Sunday, December 1, 2013

Tiny Paper Tree Advent Calender: Day One

Happy first day of December! Gooligan opened her first little paper tree today and inside was...

a coupon for a movie date! Good for one matinee or any showing at the local $3 dollar second-run theater. Second run movie theaters are lifesavers for people on a budget by the way. I think Gooligan wants to wait until Thor 2 shows up at the $3 dollar theater, because we both love superhero movies and we haven't seen it yet. (We decided to see Catching Fire with some friends last weekend.) But I'm pretty excited to take this special lady out to a movie soon. I feel lucky to be dating someone who is just as interested and excited about stories and storytelling in any form as I am. Gooligan is one of the biggest supporters of my writing and I am so grateful that she understands my passion and holds it in such high regard. I know a lot of people do not have such supportive partners. So thank you, Gooligan, for being such a swell gal.

Holiday Festivities and Advent Calendars

December 1 is a mere twelve minutes away, so I felt that it was time to update this blog again! November was a heck of a month. Gooligan and I are settled in after our mad dash around Europe, on the job hunt, doing odd work where we can find it, and trying to take advantage of our copious amounts of free time by enjoying the holidays this year. 

In between tutoring and a part-time internship writing online petitions, I've been wrapping up my last semester of graduate school. December is going to be a big month for me school-wise. There's all the standard work that the end of any semester entails (turning in my last packet, preparing for workshop by reading everyone's stories and writing comments on them), but there's a lot of additional work, too. I have to turn in my creative thesis, which includes 140 pages of my polished fiction. It's pretty exciting, though.

This past month, Gooligan and I also competed in NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, and I'm proud to say that we both won! As of just a few hours ago, we both hit our goals. Gooligan, who has never written a novel before, wrote 50,000 words over the course of the month. I pushed myself a little bit, and wrote 80,000 words--and finished the first draft of my third novel.

I'm glad that we both did NaNoWriMo this year because it was incredibly fun to participate in a creative venture together. I am excited for Gooligan to edit and let me read her novel, since I think it sounds amazing. But I am also glad that I accomplished my goal this month, because in about five weeks I'm going to graduate with my MFA, and ideally I'd love to be able to work on getting something published while editing something else while generating new writing (either short stories or novels). 

While writing is my main creative pursuit, I enjoy a good craft day as much as anyone else. I stumbled across an amazing post on the Etsy Blog with a free template to make an advent calender of trees! Paper crafts aren't my strong suit, but I had everything I needed to make them: lots of different light card-stock paper and a scoring tool, so I went ahead and made them!

These are the first twelve lined up on the window sill in the dining room. The templates include three separate sizes. I decided to mix things up a little and include some pattern card-stock in addition to plain tree colors.

Since Gooligan and I are still looking for consistent full-time work, I'm working with a limited budget, but I've already filled the first seven trees with free and/or inexpensive items (date ideas, coupons, tiny trinkets). While I would love to give Gooligan everything her heart wishes for, my goal for this advent calendar is to let Gooligan know how much I appreciate her on a daily basis by doing activities together that we both love, trying new activities, and anything else that celebrates our common values/interests.

I plan on updating this blog each day for the next 24 days to let you know how it goes.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Jumping Right Back In

Gooligan and I have been home for a week now. And it's weird. But also not that weird. Which is, in itself, odd.

It took us about five days to get over the jetlag. But that didn't stop us from socializing! The first night after we got back, we met up with my friend, Amanda, who I have been friends with since elementary school.

We went downtown to see a cabaret show. Each of the people preforming did a great job designing and preforming their acts, especially considering that it was a debut show for many of them. I guess that's part of being an artist of any kind: the willingness to commit yourself to your work, and to get out there and preform no matter the outcome.

After the show, we went to the Hurricane Café, where we ordered nachos, hash-browns, and a milkshake.

Probably the single worst thing I've eaten since coming back to the States (nutrion-wise, anyway). But it was so delicious!

Then on Sunday, Gooligan and I went pumpkin-patching with her sister and her sister's delightfully silly kid. We went fairly last-minute, I suppose, on the Sunday before Halloween. Most of the pumpkins in the field looked more like vomit than pumpkins, actually. But after a substantial amount of walking around and peering at pumpkin carcasses we finally found two suitable pumpkins.

After we got home, Gooligan and I carved the pumpkins. I carved the Goblin King for her (my drawing skills, which are abhorrent, are still better than my carving skills, let me tell you). Gooligan complained that her pumpkin was also atrocious, but when I saw it my mouth fell open.

Incredible, right?! 

Anyway, the real reason we pumpkin-patch and carve pumpkins is for the seeds! Gooligan loves fresh pumpkin seeds. She roasts them in the oven and slathers all sorts of delicious seasonings on them and then we eat them for days.

Speaking of eating things, having a lot of free times on your hands and a well-stocked kitchen, leads to a lot of baking. And it's not even November yet. The holidays are going to hit hard.

Luckily, I've started running again. Sometime in the last couple of runs I passed the 200 mile mark without even realizing it! Take that, high school P.E. coaches!

So far I've made cinnamon pancakes with chocolate chips in them, pumpkin chocolate brownies, and chocolate-dipped peanut butter cookies. Oh, and lentil soup.

Lentil soup is one of my favorite things to make because it's a) delicious, b) you can make it with just about anything, c) it's super cheap, and d) it's really easily adjustable if you have people eating with you who can't eat certain things. Last night I made it with vegetable stock, onions, carrots, and green lentils. If you make some homemade bread to go with it, it's one of the best quick, easy, and affordable meals ever.

Well, I'd better hurry up and finish my homework. Packet four is due in a couple of days and Gooligan and I are going back up to Bellingham to visit some friends tonight. 

It feels really weird to me that I am almost done with grad school. After this packet, I just have one more, which is really just compiling everything into my final creative thesis. Then I have to give my reading and lecture at residency at the end of December and I'll be done with schooling for the first time since I was in preschool. It's so surreal to think about. But I feel like I have made some substantial breakthroughs as a writer and a critical thinker, and I'm eager to be able to apply the time I've spent on school toward other writerly pursuits soon. I'm sure I'll blog about my feelings concerning graduation and my reading/lecture more later!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013


Since I promised Maddi that I would make a wrap-up post about my trip, here it is!

When Gooligan first told me that she wanted to go to Europe for a month, I thought it would be impossible from a financial standpoint. But then, partly due to our own determination to scrimp and save, and partly due to the wonderful financial blessings by our friends and family, the financial side of our trip--miraculously--fell into place.

What I wasn't planning on was the emotional and psychological aspect of traveling for over a month. Planning an entire trip and dealing with the mistakes that happened along the way, like missing our plane, is exhausting.

When you are at home--no matter how stressful your life might be at times--you are simply not using the same emotional and mental muscles as you do when you are traveling.

Before I left for my trip, there were certain situations that made me anxious: calling up strangers, going to new places, asking for favors.

But Europe threw my entire perception of anxiety-producing situations out the window; after being lost in a place where you cannot speak the language, it's not exactly terrifying to call someone up on the phone.

It's made me realize and appreciate how it is literally life-changing to speak the primary language of the place you live in. After all, what's the worst that can happen?

I feel like I have a much better take-it-a-day-at-a-time grasp on a lot of things, actually, after our trip. I'm no longer scared if I see a cop on the side of the road. Sure, I can't exactly afford a ticket now, but if I were to get a ticket, I know I could go to the courthouse and work out a payment plan. Nothing seems impossible anymore.

Going on this trip definitely strained my relationship with Gooligan at times, due to high-stress situations. But we worked through our tensions when they occurred and have, as a result, a deeper understanding and love for each other.

One of the things I realized when I was over in Europe is how important diet is to my personal mood. We were eating a lot of carbs while we were over there and my blood sugar has a tendency to drop fairly rapidly after mass-consuming carbs, which produces symptoms akin to hypoglycemia. It's not that my blood sugar actually gets that low, but just that the dropping levels is shocking to my body. But since getting back and changing my diet to be fat and protein heavy, I have felt 100% better.

And last but not least, this trip has really made me appreciate where I live. Not just because I speak the language or have access to a wider variety of food. I truly love Seattle. Especially right now as the leaves are changing and beginning to fall. It's gorgeous. The weather is crisp, even chilly. The trees are beautiful in their variety and color. Everything about Seattle at this time is simply magical. It's good to be home. 

At least until the next adventure. 

Wednesday + {Day Thirty-Seven: Paris to Iceland to Seattle}

Today was the big day! We got up early, dressed in our best PNW grunge hipster fashion, and headed off to the airport. We had to take the metro to a more central location, then catch a train out to the CDG airport.

We spent a lot of the day waiting and sitting. We made it to the airport with an hour to spare before check=in began. The CDG airport has these cool futuristic tubes to take you up to the security area!

On the planes, they had all these cute little sayings.

Personally, I think it was a ploy to distract from the fact that they don't serve food on their flights, even if they're 9+ hours. Hmm.

They did serve very delicious soda, though.

With more cute napkins.

And then we saw it.

The glowing beacon of home! The flight home was the longest of my life. The last three hours in particular crawled by. But I read Margaret Atwood's entire The Year of the Flood, so it wasn't entirely wasted time.

My dad picked us up from the airport! And he brought the dog! It feels so unreal to be back in Seattle. After a quick stop to see Gooligan's family, we went out to eat at a decent Thai restaurant and headed home.

Tuesday + {Day Thirty-Six: Paris}

So after lazying around yesterday, Gooligan and I decided to spend our last full day in Paris going back to Versailles. Sure, we could have experienced something new, but we had both enjoyed Versailles so much and, frankly, the place is so big that it takes more than a single day to explore.

But first: breakfast! Since my dad had asked us previously if we'd had a truly fantastic croissant yet (sadly we hadn't), I felt obligated to scope out the best croissants in Paris. All the reviews told us to go to Blé Sucré because their croissants are simply incredible.

Unfortunately the map we were using on the TripAdvisor app listed their location incorrectly, so we had a lot of trouble finding it. But Gooligan asked a really nice pharmacist who looked the address up on our computer and helped point us in the right direction. From there, Gooligan found it! My hero!

Blé Sucré was as cute inside as it was on the outside. It was busy and all of the desserts, sandwiches, and pastries looked like they would be perfect. Because it had taken us so long to find the place, we decided to buy two sandwiches for lunch (that's how long it took), and also five croissants.

After we finished eating our sandwiches, we hightailed it to the metro to go to Versailles! With a brief stop at Starbucks, since we were falsely lured in by their Pumpkin Spice Latte sign. We didn't get Pumpkin Spice Lattes because they had sold out in all of Europe, apparently. But we did get some coffee for the road.

Happy coffee camper!

Since we saw the chateau itself last time we decided to just go to the gardens. Which involved getting back onto Le Petit Train.

Technically you can just walk, but the gardens are huge, and it's really nice to have a train ticket back after you're done exhausting yourself exploring!

The hamlet was just as beautiful as we remembered it. We ate one of our croissants while surrounded by this beautiful nature.

Totally worth it.
We explored the same area, but also went further this trip! It turns out that there's a farm with animals!

Gooligan befriended this donkey. My donkey friend, naturally, was so much cooler.

We took a lot of silly photos, too.

And then headed back to Paris! The line to buy tickets was crazy and chaotic and when we got all the way up to the ticket machine we realized that they only take coin, so Gooligan had to run and quickly break a bill. Very stressful!

After a grocery store dinner, we packed and hit the hay early, since we have a long, long day in store for us tomorrow.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Monday + {Day Thirty-Five: Paris}

Back in Paris! We arrived around nine in the morning and got hideously lost trying to find our Airbnb. But we found it eventually, thankfully! Upon arriving, our lovely host gave us some slippers!

We didn't do much today because of the long night on the night train (Gooligan didn't sleep as well as I did). And then there was the little deal with the train giving us all-day motion sickness! Fantastic! All kidding aside, today was great. Our host recommended this pretty good Chinese buffet!

After the buffet, we came back to our place and kind of hung out while I wrote more of my novel and both of us watched television. Then we headed out to find some groceries for dinner and snacks for the rest of our trip.

We ate in the living room and talked to our hosts who were both home from work. I was shocked to learn from our hosts that they have never been to the United States because it costs too much even for a transit visa to somewhere in South America. (Just to have an hour layover in Miama would set them back almost two hundred euros each!) It really made me think about my American privilege. We have been to something like eight or nine countries (including brief transit stops, such as Iceland and Wales) and we never once had to pay for any kind of visa, even for longer trips. It's like no one thinks that we'd have any interest in immigrating anywhere but everyone thinks that the rest of the world is so eager to move to the United States. Like we don't have a lot of problems that make us a really unideal country at the moment.

But anyway, enough rambling. Our hosts fed us all these delicious Parisian desserts and then I collapsed onto the bed unable to move because I was so full! We went to bed early because we want to go to Versailles tomorrow!
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