Airport Revelations From a Recovering Evangelical

Over the years, I’ve spent a lot of time in airports. Partially because I’ve done a bit of traveling, but even more so because I am fairly convinced that I have somehow been cursed with the worst traveler’s luck of all time. It’s become a bit of a running joke in my family that if there is a multi-hour delay, a broken navigation system, or an emergency landing, chances are, I am on the flight. It would be very reasonable to assume that I carry a bitterness toward my agency of distress, but on the contrary, a deep fondness for airports has made a home and settled in my heart. 

It’s true that I love how I can drink a beer at 11:00 am without any judgmental looks or take a nap on a dirty, heavily walked floor and still be relatively operating within social norms. But my affinity toward airports comes from the fact that they are the ultimate microcosm of what it means to be truly Human. Every person in an airport is on a journey – some for work, some for pleasure, some for familial obligations, but a journey, nonetheless. Our journeys are all unique but for a brief moment in time, we get to coexist while waiting to reach our next destination and just simply be. It’s rare and it’s beautifully human. 

Most recently, I found myself in the ever-familiar Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport waiting for my – wouldn’t you know it – delayed flight to board. As many weary travelers often do, I sought out to find a bar to kill some time. I ordered an $18 glass of wine, settled into my two-person table, and placed my backpack, dubbed “hippie stuff” by my server, in the chair in front of me. I sipped my Syrah, that was slightly tainted by the taste of capitalism, and let my mind wander to the places it wanted to go. 

As my mind often does, it took me to the place we have been frequenting the last few years – the deconstruction of the messages I’ve internalized from the universal church. I circled back to a revelation that I came to after a particularly challenging therapy session a few months ago: throughout all of my years within the thralls of evangelicalism, I was simultaneously fed a sense of both complete worthlessness and over-importance. I was given the message that while I was totally depraved garbage without Jesus, I was also a gatekeeper of the most important and urgent message in the world. I was told that I was plagued by original sin, but also that the salvation of the world was quite literally my burden to carry. 

How does one form a healthy sense of self when you are given contradictory messages about your identity from a pre-pubescent age? The short answer is that you don’t. 

These covert messages from the church that have been deeply woven into my personhood show themselves in ways that are hard to combat. I often worry that I can’t reveal too much of myself to anyone with the fear that somehow my personal shortcomings and existential crises will throw them off their own axis. I have this confused narcissistic idea that my anxieties and doubts will hold equal weight with other people and that I must protect them from myself. I hide myself because I have an internalized sense of over-importance. On the other hand, I will also keep large parts of myself hidden away due to my worries that I will be dismissed and invalidated because what I experience is deemed illegitimate. By keeping my vulnerabilities concealed, I wouldn’t have to face how unimportant and irrelevant they are to others. I also hide myself because I have an internalized sense of worthlessness.  

As I was pondering my months-old revelation, a woman dressed in a seemingly expensive pencil skirt suit and red-bottomed stilettos sat down at the two-person table only 3 feet from mine. We smiled politely and I suddenly found myself feeling deeply insecure about my backpacker-looking attire, “hippie stuff”, and my clearly evident aloneness. Soon thereafter, this woman leaned over, asked what I was drinking, and told our server that she would have what I was having. We did not speak again, not even as I quietly cried to myself looking at photos of a too-beautiful-for-words glacier somewhere in New Zealand, but in that moment, I realized that she and I truly aren’t much different. She, too, was a solo traveler looking to kill time with a glass of wine, and maybe even ruminating on her very own personal revelations. 

There’s no place quite like an airport to establish an equal playing field. I’ve napped on the floor in Dubai next to businessmen who are likely far more powerful than myself. I’ve sprinted to my gate in Las Vegas with an optometrist who felt like my comrade. I’ve stretched out my traveler muscles via downward dog in Istanbul next to a family of five all dressed in their traditional garb. And once I even shared a bed with a perfect stranger that I met in the El Paso airport when our plane had to make an emergency landing close to midnight. 

All bets are off, and anything goes in airports. The beauty of it is that we all just seem to give one another the benefit of the doubt, pay no mind to the differences that separate us, and accept each other for who we are. There is no need to feel an obligation to hide parts of myself due to feelings of over-importance or complete worthlessness. There’s no sense in feeling like I need to protect other people from myself or keep my self-preservation walls erected tall and strong. I get to be anonymous knowing that not one person around me cares about what I’m wearing, what I believe, or even what I used to believe. Not because I am worthless, but because I simply just get to be a fellow Human. This may sound depressing, but conversely, it feels beautifully liberating.

The last few years, my greatest challenge has been constructing an identity that comes from me alone and learning how to simply be okay with myself. Sitting at that table in the Phoenix airport, lost in my own deconstruction-centered thoughts, while being sufficiently ripped off, I experienced a small taste of that. I was all alone, wearing clothes that I feel the most Myself in, drinking wine, enjoying my very own company, and simply just being. 

Perhaps our everyday world should begin to adopt some of the airport culture I have grown so fond of. A place where no one is too important that their beingness throws off everyone else’s stability, while still being a meaningful and worthy contribution to the overall environment. I hope that one day in my real life, I will feel as utterly shameless and empowered as I did while publicly brushing my hair at a gate in Beijing. We are all on a journey of our own, trying to be okay with ourselves, and get where we’re going. And isn’t that the crux of the human experience?


The Chronicles of Village Life: Celebrating Eid

June 5th, 2019

Today marks the end of the month long fasting for Muslims called Ramzan or Ramadan, the festival of Eid. No, I am not very familiar with the tenets of Islam. (And, in all honesty, I am just as ignorant about most things Hinduism too. The only time I actually dug deeper into the religion I most closely associate myself with is when I was researching for my next book.)

I don’t have a bucket list. But I do have a list of things I’d love to do, if I ever got a chance.

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Jama Masjid, Delhi

Visiting Jama Masjid on Eid is somewhere on that list. It wasn’t to know more about Islam, just as meeting Santa Claus isn’t about exploring Christianity. It was about experiencing the unfamiliar, about appreciating another religion just as much as one’s own.

 

Growing up, by some strange twist of fate, I never had Muslim friends. I studied in a convent and had a close group of friends who were all Christian. The only introduction to Islam was from a distant watching batch-mates and colleagues from a distance while they disappeared for prayers every Friday or refused to eat anything the whole day during a certain month of the year. Islam was largely something I was ignorant about and whatever little I knew was from Bollywood films where a bunch of kohl-eyed, kurta clad men flex their biceps and wiggle their waists while they chorus ‘Eid Mubarak!’ The jubilation is infectious and we viewers hummed in unison. But unfortunately, this does nothing to dispel the stereotypes and the misconceptions that abound about Muslims, or in fact, about the festival too.

My only verified information about Ramadan till now was that all cafes and restaurants remain closed in Dubai and even non-Muslims aren’t allowed to eat in public. Fortunately, I didn’t stay in Dubai long enough to be subject to such torture of not being able to eat or drink outdoors for a whole month.

However, what I couldn’t experience even from a distance I got to witness up close. This past month, throughout the month of Ramzan, I was able to appreciate the festival for the sentiments and beliefs it is about.

An interview of author Nazia Erum (which I had the privilege of watching in person, being the official camera person) was a wake up call for me. Her statement ‘Every year, I am asked, which Eid is this?’ made me feel guilty. ‘I never ask what is Holi and what is Diwali,’ she said, causing me to hang my head in shame, albeit silently and secretly, even as I stood behind the camera, trying to look busy tinkering with the camera controls.

Yes, I had no idea which Eid is which, and why are their two Eids. I didn’t know why the month-long fast is observed. I had never bothered to know more than the names of two Eids – Id-ul-fitr and Bakr-id. It wasn’t about being too busy, but, in fact, more so about not caring enough.

This past month, each day, I’ve made an attempt to understand Islam a little bit more. And it goes well beyond responding with a Waale-kum-assalam! (In all honesty, I still end up saying Namastey or Hello, out of habit.)

What I hadn’t known till now was more than compensated for by experiencing it first-hand.

Each day, they end their fast with a meal called ‘iftar’, which consists of a few delicacies and the mandatory dates.

I’d been seeing pics of all the inter-faith Iftar parties being hosted in Delhi, and I was experiencing a major bout of FOMO. All those incredible people to meet and make friends with, all those delicious dishes to sample and savour, and all those wonderful conversations with people – all of which I was missing out on.

Truth is FOMO is a hoax of gigantic proportions. It makes you crave for something you don’t have while missing out on what you really do have right in front of you. Here was me, relishing treats in the company of my host family in Brambe–sipping on cool Roohafza, munching on pakodas and samosas- all the while scrolling through my Facebook feed, wishing I was a part of the inter-faith iftar party.

It took me a week before the big realization dawned on me. I was part of such an inter-faith party myself!

I, a Hindu, had been welcomed into a Muslim home to join them as they broke their fast each day.

I, who had eaten to my heart’s fill at breakfast, and again at lunch, and was already famished by evening, was sitting with them as they partook their first meal of the day.

For me, it was nothing more than an evening snack. For them, it was nothing less than Allah’s blessing.

I was already following a self-imposed rule of not eating until they had all taken a first bite. After the big realization of this being my own small inter-faith iftar party, I began to appreciate it more.

But another such huge moment of revelation came much later in the month. It was an experience I am not likely to forget easily.

I was sitting at the table, with the elderly couple–the founders of the school that I have joined, and my hosts–whom I address as Uncle and Aunty, sitting across from me. The table had been laid out in a buffet style and we all had our plates piled up with the delicacies that had been prepared. Uncle and Aunty began saying their pre-iftar prayers-their eyes closed, their murmurs barely audible. I sat there, watching them, waiting patiently. I wasn’t that hungry, at least no more than them. It was then, while watching them, that a strange feeling washed over me. It was a moment when I felt immense peace and calm. I felt one with God. I felt as if someone was watching over us that very moment – hearing and heeding the prayers being sent to Him. It was a moment when everything in the world retreated to the background for one second. It left me with an inexplicable feeling that at this moment everything was right with the world.

The prayers ended and we dug in with gusto.

Today, on the occasion of Eid, I remember how I’ve always wanted to celebrate the festival but never got an opportunity. I remember that day, when I felt that strange peace envelop me as I watched my hosts say their prayers. I value being part of an inter-faith Iftar party, of my own, each day.

Today, I truly appreciate the food I have on the table, the people I have around me to take care of me in an unknown village, the family and friends I have back home, and the love that surrounds us all.

I don’t consider myself as remotely religious, identifying myself as an agnostic, and seeking refuge in identifying myself as spiritual instead, even as I take special joy in celebrating major festivals from different religions.

And that’s when yet another big realization dawns on me.

Being part of an inter-faith iftar, or wanting to know more about another religion, isn’t about understanding their different traditions and customs but about celebrating the similarities about all religions instead. It’s about learning tolerance, perseverance, self-control, and about spreading love and joy-something integral to being human, irrespective of the God you pray to.

This Eid let us remember nothing else but love and joy, and make a conscious effort to spread it all around.

May Allah shower his love and blessings on you. Eid Mubarak!


Featured Image Courtesy Sudarsan Pattnaik’s Twitter Account

My New Favorite Disney Essentials

The fiancé and I went to Walt Disney World at the end of April – no running this time! We actually went purely for vacation (what an enjoyable change of pace)! The last time I was at Walt Disney World for the International Flower and Garden festival was when I was a 20-year-old on the WDW College Program, so it definitely looks quite different now, 13 years later.

When we go to Disney (or on any trip for that matter), I’m very conscious of my daily baggage (#scoliosisproblems read more here). Crossbody/small messenger bags tend to work best for me as I can change which shoulder I carry them on to lessen the strain on my shoulders and back. I often get some discomfort at the end of a long day – especially after walking 10+ miles in the parks for multiple days in a row with a not-so-heavy-but-heavy-enough purse, but as I get older I’ve unfortunately come to expect the discomfort.

On our last few Disney trips, I’ve stuck with a black crossbody purse that could easily stay around me when on, oh let’s say Rockin’ Rollercoaster (girl’s gotta have her priorities). I always dramatically whittle down the contents to just the Disney Bare Necessities: a slim wallet, chapstick, bandages, a pen, and a water bottle. Even as light as those items are, the weight that the purse brings down on my shoulders is a lot over the course of multiple days running through the parks.

I spent the last few months looking for the ideal Natalie Disney bag, mostly scouring Amazon during my daily commute into NYC. With about a week before the trip I found it: a Peak Gear slim one-strap backpack.

A backpack wasn’t originally what I was looking for, but knowing how crossbody bags affect my upper body I figured I’d give it a try. It was also less than $20 – such a deal! There’s one zipper compartment with pockets for a phone and pens as well as a slim zip pocket on the front. At one point I had all my essentials, plus my hat and both our running rain shell jackets – I barely felt the weight! Granted, it was a little bulky, but weight-wise it wasn’t bad at all. It’s very easy and convenient to swing around to the front of your body (without taking it off!) to access the main compartment. It also works well for putting Disney pins on – my paranoid self was too afraid of losing pins (those things are expensive!) so I put our Happily Ever After button on instead since it has more of a secure clasp.

Best of all: during our trip and when we returned home…no back or shoulder pain! I barely even had to switch which shoulder the backpack went across – something I do frequently with a cross body in an attempt to more evenly distribute the weight. The padded strap definitely helped too. I’m so incredibly thrilled by how well this backpack worked for me!

My other new favorite Disney essential: a HYDAWAY collapsible water bottle. Even a small plastic bottle adds more weight than I’d like to my bag, so I decided to try this one. Worked like a charm! There are so many bubblers around WDW that we were easily able to fill it up at any time during the day. The circumference is a bit larger than your standard coffee mug and it collapses down to about 3/4 of an inch high. Often times we’d fill up the bottle before leaving our room in the morning or before hopping in line for an attraction, and would polish it off easily and stash it right back in my backpack. This bottle also helped us stay hydrated more evenly throughout the day – we’d fill up about once every 60-90 minutes. As runners, we know the importance of staying hydrated in the heat and humidity and how dehydration can wreck havoc on your system (Side note: we also had Nuun Hydration in the room which we’d sip on in the mornings and evening before leaving for the day. Electrolytes for the win!). I couldn’t recommend the HYDAWAY more – I was so happy it worked so well for us and was worth the $25 investment.

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We also finally invested in a charging bank (loved this one – capable of 4 full charges!) which came in handy when you’d find your phone battery low after scouring the My Disney app for more fast passes, which we did…a lot.

I can’t wait to plan our next trip (looking at you, honeymoon!) and bring all these fun new travel toys along!

Version 0.47 (Drawn Back in Time)

03/24/19

Hanoi continues to surprise. The juxtaposition of old and new, aged and modern is more remarkable here than anywhere I’ve ever been. Perhaps that is because I’ve never traveled to a “developing country” before, or perhaps because I’ve never been to one with an economy growing at such terrific speed—~7% annually, which is absolutely stupendous. I’ve written before how everyday I see the beginnings of a new building; whether it’s the destruction of an old one, a hole in the ground for a new foundation, the skeleton of a new building and the sounds of the laborers ringing out from the depths of the hollow structure; or the renovation of an older one, concrete patios and balconies being chiseled away by jack hammers.

I’m sitting in Hanoi Sandwich House thinking about all this, and just now I am struck by a smell in the air that is drawing me back into the life of a past self: my high school years and those couple of years after graduating as I floundered about confused, with no direction, and without purpose (some things never change!). It is not just a particular time that I am brougth back to, but a very specific place that I spent many hours of my life in during this period, also: Pedal Pushers Bike Shop. It is a smell I smelled so often as a teen, and a boy in my earliest 20’s from spending so much time in the repair station of that shop. It is a chemical smell, like a cleaner or a lubricant, and a not unpleasant one at that. And so I’m drifting back in time twenty years or so, and I see the tires—some old, some new, some hanging from hooks on walls, others littering the floor or propped up against a wall, and still more protruding from the open mouth of a trashcan. I see the brake and shifter cables and their housings, the assortment of tools used for repairs, cardboard bits strewn around the floor, empty boxes leaning against the walls, the repair stand in the middle of the floor—the hub that everything and everyone must move around—the faces of friends, their voices joking, laughing, shit-talking; music that I no longer listen to or enjoy on the stereo; cheese-steaks from Jeno’s atop their paper bags that they were picked up in on the work surfaces; old chains dangling from the lip of the trashcan; inner tubes hanging from the ceiling… All of this from one peculiar smell in this sandwich shop. A smell that is no longer. A smell that came and went like a dream, like the memory of a past life that seems so much like a dream, but which unlike a dream I remember so vividly.

My Delhi Newcastle

Step straight into Delhi right off one of Newcastle’s busiest streets. My Delhi is the newest Indian street-food restaurant to take Newcastle by storm. Located on Clayton Street, this streetery is inspired by the vendors of Delhi with an all round authentic vibe from the interior to the dishes.

 

On arrival we walked into the vibrant restaurant greeted by the lovely staff at the mini bar area. We were taken over to our table where we picked our drinks. I was dying to try their cocktails which mimic similar flavours and tastes in India. I went for the Mango Daiquiri costing just £6.95. This was a mix of mango puree, lime juice, sugar syrup and rum poured over ice. It was super refreshing and exactly what I expected this Delhi style cocktail to taste like. My brother ordered the Delhitini off the mocktail menu. This was just £3.95 for a lychee juice based drink blended with rosewater, club soda and topped with rose petals. Delicious!

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Delhitini and Mango Daiquiri

The owner came over and was so helpful with our orders. He recommended some of the house favourites and took into consideration what our palettes liked. He also told us about the passion behind the business being an authentic themed restaurant. The chef grew up in Delhi and designed the menu to mimic the flavours, spices and food back in India. The interior also played a role in this authenticity, with pained walls to look like the streets of Delhi and even a tv behind some shutters with a live feed of Delhi.

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Authentic Indian interiors

After seeing amazing things on their Instagram page we were excited to try the Delhi Daredevils. These are a Russian roulette style dish where £4.50 will get you 6 cold crispy puris drizzled with a medley of devilish chutneys and topped with sev. Two of the 6 are filled with hot and spicy chutney but that’s the aim of the game…luckily we each had a hot one.

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Delhi Daredevils, a Russian roulette kind of starter

We then got served our mains which we ordered a starter each to come alongside. I went for the Ram Ladoo Pakora. Three crispy fried pakoras were stuffed with potato and daal costing £4.20. My brother ordered the Aloo Tikki again priced at £4.20 and this small plate was a large potato based patty served on a bed of chickpea masala and inspired by the Street Hawkers of Sarojini Nagar in New Delhi.

 

They were both amazing. We both loved the Aloo Tikki which was bursting with different flavours. We also shared a further small plate dished called Gobi Manchurian. This was again a delicious combination of Manchurian sauce mixed with crispy fried cauliflower. Totally recommend this dish if you go! Something really different yet superbly flavoursome.

The main curry dishes we ordered were the chicken bitter chicken 1950s. As told, this popular dish is a hit already with us Geordies. The authentic flavours of one of India’s most famous curries is a chicken tikka cooked in a rich creamy tomato curry. It was absolutely amazing. A really creamy yet spice infused sauce was perfectly cooked. I teamed this dish with Dum Pilau Rice which was priced at £2.90 and the curry was an extremely decent price of £8.95.

 

My brother went for one of the vegetable curry options. After a few recommends from the waiter, he went for the Kolkata veg and potato Dum Maro Dum. This dish is just £9.95 which I think is a great price for what is included. You get a dish of slow cooked rice mixed together with either meat or veg (our dish was veg and potato) served with raita and salan sauces on the side. We also shared a garlic naan bread which was more than enough for two. I would definitely recommend sharing a nann because you get 4 slices.

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Amazing food!!

I honestly had an amazing night. The food was so authentic, flavoursome and could tell it was fresh. My brother (who likes to think of himself as a bit of a curry connoisseur) said it was the best curry he has ever had in Newcastle. The staff were so so lovely, they took the time to explain everything and the concept behind their business and you could really sense their genuine passion for their amazing restaurant. I cannot recommend My Delhi Newcastle enough! Super food, super vibes, super Delhi!

Christo all afloat

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http://www.nationmultimedia.com/detail/art/30370359

Christo, in red, oversees construction of his artwork “The Floating Piers”. (Photo/Kino Lorber)
Christo, in red, oversees construction of his artwork “The Floating Piers”. (Photo/Kino Lorber)

Christo all afloat

Art June 03, 2019 01:00

By Michael O’Sullivan
The Washington Post

A new documentary takes a frustrating peek behind the scenes at Christo’s ‘Floating Piers’

THE 2016 art installation titled “The Floating Piers”, a bright yellow walkway temporarily constructed on the surface of Italy’s Lake Iseo via a system of 226,000 buoyant, interlocking polyethylene cubes, was meant, according to the artist Christo, to create the illusion that visitors were literally walking on water. The loose, almost fabric-like structure of the piece undulated with the waves, like the back of some giant, serpentine sea creature on whose spine you were riding: a tame Loch Ness monster in marigold skin.

The artist Christo, centre, in the distance, is photographed while standing on his artwork “The Floating Piers” in a scene from the documentary “Walking on Water.” (Photo/Kino Lorber)

But as the part fascinating, part frustrating documentary “Walking on Water” makes clear, the experience was far from a purely aesthetic one. Once it opened in mid-June, after the preparatory screaming fits and arguments documented by filmmaker Andrey Paounov in the weeks leading up to the opening, there were long lines, unbearable heat, cold rain and even a lost child that organisers – and visitors – had to contend with.

At one point, Christo – who first conceived of “Piers” in 1970, with his wife and collaborator Jeanne-Claude (who died in 2009) – threatened to shut down the whole thing early because of safety concerns about the number of people flocking to it.

Christo, who at the time was reported as saying that long waits were part of the experience, also describes “Piers” as something Zenlike on camera. And while it may have ultimately been so for some visitors – once new crowd controls were put in place, and the project’s round-the clock hours were dramatically curtailed – Paounov’s film does not make it seem like very much fun.

Christo, in red, oversees construction of his artwork “The Floating Piers”. (Photo/Kino Lorber)

Rather than focus on the engineering and logistics of “Piers,” which actually sound really intriguing, the filmmaker trains his camera on general bickering and whining instead – about what kind of chain to use or about how to get Skype and other technologies to work right – to an almost unpleasant degree. Christo is a colourful character, with some very set opinions about how things should be done. But a little yelling goes a long way. And scenes of the artist’s nephew (and project manager) Vladimir Yavachev trimming Christo’s unruly eyelashes with scissors feel like filler.

Only the last 10 minutes or so of the film make “Piers” look like something anyone might regret having missed – or like a fond memory, if you’re one of the estimated 1.2 million people lucky enough to have walked on water. Otherwise, the documentary might make you believe in miracles, considering how tedious – if not impossible – this interactive artwork comes across.

14 Writers, 1 Prompt: What’s Your Definition of Family?

Image source

My father cuts fruits for us every day, without fail. At 9pm we munch on slices of pear and watch Japanese news because it’s the only channel worth watching anymore. The cat ignores me yet again to lie down in front of the TV. Sometimes my mother makes a disparaging comment about Japanese fashion being weird, but that’s fine. It’s still fun to watch.

This is what family is to me, I guess. An uncomfortably hot evening spent in silence again and again. No grand gestures, just plain old routine. That’s what families are built on, anyway. A routine that repeats and repeats and before you know it, a quiet love is forged.

– Anonymous

A family is made of ink. Ink that is unwilling to smudge even when fingers brush over them tirelessly. Ink that first settles itself into the pages of picture books, in the form of cats and dogs. As you grow older, the cartoon animals morph into flowers, and into stars and planets, and into Chinese characters, eager to teach. Occasionally, the pages would be empty, and remain empty for days, except for a single wine stain at the corner of a page. Occasionally, the words are angry scrawls, taking up half a page and goes on and on until your vision blurs. Occasionally, there will be childish hand-drawn castles and queens on the pages, because somehow big sister is capable of changing the world.

The ink slowly makes its way onto your body. It hurts when it does, all those tiny metal needles, but you really want that big, pretty castle and its queen on your skin, because you are capable of changing the world. You really want those flowers you received once upon a time, because you also learnt about the Victorian Flower Language, and how those yellow cinquefoils mean ‘beloved daughter’ and you wish to immortalise that. You really want those stars to fill out the blankness of your skin, so you could be a sky where an Aries and a Sagittarius could exist together at once, because your brothers couldn’t be pried apart even with a crowbar. And all those pages that still write themselves, understood. A family is made of ink.

– Anonymous

Family is a sense of belonging and trust when you surround yourself with the right people. To quote the ever so cheesy line from Lilo and Stitch, ‘Ohana means family. Family means nobody gets left behind or forgotten.’ As cliche as it might sound, I think that this line describes family fairly accurately.

To many, family is a genetically similar bunch you’re related to, who share the same blood and so on. However, I define family as people you grow with, who you confide in when you feel emotionally down, and most importantly, the ones who  are there for you not just at your peaks, but during your lows as well. To me, when I’m around people whom I call family, every ounce of happiness and comfort becomes amplified in the best way. They make me feel like the downs in life are temporary and make the highs last so much longer. Family gives meaning to my existence and nurtures me to become a better listener and caregiver not just to others, but to myself too.  

– Joyce Chin

Family,

Sometimes bonded by blood, but sometimes not.

The warm voices that greet me the moment the front door unlocks.

Those looked-forward-to fancy birthday dinners and celebratory splurges,

Shopping trips and homemade Sunday-morning breakfasts.

Family is shouting matches and cold wars,

Those days of which I absolutely abhor.

Arguing about who gets to ride shotgun,

And sulking after someone else won.

Family is made of arms that hold you together when you feel like shattering,

Those who see you at your most unflattering.

Gentle hands that brush away your tears.

Hands that clutch yours, through all the fears.

A ‘ping’ from an incoming text that helps you get through the day.

With family, I can find my way.

– Anonymous

They say blood runs thicker than water, but I believe that a family doesn’t really have to consist of blood. Sometimes, your own family is a mere social construct of what people think and associate families with. Sometimes, your “real” family makes you feel insignificant, like you don’t belong or you feel left out. We don’t have to be literally related to be considered family. For me, family is a group of people you truly belong with. People who are willing to set differences aside and let you thrive among common interests. It’s a union of sorts. People can find a family anywhere – among friends, strangers who could be your new friends, maybe their own relatives, their pets, their lover, their colleagues etc. As long as that group of people makes you feel like you’re meant to be there, with them, then they’re family. A true one, actually.

– Natasha

It’s effortless connection,

The selfless desideratum to watch another succeed,

It’s unconditional,

The laziest of all bonds,

But also, the strongest.

– Nimue

At a very young age, i had realised that family isn’t only a bond forged by blood. Family isn’t just your parents and your siblings. Family branches out further than that. Family is anyone who stays by your side. To me, family is anyone who’s there when your world comes crashing down. Family is anyone who understands your pain when no one else seems to notice a thing. I recently came across a quote, “ A stranger is family who you haven’t met yet.” That quote resonated with me. That quote made me realise that actions truly speak louder than words and anyone who is willing to make an effort to be there for you when you need it the most, is family.

Families come in all shapes and sizes – that’s the beauty of it. You’ll know that you’ve found your family when they love you for who you are, regardless of your faults and shortcomings. A dear friend, a beloved pet, your neighbour even – anyone who gives you a sense of belonging and peace, is family.

– Nabilah Hassan

A family to me is a group of people who are always there for each other and willing to support or lend a helping hand even in the toughest of times. It doesn’t necessarily have to be people you’re related to, there just has be that love and inseparability within the group, and the sense of togetherness that unites everyone in it.

– Alex

Family doesn’t always have to be from the same line of blood as you are. Family is people who you share a sense of belonging with, whom you are comfortable with. Family are the people who tell you you’re wrong when you’ve done a mistake but also tell you that it’s okay to make those mistakes. They remind you of who you truly are. It’s important to have family not just at home but among your friends and others around you. It reminds you that you are needed and you have a place in this world when you feel like you don’t.

– ASIRAH BINTI ABDUL KADIR

I would argue that just as it is within human nature to nurture, build and love, it is also within our nature to destroy and hurt. As imperfect beings, we cannot escape from the human condition which is to be loved and to express it; to feel pain and to inflict it.

There’s something to be said for prerequisites of a healthy good to bad ratio. (I wouldn’t use the term “no matter what” because abuse and manipulation exist.) It’s just a matter of balances and compromises. But at the end of the day, family are those who you can be the most human around.

– Fajar

She stands on a ledge,

Minutes before her mighty fall,

The end to all suffering,

The thought which has been conquering every waking moment.

Today is a good day to die,

She closes her eyes,

A sharp breath,

Pause.

She walks away, the other direction,

Back home now child,

Your mother is waiting for you,

She’s got hot curry for supper and a warm hug to give

Family is what she goes back to

On the worst of days

The darkest of nights

Even with soulless eyes.

– Yumitra K

The actual definition of family is often the people who are related to you by blood – parents, siblings, anyone born bearing the family name. It can even be your aunts and uncles or cousins. Family is often the group of people we originate from. Or well that’s the case for those who have immediate family. What about orphans? Those who often do not know who their parents are? For them, family would be their caretaker in the orphanage or other orphans they treat like siblings or friends. Family for us sometimes can also be our best friend and our best friend’s family. So what exactly is the definition of family if its categories widen with every new prospect? In my own words, family is where a person feels like they’re home. A group of people who make you feel comfortable and safe, who would go to any extent to save you from a crisis and worry the most about you… they are family. Care and love come naturally from the people who treat you like family. It can be your mother, sibling or friend. Family does not narrow down to just blood-related members, at least according to me. It is anybody who would treat us like their own and who are there when we need them. Family is a foundation for someone to grow from. A foundation if shaken, impacts the whole life of a person.

– Mugilaa Selvaraja

A family is a nest. A nest where we humans are born, a nest where we are reared, a nest of vulnerability. Fully seen and fully known by all who share the same nest. There is nothing to hide. A place where we can be our truest selves with no fear and no shame.

A family is also a training ground where our potential is incubated and given the room to explode. A ground where we can trust their applause because we have heard their true criticism. A place where we can grow to be the best versions of ourselves.

– Christine Sitambuli

Family love knows no bounds, it transcends the metaphysical beliefs of the universe, and acts as a binding force that leverages the whole of humanity. Just like how a tree is rooted down to the ground, you are rooted to your origins – your family; even if you lose your way, you’ll find your way back home, to where one is protected, nourished, loved. When you have family, you have everything.

– Jessie Gan

What I have learnt so far.

I thought I would do a summary of what I have learnt on my journey so far, you are welcome to journey back through the old blogs, but in case you don’t want to here you go:

  • Carbs are your friend

I was one of those people that was scared of carbs, and thought they were to blame for me not losing weight. So at one stage during my journey I cut them out completely. Not a good idea. Don’t be scared of carbs, you will need them on your journey ?? Once I started having carbs again, I lost weight the following week.

  • Take the time to look after yourself

If you are pushing it hard at the gym and doing more cardio or weights than you would normally, don’t forget to take the time out to relax. I am always one that will not stretch or I didn’t really see the importance of it until recently. I have now started getting massages and relaxing whenever I can. Now I can’t believe I had waited till now to get a massage, what have I been waiting for? They are great!

  • It’s not just about food and exercise, but your stress and sleep too

If you don’t look after your stress levels or get a good night’s sleep. This is another cause for not losing weight. I remember weeks when I was eating right, doing normal amounts of exercise and STILL not losing anything. What I am learning is it is more a mental game than anything else, as they can all cause you to not lose the weight.

I started a night routine of having epsom salts in my bath, going to bed and praying or you can meditate for 10 – 15 minutes, then I read my book if I still can’t get to sleep. I have tried to not use my phone an hour before I go to bed. This has helped a lot, and am now finding myself less stressed and tired than before.

  • It’s not going to happen overnight

As you can see from my journey, it doesn’t happen overnight. Even if the weight is lost quickly, your mind has to catch up to it as well. This process I have learnt takes time.

I also recommend trying not to compare yourself with anyone else. As girls, we tend to do that a lot more than we should. I just tell myself that everyone is on their own journey and we will all reach our goals in the end. It has taken me 3 years to be able to do a push up, so good things take time, and persistence. ??

  • The number on the scale, is just a number

This number, my life has been run by this number for a long time. I am trying not to focus on it, but I understand that it is hard. But now I know that it can go up, and you could have put on muscle and not fat. Just keep it as accountability, not letting it define you. Currently still learning this, but working on it.

 

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P.s This is Poppy – the newest addition to our family. She is now 6 months old (bigger than the picture above.) She loves eating all the things she shouldn’t, but I wouldn’t trade her for anything ??

 

Wake Up

“Insomnia has been my companion since I woke up. You see I woke up somewhere just like here. But, it wasn’t here, not really. There are a number of times I’ve woken up in other places. None the same. None as bad as there,” Collin said staring at his clenched hands.

Father Kris interrupts, “Collin, is it? We usually start with ‘Hi, my name is – and I’m an addict.”

Collin starts again, “Hi everyone, my name is Collin and I’m an addict. Like I was saying I’ve woken up in all sorts of places. Worlds with no sun, but a bright blue moon, and really warm ground, I liked that one. The people there were nice. They didn’t try to kill me at least.”

The ring of eight other men and women looked perplexed.

“Though, one of them did bite me. But I later learned not to shake their gill hand. They don’t like that. Nope, not one bit. Where is that place? Have any of you been there?”

Everyone glances around the group. Simon piped up, “Nope. What the hell were you taking?”

Fighting through his fatigue, “Ummm, I think we called it speed? Do you have that here?” asked Collin. He continued before anyone could answer, “But it wasn’t the high that sent me there. When I passed out after a three-day bender, I woke up in that horrifying place.” He shudders, “Scared, so fucking scared, I looked out at what I can only describe as hell. There was the rancid smell of sulfur, valleys of fire, rivers of lava, but it was cold. So cold I could see my breath and feel my bones rattle. There were screeching huge three-eyed demonic looking creatures that soared in the sky. When they look at you, you kind of feel your soul, your life, you really, whatever it is it slips away. They were like shape-shifters that take the form of loved ones when they land. You’re mesmerized. I felt like they were eating my soul in front of me, I was dying, in a way, I had never even thought of, let alone imagined before. Out of all of the places I have been this was by far the worst. I always wake up somewhere else feeling half-dead, cold, and alone.”

A mouse could be heard in the far corner of the room chomping on a cracker.

Collin continued, “Now, I try to return home. Every time I wake up, I’m somewhere else. It has been ten years since I’ve seen my family.” He released a protracted yawn, “But when I find a place that reminds me of home I go to an NA meeting. Or is this called DAA? Drug Adicts Anonymous? Whatever. They’re always here. Every place I wake up. Except there. But I always come because Penelope always came. And I’ll know I’m home when I see her.”

Looking around the circle of men Collin sighs, “But, I guess I’m still not home.” His hands bury his face. He sobs.

Father Kris walks over to console him.  With a hand on Collin’s shoulder as he squats in front of him, “I thought you looked familiar. Every week Penelope comes in asking if we have seen you. Well, a much younger looking you in the picture. But it is you. There is still a kindness in your eyes. She was here yesterday. I’ll call her. She’ll be overjoyed you’re here.”

Lifting his head locking eyes with the clergyman, “Wait what?!” blurts Collin. “She was here?”

“I am here,” the circle says as one. Father Kris’s third eye opened and closed. Penelope’s radiant beauty reached into Collin’s soul

Marvellous Midlands

We left Wales and headed to Birmingham as I was desperate to experience the famed rag market. IMG_6829

Yes, there was a lot of fabric!IMG_6831

Yes, I was overwhelmed!IMG_6832 2

No, I didn’t buy anything. We went over the road to the Fancy Silk Store, which wasn’t terribly fancy from the outside.IMG_6833

But inside, oh my word! Floor to ceiling fabric, of every possible kind.IMG_6834 2

I was extremely happy, and fabric was purchased!IMG_6839

Then we became tourists in Birmingham. We have been before and I’ve previously blogged about it, but I really like this photograph with the juxtaposition of the old and new, and the moody sky.IMG_6840 2

We did visit the museum and Queen Victoria Square, and I was intrigued to see the Knife Angel which was made from knives turned in all over the country as part of the knife amnesty. What a fabulous initiative. knife sculpture

We then went straight to Malvern in Worcestershire which is where my sister lives. Malvern is a rather splendid place and well worth putting on the to visit list. Views are to be had from almost every vantage point. This was taken on one of our walks

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On the way back we noticed this very cute thatched cottage. IMG_6867

The houses around Malvern are very beautiful and many of them, including my sister’s, are built from Malvern Stone. I’m not sure what this building is, but it’s built from the local stone and it has this crusader on the side. I’m sure it’s been added, but it’s had me intrigued.

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Malvern is extremely historic, and although most of the buildings are Victorian, it has many connections to both the iron and bronze age with forts set into the hills. The Malvern Hills dominate the landscape and all the Malvern stone used in buildings was quarried from the hills. The town was founded in the 11th century when Benedictine monks established a priory at the foot of the hills. Then the health benefits of the spring waters was discovered and, as in many other towns we’ve visited, the village turned into a conurbation of small villages as the visitors flocked into the area to “take the waters”.

These photos give an indication of the spread of Malvern.

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On a clear day you can see up to thirty counties from the top of these hills.

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Zooming in provides a view of some of the older buildings nestling at the bottom of the hills.

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It is quite a hike to the top of the hill and the fields are shared with livestock which adds a bit of interest.

There are many signs such as this one around the town as the reputation as a hydrotherapy spa spread. I was sad to note that Charles Darwin’s daughter died aged 10 in spite of her treatment.

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The pure spring water filters through the cracks in the rocks, which are some of the oldest in England having formed over 650 million years ago. The “cure” appears to have been quite interesting. Patients (victims) were treated to some natural hydrotherapy cures which had been imported from Bavaria and fame spread rapidly after a gout ridden alcoholic was cured. The treatment lasted several weeks – no quick cures as that meant less financial reward, I assume – and patients were got out of bed at 5am and wrapped in cold, wet sheets or had a jug of water tipped over them (beginning to sound like boarding school to me!), then they had a “cold douche” where water was poured over them from a height of 20 feet. Apparently the patrons of the method included Florence Nightingale, Alfred Tennyson and Charles Darwin. Then they all died of pneumonia from “the cure” and the whole thing petered out. No, just kidding!

I did like this poster that I saw in the town though.

IMG_7002Very close to my sister’s house is the North Malvern Clock Tower.

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This was built over one of the original wells and spring water still spouts from the wall. I don’t think it’s recommended that it’s drunk though.

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Just walking around we came across some ancient stocks and a whipping post used on local miscreants. It’s incredibly overgrown with weeds, but that whipping post still made me feel a bit shivery.

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Malvern is also famous for being the home of Edward Elgar. He lived in a few houses in the area and there is an Elgar route that one can follow to see all the Elgar sights. I quite like this statue of him looking out over the town.

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As we wandered around we had to cross many stiles and I was intrigued to see that there were dog friendly stiles as well. Here Mark is lifting up the section of the fence that lets dogs run underneath. I have never seen this before and I was quite impressed.

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We had walked back and forth up my sister’s street and I had seen this shop’s sign but not really noticed what it was. Then we came down the hill beside it and my eye was caught by a thimble and cotton reel turntable and a couple of old sewing machines. In I went and it’s a vintage shop with a whole room of vintage haberdashery. I was in heaven! I can really recommend it to anyone visiting Malvern; it’s where West Malvern Road meets Cowleigh Road.

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Another spot worth visiting is the Abbey, with this beautiful archway and a set of gorgeous buildings around it.

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One of the nicest things about this trip is all the lovely people I’ve been able to meet in real life.

Ali is a friend from Instagram and apart from being a lot of fun and a beautiful maker, she is a celebrant and has a fairly busy life. I was so delighted when she found time to have a coffee with me, and although we had lots of really sensible photos, this one just perfectly sums up the time we had!

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I also caught up with Kim, who I’ve known for a fairly long time through various online sewing activities. I loved catching up with her, meeting The Management (her husband) and seeing her sewing room. Kim was a professional maker before her retirement and her sewing is exquisite.

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Kim lives in Bewdley and she told me where to go to see the sights, and I took her advice. The park behind the museum is just gorgeous. Lovely manicured gardens, stone walls and lots of history.IMG_6937

There’s a little pond with water lillies and a weeping willow and utter gorgeousness.

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This rather magnificent tree is just made for climbing. Unfortunately it’s now fenced off but that didn’t stop Mark from making me jump the fence and pose in front of it!

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There is even an Anderson Shelter, or air raid shelter, and it was fascinating. IMG_6940

Here is an old cheese press which rather intrigued me. You can see how the wheels are formed.IMG_6945

A walk to the river highlights the kind of buildings dotted around BewdleyIMG_6956

and I bet in summer this area is packed with people enjoying the outdoors. it was a nice day, in spite of what the sky was doing, and there were still lots of people around.IMG_6957

As we walked back to the car past some houses I noticed this sign. It says that the ferry was first mentioned in 1323, and was originally pulled across the river using a rope. There is much made of the history of the ferry, but I’ll skip to the end which says that the river flooded and the ferry was destroyed in 1996. IMG_6964

The prow was “planted” in this garden as the last resting place of the ferry. I quite liked this story, a little cheesey but sort of fun. IMG_6965

Just opposite we spotted this sign, which also made us laugh.IMG_6969

We called in to Worcester, which seems to have more charity shops than regular shops and I didn’t find anything I wanted to buy. I did find this little pony though…

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As our visit to the Midlands ends, we had some catchups with my family. Unfortunately I didn’t manage to get photographs of all of us, as I get too carried away and forget to take them, but I did capture this one in the Hanley Swan at Hanley Castle. From left to right is my nephew’s wife, my great nephew, great niece, nephew, Mark, sister and me. IMG_7018

Sadly, this part of the journey is over and London is our last destination before we fly home. I am looking forward to reacquainting myself with my family, my friends, and my sewing machine – not necessarily in that order!

 

My May Favorites

May was a pretty slow month for us. It seems like the month itself went by quickly, but we didn’t do too much. We mainly spent our time obsorbing as much Disney Magic as we could before our blackout dates kicked in. So I really don’t have a ton of new discoveries for the month. That being said, I did come up with a few things that I really enjoyed and wanted to share them with you.

Old Key West Resort- Walt Disney World

We had the opportunity to stay at the Old Key West Resort  (OKW) at the beginning f the month to celebrate Nadia’s 7th birthday. If you’ve never heard if the OKW, it’s Disney World’s first DVC (Disney Vacation Club) resort and it is one of the most beautifully laid out properties I’ve seen for a resort. The property itself is absolutely huge and is very spread out but luckily there are conveniently located bus stops that you can ride to get to different parts of the resort as well as take you to the parks.

We stayed in a one bedroom villa that was located towards the back of the property. We were on the second floor of our building and had an amazing view of a little preserve area from balcony.

The villa was the perfect size for the seven of us to sleep. The bed was very comfortable and we loved having the ability to make all of our meals (we even made a birthday cake) right in our room. Overall I’d say that it was probably one of, if not the, best hotel room I’ve ever had. I’d highly recommend spending the extra money and staying in a villa if you’re planning on taking a family or larger group to Disney. It’s totally worth it.

Made a family bed

We’ve thrown around the idea of a family bed for a while but we finally took the plunge and made one big family bed. We put together two queen size beds making one giant bed perfect for all of us to hang out in. It’s going to be the perfect place for all to lounge and have family movie night.

Started early morning workouts

I’ve always been kind of hesitant to commit to waking up early and workout but in May, I gave it a shot and I am so happy I did. I’ve been waking up at 4:15 every morning and heading to the gym for my 5am workouts. I’ve found that my workouts just feel way more productive, and I have way more energy to burn throughout my day. So this has probably been the best thing for me this whole month.

New Face Primer- Maybelline Master Prime by Facestudio Blur and pore Minimize

I ended up having to buy a new face primer this month, after a certain three year old boy ( we shall not name names… Nolan) decided it would be a great idea to squeeze all of my other one out on the counter to paint with. Well this turned out to be a good thing in the end because I ended up trying the Maybelline Master Prime. I’ve really enjoyed this primer so far. I’ve never had a bad problem with my pores looking large but I can see a bit of a blurring and pore minimizing effect when I use this. Plus I really enjoy how nicely my makeup lays on top of it.

 

 

 

 

Discovered the joy of short – C9 Champion Mid-Rise 4′ boy shorts

I live in Florida, and it’s hot. Not like “oh it’s hot” more like ” HOLY CRAP IT’S HOT!” kind of hot. So wearing leggings aren’t always the best option when going to the gym where you’re going to get all hot and sweaty and then have to walk through extreme heat and humidity to get to the car. So I finally broke down and bought a pair of the C9 Champion shorts. Now I wear shorts all of the time, some of them are pretty dang short, but these are probably the shortest, most form fitting shorts I’ve ever owned. That being said they are probably the most comfortable shorts I’ve ever owned. The are made out of a super soft and stretchy material which makes them perfect for working out in. They aren’t overly thick or hot. Overall, they are just awesome shorts to wear. Plus they make your butt look good. So, they are pretty much the perfect shorts. It did take me a minute to get past my self-consciousnesses of wearing such form fitting short shorts but once I was past that, I was fine.

New setting Spray

Again, thanks to certain toddlers in my house, I needed a new setting spray this month as well. I ended up nabbing the Malani Make It Last Setting Spray. Overall, it’s a nice setting spray. It smells great, feels nice and refreshing, and makes my makeup melt into my skin perfectly. I have no complaints about. If I had to pick one thing I like most about it, I would say that I love the smell.

Found my favorite dress

When we went on our Disney World Vacation to celebrate Nadia’s birthday, the first day was also Dapper Day at Epcot, so I had to get a special dress for the occasion and I think I make have found my all time favorite dress. I went as a Minnie Mouse bound for Dapper Day in a red 50’s inspired dress with white polka dots all over. I absolutely love the fit of this dress! It has a pretty form fitting top with an A line skirt that hits just below the knee.

I bought her from a local store called Subculture Corsets and Clothing here in Jacksonville. They have tons of amazing vintage and goth inspired clothing and accessories. So if you’re in the Jacksonville area, or passing through, I highly recommend checking them out. They also have a website, but the selection on that is a little more limited. Check them out on Instagram to see some of the other amazing items.

 

I’d love to see some of your May Favorites, so post them in the comment section below or tag me over on Instagram. Make sure that you join the G&G fam before you head, just click on that follow button over to the right. And don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Instagram for more updates and to see what we are doing.

 

Come Lord Jesus!

“’Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.’ Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates.” (Revelation 22:12-14)
The ideals of the United States and most of the nations of the world focus on freedom from oppression, want, hunger and fear. Rulers, politicians, and governments maintain that they seek to provide and maintain justice and equality for all people. Yet all their efforts, all their striving to produce a peaceful and perfect world fail. Those elected or appointed to positions of trust and responsibility fall victim to greed, succumb to pride, and give way to corruption. Though successful by worldly standards, they are really losers for they think they are in control, not God.

True freedom or joy is found not in laws that are designed to foster equality for all or promote autonomy and self-determination, or the ability to make free choices. The source of joy and true freedom is found in these closing words of the Book of Revelation: surrender and total submission to God who loves us. Here we encounter vital words of admonition and encouragement from the Lord Jesus. He encourages us to remain faithful, to persevere in loyalty to the Lamb of God in the midst of persecution, suffering, sacrifice and loss. God’s outpouring of wrath upon sinful humanity will shortly occur. These dark times we will endure in this period of pain and suffering will be difficult unless we hold fast to the light of Christ and that vision we have seen of our reward. If we persevere, we will receive blessings and joy beyond what we have ever imagined that will more than make up for what we have lost for the sake of faith in Christ.

Jesus Christ alone has the only true and permanent solution for all the world’s troubles. And He has entrusted that key to us, His church: the gospel of salvation found only in the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. May we ever be faithful to uphold and preach this truth.

Trinity Lutheran Hicksville

Myths about solo travel

Are you mad to travel solo? Who will take care of you? I think it is selfish to travel alone when you have a husband/wife back home? I would like to come but I don’t have time? The world is dangerous, especially to people who travel alone? Does any of this sound familiar to you, especially when you decide to take a holiday and that too alone. And the best one is the sound inside your own head “ you will be lonely”. Just like any other person I had all these misconceptions about travelling alone. Before my first solo trip, I would imagine the world to be a very bad and dangerous place, movies like hostel added to the drama in my head. I thought it will get very lonely, sad, I won’t even last 2 days, etc. But I wanted to go and see the places, and nobody had time when I had time. So I thought if I don’t go and keep waiting for others to align with my plan then I might have to wait all my life.

One day I decided to inform friends that I am travelling and whoever was free can join me. I did not care even if I had to go alone, and as expected nobody had time so that became my first solo trip.

6.jpgIn my very first solo trip I realized travelling alone was awesome, I was never alone, I had dropped my inhibitions, nobody cared how I looked or behaved, there was no judgment of any type, everybody accepted everyone as they are, I ended up making some awesome friends some are still connected and some have dispersed in the web of time who hope to meet later in some junction of life.

So for all of you who think that solo travel is not for them because it is dangerous, lonely, etc. let me take this opportunity to debunk the myths.

Myth1: If I am travelling alone, I will be lonely.

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Loneliness is one of the most depressing things to happen to a human being if you don’t know how to enjoy it. And yes there will be times during your travel you will feel lonely, but then that happens to all of us even in a crowded city like Mumbai. So it is more of a state-of-mind which you have to overcome. When you travel alone and if you drop your inhibitions you will end up making more friends in one week on the road than you would have made in one year back home.

And you will be surprised to know that like you there will be many more people travelling alone. These days I see more and more females travelling alone. And it is really encouraging to see from a travellers point of view that the world is becoming a safer place for females. Thanks to social media you can find online communities that are specifically for solo travellers, where you can share your travel plans and connect with other travellers who are in the same region during that time. If there are any updates from that region you can post or they can post and be connected. I never feel alone during my solo trips. It is really funny that during my solo trips I feel like taking some time out for myself and read a book.

Myth 2: Solo travelling is only for singles

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Most often than not we believe that if you are in a relation everything needs to be done together or there is something wrong between you two. And I used to think that is true until I started travelling and meeting people who were in relations but doing solo travel.

Their reasons would be as simple as both wanted to see different things based on their interest and it is totally fine. Many relationship experts say that is totally healthy. Sometimes one partner cannot get a holiday from work while the other has, or maybe one partner has decided to take some time off to do soul-searching on a solo adventure. There are times when one partner takes off early and then mid-way during the trip meets the other half. Just because you are in a relationship doesn’t mean your life no longer exist. In fact, travelling solo can make the relationship even stronger.

Myth 3. You must be really courageous to travel alone

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I used to think people who travel alone are very brave and cool. But later a friend of mine who travels alone more often than not told me it is scary for him too during the first trip. After all, we all are humans and we don’t know what to expect. The same thing happened with me when I was going for my first solo trip. I was creating all negative stories in my head ( I guess that’s our brains’ way to keep us safe) and was scared like hell. Then later during my trip after meeting wonderful people and having some great experiences I was wondering why was I getting scared.

And that’s when it hits you that you don’t have to be sure of everything or very courageous of everything, you just need to go with the flow and see what happens and on the way learn to deal with the situation and have fun.

Myth 4: It’s dangerous to travel solo, especially as a woman

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Have you seen the movie, Taken? The one where Liam Neeson’s daughter gets kidnapped in Europe and he kicks major butt and rescues her? Or what about Brokedown Palace, where Claire Danes get thrown in Thai jail when a handsome stranger plants drugs on her? Thanks to Hollywood this is the image that gets created in our minds when we think about girls travelling solo. It is not surprising that women are told not to travel alone.

Remaining safe on the road is all about believing your instinct, behaving abroad like you would at home. Would you get super drunk alone at a bar at home? Would you walk around alone at night? Talk to the locals at your guesthouse about what you should watch out for, and practice common sense. What kept you alive at home and keeps you alive on the road, too.

Check of some blogs that I find very interesting will inspire all the women to travel solo: Alex in Wanderland | Me! Be My Travel Muse | Young Adventuress

If you are a woman then travelling solo is safe and doable. Millions of women travel solo. Over a period of time, it turned out that solo travel is not dangerous, boring or lonely as I used to think in the beginning. I ended up discovering new facets of my personality, being able to hold a different point of views in my head and be perfectly fine with it, learning to see the society or stories from another point of view. It is always great to go to any place you want and do what you want without having to wait for someone or answer to someone.

7.jpgAs years pass the solo traveller keep increasing. There must be some reason, hmmm wonder what?

Summer, Sand, and a Lifelong Sprain

When I was seven years old I sprained my ankle. The pain was excruciating, but what was worse than that was being told by the doctor that I would have my foot in a brace for a majority of the summer. The same summer my biological father planned to take my siblings and I on a road trip in his new RV. My parents divorced when I was very young, and from what I can remember, this road trip was going to be my first opportunity to see him in a while. Needless to say, my heart was shattered. I quickly realized that all of the fun adventures, beach trips, and summer activities I couldn’t wait for were effectively ruined. My father and big sister, Rachel, were finally coming to visit and I was going to spend all of my time with them on the sidelines. Watching the fun from afar…

How little I knew.

I can’t remember much about the day my father and sister pulled up in the RV to collect my siblings and me, other than we were ecstatic, of course. Hugs and laughs were shared, plans were discussed, and goodbyes were exchanged. While all of this was happening my siblings and I stampeded into the RV, eager to see Rachel and start our grand family adventure!

The road trip itself consisted of lots of beach stops, ice cream sundaes for lunch, animated movies…and tears. I could be so obnoxious as a child. Each time we would stop at the beach I’d sit on the shoreline, my foot wrapped in a plastic bag to keep the sand out of my brace, and just pout. While my siblings danced and played in the waves I envied them from afar. Instead of being grateful that I got to spend time with my dad and family I was being a total martyr. So much so I think my dad decided to end our road trip adventures early. Instead of traveling around the country, or doing whatever it was he had planned, he took us home to his house for the summer instead.

Fast forward a few weeks. By this point we had all settled into my dads place in, if I remember correctly, the state of Oregon. The house was decently sized, one level, and sat somewhere with a lot of red dirt surrounding it. I don’t remember my dad being around a whole lot, I think he actually spent most of his time working. I don’t really know. What I do remember though is having to spend time with an awful nanny while he was away. She was crass, bossy, and horribly boring. I remember her forcing me to spend the majority of my days sitting in a lounge chair; her excuse being that I should stay off my foot as much as possible, otherwise it wouldn’t heal properly.

Yea, right. Even at the age of seven I was smart enough to understand that she just couldn’t be bothered with having to put effort into looking out for me. For this reason, I spent most of my days rotting in front of the television. I don’t know where my brothers and sisters were. Rachel, who is about 12 years older than me, was already in her teens and most likely with her boyfriend at the time. She was, and still is, a total catch – so it didn’t surprise me to find that most of her time was often preoccupied by boys who doted affection on her. In fact, as a young boy who was already aware of his own sexuality, I was rather jealous. I couldn’t wait for boys to pay attention to me like they did Rachel, or even my own mother who also happened to be a head-turner.

Several more weeks passed, each once seeming longer than the next. In all that time I was still bound to the lounge chair, thanks to my bull dog of a nanny. In her defense though, my foot did heal up well and much faster than either the doctor or I could have anticipated.

Summer was halfway over by this point and now my brace was finally able to come off. The relief felt incredible. I still had a little more healing to do, and I was now required to wear some weird boot that held my foot in place, but it beat being immobilized! No longer could my nanny insist that I spend all of my time sitting in front of the television. What was even better was knowing that I could now partake in all of the fun my siblings were having. While I was never really alone at any point, being forced to sit in front of the television for all that time made me feel like I was in isolation, so I’m sure you can imagine how excited I was when my sister and her boyfriend invited me to go swimming with them one summer afternoon.

If you can’t, let me assure you by saying that I utterly ecstatic. I can’t remember how much time had passed since I was last outside, and this was my first opportunity to get in the water that summer. To make things even better I was going to get see Rachel’s boyfriend without his shirt on, who I had a mad crush on. The day was going to be nothing short of perfect. Rachel and I excitedly tore through the house in search of our swimsuits, socks, and my sneakers. for some reason, we could only find one out of the two shoes for each pair I had packed with me, but we didn’t care. We hastily got dressed, Rachel helping me slip on my mismatched shoes, and we were off!

On our way to the swimming spot I was so excited, I could hardly contain myself. I was quite the spazz as a child and I remember deliberately making a fool of myself in an attempt to make Rachel and her boyfriend laugh. Which they did, a lot. However, that excitement quickly turned to regret once we arrived at our destination.

Rachel explained to me that we would be going swimming, but she didn’t tell me that we would be swimming in a river. With a current. What was worse than that though was how we were going to have to get in it… by jumping. I was mortified. I had never been swimming in a river before, let alone jumped into one from a bridge. The amount of fear I felt was ridiculous and I’m pretty sure it was that same fear that made the current of the water look like it was traveling at 100mph and that the jump from the bridge was at least two stories high. Of course, when you’re a child your depth and perception are easily magnified by your emotions. Not that I knew this at the time.

I turned to Rachel with a series of questions. “what if the water carries me away?”. “What if it’s too strong for me to swim against and you lose me forever?”. “What if I die from the fall?”. Any efforts I had made before to look cool in front of Rachel’s boyfriend were ruined by this long list of “what ifs”. They both laughed at me. Not because they were being insensitive, but because I was being totally irrational. The two of them spent several minutes trying to coax me into jumping, assuring me that I would be find, but I wouldn’t budge. Finally, they gave up and decided to jump in themselves. I was so ashamed. I watched the two of them laugh and swim from the top of the bridge like the scaredy cat I was. After several minutes of feeling sorry for myself, Rachel snapped me out of my haze of self pity by calling up to me. “Just jump, Caden, you’re going to be fine. We’re right here. Just swim to me!”. I groaned while I tossed the idea around in my head. I really didn’t want to jump, but I also didn’t want to look like a scaredy cat loser in front of my sister. Or her incredibly hot boyfriend. This was my last chance to prove to him that I was cool, so I jumped.

The fall happened so quickly that by the time I was able to register that my feet had left the bridge I was already under water. I came rushing up, gasped for air, and immediately began crying for help. “Rachel! Rachel! Help, the water is too strong! I can’t swim to you Rachel! It’s going to carry me away, Rachel! Rachel!”. I waved my arms and panicked as the water gently pushed me down stream, my fear had totally gotten the better of me. “You’re going to be fine, just swim sideways to the shore!”. Rachel called out, all while her boyfriend laughed in disbelief. I felt so ashamed of myself. For a moment I couldn’t help but think that drowning was going to be better than facing the humiliation that came with reaching the shore safely, which I inevitably did. I don’t remember the rest of the day spent by the river, nor I do I remember seeing Rachel’s hot boyfriend again after that embarrassing experience . I’m pretty sure he had decided I was too high maintenance for any of their future adventures.

The rest of that summer is a blur, and while I don’t feel that the story in this first post is significant to this blog I believe what I’ve discovered about myself that summer is. We all have have insecurities or wish we could change some part of ourselves, whether that be physically or mentally. For me, what I’ve recently discovered about myself and now truly wish to confront is my victim mentality. Ever since I was young I’ve felt the urge to victimize myself. I romanticized the idea of being a helpless damsel who would then have someone come along, preferably a handsome man, who could swoop me up in his arms and make all my problems disappear. As I got older this fantasy became toxic. It changed the way people perceived me, what’s worse than that is how strongly it changed my perception of myself. I went from fantasizing about being a damsel to actually turning myself into one. I began to believe I was truly hopeless, that I really wasn’t capable of doing anything, and that the world owed me something for constantly taring me down. This warped perception and absolute feeling of loneliness created an insatiable need for attention which, of course, attracted all of the wrong kind of people. specifically men. Instead of attracting the healthy minded superhero of my dreams I found myself in the arms of men who were just as out of check with reality as I was. Part of me always knew this, and in most cases I was never even attracted to the men I’d end up with, but I had become a slave to the insatiable need I created and so I would stay. I would allow myself to live in these toxic relationships. I would lie to myself about my true feelings, I would lie to my friends, my family, coworkers, or anyone who was willing to give me time.

months turned into years, and the years turned into a decade, and with all of that time I had done nothing but jump from one bad relationship to the next, or move from one state to another, in attempt to escape the truth of what it is I’ve been doing to myself for the last ten years. Every time things would start to fall apart, or I would begin to realize I could no longer stand the lies I was feeding myself, I would twist the truth. I would make myself a victim and complain to all of my loved ones about how what was happening to me “Just happened” or that the man I was with was nothing short of crazy and manipulative. I would do this until I was even able to convince myself that this fabricated reality was in fact the truth, and I had gotten alarmingly good at it. No longer was I lying to myself or my loved ones, I believed I was telling the honest truth. The madness I created had entirely consumed me and for a long while I no longer knew what was real and what wasn’t.

I’m writing all of this today, and choosing to share it with you, because I’ve recently and finally woken up. Several months back I made a huge life altering decision. One that not only affected me, but my previous partner, and my family as well. In one of my many attempts to run away from myself I decided to quit real estate school, throw away several years worth of real estate experience, and tons of my parents money and effort just so I could run off into the world to “find myself” and at the time part of me really believed I was doing exactly that. It wasn’t until several more months had passed that reality, the TRUE REALITY, of what I had done sunk in. What was even scarier than that was being forced to realize that I could no longer run away from it or myself. I had thrown away my life and everything I had worked for, I lied to my parents and cost them a fortune in the process, and now I was stuck in a relationship I didn’t want to be in on the other side of the world. I had no one turn to because I had to lied to everyone, even my partner, who was all I had left.

I felt hopelessly trapped. How could I allow myself to use up and throw away so much? I spent years convincing myself that the world was a nasty place and that I needed someone to protect me from it; but the truth is my friends and family needed protection from me. I was the monster. I was taking my friends and family for a ride, using them for what they had, and then tossing them aside anytime they would begin to disagree with the lies I told myself. Having no where else to run left me with only one option. To sit in the mess I had made and to face it head on. No longer could I blame my shitty upbringing, the series of unfortunate events that took place in my life, or my “manipulative” ex-partners. Everything that had happened, and has happened, was all my doing. This realization sucked all the air out of my chest and just about fried my brain. I never wanted to be this person, but somehow I had become the nightmare I’ve spent the last ten years running away from, and I couldn’t hide from it anymore.

I moved from the states to New Zealand to be with my new partner. I never really loved him, but that never stopped me from making abrupt and sudden changes before. I lied to myself, my friends, and my family about my feelings and what it was I was even doing. I bought a plane ticket, I quit my job without notice, packed up my life, and ran away to marry someone I knew I didn’t want to be with. I shared a bed with him, allowed him to develop feelings fore me that I couldn’t reciprocate, and secretly suffered in silence any time he tried to lay with me. I was horribly miserable and I felt utterly alone. There wasn’t a single person in my life who knew the truth about me, how I was feeling, or what I really doing.

Finally, I snapped.

My heart spun out of control and my brain shut down. I screamed, I threw things, and I threatened to take my own life. When that wasn’t enough I drank myself into a blackened out state. I smoked until I couldn’t see straight. It still wasn’t enough. The tears and rage continued to pour out of me, and my poor partner couldn’t even begin to help because I had been dishonest with him from the start about what my problems really were. I wasn’t doing what I was doing because the tremendous amount of grief I’ve been carrying with me, I was being self destructive because I was ruining my life and hurting people in the process. The reality of this was too much to take. I didn’t know what to do with all the pain, so I took it out on myself. I heated up a lighter and I burned myself. Again, and again, and again until my right bicep looked more like a leopards front leg than a human arm. My partner was in pieces. He couldn’t begin to understand why I was doing what I was doing, and even when he tried to he never got close to the truth because he honestly believed me when I lied to him about my feelings for him.

I couldn’t do it anymore.

After the tremendous break down he reached out to my friends and family. He was concerned for my wellbeing and was quickly beginning to realize that whatever I was dealing with was too big for him to handle alone. It was decided that the best course of action was for me to start regularly seeing a CBT therapist and begin taking medications. For a very short while I went along with this because I was still too afraid to admit the truth. That I felt trapped and that I lied to everyone. Several more weeks passed but eventually it made it’s way to the surface. I finally realized I just couldn’t keep doing what I’ve been doing for the last ten years. I was costing people their time, I was ruining lives, and I was killing myself in the process.

The day I decided to tell my parents and partner the truth was terrifying. I had so much adrenaline coursing through my veins I was uncontrollably shaking for most of the day. Truth wasn’t just uncomfortable for me, it was alien. In a matter of one day I was going to blow ten years of lying, self deception, and false reasoning out of the water. The world I had created for myself was falling apart all around me and I was shitting bricks. Still, the relief that came in telling the truth was unbelievable. For the first time in years I felt like I could truly breathe again. It hurt, and I sure as shit didn’t feel good about myself, but I could breathe. I was free, but that was only the beginning. I couldn’t stop with just my parents and my ex-partner. In order for me to truly accept what kind of person I’ve become I needed to share my ugliness with the world. With the friends and family that stood by my side through thick and thin… I’m lucky to be able to say that, even after doing so, they are still here. They love and support me just as much now as they did before the truth reared it’s ugly head. Why? I honestly couldn’t tell you. What I can say though is that their love has given me the confidence to write about my experience and share it with you.

Now that the truth is out, and I’m finally able to be honest with myself about the kind of person that I am, I want to share it. I want to ask you to follow me on this journey of self discovery and acceptance. Together we can face the darkest parts of ourselves and force them into the light. I’m done lying to myself, and I’m done hurting the people that I love. No longer am I going to let my fear control me. From this day forward, I’m going to be unapologetically selfish and honest with everyone. Especially myself. There is so much I’ve wanted to do in my life, it’s about time I got the fuck out of my own way and did it. So this is it. I’ve dreamt about making this first post for years, and today it finally happens. I would have never have guessed that this would have been how. Where we see ourselves in the future and where we end up is almost always completely different. I thought by now I would be happily married to a successful man who was able to save me from myself and show me off to the world. Instead, I’m living in celibacy on a kiwi farm in rural New Zealand with less than $20 in my bank account. You know what though? I’ve never been happier and now theres at least one lesson in life I can say I truly understand. That lesson is this – The truth, no matter what it is, sets us free.

Paris: According to Us.

Christmas Day 2018 I was surprised by Mr P with a boarding pass for a flight from Manchester to Paris on April 1st 2019. I cried, not because the boarding pass couldn’t possibly be real, because for the second year in the row we had made the decision we were not doing Christmas presents; for the second year in a row I did receive a Christmas present, for the second year in a row Mr P did not. We do not spend Christmas Day together, choosing to spend the day with respective families but I am entering into a completely different type of post.

I can’t really think of anything nicer than a surprise trip to Paris apart from a surprise trip to Paris where your best friend MB, had also been surprised on the same Christmas Day, with the same boarding pass (albeit hers said from Glasgow) and we would be meeting in Paris as a four ready to spend some quality time together. The boys did good.

Where we stayed; The Apartment; The Area

I am a hotel girl, I love love love hotels. I can spend one night in a good hotel and feel like I have been away for a week. I love the feel of a hotel room, I love meeting in the hotel bar before you go out and I love the nightcap before you retire (fall in) to bed. I want to order room service and realise that the m&m’s I ate last night from the minibar cost more than my flight. A hotel it was going to be, until we started looking and we stumbled upon an apartment, just the one apartment in particular, Exclusive Loft in Le Marais, on booking.com. Once we had seen this, we couldn’t quite get it out of our head, it was booked. 

We were greeted by our host at the apartment, which was convenient and comforting. The host also adjusted the check in and check out times as best as they could to suit our flight times; this way we had more time to enjoy our break. We could not believe the location, bang smack in the middle of Le Marais, in the 4th arrondissement. Le Marais is one of the oldest neighbourhoods in Paris but is fast becoming one of the most fashionable. The streets surrounding the apartment were steeped in history, smells of food and wine, and fashion – the majority of shops surrounding our apartment were selling very pretty items from jewelry to beautiful cloths, materials and bags, but 90% of them were for trade customers only; very interesting if you are a buyer. 

The apartment itself was just wonderful. The front door opened on to a stylish kitchen and living area. The pictures we looked at on booking.com literally are exactly as the apartment looks in real life. There was a place to sit and relax, peruse one of the many books on offer. There was a dining table for the four of us to sit at. This was actually one of my favourite things and a serious selling point for us. We all wanted to relax as well as see Paris. The ability to get up when we wanted, without the pressure of having to organise the night before what time we wanted to meet for breakfast. The ease of this made our trip all the more pleasurable. As it went in the mornings, everybody got up exactly when they wanted. On the first morning I very much enjoyed five minutes quiet time just me and my coffee(freshly made in the fancy Nespresso coffee machine) on the sophisticated sofa, enjoying the warm bask of the feeling that I was in Paris. From that first morning and the continuing two, one of the boys went to the local boulangerie on the corner for croissants, pastries and baguettes.

The table was set, the coffee was made, the juice poured and we sat and ate and talked and laughed. For me this was a real-life point, a real memory; when something so normal is elevated it makes your soul feel good. We would then all get ready in our own calm time and by midday we would be out pounding the Paris streets, ready for the next sight, the next delicious food and definitely the next drink. 

After getting organised in our own bedrooms with wardrobe space, hangers, beautiful interiors, wonderful bathrooms. I will stop here and appreciate the bathrooms for a moment, they were both a great size and wonderfully decorated. Privacy with bathrooms is high on my life necessity list. Two of our party were particularly excited about one element of the bathrooms – the Dyson hairdryer. I wouldn’t like to say that it was the highlight of the break for MB, but think it was going to be hard for her considering it had reached such dizzy heights a matter of hours into our visit to Paris. 

What we ate

Anyway, after we had ooohed and aaaahed at the marvellous apartment we would call home for the next 3 nights and four days. We set out to explore. First, we were hungry and thirsty and not necessarily in that order. 

Our first port was about a 3-minute walk from the apartment to a very busy cross roads, that had at the heart of it a cafe Les Art & Metiers that currently had the sun beaming down on it. Luck was on our side, as we were being sent messages from home of the turn in the weather and possible snow in April, we managed to find ourselves seated at a table on the pavement, being warmed by the glorious sun. 

It didn’t take us long to decide that the drinks were to be champagne and beer, and the food order was to be four Croque Madames, we decided Madames over Monsieurs as we were famished, we wanted something to soak up the champagne and the beer, and we wanted sustenance for our ongoing afternoons stroll in Paris. 

The champagne was French, crisp and cold, the beer was large, cold and with perfect fizz. The Croque Madame was delicious, fresh, comforting and carb loaded. The waiter was attentive and perfectly Parisian. We could not have asked for a better first afternoon in Paris.  

If you were to ask the boys what was their favourite day or memory of the trip they would both say the Tuesday late afternoon into Tuesday evening. Earlier in the day, we had spent the afternoon on the Champs Élysées, ate patisserie at Pierre Hermé the Pierre Hermé x L’occitane to be precise. The patisserie was beautiful and delicious.

For us, Champs Élysées lacked the warmth that we had found elsewhere in Paris, if you are looking for large designer boutiques this is the place for you.

We decided to get the BatoBus along to Notre Dame, that way we could take in all the sights along the river, and look up at the all the awesome bridges, that punctuate the Seine.

Getting off the boat, we wandered a little looking at the little stalls that line the side of the river, selling books and art. I will be haunted by the old copy of the Hunchback of Notre Dame for €80, that I never picked up, we live and we learn.

I was desperate for a comfort break and I could tell that the boys were beginning to count the hours from the last time they had indulged in a beverage. I suggested that we pop in to the lovely, very Parisian looking bar, on the corner at the end of the bridge directly across the river from Notre Dame. La Frégate. As soon as we entered the bar, we all fell a little bit in love, with the dark wood, red leather, and bustling waiters, it was the Parisian bar we had been waiting for. We managed to get a table for four right in a corner by the window. The waiter was quick to attend and we ordered red wine and a cheese board for the girls, beers and Croque Monsieurs’ for the guys. As our drinks arrived, we looked outside and the heavens had opened, the rain was literally bouncing off the ground as we watched Parisians and tourists alike run for cover. Serendipitously we had decided to enter that bar at that time because within ten minutes every spare seat they had, had been taken by slightly soggy people. One glass of wine, turned into another. The food was delicious and typical of what we wanted to find in our Parisian bar, the bread was fresh and delicious, the cheese was strong and moreish and the red wine was intoxicating.

Second comfort break in and us girls arrived back at the table expecting to leave when it seemed the waiter and the boys were conspiring against us, or simply with each other, to stay and enjoy the atmosphere we found ourselves in. Our waiter was attentive and definitely made us feel at home, regaling us with tales from Paris to Brazil, and he also kept us happy with a constant feed of warm cheese Choux buns. I cannot tell you how good these were, little bites of fluffy cheesy heaven. There is no pictorial evidence of these little bits of heaven, so they or may not have existed, either that or as we were so well lubricated they never lasted very long in their basket. Needless to say we never made it inside Notre Dame to visit, instead we sat in the bar, talking, drinking, eating and laughing. Four friends catching up, spending time together, listening and responding. Did I mention the laughing? Literally thought we were the funniest people in the place. Eventually we left at 10.30pm after arriving around 5 pm. We walked back to our apartment (probably more staggered than walked) but not before we stood in front of Notre Dame complete in slightly drunken awe. The photos that accompanied this of three of my favourite people posing on demand in front of the beautifully lit monumental building are definitely among my favourite photos ever; since our trip I have looked at them fondly, not before laughing, at the sheer splendidness of that evening. 

In Montmartre, we settled into another corner table, this time a pavement table, in the sun; this time the complimentary blankets were greatly received and wrapped around our legs. We ordered small beers (to take the edge of the night before), French onion soup, a cheese burger and moules mariniere – a few more boxes ticked on our Parisian adventure. I never took the name of this restaurant, as we were still in a hungover just seen Sacré Coeur haze, so if anybody would be kind enough to tell me the name of the red restaurant on the right hand said of the square walking down from Sacré Coeur I would be grateful. If you go and see this restaurant, get the French onion soup or the moules.

Our last day also fell on MB’s darling husband, Mr B’s birthday so we planned a slightly more birthday-ish brunch than we had the other days – he would have been happy with nothing, which makes it all the more enjoyable to do in my opinion. Think cake, cards, sweets and the first choice of croissant. Anyway, we had until about 5pm that day to see and do what we wanted, so we decided on more walking which took us to a lovely lunch at the Louvre. The weather that day was one of those days where if you got a spot in the sun, then you could bask in it as it warmed you to your bones, if you got a spot in the shade then those aforementioned bones were positively jittering. It just so happened the one of Louvre restaurants has a balcony, The Cafe Marly, that is very well enclosed within the stone arches and its supporting pillars. The outside tables are nestled either in front of the balustrade or between the pillars.

It had socially set tables with comfy cushioned chairs; proper china, silverware and crystal wine glasses. You can have your lunch whilst gazing over at the awesomeness of the Louvre and all the building has to offer. The food was delicious for half of us and small for the other half, the other half particularly enjoyed the cocktails. I think the salads are a very good order, the Salad Nicoise was fresh, salty and delicious with the perfect egg on top. The Chicken Ceaser Salad also went down well.

There are definitely worse spots to sit and take in the majesty of Paris, yet also people watch at the ordinary happening around you as every tourist bustles to get the perfect photo. It was the perfect Paris lunch to top our few days, before we headed back to the airport.

What we did

Our destination on our first afternoon was to the river, via the Louvre and Tuileries Garden, and then on to the Eiffel Tower

As our chosen mode of transport was by foot, it was repeatedly commented that it was hard to get over the scale of the buildings both in their intricate detail and decoration, but, also their size. The boys could not get over the size of the Louvre , without even going inside and getting lost along its halls. Tuileries Garden in the beautiful April sun, which was reaching 21 degrees at this point was full of lovers kissing on benches (this happens a lot in Paris), co-workers having picnics on the grass, families enjoying time in the warm open air all the while tourists are buzzing round taking as many pictures with selfie sticks as they possibly can. Continuing our walk along the Seine it became even more apparent how good people are at using this city. There are locals in suits, dangling their feet over the riverbank with their bottles of wine and plastic cups enjoying an after work drink, there are many many runners up and down the Seine making you wish you yourself were a runner but then you don’t have the Seine to run on every day, and there is us walking, chatting, looking and soaking up every last ounce of sun and Paris river air. After stopping for another drink, at one of the many bars that appear along the Seine and the all important comfort breaks, we headed to the Eiffel Tower , who had been gazing down at us during our last twenty minutes or so of walking along the Seine. 

Mr B took it upon himself to be our personal navigation system, although at this point it felt like he was playing chase the Eiffel Tower. Either way he found us the best route in, I have been to the  Eiffel Tower before, but, previously I approached from the river side through the amusements and lucky lucky men. This time by chasing the Eiffel Tower Mr B had found the perfect side street to approach the Eiffel Tower, as if she was born out of the streets and grew into the sky.

Where she had always belonged but looked like nothing else around, a place that allowed her to be seen as majestic as she is. I know a lot of people, particularly Parisians would disagree, but I personally can’t quite get over the engineering feat, and I think she is beautiful. I also like sparkly things and when she lights up at night, she blows my mind. 

We all decided we were going to summit, this was something I previously did not do. My last experience was a lift to the restaurant, a lovely dining experience and back down again. I have to admit this time certainly took my breath away. After queueing for some time, we made it to our turn in the lift. The first lift goes up one of the legs, it had not occurred to me at this point that even the first level was quite high and the lift is perpendicular and could send someone quite queasy. Needless to say by the time I got out the first lift, I was feeling weird and when I looked at the mid-height bar that was between the people and the great outdoors it seemed my legs did not want to move. The other three in the party were absolutely fine and marched on ahead to get the next lift to the summit, stating we can look from this view on our way back down. I could not be the party pooper nor could I listen to them regale of the views they saw from up there, and the ‘you should have seen it’ ‘you would have loved it’ ‘I wish you had been there’ and so on and so on. So up they, and I, went. 

The summit lift, was the longest lift I have ever been in, and the noisiest, every clunk I envisioned the worst possible things. As my panic rose, the lift driver (would they be called a driver? an attendant? they seemed more important than an attendant) announced that we are at the summit. We stepped out and the first thing that hit me was the air, we had been lucky and it had been a beautiful day, the temperature had dropped this evening, it was still only April after all, but the air up here was clear, crisp and you were able to take in the deepest breath. For some of us this deepest breath was more important than for others. The picture and the presence of Paris was immense.

We arrived at the summit just after dusk, when the sun had just disappeared for the day so we saw Paris come alive by lights, for a magpie like me it took me to a very happy place. 

Talking of magpies, I have a serious gypsy gene that draws me to every sparkly, some would say tacky, I would say kitsch souvenir, that on after exiting the gates I have to succumb to one of the lucky lucky men, for a light up Eiffel tower. Now currently looking fabulous in our home. 

With tired legs and hungry tummies we decided we were too tired to walk home, the 16500 steps we had done that day had been enough. We walked towards the taxis when a little fairy light covered tuk tuk stood out to us and before we could say Bonjour Monsieur we found ourselves hurtling around Paris, listening to French opera music, lit by blue fairy lights and holding on for dear life. 

That little tuk tuk took us directly to the end of the little street our apartment was on, and stopped outside what turned out to be a wonderful café providing delicious burgers and fries that the boys ordered and brought back for us to eat with a glass of fizz, on the sofa watching Netflix after exhausting ourselves on our first day in Paris. 

The morning after the night before (the best bar in Paris) gave us a slightly slower start, we headed on foot from Le Marais to Montmartre. We found going on foot everywhere was, yes tiring, but you got to see parts of the city you would not have necessarily seen otherwise. Streets that held beautiful buildings that housed people’s homes, each area holding its own businesses and much different to the next. On the walk to Montmartre we knew we were getting close as the streets became steeper and steeper until we arrived at one of the staircases that leads to the Sacré Coeur, with a big inhale in and best foot forward we climbed the stairs.

Yes, I want you to think we were amazing for doing this with a hangover. I had never visited Sacré Coeur before, I had often dreamed of the soul and the spirituality, and it did not disappoint. Being an old romantic I could not wait to see what Sacré Coeur and the bohemian Montmartre had to offer. Everything about Sacré Coeur fills the soul. From the views that look out over the whole of Paris, the magnificent building itself from the outside, to the ethereal beauty inside. I am not a particularly religious person but I find a calmness and stillness that comes from a religious building very intoxicating. None more so now than Sacré Coeur. I enjoy and look forward to the moment you light a candle, and take a moment to think of the thing that comes to your mind, whether that be a loved one, a wish, a loss or a dream; to take pause is a wonderful thing to do.

After drinking in all the atmosphere Sacré Coeur had to offer, we headed to the cobbled streets of Montmartre. We turned a corner and there was a group of football supporters clinking beers and chanting football songs. There were kids running around the square, artists lining the street, with shop owners and waiters chatting and laughing, all whilst trying to barter you into their shop, restaurant or to paint you. Everything you would expect. We took it all in, perused the shops, buying the obligatory tea towels, perfect Lautrec prints, a snow globe (I love a snow globe) and a little wind up music box that I completely fell in love with. This little box, when wound, plays La Vie En Rose and can transport me right back that square. This magpie never leaves empty handed.

On the same day, once we had changed into our glad rags we were picked up by our taxi and swept through the crazy busy Parisian streets back towards Montmartre for the Moulin Rouge. The iconic windmill, not as large as in my imagination, draws you in to the Moulin Rouge doors.

The decor is gorgeous, like you have stepped into a 1940’s movie set, the lush red velvet enhancing the gold facades to create an atmosphere of glamour and grandeur.

The queuing to get in, held back by big burly bouncers all dressed in black slightly takes away from the glamour but all is forgotten once you are inside. The tables are packed in and the dinner service is pleasant, the food tasty and better than average, but fast and attentive is putting it better than abrupt. But you do not come to the Moulin Rouge for the culinary experience. We were well looked after, kept watered and were ready for the show when the time arrived. The show itself is as sparkly, camp and boobtastic as you would expect. The dancers, both female and male, are beautiful and talented, the other performers all amaze and draw gasps from the crowd. It may not be the Baz Luhrman spectacular but it is a spectacle and very entertaining. If you can sit back, enjoy the entertainment and the beauty then please go. 

How we got there and got around

The guys had booked us flights with Air France and it could not have been more perfect as we were due to land in Paris within twenty minutes of each other. The only downside for us was we actually flew out with Fly Be in conjunction with Air France , the plane was smaller than we thought, therefore, the carry on luggage we had did not fit, our luggage ended up in the hold. I will state at this point I have vowed to check in my luggage at all times now, the stress of fitting all of my toiletries into one of those teeny tiny little plastic bags to just be pulled aside for my case to be gone through is just an anxiety step to far from me, very pleased for the security but not for me. So its checked in luggage for me. The flights were pleasant and got us to where we needed to be.

We had pre-booked a taxi, but after a multi-lingual argument between myself, the taxi driver and his boss on the phone, the pre-booked taxi left without us in it. I had been told to book the taxi through booking.com, as it saves time at the airport, you know your transfer is sorted and it is often cheaper. Obviously in this instance it did not work out. I got half of my money back, I am still arguing about the other half. So read the small print before you think it is a good idea. 

Anyway, we were soon on our way in a very nice airport taxi, that actually ended up cheaper than the pre-booked taxi, and got us directly to our front door. All’s well that ends well. Those of you who have been to Paris before will know how far away Charles De Gaulle airport is from Paris City Centre. On a good day in a car this would take at least thirty-five minutes, when I was first in Paris five or six years ago it took about forty minutes, this time the traffic was immense. It took one hour and fifteen minutes for us to get to our apartment. The good thing is the airport taxis are flat rate, so the thirty-five-minute journey would cost the same as the seventy-five-minute journey. 

Apart from the taxi that took us back to the airport, we used one further taxi company on the night we went to the Moulin Rouge, G7 taxi, the service was online, quick, the driver was lovely and took us through the very busy Paris roads to the Moulin Rouge. There are many boat tours and buses that pootle up and down the Seine all day everyday, we chose the BatoBus as our means of travel for one day, it cost €17 each, and we could hop on and off as many times as we liked, as it sailed from Jardin Des Plantes down to the Eiffel tower and back again. Apart from that we walked, we walked and we walked some more. For us this was the best way for doubling up sight seeing and commuting. The average street in Paris is a sight in itself, you do not always have to go to the tourist hotspots.

If you see a little tuk tuk with blue fairy lights, belting out opera – get in, enjoy the ride and hold on tight.

Paris for me is…….

Thomas Jefferson said “A walk about Paris will provide lessons in history, beauty, and in the point of life”. To me this sums up Paris, Parisians are mingled in their everyday life among the tourists who are seeing all these things for the first time, I believe both are as equally in awe of this beautiful city. 

The architecture in Paris really does take your breath away. You could choose to not go and see any of the tourist sites and you would still be blown away with the architecture, the beauty and the history. It’s the very ordinary in the extraordinary. The city is there to be used, seen, lived in and enjoyed. If you haven’t been, yes take your wallet, but please go. Paris I love you and I will see you soon.

Paris is always a Good Idea – Audrey Hepburn

Pride Month TBR ??????

pride-tbr

Hello There

HAPPY PRIDE MONTH! ??????

As you might remember, I dedicated all of June 2018 to reading LGBTQIA+ books to celebrate Pride Month and I had such an amazing time doing that! So this year, that’s what I’m doing again.

A few days ago, my best friend and I were talking about Pride Month and she told me that we should do a 24h readathon for Pride Month, which is an amazing idea, as I haven’t been reading as much as usual this year. I also discovered Eloise @ Eloise Writes‘ blog recently and she’s doing a Pride Month readathon called Reading it queer, so I got really excited about that and made a whole TBR for it (what a surprise). The goal is to read at least one book with LGBTQIA+ representation, but you can also pick what you want to read based on nine reading prompts, which is what I’m doing!

So without further ado, let’s talk about the books I’m planning to read this month!

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» f/f relationship – Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters

I really wanted to read this book for Pride Month last year, but I ended up running out of time and being quite intimidated by it, so I really want to get to it this year. Tipping the Velvet is a historical fiction novel set in the Victorian era and follows Nan King, an oyster girl, who is fascinated by music-all phenomenon Kitty Butler and eventually meets her, which lead them to start having feelings for each other. I’ve seen so many people rave about Sarah Waters’ novels and I cannot wait to finally discover her debut, it sounds absolutely amazing.

» own voices author –  Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan

This book has been all over the book community in the past few months and it got me quite intrigued! Girls of Paper and Fire is an Asian fantasy about Lei, who is chosen to become one of the King’s concubines and is being trained in the palace in order to do so. However, she does the unthinkable and falls in love with another girl and this forbidden romance becomes enmeshed with an explosive plot that could shake the foundation of her country, Ikhara. I cannot wait to finally know what the hype is all about!

» bisexual character – The Brightsiders by Jen Wilde

I read Jen Wilde’s Queens of Geek two years ago and I really enjoyed it, so it is time for me to continue reading her books. The Brightsiders is about Emmy, a bisexual teen rockstar, who has to pick her life back together after being labelled the latest celebrity train wreck. This is my first read of the month and while I haven’t read much, I’m really enjoying it so far!

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» asexual or aromantic character – The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee

I was waiting for the perfect occasion to read The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy and at last, I have found it! This novel is a follow-up to The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, but follows Felicity Montague, a young woman in the 18th century, who wants nothing more than to enroll in medical school. When  possibility opens, Felicity leaves on a ship for Germany with a mysterious girl and becomes part of a perilous quest. Mackenzi Lee is one of my favourite YA authors and one of my biggest writing inspirations, so finally reading this one is going to be amazing, I already know it.

» recommended by a friend – The Edge of the Abyss by Emily Skrutskie

I read The Abyss Surrounds Us a while ago, but never got around to continue, probably because I don’t read post-apocalyptic novels very often. One of my uni friends recently read and adored the duology, so she motivated me to continue and it’s happening this month! I mean, this is a f/f post-apocalyptic duology with lesbian pirates and sea monsters, what else do you need?

» a book with additional rep – The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins

This novel set in 1826 follows Frannie Langton, maid to Mr and Mrs Benham, as she goes on trial because she was accused of her employers’ murder, but no one really knows the truth. Frannie then tells her story, which starts in Jamaica and continues with a forbidden romance in England. It sounds like such a gripping novel, so I cannot wait to dive into it and figure everything out!

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» a genre you don’t normally read – Going Off Script by Jen Wilde

It might not look like it in this post, but I rarely ever read YA contemporary novels. The last one I read was Dear Evan Hansen: The Novel and that was in… November 2018, so that’s why Going Off Script fits in this category. As I was saying, I’m trying to catch up on Jen Wilde’s books and the blurb for this one is “A TV writer’s room intern must join forces with her crush to keep her boss from ruining a lesbian character”, so basically, yes, YES, I am reading this. I love the settings of Jen Wilde’s novels so much.

» m/m relationship – Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

This is everyone’s newest favourite book and I need to know why, it is everywhere. Red, White & Royal Blue is about Alex, the son of the President of the United States, who is forced to become friends with his nemesis, Henry, Prince of Wales, as it could help British/American relationship as well as his mother’s reelection bid. However, they end up falling for each other. *gasps* So we’re talking about enemies to friends to lovers, which is my favourite romance trope, I hope I’ll love it!

» trans or non-binary character – I Wish You All The Best by Mason Deaver

Last but not least, I’m really excited to discover I Wish You All The Best, another book I kept seeing everywhere even before its release! This one is an own voices novel about Ben, who comes out to their parents as nonbinary and is thrown out of their house afterwards. Moving in with their sister, Ben wants to go by unnoticed, but meet Nathan, who becomes their friend, then their feelings for each other change as they grow closer. It’s been said to be both heartbreaking and joyous and has such amazing ratings on Goodreads so far, I can’t wait!

What are you planning to read in June? Are you participating in any readathon?

lots of love

Of Western symbols and Thai icons

?????????????????? : ????????????????? : ???????????? The Nation

http://www.nationmultimedia.com/detail/art/30370516

Of Western symbols and Thai icons

Art June 04, 2019 13:25

By The Nation

In the fourth edition of its rotating art showcase, boutique hotel 137 Pillars Suites & Residences Bangkok brings multi-award-winning artist Jirapat Tatsanasomboon to the Baan Borneo Club and Louie’s Tiffin Grill on level 26.

Celebrated for his colourful pop-art juxtaposition of iconography from traditional Thai narratives and Western symbolism, Jirapat continues to explore the cultural interactions between East and West, and Modern and Traditional in a new set of artworks.

Born in 1971 in the Samut Prakran province, Jirapat uses the humour of pop art to examine the positive and negative sides of cultural exchange, confrontation, and interaction. These inter-cultural experiments have resulted in an extraordinary mix of characters and situations that evoke much dialogue in his audiences. Mythical figures from the Kingdom’s epic Ramakien feature alongside Western cultural icons such as John Wayne, Barak Obama and Marilyn Monroe to explore the issues of class and abuse of power. In other works, he has re-interpreted familiar paintings by celebrated masters Andy Warhol, Van Gogh and others as a commentary on Thai society.

Jirapat completed his bachelor’s degree at Chiang Mai University with a thesis painting titled “Foreign Intervention”, which was also awarded the Grand Prize for Contemporary Art in the 3rd Panasonic Contemporary Painting Exhibition in 1997. In 1999, he acquired a master’s degree at Silapakorn University with a thesis painting titled “Green Goblin vs Maiyarap”, which was also awarded the Grand Prize in the 4th Panasonic Contemporary Painting Exhibition in 2002. Other accolades followed including awards at the Toshiba Thailand’s Contemporary Art Competitions, and 2010 Sovereign Asian Art Prize.

He has also participated in numerous prestigious art shows in Thailand and internationally, including Asia Art Now at the Korean Cultural & Arts Foundation (2003), Tradition & Modernity in Southeast Asian Art, New York (2006), Visions of East Asia 2008 for the Olympic Games in China (2008), The Indian Art Summit (2009), Art Monaco (2010), and Arteclasica 10, Argentina (2010). In addition, his paintings were on display in ArtScience Museum in Singapore as a part of the “Andy Warhol: 15 Minutes Eternal” exhibition. He was the only Thai artist featured in a recent book published by Thames & Hudson titled “100 Painters of Tomorrow”.

Find out more at (02) 079 7000.

How to make chocolate cake stuff

How to make chocolate cake stuff

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Cakes is one of a variety of cakes and delicious desserts that you can serve as snacks with tea or coffee. If you are eager to make chocolate cakes at home, cook with chocolate cookies with you.

Ingredients Cupcakes

  • Wild biscuits 1 and 1/2 cup
  • Sugar 3/4 cup + 1.5 cups
  • Instant coffee 1 spoon
  • Melt butter 1/4 cup
  • Pure Cocoa Powder 1/3 cup
  • Starch 3 tbsp
  • Cream cheese 250 g
  • Eggs 4 pcs
  • Vanilla 1 teaspoon
  • Chopped Walnuts 1-2 cups
  • Chocolate chips 1/2 cup
  • Tap 2 spoons
  • Marshmallow melted 1/2 cup + 1/4 cup

How to make cake stuff

Before making the ingredients, the first thing is to put the oven at 175 ° C to warm up and grease the mold. First, prepare the base of the cake, so that in a large bowl of biscuits, the garden and sugar will pour 3-4 cups of coffee and 1 spoon.

We mix together and add the melted butter and mix well the ingredients so that all the ingredients are melted to the melted butter, then we spread the material to the bottom of the mold that we greased. Then pour 1 and 1/2 cup cocoa powder and 2 teaspoons of instant coffee and starch into a large bowl.

Mix the ingredients thoroughly with each other and then mix and stir together, then add cream cheese and again make good with the woman to leave the cheese balls and break the eggs one by one and mix and vanilla Pour and stir again. Add 1/2 cup of crushed walnuts.

Place it in a bowl with a spoon and stuff it in a bowl and place the cake in the mold and place the mold in the oven (we started to warm it up to cook for 15 minutes), then heat the oven Decrease at 95 degrees Celsius and wait for 2 hours to cook

Turn off the oven and leave the mold in the oven for 2 hours (do not remove the mold). After this time, remove the mold from the oven to cool at room temperature. Pour the milk and chocolate chips into the boiling milk and put them on low heat to melt together.

After cooling, pour the cake out of the mold and spread the marshmallo on the cake and add the melted chocolate flavored milk and chips, and sprinkle 4/4 cup of crushed walnut on the water. Before pouring the cake Place in the refrigerator until it cools then soak it.

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Why I’ll Abandon Earth In A Heartbeat

Here’s the thing…

…I don’t really WANT to be here.

Much as I believe in climate change and saving the planet and all that, because let’s be honest, it’s never done anything wrong to us and deserves way better than our sorry asses, I also don’t feel any obligation to care about the planet because, frankly, I was put here against my will and don’t really feel any attachment to the place. The planet isn’t like an apartment you chose to rent or a house you hunt down to buy. It’s just somewhere you live that you happened to have shown up on. And rest assured, that when the option eventually comes for civilians to get onto a starship and cruise off into outer space, setting up life on a whole other planet, never to return, I will take that offer in a nanosecond.

I can cut out all the bad food I eat, I can cut off all the toxic people in my life, but in the end, there’s limitations to what I can do to make my life better, and unfortunately, the biggest thing I can’t change is where I live. And obviously you know I don’t mean that in the sense of simply moving to a new dwelling with bookcases and an air mattress. I mean a new goddamned planet. I cannot change the fact that I am stuck on this rudderless ball of dirt, quarantined with the rest of these hazardous sacks of meat who don’t do eachother any favors, forever doomed to flounder in eternal, directionless confusion, like a fish who suddenly has to pay taxes and support a family of 4 on one income.

It’s infuriating, to have such little control and be told you have so much. Certainly, as I said, I can decide who I want in my life or what food I want in my body, but the biggest change, a change of planet, simply isn’t an option right now, and it’s infuriating. I want to be somewhere else. I want to be in the middle of the cold void of space, away from everybody, in the deafening silence and the uncertain universe. I want to be off earth, and if given the opportunity, I will take it.

I will take it.

A lot of kids had a “space” phase.

Kids go through a multitudes of interests, interests that are almost seemingly pre-packaged into their tiny little minds, seeing as almost all of them go through the same phases. They become obsessed with dinosaurs, knights, space, etc. I never had a “space” phase, but perhaps my love for the concept of leaving the planet coincides with the fact that, growing up, I never had any space. I grew up in a household where, if you wanted to come home at the end of the day and close your bedroom door, you may very well catch some shit for it. It got to the point where the only place I could have some space was in the bathroom. My stepsiblings and I were each given a drawer in the bathroom, and I set mine up with books and snacks so that I could spend as much time inside of it as I wanted, even if I wasn’t actually using the facilities.

I think maybe that is why I am so attached to the idea of leaving the planet. Getting away from everyone and everything. I’m not a hermit, I swear I’m not, and I’m not a curmudgeon, I swear I’m not. I like people, not that anyone who knows me would be able to tell. It’s just that…I like people when I decide to be around them. Thanks to my history with people, I have become increasingly distrustful towards them, and frankly, a lot of them are just mean or loud with seemingly no reason to be. It’s frustrating. Despite being neurodivergent, you can’t say anything about it either, lest you want to be told you’re the one being an asshole here, so your only option is to just suck it up and continue living on this miserable, idiot infested terrarium from hell. That all being said, I do like people. I just wish I could…you know…not be a part of them.

I think this is partially why I am drawn to sim games. Things like The Sims, Sim City or some other type of godly overlord game where you just manage a society instead of being in society. These allow me to interact with the world in ways that work, make sense and aren’t direct. It makes participating possible, and actually somewhat enjoyable, and while I love to people watch, I don’t love interacting with said people. I simply do not feel connected to the species I am a part of, and I would rather be in the cold void of space than on earth with everyone else, trying, and failing, to deal with others. It would just be easier for me. That’s all it boils down to. And I recognize how much this makes me sad like a misanthrophic, edgy teenager who just dyed her hair and started wearing spiked wristbands, but holy hell is it downright exhausting to exist as it is, let alone existing within a society of other people.

Isolation is supposed to be a burden, when in actuality, for me, it’s a blessing.

Imagine. Just imagine. Being in space, being in a station somewhere or on a planet. Nobody else is there. You have all the time in the world, you have all the things you’ll ever need; dehydrated food, non-dehydrated food, books, movies, gardening, music, whatever your vice is. You have all the time you need and nobody and nothing to interrupt you. This sounds heavenly, doesn’t it?

And every now and then, you can peer out the window and you can see the planet you came from, or perhaps look through a telescope and see the planet you left, or perhaps you have a feed you can view of the home you left behind. The home that never really was a home. You will see all the horrible things being done by horrible people and you will sigh and sit back down and happily relax, knowing you are no longer a part of that mess. The world makes me feel so bad as it is, but trust me, I don’t need the help, believe me. I do a good enough job of it on my own.

I know, it sounds like I am simply writing myself off as “better than everyone” but that could not be further from the truth. In fact, I hate myself more than I hate everyone else. I just also happen to be so tired of everyone elses bullshit that I’d rather not drag them down with my own on top of it, and I’d prefer to live a life of solitude, out there, among the stars, dealing with my own issues and learning how to be a better me.

I may not be able to fix society.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t fix myself.

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I’m Maggie. If you like this thing I made, you might like some other things I’ve done, like my 2015 novel “You Ruined Everything”, my podcast network “The Feel Bad Network” or my feed over at Ello. You can also find some published work for sale over at my Payhip , buy prints/stickers and more at my online store on Big Cartel, or support my work at my Patreon! Anything helps & is appreciated, thanks!

Pakistani, Chinese artists dominate Sovereign Foundation’s annual art contest

?????????????????? : ????????????????? : ???????????? The Nation

http://www.nationmultimedia.com/detail/art/30370519

Pakistani, Chinese artists dominate Sovereign Foundation’s annual art contest

Art June 04, 2019 13:30

By The Nation

Pakistani artist Ahmed Javed has won the 15th annual Sovereign Asian Art Prize for his work “Imran Qureshi Studio”.

His award-winning gouache and gold leaf on wasli pays homage to Qureshi’s contribution to the neo-art miniature movement by documenting him in his studio. This work also particularises the discourse of a workshop – the concept of Mughal atelier where apprentices worked under masters contrasted with an independent artist’s studio, in which he is free to pursue through his own artistic agenda. In the work, Javed plays with size and perspective to denote status and importance, much like traditional Mughal miniatures.

The winner was awarded a trophy and US$30,000 (Bt945,000) at the Sovereign Art Foundation’s annual gala dinner and auction in Hong Kong. The public’s favourite artwork was recognised when Munawar Ali Syed, also of Pakistan, clinched the popular vote and an award of US$1,000 with his artwork “My 3rd Story in English”. Chinese artist Fu Xiaotong, the highest scoring female artist in the competition, was awarded the newly launched Vogue Hong Kong Women’s Art Prize and US$5,000 for her work “163,680 Pinpricks”.

To reach the final shortlist of 30 artworks, over 70 independent art professionals from across Asia Pacific nominated 400 mid-career artists, hailing from 28 countries, for the prize. A total of 19 countries were represented amongst the 30 finalists, making it the geographically diverse shortlist in the history of the prize. The entries were shortlisted by an international panel of art specialists, including writer, curator and museum director David Elliott; Jan Dalley of the Financial Times; Mami Kataoka of Mori Art Museum, Tokyo; Hong Kong architect, artist and educator William Lim; and internationally renowned artist Zhang Huan.

“Working on a large scale that quotes the neo-miniature style taught at his alma mater, the National College of Arts in Lahore, Javed comments on and transforms this traditional way of working. By concentrating on a moment of creation in Imran Qureshi’s studio where he was an assistant, not only does he stress the importance of his former teacher’s work but also reveals its powerful context. Qureshi is shown making the gestural, blood-red hand paintings that shattered the atmosphere, scale and hierarchical methods of the traditional Mughal miniature to depict horror and terror in the present. In this work, Javed records, frames, amplifies and pays homage to this moment,” commented chair judge David Elliott.

For the winner of the public vote prize, Munawar Ali Syed, his pen-and-ink drawing, one of a series, appropriates a minimal approach, using an agglomeration of straight black lines over a coloured horizontal grid, to express his psychological state.

Fu Xiaotong works both minimally and conceptually. Here, by applying pressure from behind, she has moulded a form of relief, with different depths, intensities and shapes, that rises out of the surface of a large sheet of hand-made rice paper.

Mandalay Days

The lay of the land can be a great tell about a people just like a first view of Myanmar on a sunset landing.

Mandalay | Mandalay State | Myanmar (Burma)

The flat land around Mandalay had thickets of bulbous trees, winding rivers and parched sandy embankments; there were ponds and oblong fields stitched in with trees and bushes.

But it’s the temples and pagodas that stand out. Their vertical golden spindles are omnipresent, and looking down from the plane in the pink sunset-light, they shimmered, glinted and winked in an electric, neon gold, outdoing the beauty of the land with the help of the day’s last light.

These gold pinnacles weren’t just occasional, they were everywhere, sprinkled generously on hills, on the flat suburbia of Mandalay, sitting there in their perfect ornate rings of gold and pastilles.

Myanmar’s devotion to her Buddhist faith was spectacularly and eye-catchingly apparent even before we had even touched down.

***

Where’s the inconvenience?

Contrary to my expectations, things were easy on arrival. The airport had lines of gleaming lit-up ATMs, and counters for 4G tourist SIM cards. Gone are the days when tourists had to carry wads of pristine, unfolded and unmarked dollar notes. Gone are the days when Myanmar’s ATMs didn’t accept foreign bank cards and some places wouldn’t even accept their own currency, the kyat. Go figure.

Everything in our first few nights in Myanmar felt so normal, so convenient. Our hotel about three miles from the centre, was a relatively comfy place, that played Bryan Adams and the theme to Titanic at breakfast and served coco pops that even made the milk chocolatey. It all felt so familiar.

Myanmar’s moving on, and now is a great time to visit it; the tourist conveniences are happening and yet she’s still off the beaten track of hordes of tourists. I was expecting a little more inconvenience from Myanmar, cancelled flights, ATMS out of order, a dearth of taxis, having to fill in forms or show your passport for any activity including sneezing; these were hassles we thankfully never found.

We had a favourite restaurant that served great food, Burmese, Chinese, Thai, played rock, served draft beer and accepted card.!And when we tired of eastern cuisine, yes we went to the KFC next to the hotel for chicken wings, maxed fries and huge Fantas.

But there were hints that this wasn’t quite Bangkok which we had just left, when we had browsed its bright and airy shopping malls and watched Aladdin in a multi-plex. The Mandalay Airport electricity cut out, the luggage carousel froze and for a few seconds the entire airport was suspended in blackness; it was only a matter of seconds though, and the light soon returned.

***

We spent three days exploring Mandalay, a sprawling flat-as-a-pancake city, visiting its pagodas, climbing Mandalay hill, ambling its ancient moated city and watching its puppets and people at Marionette shows, and at the jade market.

Before I arrived the name Mandalay evoked for me a certain romanticism, of ornate carved teak palaces of elephants strolling on wide open lawns. In reality the city is not pretty, it’s a huge series of wide intersections where roads are named by numbers, and it’s not particularly pedestrian-friendly either with its occasional broken and missing paving stones, expose booby-traps of the brackish water underneath. But taxis and tuk-tuks are plentiful and cheap and getting around is easy. And on the plus side for pedestrians, the traffic is conformist, and traffic lights are generally well respected.

***

“I get knocked down but I get up again…”

Mandalay was made the royal capital in 1857, the previous capital having been dismantled and brought over by elephants. By the time the British had won the final Anglo-Burmese war and arrived, they shifted the capital down to Yangon.

Mandalay’s sprawl is a result of the Japanese bombing in the Second World War (60% of its houses were destroyed) so today nearly all the structures are modern.

Even the moated royal city, which was the final royal city before the Brits came and told the king and queen to kindly leave, or words to that effect, was recreated in the 1990s because the allies had bombed it in the Second World War as the Japanese had used it to store provisions.

Today it is the Chinese who are rebuilding central Mandalay. Many players, it seems, have had a part to play in either building up or knocking down this place.

A visit to the jade market of Mandalay

Since colonial times, Myanmar has been famous for its mining of rubies, sapphires and jade.

Sarah and I were keen to visit the jade market in Mandalay, where rows and rows of gem traders, bright torches in hand, wait to sell their jade stones, all lined up in trays or in huge slabs of rock striated with veins of rich green and white.

It’s a labyrinthine place, of alleys of dust and noise, its floors dotted randomly with betel nut spit; there are shops and eateries, small bars and people playing pool or carom.

The people at the jade market are mainly men. Away from business, it all looked distinctly like the men were enjoying themselves, sometimes too much, in a relaxed and slightly raucous environment, gambling with cards and conch shells, staring intently with cigarettes dripping from their lips.

The market is a socialising area, you can feel that vibe in abundance. I can just imagine some Mandalayan man telling his wife ‘just going down the jade market love,’ raising her expectations of a shiny green present, but all ending in him playing pool, having beers with his mates, getting home late and going straight in the dog-house.

It was worth going to the jade market just to people-watch, because in the euphoria of the buying and selling, and people unwinding, people come together and just be their unselfconscious selves.

Myanmar Marionettes

In the evening the streets of Mandalay are on a dimmer switch; the street lights aren’t that powerful and are quite sparse in places. It gives the night a medieval feel. We took a tuk-tuk in this half-light to the Myanmar Marionettes show.

Myanmar has a rich 500 year old history of marionettes, which died down over the years and this little theatre is trying to keep the dying form alive. They had a little orchestra to which the puppets came on stage and danced, there were horses and people and their movements were agile and supple and quiet lifelike. It was a lovely evening.

U Bein: The longest wooden bridge in the world

In the suburbs of Mandalay is a bridge of teak, 1.2 kilometres long, to where Mandalayans in their relaxed, recreational selves throng.

It’s rather a special bridge because it dates from 1850, and is considered to be the longest wooden bridge in the world. More importantly, it occupies a special place in the hearts of the locals and at sunsets you are treated to seeing a cross-section of them chilling out.

The people of Mandalay traverse this bridge with a slow amble; the wooden slats are a little uneven meaning you have to watch your steps and there are no hand-rails; but anyway, it’s evening and people are relaxed; it’s a promenade and there’s a distinct feel of being at the seaside, what with the food stalls, the sandy embankments, the boats ferrying people on the lake and the horse and cart hires.

The ambiance on the bridge is worth absorbing well before sunset; whole families chat and laugh together; cool teenagers with their bleach blonde mop-tops and ripped jeans listen to music on their phones; secret teenage sweethearts seek some quiet time to whisper sweet-nothings; Buddhist monks in their elegant maroon robes traipse thoughtfully across the slats.

I got chatting to an elderly bespectacled monk as we watched the sun set from a bench on the bridge. He spoke perfect English and his narrative was full of hope for the country; he mentioned how beautiful the Myanmarese are; how he felt the country was improving since the return of democracy especially in rural areas. He told me about his life of early starts and meditating five times a day (one hour a go) and an evening walk along this bridge every day at sunset.

We spent three days in Mandalay and then took an early morning flight, empty except for 5 other people (I told you now is a good time to visit) to Bagan; we had been introduced to urban Myanmar, but next came a place that would prove to be truly special.

***

This post is part of the series called 90 Days in South East Asia about our travels in India, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Myanmar, Indonesia and Malaysia in March to June 2019, and was written on-the-road.

Life Lesson: June 5

Meditate
“Now this is what the LORD Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.” Haggai 1:5–6

“The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want.” Psalm 23:1

Sing
He’s All I Need

He’s all I need
He’s all I need
Jesus is all I need

He’s all I need
He’s all I need
Jesus is all I need

Message  
You may have heard it said that we hear and see things through the filters of life. This means that everything we hear and see passes through the experiences of our lives. For example: if we have experienced condemnation then compliments are hard to accept as they pass through the filter of low self-worth. Sometimes, our filters are just not mature enough and we simply do not understand what we hear. When I was young, we would read Psalm 23 and it always made me shake my head. I just did not understand why we would say such things. You see, I had been taught God is good and this was saying to me that “The Lord was my Shepherd and I do not want him.” At least that is how I understood it. It was quite some time before I realized that a better way to say it is: “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not BE IN want.” Now that made sense!

It also does not make sense when God’s people worry and fret over what they do not have or what they think they need. If we claim Jesus as Lord and we put our trust in him, why do we worry? As Jesus said, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on… which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?… Why are you anxious about clothing?… Do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’… Our heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you… Do not be anxious about tomorrow…” (Mat 6:25-34).

If we worry or are anxious, we need to let God clean the filters that we use to process what we hear and see. These filters are cleansed of the dirt and grime of life by letting God wash us in His Word. We need to read and study the Scripture, be in prayer, worship and praise God often, attend church, and be in a small covenant group. If we are seeking the Kingdom of God, he will take care of the needs of life.

Blessing
Go to the store and buy some nice new clothes, food or household items and give them to someone in need. Do not give them leftovers. Be the hands and feet of God in providing what is needed while this person seeks the Kingdom of God.

Move
Read Psalm 23, and act it out.

Create
Draw and cut out 10 circles. In 5 of them, write things that you worry about. In the other 5, write ways that God wants you to seek after His Kingdom. Draw a line through the first 5 to note that you are no longer going to do that. Post the 10 circles in places where you will see them around your house. Acknowledge that which you are no longer focusing on and that which you will now seek after.

Nourish
Prepare your food and take two minutes to praise and thank God before eating.

Rest
Find 10 minutes to be still. Do nothing during this time. This is God’s time to renew you in mind, body and spirit.

Recreation
If you know of a parent who needs a break, offer to take the kids to McDonald’s playground. Buy them some fries and let them play. Do not worry about it. Just seek God.

Pray
Pray for those who do not have their basic needs met. Be thankful for all that God has provided you.

Snacks
Share your snack with someone who is alone.

World Prayer
Find your CFO Worldwide directory or go to the website and pray for CFO camps around the world. Pray that CFO makes a difference in the world for the Kingdom of God.

Sleep
Count your blessings as you fall asleep.

From morning until night, God wants us to worship and commune with Him. Start your day in His Word and then weave throughout the day these elements of devotion, worship, contemplation and service to others.

___________________
LYRICS CREDIT:
 Used with permission: “He’s All I Need” CFO Sings, pg. 167

What should I publish on my new photography blog?

As I promised a couple of weeks ago, every second Sunday of the month you can ask me anything you want about digital marketing strategy, SEO, social media strategy, content creation & marketing, blogging, web design and WordPress.

Last month you send 60 challenging questions and I will start with this one, that really surprised me! 12 people asked me almost the same thing: what should I publish on my photography blog?

New Photography Blog Topics

First of all congratulations for your new photography blog! You are one step closer to make your work stand out from the anonymity.

Within the first year of your blog you will face a difficulty to cope with the demands of creating new content every week. Yes, you have to create new content for your blog every single week!

Your blog posts should have 600-1000 words, at least, if you want to attract the attention of the search machines and your potential readers/followers and clients.

Have in mind to apply all SEO best practices that will support your content’s discoverability. Learn to love SEO like Google and soon you will see your rankings reach the sky!

What should I publish on my new photography blog?

Define your position and philosophy

Publish an introduction post about your life story, your education, your dreams, your accomplishments and of course take the time to share your values and mission.

Just because you have an About Me page, doesn’t mean that you should skip a formal introduction. Look at this as an opportunity to speak about your way of thinking, as if you were in front of a live audience. In a level, blogging communication is like giving a speech in written form.

Open up, be real and share your truth about your life and your work. But, please, try to talk like a real human being and not like a robot. Pick a title like: Who is the Photographer [your name]?

Answer the big why, who, when, where,what of your life story. If you find this too scary, then hire a professional blogger to guide you through this interview process. Sometimes it feels better to have a real interviewer for this kind of posts.

I will state the obvious, but in these posts we usually prefer to add personal photographs or portraits. It’s one of these rare cases where a post is all about you.

As months go by, this post will become your personal PR landing page. For future mentions in other blogs, it’s most probably to use it as a source of information. Please try to keep it as accurate as possible and updated when it’s necessary. For example: new collaborations, publications, awards etc.

Patroklos Stellakis Photography

Publish your recent work

Most photographers tend to have a portfolio section within their official website, with a selection of their top work. The blog section can support your recent work by giving an extra space to promote your photography projects.

For example when you publish a new wedding photography project into your portfolio, a following blog post can shed light to the topic through backstage moments, presentation of the next day etc.

Using the power of relative keywords and phrases you can actually boost your main topic with several supportive posts. Write about the issues you solved during an extremely difficult situation like:

  • My Photo Camera Broke In The Middle of The Wedding Photo Session (share your solution)
  • Racing Against The Fade of Light in a Wedding (how your handling the pressure)
  • What not to say to your Wedding Photographer (guide for what to expect from a wedding photographer)

As you can see the topics can be about your work and your skills without being narcissistic. Offering a solution for common issues, you actually put yourself in a position of a trustworthy source and authority. Not bad, right?

Hey, pay attention and never publish too many photographs… I have seen 100 photos in one blog post. Pick the top 30-50 photos and name the photo files exactly the same as the title of your post. If you want to be found from the Google images search machine never skip this step.

And avoid huge files … keep each photo less than 1MB. The size of the images have an impact to your page’s speed, which is an important ranking factor for your mobile and desktop searches.

In other words, images are important ranking factors! To make this work for your benefit you should add the right identifying information such as alt text for image SEO, but you need to optimize the image size. Oversized images that aren’t optimized can seriously slow down your website.

Do you have an offer for your clients?

When you have a special offer for your clients, don’t be shy! Publish a post with many details about your special offer and share it over your social media accounts.

A new photographer in Spain, shout out 2 free lifestyle photoshoots for fashion bloggers and within a month, 458 requests were waiting for him in his mailbox. After the huge demand he decided to ask help from some of his fellow photographers for the selection of the fashion bloggers.

To make a long story short, the 4 photographers picked 12 talented fashion bloggers, had the free photo shoots and six months later the 4 photographers created a Photo Agency for Fashion Bloggers.

Build a Customer First Culture

As a photographer you must have a sense of how valuable your input is for other people’s important events. For example if you are a wedding photographer, your clients will trust you to capture their wedding day.

Start thinking what are the most frequently questions you get from your clients. Write about these topics. Provide free and valuable information that will make people trust your opinion before even hire you.

Here are some ideas for hot wedding photography topics:

  • How to find a wedding photographer?
  • When is the best time to hire a wedding photographer?
  • What is the difference between fine art wedding photography and photojournalistic wedding photography?
  • What questions should you ask your wedding photographer?
  • How to relax before your wedding photo shoot
  • How to find a destination wedding photographer?
  • The 5 Don’ts in a wedding photography session

If you already have photography projects and clients willing to give you a review, then add their words into your blog. Words of mouth are the best! Also, if some of your brides are open to the idea of sharing a tip for future brides, ask them to send you their input.

In case you find all these overwhelming, then hire a professional content creator for your blog.

The Vampire Doll (1970)

Let’s take a minute to go in a totally different direction, to Japan, so we can focus on a “vampire” movie that doesn’t really feature vampires at all. Yet it’s still so well done that it wouldn’t have been out of place in the midst of Hammer’s gothic horror work of the 1960s. Even if it isn’t what I was expecting it to be, I really liked this movie.

Kazuhiko Sagawa heads out into the rural countryside in a storm to see his girlfriend, Yuko Nonomura, having been gone for six months abroad. Unfortunately, when he arrives at her family’s estate, her mother informs him that Yuko died in a car accident only two weeks before. He refuses to believe it and suspects he sees her in her old room, but her mother refutes this and tells him to get some sleep. Later, he spies Yuko and follows her to her grave, where she begs him to kill her. Then everything goes to shit. A week later, Keiko, Kazuhiko’s sister, decides to investigate her brother’s disappearance and brings her fiance, Hiroshi, along. Keiko and Hiroshi travel to the estate, but Yuko’s mother claims Kazuhiko left. Not buying into it after Keiko sees Yuko in her room, Keiko and Hiroshi check Yuko’s death certificate and meet with her doctor, Dr. Yamaguchi. Dr. Yamaguchi rambles about ghosts. Keiko confronts Yuko’s mom, while Hiroshi fights off the family groundskeeper. Eventually it’s revealed that Dr. Yamaguchi is Yuko’s father, having massacred her family except her mother out of jealousy from her leaving him during World War II. When Yuko was dying, he hypnotized her to stay alive, but now she feels a need for blood and slashing throats open with straight razors. When Dr. Yamaguchi threatens Keiko and Hiroshi, Yuko appears and murders him, which in turn causes her hypnotism to leave. She dies on the spot. Nobody is happy.

Great movie.

Despite the fact that it’s not a traditional vampire, this is the first in a loose trilogy of films connected around vampire-related plots by Toho in the early 1970s and directed by Michio Yamamoto. The other two films are Lake of Dracula and Evil of Dracula, and they go heavier on the vampirism. Here it’s more of a metaphor for Yuko’s condition, though she goes from normal to blood-splattered psycho killer with creepy eyes at the drop of a hat, and it is fantastic when she does. We get to see her maiming crows, attacking a couple of folks, and what she does to her boyfriend looks like the aftermath of an acid attack. She also cries a lot, which is spooky.

She’s not the only creepy killer running around though. The mansion she grew up in has a groundskeeper who is deaf, mute, and doesn’t like your face. He’s named Genzo, and he randomly attacks people with a hatchet just for committing the crime of walking around outside at night. He does this repeatedly, and while he’s never able to finish the job, he definitely appears more than willing to do so. Add in the maniacal doctor, and yeah, this family is pretty much fucked.

You know what’s even better? The setting and shadows. It turns out Yuko’s family were diplomats, so they built a nice Western-style house, which is now decrepit and aging like out of an early giallo or gothic horror. The lighting adds to this because shadows are everywhere, casting a gloom that seems unbroken even in broad daylight. That house is a freaking tomb, and it’s made worse by Yuko’s constant crying.

If ever you go into a house where you hear a woman crying, and someone tells you it’s just the wind, that’s a good sign that you should get your gear and go. Like ASAP. That place is murder city.

Delhi to Chennai Express -|-|-|-

Well, this is not about my train journey from Delhi to Chennai, neither a part of my tourism trip but much more. It’s about my life’s journey from Delhi to Chennai.

It was a happy and excited
atmosphere all around with me exchanging ring with my soul mate. It was a
typical arranged marriage with me and my soul mate both being North Indians.
But, his present job role was based at Chennai. My office in Delhi, had its branch
in Chennai too and to everyone it appeared all set with just an internal
transfer for me within the same company.

But, behind all these “all set”
theories was my mind, overcrowded with thoughts and my emotions blended with
excitement, nervousness and questions all at the same time.

How I being a Delhi-ite gal will
accommodate for a totally new lifestyle in Chennai? I am an avid traveler and
keen observant and I love and respect knowing different cultures and lifestyles
but still moving to Chennai for settling there was giving me Goosebumps. With
me being fond of travelling, my interest in moving around, enjoying and having
fun embedded in my daily routine, I felt that Delhi gives me a great
metropolitan environment and a free lifestyle. Chennai, on the other hand was
not appealing to me as a happening place and I felt as if I will now be part of
a conservative culture. For me it was as bad as being imprisoned. But, the
other part of my mind kept on saying it’s not wise to be judgmental so soon.
With my own thoughts on a battle every day, my wedding day came and finally it
was time to pack up from Delhi. With heavy heart, I was bidding Adieu to one
phase of my life and with anxious emotions I was moving to start the new
chapter of my life.

“Vanakkam Chennai”
– Means, Good Morning or Namastay Chennai.

This is how I was welcomed in
Chennai.

After a couple of days, I joined
my Chennai office, I found everyone so warm, good and cooperative & my head
started feeling a little lighter after months of load and presumptions of what
lies ahead. Trust me, I never ever imagined the people can be so helpful and
supportive, I met simplest of the people in this city. They made me so
comfortable and gave me time to settle down smoothly. Soon after, I started
enjoying the peaceful & serene atmosphere with simple, honest people all
around. No show-offs, no rat race and no artificial masks, everything appeared
so pure and crystal clear, I started loving it.

On the other hand my husband, my
buddy did made each day special for me by taking me to different places.  We used to explore every day from beaches to
roof-top cafes. Walking next to Marina Beach (Asia’s second largest beach) at
moon light , sharing an ice-cream together and those “Gajra’s” (Jasmine
flowers) around the hair spreading sweet fragrance , with slow music make our
long walks the most cherishable time. It’s all so refreshing. I can never ever
imagine experiencing this in Delhi. The refreshing breeze & the spectacular
sights of sunrise & sunsets are so addictive, that you will have the urge
to experience it again and again. The city is so safe and clean, it didn’t
mattered if I was alone or accompanied, and I can go for a beach side walk
whenever I want. I simply fell in love with Marina Beach.

We often visit different cafes
like Wild Garden- The Café at Amethyst, Santé Spa Cuisine, Chamiers Café and
Ashvita Bristo with amazing ambiance and food and Rain tree rooftop are some of
the best places to hang around. And the best part is mini idlis and ghee podi
dosa at Murugan Idli with cup of filter coffee and Ratna Café …Yummy…!!

Chennai is so famous for its old
and heritage temples like Arulmigu Kapaleeswarar temple, Ashtalakshmi temple
and others and I enjoyed visiting these places. The intricate architecture ,
the serene and positive atmosphere, the different ways of worshipping same God
, the “Prasadam” , enlivens the devotion & faith in God and reminds us how
we stay united even with the differences. A true confluence of unity in
diversity is seen at such places.

With me fond of shopping too, I
enjoyed to have an opportunity of selecting Traditional Silk Sarees and Kanjivaram
 Silk Sarees from a lovely huge
collection at T Nagar at places likes Nallis, Pothy Silks, Sundari Silks, Palam
Silks, Sri Kumaran Silks. You will get amazing hand-woven traditional Sarees at
Kanchipuram. One of the best sarees, that  you can ever get in the world at cheapest
price.

Chennai is gateways to weekend
movies. I have been watching one movie a week since last 5 years at Sathyam Cinema
as Tamil Nadu is the cheapest. And wonder is when Ranjikant (the most famous
actor of South India) movie is released. All local-ites are crazy performing
Pooja and dancing on the streets.

Beach walks…, having coconut
water at cheapest price in any part of Chennai.., going on long drives on
weekend to Mahabalipuram, Kovalam and Pondicherry…, it started appearing so
happening to me. Chennai is surrounded by so many weekend Gateways. Those
Catamaran rides, kayaking and surf turf, there is so much stuff to do. With
peaceful environment and fresh air, distance don’t kill us unlike any other
parts of India.

Best is when someone calls you “Amma”
or “Anna”. I also gave a try, speaking a bit of Tamil, but my accent makes it a
crazy word that neither my office colleagues nor local market people or taxi
drivers understand. But, I do keep giving it a try now and then.

There is so much more to tell
about Chennai and we will surely share these experiences soon. Stay connected
on our travel journey to stay tuned with our in-depth , extraordinary, amazing
experiences that we will be posting.

For now, I want to conclude
saying,

“Manadhai Mayakiya
Chennai”

Love you Chennai for giving me
this fresh breeze and refreshing experience, Love you for providing me a
comfortable lap, Love you for giving me these cherishing moments , Love you for
adding beauty to my married life , Love you for wiping away all my anxieties
with love and addiction to walk on beaches , Love you for everything !!

“ALWAYS ROAM AROUND WITH AN OPEN MIND AND HEART,

TO EXPLORE THE TREASURE THAT LIES IN UNEXPLORED PART”

Day 5 – Austin (The Hike)

Today, Barbara & I planned to go out for breakfast then go for a walk on the Greenbelt. We went to Phoebe’s Diner for breakfast where we both had their Badass Bacon & Eggs. We would both disagree about Phoebe’s claim about their bacon. It was the kind that’s like a slab, a long piece of porkbelly. I liked the eggs & toast, plus this hash brown casserole thing that was good. B didn’t care for it much at all.

Then we headed to a trailhead that she’s been wanting to try. It was hot, but it was overcast so it wasn’t oppressive. We got to the trail around 11 am. It’s called the Violet Crown Trail. The first part was pretty rocky, but it soon turned to a lovely shaded trail, and it was hard to believe we were in a city. I was really enjoying it. I had already explained to B that I would need to go a little slower because of my knee so she went ahead of me but would wait for me or run back & forth until I caught up. It was cool though because she never made me feel bad or get upset when I was going a little slow.

Yes, Barbara is wearing a little dress. She says it makes it a) cooler and b) more fun. So we were going along pretty good for about an hour, hour 15 minutes or so, when we came to part of the river and couldn’t find a way to cross unless we kind of wended our way back along the bank to a dry section where we found what looked like the trail again. But as we kept walking, we started to realize that the trail was getting much harder to find and traverse. We basically came to, well, a cliff side that we had to go up in order to keep going. Barbara scampered up and went to scout the trail, and I had to get up it. Well, it wasn’t pretty, but I did it, and it didn’t get a lot easier from there, but mostly I was tired and winded from my exertion. Barbara & I made decisions as to what direction to take basically by intuition. She had service on her phone, but the map doesn’t really show the trails.

We were walking, slowing down with every minute, when we saw a house, but it had walled off any access to it, so we had to double-back (only that one time!) and then we went up again, and then there was a street! A neighborhood. This trail is not a loop and there was no way we were going to try to get back the way we’d come, so she had ordered an Uber while I was still climbing, haha.

We were drenched in sweat and so tired. We were also hungry again. We got back to the car and drove home, showered, and went out to lunch at Texican Cafe. Getting out of the car to go into the restaurant was a sight to see! After lunch, we got ice cream and went home. B took a nap, and I just relaxed.

She was going to go out to a meeting she had, but she wasn’t feeling so hot after the day and decided not to go. It also rained pretty hard which was cool. We ended up just hanging out, watching TV, getting a pizza. It was a very pleasant evening. Oh, and I got pics of the other kitties:

Off to New Orleans in the morning. It’s been super fun to hang with Barbara and be in Austin for a few days. The next week will be a grind, but I’m ready for it. I hope my body gets a bit restored with sleep, once I’m going it’s fine, but it’s those first few steps – ouch!

Colorful Magic in a Village

Once upon a time in South Korea, there was a princess who went on a quest to an abandoned village, then she waved her magic wand turning the gritty town with magic. Fantastic creatures and colors spreading everywhere across the village. Then one day she met her prince charming, who was also wandering across the streets, and walked together spreading the magic throughout the entire town into a children’s fantasyland, as many people flocked to the colorful village, and settled there as their new home. Finally, the princess and the prince completed their journey to turn an abandoned village into a colorful wonderland, and the lived happily ever after.

So before I started writing my experience in this colorful village, I started it with my made up fairytale story mixed with urban legend. I don’t know why I made that, but I’m not that good in making fairytale stories, it’s like I’m not that interested in making one. But the moment I stepped down into this colorful village, you could see a lot of colors mixed with fairy tale-themed murals together in one place.

Then one cold winter afternoon, I later visited this colorful fantasyland, which is Songwol-dong Fairy Tale Village (???????) or known simply as Fairy Tale Village (????). Located in Incheon’s Chinatown, this village is known for it’s colorful alleyways, child-friendly themes such as fairytale characters decorated in murals, and rainbow stairs. This quirky style is very similar to Gamcheon Cultural Village in Busan, as colors can be the solution to attract tourists to the town.

When I first visited the village, I only waltz around the place, as if the princess waved a magic wand turning the once dilapidated neighborhood into a child-friendly village. While it’s aimed for kids, it can attract visitors at all ages.

So the Wizard of Oz, is waving at you right there when you enter the village, anyway feel free to use any of those funny situations. Anybody else want to find the rabbit from Alice in Wonderland? For sure the rabbit made its escape from the roofs already. How come there’s a meerkat family that observes the visitors from the fence behind? Okay, next one, it’s kinda awkward if we are being watched by magical beings. How about the Prince climbs after Rapunzel lifts down her hair? Maybe I could do that too? Why was Tinker Bell sitting down there alone? Maybe she’s only watching the rainbow stairs. Never mind that, I sounded funny there to be honest, just to lighten up the mood.

But don’t forget to bring your cameras while enjoying yourself wandering around in this fantasy wonderland. However, the only problem is that I didn’t take a lot of photos in that village because of the freezing weather that made my hands very numb. Overall, I really enjoyed visiting Fairy Tale Village. It’s quirky style and the use of child-friendly themes makes visitors to encounter such peculiar elements. I never seen a single village like this one, it was unique. But a fun place to visit where you can find your favorite fairytale characters everywhere.

Photos taken on November 29, 2018

Address: 38, Donghwamaeul-gil, Jung-gu, Incheon
????? ?? ????? 38 (???3?) ??

Coordinates: 37° 28′ 44.7672” N 126° 37′ 9.1416” E

Food of Dreams

Is there a particular food you are so fond of that you dream about it? You know I wouldn’t ask such a question if I didn’t intend to tell you about my dream food, right? I’d make you guess, but I doubt anyone except my friend Lila would even come close, and she only reads my blog sporadically.

How about a multiple choice quiz?

a) grilled shrimp

b) sushi

c) pepperoni pizza with onions and pineapples

d) gazpacho

Okay, if you chose a, b, or c, you’re not far off, I’m fond of them all, but d) gazpacho is my ultimate craving. I can taste it even as I type.

The first time I had this cold tomato soup I was in a high school home economics class. As I recall a local farmer had donated a whole bunch of tomatoes to our class, and our instructor, Mrs. Craig, decided to introduce us to a dish most of us had never heard of. I remember wrinkling my nose at the prospect of a cold soup, but then being quite taken by the combination of tastes. Still, I didn’t try gazpacho again until I was in my forties, and that’s when I became slightly addicted to it.

I’ve never actually made gazpacho. Studly Doright refuses to try it, and I don’t want to be wasteful. Plus, I eat too many tomatoes too often, I break out in a rash. Last night, though, Studly was out of town, and I decided to make myself gazpacho juice using our favorite new toy–a masticating juicer.

My juice was awesome. I need to fine tune the recipe a bit to make it taste more like the soup I crave, but I’m already close to having it perfect.

Here’s a recipe for gazpacho, although, it can be made with different ingredients, and below that, one for the juice I made.

Gazpacho Recipe from Barefoot Contessa website

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Gazpacho Juice

Ingredients 
  • 4 pieces plum tomatoes
  • 1 piece red bell pepper
  • 1 piece lime
  • 1 piece large cucumber
  • 1/4 piece small red onion
  • 2 cups parsley leaves
Directions
  1. Wash all produce well
  2. Stem and roughly chop parsley
  3. Peel cucumber and lime
  4. Juice in a juicer
  5. Pour over ice and enjoy!

Yummy stuff.

Peace, and good eating, people!

Peru Series: Machu Picchu

The most familiar icon of Inca civilization, situated in the Cusco region of Peru and, officially voted as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007, Machu Picchu is a must visit. As my  first time visiting not only Peru, but South America , I wanted to make the focal point of my first trip learning the history of the Incan culture and exploring Machu Picchu, eating my way through the country.

Aside from studying abroad in Egypt in 2013 and taking an organized trip to South Africa in 2017, I pretty much plan all of the logistics and activities for my trips, relying on google searches and fellow bloggers sharing their experiences. Machu Picchu proved to be a difficult and confusing trip to plan, despite reviewing 10-20 blogs, so I wanted to document and share my experiences to help anyone who wishes to check this wonder off of their bucket list.

First, logistics.

For our Peruvian escapades, we started in Lima and after spending a few days there, flew to Cusco. From Cusco, it is necessary to get to nearby town,  Aguas Calientes, where you can either walk up to Machu Picchu or catch a bus. Here is what we did:

4am: Private van pickup from our hotel in Cusco, The Illa Hotel
5:30am: Arrival to Ollantaytambo, village in the Sacred Valley of south Peru. From Ollantaytambo we boarded the Inca Rail to head to our next stop, after stopping to use the restroom and eat breakfast/purchase snacks at local shops.
6:10am: Boarded Inca Rail to head to Aguas Calientes. We officially departed at 6:30am
8:30am: Arrival to Aguas Calientes where we met our tour guide at the train station who led us to our bus that took us to the entrance of Machu Picchu. The bus took approximately 30 minutes to get to the top of the mountain to enter Machu Picchu. *The bus ride is a bit nerve racking as you are right on the edge of the mountain, but safe nonetheless.

After exploring Machu Picchu for 4 1/2 hours, we caught the bus back down to Aguas Calientes, ate lunch and boarded a 4:30pm train back to Cusco. Buses depart to and fro Machu Picchu approximately every 10 minutes. We did not have to make a stop on the way back in Ollantaytambo, as the train transported us all the way to the main square in Cusco, where we caught a 10 minute taxi back to our hotel. We arrived back to Cusco around 9pm.

Second, tickets.

We actually purchased all of our tickets before leaving for Peru, securing our trip to Machu Picchu early. If you are planning to hike Huayna Picchu, smaller mountain situated inside of the citadel, you must book tickets well in advance as it is restricted to 400 visitors a day. We did not hike Huayna Picchu but, it only takes approximately 2 hours to do so, and it would have been cool if we had. If like us, you do not plan to hike Huayna Picchu and instead, just explore the main citadel, it is not necessary to book arrangements so far in advance as it is easy to get tickets at visitor centers around Cusco. Obviously, if you are not planning to make a stop in Cusco, which I highly recommend that you do, you should book your trips in advance. Additionally, despite us not hiking Huayna Picchu, we still marveled at the site that was Machu Picchu and were actually wiped out due to the walking and hot sun, it is definitely still an enjoyable experience.

The company that I worked with, Cusco Reservations, is a Cusco based company and the owner’s name is Gilber Fernandez. We communicated via What’s App and occasionally via email (gilber74@hotmail.com) . Per person, all of our entrance (Machu Picchu) and transportation fees included (van, train and bus), we paid $265 USD.

Another company that I communicated with and would recommend is Traveling In Peru, the agent that I spoke with Susana Aguirre, was extremely helpful and attentive to my questions.  Her email is sa@livinginperu.com. I would have went with her company if I had not been referred to Gilber’s company via a good friend.

In order to complete your booking and to confirm transportation, it is necessary that you release your passport information, I was uneasy with this at first, but it is a common and again, necessary, practice.

It is also completely doable to purchase your own tickets and plan your own trip to Machu Picchu. Dependent upon your starting point, you mainly need to get to Aguas Calientes where you can either board the bus to Machu Picchu or walk. Find more information on booking your bus ticket to Inca City, Machu Picchu, HERE. The site to book the Inca Rail, to catch the train from Cusco or Ollantaytambo can be found HERE. After our trip, we found that it was not necessary to catch a van to Ollantaytambo and we could have caught the train directly to Aguas Calientes from Cusco, but it was a scenic ride and Ollantaytambo is an unique little town, so, no regrets.

One option that I have yet to discuss, is the infamous Inca Trail. Typically, a four day experience, there are three overlapping trails to choose from that will route you directly to the entrance gate of Machu Picchu. It is quite possibly the world’s most famous hike and can be incredibly challenging. The price for the trek can range anywhere from $600- 1500 USD. Being that I myself did not complete the Inca Trail, I wanted to provide you with other resources to helping you plan your trip, found HERE and HERE. You can also reach out to my contacts above, Gilber and Susana, who may be able to point you in the right direction with the various packages their perspective companies both offer.

Third, what to expect once you’re in Machu Picchu.

 

 

As an extremely popular tourist attraction, it was crowded, I’m talking people everywhere. Once inside, there are no restrooms or areas to purchase water or snacks so please be sure to handle your business before entering because, once you’re in, you’re in. It costs 2 soles (less than 1 USD) to use the restroom situated outside of the entrance and the ladies’ line was wrapped around the corner.

It is prohibited to eat inside of Machu Picchu so please be sure to fuel up before approach as the altitude and depending on how lucky you are, the sun, can and will beat you down. You can however, bring in water, so be sure to pack your own bottle(s) to keep yourself hydrated. Also, pack sunscreen, despite my brining mine and reapplying, I still managed to get sunburn, as well as a hat, glasses and comfortable walking/hiking shoes. Whether or not you are hiking the mountains inside of Machu Picchu, you must have sturdy, comfortable shoes. Converses or sandals will not cut it.

You can also get a really cool Machu Picchu stamp in your passport, for free! For those like me, who are obsessed over those coveted passport stamps.

By happenstance, our tour turned into a private one as we were the only ones in our group. Via us organizing and purchasing our tickets to Machu Picchu through Gilber, we were also granted a tour guide whom was extremely knowledgeable of Machu Picchu. Our guide was able to teach us of the history of Machu Picchu, importance of the mountains and, of the Incan Culture. The guide is not necessary, and many others were there sans a guide but, we appreciated ours for the knowledge he was able to share.

Other information

Machu Picchu is located 7,970 ft. above sea level. If you are coming from Cusco, Peru, this is a lower altitude and thus, shouldn’t be that hard to adjust to. If you are coming straight from Lima, Peru or other locations with lower altitudes, it may be a hard adjustment, coupled with the physicality of the trek. Having altitude meds and taking the coca leaves, either via tea or chewing on the leaves directly, help to alleviate any symptoms of altitude sickness, rapidly. *Coca Leaves/ Tea is very easy to find once in Peru.

Purchase water and other snacks either in Cusco, Ollantaytambo or in Aguas Calientes, as they are overpriced once at Machu Picchu.

We lucked up with an unusually sunny, extremely warm day, free of rain or clouds!

Machu Picchu is one of the most visited locations in Peru, one of the most visited tourist attractions in Latin America and, one of the most important archaeological sites in America. This, coupled with the views and the natural emotions you’ll feel once at the top of this magnificent site are hopefully enough to encourage a visit.

Have more questions or recommendations? Feel free to drop them below!

Come For A Japanese Taste Sensation At Cocktail Beer Ramen + Bun In Manchester

One of my favourite things about living in Manchester is having access to top level bars and restaurants. In recent years, the city has seen a rise in Japanese venues, adding some great variety to an already thriving food scene. If you’re ever in Manchester and find yourself craving Japanese cuisine, I’d recommend stopping off at a Cocktail Beer Ramen + Bun. This late-night ramen joint has it all: great food, great atmosphere, great staying power.

Ramen and buns for days

Located in Manchester’s bustling Northern Quarter, CBRB serves a variety of phenomenal ramen broths, small plates and buns. I went by recently and tucked into the classic Tonkotsu broth, a wholesome dish that soaked up the hangover pounding in the back of my head. A mixture of charsu pork belly, mayu sesame oil, spring opinions and egg, the Tonkotsu was a meal to be savoured. From the sweetness of the seeds, to the meatiness of the broth, every flavour crackled. The only disappointment was that I couldn’t eat more of it!

The perfect hangover cure!

The crab Tonkotsu will appeal to visitors who are looking to try something different. Softshell crab, bonito oil and coriander combine for a spicy sensation. There’s plenty of broth going around for vegetarians as well with the tantanmen and green ramen options. The tantanmen is a healthy mixture of shiitake mushrooms, aubergines and bok choy, while the green dish lives up to its name with hispi cabbage, tender stem broccoli and wakame.

CBRB’s bun selection is made up of tasty morsels like Korean steak and kimchi, karaage chicken and cucumber and crispy artichoke and coriander. Pair them with small plates like edamame beans or pork and ginger gyoza dumplings.

Cocktails galore

As the name so rightly suggests, CBRB is more than just a ramen spot. The cocktail menu is split between low ABV cocktails designed to bring some added flavour to your meal and several boozy options that will satisfy the night crowd. For example, the #8 blends English Smokey malt whisky, apple honey, nocino cordial and dark bitters into a delightful concoction.

Beer lovers aren’t left out either. CBRB provides a shifting range of craft ales that can be enjoyed for their varying flavours.

Whether you want a daylight fix of ramen or an evening of Japanese small plates, CBRB caters to all tastes. The restaurant lives up to its late-night reputation with doors closing at 2AM. Eating at the restaurant has increased my appreciation for Japanese food and I guarantee it will do the same for you.

Credit: Manchester’s Finest

Location: 101–103 Oldham Street, Northern Quarter, Manchester, M4 1LW

Opening hours: 12PM?—?2 AM

Want to discover more Japanese restaurants in Manchester? Be sure to check out The Definitive Guide to Japanese Manchester for where you need to eat, drink and be merry!