Sunday, November 15, 2015

Writing Projects 1.0

Way back when Netflix was solely a mail-delivery Blockbuster service, I binge-watched the WB show Felicity, as much as one can binge-watch a show that arrives in four episode installments. The show was cool as shit for a lot of reasons, but there was one that really hit home. I was madly in love with a guy in high school who had no idea I existed (actually he knew about my existence he just didn't acknowledge it), and I couldn't believe there was a TV show whose plot was based on the fact that the main character chose NYU over Stamford after her high school crush signed her yearbook saying "keep in touch." She followed him to New York and they fell in love (on and off, thus the four seasons). That show made me believe that high school crushes weren't delusional as eff (reality check: they were!) and also it made we want to go to college in New York City and work at Dean & Deluca, neither of which I did. It might be one of my favorite TV shows ever, even though the lighting was really dark and bothered me (speaking of dark lighting and TV shows: that's why I hated Party of Five)

Every episode would start with a shot of Felicity, played by Keri Russell, talking into a tape recorder about her life. I was thinking about that just now because I kind of realized that's what this blog, and maybe most personal blogs are: life updates and musings that the blogger writes with the simultaneous intention of taking thoughts out of one's head and sharing with whoever wants to read it. So, with that in mind, HERE GOES!!!

Jk. Kind of. The real purpose of this post is to share some things I've written recently. I went to this freelancer talk a couple of weeks ago and someone said that becoming a freelancer means turning yourself into a business, so you have to do publicity. I hate self-promotion and it makes me uncomfortable to do it. That's not to say I don't do it: I do it occasionally and pretty haphazardly. I wish I could be one of those people who shamelessly self-promotes but I think most of the self-promoters out there are extroverts and I am so NOT! Wah, cry me a river. Since I feel weird going all out on social media, what better place to promote myself/my work than on my good ol' friend, BLOGGER! Am I right?! Yah, I am.

I've written a fair amount of things in the last week, which is pretty cool because I still have a day job unrelated to my writing projects. Here's what's going on:

- I wrote a story for Teen Vogue about boy band superfans. I interviewed a bunch of girls who are head-over-heels obsessed with boy bands and I found out a lot of cool and unsuspecting things like that being a superfan helps some girls cope with anxiety and depression. Read it here.

- I write for this local site called Brooklyn Based. I mostly do restaurant reviews, which are so fun because I get to explore corners of Brooklyn that I would never go to otherwise, eat some food, then write about it. My latest review is for a dumpling place in Downtown Brooklyn called Yaso Tangbao.

- I also wrote a story for Brooklyn Based about this new co-living space in Crown Heights called Common. All I could think about while writing the story was how eerily similar the concept was to the Real World (minus the TV cameras), and I spent most of my youth summers on the couch watching the Real World when I was definitely too young to be watching sexually ambiguous people make out in hot tubs.

- Back to the food and restaurant beat, I write weekly stories for, mostly about dining trends in New York. Two of my most recent are dining guides for Downtown Brooklyn and Bushwick.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Deadlines, Man

I wish I blogged more. I feel like I always talk about this, and by talk I mean write, but the truth is that whenever I blog now, it's because I miss it. The salad days of this blog are gone, which is probably a good thing because this blog nonchalantly flourished when my life, as measured by happiness/satisfaction in my job, did not. That was during a distinct period when I was working in public relations and all I wanted to do was get paid to write. And even though I currently don't get paid to write as much as I would like to get paid or to write, if that makes sense, I still continue on with the hope that both the payment and the writing assignments will increase.

Right now, I am basking in the late afternoon Sunday sun and I'm supposed to be writing an article that was due on Friday but that I was too burnt out to do last week and I fear that I'm too burnt out to do right now. I'm testing the limits. I thrive in an organized environment—I like rules, deadlines, structure, assigned seats, all that jazz. All my life I've seen deadlines as unchanging due dates that had to be met. I never handed an assignment late in school because I was too scared of the consequences, nor did I ever even stop to consider what those consequences could be. They were probably lower grades and I was okay with getting bad grades as long as I knew that I had tried as hard as I could (shout out to the time I failed my linear algebra exam(s)), but low grades that were in my control/a result of my own laziness weren't going to fly in my book of self-satisfaction. But right now, at the ripe age of 24.9 I'm tired! And I'm burnt out! I just want to watch Aziz Ansari's new show on Netflix and Indian Summers on PBS and random episodes of Sex and the City.  But I can't because I've worked so hard to send out random pitches on topics that I want to be the one to explore and write and tell an audience as small as twenty people about. So I will send in my assignment two days late tomorrow and see if the editor says anything, but a part of me thinks that he forgot about me because it's for a print magazine and man oh man does print move slowly. I don't really have much to say except that it's 3:10 PM and I'm going to give myself an hour to write then I will take a break and get back to it. ARGH!!!!

Friday, September 18, 2015

Let's Talk About Tuna Salad Sandwiches

Can we talk about tuna salad? I love tuna salad. A scoop of white and gooey tuna salad on rye bread with mustard, lettuce, tomato, and red onion if I'm alone, plus a side of pickles and coleslaw. That will be my last meal. With something sweet to wash down the inevitable tuna aftertaste (can't have a bad taste in my mouth when I hit the afterlife, amirite?).

The first tuna sandwich I fell in love with was from Panera. I was in fifth grade and I thought Panera was the coolest eating establishment in suburbia because I could order broccoli cheddar soup in a bread bowl and "fresh-squeezed" lemonade. How cool was it to get soup served in bread, then eat the bread in which your soup was served? Unbeatable, that's how cool. As for the sandwich portion of the menu, I was blown away by how delicious mayonnaise could make something taste -- my mom's tuna sandwiches were good, but the mayonnaise to tuna ratio was always too healthy. I was convinced that there was a secret ingredient in Panera's iteration, so I looked it up in weird early aught online forums, decided the key ingredient was relish, then tried to recreate the sandwich at home. Maybe I added too much relish because that shit was disgusting.

Based on many tuna sandwiches since 2001 (I've had three this week!), I've concluded that a good one has to have enough tuna that the filling falls out of the sandwich when you pick it up, dijon mustard spread on both sides, iceberg lettuce and a thick slice of tomato. The bread must be rye. A slice of rye has more surface area than a typical whole wheat square. Sourdough sometimes works. White bread gets too soggy. Possible pitfalls include spreading mustard on one side, using romaine lettuce instead of iceberg, and toasting the bread. A sandwich made with toasted bread is a casualty to the roof of my mouth and puts me in a bad mood.

I've found that only two types of places make a tuna salad sandwich that meets the above requirements: fast-casual chains that serve their sandwiches in baskets (Panera, Le Boulanger) or diners. I wish I could put Lenny's on the list but they don't add enough mayonnaise to the tuna, nor do they put enough tuna salad in between the bread. It makes me sad because I want to love Lenny's but that's a real dealbreaker.

I wrote this post because I just had an unbelievably satisfying tuna salad sandwich that made up for the bad Lenny's one I had last weekend.


Thursday, September 17, 2015

RECIPE! Pumpkin Apple Bread

Endorse me on LinkedIn for recipe development folks because I made my own pumpkin bread yesterday. I ideated it, if you will. And what better place to share it with the world than on my invisible blog?!

I won't turn into one of those food bloggers who takes forever to get to the recipe (the only one who pulls this off is The Pioneer Woman) but I will give you a bit of background as to how the bread came to be. I was experimenting with a granola recipe a couple weeks ago that called for pumpkin puree, and yes yes, I know it's too early to start brewing up edibles of the pumpkin spice variety but the key to a good recipe is care so I was simply taking care to make sure my pumpkin spice granola is ready to debut with a bang come fall (four days, people). Anyway, v1 of the granola was horrendous. One of the taste testers compared it to an Anthropologie candle, and not in a goody way. I can't tell if the problem is the pumpkin or the fact that my taste testers came to America via Iran Air and not the Mayflower, and as such their tastebuds aren't partial to pumpkin (I can say this because they're my family). Instead of using the rest of the pumpkin puree can to make more granola, I let it sit in the refrigerator for two weeks, and in a bored stupor yesterday, I decided to play Top Chef with myself and voila: my pumpkin APPLE bread. 

Since there wasn't very much pumpkin puree to use and the members of my dining room had previously made clear their lack of enthusiasm for pumpkin-flavored food, I decided to supplement the recipe with pureed apples. The problem with baking is that my mouth intercepts most of the batter on its way from mixing bowl to pan, and I eat most of the final product, so I like to make recipes low-fat by either cutting sugar or oil. Based on recent experiences in making non-rising breads with banana/zucchini/pumpkin etc, I've found that for the sake of moistness, it's best not to cut the oil. I made a low-oil zucchini bread a few weeks ago and it was so dry that it lodged itself in my throat for five too many seconds. It was still good and despite almost dying, I persevered and ate an entire loaf. I learned from my mistakes but not from my overeating, so this recipe skimps on sugar and not oil. It calls for 3/4 cup of sugar, but TBH the modern tastebud might want to add a little more. The apple makes up for loss sugar by adding an ince ince of sweet and tangy. 

Recipe for Pumpkin Apple Bread 

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons butter, softened
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup pumpkin puree
2 small apples (or 1 medium)
2 large eggs

Preheat oven to 350. Grease one nine-inch pan.

Peel apples and cut into one-inch slices. Combine with 3/4 cup water in a microwaveable bowl. Microwave for four minutes, or until apples are soft and soggy. Stir until mixture resembles apple sauce. Set aside.

Whisk together flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, pumpkin pie spice, and cinnamon in a small bowl.

In a standing mixer, mix sugar with butter and oil on low speed until fluffy. Should take about 1-2 minutes.

Add the pumpkin puree and apple sauce, mix until combined.

Add in the eggs one at a time, mixing just until combined.

Gradually add the flour mixture and mix until well-combined.

Spread in the pan. Cook for about an hour at 350, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool for 15 minutes in pan, then remove and let cool completely on a wire rack.

Monday, August 17, 2015

I Tried Transcendental Meditation...

..and c'est pas mon truc. I've been told on various accounts that I should take up meditation. My mom tried to convert me (though I guess it isn't really converting if she doesn't do it herself) when I was in college with the help of a burned CD filled with "oms" uttered by a guy with a lisp and an Instant Karma book with a handwritten bookmark that says "I gave this to you for a reason" in her hybrid cursive that is legible to not many people outside of my family. TBH, I didn't give meditation much thought until I read about Transcendental Meditation (TM if you're #intheknow) in New York magazine a few months ago. All the cool people, like Jerry Seinfeld and Lena Dunham and probably Gwyneth Paltrow do it, so obviously I should too. The thing with TM is, like most hobbies of the rich and famous, it isn't exactly free to learn. If I can't afford a luxury gym membership (I wish Equinox made me do it) then I certainly can't afford the introductory TM course where a trained teacher assigns you a mantra. And that's why nerdy boys invented YouTube. It didn't take me long to a) find a mantra online b) learn how to do TM with the help of a YouTube video.

Basically, all you do is concentrate on your mantra. That's a really abridged version but it gets the point across. I tried to do it first thing in the morning (like Carolyn Murphy, apparently) and it went great for like, two days. I set a a timer for 10 minutes on my phone, and sat on my floor and thought about nothing but my mantra. Then on the night of day two, a monster cockroach showed up in my apartment and even though I watched my roommate kill it with the lethal combination of dish soap, a flip flop, and a GRE practice book, I still couldn't sit comfortably in my apartment after the incident with my eyes closed without thinking there was a cockroach at my feet. I picked it back up on day four when my roommate got in the shower before me on a Tuesday morning and I decided the only way to not get annoyed (she takes really long showers and is the first to admit it) was to meditate. On day five, I woke up in the morning with Blank Space stuck in my head and decided I didn't want to replace it with an om, so I didn't meditate. On day six, I forgot about my wholesome morning practice. I didn't make it to twenty-one days, which is apparently how long it takes to make a habit.

So, all in all, if I had fully committed to TM (say with the help of an instructor) I could've gotten into it. But I just don't think I have the lifestyle for it. Exhibit A: My apartment is occasionally cockroach-ridden.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

I'll Never Let Go, Blog

Having a blog is a funny thing. It's kind of like a Tamagotchi. One minute you're really into it, all you want to do is blog, blog, blog, then life happens and you get sweeped up in the mother-effing-grind and just like that, you forget about your blog. Then something happens, like you realize that you have a very uncommon first name, and all a stranger who meets you at the airport when you're wearing the refined combination of a cowboy hat and a RUN DMC sweatshirt and asks you out needs to do is put your name into Google to find out that he has taken a FREAK OF NATURE WHO PUTS PARTS OF HER LIFE ON WORDY DISPLAY on a few dinner dates. Anyway, things like that remind you that HELLO you have a blog and it is the embarrassing thing that comes to the top of Google when someone like a prospective future husband or employer looks you up. The thing with Google is, unlike how Rose treated Jack (guys, there was room for both of them on that door, amiright?), that it will never let you go. You can't hide any parts of your life from The Googs, and I've found that the best way to handle such digital hegemony is to keep blogging like a mofo.

So here I am, in this "humbling heatwave" as the New York Times said so well in its "Wednesday Briefing," kicking it back with a stale bottle of seltzer and good ole' Blogger.

Also, I woke up to an email from GoDaddy this morning telling me it's "that time of the year" aka I need to pay for my URL and I can't lose my URL because it's a part of me. It brings me back to the days when I was living at my parents' house, watching the Parent Trap, and crying because I felt that my college administration had made me graduate before I was ready to say goodbye. I never even got a chance to take astronomy. It ain't right.

Peace out, my sister is taking me out to dinner cause today is the first day of the rest of my life.

(Almost optimized this post for search but that's work stuff not personal. BOOYAH!)

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

My One True Love: the Vanessa Bruno Tote

When I was studying abroad in Paris (no good ever comes from a sentence that starts like that but here I go), I became infatuated with a bag. The Vanessa Bruno Cabas tote. Everyone who was anyone  (mainly high school girls) on my 8 AM metro ride to school had two things, both of which I needed, one of which I got in three different versions: a Vanessa Bruno bag and a faux-fur hooded parka. This was before Stan Smiths, but believe you me if I got on the 12 at Notre Dame des Champs today, those sassy lil lycĂ©ens would be wearing those. (I just looked at the Paris metro map and my heart PANGED. Literally it hurt. Ellen/Louisa are you reading this? If so, leave a comment). 

It took me a long time to figure out who actually made the ubiquitous bag, because whereas a suitable  parka could be found at a multitude of stores, this bag clearly had an It status. It was the Coach wristlet of the French youth. I needed it. I asked my host mom's live-in step-granddaughter (weird living situation, kind of traumatic on my end) who made it and she replied with something that I didn't understand. I didn't understand a lot of what she said because her French was really colloquial/on fleek (?) and mine was at more of a textbook last published in 1992-type frequency. I nodded like I knew what she was talking about then asked her to write it down. This led to the next phase of making the bag mine--visiting it in stores. I tried to advance to the final phase but logistics like a general lack of money prevented me from doing so. Shame.

When I went back to Paris last year (remember I bought an impulse ticket, guys? That was the best. Really living) I had enough money from an underpaid entry-level job to get my Vanessa Bruno tote once and for all. But then I happened upon another similar bag at a boutique in the Marais and since I was already on an impulsive kick, I thought yo-the-eff-lo and bought it. We've had some great times, me and this lil Stephane Verdino tote, some cool lady once complimented it at the Wythe Hotel.

But there's one thing I know about true love, which aside from nothing is that it stands the test of time, and I truly love the Vanessa Bruno tote. For me, it's always been you. And I've tried to hide and I've tried to deny it, but I can't, you're undeniable. Since I'm still thinking about it three years later, imma buy it.

Assembling funds now.