I had a bit of writer's block today as far as the blog, so I put the call out of Facebook for inspiration. My favorite teacher, Ms. Vance, posed a very thought-provoking prompt, as follows:
Capote identified fireworks and conversation as his favorite art forms.
What are yours? And what are your (similarly, most unusual) fears?
Where have these arts and fears manifested?
This is a HUGE question and any one person could write volumes on it. I have a blog and will attempt to do this question justice, as it could cover many aspects of my life and nearly all of my future.
My favorite artforms. This presents itself in so many fashions. My favorite artforms would be story-telling and photography. Story-telling is by far my favorite of favorites because it takes so many shapes. It can be verbal, full of rhythmic cadences and lyrical tones, painting a scene through sound. It can be literature, leaving everything to the imagination, every color hiding between the black and white. It is so universally relatable and so personal, because it has infinite possibility to be made one's own. No one person will read, tell, or interpret a story identically to another. Each experience is unique to the individual audience, while simultaneously connecting the greater audience, sharing ideas. People who live a world away from each other could share a common sentiment from reading the same piece of literature; people who have nothing in common, but a story, can feel connected, because they have vicariously lived through the author and the characters. We can all cry when Cinderella can't go to the ball because we experience her sadness, experience rage at the unjust, untimely, and faster-than-a-breath "death" of Sirius Black, the unbridled joy and odd sense of relief when Elizabeth ends up with Darcy, and the heart-stopping, ice-cold fear of just about any Stephen King novel. While we experience all of these second-hand through the characters, we do experience them, and we experience them so much more keenly because we make the stories our own. We immerse ourselves, whether in listening or reading, and we become the character, lived over and over through eyes and minds of many. Stories themselves are an artform, but there is just something so wonderfully beautiful and ubiquitous about the way a story is and can be told.
My other favorite artform, in a more direct interpretation of "art", is photography. I not only enjoy producing it, but viewing it and gathering inspiration from it. Candid to carefully and meticulously planned, unaltered to edited beyond fantasy, photography is special. It puts a direct focus on the world around as and screams "PAY ATTENTION". It stops us in our tracks, even for a moment. and forces us to pause and analyze. It stimulates our want to understand and to appreciate a moment. "Why did someone photograph this?" we wonder. Whether it confuses us, shocks us, awes us, or simply makes us smile, all photography elicits emotion, and even more-so because, even after edits, it is still drawn from our physical world, our surroundings. A photograph is not a photograph if it does not, at its base, start with the real world. That, to me, is what makes photography so fascinating. Unedited, it reflects real and simple beauty and is almost reassuring as it whispers "This exists". Altered, photos can extend beyond fantasy, taking the limited that physically exists and creating what might or never can be, reaching far and deeply into our imaginations.
For me, I love taking photography because it captures my world in a permanent manifestation of my point of view. There is no better feeling for me than going through photos and finding memories that have been lost or candid moments captured perfectly or re-experiencing the beauty of a moment or a place. It is entirely selfish, but I photograph for me, to capture and recapture my life, to call upon physical representations of my memories as often as I choose.
Being able to share these memories as well is beautiful to me, whether is is my photography or someone else's. It is story-telling without words. It can be a series or a single image, answer questions or produce many. Photographs can be viewed again and again and interpreted in a different way every time. There is something so unique and special about that and there is an endless amount possibilities to test and discover.
I am now going to move into fears. There are the obvious: needles, spiders, pain. Survival, base fears. My deeper fears all seem to revolve around loneliness. One of my biggest fears is non-recognition. I certainly don't want to seem or be self-centered or expect people to kiss the ground I walk on, but if I do a good job or if I put a lot of effort into something, I would like a pat on the back. I do not complete a project or perform simply for this praise, but the praise lets me know that I am doing something right. Therefore, I suppose this is actually a fear of being wrong. I dread imperfection in myself, not fulfilling my potential, or fearing that my potential is, in fact, not perfection. This nearly unattainable envisionment of myself is the cause of near-constant anxiety. Praise allows for a temporary relief of this anxiety. In that moment of praise, in my mind, I am perfect, I am right, I have earned my A+, my 100%, I have not disappointed. Unfortunately, there is a fine line between appreciating praise and literally relying on and expecting it, and I fall into the latter. It is not a matter of ego, it is not a matter of pride. For me, I just cannot bear to be a disappointment. Anger may scare me and make me cry, but it will never utterly crush me the way the words "I'm disappointed" do. Anger implies a mistake whereas disappointment implies intent or lack of caring. I take great care in everything that I do, either in thoroughness or in eagerness, so to be disappointing completely renders all of my effort as null. There is no greater mental and spiritual fear for me than this.
For me, these two tie together. I gain small pats on the back through my photography. A main character in a story is hardly ever a disappointment. I can escape my anxieties, even briefly, through these mediums and that makes them all the more powerful in my mind. They are essentially therapeutic.
This has been a very long blog, but I thank Ms. Vance for the inspiration, as this was actually enjoyable to write. I haven't had a really in depth blog in a while and this genuinely felt good to write.
What would you say if you were answering these questions?
Tuesday, February 18, 2014
This weekend was another fun-filled, fantastic adventure as I got to see my very best friend for the first time in five years. We had a lot planned and treated this weekend as a sort of dual-engagement party, as she is newly engaged as well! She was able to make it out of the snow to come down to Orlando for a few days and we packed every minute of girly, geeky friendship into it that we could!
Friday night, we met up and went out to dinner with her parents at “Sweet Tomato” (think multi-station, restaurant engulfing buffet). We headed back to our hotel room, that had an unbeatable view of Universal Studios, and talked and talked and talked about all things friendship, weddings, and just general catching up. Needless to say, we didn’t get much sleep.
On Saturday, we went to Sea World. I’d never been there before, so I was very excited to see what it was all about. First, I have to say, the park is MASSIVE. We barely covered all the things we wanted to do, and only because we planned super efficiently! We started with stingrays, going to the pool where you could pet and feed them. Feeling brave, we decided to buy some food to give to them. This ended up being a hilarious disaster, as both of us were too scared to feed them properly (their mouths are on the bottom, so you had to hold the food as they slurped it up). We ended up getting soaked from the flock of stingrays fighting over the food we panickedly dropped in the water. I got the hang of it towards the end, and it was quite fun, but it had to be on of the weirdest sensations I’ve ever experienced.
We then headed over to see a dolphin show (again, something I’ve never done). It was amazing and the skill needed by both the trainers and the dolphins was astounding. We sat in the splash zone, figuring it wouldn’t make much difference after the stingrays. These ended up being the best seats in the stadium and really enhanced the overall experience, as some of the acrobatics were literally done right over our heads! It was incredible.
We watched all of the other shows (including a sea lion performance that went hilariously wrong at every turn) and walked around, being sure to visit every exhibit we could. The one that we spent the most time at was the orca exhibit. The orcas won’t be performing until April, but it was amazing to watch them, as I’ve never seen an orca before in person. There were five, including a mom and baby, and, had it not been for our carefully, efficiently planned out schedule, I would have watched them all day.
My next favorite exhibit had to be the penguins (who doesn’t like penguins?). There were literally hundreds of the fluffy, chubby birds waddling around! It was an overload of frozen, adorable cuteness. There were even penguin chicks, though they were in the back of the exhibit just out of sight. Sadly, we weren’t allowed to take one home :P
We finished up the day with a mad dash around to the last exhibits we wanted to see and some super speedy shopping (Shamu pajamas, anyone?). We headed over to Disney Marketplace, another place I had never been, and continued with a little more shopping, but mostly just talking and laughing and being the goofy best friends that we are.
The next day, we headed out early to Islands of Adventure, which is home to my favorite, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Katie and her family had VIP access and got to enter the park early, so I waited behind for a bit and tried to plan out the rides we wanted to hit. By the time I entered the park, I assumed Katie and her family were having breakfast at the Three Broomsticks, so I decided to quickly sneak over to Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey (probably my favorite ride of all time). For single riders, seating was immediate, so I was able to get on the ride with no problem!
However, the ride stopped about 30 seconds in, with my group dangling over a view of Hogwarts (not so bad considering the car next to us was stuck nearly upside-down - yikes!). The lights went up and the intercom blurted out assurances that the ride would begin moving soon again and again. It ended up being only about five minutes that we were stuck, but, as you can imagine, it felt much longer than that. The ride finished up without a hitch and I received a text message from Katie saying that she had been in line when the ride broke! After they got off the ride, they headed to breakfast, so I grabbed a butterbeer and wandered for a bit. I swear, I will never get tired of visiting Hogsmead.
After Katie finished breakfast, we headed around the park loop to a few rides we definitely wanted to try. We did the Popeye roaring rapids and got soaked (those human-sized dryers are totally worth the $5). We went on Spiderman and Cat-in-the-Hat. We finally ended where we began and went on the Harry Potter ride one more time, afterwards making a quick stop at Honeydukes.
Then began the long car ride to meet up with my dad. Once we hit the highway it was pretty quick and we were at the meeting point before I knew it. While our dad’s talked Katie and I hugged and hugged and hugged in an effort to not have to leave. It was hard, only getting to see each other for two days after five years, but they were two fantastic days that rendered many happy and lasting memories.
Katie is just leaving Florida today after spending one more day at Universal with her family. She bought a minion plushie and named it “Bloocheese”, due to the fact that minions highly resemble two of our favorite characters (Bloo and Cheese) combined.
I know that I am going to see her many times this year and probably over the next few years due to our weddings and soon-to-be closer proximity to each other (D.C. is much closer to Connecticut than Florida!). I am looking forward to every chance I get to see her and know that we will continue to make good memories as best friends.
Monday, February 10, 2014
Even though my birthday is tomorrow, we have the habit in our family of having a birthday week, generally starting with the birthday weekend. This tradition had been sort of lost when I went to college, due to distance and busy-ness. However, this year I am living with my family on my birthday so, of course and without question, the birthday week has begun.
My mom, my aunt, and I went to the tea room (mentioned several blogs ago) and had a wonderful tea lunch, complete with birthday cupcake in a tea cup (can you think of anything more adorable?). I received some very nice gifts from my aunt, including a "something old" for my wedding ensemble.
We went and saw Monuments Men, which we all agreed was long, but interesting. In a sort of back-to back movie viewing, my brother and I saw the Lego Movie the next morning (for a complete change of pace). And then, the traditional birthday shopping. Down here in Florida, we have a huge mall with lots and lots and lots of my favorite stores. I didn't go overboard (at least not by my standards) and had such a fun time with my mom.
I cannot wait for my birthday tomorrow. This next year of my life is going to be amazing and I cannot wait to see how it unfolds :)
Monday, February 3, 2014
So while the Super Bowl was fun and everything, something even more important happened this weekend: we picked a wedding venue!
After impromptuedly booking a flight to D.C. with 34 hour turn around, I figured I should pack everything I could into the usable daylight hours of Saturday that I could. I had booked appointments at two venues (hoping to have time for the Fairfax Chocolate Festival, but no such luck) and we headed out early, only stopping to get some delicious pho at a local shop.
The first place we visited, Stone Mansion, was, for lack of a less polite word, lack-luster. There were empty cases of beer and beer bottles in the parking lot, the appointment was not private, and the guide was not only 30 minutes late, but quite unattentive to the guests (very happy to answer questions, but sat in the office watching television). The space inside was too small, even for our estimated maximum of fifty guests. It was dingy, dim, and I don’t even want to get started on the condition of the bathrooms! The back yard area was actually very nice and open with a lot of trees and a cute playground area, but I felt like I really would have to force myself to like having my wedding there.
The next place, Hidden Creek, was a bit out of the way. On the approach, it didn’t look like much, a pretty, but plain outside. Boy, was I surprised when we walked inside. The foyer/lobby had a high arching ceiling, from which hung an enormous bronze leaf chandelier. Behind the receptionist (who had to be one of the kindest people I have ever met) was a slate water wall. The manager for this venue came out to meet us, even though we were over twenty minutes early. After briefly discussing booking options and the layout of the venue, she led us into the dining area. I swear, it was like something out of a Disney movie. These beautiful wooden doors swung out into an expansive, light-filled dining room, with each table perfectly plated and linened, with sparkling candle centerpieces. the walls were almost entirely windows, which just made it feel even bigger, and it just kept going on either side.
After the initial dazzling shock, our host led us around the room, explaining how tables could be set, and how it could be partitioned to not be so overwhelming. As we crossed over into one of the adjoining areas, she turned us to the right so we could see the dance floor. And it was beautiful. One wall was entirely made up of a stone-face fireplace with a brass hood. The ceiling was high and draped with strings and strings of twinkling lights. The floor itself was a rich, dark wood that was polished to mirror-like reflection. I am pretty sure that that was the point at which I was sold, and then it just became a “but wait, there’s more!” scenario.
She led us out to the ceremony area, which was a wooden deck over-looking the 18th hole (did I forget to mention this is a country club?). She explained that there was a gazebo and a fire pit below and many natural setting areas to take pictures. We returned to the dining room and sat down to discuss prices. Long story short, this magnificent venue ended up being cheaper than the first one, had plenty of space, and was simply gorgeous. And it was available.
Needless to say, we have submitted a letter of intent to reserve the venue and now everything else wedding-wise will be a piece of cake (quite literally!)
Monday, January 27, 2014
This past weekend, Matt (my brother) had his first college field trip and was allowed to invite me along. Of course I jumped on a chance to spend time with my brother, and it was an added bonus that it was to an art museum! Being a local, small museum, I really didn’t expect much from it, but I was excited nonetheless. It wasn’t until we entered that I would realise this was definitely going to be a lesson in quality, not quantity.
The museum hosted quite a few pieces, but it had some truly spectacular and unexpected gems. The first piece that stood out simply because I had seen it so many times was Andy Warhol’s famous prints of Marilyn Monroe. Yes, those prints, the ones that have been widely published, widely satirized, and widely known. I just kind of stood there gawking as all of Matt’s fellow students continued on. It was stunning to be faced with such a famous piece, even if it wasn’t really my cup of tea. I could still appreciate it’s historic and cultural value.
The whole point of the trip from Matt’s end was to pick five pieces that he liked and would later have to write about. I was enlisted as his photographer. I have to say it was really fun watching him ponder over different works, reject some and embrace others. Here were his five in the end:
I decided to play the game as well and chose five myself:
It was funny to see that, while we shared a favorite, there was still room for a lot of variety. Overall, it was a pleasant visit to a museum full of variety as well as some great sibling bonding time (which I view as important since I will be returning to Virginia soon).
Which of these pieces is your favorite?
Tuesday, January 21, 2014
I’m not sure why, but I’ve been thinking a lot lately about things that I would like to do at some point in my life. It is sort of like a bucket list, but instead these are things I’d like to do or try or see in order to learn more, do more, and be more. Some are small and frivolous, some are probably unachievable, but I have only one life, there will never be a chance to do these things again, no “Maybe next time”. So, from the frivolous to fantasy, here are some of things that I would like to do as my Years’ Resolutions:
-Go horseback riding. I enjoy it too much for it to be something I never do again
-Cosplay and go to Comicon at least once (don’t know what as, but I see this as a great opportunity to let my geek flag fly)
-Go to a service or holy site of a religion I have never experienced before. I remember going to Japan and visiting several Shinto sites and realizing that the concept of sacredness is universal across religions. A Shinto temple is just as holy as a Christian church (this does not mean that you have to give up your religion and take on new gods, but it a very eye-and-mind-opening experience).
-Learn new languages. This one is vague, but in a generation where literally everything has become connected worldwide and where travel is extraordinarily easy, it is almost ignorant not to take on one or two new languages if you are privileged enough to do so.
-Learn to Irish Step-Dance. This just looks plain fun, and I got a taste of it when I was in Ireland and loved it.
-Learn to be comfortable as me. I often find myself caring too much what people think, trying to please everyone without stepping back and asking “Is this right for me? Is this what I would do?”. Why should conventions define who I am and what I can do or how I can act? I certainly am not saying this to be rebellious, I just want to be my own person.
-Get a pen-pal. This would be especially fun if they were from another country. How amazing would it be to learn first hand about another culture while sharing your own, all while building a friendship? Sounds pretty fantastic, if you ask me!
-Do all of the things that are on my Bucket List. From travel to once-in-a-lifetime chances, my bucket-list is extensive (and growing) and, while I know it would be difficult, if not impossible, to complete it, it certainly helps to fuel my want for adventure!
These are just a few things that I believe are achievable goals, if I actually take time to do them. I think that is the whole point, to not get so caught up in the perceived "musts" of life, and take time to enrich and enjoy your time here. I am sure that this list will grow and change as I do, but for now, I have put forth my Years' Resolutions and, unlike their more temporary counterparts, I intend to stick to them.
Monday, January 13, 2014
So this is a new segment of my blog where I try things I see on Pinterest to test their real-world practicality. Over the weekend, I thought I would try an “easy” one and go for a simple melt-and-pour goat’s milk soap (adding my own flair of tea infusion). The original pin can found here.
The materials (soap molds and all) really weren’t so expensive, so that was a relief. This was especially great as it made 13 bars of soap! I also invested in soap stamps, because, you know, aesthetics are always a priority.
With soap base and melting apparatus at the ready, I began to divy up scents, colors, and, of course, teas. I made super concentrates of peach, mint green, and earl grey tea to add in after the soap melted. The first mix I tried was Earl Grey tea mixed with a citrus oil. The early grey tea was by far the most potent tea and the darkest, so it made a very brown soap, which not only scared the pants off of me (who wants brown soap?!), but also made me give up even trying to color that batch. Here is how it turned out:
The next batch was Mint Green Tea and lavender oil. This came out much lighter, as green tea doesn’t tend to brew dark, but still had a lightish brown tint. I attempted to add almost half a bottle of lilac coloring, hoping for at least a muted purple, but, again, I ended up with brown soap, albeit a slightly more pleasant shade of brown:
The final batch was Peach White Tea and rose oil. This turned a nice, sort of hot chocolate brown and the scent mixture was really nice. Again, any attempt to add color was futile, but I was already alright with what I had, so it didn’t really matter:
I let these all set for about an hour and a half. They had solidified, which made me extremely happy, as I didn’t know if adding the tea would have made them too liquidy. I popped each one out of their mold and lined them up neatly, very pleased with myself. Then, I went to smell them.
Oh...my...goodness. They smelled terrible. They absolutely reeked of chemicals. I backed away, trying to think of what I did wrong. Maybe the tea reacted poorly with the base? Maybe I had overheated the soap? But...they looked so pretty. They couldn’t possibly smell bad! I then remembered one important part of the soap-making process: soap has to cure overnight. There was still hope!
Sure enough, as time went on, the soaps started to smell much better. By Sunday, they actually smelled pretty nice (overall, it took about 48 hours for them to smell right). My favorite ended up being the mint green tea with lavender. The recipes will definitely need tweaking (maybe I’ll even attempt a more “natural” soap recipe), but this is certainly a decent first try :)
Have you ever tried to make homemade soap (or other hygiene products)?