Author Archives: thebitterlemon
Happy Sunday! I had the best day yesterday – I had a gift certificate to a spa, so I got a 90-minute facial that included a massage, eye and lip treatments, and a detox peel – my skin feels amazing! It was in an area of town that I haven’t explored much, so I took that time to eat lunch and walk around. It was fun, relaxing, and I did a little shopping. Very nice!
Then I came home, took a nap, and started in on season four of “The OC”. I made dinner and then settled in determined to finish the latest read in Blanche’s Book Club: “The Female Persuasion” by Meg Wolitzer. Here is the official description from Amazon.com:
From the New York Times-bestselling author of The Interestings, an electric novel not just about who we want to be with, but who we want to be.
To be admired by someone we admire – we all yearn for this: the private, electrifying pleasure of being singled out by someone of esteem. But sometimes it can also mean entry to a new kind of life, a bigger world.
Greer Kadetsky is a shy college freshman when she meets the woman she hopes will change her life. Faith Frank, dazzlingly persuasive and elegant at sixty-three, has been a central pillar of the women’s movement for decades, a figure who inspires others to influence the world. Upon hearing Faith speak for the first time, Greer- madly in love with her boyfriend, Cory, but still full of longing for an ambition that she can’t quite place- feels her inner world light up. And then, astonishingly, Faith invites Greer to make something out of that sense of purpose, leading Greer down the most exciting path of her life as it winds toward and away from her meant-to-be love story with Cory and the future she’d always imagined.
Charming and wise, knowing and witty, Meg Wolitzer delivers a novel about power and influence, ego and loyalty, womanhood and ambition. At its heart, The Female Persuasion is about the flame we all believe is flickering inside of us, waiting to be seen and fanned by the right person at the right time. It’s a story about the people who guide and the people who follow (and how those roles evolve over time), and the desire within all of us to be pulled into the light.
I’ve read Meg Wolitzer before, and loved it, so I was excited to see she had a new book coming out. When it was ready for pickup at the library, I was shocked to see it was thick – hmm!
Within the first 50 pages of the book, we meet Greer, and I could immediately identify with her college struggle – and she quickly finds a group of friends and a cause to fight about. But as we follow Greer, the story takes different turns, focusing on different characters in the book.
At times, I felt it was slow, and I wasn’t sure things were going, but then it would pick up again. I am normally not a fan of books like this – I want books that really grip me from page one and through the end. But, the low points in this book were short-lived, and the good parts were really good, so I’m sticking with it.
This book takes place in the late 90’s and spans into 2010. It covers political issues, particularly women’s issues, including abortion rights. But there are other storylines as well – romance, included. Some of these other storylines I felt could have been entire books on their own.
However, in the end – I’m really glad I read this book. I’m recommending it to fans of Wolitzer’s other work, political activists, and to anyone who’s felt a little lost in their career.
The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Eleanor and Park” by Rainbow Rowell. I hope you all have a great rest of your weekend!
I started watching season 3 of “The OC” during my staycation last week, and I wasn’t surprised when I barreled right through it. I thought season 2 was good, but season 3 was just throwing drama left and right, and you know, I am HERE FOR IT.
Before I go any further, here is the description of season 3 from Amazon.com:
Senior year. Prom. Graduation. College visits. Old friends. New problems. And plenty of Korean popstars. Ryan’s savior complex becomes a recipe for disaster. Seth and Summer’s relationship hits the rocks thanks to Seth’s compulsion to edit the truth. As Kirsten attempts to put her life back together, Sandy assumes leadership of the Newport Group and finds himself the heir-apparent to Caleb Nichol’s legacy of scandal. Marissa spirals out of control after little sis Kaitlin – a Julie Cooper in the making – returns home to stir the pot. And speaking of Julie Cooper, she’s cast out of her Palace – into the slums of the OC.
Please note that the following DOES contain spoilers – I’m assuming I’m the only person who is watching “The OC” for the first time.
Season 2 left off with Marissa just having shot Trey, so season 3 picks up right there. To my shock, Trey was still alive, but obviously in the hospital. There is much controversy over Marissa’s actions and the community questions (and wishes) that Ryan was to blame instead.
Marissa and Ryan get kicked out of Harbor, and its public school for her and Ryan gets a tutor for homeschooling. At her new school, Marissa meets a group of new friends, and you can probably guess what happens next…
The new group of friends has their own trouble, and Marissa gets dragged in, love triangle, and all. Eventually, the group starts to fade away, and the remaining friend dies in an accident. Because of course, right?
Over the course of the season, Marissa and Ryan breakup and get back together, as do Seth and Summer. But the other focus remains on getting Marissa admitted back to Harbor (Ryan gets back in) and applying to college.
College visits brings back a few skeletons – Seth runs into Anna on the Brown campus, and Kirsten sees Teresa at the airport… with a baby that looks a lot like Ryan. Dun, dun, dunnnnn.
In the background of all this, Marissa’s dad disappears after proposing to her mom Julie Cooper, and there is no fortune to be had. This leaves Marissa to live with Summer, and Julie moved into the trailer park, complete with pork rinds and chewing tobacco (!).
In the end, Ryan is still up to his old ways – fighting everyone in sight, and getting involved with Marissa’s ex in stealing a car, which sends Ryan and Marissa into a terrible, flaming car crash in the last few minutes of the season finale.
The season closes with an unclear outcome (of course) – is Marissa alive (I’m thinking yes because we have one more season to go)? Will Ryan go to college? Is Teresa’s baby his?
We will soon see!
You might recall a popular TV series in the mid-90’s, “Living Single”, that followed six black singletons living in Brooklyn. They were in their twenties.
Because that’s when most people are single, right?
I haven’t written about my (lack of) dating life in a while – in fact, when I searched through the archives of this blog, it’s been at least a year. Why? Well, until possibly yesterday, I didn’t have much to say on it.
I used to look at being single as sad, and then it became a badge of honor. Now it’s just nothing – or at least, nothing that defines who I am or what I do each day.
I know I’ve got some new readers here – Welcome! – and it’s likely that you never thought this was once a place where ALL I talked about was dating. Why?
Because I did a lot of it in my twenties. I dated, I wrote columns about my experiences, I bartended and met more people to date, and then I published books about it, and spoke about it at open-mic nights… and now I just live it.
I had some fun experiences, some really bad ones, I fell in love a few times, and I also strung myself through abusive relationships.
And then I decided to be single.
Not the single where you have crushes, and “talk” via text, and meet new people on Tindr, and have casual sex. The kind of single where I just get to know myself.
That was at least five years ago, and I’m still in that space.
I definitely never planned on being single at 33, but I also never planned on living in Texas, eating mostly vegan food, or contemplating what life at 55 looks like for a singleton like myself.
At times, being single is scary. I have Miranda’s fear of dying in my apartment, alone, with my cat, and wondering how that ends. And some nights, settling into the covers of my big bed is just a weird reminder of how long it’s been since I fell asleep next to someone I really cared for.
Most of the time, though, I’m happy with my life. Many days, I can’t even remember what it was like to be in a relationship, or to even have a crush on someone. I can do nearly anything I want, and for the most part I do. That was always my saving grace at the end of a relationship – I was free.
If that doesn’t tell you anything about the kinds of relationships I’ve experienced, I don’t know what will.
My jump into being single likely got off to a bitter beginning; I was single because I’d been burned. And there are still remnants of that – it’s embarrassing to admit that I’ve never had a relationship that I’d classify as good or healthy.
But even between relationships, I would quickly meet someone new and move to the next person; one rebound after another.
So being single was a much-needed blow to the cycle. For awhile, I found it difficult to even look at a man, whether at a restaurant or when checking out at a store. I was convinced all men were the same, and I wanted no part of their game.
Don’t worry, I have softened a little since then, and although I don’t meet many people whose relationships I envy, I do follow a few bloggers that give me hope in dating, relationships, and possibly even marriage.
When I graduated from college (10+ years ago), it seemed like everyone was getting married, and many of those same people got divorced, and/or had children. But really, a study came out last year saying the number of marriages in the US, and around the globe, have been declining since the late 90s.
A report from the Urban Institute also stated that many millennials won’t get married until age 40. In the past (say, in 1960), people married for many reasons – to have children, for financial gain (taxes, military, etc.); there was also less pressure on education and careers, for women at least.
Today, being single can mean a plethora of things, and it can look many different ways. That’s the catch 22: there’s almost too many options on how I can spend my years. Do I adopt? Travel? Move elsewhere? Get more hobbies?
I suppose I’ve got time to decide.
In these five years, I’ve gone on a few dates, and unfortunately they’ve been really bad reminders of what I don’t miss about dating – ghosting patterns, mixed messages, messy homes, boring conversations, and selfish sex.
It’s unlikely I’ll go on a date before 2020 rolls around, but when it does, I have a better idea of what I’m after – someone who has it together; a good, fun sense of humor, an appreciation for life, and a kind heart.
Until then, I’ll be obsessively reading library books, cooking new recipes, and planning my next vacation.
I’m feeling the PRESSURE – I have several library books at home that need to be read and there’s more reserves waiting to be picked up! What’s a girl to do… lay around and read? Sounds like a plan.
I stayed up until almost midnight last night to finish Blanche’s Book Club’s latest read: “The High Season” by Judy Blundell. Here is the official description from Amazon:
No matter what the world throws her way, at least Ruthie Beamish has the house. Lovingly renovated, located by the sea in a quiet Long Island village, the house is her nest egg—the retirement account shared with her ex-husband, Mike, and the college fund for their teenage daughter, Jem. The catch? To afford the house, Ruthie must let it go during the best part of the year.
It’s Memorial Day weekend and Ruthie has packed up their belongings for what Jem calls “the summer bummer”: the family’s annual exodus to make way for renters. This year, the Hamptons set has arrived. The widow of a blue-chip artist, Adeline Clay is elegant, connected, and accompanied by a “gorgeous satellite” stepson. But soon Adeline demonstrates an uncanny ability to help herself to Ruthie’s life—her house, her friends, even her husband (okay, ex-husband, but still). And after her job as the director of a local museum is threatened, Ruthie finally decides to fight back.
Meanwhile, away from the watchful eyes of her parents, Jem is tasting independence at her first summer job, but soon finds herself growing up too fast. One of Ruthie’s employees, a master of self-invention named Doe, infiltrates the inner circle of an eccentric billionaire and his wayward daughter. With a coterie of social climbers and Ruthie’s old flame thrown into the mix, the entire town finds itself on the verge of tumultuous change. By the end of one unhinged, unforgettable summer, nothing will be the same.
In a novel packed with indelible characters, crackling wit, and upstairs/downstairs drama, Judy Blundell emerges as a voice for all seasons—a wry and original storyteller who knows how the most disruptive events in our lives can twist endings into new beginnings.
This book starts off beautifully – and it comes across as if Ruthie is getting things figured out for her, her family, and her home. But then… all of these twists come out of nowhere, and frankly, Ruthie comes out of the woodwork and gets a little crazy (in a good way)!
I really enjoyed the unexpected parts of this book, and I found myself chuckling through several chapters. I also enjoyed the imagery and the descriptions of summer foods (because of course I did)!
I’m recommending this to anyone looking for a good summer/beach read, or to anyone who enjoys vacation-type reading with a twist. There’s hints of romance, but would still be enjoyable if you’re not into romance novels.
Blundell also wrote a YA novel, “What I Saw and How I Lied” about a family in the aftermath of World War II.
The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “The Female Persuasion” by Meg Wolitzer.
Follow me on Instagram and SnapChat @OrangeJulius7 for real-time book reviews, and like The Bitter Lemon Facebook page to keep in touch!
Okay… it’s almost 10pm on a Sunday night, and it’s about to be official: the end of my Staycation.
I’m definitely savoring these last few moments before reality hits when my alarm goes off at 6:30 tomorrow – I cooked a meal (I’ll be taking the leftovers for lunch tomorrow), I spent three hours on the patio with Blanche and a book, I soaked in the tub, and am currently in bed watching TV while I type.
On Friday, I felt this urge to be productive: I had freelance work to do, laundry to do, groceries to get, and I had an evening rehearsal. I also needed to get to bed early because the shoot for the music video was at 6:30 Saturday morning.
But, at the advice of a friend, I decided to do some work, but also have a little fun. So, I did finish my laundry and about an hour’s-worth of freelance, but I also took myself to Taco Shack for lunch (that was my first time there) and I took an afternoon nap before my evening rehearsal.
I didn’t make it to bed early – I stayed up until midnight talking on the phone – and then I still had to shower and do ALL the face/lip/eye masks… so it was at least 1am before I went to bed, and I got up at 4:30 to do my hair and makeup and make it to Bull Creek by 6:30.
I was soooo nervous about the shoot – there were parts of the dance I was less-confident about, and I was also worried about it being outside, and hot… but honestly, it was a lot of fun. All of us worked really hard and I think it will be a great video – it premiers July 29!
The shoot wrapped at 10:00 am, and I felt like I’d already lived an entire DAY. But it was starting to rain and I was exhausted, so I immediately came home, took a shower, and got into bed to binge season 3 of “The OC”.
I actually took a three-hour nap, but then I watched several episodes, hit up the grocery store, and was still in bed early.
I woke up this morning so, so sore. Dancing outdoors, on a picnic table, jumping off rocks, and skipping through the river took a toll on me!
This morning, I got up and got ready for a brunch I’d had on my calendar for awhile. A woman I met through dance was hosting a brunch with all of the creative women she knew.
Honestly, things like this make me a little nervous – I knew I wasn’t going to know many people aside from the hostess, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. I could have easily stayed in bed, but who knew – maybe it would be great.
And it WAS. It was about 10 women, and we went around the table explaining all of the things we do and it was so neat to hear how different, yet similar we all were. It’s really cool (and comforting) to meet people who are dabbling in new things, facing fears, starting new businesses, and overall just being awesome women!
I am really excited to have possibly met some new friends, and to try new classes and hopefully go to more brunches with these ladies! I felt like it was just what I needed after a draining few months at the office.
When I got home from brunch, I really just wanted to continue to abandon all responsibilities and sit on the patio with a book – so I did exactly that. I went IN, too – I laid a blanket down, laid on a pillow, and read outside with Blanche for hours! It was really nice.
In general, I’m really sad that my Staycation is over. It was really nice to be able to have a whole week all to myself. But on the other hand, I felt like I was still pretty busy during the week, and it was a huge reminder of all the things I’ve got going on – which, on any other day, I would tell you is a great thing, but when you need a rest, it’s nearly impossible to put your entire life on hold.
I’m a firm believer that Newton’s First Law of Motion: a body in motion, stays in motion – applies to life as well. When I’m at work during the week, it’s easier for me to stay moving, go to dance after work, get freelance done, eat healthy, etc. But when I’m on vacation… I’m a slug (relatively speaking).
That’s not a bash to slugs; I also wanted to say that this week was a reminder of just how important it is to take a break, rest, step away. Even if it’s just for an hour, for a day, or whatever you have, you owe it to yourself to rest and restore, and you’ll be a better person for it.
So, I’m wrapping up this Staycation (I’m still going to stay up and read a little), but I’ve decided I’m going to stretch these vibes into the weeks coming. I’ve already booked a facial for Saturday morning, and I’m going to treat myself to meals at restaurants I’ve never been to much more often.
Howdy! Here we are, on the evening of Staycation Day 4 – I just got home from the Drafthouse where I saw “Tag”. But, more on that in a minute.
Since I last wrote about Staycation, I’ve been a busy bee. I had an informal jazz rehearsal Tuesday night (our video shoot is Saturday morning, and I’m feeling “meh” about it), I went to one of the restaurants on my list – Veracruz All Natural (it was delicious) – and I even made the other recipe on my list: Vegan Garlic Buffalo Brussels Sprouts! You can get the recipe from Rabbit and Wolves.
I also started on a necklace for my Etsy shop, worked on freelance, and did some work around the apartment. It’s really easy to see how days fill up when you’re not at work.
Yesterday, I didn’t think I was going to get to go to the ONE activity I actually had planned this week: the July 4th paddle boarding on Lady Bird Lake under the fireworks! It was raining and storming all day… until it was time to hit the water!
I know in the last post, I mentioned my mental health, and you’re probably going to hear more and more about it because I’ll be starting my treatment plan ASAP (I found a place to complete an assessment today).
I’m not entirely sure what my diagnosis will be, but in general, I have severe anxiety. It’s so severe at times, that it makes normal, every day tasks difficult for me. Let’s take the paddle board thing for example.
I almost didn’t even buy a ticket because I knew driving there and parking would stress me out. And I was right, it did, I even had a stomach ache over it, and had to do some deep breathing… but hey, I did it, I got there, and it was worth it.
I got on the water around 7:30 and was out there until about 10:30 – I am so sore today! I paddled as far down as we were allowed, getting as close to the fireworks as possible (obviously), and it was really nice to just sit on the board with my feet in the cool water, watching a pretty big fireworks show. I have always enjoyed July 4th!
When the show was over, everyone was racing to paddle back by the curfew – and I will say that paddling in the dark is much, much different than it is during the day. It’s a little creepy, and it’s difficult to see juuuuust how far you are away from the right dock. It seemed like it was taking forever to get back; I was really happy to see the dock, and to relax on my couch once I got home.
Today, I worked some more on my Etsy jewelry, soaked in the tub, and went to the movies! Let’s talk about “Tag” – let me know if you’ve seen it! Here’s the description from Google:
One month every year, five highly competitive friends hit the ground running for a no-holds-barred game of tag — risking their necks, their jobs and their relationships to take one another down. This time, the game coincides with the wedding of the only undefeated player. What should be an easy target soon becomes an all-out war as he knows they’re coming to get him.
The movie was really, really funny – I felt like I was laughing the entire time, honestly. There was a part in the end that was a little sad, and it’s impossible to forget that this movie is based on a true story, because they show footage from the real story (which is equally as funny)!
In the movie (this isn’t a spoiler), a reporter for the Wall Street Journal is along for this epic game of tag because she’s writing a story on it – and in real life, that story was published in 2013 (I wanted to read it but you have to subscribe). Surprisingly, the movie wasn’t that much different than the real story – these guys really did play tag for almost 30 years, complete with formal rules, and hiding out in odd places to tag the next person.
It makes the movie that much more funny! You’ve got to see it if you haven’t yet.
Tomorrow is my last official day of Staycation! Ugh! I am going to sleep in, but I’ve also got to be productive. I’ve got laundry to do and I need to go to the grocery, all before a jazz dress rehearsal. What a difference a day makes…
If we’re not counting the weekend, today was officially my first day of Staycation! But, I did have a good weekend – I went to two places in town that I’ve never been – Counter Culture and Capital City Bakery (both vegan).
I also laid out at the pool, finished reading a book (and am already close to finishing a second), and went to Sprout’s Farmer’s Market for the first time.
As difficult as it is for me to admit, my mental health has been suffering lately. Sometimes, I feel like my brain is about to explode! It’s difficult for me to tell if it is grief, work stress, fatigue, or a combination of all three, but what I know is that my usual comforts haven’t been reliable, and that’s scary.
So, part of my staycation will be giving my mind and body the rest that it needs, but also moving “Find a Therapist” from the bottom of my to-do list and move it to the top.
Yesterday, I started making the vegan Banana Cream Pie that was on my Staycation list – it took awhile since the filling had to set overnight, but it was worth the wait. I finished it this morning and immediately had a slice – it was very good, very light! You can get the recipe from the Minimalist Baker.
I spent a majority of the morning on my patio, drinking lots of coffee and reading – it was really peaceful and nice.
But, it wasn’t long before I ventured to my computer, because even though I’m off at my day job – freelance work means you’re never truly on vacation. It also didn’t help that my boss from my 9-5 is also on vacation and she set me as her backup – le sigh. Communication really is key, folks.
I’ve talked some about my freelance career on here, but it’s something I’ve always done on the side to earn extra money and to keep my skills fresh. I find that no matter the day job, I am always looking for a change of plans.
Currently, I’m really lucky to have several steady jobs going at once, and they’ve really broadened my horizons because most of them are in other countries, including Switzerland and Columbia.
But it also means lots of organizing, juggling, and time management. For a few hours, I actually felt like I wasn’t on vacation at all. Then I remembered that I do have a whole week ahead of me, and even though I’m still doing work, it’s nice to be doing the work while posted up in bed, binging on MTV’s “Ex On The Beach”.
I did take a break to run to Michael’s, because I need to ship an Etsy order tomorrow! Ps. I am currently running a summer sale in the shop – get 20% off + free shipping when you order any two items!
I did get some supplies to make a few new items for the shop, so you’ll have to keep your eyes open for those.
In about an hour, I’m heading to a yoga class, and tonight I’m going to cook dinner, and probably head back out on the patio to finish reading a book!
I was gifted the LUSH sleepy shower jelly and lotion, which I have been dying to try – I’ve heard you really zonk out after using it – so I’m going to try that. Really partying hard over here!
Stay tuned for Staycation Day Two… and keep up with me on social media @OrangeJulius7 (especially if you want to see how my pie turned out)!
Howdy! It’s my first post of my Staycation and I’m constantly feeling like I need to rush to do all of the things on my list and then realizing that no, I’ve got time to rest. I did go to bed early last night and woke up early (of course) this morning and went grocery shopping, which ultimately resulted in a HUNT for vegan whipped topping.
Don’t worry, I found it.
This afternoon, I ventured to the pool with a giant tumbler of jalapeno limeade (Thanks, Trader Joe’s) and I finished reading Blanche’s Book Club’s latest pick – “I’ll Be Gone In The Dark” by Michelle McNamara. Here is the book’s description:
For more than ten years, a mysterious and violent predator committed fifty sexual assaults in Northern California before moving south, where he perpetrated ten sadistic murders. Then he disappeared, eluding capture by multiple police forces and some of the best detectives in the area.
Three decades later, Michelle McNamara, a true crime journalist who created the popular website TrueCrimeDiary.com, was determined to find the violent psychopath she called “the Golden State Killer.” Michelle pored over police reports, interviewed victims, and embedded herself in the online communities that were as obsessed with the case as she was.
I’ll Be Gone in the Dark—the masterpiece McNamara was writing at the time of her sudden death—offers an atmospheric snapshot of a moment in American history and a chilling account of a criminal mastermind and the wreckage he left behind. It is also a portrait of a woman’s obsession and her unflagging pursuit of the truth. Utterly original and compelling, it has been hailed as a modern true crime classic—one which fulfilled Michelle’s dream: helping unmask the Golden State Killer.
Before I get into thoughts on this book, it’s important that I mention one weird thing about me (trust me, there are multiple weird things, but) – I love true crime and crime fiction, but I’m a big scaredy cat!
But that’s the thing about fears, right? They aren’t always rational, and this book was flying off the shelves and was all over the internet when they caught the Golden State Killer just a few months ago.
Even if it was scary, I knew I had to read it.
In short, I’m glad I did. This book is phenomenal. It’s less about what he actually did (although there is plenty enough of that to scare anyone) and more about the investigation and the author’s own obsession with her very path to find him.
It might be obvious, but this book does contain triggers, and I’ll also note that I made a rule for myself and only read this book during daylight hours. I also stuffed the rod of my broom handle in the sliding glass door so no one could get into my apartment, so there’s that.
This book is so well-written, it’s almost a shame it’s about someone terrible. However, some of the ideas McNamara comes across in the book are what eventually lead to his capture – the only unfortunate part is that McNamara wasn’t alive to see it and celebrate it on her popular crime blog as I’m sure many would have wished for.
There were two things that I found particularly interesting about this case: 1. It happened for such a long period of time that it passed through multiple detectives, investigators, and technological changes in crime units. Even the term “serial killer” wasn’t popular until the 80s, and testing DNA was a cumbersome chore.
2. This guy committed so many crimes, he had entire cities staying up all night, sleeping in shifts with all of the lights on in their homes. Folks tied tambourines to their doors and windows, and stores sold out of window reinforcements and iron bars – is that not insane? I mean, rightfully so to those who were freaked out, but I can’t imagine living in fear for so long, and likely wondering what the investigators were doing.
This book has been compared to Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood” (one of my all-time favorites) and of course, it’s a little different in that McNamara wasn’t befriending the Golden State Killer, but it’s similar in that it presents gruesome crime in a different light.
I have never read any of McNamara’s previous work – on her blog or her various published crime articles – but it should also be mentioned that she was a detective in her own right. Of course, she wasn’t on the PD payroll, but she had friendships with detectives, traveled with them to old crime scenes, and poured over files (37 boxes to be exact) that she thought might lead to an arrest.
So yes, I’m recommending this book to anyone who loves true crime, crime fiction, or if you’re interested in CSI history.
The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Sociable” by Rebecca Harrington. Follow me on SnapChat @OrangeJulius7 to get real-time reviews and keep up with my Staycation!
I am fairly certain its bad blogging etiquette to say how exhausted I am, but it’s been a crazy few weeks at work, and life has just been SERVING it to me. Lucky for me, I planned a staycation for myself months ago and have the entire week off!
At first, I didn’t think I’d be that excited about a staycation (I’ve never really had one) and I also thought a week (or 9 whole days) off work would be almost too long. Turns out, I’m already feeling like I probably should have asked for two weeks off.
Regardless, I made a list of things I might do next week – with an understanding that I also might just lay in my bed until the morning of July 9th, when I’m expected back at the office. So, here’s what I’m thinking:
Brunch at Holy Roller
This downtown gem is known for their witty, religious twist on their decor and menu items. They are also home of the “Trash Fries” – but I’m also eyeing the “Grilled Cheesus”. Take a look at their menu for their full offering.
Head to the Movies
It’s been a minute since I’ve been to the movies, and I really want to see “Tag” along with the new “Jurassic World” – I even have a free movie pass to use, so I’m really hoping for one of those afternoons where I’m the only one in the theatre…
4th of July Paddleboarding
This is the only event I know for a FACT I am doing because I already bought my ticket… plus, I’m pretty excited about it. This is a 2-hour stand-up paddle-boarding session on Lady Bird Lake at night underneath the Downtown Austin fireworks on July 4. I can usually see fireworks from my apartment, but each year I always wish I would have actually gone somewhere to see them closer… and I think this is about as close as I can get! I have only been paddle-boarding once before, but I didn’t fall, so I’m hoping I have similar luck!
Lounge by the Pool
It’s a no-brainer that at least a few times, I’ll be at the pool with my head buried in a book, alongside a cooler full of snacks (and white wine).
Binge on ‘The OC’
I bought seasons three and four and have no had a chance to start either of them! I really have some catching up to do.
Lunch at Veracruz All Natural
I heard that Round Rock’s Veracruz All Natural has THE BEST shrimp tacos in Austin and I will happily forgo my vegan diet to try these bad boyz. They also serve 32-ounce agua frescas and I am so freaking excited to get a pineapple one!
Cook in the Kitchen
While I do plan on eating out and enjoying food at the Drafthouse during movies, I do want to cook a few new vegan goodies right at home, including Garlic Buffalo Brussels Sprouts from Rabbit and Wolves, and a Banana Cream Pie from the Minimalist Baker #treatyoself
And so concludes my list. I sort of wanted to include a few productive things on my list, like renew my passport, renew my car registration, and wash my car… but I decided to drive myself insane and did it ALL this week so that next week – I’m completely without obligation.
I’ll let you all know how it turns out on Instagram and SnapChat @OrangeJulius7
I feel a little bad about posting two book reviews in a row, but this means I’ll be all caught up with Blanche’s Book Club, and I’ll be able to post about my stay-cation plans later in the week!
So, let’s get to it: the latest read from Blanche’s Book Club is “The Vanishing Year” by Kate Moretti. Here is the description from Amazon:
Zoe Whittaker is living a charmed life. She is the beautiful young wife to handsome, charming Wall Street tycoon Henry Whittaker. She is a member of Manhattan’s social elite. She is on the board of one of the city’s most prestigious philanthropic organizations. She has a perfect Tribeca penthouse in the city and a gorgeous lake house in the country. The finest wine, the most up-to-date fashion, and the most luxurious vacations are all at her fingertips.
What no one knows is that five years ago, Zoe’s life was in danger. Back then, Zoe wasn’t Zoe at all. Now her secrets are coming back to haunt her.
As the past and present collide, Zoe must decide who she can trust before she—whoever she is—vanishes completely.
A “dark, twisty, edge-of-your-seat suspense” (Karen Robards), The Vanishing Year combines the classic sophistication of Ruth Rendell and A.S.A. Harrison with the thoroughly modern flair of Jessica Knoll. Told from the point-of-view of a heroine who is as relatable as she is enigmatic, The Vanishing Year is an unforgettable new novel by a rising star of the genre.
I will likely never tire of reading about the lives of wealthy people – whether they’re famous, get mailbox money, savvy entrepreneurs, or married into it, I’m here for it.
But of course, Zoe’s story has a dark side to it. Her past is less-than polished, and although it’s not as shocking as I’d hoped, it forms into a nasty twist.
This wasn’t quite an edge-of-seat thriller, but almost. And it does contain sexual violence (trigger warnings included).
There’s a few twists you definitely won’t see coming, and because of this, I’m recommending it to anyone who enjoys psychological thrillers and also adoption/birth parent stories (with a twist).
The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer” by Michelle McNamara.
I’ll likely be starting this book today, and I’m already terrified, so follow me on SnapChat @OrangeJulius7 for up-to-date reviews!
During my road trip to Marfa, I listened to my first Jojo Moyes’ book: “One Plus One”. I’ll be honest here, I know people love Moyes, but I have never read a description of one of her books that made me really want to read it.
So, I was excited at the sound of “One Plus One”, because I want to like her books! Here’s the description from Jojomoyes.com:
Suppose your life sucks. A lot. Your husband has done a vanishing act, your teenage stepson is being bullied, and your math whiz daughter has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that you can’t afford to pay for. That’s Jess’s life in a nutshell—until an unexpected knight in shining armor offers to rescue them. Only Jess’s knight turns out to be Geeky Ed, the obnoxious tech millionaire whose vacation home she happens to clean. But Ed has big problems of his own, and driving the dysfunctional family to the Math Olympiad feels like his first unselfish act in ages . . . maybe ever. One Plus One is Jojo Moyes at her astounding best. You’ll laugh, you’ll weep, and when you flip the last page, you’ll want to start all over again.
…That last line is a flat-out LIE. This audio book was 12 hours long. Parts of it were interesting; like when love-interest starts to perk up between Jess and Ed. But in general, I found this really difficult to pay attention to, and I thought it was boring.
If you’re a Moyes’ fan, I’d love to know if there’s a different book I should read, or what I’m missing from her books.
So… I’m not recommending this book, but hey, at least I tried, right?
The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “The Vanishing Year” by Kate Moretti.
Meanwhile, I participated in a Hackathon over the weekend, and it was so much fun! I met some new people, and was able to create a web-to-text chat app for my 9-5 website. I also created a guidelines and policy document that will help train the folks replying to all of the web chats… it’s amazing what can happen when people put their minds together, right?
I am working all this week (a little brutal after a mind-boggling weekend), but am rewarding myself with an ENTIRE week off afterward. I am planning some activities to celebrate my staycation and will share them here, but if you’ve got any good ideas, feel free to let me know – I’ll have 9 whole days without obligation!! #DreamBig
It’s been several days since I’ve returned from Marfa, Texas – a place they say is “Tough to get to. Tougher to explain. But once you get here, you get it.”
I’m not quite sure I get it, but I’ll explain as much as I can.
On Saturday morning, I set out west in the morning, and planned to drive through Marfa to get to Valentine, Texas – home of the Prada Marfa installation. And that’s exactly what I did.
For the most part, the drive wasn’t near as rural as I expected. There really was no stretch of land without gas stations, food, or rest areas (maybe one-hour stretches) as I had read online. There was, however, lots of cattle to see along with mountains and desert scenery – it was beautiful.
About 30 minutes outside Marfa is a town called Alpine. It’s small, but loaded with stuff! There was the Big Bend Brewery and a visitor’s center, and it’s home to a super nice-looking University, where I later learned that most people in the area attend.
Between Alpine and Marfa proper is the Marfa Lights Viewing Area, which is in the middle of NOTHING.
Anyway, I drove through Marfa (it takes about 3 minutes to get from one side of town to the other), and made it the 30 miles further west to Valentine (population 217). I was seriously SO excited to see the Prada Marfa, and when I pulled up, there were several cars parked across from it with the same intentions.
It looks a little smaller than I imagined, but still just as cool. It’s not too risky to run across the highway, because there’s not many people passing through Valentine. Up close, I’ll admit, things look a tad creepy. The shoes and bags inside have been there for 13 years, and they are dusty and weathered. Surrounding the installation is a chain-link fence where people have placed locks, because we just have to put locks on every possible fence, right?
When I’d seen what I needed to see, I headed back east to Marfa to check in to my trailer at El Cosmico.
El Cosmico is off the main drag in Marfa, and is just as cute as promised. The lobby serves as a provisions store, too, and they’ve got some cool stuff, and it looks like an expensive camp, which I suppose it sort of is.
I got my key, and hauled all of my bags via a little wagon that embarrassingly rattled down the rocky path all the way to my trailer.
My trailer, “Amigo”, was pink and silver, and cute! It was a little smaller than I imagine, but definitely big enough for me and probably another person. There was a booth, a kitchenette, and a full-size bed.
They had towels, robes, shampoo, and kitchen utensils, which was a nice surprise. My toilet was outside, shared with one other trailer, along with a shower.
After I got settled, it started storming, and I was suddenly so thankful for my trailer and felt sorry for all the campers in the teepees. I decided to order a pizza and pick it up, so I called into Pizza Foundation, where there’s about 3 pizzas to choose from, and I guess they always have a 2-hour wait.
They didn’t tell me a time to come get it, so I decided to go check out “town”. I quickly realized that yeah, this place is tiiiiiiny. You’re lucky if the road is paved, and because of the rain, many of them were flooded.
The only big name store I saw was Dollar General, so I stopped there to kill time. When I made it to Pizza Foundation, there was still a wait on my pizza, but they had a stock of beer from Big Bend Brewery, so I grabbed a seat and started sipping.
Pizza Foundation is likely the only place to get a pizza in town, and despite its popularity, its in a big warehouse that has little decoration and uses card tables for dining. And yes, everyone that came in was told there was a 2-hour wait on pizza.
I got my pie (an 18-inch, because there’s only one size) and took it back to my trailer where I proceeded to drink an entire bottle of wine and eat half the pizza while it continued to storm. I nixed my plans to search for the Marfa Lights because I figured they wouldn’t appear in the rain.
I quickly slept in a fog of wine, and rain on a tin roof. I woke up feeling pretty rested, and I was ready to mark things off my list of sights to see.
My first adventure was making coffee in a percolator, which was in my kitchenette. It was too small to keep the induction heater on, so I took it outside to the outdoor shared kitchen and put it on a hot plate. This wasn’t really working, so I went back to my trailer and called maintenance.
The maintenance man came and probably thought I was an idiot, until he saw the problem, too, and I ended up rigging the induction heater long enough to make one cup of coffee, which was less-than-stellar.
I immediately went to Squeeze, where I got a cup of Big Bend coffee the size of my head and some scrambled eggs which I ate in about 2 minutes.
Then, I headed to the Chinati Foundation, where I was excited to see the famous works from Donald Judd. The cement blocks were free, but I paid $10 to see a few other things – his untitled mill aluminum boxes, and “Dawn to Dusk” by Robert Irwin.
Oddly, the Robert Irwin installation was a little bit of a drive from the Chinati Foundation and it was definitely at the end of a neighborhood road (many of these houses were run-down). When I walked up to the building, an employee reminded me not to touch anything inside, and no pictures.
Basically, the entire building was the art, and the inside goes from complete light to complete dark (or vis-versa depending on how you approach it). I realized then that I’ve never really seen modern art like this, and it was pretty trippy.
Next, I went back to Chinati to see the 15 Untitled Works in Cement. These are located in a patch of desert, and while there is a path around them, you’d have to walk in the desert brush to get anywhere near them.
So, I put on my boots and ventured as far as my fears would let me. There were deer, bunnies, cloudy skies, and I was fine until I saw several buzzards, and it took everything I had not to run in the other direction.
It is said that these concrete blocks were made to work with the environment, and they do – oddly. They serve sort of as frames to various parts of the desert, but they just stood so strong, that my feeling of eeriness was heightened even more.
Next, I moved on to his 100 Untitled Works in Mill Aluminum. These mill aluminum boxes are stored in two sheds that previously stored artillery. They are brick with steel curved roofs; there’s 48 boxes in the first building and 52 in the second.
And you could hear a pin drop in these buildings. So imagine how it sounds when someone opens the metal doors to get in and out? Yikes.
These mill aluminum boxes are all the same dimensions on the outside, but inside, there’s different shapes or formations of the aluminum, which eventually starts to play tricks on the eyes. I know they offer sunrise viewings of these, and since there’s so many windows in the building, I’ve heard the reflections are really cool.
It was neat overall, and I looked at every. Single. Box. But I honestly didn’t understand that a place like Marfa, known for its art, drawing people from all over, how is it that these boxes were dusty and had at least 1 dead bug inside each one?
Like… can we get a vacuum here? I mean that just seems disrespectful, and a horsefly or whatever it was is super obvious against a complete aluminum structure. Just saying.
Next, I went to Frama – a coffee shop inside the Tumbleweed Laundromat. I got a hazelnut latte with almond milk for $5 and it was awesome.
It was about this time that I started to wonder about Marfa. Yes, there were cute spots to go visit, but as I ventured from spot to spot, it was obvious that the roads needed work, the homes were old and run-down, and I wondered where all of the money from tourism was going? Was it really doing this town any good?
I had a few shops I wanted to visit, so I went to those next: Moon Gems and Freda. To my shock, Moon Gems had wooden crates of rocks scattered outside. I was so confused, especially since there were several hipsters drooling over the piles of $2 rocks.
Inside, there were finer gems on display, but I left empty-handed.
When I got to Freda, it was about the size of a walk-in closet, and there were a few candles for sale, bars of soap, and a tray of necklaces that were about $200. I was out of there.
I was hoping to have drinks and a lite lunch at The Capri Bar, but when I arrived, it looked completely empty and closed for good. So, I headed to Jett’s Grill at the Paisano Hotel – the set for several movies and home of the spiciest salsa in town.
I had a few margaritas, chips and salsa, and was literally the only person sitting there for hours. This is possibly where things turned even more for me – where WAS everyone? Was this what small town life was like?
I paid my tab and went to the shops inside the hotel where I found a few souvenirs, and then I headed back to my trailer.
Things were starting to get to me. I’d pretty much seen everything on my list, felt like everywhere I went I was alone, and I couldn’t quite understand what was so special about this place. It seemed almost sad to me.
I was also getting a little tired of the silence. Without wifi or a cell signal, I couldn’t listen to podcasts, so I turned on the radio in my trailer to the only station in town: Marfa Public Radio. I fell asleep in my bed and snoozed off the tequila.
When I woke up, I wanted to do something fun, and I had one place left on my list to go: Cochineal.
So, I changed clothes, and put on lipstick and ventured out. It was early for dinner, but I knew this was usually a busy place. When I walked in however, most of the tables were empty.
“Do you have a reservation?” the hostess asked.
I didn’t, and I still got a table, because NO ONE IS IN THIS CITY, I thought.
I was delighted to see all of the yummy-looking things on the menu, and my waitress was really nice. I ordered a glass of rose and got the ceviche.
Upon finishing said ceviche, I ordered a piece of fish, and proceeded to have an anxiety attack. I have dealt with anxiety for years, and as of late, it has combined with grief, and in general I am still a mess.
I felt hot, shaky, and sick, and I needed to leave, immediately. I tried to keep my cool and got my food boxed and paid my check – sadly leaving a majority of my wine in its glass. And I went to my trailer to try and cope.
The thing is, anxiety attacks can creep up at any point, sometimes they happen when you’re feeling great! But, I knew I was suppressing feelings of Father’s Day, and general feelings of being alone out in the middle of nowhere.
I was also tired of the cloudy skies, the desolate roads, and the silence. At home, in Austin, I’ve managed to create a plan for myself when I’m feeling low: I seek comfort in my kitty Blanche, watch a funny show on TV, or listen to Johnjay and Rich.
I’d left all of those things 7 hours east.
I was also a little tired of having every little thing seem different: I was tired of using an outdoor toilet, tired of jiggling the lock on my trailer door to get inside, tired of everyone knowing I was a tourist, and tired of not understanding anything about this town.
After talking with a few friends via phone, I felt a little better, or at least, better enough to head out of town and see these famous mystery Marfa Lights.
I heard mixed things about the perfect time to see these lights that supposedly only appear 15-30 times a year. I decided to go in time to see the sunset, and then I’d see how long I wanted to stay out there.
I went out around 8:30, and the sunset was gorgeous. It seemed unreal.
There were a lot of people at this viewing center, which was slightly raised and had a few built in sets of binoculars.
I was standing there just looking into the distance, when an older woman came up beside me.
“So, do you think we’re going to get to see the lights?” she asked.
“I hope so,” I said. “It seems clear, right?”
She introduced herself. Her name was Connie and she lived in Pennsylvania. She’d ridden to Marfa on a motorcycle, along with her husband and their friends, who shortly joined us on the platform.
They started telling me stories of all the places they’d biked, and we swapped information about the lights – times to see them, what we were supposed to be looking for, etc.
After about 30 minutes, Connie and her friends were convinced tonight was not the night for the lights.
“You probably came out here to enjoy some peace and quiet,” her husband said.
“No, I’m thankful for your company,” I said.
“Well, enjoy your vacation, or whatever it is you’re hoping to find out here,” her friend said.
I smiled. What exactly was I hoping to find out here?
With any trip I take, I’m always looking for a bit of an escape a change of pace, a chance to see how other people live, try new food, see what’s out there… and in a way, I suppose you always end up learning a lot about yourself when you’re out of your element.
By the time Connie and her friends left, it was beyond dark. The sky was dark, the desert even darker. But the stars were so clear, it looked like someone tossed a fistful of glitter into the sky and it stuck.
In the distance, there were lights, but conversations started to buzz about what lights were accounted for – a cell phone tower had a red light on it, and a distant highway was home to moving headlights.
But around 10pm, a staggering line of three small lights twinkled near the cell phone tower. They moved up and down, and sometimes disappeared entirely.
A woman next to me was quiet, but I pointed toward the lights, “What are those?”
“The lights!” she said.
Her son was a Marfa resident, and he said he’d never seen them so bright. Looking through a telescope, he explained his theory on what the lights were: a reflection of some sort from the moon. He said that even when researchers went to the spot directly under these lights, they couldn’t be seen.
The lights weren’t how I imagined – but they had been described many different ways. To me, they looked like little white twinkle lights – but appeared together like they were connected somehow.
After a terrible night of barely sleeping, I left Marfa right after sunrise. I was ready to get home. Looking back on my trip, I’m glad I went and saw what I’ve heard so much about. But the best way I can describe it now is from Robert Irwin, “Dawn to Dusk”.
It went from exciting and vibrant to dark and creepy, physically and mentally. But that’s the risk you take going on your own – everything relies on you, and sometimes that depends on what’s happening inside your head at the time.
West Texas was simply a backdrop for another adventure, but the Mystery Lights were certainly a bright spot in a desert of darkness.
Hey, hey! It’s been a little while since I was here – it has been a crazy few weeks at work, and I didn’t really do any of the reading or writing I thought I was going to do on my trip to west Texas (more on that in a later post).
But, yesterday I finished reading another book from Blanche’s Book Club: “Leave Me” by Gayle Forman. Here is the description from Amazon:
Every woman who has ever fantasized about driving past her exit on the highway instead of going home to make dinner, and every woman who has ever dreamed of boarding a train to a place where no one needs constant attention–meet Maribeth Klein. A harried working mother who’s so busy taking care of her husband and twins, she doesn’t even realize she’s had a heart attack.
Surprised to discover that her recuperation seems to be an imposition on those who rely on her, Maribeth does the unthinkable: she packs a bag and leaves. But, as is often the case, once we get where we’re going we see our lives from a different perspective. Far from the demands of family and career and with the help of liberating new friendships, Maribeth is able to own up to secrets she has been keeping from herself and those she loves.
With bighearted characters–husbands, wives, friends, and lovers–who stumble and trip, grow and forgive, Leave Me is about facing the fears we’re all running from. Gayle Forman is a dazzling observer of human nature. She has written an irresistible novel that confronts the ambivalence of modern motherhood head on and asks, what happens when a grown woman runs away from home?
Funny part about this particular book is that the only copy the library had was the large print version. I really wanted to read it, so I got it anyway, and it was shockingly (and kinda embarrassingly) nice on the eyes, and I also felt like a speed reader. Ha!
Anyway… I loved the idea of this book, but it wasn’t perfect. From the start, it’s pretty obvious that our main character has a family that just seems awful. They are demanding, a little spoiled, and even when she suffers from a heart attack, they don’t understand her need to recover.
So, when she leaves them without notice, it’s nearly impossible to feel bad for them, or hope that she ever returns. I know this is probably something I harp on a lot in my book reviews, but a vital part of a great story is caring about the characters; there has to be push and pull in the book, or else what’s the point?
However, it was pretty cool to “watch” as Maribeth creates a new life for herself, and see what she tries to accomplish on her own. Because of this, I’m recommending this book to anyone who feels like they’ve lost sight of their life.
The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “One Plus One” by Jojo Moyes.
I’m hoping to have my thoughts/recap on my Marfa trip up tomorrow – or very soon!
Today is the day! I’m heading west to Marfa, Texas after years of dreaming about it, and a few weeks of preparing for it!
But, I didn’t want to get behind on Blanche’s Book Club, so I’m sharing our latest read: “The Missing Hours” by Emma Kavanagh. Here’s the description from Amazon:
One moment, Selena Cole is at the playground with her children . . . the next, she has vanished without a trace.
The body of Dominic Newell, a well-respected lawyer, is found on a remote mountain road, blood oozing from the stab wound in his neck.
In the sleepy borderland between England and Wales, sheep outnumber people and serious crimes are rare. Which makes this Tuesday morning, with two calls coming in to the local police station, even more remarkable. Detective Constable Leah Mackay and her brother, Detective Sergeant Finn Hale, begin their respective investigations, but soon find them inextricably linked. And when Selena is found alive and unhurt twenty hours later, the mystery deepens.
Selena’s work consulting on kidnap and ransom cases has brought her into close contact with ruthless criminals and international drug lords. But now, as Selena walks back into her life wearing a blood-spattered sweater, claiming no memory of the preceding hours, Leah can’t be sure if she is a victim, a liar, or a murder suspect.
Leah and Finn delve into each case, untangling the secrets and betrayals—large and small—that can lie just beneath the surface of a life, yet unprepared for where both trails will lead.
With engrossing characters, devilish twists, and evocative prose, The Missing Hours is that rare page-turner—as satisfying and complex as it is unpredictable.
I have always been honest in my book reviews, so it may not come as a shock to know that this book was too complex for a pool read. There were so many characters, and while the description only lists two missing persons – there’s several.
I hate to do it, but I’m not going to recommend this one – I almost didn’t blog about it at all, but I did read it, and it just wasn’t my cup of tea. I miiiight have felt differently had I read it curled up on the couch instead of at the pool drinking spritzers, but it just didn’t hook me in like I’d hoped.
The next book Blanche’s Book Club is reading is “Leave Me” by Gayle Forman.
Follow me on Instagram @OrangeJulius7 for Marfa updates this weekend!