Hello, World!

Hello World!  Remember me?  I’m back, hopefully for longer than three entries this time.  So much has changed since my first post, yet I seem to have come full circle back to a similar situation, just in a different place.

I started this blog as a way of getting myself out of my solitary bubble.  Many of my hobbies do not involve interacting with others and it’s easy to have weeks where I only leave my apartment to go to work, where I spend most of the day alone, on a computer.  I wanted to push myself to try new things, meet new people, and leave my comfort zone.  I thought writing about my adventures would force me to have them.  What I didn’t expect was how rapidly my new lifestyle would take off.  I took every opportunity I could and before long my social schedule was packed.  Too packed.  Eventually I had to start to schedule nights off in order to get the alone time I needed.

Although I initially succeeded at my goal, this blog was a casualty to my perfectionism and lack of free time.  I took notes along the way, had great blog ideas that I didn’t want to let go, wanted to wait until each post was perfect, and as a result, posted nothing.   I thought my absence would be justified if I re-emerged by posting all the missing pieces to fill in the timeline, but all that did was prolong my absence.

I have made great strides in the past three years – I developed a thriving social life, worked on important projects at my job, developed new skills, and finally started travelling internationally.  But something was missing, so earlier this year I moved back to my home state to be closer to family.  Unfortunately, some of the close friends I was trying to be closer to have already left to explore opportunities elsewhere, so I find myself back in the situation of needing to rebuild a social life while fighting a strong desire to stay home in my cozy apartment.  Once again, I’m turning to writing as my motivation.  This time however, I’m learning to let go of perfection and just try to have a real experience.  This time I plan to expose the roller coaster ride, not just the positives; the messy imperfections that make things real.  So buckle up, and let’s go for a ride!

Honey Crisp Apple Sangria – November 3, 2013

Recipe: http://www.nutmegnanny.com/2009/11/04/honeycrisp-apple-sangria/

After moving into my new apartment, I made a commitment to myself to try out new recipes and use my kitchen more. So far this has born little fruit due to lack of a working stove/oven, so I was happy to discover this recipe for Honey Crisp Apple Sangria just before a friend came to visit for the weekend. I love wine and I love mulled cider, so this seemed like a delicious combination.

I ran into some supply issues early on. My grocery store only had oaked Chardonnay, I could only find ground ginger instead of fresh ginger, and I could not find orange blossom honey so I used regular honey instead. I was skeptical of how to mix honey properly into a liquid that wasn’t heated, but was surprised to find that most of it dissolved into the wine as I stirred the two of them together. As I added the fruit, I started to feel that there was too much citrus. I doubted myself, since some previous experiences with reducing the citrus in sangria has resulted in a drink that was far too sweet, so I settled for quartering a half orange instead of a full one. Most of the resulting liquid seemed too full of fruit for the described taste, so I threw in a couple extra cloves and an extra cinnamon stick and put it in the fridge overnight.

The next afternoon I could not wait to try my new concoction. Straining out the fruit was a bit difficult, though that was more due to poor planning. Eventually I got it into a separate pitcher and poured too glasses. The first taste was a hit of citrus, confirming my suspicions the day before. Since I am not a fan of citrus in general, I checked with my companion to make sure my biases were not affecting my judgement. We took out the cinnamon stick and put on in each glass to sit. After a while the cinnamon began to counteract the citrus taste and get closer to what I imagine the sangria was supposed to taste like to begin with. It still was not as amazing as I was expecting.

Given how much the citrus overwhelmed all the other flavors in the sangria, I am guessing that the fruit I used must have been much bigger than that of the authors. Perhaps this is an organic versus grocery fruit issue. If I were to make it again, I would reduce the fruit I used by 30-50%. Though honestly, I think it might be easier to just mull some cider or open a bottle of chardonnay.

I will not lose hope! My kitchen adventures shall continue! Hopefully they will get more interesting and more successful. I am more of a baker by nature, and even then mostly simple recipes such as cookies and cakes, so this is all new to me.

Trivia – Failed or Fantastic? – October 29, 2013

How important is winning? To some, nothing matters except the win, the ability to rise victorious above your friends, peers, or competitors. An alternate with a strong following is that all that matters is that you do your best. What happens then if your best is not good enough?  What if, for one reason or another, you give 90% of your best? Does that change if it is 75%? 50%?

Trivia has never been strength of mine. I know plenty of useless information, but only rarely does it come in handy during a trivia game. Generally if I am invited to a trivia team it is as “eye candy” or for my personality between rounds. I do what I can but am often quite baffled by most of the questions. Recently I started going to a local trivia night where I am even more hopeless than useful. However, the topics were far more entertaining than usual – rounds such as determining which movie titles were Steven Segal movies or made up. The first week there, we took second to last place, barely beating a team of one who had missed the first round. Some members of our team were quite proud of not being last. Yay us.

This week was different. We managed to stay in the middle of the pack for the night and actually seemed to have a chance to do well. Our team barely knew each other, so we got to chatting during a break in the game. Suddenly (to us) the event was over. We had completely missed the last round. Also the final standings, though I suspect that we were near, if not actually, last.

On an objective scale, we did terribly. Many would term it giving up, or sloppy playing at the very least. Our focus has slipped in the last couple rounds as we had missed some questions due to talking amongst ourselves. In my book, however, it was a success. These people went from mostly strangers to people that I would like to spend more time with and get to know better. You can bet that we will be back at this event in the coming weeks, with a questionable outlook on our standings. Most importantly, we had fun.  One of the more fun nights I’ve had with trivia. When you don’t care where you end up in the standings, the pressure subsides. Sometimes this helps you remember the answers easier, other times it helps you laugh off questions you are clueless in.

It is an outlook on games that I had once thought was normal, but I am coming to realize is less common. I do not always play games to win. I play to have fun. Part of this I suppose is a survival technique – I am not always the most skilled at many competitive activities. I have realized that letting go of the desire to do something that I cannot frees me to enjoy what I can do. One example that comes to mind is bowling. I am terrible at bowling. I unconsciously turn my wrist at the end and it goes straight into the gutter. Everyone that I bowl seems determined to correct this flaw and tell me that “all I have to do” is stop twisting. Like I never thought of that myself! Now when I play games I try to stop it and am very slowly making progress, but for the most part just have fun. I dance to the music while ball chugs along down the gutter. I cheer on my fellow players who have talent. As long as I am left to my process, I can enjoy the game. If every round is finished with everyone telling me the same bit of advice I have heard for years, I just get frustrated at my slow progress. So I tell my friends and family to just let me enjoy my creative gutter balls. One of the best rounds I have ever played involved my friends and I finding creative ways to toss the ball down the lane – spinning in circles, setting up obstacles, doing the granny bowl. Surprisingly we all did really well with our non-dominant hand. People hardly paid any attention to the score, but there was more laughter and enjoyment than we had experienced in any serious game.

Go try something new. Or handicap yourself while playing something that you are good at. Ignore the scoreboard and enjoy the game you are playing. When you can enjoy a game regardless of the outcome, that is when you are having a true experience with friends.

Moving Weekend – October 26-27, 2013

Moving is quite the adventure, as well as a bit of a reality check. Condensing all of your belongings into a number of boxes is a daunting task and can sometimes be rather depressing. Once taken off places of display and use and packing into a tiny (or large) box, many objects seem to lose their meaning and just seem like “stuff”. After all the boxes, furniture and decorations have been carried out, the place that has been your beloved home for so long is suddenly just an open barren space, a shadow of your former life.

At the start of the moving process, finding a way to pack and get everything over to the new place seems like the hard part; that everything will be a downhill process once it arrives at its destination. However, setting up a new home can be just as hard if not harder than packing up an old one. Setting up a new residence isn’t just a destination change, but a lifestyle change. Different layouts and arrangements of rooms, closets, and drawers change your entire workflow. Entering a new apartment can feel just as empty and depressing as leaving the old one. Even after all the furniture and boxes have been brought in and scattered about, it can be overwhelming trying to figure out what to do with it all.  Getting over this point is the hump. For some it takes longer than others. But eventually furniture falls into place, decorations mark your mark on your new home, and boxes start to dissolve into organization. When you turn to take stock of what is left to do, you realize that the unmanageable mess from before has transformed into a home filled with new opportunities.  That is the magical, exciting moment of moving.

This weekend I moved to a new apartment. It was a rougher and more rushed of a move than I’ve been through before. I chose this place on Wednesday, got approved on Thursday, signed my lease on Friday, and moved on Saturday. Far quicker than I normally move on any decision. I had viewed this place a week or two before, but initially dismissed it due to price and not liking the laundry situation. Eventually the price came down, making the comparison between it and other units about laundry plus slightly higher rent vs location. In the end I opted for the better location, since I walk to the grocery store and ‘L’ far more than I do laundry. But I had to move quickly in order to optimize the amount of help that I would receive while moving. I had additional time on my former lease, so the original plan was just to move my furniture and whatever else I could get packed in such a short time, since I only had a block between locations. I had a packing party for a couple hours on Friday, which a friend helped me out with. Saturday a couple friends started moving over the previous night’s accomplishments while I continued to packing, moving the boxes and bags as soon as I filled them. Re-enforcements (my parents) arrived around noon to both pack and move my stuff, in addition to the potential furniture that they brought with them for my new place. Overall, it was the quickest I have ever packed and transferred my belongings.

Once in my new apartment, I hit a while. So far I had managed to pull everything together on short notice, but this came at the expense of having any idea where to put it all once I had completed my transfer. It was difficult to plan my layout ahead of time due to the length of time between when I viewed the unit and when I arrived. Some furniture that I was counting on did not work the way I planned, and I had both too much space and not enough at the same time for me to know what to do with. Blood sugar, energy, and patience were low and tensions rose as we put together the furniture and tried to figure out what to make of the mess of boxes, bags, and piles of stuff. I became overwhelmed with the sheer amount of stuff I own and despite the amount of space that I had, felt like there was no place for it all to go neatly. Fortunately, after a good night’s sleep, the addition of more shelving, and the wonderful help of my parents, things began to fall into place. It is still a mess and I have loads more to unpack, but it feels like an organized task. There is enough of a vision in place that I can pick one spot at a time to focus on. It now feels like my own place and should not be long until it starts to feel like a home. And now a new chapter of my life begins….