in the world and it's just off the side of the road on a dirt path. But it's pretty sweet:





It was a pretty good day, the highlight of which might have been the llamas. Or the milkshake. I haven't decided.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Blogging is my #7 priority right now

I apologize for all the theoretical internet dust and cobwebs that have been collecting on this blog for the past couple of months. I just haven't been able to find the motivation during my little downtime to actually update this little piece of interwebz.

So here we are.

I have an excuse, though. I've been incredibly busy over the last few months, and blogging just hasn't been a priority. In fact, I figured up my priorities and it ranks as number 7. Pretty far down there, isn't it?

Here are my priorities that outrank blogging right now:

Rocking that business casual for job #1
1. Job #1

Job #1 is my day job. I have two jobs -- a full time job that kind of sucks where I make a decent amount of money, and a part time job that is fun where the money varies.

My full time job -- despite being pretty awful on some days -- has been pretty good to me. It is still a struggle to get up and be there by 9am (I usually get up somewhere around 8:15 and am therefore always getting there at the last minute), but I do it.

2. Job #2

After six months of not working at Pizza Hut, I asked the new store manager if I could come back part time because I missed it so darn much. So since February, I've been working 10-ish hours a week as a delivery driver at Pizza Hut.

Both of my roommates work there also, so it doesn't really seem like work. Although it makes me really tired a few nights a week. I work from 9-5:30 at job #1 and then show up to work 6-11:00pm at job #2. Which brings me to my third priority...

3. Sleep

Sleep is hard to come by when you work two jobs and also want to maintain a semblance of a social life (see priority #4), but you have to do it. I usually sleep between 6-8 hours a night, although on my days off I sometimes let myself sleep more. 

It's not as much sleep as I got when I was working evenings (since I would practically let myself sleep all day), but I take it where I can get it.

Hanging out
4. Hanging Out

I'm not the most social person in the world, but I try to do at least one social hang out per week -- sometimes more. I typically spend one of my days off detoxing from the world (ie - Netflix binging, food binging, sleep binging -- binging on all the things) and I spend the other day doing something with a friend/friends. 

"Hanging out" may consist of just spending time with my roommates, or it could mean a day trip for shopping, touristy things, etc.

Last week, I went to the zoo on Tuesday and had some friends over for Chinese takeout on Saturday. It was a big week for me.

Coming up, I have a trip to Busch Gardens and a trip to the beach planned. These trips, together with my recent New York trip, have made for a pretty busy summer.

5. Relaxing
This is what "relaxing looks like"

I need a certain amount of chill time each week. I don't get any chill time at all on Thursdays and Fridays (these are my two 14 hour work days), so I have to catch up on it the other days. Relaxing usually consists of sitting in front of either the TV or the computer -- watching television/movies, reading blogs/articles, perusing message boards and arguing with people over characters in Orange is the New Black.

Relaxing also encompasses eating, spending time with the cats, and talking about random shit with my roommates.

6. The Gym (kind of)

I'm not as fully committed to working out as I would like to be, but I have recently joined a gym and am trying really hard to make myself go at least 2-3 times a week.

I really enjoy going to the gym, but it's the actually getting off my butt and going that is the hard part. I never regret it once I actually find the motivation to go.

7. Blogging

As you can see, my priorities list has caused me to leave my blog by the wayside. Blogging is down there with cleaning and running errands at this point. I've been meaning to call our Commissioner of the Revenue for like three months now about a refund they are supposed to have sent me, but I keep saying I'll do it "next week." Blogging has kind of ended up like that.

But this is me making a conscious effort to write a little bit more. Because I do miss it. So here's to trying.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Accidental Bridesmaid

When I started my job just over a year ago, I was really anxious about making new work friends. At Pizza Hut (my only prior employment), it took me quite awhile to open up to my coworkers and actually find friends. I did, eventually, and my roommates are two examples of that. But I don't make friends easily.

Somehow I got lucky. Within just a couple of months at my current job, I was invited to go out to dinner and a movie with a few coworkers. I was invited primarily so that one girl wouldn't feel like a "5th wheel" since the other two people going were bringing their significant others.

"I do have a boyfriend," she assured me, "But he lives in New York."

It was a strange invitation, but I had challenged myself at the time to say "yes" to things, so I went.

It turns out, these people were great. We started hanging out on a pretty regular basis not long after that. And the girl, Bela, who invited me really did have a boyfriend in New York. In fact, he proposed to her not long after we started hanging out. And he moved down here to be with her.

Earlier this month, I went to New York to attend the wedding. And, due to one of her friends from China not being able to attend, I ended up filling in as a bridesmaid. It was one of the best trips of my life -- and one of the most beautiful weddings I've ever attended.


We arrived to New York by train. I took the trip with my coworker friend, Amanda, and her boyfriend. We'd arranged to stay in the same hotel as the bride-to-be and her family. I ended up actually rooming with Bela for three of the four nights so she wouldn't have to be alone in her room. This gave Amanda and her boyfriend some privacy, so it worked out really well.

The night we arrived, we took the train into the city to see Just Jim Dale, a one man show starring (you guessed it) Jim Dale. Now, I didn't know who Jim Dale actually was prior to the show but that didn't make it any less enjoyable. Jim Dale is a 78-year-old singer, comedian, and actor who you may know as the voice from the Harry Potter audio books.

For a dude in his late seventies, dude can still move.


We got our tickets for $25 through Roundabout Theatre's "Hiptix" program. Pro tip: If you're under 30 and you want to see a cheap show in NY, you can get "ehh" seats for $25-30 for the shows at Roundabout Theatre.

The only thing I regret about seeing Just Jim Dale is not dressing up. Practically fresh off the train, I wasn't looking my best and we all wore jeans. Apparently Jim Dale's fans are a little classier. We were very dressed down compared to the other theatergoers, and also about three decades younger.

After the show, we explored Times Square a bit and I got a $7 piece of cheesecake from Junior's that was delicious despite the price tag. I was in New York -- I allowed myself to splurge a bit.

The next day, we went back into the city to see the Museum of Natural History. I'd never been to this one before. I enjoyed it -- especially the animal exhibits. 



Pretty cool stuff.

We got food from a food truck vendor outside the museum. I tried to hand the guy my card, to which he kind of laughed and told me not to hand my card to people on the streets. Street vendors took cash only. It actually surprised me how many places in New York only accepted cash.

Anyway, I had a chicken kebab and it was bangin'.

That evening was the bachelorette party. Now, I've never been to a bachelorette party before but I think we did it up right. We started off at this great Italian place on the Lower East Side. It was raining, which was the only bad part. It made the walk (semi-run) to our next destination a little cumbersome, even though it was just a couple of blocks away.

And what was our next destination exactly?

A burlesque show. We went to The Slipper Room, where the drinks were expensive ($12 a pop) and the boobs were plentiful. We got there early (per the reviews on yelp.com -- pro tip: always check yelp.com) and scored good seats. It was a lot of fun.

I also got a little drunk because the drinks were pretty potent. I ordered a second drink because I thought we were staying for the second show, but we ended up leaving ten minutes after I bought my drink. I didn't want to waste, so I guzzled a whole cosmo like it was a canteen of water after a long hike. 


Saturday, we spent some time in Times Square like the tourists that we are, and we went to an art museum that Amanda's boyfriend (a graphic designer) wanted to see. Not my typical bag, but it was pretty interesting.

Then we went to the Central Park Zoo. I got to pet some farm animals, which are my favorites.

Hanging out with the sea lion

Very excited to feed the sheep
That evening, we got tickets to Avenue Q, the hilarious off-Broadway musical about puppets trying to make it in adult life. We all kind of related to the plights of the characters.

Also, they had $4 Sangria that you could order during the show! I had two of them. I really drank too much alcohol in New York.

The wedding itself was Sunday. We left the hotel room (which was in Queens, by the way) around 9:30 to get to the venue in Long Island. It was a gorgeous venue and the wedding itself went pretty well, considering.

There were a few hiccups... First off -- my dress was altered just a few days before the wedding. And it was a wee bit short. A minor thing, but I'm pretty sure I flashed at least a couple of people with my underwear at some point during the day.

Second: one of the other bridesmaids had rented a car for the trip. She and her wife had driven up to New York and left it in a parking garage with the intent to get it out to go to the wedding venue. They were going to also let me and my two travel companions ride with them so we wouldn't have to worry about taking a taxi or the LIRR (Long Island Railroad, if you're nasty) and spend a ton of money. 

The parking garage failed to let them know that there is no way to get a car out of the parking garage on a Sunday. Thankfully, they had gotten their dresses and make up and things out of the car beforehand, but we ended up having to take a taxi to the venue anyway. A $63 cab ride we didn't anticipate. Yikes!

We all got to the venue on time, but a few people in the wedding party were running late. The Maid of Honor (who was also the mother of the ring bearer) showed up at about 11:50am for a noon wedding. The bride's mom was also running behind.

We didn't have time to do a quick run through before the wedding started and about half the wedding party (myself included) weren't in NY the day of the actual rehearsal. So we had to kind of wing it. But for winging it, the ceremony was beautiful. I only teared up a little (Amanda teared up a lot).

At the reception, I only had one drink. It was $6 and delicious... some kind of pink lemonade mixed drink with sugar around the rim. I did not get drunk at the reception, although I should have because they made me dance.

Amanda and I at the reception. You can't tell how short my dress is
I did get drunk after the reception. After the wedding, I went to a bar with the bride, the groom, my travel companions, and some of the groom's friends. I had four drinks -- two vodka cranberry's, something that tasted like a sweet tart, and something the bartender called "fruity drink." The bartender wasn't big on telling us what he was giving us. I also sipped on Bela's White Russian and probably at least two other things.

I also flirted heavily with a groomsman. The first time I ever got a man who I don't really know's phone number is when I was pretty plastered. It was fun, though. I recall making a lot of outrageous comments on the drive back the hotel room. I regret nothing.

Number of days in New York: 4
Number of alcoholic drinks consumed in New York: 9-ish
Amount of money spent on alcohol (tips not included): $70-ish
Regret: None

And that was essentially my trip. The whole trip felt pretty surreal while it was happening. A year ago, I never would have expected to have met and befriended such amazing people at my job. I sure as hell didn't think I'd end up crossing state lines with them or ending up in someone's wedding party. Sure, that part was kind of an accident. It was a right place, weird time kind of thing. I fit the dress and I was there. But I'm glad I was there. And I hope that I can continue to be there in the lives of these people, as sappy as that sounds. Finding friends is hard, so it's really comforting when you find ones that you really like.

I'm pretty blessed in that way right now.

Friday, June 6, 2014

What happened to that girl?

Recently, as my mother was packing for her big move, she found an old video tape from the year 2000.

My parents had this huge camcorder that my dad pretty much had to control because it was really heavy and the rest of us could only hold it up steadily for so long. And by "the rest of us," I mean my mom because I was a kid and they wouldn't have trusted me with it anyway.

But that's beside the point.

The video was from Thanksgiving and it was intended to be one of those typical family holiday videos. My grandparents were visiting from Ohio and my dad took video of the women making the food and of my mom sleeping in the living room while everyone else was talking.

It really just turned into a 10-year-old me trying really hard to be the center of attention. I decided to do a "Christmas concert" by playing a bunch of Christmas songs on the piano (I wasn't very good) and also singing some Christmas songs. That was possibly even more painful than the piano playing.

It was embarrassing.

Anytime my dad would focus on something else, I would find some way of being the center of attention. At one point, I even changed my clothes, put on sunglasses, and pretended to talk to my friend on the phone. There was probably something wrong with me.

But while I was watching the embarrassing display of my childhood obnoxiousness, I was overwhelmed with another feeling...

As a kid, I had a lot of ambition. I sang, I played the piano, I wanted to be an actor. I have been creative since I can remember, and I always wanted to be a writer. 

In first grade, my teacher was so impressed by my story writing (which was probably mostly bad drawings set to a ridiculous story) that she would talk about me to her future classes. I met two of my childhood friends because I was something of a legend in their classroom. When they learned my name, they looked at me in awe and told me how often the teacher talked me up to their class. I've been proud of that for years.

Now I'm not trying to toot my own horn because, as I said, I was far from a virtuoso pianist. And my singing was pretty poor (Randy Jackson might call it "pitchy"), but I had the drive and the energy that it didn't matter.

And now, at age 24, I'm working a job where I'm not really exercising any of my creative energy. This blog is really the only outlet through which I do so, and I've been neglecting posting because I've been so tired on my days off. And also, lazy.

I guess it could just be a phase, but it bums me out how little I've accomplished lately. I want to write books and contribute material to outlets other than my own piddly blog. I want to share my writing and my opinions with the world, but lately I haven't even been able to come up with interesting material. Every time I think of a new post, I realize that it isn't something even half my readers would care about. 

I'm not sure where my drive has gone. Does this happen once a person hits adulthood? All your dreams -- both fantastical and practical -- disappear? I'm hoping I can get it back.

Mindy Kaling was a staff writer for The Office when she was 24. What the fuck am I doing with my life?

While I figure that out, please enjoy some of my various "photoshoots" from childhood. I figured I could use these when I got famous... My poor mother:

Not sure why I thought the hat and gloves actually matched the dress. Also, DEM GLASSES


12-year-old me being really "fashionable" and also meditative


Yes, that's a printed out screenshot from The Jeffersons. I've already admitted there was something wrong with me

Monday, May 26, 2014

Shows from my childhood that people rarely talk about

There are several shows from my childhood that are discussed on a regular basis among twentysomethings. Series like Boy Meets World, Even Stevens, and Hey Arnold! are held in high regard and are still routinely thrown into conversations today.

However, there were a myriad of shows out around the same time that didn't stick with us quite as well. I'm here to refresh your memory. 

1. Bug Juice

This is one of the shows I remember the most. It was on Disney Channel for a few seasons and it followed around campers at various summer-long sleep away camps. I think each season featured a new camp. I don't remember specific characters or plot lines, but I remember being really jealous of the kids on the show. I went to a 5-day long church camp in the summer, but my camp was nothing compared to the (undoubtedly expensive) camps in this show.

Bug Juice was probably the first reality show I ever watched. And lets face it -- a lot of things were probably staged. And that is something that never happens with major reality shows today (ahem). However, it was still a fun time. I enjoyed living vicariously through the characters and their ever-present struggles.

Also, the theme song still gets stuck in my head sometimes. "Bug Juice -- it doesn't come in a jar! Bug Juice comes from who you are!"

Good stuff.

2. The Secret World of Alex Mack

When I was probably 8 or so, I was obsessed with The Secret World of Alex Mack. I really thought it was the best show ever.

This show, starring Larisa Oleynik, was about a girl who could essentially melt into a silver liquid because she got some chemical on her one day. What would have been a horrifying, potentially disfiguring accident in reality was portrayed as some kind of crazy gift on this show.

Oh Alex Mack and her shenanigans.

It was ridiculous, but it was entertaining. I remember really enjoying Alex Mack's older sister, Annie, who was perpetually annoyed with her little sister. I probably liked her because I thought older teens were super mature and interesting. Oh what a silly 8-year-old I was.




3. In A Heartbeat

This show was one of the more serious attempts at television geared toward young people.

The show was centered around a group of high school students who volunteered as EMTs. Starring the yummy Shawn Ashmore and Lauren Collins in her pre-Degrassi days, the show was geared toward older kids and featured some pretty heavy themes.

As a kid, I never knew why the show went off the air so quickly because it seemed to be a hit. Apparently, there was some controversy over the "raciness" of the show. So Disney Channel pulled it. Kind of a shame, although maybe the show would have faired better on a different network. But that's something we'll never know.

4. Taina

I don't remember much about Taina except the theme song, the fact that she lived in Queens, and she was Hispanic. I wanted to be like Taina, but I knew I was too much of a small town white girl. So I watched this show to live vicariously through her.

Looking on IMDb now, I see that Taina only lasted one season. It's funny how time seems to go by so much slower when you're a kid. I swear it seemed like I watched that show for much longer than a year. Then again, I probably just watched reruns without knowing they were reruns.

This show was on back when Nickelodeon was cool and Teen Nick (or was it still Snick?) was the hottest block of television programming every week. 

5. The Torkelsons/Almost Home

It wasn't until I was older and on the internet that I learned that these were actually two different shows.

The show centered around the Torkelson family. Millicent Torkelson was a single mother. Her oldest daughter, Dorothy Jane, was a dramatic pre-teen who likes to sit by her window and dream. Also, one of the kids was played by Lee Norris (better known as Minkus from Boy Meets World and Mouth from One Tree Hill).

In Almost Home, Millicent uproots the Torkelson clan and becames a nanny to two kids -- played by Brittany Murphy and James Marsden.

Because every family show in the 90s had to feature James Marsden.

Neither show lasted that long, but they were cute and I remember wishing I could be like Dorothy Jane when I got older. Kind of glad now that I wasn't.

6. Ready or Not

I still stand behind this show.

Ready or Not was a Canadian coming-of-age show about two best friends -- Amanda and Busy. Amanda was more of a reserved girly girl, while Busy was an outgoing tomboy.

This was a Canadian show, so they tackled a lot more serious, dark issues than a lot of the American counterparts did during this time. Kind of like Degrassi, it went there.

There were of course the awkward puberty episodes (I remember one about Amanda wanting boobs or having boobs and not wanting them -- I don't remember, but there was a boob episode). They also tackled divorce issues, eating disorders, etc.

Despite all that, the show was still very clean and appropriate for younger viewers... Last time I checked, there were a bunch of episodes on YouTube. Definitely worth checking out.

7. Flash Forward

Flash Forward is one of the shows that I have asked multiple people about and only a couple of people actually remember it. 

This was a coming-of-age show starring Ben Foster (who later went on to play a mean dude in Alpha Dog alongside Justin Timberlake and was also in the wonderful film Get Over It) as Tucker and some-girl-who-never-got-famous as Becca. They grew up neighbors and friends -- they used to do the telephone thing with cans and string.

One episode in particular that I remember had the kids making a "Cool Book." The "Cool Book" had a page for every kid in the school and the book would get passed around for people to write down whatever they really thought about all the other kids. Sounds like it would end well, right?

I was in fourth grade when I saw that episode, and I decided that I wanted to make a "Cool Book" as well. So my fourth grade best friend/on-again-off-again boyfriend and I put one together and passed it around class. I remember writing that the kid I had another on-again-off-again crush on was "ugly" on his page. The "Cool Book" caused a disturbance in class and my teacher seized it.

I remember thinking I'd get in huge trouble (I didn't), and all because of Flash Forward.

8. State of Grace

When I watched State of Grace back in the early 2000's, I had no idea that the two girls -- Mae Whitman and Alia Shawkat -- would end becoming two of my favorite young adult actresses in the future. Especially Mae Whitman, who continues to impress me on Parenthood season after season. These girls have acting chops. Alia Shawkat was great in The To Do List.

Anyway.

State of Grace was a cute show about two middle school aged girls -- one Catholic and one Jewish -- and set in the 60s. I don't remember specific story lines from this one either because I apparently can't remember anything specific from television. But, looking back, I think the show was a little bit too concentrated in the 1960s for people in the 2000s to relate. That's probably why the show didn't last, even though I really liked it back when it would play on Fox Family (pre-ABC Family).

So those are the shows that I remember from my childhood. Are there any others you'd like to add? What shows were your favorites in the 90s?


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