Travel snacks

Hello friends! Good morning to all of you. I haven't been outside yet, so I can't say whether it's frosty or not, but for the sake of my drive I'm crossing my half-painted fingers. This evening I will be jetting off in my little yellow bug as I head down to Memphis, Tennessee for the United Professional Theatre Auditions. Not one to deny myself some exploration, I have lengthened the trip by a few days, with plans to stop in Blacksburg, Nashville, Memphis, Little Rock, and Tyler, Texas.  It didn't really occur to me until I relayed my plans to loved ones exactly how far I was driving. When they asked about my audition, I replied "I'm driving, and taking a little road trip." Maybe because I'm not crossing or reaching an ocean it doesn't seem that far to me. (Although a pit-stop in the Gulf of Mexico doesn't sound too bad...Bud Light Lime on the Sarasota shore sounds quite divine...!!)

So when I took in the length of my trip, my mind went to one thing: food. And gas. And money.  In the past, when I've traveled cross country, I've stopped at Mom and Pop dive-y restaurants, or sought out Anthony Bourdain's favorite dishes.  In New Orleans, I had Alligator Sausage and Shrimp Cheesecake and a Watermelon Mojito.  This, on top of two entrees I split with my boyfriend at the time, we also had an $80.00 bill. Worth it, but also not your everyday kinda meal.

Food is important to a traveler. It allows you to taste the scenery, examine the culture through another sense.  This being said, I will be sure to nom upon several of the local (and thrifty) eats as I make my way southward, in addition to having my epic baby cooler full of amazing travel goodies. 

1. Dry roasted almonds

Image

If you've been reading my blog, you are already aware of the slightly-beyond-platonic relationship I am maintaining with almonds.  I never thought I'd be one of those women in the opening montage of The Devil Wears Prada, the ones who wear La Perla and count almonds as a snack, but hell, here I am. They taste really good. I even bought dark chocolate covered ones yesterday, but I don't have a picture because I ate them all in the parking lot.

2. Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate

Image

If I could have any job in the world, I'd want to be one of those kids on the chocolate cooking show sketch from All That. Do you remember it? They were called Randy and Mandy or Candy or Sandy or something rhyme-y and on the brink of stripperdom, and they attempted to make chocolate inspired recipes, but it always just ended up exploding into chocolate warfare. One time Chris Farley guest starred as a man who was addicted to ketchup. I miss the 90s.

Here I have regular dark, dark with raspberry (because ya gotta get a little crazy), and dark chocolate covered cacao nibs. If you've never had them, I highly recommend. They're crunchy and bitter, providing you with a slight endorphin kick and leaving your taste buds melting in rich bliss.

3. Luna Protein

Image

One of my favorite things ever are things that are not cookie dough that taste like cookie dough. The raw real stuff will always win, but when it's not around, I find substitutions. Chocolate covered cookie dough bites, cookie dough pop-tarts, cookie dough truffles. I love them all. So when I found Luna Protein offered a "HEALTHY" option, I nearly punched the GNC lady in a fit of joy.  For those mornings when I need to get on the road ASAP and have to skip a proper breakfast (silent tear will fall), these might just do the trick. And then I'll be eating cookies for breakfast, which I was never allowed to do, because Cookie Crisp, while it tasted like a brown unicorn, contained about 60 grams of sugar.

I also bought mint chocolate chip and lemon vanilla, and I'm surprised I stopped there.

4. Kombucha Multi-Green

Image

YUM! Who doesn't love getting in their daily dose of Algae? This girl does. This is like drinking the cast of The Little Mermaid. There are all these weird green-bits dancing around the bottom, and if you don't think about it at all, then the stuff is amazing.

5. Red Wine

Image

This is not for the road trip, rather the road trip unwind.  One cannot travel without a way to properly say goodbye to the road each night. You need a comfy bed (or couch, or sleeping bag) and a glass of red. The first, Velvet Moon, is something Trader Joe Guy encouraged me to try.  The second, Red Truck, is one of my favorite wines, rivaling the WalMart Lucky Ducky.  Kate first introduced me to Red Truck when we ate cheese and dried apricots on the floor of our shared bedroom at the Renn Faire.  I brought it to share with one of my good friends, Joshua, and he hadn't had it since college, when they drank it outside of trailers under the Texan stars. It's an easy-going, comforting red blend, that wraps you like a warm cheese and encourages you to sit down and snuggle into an afghan blanket.

6. Granny Smith Apples

Image

Crunchy and tart, these are the highest one the sour apple scale, and I love them for that.  They remind me of that scene in Sleepless in Seattle where Meg Ryan peels an entire apple in one long spiral. I love them for that even more.

7.  Baby Carrots

Image

Because what's a road trip WITHOUT Vitamin A?!  Like the apples above, carrots provide a solid crunch. I wish I could say, "studies have shown...", but I heard this from word of mouth so who knows if it's true--crunchy foods relieve anxiety and energize you.  Regardless, this bag will approximately last me one hour of this over-a-week-long-trip.

8. Bubble Tape

Image

This had to come along for the ride, because sometimes, when you're on the road of some Tennessee Highway, and Jerry Lee Lewis starts playing, the one thing that will perfect the moment is blowing a bright pink bubble.

look ma, I've got wings!

Dear readers, I hope you have all enjoyed your Superbowl Sunday. (When I first  typed this out, I accidentally wrote Superball Spoonday. I don't know why, but I think it sounds like a fitting title for an episode of Adventure Time.) Mine was laid back, an evening of counting one dollar bills and putting them in one of the small drawers of my high school bedroom, which I have labeled "travel."   This little growing sum of money that I earned pouring IPAs and shaking up Alabama Slammers will serve me as a I drive to Tennessee, Arkansas, and Texas over the next two weeks!

I was recently hired with a freelance group and am now writing from my bedroom, a booth in Panera, and on the road. This is exciting. Two short articles buy approximately a little over a half tank of gas. I can make that work!!

My last travel consisted of a brief trek up to NYC for an audition with the National Players.  While I was there, I stayed with Alex and Ian in their little cloud apartment, and we ate rocket salads with watermelon radishes and creamy polenta with balsalmic reduced chicken thighs, garlic, and portobello mushrooms. Our wine was white and our little bottoms sat on the floor around a square table.   We folded our hands and talked about men and about moving from state to state. We talked about why we were the way we were, and wondered who we would be in twenty years. (After all, Martha Stewart didn't get her start until she was 40.)

In New York, I questioned my relationship to earthly possessions, and decided to throw some clothes away upon my return home. I have since filled three trashbags with things to either donate or toss.  I drank champagne in a restaurant called Buvette, where I met with my Uncle David and we talked about Bobby West and our trailer park heritage.

On my last morning, I woke up (hangover-less, by some miracle after downing an entire bottle of red wine), and made Alex and Ian a simple frittata with leftover portobello and fresh oregano. We had coffee with cream, and we sat around our table. It was a lovely trip.

Image

So yes! As I work, work, work and save, save, save I shall leave you all with a little travel poem that's keeping me inspired to jet.

"I always wonder why,

birds stay

in the same place

when they can fly

anywhere on the earth.

Then I ask myself

the same question."

-Harun Yahyah

when the mood swings come a-knockin'

I'm sorry. I'm sorry I'm posting about yet ANOTHER smoothie recipe, but I can't stop.And I have a good reason. 

At times, maybe while running on the treadmill or when I'm murdering my hair with the straightener, I start connecting weird thoughts and sentences. Sometimes these moods instill a feeling of fear, sometimes they trigger beautiful clauses that  I instantly tap into my iPhone's notepad. Melancholic seems too sad. Ambivalence implies something more distraught. I feel at peace, while simultaneously a little useless, and pensive.  

It's almost the sensation of walking on a tightrope. Weirdly balanced, but acknowledging the fall. Seeing the other side. Seeing the hard work it demands. It makes me want to lay on my back and collect golden teardrops in my palms. 

I hang out in these places. Feel the feels. Wonder if it's due to menstruation (about one fourth of the time, it is. And if you are grossed out by reading that, go slap yourself with a car. Kidding. But seriously. If men can talk about the shape of their poops then I'm allowed to bring up PMS.) Once that's all over and done with, I instantly try to think of a remedy, form of comfort, or at least something useful so I don't sit in my brain like a hottub of chocolate pudding. (Hottub of chocolate pudding. OMG.)

And I have found a wonderful solution.

Matcha green tea powder. (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) 

If green tea is the mood-boosting, metabolism-ass-kicking tomboy little sister, Matcha is the matriarch of all things green and delicious. She is Red in Orange is the New Black (**SPOILER**) before all that kitchen shit went down. She is Heisenberg.  She is Beyoncé singing Drunk in Love at the Grammy's. If there was a fictional movie about this stuff, Chloe Moretz would play regular green tea and Meryl Streep would play Matcha.  And then somewhere, Steve Martin would pop up as some trippy herbal shit, and chaos would ensue. 

The point is, this stuff is legit. It gives you clean energy, as well as a natural sense of balanced euphoria. It makes the road seem a little bit easier, especially when the road is pretty damn expensive, and you're planning an eight-day road trip on a post grad's budget. The leaves are grown solely in Japan, and then are powdered down into a fine heap of green dust. You can mix with water, milk, or use it as an ingredient in smoothies (!!), cookies, cakes, or anything else. At a writer's conference last Spring, we ate it in the form of ice cream out of white chocolate graham cones.  I would like try a matcha tiramisu, though this might be the last thing I do ever, because I'm sure the ecstasy from such a treat would launch me into a blissful, and somehow weirdly productive, coma. 

Image

Kale and Matcha Green Smoothie

½ cup greek yogurt (I like vanilla for this recipe)

1 cup ice

½ orange juice

1 tbs. matcha green tea powder

half a frozen banana

2 bunches of kale, leaves torn

spurtle of whip cream (optional, but not to meeee.)

 Combine in a blender or VitaMix and blend blend blend!!!

There are so many variations on this so I don’t know if this can be improved, I’m sure it can. I may try adding mangoes, or swapping in almond milk. It’s great pre or post-workout, or all on it’s own. 

dying engines and embracing change

 

Dear reader, it is time for a confession.

I have my anxious moments. Since I’ve stopped taking Ocella and chewing ice like a sloth it’s gotten eased up a bit, but I still have my little bits of hysteria every now and then. These typically occur when things do not go my way.  Again, typical Libra.

One of my friends, John, told me it makes sense that humans are always anxious, because we are constantly dwelling over the past, trying to make the most of the moment, and worrying about the future. He’s a wise one, that John.

I read in the book Women Who Run With the Wolves, written by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes, that part of life is accepting it’s various cycles.  There are times we let things grow, times we let things live, and times we let things die. The letting things die part can be incredibly difficult for me. I don’t often like change. I embrace consistency, wanting to snuggle myself deep in its fort of silk coziness. I want to light candles and not leave.  Like a sleepy sparrow, I nest. Ironic, because I love traveling.

 For some reason, driving or traveling long distances has never given me any form of anxiety.  I love the airport, and eating a packaged Air France meal while watching Jurassic park.  I love stopping at gas stations in foreign Virginia towns, only to buy a pack of a gum and some Arizona Iced Tea. I even love ten-hour drives through the mid-west and sketchy hotels in Arkansas. But tell me to drive to the bagel place five minutes down the road and I immediately start cursing to the heavens, questioning the decency of mankind because some guy in a sedan is actually going to speed limit.  (I’m currently debating this entire post, wondering if I’m simply a really, really poor example of Gen Y.)

However, when there is #traveldrama on longer trips, I am pretty solid at keeping the peace. Example.  I was going to visit Alex in NYC a few days ago. When I’ve had a really good week at the bar, I splurge and get an Amtrak ticket instead of my normal, penny-pincher bus ride.   Maybe my pours were heavy-handed, lending me to earn some extra tips that week, I don’t know.  Regardless, I could afford the train. So I bought a ticket, hastily pushed some kind folks out of the way to get a window seat, and set up camp.

I sat lazily, googling future travel endeavors and reading some things on my new boyfriend, the Kindle Paperwhite. My travel neighbor was a friendly, 30-something year-old man named Greg, who offered me Rolos and commented on my cracked cell phone screen. I think he had a wife named Dana, or maybe she was his girlfriend and they were planning on going to Barcelona in the near future.  Regardless, the combination of this calm companion, the words in my chosen piece of fiction, and the blurred landscape whizzing past me created a very soothing environment.  And then, somewhere around Delaware, the train began to slow and we came to a halt.

Did I whine? Did I kick the seat in front of me? Did I smash Greg’s laptop and blackberry, thus cutting off all communication with Dana in regards to their Barcelona adventure?!!?! If I were driving to the supermarket, I might have. However, since we were on a train, I got a beer. I came back. And I waited.

What ended up happening was that our poor little engine reached the end of its life. It was the little engine that could not.  And so we bid our farewell, and skipped over to the neighboring Acella when it stopped about thirty minutes later.

Ms. Pinkola Estes may not have intended to be speaking of travel when she wrote about the various cycles we face throughout life, but I thought of it again when our new train started to move.  The dead engine was not the end of the ride.  Maybe I drive myself crazy in other situations of “rides halting” because I don’t know when they will start up again, or if another train will come along.   I agonize over the time I’m spent waiting, because I don’t feel like anything is happening. I don’t let things die, because I don’t know if they will ever live again.

But they do. Even if it’s a jump-started engine, or a new train, or you simply need a beer to get through it all, they do. 

 

Here are a few travel tips for when #traveldrama pops up.

1. Get a beer.

2. Or a glass of wine.

3. Or a bag of peanut M&Ms.

4. Talk to your neighbor, if you have one. Might as well make a friend!!

5. Make a list of things you love.

6. Make a list of your favorite moments.

7. Make a list of things you are most looking forward to in life.

8. Take pictures of your boots.

Image

 

nourishing the body

Image There is a play I love. It’s called “Melancholy Play” and it’s by Sarah Ruhl. Ms. Ruhl writes very whimsical things, beautiful things; things that I would like to collect in a wicker-basket of words and take on a picnic along a Northeastern beach.  Maybe we would eat lobster rolls.

In this play, the main character, Tilly suffers from constantly feeling melancholic. She falls in love with a woman who writes obituaries, and then she turns into an almond.

“Do you ever have the feeling, when you wake up in the morning, that you’re in love but you don’t know with what?

-Tilly, in Melancholy Play

I’ve recently boarded the almond train. I like almond butter, I like raw almonds,  I like almond milk.  They’re all quite versatile, and provide different yummy satisfactions.  And they’re good for you?!?!

Healthy food gets a bad rep. I think this is because healthy eating often seems boring, or like you aren’t “living your life to the fullest” when you turn down donuts in favors of a breakfast smoothie.  (Don’t get me wrong. I love donuts. My favorite is the ultra-unhealthy, saturated fat laden, vanilla with rainbow sprinkles.) But lets not neglect the breakfast smoothie. It’s over there, waving its little blueberry arms, yelling “HEY I TASTE GOOD TOO, OKAY?”

While one type of food nourishes the soul (microwave nachos, I’m looking at you), the other nourishes the body. Like almonds.

Nourishing the body is so important. I don't think eating healthy foods makes me boring.  No, like a nude photograph of David Bowie, it makes me feel alive. It even sometimes makes feel like a beach dancer with a hula-hoop and the enthusiasm to climb a coconut tree.  The taste of raw almond butter comforts me, and yet I don’t fall into a food coma shortly after indulging in its bliss.

I like almonds in Sarah Ruhl plays. I like them plain, and maybe with a bit of salt.

I like almond butter stirred into my oatmeal, making little tidal waves throughout the creamy oats.

And I really really love love love almond milk in my smoothies.

Espresso Breakfast Smoothie

½ cup greek yogurt

1½ cup ice

½ almond milk

1 tbs. cocoa powder or carob powder.

1 shot of espresso

1 large banana

1 tsp. vanilla paste

1 packet of stevia

(I use stevia because I use unsweetened chocolate, yogurt, and almond milk. If any of these ingredients are already sweet, you probably don't need the stevia at all. Or you could use honey. I like things sweet, because part of me is still a child who mixes Lucky Charms and Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Kettle Corn and calls it dinner.)

Blend everything together in a VitaMix or blender. Taste and adjust if needed; smoothies are personal things! Some people like them icy, some prefer smooth.  This makes one medium sized drink, perfect for one.

Enjoy with David Bowie music and then go dance in a pair of knee high socks.

thursday night wine night, you will never die

When I graduated college, I had to graduate more than just the university.  I had to graduate a long list of things that one can only deem acceptable as a college student. These included triple helpings of cinnamon toast crunch for dinner, wearing mini-dresses in below freezing weather, and falling asleep fully dressed before your Jimmy Johns arrives. Part of this is because there are no Jimmy Johns that will deliver to my zip code, but the main reason is this: some things we must sadly pack into a cardboard box, label it college, and revisit it only on an alumni weekend or when we are in the middle of a mid-life crisis. Thursday night wine nights are not one of these things.

I loved Thursday night wine night more Jennifer Garner loves taking her kids to the park. I loved wearing my pajamas while clutching the stem of a plastic glass. I love the cackle of my roommate's drunken giggle as one of us reveals a secret. I even loved counting the bottles the next morning as they stood proudly on our coffee table; our trophies from the evening. Said wine night came about when I lived in "The Brothel" my sophomore year of college. The house was three stories tall, four if you included the scary-basement-we-always-avoided, and had eight bedrooms and three bathrooms. Eight of us lived there. Eight FEMALES. We named it, "The Brothel," under the circumstances that in Virginia over five women in a house is considered a "place of sexual business." Please, VA law, there was never any money exchanged. To my knowledge.

Last night, another Brothel lady and myself indulged in a long-overdue WINE NIGHT. The drink of choice was the same yesterday as it was four years ago: Walmart Brand Lucky Duck Cabernet Sauvignon.

Image

"I don't know how they do it," Clarissa said as she sipped from her crystal glass. She wore a multi-colored sweater and a pair of shiny, spandex dance tights. (Both items were hand-me-downs, because Clarissa 'hates to buy her own clothes.') "It doesn't even taste like wine. It tastes like juice."

She took a longer sip, like a mermaid inhaling after being out of the ocean for too long. Then grimaced.

"That didn't taste like juice." And we laughed.

We got deliciously tipsy, our legs dancing over one another's as we talked about sex and our dreams. Clarissa had made molasses crinkle cut cookies that sparkled with sugar and tasted like a cinnamon blanket.  The night was very similar to our college days TNWN, with the exception of the other seven beautiful ladies.

222371_10150172926305670_7805956_n

There was Stevie, who would often spend TNWN either with her own bottle, either putting off or writing a paper.  Stevie now lives in Chicago, still roommates (lucky bitches), with the fiery-souled, Macki, who made me a green velvet cake on my 20th birthday, and then forced me to chug a 24-oz Smirnoff Ice. Macki and Clarissa were perhaps the most dedicated TNWN participants, so much that we labeled their constant togetherness a "bromance" and started to question their sexuality.  Also in Chicago is Kristen, or K-Hanes, who currently lives with her boyfriend Chris Palmer, who is the closest thing to being a Brothel member with male genitalia.  Even further across the United States is Kaitlyn, or K-benz, who is currently taking the Los Angeles world by storm. She, being the Brothel Lady that she is, recently discovered a way to open a wine bottle without (!!!) a wine key, a skill that unfortunately came after graduation. Then there was Catie, or C-Hatch, who is currently honeymooning with her recent life partner, Daniel, in Disneyworld . As they ride the spinning tea cups, I hope C-hatch temporarily envisions herself in a wine glass, spinning down a drunken memory lane of eating Chanello's and falling asleep on the couch.  Michelle, our dear Shellster, kept us all semi-in-check by offering her ears and her wit. She was the Maid-of-Honor at Catie's wedding a few weeks ago, and had everyone simultaneously crying and laughing, which I thought was only possible when experiences second hand embarrassment after watching Girls. Finally, Sarah, or S-kys, is now teaching math to middle schoolers, but who once taught us all that you didn't need a bedroom to me a member of the Brothel.

988749_10151976847645867_45298778_n

I loved wine nights, not because I loved wine (though this did contribute nicely), but because it was a guaranteed time and place to be with a group of women who genuinely loved one another. We wore red snuggies and fell on the floor, we watched the cat dance across the wicker shelves and we kissed under the mistletoe.  College roommates like that aren't just college roommates. They're your bridesmaids and they're the ones who ink your address onto your wrist.   They will hold your hand and slap your ass.

Cheers, to the ladies of 1373.

two sisters, part one

I've been reading many fairy tales recently, and find them very inspirational. I like the simplicity of the characters, the brevity of the prose and the way everything tastes like a mandarin orange. Note: the word "bossy" here is not meant to sound negative.  Bossy was an adjective that was frequently used to describe my personality when I was a small child. Some of us need to feel in control.

Two sisters, part one                                                                                                                                                                       There were once two sisters who shared the same hair and eyes.  In fact, they were almost identical, and traded sweaters depending on their mood.  They lived in a cabin deep in the middle of the forest, and though the one would have preferred the beach, she enjoyed the constant smell of fir and that whenever it snowed it looked like Christmas Day.  This sister ate salty snacks, like popcorn with fresh herbs and oils and smoked meat that she would occasionally purchase from the butcher in the town nearby.  The other sister preferred fruit, coffee, and chocolate as dark as the earth.

One of the sisters, the one who liked the saltiness of the sand and her snacks, was quieter than her twin.  She dressed herself in ink and scarves, and stayed inside playing spools of thread while her sister assembled stones to build a pathway from the gate to the front door.

They rode bikes together when it was warm outside and this is when they got along the best.

When it stormed, they were both afraid, and the held hands under the afghan blanket their mother had left them before she went to study rocks in Burma.

The bossy sister, the one who loved the trees and the crinkles in shortbread, told the other sister what to do whenever they faced frustration. They often argued, with sparks of blue and green bursting between the two like fireworks.  The beach-loving sister would go to bed angrily, quietly, until the next morning when she awoke to her sibling making olive oil and orange pancakes, and she immediately forgave her.  Through her bites, she still felt woefully misunderstood. 

...to be continued!!

Occasionally a quote will make me feel inspired, and also emotional

I have a difficult time with patience. Maybe it's a trait of being part of Gen Y or maybe it's because I played too much Oregon Trail growing up and am used to things happening instantly. Regardless of the reason, I find myself tapping my fingers at traffic lights and glaring at tea kettles when they should be boiling.  I am not a patient person. When I was working at the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire, I was randomly assigned a roommate named Kate. This turned out to be an amazing combination. I am 99% positive Kate is my female soulmate. Our room was decorated with scarves, tapesries, and self-illustrated drawings of mermaids. We bought a rug together and watched Gilmore Girls while applying makeup. We ate Chinese food and drank gas station ice coffee.  And occasionally, on calm nights, Kate would read excerpts from  Women Who Run With the Wolves aloud in the moments before we fell asleep.

Come the end of October, our contract ended and the mermaid room was packed up. Partially because of our evening reads, and partially because I was curious, I purchased my own copy.

(I strongly recommend it every woman and man out there. It's a gorgeous read. The prose embraces you, guides you across the room and allows you to sleepwalk into a safe while simultaneously scary territory. When I read it, I feel special and sacred. I want to kiss oranges and wrap myself in an afghan blanket.)

The third chapter is entitled "Nosing Out the Facts: the Retrieval of Intuition as Initiation." It begins with a fairy tale, or urban legend. The Doll in Her Pocket: Vasalisa the Wise. In short, Vasalisa is a Cinderella-esque character, sent off into the woods by her wicked step-family.  They ask her to ask for fire from the witch Baba Yaga, secretly hoping that the old woman will eat Vasalisa and they will be rid of her forever. When Vasalisa arrives, Baba Yaga instructs the girl to perform several seemingly impossible tasks before giving her the fire.  At one point, Vasalisa wants to ask Baba Yaga a few questions. The old woman consents, but advises Vasalisa to be careful, for "too much knowledge can make a person too old too soon."

There's so much more to this story than just this little nugget of information, but I find it beautiful nonetheless. In her analysis of the story, Clarissa Pinkola Estés connects this to the idea of time. There is a time when we let things live, there is a time we let things grow, and there is a time when we must let things die.

"There is a certain amount we all should know at each age and at each stage of our lives." Clarissa Pinkola Estes. 

It is hard for one not to get addicted to knowledge. Experience is intoxicating. Learning is an emotional process. And sometimes I feel like I have to know what certain people will be and what will happen next.

"I realized I had just entered an interesting chapter in my life. I had outgrown the boys of my past and not quite grown into the men of my future." Carrie Bradshaw

Accepting these phases is difficult. The whole, "let live" and "let die." I tend to want things to grow quickly and live forever. Or for as long as I want them to.

“No, no! The adventures first, explanations take such a dreadful time.” Lewis Carroll

I suppose like good produce, everything has a season. Good night, friends! Happy Christmastime.

Why "Orange is the New Black" is the new amazeballs

I am very picky about the television shows I fall victim to, and I am picky about how I watch them.  Recent obsessions include Girls, Arrested Development, and Parks and Recreation. I enjoy these programs like any good child of the 21st century, on my laptop and while multi-tasking.  Sometimes I like to pair a good episode with a cup of Yumi Green Tea and watch while I straighten my hair. These are nice times. My current and MOST recent addiction is Jenji Kohan's Orange is the New BlackI watched an episode before I wrote this blog post and I will watch another once I finish.  It's a new Netflix original series, born just six months ago in July. Several friends recommended it to me, and I can see why they love it so. I do too! It's witty, quirky, original, honest, gritty, disgusting, humorous, erotic, and real.

If you haven't see it, the story is based on the memoir of Piper Kerman (who, through Wikipedia, I just learned shares a birthday with me!) regarding her experiences in prison. For the reasons below, I think it's one of the best new shows on TV. Or, rather, the internet.

1. Strong female cast that kicks ass

Image

TAYLOR SCHILLING. LAURA PREPON. MICHELLE HURST. It's not a mystery or myth: women are not consistently portrayed well in the media.  I know there are exceptions, but there are not enough exceptions for us not to celebrate when a show like "Orange" comes around.  The cast consists of women who are all different shapes, faces, colors, and sizes.  It's important that audiences, male and female, receive exposure to this type of media. The women are imperfect because we are NOT perfect, and that's what makes us beautiful.   More importantly, all of these women are phenomenal actors playing expertly drawn characters. These girls of Litchfield, while physically locked up, are running free. It's exciting.  It's necessary. It makes me want to not shave my legs for a month and talk back to a security guard.

2. Friendship! Romance! Pain!!!!!!

Image

I believe that the first mission of a solid television program is to make you care about the characters. (This is why 'Friends' turned into the cocaine of sitcoms. I cared about Ross and Rachel more than I did my own relationships.) Once that happens, we're hooked. We get invested in the various trials and triumphs.  In "Orange," not only are the characters neatly sketched, but the plot weaves out story lines that have you pressing the "next episode" button over and over.  Romance between an inmate and prison guard, tension between Piper and her ex-girlfriend/fellow convict, and maternal friendships have all kept me a dedicated/borderline addicted audience member.

3. Social issues are real and let's acknowledge them!

Image

There's a lot going on in this prison. Racism and sexism up the wazoo.  Litchfield is self-segregated into "tribes," a term that was used in Piper's real-life prison experience, that consist of Latinas, blacks, whites and "other."  Male guards sexually harass the women without any consequence and the prisoners are often treated like animals. While it can be unsettling to watch, it's important to recognize. I like a show that sparks necessary questions. "Orange"does so in a simple, right way.

4. Unique and beautiful storytelling style 

Image

While the show is a linear narrative, the audience is occasionally taken out of Litchfield and back into the women's pre-prison lives.  These flashbacks contrast the present action nicely, and allow us to see the women in all different sorts of light. We also get little tidbits of Piper's past, specifically in regards to her relationship with her fiancé (played by pie-lover, Jason Biggs), and ex-girlfriend ('That 70s Show' Laura Prepon). The storytelling is divine. I feel like I'm four again, drinking cocoa while my mother reads "Pat the Bunny." Of course, instead of cocoa it's red wine, and instead of "Pat the Bunny" it's "Engage in Prison Sex."

5. Everyones got history 

Image

We, as human beings, are quick to judge. I know I am, and I'm working on it(!!!). Everyone's a victim of this universal judgement, which sucks, because we're all messed up in our own pretty ways. Everyone has a story and a history that dwells behind what's surface. "Orange" is a great example of this, painting a disturbingly beautiful landscape of each character's past. We've got an open-minded, activist nun, a transexual fireman guilty of fraud, and a Russian mob-wife who's just trying to make some Chicken Kiev.  The show looks at the female inmates under a magnifying glass; they're not criminals, they're people. And come on, who HASN'T woken up with BBQ on their boobies?  Sometimes you fall asleep eating pulled pork. It happens.

My advice? Watch Orange is the New Black. If you don't have Netflix, get it. And while you wait for season 2, go watch Arrested Development.  And then call me when you're done so we can put on our onesies, open a bottle of Red Truck, and talk about all of this.

I talk a lot, and then I get something to eat.

Like many twenty-something females who are a bit jaded/a bit optimistic, I have a lot of feelings.  These feelings are not necessarily good or bad. Sometimes they are simply innocent attachments to a specific people or moments.  And while I do a large amount of healing-and-dealing with a four pack of Cadbury Cream Eggs,  I also find it helpful to write.   This is an old rambling, but something I'd like to share nonetheless. My cabin is gold. Person across person, we sit like Wes Anderson characters framed in center focus, the artificial light falling on your shoulders in a yellow glow.  You remind me of a boy I read about in books. Straight out of the 50s, a letterman jacket that you may have gotten from your grandfather.  Your name would have been something like Roger, or maybe Brad.  I lay on my stomach, letting my ankles kick behind me, my legs covered in black tights with a hole from a cigarette burn.  My eyes are on your shoulders, for they are broad and I like them.  Our artistic minds are finally able to run wild, as you tell me how you lost your father and I tell you how I used to play with felt. The digital clock that runs slow ticks to 4am and I pretend not to notice and maybe you do too or maybe we were just blind.

The sun rises and the trees come out to play, white and brown on a blanket of earth. Cigarette smoke rolls from your lips as we sip coffee and don’t say much, other than that we didn’t expect morning to come so soon. 

The beginning, paired with green tea and a clementine

Oh, my. My current view: an overstuffed high school bedroom, a half-full (we’re off to a good start) mug of green tea, and one empty blog. If you are reading this, new friend, my gratitude is insurmountable. Cheers to the beginning!

Hi. My name is Amanda. I'm 23 years old, I have a penchant for writing and collecting nail polish, and I have a B.A. in Media Art.

I am, by no means, a graphic designer, which is what, in my opinion, media arts implies. My PhotoShop classes taught me how to paste my face on Hermione Granger's body, and that was good enough for me.  I studied media art in college because I, A) Liked the television industry and wanted to write scripts, B) Had a desire to familiarize myself with video and production equipment, and C) I wanted to be best friends with Amy Poehler. (Amy, if by some supernatural miracle you are reading this, I am not a creep. Drinks this week??)

Despite this, I was entranced by the the long lists of wonderful, creative classes in the course catalog and yearned to add more to my collegiate repertoire. I ended up also declaring a major in Theatre, which rewarded me with a fat Wadsworth Anthology and a plethora of gay drinking buddies. To add to that, and because I'm a masochist, I also picked up a third major in Creative Writing. I felt like a rockstar.  That is, until I graduated.

I am now living with my parents. I didn't immediately following college.  I had a four-month contract performing with the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire as an explosive-loving pirate.  I further distracted myself by jetting off to Portugal for a week with my best friend, Alex.  These last few months have consisted of comedic performing, walking, contemplating the definition of success, walking, perfecting an Irish accent, learning a bit of Portuguese, contemplating the definition of success, drinking a lot of wine, falling in like, thinking, and learning. The Renn Faire and European adventure have now ended, and I’m back in NoVA. My daily activities include watching Gilmore Girls while I sift through five-bedrooms worth of junk and maintain a metaphorical staring contest with my diploma.

MjAxMy03MzdmYmQ3OWI1MzlhYTY4-1

So, what to do? Many college graduates without a strong sense of direction go running to grad school or the Peace Corps.  Not quite yet. For now, I think I will write.  And for the first time in long time, I will be writing for myself.  And for you too, lovely reader, if you decide to stick around. I promise, a recipe for something delicious and unhealthy will pop up every so often, as will as various creative ramblings and some (hopefully) humorous stories recounting my life’s misadventures.

Here goes nothing!