Monday, October 28, 2013

A Walk Through the Modern Day Pumpkin Patch

Two weeks ago was another trip to a new place: Sleepy Hallow.  Now, I've never read the book nor did I really remember all the details of Ichabod's story in the feature film with Johnny Depp. So although it was nice to visit this legendary and spooky town I wish I had done more research. However, we didn't end up spending time in the actual town.

The main motivation for our drive north into New York state was to go pumpkin picking and detour to Sleepy Hallow because it was along the way. I was excited to surprise my mom going to the Sleepy Hallow Lighthouse since its one of the only pleasantries I know she truly enjoys both in experience and decor. Luckily, I checked out the website and found that Sunday was the last day to tour the lighthouse until the end of spring next year. As expected she was touched I thought of such an activity and I was glad especially because of the view of all the fall colors on the trees throughout the park. Pictureque!

 Late in the afternoon and running empty from a meager breakfast we ate and watched some of NFL games at a local bar. Despite the menu's specials were pretty much out food never tasted that good! I was happy we ate least had some good times prior to getting to the pumpkin farm quite late...well, before it closed. I guess you can't have it all, but you can pout.

Pumpkin picking, going to the Christmas tree farm we've gone to since I was a toddler, Easter egg hunting...none of the childhood memories are brought to life in the same way anymore. It bothers me because I went through a lot of loss and challenging life experiences at a young age so holding onto the few events that bring a huge smile to my face and warmth in my heart are too important to "grow up" or "get over" as some care to phrase. They don't understand.

Hopefully I can come up with new traditions and find other activities that thrill me in the same way in the near future. We'll see what unfolds in the months to come.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Old Friends/Bookends

Time flies these days more quickly than I realize or I like but on a positive note, I get the opportunity to visit my friends more frequently. Well at least in theory. Its been over 1 1/2 years since I met Kristi during our semester at The Washington Center the Spring of 2012. She's been working in D.C. ever since and recently moved to Alexandria from her studio apartment in Columbia Heights. Despite the closeness to the city she expressed to me both on the phone and when I visited a few weeks ago that the old place was not as nice, roomy and comfortable as her current address.

Needing a break from my own stress and worries, I ventured south to the historic town of Alexandria. On what seemed like a deja vu moment, riding through the night in the mists of the threatening weather of Hurricane Irene, as we walked through a "monsoon of a storm" along the streets of Alexandria to her apartment. Drench in rain we took another adventure to restaurant known for their killer chili selection called Hard Times. Worth braving the weather, I think so! But right to bed once we returned.

 Sleeping in till 9am was usual for Ms. Cat but Kristi came downstairs ready to go outside for her daily run so I couldn't deny my own exercise goal. That week I had met with the Personal Training Manager at the Hoboken North NYSC gym, Nate, and was put to work doing total core and upper body strengthening circuits. So while Kristi hit the pavement I was breaking sweat in her apartment. And what is essential after a workout (besides a shower), food of course :P at a local joint up the street called Table Talk.

We walked down King Street to a place Kristi heard was great for fresh fish. It didn't disappoint especially the naunical decore. No meal is complete without dessert, so we made our way to the homemade ice cream shop next door. Mmmm yum! In addition to that delicious lunch we went out that evening to O'Connell's, an irish pub, and tried to do karoake at the Rock It Grill but due to my ill state we decided to call it a night. Next morning we spent hanging out, watching movies, painting our nails and vegging on the couch, with the exception of an evening walk and dinner at a bar downtown and a stop at a cake shop for dessert. So if you haven't already guessed, this 'vacation' was an excuse to stuff our faces the whole weekend.

I'm confident that Kristi and I will carry on the "Old Friends/Bookends" tradition, best told by the great Simon & Garfunkel. Never thought getting old could be so sweet. I mean as long as you got a friend to sit on a park bench with ya and grow old together what else do you need? .....donuts would be a nice touch :)

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Back to Reality

Over the last month and a half I have undergone so many transitions and experiences. To start, I've on and off working part-time jobs - some paid some not - trying to keep myself busy and praying for the strength to overcome challenging personalities. All I can say is I don't know what I would've done without my true friends, like Keith. I visited him at the end of August to see his new apartment and catch up. It was a good thing I did because I had to witness for myself his nice digs.
My trip to Philadelphia was much more nostalgic than a casual meeting with an old friend. As it turns out I had alternative motives - guilty as charged - since I was so curious about the lives of other some people I knew back in high school who've continued their passion for music going "on tour." I mean how long has it been since my last basement show? What I found to be refreshing was finally seeing that atmosphere from a more objective perspective rather than a young girl crazed with the idea of getting the attention of a musician. It was a pleasant time laughing, conversing, singing along and most importantly staying in the present.

After that my working life - or lack there of - came to a screeching halt. So what else better to do than beg your friend, who has backstage access to New York Fashion Week, to brighten one's low spirit. Although I did buy a brand new dress for the occassion - since none of the out of date, frumpy and unflattering wardrobe I have would do for a NYFW Venexania show, or any NYFW show for that matter. I'm far too critical because as it turns out there were people wearing articles of clothing that should've never seen the light of day - WTFWYT?!?! Overall, it was great to see my friend Greg and sit in the 2nd row at the show; even got one of those goodie bags :) And of course as my technology curse proceeds me, Greg's phone deleted all the photos from the event...except for the few below. I guess I have to stalk Twitter to find any pictures taken during the Venexania show and see if we're in any of them.

But I did return to Lincoln Center right after the crowds and shows were over to get a make-over at the Allure Glamor Lounge. What an experience: beauty is pain, note to staff - don't allow the hotel you are renting space from use the air conditioner unless you want to deal with leaks in the ceiling and stop to enjoy the moment because life is short. At least I looked really great for the New York Elon Alumni event that evening. Did not expect to walk into a room with over 700+ alumni! PS I am so glad I had the opportunity to have a drink and relax in The Plaza bar. Can you say fancy?
Probably my fo-pa that I was let go at Blimpies. My plan all along was to leave for a week for the Duke University's Continuing Studies Nonprofit Management Certificate program in the middle of September before I took the part-time position but I guess everything happens for a reason. A learning experience none the less but more along the lines of experience with passive-aggressive management and leadership - or lack there of. The same could be said for some other side projects I'm involved with currently but that's a discussion for another day...

It was great going back to North Carolina having no responsibilities to academic work or college life other than what I signed up for with the Nonprofit Management Certificate program. Per usual, I reached out to a few peeps I knew were in the area - Jamie, Alice, etc. Of course there is never enough time to see everyone but I felt good to try because I did benefit especially in regards to reconnecting with Elon Alumni. Saw Jeff (2012) and his crew - Chris (2011), Cody (2012) and Mitch (2012) - at Fullsteam downtown and went to dinner and Locopops with Alice and Kit on Friday. Must say that I never thought about crazy flavored ice cream icicles - flavors like chocolate rosemary, pomegrante cognac and other weird stuff. I had simply salted caramel which was the perfect end to a great reunion.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013


Despite some rough times I've experienced more recent and far long past, I know that not only is it part of my journey but its had a profound effect on me. As if figuring out where I fit in during this period in my life of prepetual trial and error its been the day to day events and encountered relationships that it truly transformative.

I recently had to come to terms with the fact that even though I am so eager to work literally anywhere, the reality is that my philosophy needs adjusting. Granted, it was quite a shock to find out that the job that I had lined up for the summer at the Fund was not what I originally expected. But that's the point right? Nothing does go as 'planned' especially when you assume or expect a certain outcome or result to evolve.

I'm often reminded of the wise words of my Mom - which is also helpful to keep in mind for most areas in life. It took a good amount of hard work, time and effort to get you into college (among other experiences), so the same thing applies for finding your ideal job and/or working with an organization you are passionate about. Although I consider myself to be an intelliengent individual, I guess even folks like me need a reminder.

Money does not grow on trees in the real world. A tree might bear fruit, but the fiscal rewards and other benefits only become of us using the fruit and the tree to our advantage. (Ironically enough I saw that analogy come to life this weekend when I drove to Amherst, Massachusetts.)

I had waited for Friday to come all week because I was excited to see Gravity in theaters with my Mom. Not only that, this past week had been difficult: emotionally, physically and mentally. I needed to find solace in sometime totally unrelated to past activities this week (i.e. job searching, networking, organizing my life). My fondness for space and recent experience meeting NASA former and present staff people at SpaceFest this summer, I was intrigued to see a story about astronauts, even a fictitious one. Besides the superb acting, kudos to Ms. Bullack and Mr. Clooney, I was captivated by the music, images and overall feeling of hope.

Saturday was full of culture. Jersey City, a city continuously growing in rich diversity and cultural attractiveness for both visitors and residences, its no wonder why so many people want to be here. As a kid I never expected the city to become what it is today but living here at present makes me excited about its future.

I owe gratitude to my Mom since I may not have had a inspiring day if we hadn't gone to the Jersey City Artists Studio Tour upon her suggestion. I met so many different artists, listened to some local music, tasted & supported a local school (via bake sale) saw some dynamic artist works and most importantly started to brainstorm entrepreneurial ideas. Later that night, we went to see Red Molly and Brother Sun at Sanctuary Concerts in Chattham, NJ. Between the music, the venue's staff and overall atmosphere it was such a climactic ending to a unexpected day.

Sunday. Sunday was...spiritual. Didn't go to church as planned but had the most sacred experience in a long time. On the drive up I-91 through CT to Amherst was a bit disheartening with endless down pours and the gloom & doom clouds hovering over us it was easy to say, "let's turn around and do this another day." No. I was determined and in desperate need to escape. Could not have picked a better time and place.

As soon as we arrived the flood gates ceased to remain open. We drove through UMass campus and I felt so nostalgic. The colors of the leaves all around us was overwhelming. Using both an atlas and satellite GPS on my tablet led us to backroads, country scenery and an apple farm. We picked our own apples in a field surrounded by fall foliage that would stop you in your tracks and create such a humbling feeling that results in a few tears shed. We snuck a quite snack in the car once we paid for our Empires and a slow shower began. 45 minutes traveling westward through the towns of  Haydenville, Chesterfield, Worthington, Cummington, Goshen and Williamsburg.

The weekend ended with a home cooked meal, lasagna. A dish I haven't had in years was much more than delicious but left a sense of new beginning. I see this weekend of 'newness' in a different perspective. You might call it enlightenment, awareness, insight or perhaps a element of nirvana. I think it was grace both from based upon faith understanding of the word and the moral understanding. Grace, simple to the most miraculous acts or circumstances, is taken for granted. I truly hope that the grace that was bestowed and continues to be given can provide someone like me the tools to deal with the day to day and all that becomes of my future.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Intrepid's SpaceFest, Music and Food :)

What a dayits been, full of nostalgia! As if coming back to the Intrepid Air & Space museum would be enough to send me back into the past, thinking aboutnthe days when I was short and had to run to catch up with my dad. He was always a hard person to catch up with especially in the busy streets of NYC with his 6 ft 2 length in legs. I went to the Intrepid a few times as a kid butafter age 11 you lose interest at least for someone like me who's always doing something interesting, something new even amongst the years of teen angst.

This particular weekend was SpaceFest in honor of the NASA programs and our space history. The Explorer has been stationed there since last year,with the exception of a temporary move after hurricane Sandy. But what found to be hilarious from the beginning of my day at the Intrepid was seeing people from both my most recent and distant past. My friend from grammer/high school, Keith, had text mr that mornjng to say he saw I was going to SpaceFest via Twitter and thought I should know he and some of the former 555 robotics members were already there. And at the ticket booth I ran into my friend Sarah who recently graduated with me at Elon. For some people that crazy of coincedences would've freaked them out but in my experience I tend to find people I know all over the world! (Not kidding its ridiculous sometimes)

 Keith and his mom playing with astronaut gloves

It was a few relaxed overcast day to spend browsing the ship with Keith and the crew. Went to see the shuttle exhibit, walked around the new modern and improved third deck, I met an astronuet, learned some interesting developments with the NASA program - what's happened after the government cut funding - playing a stamp challenge game, got a free NASA knapsack and a free lunch thanks to borrowing someone's non-descript Event Staff pass :) and went on the submarine. Overall a good day.

 Free lunch with pass :)
 Thats not intimidating at all

For all the sailors that are bakers

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

FRFF 25th Anniversary

 Who would've thought this small folk festival in the middle-of-nowhere amist the Berkshire Mtns is one of the best kept secrets for nearly 25 years! It wasn't too long ago that I experienced FRFF the first time. Five years ago when I went to my first FRFF, which turned out to be a very unforgettable weekend in its history - year of the tornado with golf ball sized hail - I could understand why NY hippies from the Woodstock era appreciate such a place and want it to stay on the down-low.

A traditional diary farm - they really are trusting leaving a 
jar with a sign that says, "Leave your pay" 

Coffee Roll so much better than Dunkin Donuts version.

Falcon Ridge Folk Festival is a community for people to call 'home'. So many great folk singers/songwriters and performers started on the Main Stage at FRFF and now headline folk shows all across the country and the world. Red Molly is a girl-trio folk band with what my friend refers to 'angelic' voices. They were FRFF festies would decided to make a band of their own and had the unique opportunity to perform as an Emerging Artist on the Main Stage eight years ago. Similar to other great bands on the lineup this year such as bluegrass, folk band Spuyten Duyvil. Among legendary folk greats, Vance Gilbert returned to FRFF after five years since the last time (8th appearance) to showcase his latest album "Old White Men" as well as share his wisdom and make new friends with people like me :) I geeked out seeing him off stage walking near the vendors and nearly ran into him to say how much I admired his talent...blah blah blah ick! I did get his signature on my program which I decided moments after to keep as memoriblia.

Always have to have at least one day with rain.

 The next skies!

 Young violinist in the main strip by the vendors playing away
One of my top three Emerging Artists this year - Bobtown

It felt like home this year. Third year and second consecutive year coming to FRFF you can get a sense of the neighborly love and power of folk music. Snaggle Rock, our camping neighbors from last year, reclaimed their spot on mid-hill. Harmony, her parents, her husband Ben and the whole crew were back for a very special reunion now with new additions (aka their kids). Other friends also came back, Miles to Dayton (NY) from the Emerging Artist showcase last year, ilyAIMY (MD) winner of the Emerging Artist in 2011 and Honor Finnegan the 3rd place winner of Emerging Artist showcase last year. Lesson learned last year we wanted to take full advantage of the night time performances at Front Porch, Budgiedome, Pirate's Tent and Focus. 1st night - very cold but worth staying up to 4am to see 13 musicians jam out on the tiny stage at Pirate's. Among them Tall Heights (Emerging Artists 2013), Spuyten Duyvil, Miles to Dayton and Pesky J Nixon.

Honor belting out a song

 Grand Slambovians come back to rock the Dance Tent playing tunes off
their latest album "FOLK"

I love the guys from Pesky J Nixon! They are the reason why the Lounge tent has grown to be a permanent stage on Thursday night at FRFF. For the last couple of years since its establishment the Lounge tent was a small stage on the hill that would provide campers who come on Thursday (or days before) to see and hear some great performances before the FRFF events began. Wanting to be part of the action and get to know what all the fuss was about FRFF gave them a bigger stage and venue near entrance. What was once a compact space of free music on the hill became this welcome place for any artist coming to FRFF to stop by and play (even Vance Gilbert). Thursday night at FRFF would never be the same!

 Pesky J Nixon's Nathan, co-host of the Lounge Stage, introduces Miles to Dayton
Surprise, special guest Vance Gilbert joins the fun!
(sorry for the poor resolution)

Hopefully I'll be around and able to come back next year. I would like to try the volunteer position. I think it would be a rewarding experience, become a more involved member of this community and who knows who I'll make friends with!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

This Week at the Valero Residence...

In the second week of unemployment I was determined to reach out and apply to a number of positions posting on LinkedIn. I also started hunting for a part-time job in the area to do in the meantime. Its amazing what someone can achieve if he/she puts in the effort. And thats what is necessary to get the results one wants at least in my case. Hoping to hear back from some of the organizations in the coming week, remember to follow up!

In addition to my professional accomplishments I was introduced to this volunteer website called I will definitely apply and reach out to some of these organizations looking for people who are as people friendly, passionate and determined like myself. But the reality is they need people to help for free.

Started a Yelp account and made a few reviews on places in North Carolina close to school and a bunch for places in NY/NJ area. More recently I raved about the Brownstone Pancake Diner in downtown Jersey City. Surprisingly they have a great bar menu ontop of the pancakes-food thats equally impressive.

Havana and Sour Apple Martinis

Tuesday night we ventured out to Liberty State Park to see free music thanks to our city councilman of cultural affairs. Soulfinger consisted of 6-7 member band of 40-50 somethings groovin' to songs and rhythm of the 70s disco and today's pop. They really made the crowd energized and really had some fun. The restaurant's scenery was so professional and thoughtful - especially the life-sized chess set and pieces for kids to play with out in the garden area. It was so beautiful outside, not too humid or threat of rain clouds. We had front seats to see the change from the afternoon sun to the pastel hues of dusk to the midnight dark star studded background behind the New York downtown skyline. 

The next night I went to another music venue down the street on Palisades Avenue for an open mic. The Trolley Car Bar & Grill is this small dive bar with a outside patio, boxing bags, dim lighting and friendly people. It was an okay joint for an open mic with the exception of the organizer starting nearly 1 1/2hrs after the time on the email sent earlier that day. But that's music for you, unless you go to a Coldplay concert. Them Brits start on-time!

Friday instead of making a holesome nutritious breakfast I settled for this new flavor Pop Tart. Its a great combination - chocolate and peanut butter - especially since the two are favorites of mine but who'd ever think it would be a Pop Tart flavor?!?! I remember when my Mom was asked by her former superior about the Doritos flavored taco for Taco Bell and that sounded pretty weird but apparently attracted enough support from regular customers to make it become a reality.

Later that afternoon I was supposed to head out to Brooklyn to see a free show - Trampled By Turtles among other bluegrass bands - at the Prospect Park Bandshell in honor of their Summer Concert series. But my stupid idea to wear high wedges I came back around the corner and gave up. Instead we went on the light rail to get a drink at the Cityside Bistro. I did not realize until we came through the door that I had been there last summer for one of the Downtown Jersey City meetups. White and red sangeria was hard to pass up and glad we had our share - 2 rounds. 

Two hours later we came home, ordered Chinese from Good Year on Central Ave and ate a late night dinner before hitting the pillow. Pu Pu Platter - now I hope that means something more in Chinese but its a hilarious name in English. But a well worth buy for a small appetite: 

Lil bit of everything!