June On & Off Instagram

Towards the end of June, I was laid off unexpectedly when my company downsized. The layoff has left me feeling really unsettled and insecure about my life. However, when I look through my images shared on Instagram in June, I’m surprised and pleased to see how happy my life is, even when unemployed. I started June wading the Green Belt with Sugarface and our dogs. I tried to force Bob the dog to enjoy swimming but he remains very much like me, a panicked swimmer. I bought myself peonies and reveled in their short season.

Bob the dog and I took a weekend trip to Houston where I would leave him till mid-August. He stays with my parents when I travel and I had four weekend trips from the time of drop-off to August. In Houston, I met up with my friend Thomas and we practiced our night-time photography. Sugarface left for a conference for a week which is the longest we’ve been apart. While we were apart, I had a rough week of not only missing him but also getting laid off. I spent that week reeling and spending a lot of time in coffee shops job searching. I tried to fly to Arkansas to meet Sugarface after his conference and to spend time with his friends and family. I ended up flying halfway and driving the other half with a stranger. (Our connecting flight was delayed and then canceled so we split a rented car.)

Sugarface and I were reunited for a very relaxing weekend. The first of two consecutive weekends (second one being in July) in his hometown. He showed me his childhood home and I met his parents. The natural beauty of the lake and trees compounded with his mom’s amazing cooking and the kindness of his family and friends felt restorative.

I commented on one of Humans of New York’s photos because it reminded me of a passage of my dad’s journal. Which reminded me that I had dropped the project of transcribing his story he recorded for me for years now. I pulled out the journal this month and started transcribing again.

Not depicted on Instagram, aside from that spontaneous road trip to Arkansas with a stranger I met while waiting for our soon to be canceled flight, was another ride with a stranger! This one less risky. Blacklane gave me a complementary ride to the airport in a luxury car. I was not otherwise compensated to try out their service or obligated to tell you about them. This is the third time I have used their service and have felt quite spoiled every time. Also not depicted, I officially joined the board of the Austin Food Bloggers Alliance as their Social Chair!

Greenbelt

Peonies

Bob the Dog

Bob the Dog

Houston Nights

Flowers

Sweets

Wah

Lake Ouachita

Lake Ouachita

Dad's Journal

Sgroppino

Follow along on instagram: @curiousnotions, @bobthedogatx, @doodlesaboutfeelings


Question: What were the major happenings in your June?

May On & Off Instagram

I’ve put off writing about May because I knew I’d fail in really capturing its weight. Can I just be honest in public and say it scares me to be happy? I guess with my experience with grief and loss, either very personally or through empathy and sympathy for my loved ones and through exquisite fiction, for all the times I’ve been gutted by loss, it magnifies my fear of being happy and feeling loved and loving. It’s knowing that every story has its end and the more I fall in love with a moment, a person, a friend, the more overcome with joy I am, the bigger of a hole it will leave.

I’m so happy it scares me. And it’s a constant struggle to be present. To not worry about endings. To let joy lap at my feet or crash into my heart and smile for the experience of it all.

In May, I celebrated the beginning of a marriage of two of my friends. One of whom I forged a fast and intimate friendship with at the end of 2013 when she and I had simultaneous #lifechanges. Me the ending of a long term mostly unhappy relationship and her the beginning of a happy engagement. She offered me her condo to serve as my literal shelter and then provided me the figurative version of shelter through her generous friendship. In just a little over a year, we’ve had countless brunches, traveled to Greece, and by the end of my lease with her, I felt restored. It was an honor to be a guest at her fifth and last world-touring wedding reception. At her wedding reception, I was reunited briefly with my previous roommate who also lived at the condo I mentioned. We were seated at the same table and she met Sugarface and I made loose plans to visit her soon in Chicago.

I had a sort of last supper with Treavor. We had tacos and sat outside on a patio and said “til next time” as he embarked on an international trip.

I had my yearly reunion with girls I used to share a Youtube channel with. We drove 7ish hours from California to Utah and climbed Angels Landing. (Link to the blog post down below.) I returned to Texas to have a two day work week before borrowing a Cadillac from District Drive and driving 9ish hours with Sugarface to visit his siblings in New Orleans. One thing not depicted on Instagram was sharing a take out meal with him in the parked car right outside of Houston. They say one way to challenge a relationship is to be stuck in a car together for long stretches of time. I’m relieved that we do okay cramped in small spaces and with achey backs and legs. Our drive was dotted with a few bridges, each one promising to be THE BIG ONE. I’m still not sure where that big bridge stands.

In NOLA, I met Sugarface’s siblings and a Katrina refugee beagle. They’re all kind and witty, which didn’t surprise me. We traded stories and I tried to commit their stories to memory. I ate one of Sugarface’s favorite sandwiches and introduced him to one of my college friends at brunch. Two full days enjoying the humid air and the magnificent oak trees flew by too quickly before it was time to drive 10ish hours through scary storms and back to Texas.

Not depicted on Instagram was the record-breaking rains we had in Texas and the long uncomfortable wait for beignets.

MJ & Peter's Wedding

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Lunch Date

Sucre

Beer Break in NOLA

Happy Hour

New India

Follow along on instagram: @curiousnotions

Zion National Park

Zion National Park

I love all the common interests I have with my friends, but I also appreciate the differences. It’s the differences that challenge me and expand my horizons. I’ve mentioned last year that the Grand Canyon wasn’t high on my must see list but Ashley who is interested in seeing all the National Parks (multiple times even!) insisted we visit Grand Canyon last year. It was the first trip I took that wasn’t a metropolitan destination, my first hiking trip even. I loved it.

This year she made a compelling 10 point argument that we have to visit Zion National Park. I’m not sure why she went through the trouble of making a 10 point list as I’m certain all she had to do was say, “Hey! We’re going to Zion National Park this year!” and that would have sufficed. Ashley, Nicole, and I took a long weekend and hiked Zion, with Ashley as our experienced tour guide.

Nicole and I flew into LA on Friday and Ashley drove us across three state lines to Springdale, Utah just in time for a late night dinner, where weirdly, I had an exceptional meatloaf. Really. The next day we woke up after sleeping like logs and had a “late riser’s” breakfast before embarking on our hike to Angels Landing. Ashley once sent me a video of someone hiking Angels Landing. In that email sent last year, she said, “When we go to Zion, you might want to sit out Angels Landing.” That video did a better job conveying how amazing and awesome and scary the hike was than any of my photos. (Also, I was too busy holding on to safety chains to even try to capture the greatness.)

When we reached the top of Angels Landing, I knew that it was an important moment in my life. Ashley’s passion has become a little bit of mine. It also made me miss Sugarface. I texted him that night telling him I want to hike to awesome places with him.

The next day we hiked to Weeping Rock, Emerald Pool, and Hidden Canyon. We saw our first 360 degree rainbow at Emerald Pool, climbed a hanging sidewalk to get to Hidden Canyon, and let Weeping Rock weep on us. On the hike to Hidden Canyon, I was tired and hangry and when my hips got wedged in between two rocks, I fell apart in laughter that almost resulted in me peeing myself. Nicole asked me what was so funny. Through tears and laughter I said, “I’m stuck in between a rock and a hard place!”

On our fourth day together, we drove back to California, flanked by storms and ambushed by tumbleweeds. I didn’t know tumbleweeds were a real thing. Apparently you don’t want to drive through them as they get stuck under your car. We ended our last night together watching Pitch Perfect 2 and with late night conversation. The next morning we had breakfast and aggressively hugged each other at the airport.

I had already begun to miss these girls before I even got off the plane on the first day together. So you can imagine how much I miss them now. I’m both grateful and sad that we see each other once a year. I’m sad because it’s only once a year! Grateful because we make it happen despite living very separate lives in different corners of the country.

Here’s looking forward to next year’s adventure!

Zion National Park

Zion National Park

Zion National Park

Zion National Park

Zion National Park

Zion National Park

Zion National Park

Zion National Park

April On & Off Instagram

Every time I sit down to write these monthly recaps, I’m surprised by how much can happen in just a month. There was a wedding which entailed a trip to Houston with Sugarface where he met my parents for the first time, a four day work conference, and house sitting and taking care of a total of four dogs with Sugarface.

As usual, there were good meals with good friends. I spied a beautiful albino peacock peacocking during a lunch. I had a sweet Monday dinner with Treavor and Kim when she was in Austin for work. After which we laid in bed at the Austin Motel. We shared stories about our first kisses and asked each other how we decided to leave (anything or anyone in particular) and discussed what kind of festivals we’d organize if we were in the business of organizing festivals. We ended that night with a walk down Congress and talked an already closed restaurant into selling us cookies.

I also instagramed (and blogged) a unique DIY party where we dabbled in wood burning. Link down below.

Not depicted on Instagram was meteor hunting at midnight in a field where a bug repellent candle in a wicker basket served as a lantern. Oh! And I finally after many years of having a food blog, started a Facebook page for it. Give me a thumbs up would you?

White Peacock

Night Scene on Campus

Pete's Dueling Pianos

Dog Sitting

Fancy Dress Night

Toms

Snow Cone Season

Still on the clock

Austin Motel

Chicken and Mashed Taters

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Wood Burning DIY Party

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Follow along on instagram: @curiousnotions, @bobthedogatx


Questions: What kind of festival would you organize? What’s the most underrated body part? Favorite memories in April?

Angel Oak in South Carolina

Angel Oak

3688 Angel Oak Rd.
Johns Island, SC
843-559-3496
http://www.angeloaktree.org/

I was going through my old photos to post a Throw Back Thursday on my Instagram account when I found photos from last July when I was road tripping through the Carolinas by myself. I drove to Charleston, South Carolina specifically to visit Angel Oak. Standing at 65 feet tall and believed to be over 1,500 years old, Angel Oak is by far the most magical tree I’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing in person.

If you are ever in the area or are like me and just want to be in the area, they are open 9-5 and charge no admission.

Angel Oak

Angel Oak

Angel Oak

March On & Off Instagram

Sometimes I want to live in particular moments for forever. Or at the very least keep what happiness I’m feeling in the moment in a bottle somewhere so I can go back and just drink it in whenever I want. This fear of leaving perfect moments and having them soon forgotten is the driving force behind my taking a million photos and journaling.

I fulfilled one of my longest dreams in the month of March. I often made myself sick with fear of not being able to treat my parents to a much deserved vacation. They worked so hard and I was scared they may never retire or something terrible might happen before I could travel with them as an adult. My only memories of travel with my parents were a couple trips to Vietnam with my mom and some road trips when I was still in elementary school. So when I made Vegas happen in March, a destination my mom requested, it was the biggest sigh of relief and joy.

I lugged my tripod around the Strip to practice my night photography and felt like I struck gold when a double decker bus with blue lights drove by me just when I clicked the camera for a long exposure. Consequently, I took the coolest light trail photo I’ve ever taken.

I went on a couple of work day lunch dates with Sugarface. Off-site lunch dates always feel like a treat! I’m finding that most of the time I spend with him I want to bottle the feels to revisit later.

The spring flowers are in bloom and they make me happy when I have my DSLR around.

Not depicted on Instagram was a weekend in Houston to meet a long time friend of mine visiting from Miami and horrendous allergies from the pretty Spring flowers.

Hands

Bellagio Gardens

Vegas

mom and dad

Moo

Bob the Dog

Austin Nights

Bob the Dog

Food Bloggers

Spring

Dai Due

Follow along on instagram: @curiousnotions, @bobthedogatx


Question: What are your favorite memories from March?

February On & Off Instagram

This year’s February brimmed with love-filled moments. Sugarface met one of the most important people in my life, Kimmy who feels like the keeper of all my memories. She told me later that she had a hard time believing that in just a dinner they have exchanged more words than she had with any other previous boyfriend of mine. This felt so good to hear. I’ve been accustomed to living independently of romantic partners and I now finally understand the bliss that is to be had when you actually share your life with a significant other.

Other love filled moments included booking travel for May with the former Totes Awesome Channel girls. Our last trip was a year ago when we visited the Grand Canyon. I also drove down to Houston to have a mini TAC reunion and first time meeting for me and Bri. We felt compact and cuddly in Bri’s king-sized bed. We only had one night since I committed to being a tasting judge at a cake competition in Austin that same weekend. We giggled obnoxiously all night and it felt like we just belong together. Alas, Roommate Ashley and I returned to Austin the next morning and Bri went back to California.

Other instagram moments: I hosted a Valentine themed girls’ brunch and also had a Fennel Night Double Date. I had a fun cameo in Bravo’s “The Next Best Restaurant” show. And I finally bought my own tripod and am wading deeper into nighttime photography.

Not depicted on Instagram was seeing Date* with Kimmy and Mad Men marathons with Sugarface.

Curious Notions

Curious Notions

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Click on photo to read blog post.

Curious Notions

Curious Notions

Curious Notions

Curious Notions

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Doodles About Feelings

That Takes the Cake

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Follow along on instagram: @curiousnotions, @doodlesaboutfeelings

36 Questions to Fall in Love and Perfect Days

perfect

This weekend, I drove to Houston with my roommate to spend one night with Bri, whom we used to share a Youtube channel with. I’ve never met her but have known her for five years. It felt natural and there was a lot of giggling and the three of us shared a giant bed. The next morning after a jaunt in a Houston park and lunch at my parents’, Ashley and I drove back up to Austin. On the way to Austin she asked, “Want to answer 36 questions and fall in love?”

I’ve heard and read a lot about these questions. They’re designed to make strangers fall in love and it’s backed by research. I only knew about one question. Question 18: “What is your most terrible memory?” I’ve heard about it because girlfriends have told me their boyfriends didn’t fully participate because of that one question. And yet these are meant to be answered by strangers!

Ashley and I are not strangers. We live together and we’ve been friends for five years. We met on Youtube. We’ve traveled together and ate a lot of brunches and consumed a lot of coffee even before living together. I had an idea about what her terrible memory is but never wanted to pry and ask for details. I wrongly assumed I already told her my most terrible memory because it’s such a defining moment in my life that I’ve taken two decades to process. As we listened to each other’s abbreviated life stories (Question 11: “Take four minutes to tell your partner your life story in as much detail as possible.”) and then sat through each other sharing our terrible memories, I felt my love for my friend and roommate deepen.

It’s such a treasure when someone shares with you their past pain or greatest pain. When you see someone’s light come through his or her personality and your interactions, it’s already such a gift. Then imagine being given insight to the darkness. The light and joy of the person can now be appreciated as a miracle. Here they are, laughing and smiling with you despite really ugly shit. And nobody is spared the ugly shit. It’s the price we pay for the privilege and adventure of being alive (see the last line of this beautiful essay by Oliver Sack). Question 18 is a hard question but it points to someone’s resilience and resilience is beautiful.

I think my favorite question though is Question 4. “What would constitute as a perfect day for you?”

Yesterday was a perfect day. I woke up in an king-sized bed with two beautiful girls and indulged in a high-calorie breakfast with them. I saw one of my best friends briefly at a pretty park and had lunch at my parents’ house with my roommate. We answered the 36 questions in the car and I spent the evening eating and cuddling with Sugarface and Bob the Dog, ignoring the Oscars and mostly just being quiet.


Questions: Have you gone through these questions with anyone? If so, did you fall in love? If not, tell me about one of your perfect days.

Doodles About Feelings

One day in August while at work, I was particularly frustrated about something. I went to visit my friend who sits at the opposite corner of our suite floor. I grabbed a thick black sharpie from his desk and scribbled a tangled mess of lines on a page of his legal pad. Bewildered, he asked me what I was doing.

“I’m drawing my feelings.”

We laughed about it and I walked away.

The next day, still frustrated about the same thing, I turned the page of his almost done legal pad and scribbled an ugly stick figure with an grossly over-sized head wearing a frown.

I did this a couple more times until his legal pad was filled and it dawned on me I could make this a daily routine and spend about 5 minutes to visit my friend during a work day and doodle. I love happy rituals in relationships and I enjoy filling up notebooks and journals. So I now have an established corner of his desk that houses my Doodles About Feelings sketchbook, colored pencils, an eraser and circle stencils. The project grew to two physical volumes of sketches that make us giggle when we flip through them and serves as another catalog of memories. I even started an instagram account for it.

Turns out there’s a lot of benefits to doodling. It can improve your memory and focus, provide another way to express yourself when your words fail you, and provide cheap comic relief to the mundane happenings in your everyday life. Read “The Power of the Doodle” for more about the benefits of doodling.

010615

010815

Follow along on Instagram @doodlesaboutfeelings.

January On & Off Instagram

I blinked and then just like that January is over. I started the year off hosting a party with my roommate and Anita. Our dress code required sparkles. A few men showed up without sparkles so we painted one of their fingernails with glitter. Someone admitted to me later that he enjoyed seeing glitter on his nail in the following days. “It’s kind of like a secret souvenir!” I love secret souvenirs.

I cooked more in the month of January that I did all year in 2014. I feel like I revived a neglected part of me in doing that and I like it. I seared my first steak and made late night quesadillas with Sugarface. I double dated with Anita twice. We had hot pot and then played like children at a children museum. The Thinkery hosts 21 and up night once a month and it’s quite a sight to see gleeful adults buzzed on wine and beer conducting science experiments and playing with bright lights.

We had our inaugural Brunch Club brunch and spent 3 hours giggling over mimosas and butter coffee after we stuffed ourselves with brunchy carbs.

There was about a week of gorgeous weather and all of Austin came out to bask in the sun and instagram it.

I have been food blogging more. In January I posted 6 blog posts. 5 times more than what I did in January 2014. All in part because of scheduling more dinner/coffee working dates with Michelle. Her husband and Sugarface joined in our bimonthly party and work as we blog. It’s one of my favorite traditions to come out of 2014.

Not depicted on Instagram is all the scheming. From mapping rooftops with Thomas, to bucket list making with Sugarface, to more double dates with Anita. We’re eyeing Austin Panic Room for a double date.

jan11

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You can follow along on instagram @curiousnotions.

Also, Bob has his own instagram.


Question: What are some of your favorite moments from January?