Bad Day

Today has been terrible. Misunderstandings, arguments, wasted money and wasted trips (and, astrologically, this is supposed to be the luckiest day of the year for everyone…pffft…). It can feel like a punch in the gut when you’ve tried your best to be your best in a situation, but it just isn’t coming across. Then the rain starts pouring down, seemingly for dramatic effect in the movie of your life.

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Though this IS London, so rain’s not so uncommon.

But it can be anything — and usually it’s a whole bunch of things piled one on top of the other — that makes you feel like you’re having the worst day of your life. At times like these, there are things you can do.

1. Talk to someone who loves you for you.
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When you’re feeling misunderstood, talk to someone who is good at understanding you. Not only will they help you stop feeling like the worst person in the world, but they can also judge your behavior in a situation based on what they know about you, and maybe even point out better ways for you to handle similar circumstances in the future.

2. Plan things you can look forward to.
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This is one of my favorite things to do, whether I’m having a bad day or not. It’s just fun to plan trips or meals, or the meals you’ll have during your trips πŸ˜€ I like to plan places to go and things to do, but in a loose sense. Like shops I want to go to, restaurants I want to try, and cities/countries I want to visit — then I wing it when I get there. But planning to go somewhere or do something you KNOW you’ll enjoy is always a mood booster b/c you get to think about how happy you’ll be once you’ve arrived.

3. Watch cartoons.
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…or anything that makes you happy. As soon as I even think about something that makes me laugh, I’ll at least giggle (but I’ll probably do something way more conspicuous and embarrassing which is why I’m so grateful to live alone) and immediately feel a little lighter.

4. EAT.
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Junk food, green juice, a whole lobster — the world is your oyster. To eat. I think every food I like counts as comfort food for me. And it’s really fun to do this in combination with #3. Consume good things through ALL your face-holes at once!

5. Open a fortune cookie.
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Obviously, this can go terribly wrong. In my experience, though, the messages are typically positive and encouraging (even considering the fact that a lot of times your “fortune” isn’t so much a prediction as a general statement — “The sky is blue. Enjoy it.”). And if you do happen to crack open a cookie with a prediction for a glorious future, well that just gives you one more thing to look forward to, eh?

If anyone else out there is having a rotten one today, I hope it gets better really soon. πŸ™‚

#FdBloggers — Get to Know

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So the lovely Sophie of Sophie Loves Food has nominated me to do the #fdbloggers: Get to Know tag (created by Loriley Sessions), so how could I say no? Now, I’m not a food blogger in the sense that I only blog about food, or even share delicious recipes (like Sophie does — do yourself a favor and check out her Hidden Oreo cupcake recipe or her most recent triumph: a Black Forest Gateau baked as part of the Great British Bake Off Bake Along hosted by Ala and Amanda). However, I AM a food blogger in that I love food more than most things, I’m always seeking out new restaurants that I’m happy to tell you about, and I don’t give a damn about eating alone as long as I’m effing eating. So I’m happy to participate in this tag πŸ˜€

Name: Gianni

Blog: Across the Hog’s Back

What was your reason for starting a blog?
I started a blog because I was moving to England (life-long dream turned reality) and wanted to document the process: ups, downs, fun, fails, ALL of it to look back on in the future, and for anyone out there thinking about making the same move. One of my favorite things to do has always been reading about other people’s adventures — especially when they’re adventures I hope to go on myself! Once I knew for sure that I’d be starting an English adventure of my own, I decided to join the blogging ranks so I could (hopefully) inspire someone else’s wanderlust πŸ™‚

What’s the dish you’re most proud of?
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Like I said above, I don’t post recipes… but I DO cook! The dish I’m most proud of is actually a baked good: shortbread cookies. I came up with my own recipe (well, really I added some of my favorite ingredients to an existing recipe) and it was the best feeling when I tried them for the first time and they were so buttery and amazing.

What one kitchen utensil could you not live without?
I want to say a spatula. I’m constantly flipping meats, eggs, and other things so it’s probably my most used utensil. That aside, in a pinch, a spatula can also be used to mix ingredients (and by “in a pinch,” I mean when my big wooden spoons are dirty and I don’t feel like washing them).

You’re stranded on a desert island. What three ingredients do you take with you?
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This is a tough one. I think… eggs, bacon, and spinach leaves. I can cook them all in the hot desert sun, and I’m assuming this desert island has coconuts so I’d be set for something slightly sweet to drink (never trust sea water). I think I could be happy with those three ingredients.

Who do you take your inspiration from?
Cooking inspiration? My mom, all the way. She’s my favorite cook. People always rave about her food, and she’s happy to try new recipes and restaurants. An adventurous eater makes for an interesting cook! But really, my mom’s just a good cook any way you slice it (ho ho…food puns). My grandmother’s also something in the kitchen.

What’s your favourite social platform?
Probably Facebook. It took me a looooooong time to start getting involved on Twitter. I have an Instagram account, but I never use it. Basically, I’m not great at internet-ing. But I’m always on Facebook (even if I’m not posting much) because it’s a great way to keep in touch with old friends.

Biggest disaster in the kitchen?
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My biggest disaster in the kitchen involves the aforementioned shortbread cookies. I was visiting my mom and wanted to make them (bc she loves them), but didn’t have any butter, so I used vegetable shortening instead. Bad idea. They looked like little boulders, and I couldn’t even swallow one bite of them. Gross. My mom ate them anyway. Motherly love at its best.

Favourite spot for coffee?
I’m not a big coffee aficionado. As such, I haven’t really tried many places specifically for their coffee. I’ve had (what for me is) good coffee at a couple of places, but I couldn’t name them. I’m more of a hot chocolate/tea person. That said, Bill’s has some good coffee (but I like their food better).

Favourite photo you’ve taken?
I guess…this one.
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That poached egg looks so perfect under its cape of hollandaise sauce. Ugh. The perfection of eggs is second to none.

What would you say is your most successful blog post and why?
Hmm… I don’t even know which post was most successful statistically. I mean, sometimes a lot of people look at a post, but most of them don’t comment or like it. Does that count as a successful post? I guess I feel like the most successful posts are the ones where I wasn’t sure if I should even say what I said b/c it might be boring/too honest, but I did, and people still had nice things to say in response. But that’s more than a few posts, so you might just have to go back through the archive and decide which is best for yourself πŸ™‚

Now nominate three food bloggers you’d like to get to know more.
I nominate
Frankie of The Mayfairy
Flick of They Called It The Diamond Blog
and
Susan Shirley

These are all people I’ve admittedly hung out with, but have never asked these questions of.

πŸ˜€

Life Update

I just KNEW my first summer in London would mean trekking all over England and Europe, eating out all the time, reading tons of new fiction, getting ten thousand pages of my thesis written, and generally having the blastiest of blasts. And I would write about all of it here!

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Yeah… it didn’t quite work out that way. BUT! I have been doing some of those things (though not at such physically impossible levels), and I’ve written about most of it. Here are some of the things I’ve left out.

What I’ve Been Putting into my Mouth
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I’ve been taking note of all the really drool-making places people have been blogging about, and have even managed to visit a few of them! Clerkenwell & Social is a cocktail bar and restaurant with book/author-themed drinks and decorations…
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…so you know I wasn’t about to pass that up. And Jaime’s suggestions tend to lead to pots of gold at the ends of rainbows anyway, so I figured it was a safe bet. C&S even does 2 for 1 cocktails Monday thru Friday from 5-8PM, and all day on Saturdays. You should really take advantage of this. The drinks are gewd.

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The food’s not too shabby either.

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Your insides will thank you.

I FINALLY tried Maitre Choux, which I’ve wanted to do for months. Sweet HeySoos, these are like works of art, and so good that I actually went back the very next week to buy more. Mmyep, they’re that good.

Eclairs for grown-ups.

Γ‰clairs for grownups.

Maitre Choux also makes these little pastries called chouquettes: delicate little puffs of pastry with pieces of sugar that look like rice coating the outside. The sugar is crunchy, and the pastry is soft and not overly sweet. When I’m old and immobile, you can find me in a La-Z-Boy in front of the TV with an open sack of chouquettes in my lap. Livin’ the dream, y’all.

Also, Frankie, Flick, Sophie and I checked out the Magic Roundabout in Shoreditch not too long ago.
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Burger Bear and Prawnography blessed us with tasty eats and some wack-a-mole style fun (rubber mallets + crab parts = crab guts urrywurr). For a rundown of the night (featuring great photos and some sweet gifs), check out Frankie & Sophie’s posts.

What I’ve Been Reading
I’ve been trying to do as much reading as possible. But now that I have to read certain things for the critical part of my thesis ::grumblegrumble:: my “reading for pleasure” has fallen a bit by the wayside. But I’m still finding great things to read! The only problem is, I haven’t actually finished any of my “for pleasure” reads yet. Scratch that, I’ve finished one of them — turns out the one book I finished is the one book I wish I’d never read at all. Anyhoo, this is what I’ve been reading lately:

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Let’s just get this out of the way. I was extremely disappointed by this novel. Most of the interesting questions that came up were left unanswered. The entire thing got to be repetitive and less enjoyable the further I read.

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These are actually both for pleasure and for my thesis. Flannery O’Connor was certainly talented, but for me her work can be tough to read. Her views on race can never be known because she’s dead. Her stories do point to a belief in equality — though possibly only on religious grounds — but she was also known to antagonize friends who were more earnest in their belief in racial equality by telling racist jokes. Part of me thinks she just liked being a dick to her friends sometimes for the fun of it. In any case, whatever her beliefs, she knew how to craft a good story.

The only reason I haven’t finished The Little Friend yet is because I’m afraid of what’s going to happen next πŸ˜€ . Donna Tartt is masterful at building tension and capitalizing on the unease she makes you feel. This novel (her second) is more successfully executed than her first in my opinion (though I’ll always have a special spot in my heart for The Secret History); you can tell she’d really grown into her writing voice by the time she wrote The Little Friend. It’s written with incredible care, and it does a lot of the things I want my work to do. She’s become a writing role model of mine, for sure.

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You guys know I dig good childrens’ books, and Jeff Kinney knows how to write ’em. This series cracks me up so much. Definitely check it out if you haven’t already.

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The only other book of David Mitchell’s I’ve tried is Cloud Atlas, which wasn’t for me. I wasn’t able to find a comfortable rhythm with that story, so I gave up. I’m going to try reading it again, though, because I’m really enjoying The Bone Clocks. I’m nearly done with it, actually. I will say I’m a bit disappointed about his not sticking with the POV of the first character (each section is from a different POV and happens at a different point in time — which seems to be his favorite way to write), but the jumping around works better for me in this story than in Cloud Atlas. I also want to read Number 9 Dream.

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Working in a used bookstore gives you access to some interesting stuff. I’ve been a fan of D.H. Lawrence’s poetry ever since I read Beasts by Joyce Carol Oates. This is my first time reading his prose. I picked up Apocalypse, and Fantasia of the Unconscious: Psychoanalysis and the Unconscious. Heavy stuff.

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I also found this gem at the shop I work at. This is my first encounter with Stephen Fry’s writing and I looooove it. This book covers the true versions of “facts” everyone thinks they know. Intelligent and funny — my kind of guy (and book!).

What I’ve been Writing
The novel writing has come to a screeching halt (for now) in favor of getting a good chunk of my critical bit written. Researching monsters and Gothic fiction is a lot of fun, but I’m a lil rusty when it comes to academic writing, so that part hasn’t been all that great. I keep worrying that what I’m writing sounds like a grade school book report — it’s really bugging me, hahaha. But I’ll get back into the swing of things eventually.

In fun(ner) writing news, I’ve finished a couple of short stories (Hallelujah). So now it’s back to the grind of looking for someone who wants to publish them. I still have a few more I need to wind up and get out into the world, so hopefully I can make progress on those, too.

That’s pretty much it! I think you’re all caught up now πŸ™‚

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Later!

Avenue Q

I first heard the song “It Sucks To Be Me” as a college freshman. My friend Ryan and I were in his dorm, pulling an all-nighter before our first semester finals. Obviously we found about 10 billion ways to procastinate keep ourselves awake. One of them was listening to soundtracks from our favorite musicals. College: the only time in life when you can belt out songs from Rent, Wicked, and Rocky Horror and no one will look at you funny b/c they’re all too busy weirding it up themselves. We found songs from a show called Avenue Q that I’d heard of and was desperate to see as soon as I found out puppets were starring in it. Hearing the songs sealed the deal.

Scratch that, knowing that one of the characters in the show is Gary Coleman after he’s hit rock bottom and become the superintendent of some crappy apartment building sealed the deal. Fast forward 10 years (holy f***, WHYYYY), and I’m FINALLY watching the UK touring cast perform Avenue Q… and it’s even better than I’d hoped.

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Avenue Q hit home for me far more than I ever thought a show about puppets could. Every character — the humans, the monsters, and the puppet-humans — is trying to find happiness. Princeton is a college grad who’s just moved to the big apple and wants more than anything to find his purpose in life. Kate Monster is a kindergarten teaching assistant hoping to advance in her career…and find a boyfriend. Brian’s been laid off, and wants to be a comedian for a living (but his act kinda sucks). His fiancee, Christmas Eve (lol) is a Japanese-American therapist with no clients. Rod is a closeted gay investment banker whose best friend and roommate, Nicky, keeps trying to persuade him to come out. Trekkie Monster is a shut-in who does nothing but watch internet porn all day. And Gary Coleman…is Gary Coleman.

Everyone knows and loves each other, and tries to help each other out in their own ridiculous ways. But there are other characters, like the Bad Idea Bears — who always try to convince people to do the worst possible thing — and Lucy The Slut — a Girls Gone Wild veteran, and…puppet — who constantly complicate things. Eventually, everyone takes responsibility for who they are and what they want, and figure out that it’s best not to force anything; every feeling and situation, the good and the bad, are only ever “For Now” anyway.

The songs are hilarious. I liked all of them, but my favorite is still “It Sucks To Be Me.” Runners up are “If You Were Gay” and “The More You Ruv Someone.” Some songs are about hard truths, like “Everyone’s A Little Bit Racist” (self-explanatory) and “Schadenfreude” (about how other people’s misery makes you happy). I found out that Kate Monster is my spirit animal. Her songs were full of heart and made me think about those times I liked someone new and drove myself crazy over it. My favorite Kate Monster tunes were “Mix Tape” and “There’s a Fine, Fine Line.”

I was going to say how impressed I was with the actors who played multiple parts (Richard Lowe, Sarah Harlington, and Stephen Arden), but honestly, I was impressed with everyone. Especially with how well the cast worked together! There are parts of the show where both puppets voiced by a single actor are in a scene together, and another actor/crew member has to operate one puppet while the actor who does the voice for that puppet speaks for them (and controls a different puppet at the same time). I don’t know if I explained that well, but it was pretty awesome to see. The timing of speech and mouth movements was always perfect, and I thought that was so cool. It just showed how hard they all worked, and how talented they are.

Also, Avenue Q is a perfect example of how, just because something is full of furry, colorful characters doesn’t mean it’s for kids. Avenue Q is like The Book of Mormon with puppets. (One of the co-creators/writers of Avenue Q actually co-created The Book of Mormon, so…yeah.) It even has a puppet sex scene that lasts the length of an entire song. Not a family friendly show, unless your family consists entirely of folks over the age of 18. But if one of your family members is a toddler who smokes cigars and has a mustache, that’s probably OK.

One of those sappy posts…

Hey there!

I know I’ve said it before, but I’m a one-woman irrigation system when it comes to most things. Sadness = tears. A show of kindness = tears. Anger = tears. Extreme confusion or stress = tears. Lots of laughter = tears. I’m a sensitive little jellybean, and that’s A-OK πŸ˜€ My favorite tears are, of course, happy tears, and one of my favorite things to do to make ’em is watching a movie or TV show that I love. And yes, OK…the ones that make me cry usually have something to do with love — you caught me πŸ™‚

Saturday is my favorite day, whether I have plans or not, to watch a movie or TV show that gets me teary-eyed. Here are 5 of my most favorites!

1. “The One With the Proposal” (Friends)
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This is one of my favorite Friends episodes of all time, and not just because Monica and Chandler get engaged at the end. The reintroduction of Richard (the former love of Monica’s life) complicated things in a very real way. We all knew she would eventually choose Chandler, but how long it would take her to do that and what would be enough to make her decide to was in the wind until the proposal itself. I ALWAYS get misty when Monica starts crying after getting down on one knee, and again when Chandler gets choked up during his speech. I lovelovelove that they proposed to each other in the end.

The Monica-Chandler relationship was such a surprise when it first happened, but ended up making a lot of sense. MON + CHAN 4EVER.

2. Pride & Prejudice (2005)
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There are a few tearjerker moments sprinkled throughout this entire film (for me). The movie itself is gorgeous, and the casting is absolutely perfect. Joe Wright & friends send me spiraling through every emotion ever felt from the start of the film to the very last scene. I want Keira Knightly’s Lizzie to be my BFF and life coach. I also want to punch Mrs. Bennett in the face a few times. Anyhoo… I never fail to shed tears over Darcy’s speech when he confesses his love to Lizzie for the 2nd time (“You have bewitched me body and soul, and I love– I love– I love you.” FEELS.) But one of the great things about this film is that Lizzie and Darcy aren’t the only characters you come to care about. My eyes turn into friggin’ waterfalls every time I watch Jane’s response to Bingley’s proposal. WAAAAHHHHHH!!! πŸ˜₯

3. The Holiday
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Most of my teary moments in The Holiday — maybe all of them — happen during Iris’s story. I honestly could’ve watched an entire movie dedicated to her (though imagining myself as the Amanda to Jude’s Graham is fun, too). Iris has all these little moments where you know exactly how she feels. When Jasper’s engagement is announced and she’s trying not to cry, when she’s telling Miles about why she’s there and gets choked up (“…those years of your life that you wasted…”), when she first went inside Arthur’s house and saw his awards…and then saw what his life had become. Kate Winslet is an acting god. I’m pretty much convinced she’s part of an elite acting council, alongside Cate Blanchett, chaired by Meryl Streep. I get completely lost in Iris’s story because of all those little instances of genuine emotion. This is also my favorite role I’ve ever seen Jack Black play. It’s just so easy to root for Iris and Miles: two sweet, sincere people who’ve been sh*t on one too many times, and finally get the happiness they deserve.

P.S.
Shout out to Hans Zimmer. His genius score puts every scene over the top.

4. Ore Monogatari!! (aka, My Love Story!!)
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This one’s for my anime peeps out there. Holy crap, y’all. I finally found a new anime to love, and it’s so flippin’ cute I just can’t even. I’ve never been into anime that’s billed as “Romance”; I don’t mind when a love story is woven in, but for my favorite animes, romance is usually secondary. This one, however, is so good and SO SWEET that there’s at least one part of every single episode that makes me cry.

It’s about a high school freshman named Takeo who’s never been popular with girls because he’s so big and (they say) too strong. Every girl he’s ever liked has gone for his best friend instead. Takeo is incredibly kind and a good guy in general, but very few people are able to see past his appearance (even the people he helps end up thanking his best friend instead of him). Then one day, he sees some perv on the train he’s riding grope a girl his age and he stops the guy. Takeo and the girl he saves, Yamato, fall in love, and it’s the most adorable thing EVER. Yamato is the first girl to openly appreciate all that makes Takeo great. Not only is their story together cute, but Takeo’s relationship with his best friend, Suna (who always turned those other girls down b/c they’d talked badly about Takeo behind his back) is also D’AWW-inducing. And like anything good, it’s not a one-trick pony: there’s romance, but also plenty of comedy and drama. It’s a well-rounded, sweet show πŸ™‚

5. Big Fish
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Like Ore Monogatari!!, Big Fish is more than just a romantic love story — it’s also a love story about a father and his son. Watching Billy Crudup’s character act so harshly toward his father throughout the film, demanding that he tell him the true versions of all those tall tales, only to watch him soften up at the end while he’s telling his father a tall tale is a heart-destroyer (especially that moment when he cry-laughs mid-sentence). This story is so multi-layered! You have the father and son, the young Edward Bloom and Sandra Templeton, the old Edward Bloom and Sandra Templeton, and the little girl from the town of Spectre who fell in love with Edward twice in her life, only to be rejected both times. It’s a weighty film, and (as much as I love creepy shiz) my favorite Tim Burton’s ever done.

What are some of your favorite tearjerkers?