The Pleasure of Seclusion


I’ve spent most of this summer away from screens and lost in the real world. Beach days full of swimming, sea-glass scavenging, and plenty of reading. Trying out new veg friendly restaurants and taking day trips in various parts of Connecticut. Doing my best to spend time with friends and family both far and wide, and also get a grip on a few home projects.


With all this adventuring, I found myself rarely staying home. Of course, there was also the company of daily 8 am construction as well as the summer heat in a bedroom that receives absolutely no cross breeze from the front of the house, that certainly had an influence over my not sleeping at home decision.

However, as we’ve moved into August, the days have cooled down, the construction got quieter, and I found myself realizing what I had, in part, given up all summer.


There is something utterly peaceful about waking up in your own room with no where to be. No rush of classes, no obligations, nada. When you wake up and can just wallow complacently in bed. It’s a time to meditate, to reflect, to get lost in a space tailored entirely to you.


This morning I took in my room, and all my strange trinkets. The nightstand I bought for myself, my crazy hand collection, the sundry of scarves, vests, and hats hanging on the wall. It felt nice to be one with this universe. On a whim, and ignoring the cry of authors coming from the pile of unread borrowed and recommended books beside my bed, I decided to drift into the pages of an old favorite in this centered space.


How do you spend those nothing to do/no where to be mornings?

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Time Management (Sorta, Kinda)


I have been missing my blogging and poem deadlines. Admittedly, it appears I’ve gone bad on some promises. However, I have tackled some other things that I’m proud of, such as finishing a two books by two of my favorite authors, making my own black bean burgers and granola bars, and beginning to build a schedule I’d like to (and am going to) stick to.


Some other things that have been stewing…

I’ve recently returned to work, diligently scooping ice cram several evenings a week. Not many crazy lines this early in the season, but I did have a customer ask me to make them a “peanut butter whatever”, or rather, something with all the peanut butter things we had with the exception of Reese’s Pieces. I put peanut butter fudge ice cream in a cup with peanut butter topping, broken Reese’s cups, whip cream, and chocolate crunches. It was a dream. As a peanut butter fanatic it probably only could have been better with Oreo or mixed with peanut butter-vanilla soft serve instead. Vegan version in the future? Additionally, I’m accustomed to seeing people bring their dogs for ice cream (we’re located by a harbor so it’s a lovely walk, plus we carry doggy ice cream and have a new water trough for pups!) however, I was overjoyed when someone brought a teacup pig by! Alas, I was on my way out so I don’t know if they ordered for the little guy.


I’m also on the cusp of completing the Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. To be honest, it’s been nearly a nine year battle between me and Hyrule. I started seriously playing it in middle school when I inherited an N64, then flaked in high school, then got stuck on Dark Link and never looked back…until this year. Every school break Kyle and I have set up the system in my parents spare bedroom and wreak havoc on poes, pots and crazy creatures. We started from the beginning, but everything beyond where I had left off (that damn water temple) has been my challenge. And I’m so so close, and it feels so so good.


On the healthy side, of things, I’ve downloaded a yoga app that breaks down poses and lets you choose and create classes (check out my sloppy tree pose below!). I’ve only done classes a few times–I needed to buy a mat and give my muscles 36 hours to adjust after the first day–but I’ve packed a weeks worth of classes into my schedule. The first day, though somewhat difficult, was soothing. I feel truly rejuvinated mentally and physically each time I do yoga, even if my muscles occasionally scream in protest. Meditation is definitely something I intended to practice, and yoga seems to be a great way to do it. Meditation, food journaling, exercise.


Finally, I’m syncing another schedule up to my calendar: writing. My butt doesn’t deserve the time I give it. I sit around, I wait for the day to begin, I get absorbed into HGTV or sitcoms that ended decades ago (Roseanne, the Dick Van Dyke Show, Friends, in case you were wondering), and I procrastinate, obviously. But with a new yoga schedule, downloading the WordPress app so that I can draft a post on a whim (please excuse the repeated rearrangement of posts as I get the hang of it), and using a cheesy but deadline driven writing book, I’m making it work. “Forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you’re inspired or not. Habit will help you finish and polish your stories. Inspiration won’t. Habit is persistence in practice” – Octavia Butler

What things have you begun this summer, and how do you stay focused?

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Hello, Goodbye: San Francisco

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After a very lengthy break, it’s nice to return back to some structure, as structured as a personal blog can be any way. I’m excited to say I’ve just come home from my first “grown-up” vacation. You know, the kind that isn’t family or school sponsored, and you go with a group of friends or significant other, crash in other peoples houses, maybe stay somewhere nice a night or two, and just relax? Oh yeah, that kind.

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My boyfriend Kyle and I had been planning to go to San Francisco for over a year now; I have family out there and his best friend had been living in Santa Monica at the time. Although we couldn’t scrounge up enough money to go last spring, after much toil scooping ice cream and tutoring at the WC, I was able to pull together the funds, though with very little to spare. And while I will always dread plane rides–the height, the idle time, the teeny tiny bathroom, the fear crashing to a tumultuous death–San Fran became the shining beacon of hope during finals season, and I’m happy to say that all my hard work was worth it. We had not a drop of rain, and came home each night with sore feet and smiling faces.

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For the first few days, Kyle and I stayed at the Hotel Rex–a quaint gem in a bustling city based on 20’s art/lit salons. There are bookcases in the lobby, a quote painted on every floor, and the restaurant/bar is dubbed “the Library Bar” in which each course was a literary style (appetizers were short stories, entrees were novels, you get the idea). The framed sketches and paintings on the walls were far from the usual hotel art. Plus, there was a live-in pug, Max, who has his own Facebook page.

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As for the rest of the week, we stayed with my step sister (above left), her boyfriend (above right), and their roommates (not in photo) on Treasure Island, a man-made island that was built in the late 1930s to host a World’s Fair, was claimed in the 40s as a naval base for the U.S., and then was relatively neglected from the 60s until the late 90s, when it was opened for public use (yay history!). Even when we weren’t staying with Jaime, she met us every day in the city, messaging us optional itineraries and being the best darn tour guide I could ask for; I rarely get to see her, and she’s lived in San Fran as long as I’ve known her, so staying with her made the trip that much more special to me.

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Kyle and I hit the usual touristy spots (and rode a cable, which can be a little scary if you’re hanging on, traffic-side, going downhill): Fisherman’s Wharf and the Sea Lion’s Den, Ghirardelli Square, City Hall, the Ferry Building, the craft fair/farmers market, Union Square, the Bay and Golden Gate Bridges, the Palace of Fine Arts, the Full House house, the Haight, and the Castro. On the less ordinary side, we participated in Nightlife at the Museum, a child-free science museum/aquarium visit with cocktails and tunes, saw a bunny on a leash in Dolores Park, and went to Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia at the American Conservatory Theatre (Arcadia is my favorite work by Stoppard, and probably one of my favorite plays so if you can’t see it, certainly read it).

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Overall, my favorite spots in the city were:

The Spice and Tea Exchange: A shop located on Pier 39 at the Wharf (and apparently there’s also one in Mystic, CT) in which we could smell and sample nearly everything in the store–spices, sugars, teas, salts, herbs, mixed blends, etc. The two girls working there were certainly foodies, and not only were they very helpful, educating us on pink Himalayan salt and Hawaiian red salt, but we also traded a few food blogs to check out. Though we could have bought much much more, Ky and I came home with caramel sugar, a vanilla tea, and hickory salt, which I can’t wait to add to a Fakin Bacon BLT and a baked potato.

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Human Rights Campaign: Not only does this store promote and provide information about a civil rights cause that sits very close to my heart, but I’m a bit of a Milk fanatic. Unfortunately I had no idea who he was until the 2008 movie came out (excellent cast by the way), but I was deeply moved by this man’s story and have difficulty expressing what he means to me. I got chills driving by City Hall and, without realizing it was the same building as his old shop/headquarters/apartment, 575 Castro Street.

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The Love of Ganesha: The Haight was filled with stores that I could have spent the whole vacation wandering through instead of simply an afternoon. Though I didn’t have time to see everything, I spent nearly two hours in this particular shop. The people who worked there were exceedingly caring and helpful, the type of people you could tell had heart. We were even offered lemonade and banana chips at the door. After cruising the crystals, incense, and garments for a few minutes, we spotted the meditation room. Kyle and I peeked inside, commented on how nice it was, and were told to feel free to use it. I glances at the no shoes, no bag, no photos signs as Kyle slipped his backpack off, leaving it beside the nearest clothing rack, and ducked inside. I followed suit. Behind the beads was a narrow white room, slightly longer than a storage closet but with above-average tall ceilings. One wall had statues, waterfalls, incense and offerings, hanging tapestries and prayer flags, while the other was lined with pillows. On this side, the walls were plastered with words–letter written to the shopowners thanking them for use of the room, poems and sayings created while meditating, pictures drawn by children. Meditating in the middle of the Haight as well as the middle of a busy vacation, was an overwhelmingly peaceful experience, which I prefer to keep the details of to myself. I left with a clear head and a neat pair of pants.

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Golden Gate Bridge: It’s a BRIDGE, which on it’s own endlessly fascinates me. And it’s ORANGE. Enough said.

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Oh and the food, the food! Some highlights include fried tofu and the best veggie pad thai I’ve ever had, a mouthwatering and fruit and watercress salad, a BBQ tofu burrito from the Senor Sisig Food Truck, a kick ass falafel and greek apps, pickled onions and sourdough bread, fresh apricots and grapefruit, and, to top it off, “chicken” fried tempeh with a mushroom gravy. Let’s not forget all the avocado feels.

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San Francisco, while I don’t know if I can see myself living on the west coast, I love your rolling hills and not-land-locked city lifestyle. I can certainly see myself returning. Until then, I will keep you with me, and try to figure out how to make that lip-smackin tempeh.


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Life After Jars

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As the semester comes to a close and finals have begun, I’ve been reflecting on the end of my internship and what it means for me. I said goodbye to Marisa and Food in Jars just over a week ago (with the promise of a lunch date next semester), and I have to say, it was genuinely difficult leaving.

I’ve truly enjoyed interning at Food in Jars for many reasons, those practical and not so much. On the surface, my internship got me off campus and into the city twice a week, which was refreshing and allowed me to clear any negative energy I had at the apartment or in classes by simply getting me off my butt, away from City Ave, and into a productive environment. I became more familiar with the ins and outs of WordPress (as well as the 44 bus route) and what it takes to run a blog and business from home. On the first day, Marisa and I mapped out some goals and possible projects to tackle, and we’ve slowly been checking them off of our conveniently shared Google Doc (honestly, discovering Drive and utilizing Docs has been a lifesaver this semester). Some of those goals included:

  1. Gain food writing skills
  2. Become more fluent with social media
  3. Practice blogging and writing for an online space
  4. Understand the ins and outs of a small business
  5. Gain additional Communication/English skills (as related to major at SJU)

As it stands, I feel accomplished with those goals: I’ve guest-blogged (twice!); I made two new pages for the site; I’ve called various produce distributors, done inventory, went through piles of receipts, and made a-many post office runs; I’ve reformatted, recategorized, researched and proofread for that wonderful little canning blog.

However, I learned so much more. This internship allowed me to explore the world of blogging and bloggers, something that can’t really be understood until experienced. And that’s just it. I gained experience. Not just from doing, but by getting to talk to one who lives, thrives, on that experience. Blogging involves giving your time to something and requires a delicate balance amongst other projects, be they freelance work, a second job, a marriage, a bachelor’s degree, or simply needing to clean the kitchen and tackle the laundry. As a writer/blogger, you give yourself to your readers, and, as redundant as it is, yourself. When I first wrote my draft post about canning green tomatoes, the majority of my suggestions were about details. Who? Why? How? What can you remember? What do you wish you were there for? What is the best part about it? Some of these details were things I didn’t think readers would care about, but, in truth, it’s those little things that make a post resonate. It’s what makes Food in Jars, both the cookbook and the blog, so fantastic to read. All in all, it’s what makes blogging, for personal or business purposes, so magical.

I also learned a lot about usability. The two pages I made–the Cookbook Errata and the Canning 101 pages–would have cluttered the site’s menu, but were also important things to have in order to diminish unnecessary emails and, overall, help out any readers visiting the site and needing to easily sort through information or get their questions answered. A new drop-down menu was created to fit the pages and declutter what already existed, therefore making things more accessible to the reader, inquiring or not. Moreover, most of the beautifying “grunt work” I did on the blog–resizing photos, putting recipes into a plugin, etc. also make the experience of visiting the blog much more user-friendly. The recipes were more clearly distinguishable from the rest of the text of the post (and the plugin allowed the reader to export ingredients to a digital grocery list if they were so inclined), while the resized pictures stopped posts from looking like a blocky zig-zag and created a more harmonious format.

In observing a food writer, I began to notice things that you don’t necessarily get from class, or books, or even from reading food blogs. The understated decisions that go into food writing are monumental: making the choice between yield in cups, pints, or servings; including a formal recipe or including directions throughout the post; finding time to test and retest recipes; varying the type of posts–recipes, links to other sources, giveaways, discussing books or equipment, etc. Again, it all comes down to a balance.

I also learned the value of a taking advantage of a resource. I am fortunate enough to attend a university with small classes and a top-notch faculty who sincerely invest themselves in their student’s individual growth and learning. I have gone to professors for help, recommendations, and just general chats, but it wasn’t until recently that I’ve understood the power of networking and connections. Ironically, I landed this internship by talking to one professor who I’ve had multiple classes with, who led me to another professor, who I met with once and served as the single bridge between myself and Food in Jars. At my internship, I did my best to politely badger Marisa about her wealth of knowledge. Still, I had a lot to learn about networking.

In my Ethics and Communications class this semester, I’ve read a lot about the internet and it’s effect on society and the individual. In Howard Rheingold’s Net Smart, Rheingold discusses attention, networking, and participatory culture. One of his main points is to know how the technology works so that you can know how to use it and how it affects you. I learned from both Rheingold and Marisa that, as familiar as I am with social media and networking, I haven’t really understood all the ways in which it works and thus how to utilize it. Both recommend just jumping in, regardless of any fear of failure.

Rheingold advises in exploring existing blogs or sites and utilizing face-face or online resources to find experts in the fields I’m interested in and then following them. Over time, fine tuning and prune my network and then feed, engage, question, reciprocate, and respond to it—essentially becoming a contributor to the community myself.

Marisa, who ends nearly every blog post with a question or well-wishes in order to engage her particular community, advised me to do the same. Start seeking out and following blogs. Participate in the community by engaging others through comments and messages, offering to freelance or work in the communities that seem like a good fit, and by contributing my own creations (which I need to stop hesitating on).

In other words, start creating and networking the crap out myself and my creations.

Which I am actually totally game for.

I’ve always loved using an online space for creation. Many moons ago I had a livejournal (fat chance I’m posting that link) and currently have a tumblr which is used mostly for reblogging than for personal posts. It’s time I start contributing to this culture, my culture. Participation and observation are part of why I want to write, why I love to cook, why I can’t ever stop thinking. So now it’s time to give back in a forum where people other than my professors can see.

Granted, it’s hard to get a blog rolling on top of interning, working, and managing the workload of four classes. Time management, or rather, self-discipline, is a skill that is more than needed in blogging and writing in general–and one I intend to make a habbit rather than an occasional practice.  Thus, starting June 1st, my summer goals to be accomplished include:

1. consistently blog here, as a personal blog
2. churn out roughly 1 to 3 poems a week and share here/on tumblr
3. begin vegan food blog, even if I change it over the semester or get a new angle–just start blogging already
4. start 90 day novel book. because why not.

I’m tired of being a “someday” writer. The best thing I can possibly do is start doing things today and share them, only then can I learn what I want and where it can take me.

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Blogging in the Future

I have been sincerely slacking on my blog lately, as things have been quite hectic at school post-spring break. Regardless, I have been working my you know what off and proudly getting things done in the process.


Over the past two weeks at Food in Jars, I’ve been getting in a lot of Qs and As with Marisa, seeking out the seeds of knowledge that will help me give my to-be veg blog a leg to stand on; we’ve discussed job plans, start up plans, cameras, switching over, domain purchasing and hosting, freelancing, etc. We’ve mostly talked about building an online presence in addition to a food blog and also networking, hard, which is why I’m going to start blogging here more frequently, and not just about my internship. I’ve also picked up a few tricks here and there, both from proofing posts and interning in the apartment (why have I never thought of a ring cup in the kitchen? Brilliant.)


More specifically, though, I’ve witnessed and taken part in a photo shoot with Marisa, aiding in set-up, editing contrast and zooming in on nice looking jars, and positioning a big white board to reflect the natural window light in the shoot. I’ve also done some more cookbook editing, as well as built up the Food in Jars store on amazon, recommending products frequently in use in Marisa’s crazy compact kitchen.


Outside of the internship, I’ve been working on Radio 1851’s school-sanctioned web page, taking advantage of the weather and strolling Latches Lane, and focusing on art. After such a springy and creative First Friday, I’m feeling pretty inspired. Moreover, due to business related traveling conflicts, I was given the week off from Food in Jars to do some deep soul searching (and research) regarding my own blog. Expect to see some art pics and existential questioning soon.

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