Friday, 30 November 2012

NaNoBlogMo2 - Done...And?

~Warning, this entry got kind of introspective.~

Welp. I'm done. I ran 3 miles this morning, which brings my total miles ran* to 40.25 for this month, barely squeaking by the goal of 40 miles I set. And if you are reading this and the post date says 11/30 then I posted once a day, every day, for November. what?

Those familiar with improv will know one of the fundamental rules of a scene is "Yes, and". This basically means that your response to your scene partner(s) should always be one of agreeing and building. You never want to tear anything down or reject their suggestions, but you also don't want to just agree with whatever they say. You want to build something, bit by bit.

At the end of this month I find myself saying "I'm done! ....and?" Partially its a feeling of, ok, so what did I get out of this? What did I build? I didn't lose any significant weight this month from the running, I really didn't get any better at running (I had to push to finish my 3 miles this morning just like I had to at the beginning of the month), and I have the sort of begrudging feelings of wanting to improve at running but not really enjoying it, same as I did on November first.

As for blogging, I actually did a little better than last year. Last year I cheated a bit. I posted at least two entries that were verbatim things I had written before, sometimes I wrote stuff ahead of time and scheduled it to post later, and I think once I just barely missed midnight and backdated the post to look like I had made it. This year I wrote everyday, posted on time, with my most cheaterly entry being the Sea Tea "Locally Made Improv" commercial that I am in. But, I don't feel like a better writer, and I worry that my entries seem boring or forced.

I know I am my own harshest critic. I set two goals to try and improve myself and my life and I completed them successfully. Yet I still feel like it wasn't enough. As I talked about in more detail in my blog swap entry with Julia, sometimes I feel like I do these things just so I can use that sense of accomplishment to give me the boost to do other things. Just like going to the gym makes me want to eat healthier and be healthier overall, and just like learning something new makes me want to learn even more, finishing things successfully makes me want to go out and accomplish more things.

When I first moved to Shanghai I was shitscared, lonely, terrified that I was going to be awful at my job, and I felt more than a little lost. At my lowest point, I took a postcard of the Shanghai skyline and scribbled over the picture in Sharpie: "If I can do this, I can do anything". That postcard hung inside my wardrobe on my mirror for the two years I lived in China. I saw it everyday when I got dressed. I tried to take that idea to heart, and to let it give me confidence. It made everything else seem easier, and to some extent it still does.

I guess I do these things to myself to get some small bit of that feeling back. If I have the willpower to make myself get out of bed and go running in 30 degree weather on Thanksgiving morning, blisters, hills and all, then of course I can answer my personal emails in a timely fashion. Of course I can be more productive at work. Of course I can do Christmas cards this year. It may seem like a stretch, but those things are all connected in my mind. Accomplishments, no matter how small, breed more of the same.

So, now after that little journey into my psyche, I still have the same thought. Done....and? What will I challenge myself to do next? How will I test myself? How will I make myself better, thereby wanting to make myself better? Another physical challenge? I'm not asking rhetorically, suggestions are welcome. A weight lifting challenge? Vegetarian mondays?

I'm done.....and? What's next?

Milage: 3

*I do want to be completely honest that I counted my entire mileage on the treadmill/track/etc, which included warmup & walk breaks. But I tried to keep the walk breaks on the short side. I think I would be safe in saying that I solidly ran 30 miles.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

NaNoBlogMo2 - What We Made (Blog Swap)

For today's entry we are doing something a little different. My friend Julia (with whom I ran the 5K this month) and I decided to do a blog swap today. When I stop obsessing and nitpicking over my entry you'll be able to read it at her website. I highly recommend checking out her blog and reading everything. If you are curious, you can find some of my favorite entries HERE, HERE and HERE. Or, of course, you can start by reading her wonderful entry below.

What I Made
Hello, readers of the blog of Stephanie Rice. I’m her friend and co-improviser, Julia. You can visit me regularly on my own blog, if you like me, which I am not certain you will. Because, if you enjoy the company of Stephanie Rice, you probably have a certain healthy respect for achieving things on a day-to-day basis. You, like her, are probably hooked on hobbies. You can probably sew. You can definitely cook, right? Yeah. You totally love cooking.

I am no such person. You will see. For this blog swap, Steph wrote a piece over at my blog about her addiction to finishing things. I much, much prefer beginnings.

I also realized, thinking about this swap, that I have no hobbies. It’s not that I’m swimming in free time; the fact is, I try to turn all of my interests into permanent states of being. My projects either turn into small careers, little kingdoms I like to rule—as in the case of Sea Tea Improv, which began as taking a class and I now describe as “I co-own and operate a professional improv studio”—or peter out and die in a manner I come to regret. There are things in the world I love—blue whales, letterpress cards, Roman mythology—but at present these things have not manifested themselves in casual-project form. Instead, they skip across the world independently of me, and when our paths cross I am delighted. I don’t own these things and I don’t make them. They are not my hobbies.

Sometimes I ask myself: what have I made? What do I have to show for so many years with a passport tucked into my underwear and an opinion tucked under my tongue?

So I’ll tell you what I did tonight. After a day spent attempting to organize a nationally viable writing contest, after an afternoon begrudgingly lifting weights and posting podcast episodes, I went off to the reading series I run. Syllable began because I thought, “why doesn’t Hartford have a reading series?” So I made one.

I got there ten minutes before it was supposed to begin, and one person was there. I was late because I’m always late to everything, no matter what I do. I threw some chairs around the room and I took out a piece of paper and made a list of the readers. By 7:07—start time 7:00--  all ten of our readers were present, along with three noble listeners there just to watch. We read. I placed Farenheit 451 on the music stand and did my best. Others read original work: a funny piece about contracting Hepatitis C; lists of New Years’ resolutions straight from diaries; a retelling of Adam & Eve; an essay about walking through customs. We read, we read, we read.  The theme of the night was beginnings.

When Syllable began, it had that splash of faddishness to it. We’d have seven readers and thirty-five people there just to listen. Slowly, that fell away. We are left with one little room and one little music stand and some empty chairs. At first, this was awful to me: what I made was not what I’d set out to make. It was so small! And simple! And it was always the same people, more or less—six or eight returning readers and just one or two new readers every single time!

Then I realized what we were actually making: a community. Small and simple and slow to grow.  It isn’t as I imagined, but it means something to these people, and that means something to me. It means I’m filling some kind of space instead of creating my own personal Frankenstein’s monster from my own ambitions.

What we make seems like it’s for us, but it isn’t, really.  What we make quickly changes into what we’re responsible for. And the really surprising thing, the thing that has changed my life here in Hartford, is that it takes so little effort to erect something. People assume most things are ten times more work than they are.  On some days I feel like that’s a secret only I know, and on other days I see that there are quite a few people who know that secret. At times it seems like the people who are getting things done, who are building communities and making impact, are the ones who are simply trying. Any effort will do, for a start.

Two weeks ago I had come home from a conference and had to go, that night, to a medieval-themed Gala. Being me, two hours before the gala, I had no costume at all. Despondent, I resigned myself to being the only person out of the costume at the party. My other half, Greg, and my friend Summar would not accept my despair.  “We’re making you a princess cone hat,” they said.

They pulled out a piece of posterboard and produced a silk scarf from within my apartment. They formed the cone around the scarf. They pinned it to my head.

“It’ll probably last an hour,” they said, “but it’s something.”

The damn cone looked ridiculous and felt every second as if it would tumble out into the night. I walked half a mile with that thing on my head, and pulled a change of dress over it while it was still pinned on my head. I wore it for six hours, feeling every minute as if it would collapse, but it did not. I looked like an idiot and I felt like a million bucks.

Still, it held, that little thing. That paper and silk meant more to my friends and to me than we knew when it was being made. And when its time was over—when I finally pulled it off and threw the paper into the recycling—I was amazed at how it had all held together for so much longer than I’d imagined, crooked and battered as it had become.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

NaNoBlogMo2 - Fingerless Gloves

Last year I went to the first annual Fiber Fest. I had a pretty decent haul from the event, though I was trying to be conservative. I got a bag of sheep's wool (which I've only just started processing in the last few months), some roving (which I immediately spun into yarn and haven't done anything with it since), and some really beautiful green yarn.
I was undecided with what to do with the yarn. I bought it from the sale bucket on a whim so I only had one skein and no set project in mind. When I felt the yarn against my skin and saw the lovely colors, I was inspired to make fingerless gloves.

I don't know why I have a bit of an obsession with fingerless gloves. I've made a few pairs for myself, and some for friends as well, and I think each pair gets a little better. The first pair I made had a weird seam up on the middle (as I hadn't learned to knit with dpns yet), and the edges were rolled up (because I hadn't yet learned the importance of making hems). The first pair I made for myself had edges and no seams, but they were also misshapen, mismatched in terms of size, and overall too big. I think this pair is the best yet. I knitted on a thumb for extra warmth, and with the entire glove being ribbed, it provides a nice fit all through the glove.
I keep these in my purse in the event of a little last minute hand chilliness. I use them the most at work since my cubicle can get a little chilly, but I still need my fingers free to type. Every once in a while I will wear them just because I like how they look, though. They are impractical on so many levels, but I still like fingerless gloves. Now I just need to decide what to do with the rest of that gorgeous green yarn...
Mileage: 3

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

NaNoBlogMo2 - Stuffed Chicken Breast

I am very surprised that I have had this blog as long as I have and have never once talked about my stuffed chicken breast. If I have a signature dish...this is it. It is likely the dinner recipe I have made the most often.

When I was younger and just getting into cooking, I usually followed recipes. I was still me, so I often changed a few things here and there and quickly switched to using my hands and eyes to measure more then I did measuring cups and spoons. But I didn't often make up my own things to cook from scratch. I still remember one of the first things I ever made was a weird chicken/cream of mushroom soup/rice glob that turned into a salty pile of not-too-goodness. But I think I was in middle school, so give a girl points for trying.

To this day I will usually look up a few recipes that are similar to what I what to cook to get some tips/ideas (such as using tomato paste in my venison stew), and then cobble something together. Years ago, I can't remember exactly when but I think I was in high school, I had a craving for dinner. I searched for a bunch of recipes on line but nothing I was finding had exactly what I wanted. As I was searching I realized how stupid it was to keep trying to find the holy grail of a recipe when I pretty much had the entire thing ready in my head.

I knew I wanted to have chicken breast, and I wanted it stuffed with a creamy, cheesy, spinachy, bacony filling and then baked. That was it. So I mixed together cream cheese, sour cream, pieces of cooked bacon, chopped up spinach, shredded cheddar and some seasoning, rolled some chicken around it and cooked it. It was delicious. 

I said this is the dinner recipe I have made the most often, but that is bending the truth a little bit. Since I don't have a recipe and don't like having strict cooking rules to follow, I never really make it exactly the same. Sometimes I will caramelize onions and garlic and throw that in the stuffing. If I am feeling fancy and remember to buy enough bacon, I'll wrap each breast in a slice. I've done a mixture of mozzarella and parmesan (though I prefer the cheddar). I even made this in Shanghai once, but with some sort of weird ham that I found since I had trouble A) getting good bacon and B) cooking bacon well on a hotplate with a wok.

If anyone is looking to try and make this (or something similar) I would just recommend buying the "thinly sliced" chicken breast or similar at the store. That, or make sure you have a meat hammer. I spent many a time making this recipe beating chicken breasts into pulp trying to get them semi-flat and roll-able. The thin slice just makes it so much easier.

I always seem to have two things happen when I make this recipe: I wish I thought to make enough for leftovers since I love it and don't make it that often, and I always make more filling than I have chicken for. As for the first, this time I think I went overboard and will be eating stuffed chicken for a week. No matter. Its tasty. As for the second, that really isn't an issue. Just take any leftover filling you have and heat it up in the microwave for a delicious creamy/bacon/cheese/spinach dip. Have it on some crackers or bread. Delicious.

Monday, 26 November 2012

NaNoBlogMo2 - Cross-stitch

Photo courtesy of the lovely Julia Pistell
Cross stitching is one of those things I like that I can do and I enjoy doing....and rarely do. I've done a few projects over the years but nothing all that big or exciting. Last year when my friend and fellow Sea Tea'r, Julia, mentioned that she had ended up with a cross stitch pattern as part of a Yankee Swap (she had brought it as her gift and the lucky recipient apparently didn't think enough of it to bring it home so Julia kept it) I took that as a chance to do a little cross stitching. Julia's taste is really impeccable. If you can't tell from the scant amount I have finished so far, the picture is of penguins walking through a rainbow and then emerging as the colors of the rainbow. Adorable.

One of my favorite things about this project is I have never brought it home. I started working on it at Julia and Greg's and other than a brief trip to Dan's for a Sea Tea Super Bowl party, it has stayed at their apartment. I like that I have a go-to project there. I get together with Julia (and sometimes Greg) from time to time to watch Game of Thrones. I never have to bring my knitting or another craft project with me, or worse sit idly watching without something to keep my hands busy. Instead, I just dig out my cross stitch that I have squirrelled away by their couch and hunker down for some stitchin'.

I kind of like when I have projects that were mostly finished in one place, or watching one thing. So many of my projects are done bit by bit over a decent period of time. But when I have something where it was mostly done in one place, I can't help but look at the finished project and remember what I was doing while I worked on it. I like that when these cross stitch is finished I'll be reminded of the fun times I have had hanging out at Greg and Julia's apartment, enjoying good time with friends and Game of Thrones.

Mileage: 3

Sunday, 25 November 2012

NaNoBlogMo2- Convincing

I didn't want to go running this morning. I had quite the back and forth in my head laying in bed. It went a little something like this:

Good Stephanie: You should go running. You still have 12 miles left to finish this month.
Bad Stephanie: Its cold.
GS: You've got that nice cold weather running gear. You'll be fine.
BS: My hip hurts and my knee hurts and I've got those blisters on my feet.
GS: Take an aleve for the joint pain, put bandaids on the blisters. Its not that bad.
BS: Its too hilly around here. I can't run for long before I get tired.
GS: So? Some running is better than no running. And the world isn't need to get used to running on hills.
BS: I'll go tomorrow instead.
GS: You've said that before and then not followed through. I don't trust you when you say that anymore. Besides, you need to go tomorrow anyway to finish your 40 mile challenge.
GS: .....if you run, you can wear your rainbow knee high socks.
BS: ......fine.
Mileage: 3.25

Saturday, 24 November 2012

NaNoBlogMo2- Tradition

Despite how often my life is changing and how interested I am to seek out and learn new things, I am a real sucker for tradition. I love the idea of tradition...of things being done a certain way for years and being passed down from generation to generation. I think part of the reason I am so fascinated with China is because of how old the culture is, how much depth there is to their history and how many traditions there are.

I have often felt cheated as an American that my culture and tradition and history is not that old or particularly interesting (in my own opinion). So I have grasped on tight to the few small traditions we have in my family. One of the only ones that has kept up year after year from as far back as I remember, is having cinnamon rolls on Holiday mornings....specifically Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas. And not even homemade rolls, but Pillsbury rolls from the can.
Even this year we cheated a bit since on Thanksgiving day morning my dad was out hunting and I was out running. So we had them this morning. I suppose it is a little childish to hold on to these traditions when life is always changing. This year I shared Thanksgiving dinner with more friends than family members in upstate NY, when in my mind "tradition" dictates it should be spent at my parents' home with my family. That doesn't mean the meal was any less tasty, the evening any less fun, or that I was any less thankful for the people and things in my life.

There's no harm in sharing a plate of cinnamon rolls with my parents on holiday mornings, though, and the idea of continuing this small tradition if/when I have my own children makes me smile. Traditions and holidays and family are all what you make them. And I love mine.

Friday, 23 November 2012

NaNoBlogMo2 - Locally Made Improv

On this day after Thanksgiving, whether you are nursing a hangover, cleaning up from yesterday's feast, or elbowing your fellow shoppers in the face to get that last Tickle-Me-Furby-Transformer, feel free to take a break and enjoy this video about Sea Tea Improv....always locally made.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

NaNoBlogMo2 - Egg Nog

Egg nog is one of my absolute favorite things in the world. While my tolerance and desire for sweet things has dropped way down in recent years after I started trying to cut out sugars from my diet, there is still a soft spot in my heart for egg nog. It was always and still is one of my favorite things about the holiday season. While you may consider it the holiday season once Christmas carols are being played at the mall or once people start throwing away their rotted Jack-O-Lanterns, to me the holiday season starts as soon as the egg nog hits the shelves in my local food-o-mart.
Traditional style egg nog.
Pretty sure in Norway they still drink it this way.
Despite my very “do it  yourself” nature, preferring to make my own pie crusts from scratch and even attempting to make homespun yarn on occasion, for some reason homemade egg nog rarely does it for me. We had a recipe we would make from time to time when I was younger, and while it hit the right notes in terms of eggyness and nutmeggyness (there’s a mouthful), it didn’t have that same ultra rich creamy nogfulness you could get from the cartoon. For me, egg nog was always Hood.
Then last year my mother found a recipe for Ponche Crema aka Caribbean Egg Nog. It is soooooooo good. While the ingredients list does make the part of me that has been tracking calories wince, it is a holiday treat and there is no arguing with the results. Last year’s batch got utterly destroyed within minutes, leaving us wishing we had bought enough ingredients for more. This year my mother was smart and bought enough for two batches.
Ponche Crema

12 Eggs
3 cans (12oz each) of Evaporated Milk
2 cans (14oz each) of Condensed Milk
1 cup Rum (but let’s be honest….you’ll put a bit more in)
1 tsp Vanilla
Angostura bitters
Just lovely.
What I drank while I wrote this post.

You just blend everything altogether and serve it over ice with a dash of nutmeg and a dash of bitters. Delicious. I have not tried making this recipe without the rum, so I’m not sure how it would taste. My favorite part was cracking a dozen eggs for one recipe. Yesssh.
Anyway, I hope everyone has a lovely turkey day no matter how you are spending it. And if you need a little nog to get you through your day, I would heartily reccomend this recipe.

Mileage: 3

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

NaNoBlogMo2 - Hobby Bucket List #2

So last NaNoBlogMo I made up a Hobby Bucket List. And I have made pretty much no progress on it. In fact, due to my extremely slow progress on the knitting chainmail and the fact that I taught the friend I was working on it with how to knit himself, that's something I'm not working on anymore. I did paint one whole picture between the time that list was created and now, but it was not of the sunset. I haven't cooked any duck or written any books. I did make some decent progress on a sweater blanket, then abandoned it after my sewing machine needle broke. I do plan to get back to it though.

There are some hobbyish things that I didn't mention on my list that I did do this year...this month actually. I went sky diving for the first time and completed my first 5K.

Despite all this, there are some other hobbies I want to add to my bucket list.

Gonna start with a relatively easy one. This summer I went to an amazing Hobbit themed party hsoted by two of my favorite people in the world, Rose & Jesse (for whom I made my first ever quilt, and Rose also encouraged me to paint more). As part of the smörgåsbord (never used that word before) of amazingness at the party, they also had jars and jars of homemade cordials of varying flavors. They. Were. Awesome. I think I had more than my fair share between pre-party taste tests (we had to make sure they were good for the other guests, of course) and then throughout the night. I can't even pretend I feel shame at how much of these tasty cordials I imbibed. According to Rose & Jesse, they are relatively easy to make, they just take some time and some patience, and some ingenuity and testing to figure out what alcohols/fruits work together best in which quantities. I've considered before making homemade boozey drinks, but I don't have interest in making my own wine or homebrewing cordials seem a good way to go.

Whittling is something I have had an interest in for a while. I remember being relatively young, en route to go camping with my parents and I must have mentioned wanting to try woodcarving. At the next gas station/rest stop, my father bought me a pocket knife. I spent the nights of that camping trip happily making various pointy sticks (about all I could manage). Now that I am older and have more patience, I'd like to give whittling a real try. It mixes two of my favorite things in the world, wood (what is more lovely than a beautiful natural woodgrain?) and blades.

Photographed by Robin Sebold
Spare me any jokes about underwater basketweaving, please. I think a lot of crafts, especially the ones I enjoy and do the most, involve a lot of weaving. Knitting is just weaving with needles. Chainmail is just weaving with metal. I love watching the originally seperate and unconnected materials coming together to form a whole. While I don't expect I'd ever do it more than once or twice, basket-weaving is something I would like to try. I remember a former boss of mine telling me how fascinated he was that a "young person" like me is so interested in these "extinct" hobbies. Yes, I know that there are machines that can knit and spin yarn and weave baskets better and faster than I can, but does that mean I am not allowed to do it too if I enjoy it? We have cameras now...does that mean people should stop painting?

Last, but certainly not least, is blacksmiting. Actually, if I had to choose to try just one hobby from this list, it would be blacksmithing. Its so different from anything else I have ever tried. I remember watching blacksmith demonstrations at Old Sturbridge Village, Mystic Seaport and the Big E and thinking "I want to try that". I'm not sure why it fascinates me so much, and in practice I imagine its ridiculously hot (and I don't like the heat) and tiring (though I have been lifting weights recently). I don't imagine its something one can just "dabble" in. Someone can easily buy some cheap yarn and plastic needles and teach themselves to knit a few rows. I can't exactly pick up a "My First Forge" kit from my local craft store for a few bucks. At this point, I doubt I have the free time and/or money to try out blacksmithing, but it has been and probably while continue to stay at the back of my mind as something on my hobby bucket list.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

NaNoBlogMo2 - Improv Warmups

I haven't talked at length about improv or Sea Tea for a few posts now. Must mean its time to talk 'prov for a bit. Things are slowing down a little bit for the holiday season, so there isn't some super unique or exciting show I can detail for you all just yet. I thought I would talk about warm-ups.

Sunday night, we played a bunch of my favorite warm-up games in a row. Sea Tea can get pretty intense (aka NINJA) about our warmups. We play together so much, we know each other so well and the group mind is good that the games tend to border on frightening for an outside observer (or so we have been told by outside observers). I figured I would do a breakdown of some of my favorite improv warm-ups. Imagine this like a star-studded night of glamour and red-carpets, where improv warm-ups go home clutching poorly constructed awards in different categories. Imagine that, and also keep in mind that any superlative I may add to my distinctions (aka BEST) are purely my opinion and I am sure there are tons of warm-ups out there I have never even heard of.

Best Quick-and-Dirty Energizer: CRAZY EIGHTS
If I need a quick pick me up before a show or class or any improv scene, Crazy Eights is one of my favorites. Its super simple and super fast. You stand in a circle and as a group you shake out each arm and leg, one at a time, while counting down from 8, then you repeat the each limb shakedown counting down from 7, then 6, etc, until for the last round you give out some sort of weird quick limb jerk shouting "ONE ONE ONE ONE!". Do it fast, do it loud. And keep in mind that its always good to make eye contact with everyone else in the circle.
Best Singing Warm-Up: HOTSPOT
Whether or not you are doing any song games or musical improv, Hotspot is a fun one. Its been helpful for me in getting over my "I get nervous singing in front of people". Its a simple one. Stand in a circle, one person stands in the middle and starts singing a song...any song. At any point someone else in the circle can tag the middle person out and starting singing their own song. Anything can be used to inspire the next song, the same artist, the same theme (like kids songs or Christmas carols), similar words or styles, even just a personal gut reaction of "OH! That reminds me of THIS song." I have seen it played different ways, but I personally like it best when everyone else in the circle who knows the lyrics starts singing along as soon as they recognize the song. It makes the whole experience less scary and more groupy. A good way to end/bring the game full circle is to try and bring the whole hot-spot-chain-of-songs back to the original song that started everything.

Best Warm-Up That Sounds Like You Are Summoning Satan: BUNNY BUNNY
Bunny Bunny is a favorite of mine. And it can get really intense. Everyone stands in a circle, slapping their thighs in rhythm while chanting "MmmmBA Mmmm BA". This continues for the entire game, picking up speed if you want to make things more challenging/more demonic. At some point someone will "pass the bunny" by saying "BUNNY BUNNY" while making a hand sign like air quotes to themselves, and then saying "BUNNY BUNNY" again while making the same air quotes sign to the person they are passing the bunny to. It is the responsibility of the two people on either side of whoever has the bunny to turn towards them, and while swaying/hoping from foot to foot and waving their hands in the air say "TIKKI TIKKI TIKKI TIKKI" at the same time/tempo as they are saying their bunnies. You just continue doing this, MmmmmBAing, BUNNY BUNNYing and TIKKI TIKKIing until someone messes up, you decide to move on to something else, or you sumon an underworld god.
The last game I want to talk about is an absolute favorite of mine. You need a decent number of people for this. Probably 7 at least to really have fun with it. Also, as a warning, this is a very physical game and you tend to get super touchy and close with the people you are playing with, because the title really says it all. You split up the group into two sides of the room. You take turns carrying people across the room. Everyone has to be carried at least once, no two people can be carried the same way, and you are not allowed to talk. I love watching people get creative in their carry methods, and it helps break down physical barriers to have more active scenes. At Sunday's rehearsal the best "Everybody Carries Everybody" was probably when about half the troupe was lying on the floor side by side and Casey rolled across us like one big carpet. It was amazing.

....I was actually planning on talking about a lot more games, but I didn't realize how many words it would take to describe each one. I'm going to have to end here for now. Happy warming up!

Monday, 19 November 2012

NaNoBlogMo2 - Hiking

Saturday afternoon, Jessica and I went for a hike at Eagle Rock Reservation in West Orange, NJ. Although by "hike" I mostly mean "a nice walk in the woods". The paths were largely clear and easy. The air was cold and crisp...perfect sweatshirt weather. 

We wandered and talked and shared stories of high school misadventures and relationships and life and work and everything. We paid no attention to the fact that neither of us really knew where we were going, we just enjoyed the scenery with no destination in mind. Whenever we got to a fork in the path one of us would just decide which way looked more interesting and say "Lets go this way" and we would. Normally I think I would have been a little more anxious about what paths we were taking and keeping track of where we were. I decided to not over think things like I usually do, but instead just walk.

Because of hurricane Sandy, there were a lot of downed trees in the woods. At least, I assume that's why there were so many downed trees. Being that its a public park and a lot of the trees blocked the path completely at points, something I assume would be maintain. The blocked paths lead to a few step overs, a few walk arounds and one hesitant crouch under (after testing the stability of the tree with the old fashioned "lets push against it real hard and see if it shifts").
As it started getting later and darker, we started making choices that we hoped were pointing us back to where we started. We tried to make smart decisions based on the location of the sun compared to where we remembered the entrance being. We aimed for high ground to try and see far ahead and get a sense of our location, but it wasn't really working.
 After a while of doubling back and more wandering, we happened to run into an older couple with their dog. Turns out the husband had walked these trails many times, and had gotten lost in them before himself. They were kind enough to walk with us for a while and swap stories. Before we knew it, they had led us to the right path and soon we were quite literally out of the woods. We made it back to the car just as the sun was setting.

Although I thought nothing of it at the time and even now it seems like a bit of an overly artistic tint to put on our fun day, but our hike through the woods was a little like life.You start off not really caring what path you are on, just enjoying the view. Sometimes your path will be blocked and you'll need to find a way around it. And at some point, most people have a destination or goal in mind, and it helps to have someone who has already walked the path there to show you the way. No matter what, you just hope to get there before your sun sets.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

NaNoBlogMo2 - Chicken Pot Pie Cupcakes

About a month or so ago, I was considering what I wanted to bring to a party and trying to find an interesting recipe to use. While I was looking, I found THIS page and the recipe it contained. The pictures looked so cute, the descriptions sounded so interesting, and the recipe itself sounded DELICIOUS. It wasn't a good recipe for the party I was going to (I was looking for something that didn't need to be warmed and had smaller servings) but I bookmarked the recipe knowing that without a doubt I was going to make it someday.

Someday came pretty soon. I was visiting my friend Jess this weekend (she's the one I went to karaoke with Friday night). I told her before I came to visit that I had 2 things I really wanted to do this weekend: 1) I wanted to go running so I could keep up my 40 mile challenge and 2) I wanted to cook something since I hadn't in a while. We completed our run this morning despite some initial reluctance from Jess, and last night we cooked.

I tend to be terrible at making decisions, so when it came time to pick what to cook, I was checking out and trying to get inspired. Then out of no where I remembered the chicken pot pie cupcake recipe. It looked easy and tasty enough to fit the mood of our hanging out (SPOILER: They were.)

We headed to the store to get the ingredients. Because I am my father's daughter, I bought way too many ingredients (we used half of what I bought and we still had leftovers). There was also an amusing moment when I said we could just get some canned chicken to give ourselves a shortcut and Jess had a hard time believing that canned chicken was a thing. I was determined to find some to show her it was real. Her reaction when I finally found it was rather mellow. ......CANNED CHICKEN!

I tried to put the ingredients in the bowl similar to the picture on the website I got the recipe from, but my picture does not look as delicious, I feel. Instead of frozen veggies we used some canned greens beans (which I chopped up into smaller pieces) and corn since that's what Jess had. While I made the filling, Jess sprayed the cupcake tin and made the dough cups out of the biscuit dough. With one can of chicken, one can of soup, and the veggies/cheese/spices, we had enough to fill all 8 biscuit dough cups (one biscuit per) and had some filling left over. Not sure what Jess is going to do with it. (Jess, if you are reading this, maybe heat it up and put it over some rice? I bet that would work).

We cooked the cupcakes for about 17 minutes, longer than the website suggests, but I did turn down the heat a bit since the edges seemed like they were getting dark fast. The cupcakes smelled super tasty.
I loved these things. I may be biased, though, because this recipe is basically all my favorite things. I love chicken and cheese and creamy soups as well as anything warm and bready. They were comforting and warm and tasty and they were ridiculously fast and easy to make. The only downside might have been that the biscuit dough part does not reheat too well, and gets a bit chewy. These might need to get reheated in the oven if you have leftovers, or only bake as many as you think you'll eat in one sitting. I bet this will be a great recipe to make some variations on, such as using cream of mushroom soup or trying to make a beef variety. One thing for sure is that I will definitely make these again.

Mileage: 3.25

Saturday, 17 November 2012

NaNoBlogMo2 - Karaoke

Shortish entry today, probably, since I am visiting a friend and don't want to ignore her for too long. Karaoke is something I feel that people are of different minds about. Some love it, some hate. I like it, but I'm pretty picky about my karaoke.

My first time singing karaoke in Shanghai. 
Though I had "grown up" with the idea of karaoke being something that you do in a bar in front of a bunch of strangers, that is my least favorite way to do it. In my mind that's what karaoke was and I wasn't too keen on doing it. Despite being a huge hamball for most of my life (including now) who is a showboat and doesn't get nervous acting, talking or goofing around in front of strangers, I get very nervous singing in front of people. When I played my guitar and sang in front of people for the first time (at a holiday talent show at the high school I was teaching at in China) I was so nervous I could barely keep my hands from shaking too badly to get the chords right. I have a vague memory of once singing karaoke on a mini day boat cruise with my high school band that's it for pre-China karaoke.

When I moved to China, Lucy was excited about the idea of us going to sing karaoke together, especially when I sang for her the Sara Barellis song "Love Song". That's when I learned the fabulousness of private room karaoke. You get together a group of usually 5 to 15 people, rent a private room, and ROCK OUT. You pick all the songs, you sing all the songs, you can order drinks and food from the helpful people working there and they bring it to your room. You don't have to listen to drunk strangers singing offkey to songs you don't like....although you will probably be stuck listening to your drunk friends singing offkey....but I feel that's more enjoyable and amusing. I went A LOT while I was in China. It was the immediate fallback plan activity. It was the equivalent of going to a movie.

A shot of the screen from last night.
Bonus points if you can guess the song I was signing.
 Everyone has their own tactics and plans for karaoke. Everyone has songs that are their go-tos, songs they show off with, or songs they avoid like the plague. My personal favorite thing to do is enter in a few "fan favorites" that I know everyone will get excited about and sing loudly too. That's another must for karaoke in my mind. I don't mind a few solos or duets, especially if there are good singers, but usually I love when everyone is just screaming the words to these great high energy songs at the top of their lungs. Sometimes rooms will even have tambourines or maracas to help make the atonal rocking even more epic.

When I got back from China I was sad that I would have to go back to "room full of drunk strangers and one person singing" karaoke, but I forgot that New York is awesome and has everything. I've already been to good ole' private room karaoke in Korea-town in NYC at least three times already...last night being one of those times. It was a pretty amazing evening....even if no one else knew all the words to "If I Were a Richman"...

Friday, 16 November 2012

NaNoBlogMo2- Traveling

Over the years, I have gotten better at traveling. I should add that I am writing this on my phone while I am waiting for a bus as I missed the train I was planning on taking...but the point still stands.

One of the things that really resonated with me as a moment of "I am a traveler now" was when I started going past where I could easily trace my route back.

When I went to China with my high school, we were given some alone time to wander and see the cities we were visiting. I was 18...a new "adult"...on my way to college in a few months. And the idea of walking or wandering past the point where I couldn't see the hotel if I looked behind me scared the daylights out of me. Sad, but true. To be fair I was in a foreign country for the first time and I only spoke a few sentences of the native language, but I felt disappointed in myself for my lack of adventure.

My next leap in traveling happened in college. I learned, for the first time, the wonderful world of public transportation. I figured out how to take the train home for the holidays, which bus to take to get to the mall and how to navigate the weird and wonderful world of NYC subways. I remember talking on the phone with my mother during a trip I had taken to the NYC Toys-R-Us to do research for a sociology project I was doing (gender roles in toys) and hearing the surprise in her voice that I was wandering the streets of Manhattan by myself. When I realized that it wasn't a big deal to me, but would have been mere months earlier, I felt proud.

When I moved to China I knew I couldn't be hesitant. I got a bike and would ride down streets to who knows where, forcing myself to find my way back. I knew I had no choice but to figure things out. I learned the skyline so I could tell which directions certain landmarks and subway stations were downtown. I always carried a map with me and lived by the rule "who cares if I get lost? I can always take a taxi back." The thought was freeing.

One real turning point was getting home from Japan after visiting my friend D'Arcy. She picked me up at the airport and we traveled together for about a week. When it was time to go home, she gave me directions on how to get to a hostel for the night and then how to get to the airport in the morning. Even with not speaking the language, even with a typhoon delaying my plane for hours, even with needing to take a bus instead of the train as D'Arcy had instructed me because the storm had flooded the subways....I made it to the airport and made my plane back to Shanghai.

I think a good traveler has to be able to roll with the punches and be ok with things not going to plan. That is often hard for me, but at least when it comes to traveling....I think I'm getting better.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

NaNoBlogMo2 - Ballroom Dancing

As I feared/guessed/planned/assumed, since my schedule hasn't really allowed me to do anything new to write about recently, I am left talking about stuff I used to do. One thing I have not talked much about but still do from time to time, is ballroom dancing.  

Me & my favorite dance partner (Christa) from my college class.
I did dance for 9 years while I was in grade-middle-high school. I took ballet, tap, jazz and hula classes and even helped as a teaching assistant for a few years. I never learned any moves that I could use off the stage though. Sure, it was good exercise, a good practice for rhythm and a lot of fun, but it wasn't like I could bust out a tap routine at a club or a wedding dance floor. For years the only thing I used outside of dance classes was some hula moves, and that was mostly used in a joking matter. One of the best things I got out of my years of dance lessons was a good memory for choreography, or anything similar to it. I think it was really beneficial when it came to memorizing forms for Taekwon-do.

My first steps towards learning actual ballroom dancing was when my friend Tristan tried to teach me how to waltz. At the the rain. It sounds so much like a scene cut straight from a cheesy romantic comedy it makes me laugh. At first it was extremely difficult for me to follow. Tristan actually made me close my eyes so I would stop looking around and fighting him. The impromptu dance lessons peaked my interest and I ended up signing up for a semester of ballroom dance classes. I loved it.

Swing dancing at my friend Dan's wedding.
The class was all the way across campus and about 5 minutes after my class before it. I often showed up to class a little flustered and sweaty. My only complaint was that there were mostly girls in the class (as would be expected in a ballroom dance class) and being the tallest girl I would often need to lead.  I got my chances to dance with Tristan and the other guys in the class, so I got some opportunities to follow. I also didn't mind leading too much, especially when I got partnered up with Christa. She also had previously dance (ballet, etc) experience, so we would both learn the new dance moves quickly for whatever style of dance we were doing that day and go waltzing (sometimes literally) about the dance floor.

After learning ballroom dance in college, I have used it a few times since. One of the most memorable ballroom dance moments I had was when I was in Shanghai and was exploring my neighboorhood. I had just gotten a bike and was checking out a new street I had never been down. I found a whole group of older people ballroom dancing under a canopy in a courtyard beside the street. One of the people dancing noticed me watching and invited me to join. I couldn't really understand the dialect they were speaking with my shoddy Chinese, but I understood enough to have some simple conversations. And I didn't need to know any Chinese to be able to follow in dancing. It was an especially great strange and wonderful thing to happen as I was new to China and feeling out of place and homesick, but that night put me in such a great mood.

Dancing with my friend Panda at Medfest.
When I got back from China, my friends started getting married and suddenly I had the chance to use my dancing skills again. At my friend Dan's wedding I got scooped up by someone who was MUCH BETTER at swing dancing then me, and I found myself being spun around in a wonderful dancey blur. I got invited by my friend Rob to wedding largely because he does ballroom dance and wanted to go with someone who could follow. We made friends with another person at the wedding who is a ballroom dance instructor. I keep saying I should take up another hobby again and taking more ballroom dance classes keeps coming to mind.

Mileage: 2.75

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

NaNoBlogMo2 - Useless Words

There has always been a part of me that has considered myself a writer. Back from the days of grade school where we made yearbook declarations about our far distant futures, mine varied as far along the possible job spectrum as "journalist" all the way to "children's author"...and never much further.

In high school I attended writing conferences. My English teacher had me read drafts of his novel for my feedback. I started working on two different novels (which I never finished) and attempted NaNoWriMo twice (and failed both times).

When looking for colleges to apply to, I had a few requirements (co-ed, small, close enough so I wouldn't need to fly home). The only educational requirements I had were that they offered Chinese, Psychology & Writing. I kept a blog in college that usual dissolved to posting personality quiz results or drunk poetry. I took one literary analysis class and it went so slowly and simplistically I got fed up and dropped my English major plans. I took one poetry writing class that often got cancelled and that left me usually feeling so uninspired I just submitted poems I had already written.

I don't know what happened to writer-me. But even still there is a part of me that thinks maybe one day I'll be a published author. I had a dream a few years back that inspired a storyline in me for a novel. I wrote a few thousand words and haven't touched it since. I write in this blog for a month once a year and never any other time, apparently, and with not much care even when I do. I write long and detailed emails to far off friends as a way to keep in touch...though rarely. Do these pitiful bits add up to being a writer?

I still say I can express myself better in writing, but sometimes even that fails me.

When you are filled with loss or grief that is so terrible and unique and bone deep, there are no words that can even touch upon it, and sometimes even trying feels like a mockery. When that pain is in someone else, no words will be able to reach and soothe it.

There isn't some magic phrase out there that is able to perfectly sum up: "I have no idea how you are feeling and I wish I did so I could help but I don't know if you want comfort or to be left alone or if I should use humor to distract you or share our pain together and please let me help I want to help I need to feel useful but oh my god that is so selfish of me to be thinking about that when I am just worried about you are you ok I know there are other people out there that are closer to you so I don't want to overstep my bounds but I'm here I'm here I'm here if you need me too"

I get so caught up sometimes thinking that the right words are out there for every situation. That if I phrase something just right, I will finally finally be able to get someone else to see things from my point of view. That no matter how bad the situation is I will be able to use the right words to sort it out or inspire someone or cheer up a friend or help to make the hurt go away in someone I care about.

Sometimes, though, words are useless. But I think the important thing to remember is that saying them isn't.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

NaNoBlogMo2 - Friends Afar

Much as a feared, I am not even halfway through November and already running low on hobby things to talk about. I am hoping I'll be doing some cooking/baking/crafting during the upcoming Thanksgiving break, so I'll have something then...but for the moment I shall have to settle for something less hobby-ish and more...just my life...ish.

I have been extremely lucky in my life that I have some really wonderful friends. And that these friends are scattered about the world. And that these friends are the type that you might go weeks or months (or more!) at a time without talking to them, but you always pick up where you left off.

When I moved to Shanghai after graduating from college, one reason I was excited and nervous was that I was going to have the chance to meet my pen-pal, Lucy, face to face after writing to each other for about 8 years. I remember the day we finally met I arrived early and sat sweating in the heat in front of the Science & Technology Museum subway stop worrying that she wouldn't like me. (I am a champion worrier. I would get at least the bronze medal in the Worry-lympics). Of course we got along great and hung out often for the two years I lived in Shanghai. I even visited her family twice (I call her father my "Chinese Father" and she calls my mother her "American Mum").

Also while I was in Shanghai I happened to meet Isa at a wine tasting at what soon became one of my favorite places: Enoteca. One of the best things I did was introduce Isa & Lucy. The three of us became somewhat like the three musketeerettes. We went out for drinks, dinner & dancing often. We would hit up a pub called Bulldog almost every week because they had free drinks for ladies on Tuesdays. We travelled together a few times, sleeping in hostels and taking far too many silly pictures. After I found out about my brother's death, Lucy & Isa were simply amazing at being there for me and helping me to feel normal again.

Isa moved back to Germany (did I mention she was German?) in the summer of 2009, before moving back to Shanghai where she lives now. Lucy moved to Switzerland (although a running joke we have is that I keep screwing up and saying she moved to Sweden) shortly after I moved back to the US. I love that my German friend lives in Shanghai and my Chinese friends lives in Switzerland. Isa came to the US in the winter of 2010 and she stayed with me for a bit. It was so bizarre and also wonderful to have her here and to show her my life in the US.
Myself, Lucy & Isa at Bulldog in Shanghai - 2009
It had been quite a while since I had heard from either of them, but then I got an email from Lucy and then a fast response from Isa earlier this week. It brightened up my mood more than I can say. Oddly enough, what apparently inspired Lucy to email us was she saw the pictures from my 5K and wanted to tell me she was proud and that I looked good. :D

It was a dream of ours that one day we would all go to Las Vegas together. And it would not surprise me at all if that were to happen. I learned a while back how life can surprise you, to never say never and also how with friends like mine...anything can happen.

Mileage: 2

Monday, 12 November 2012

NaNoBlogMo2 - The Importance of Caring

Its late(r then when I normally post), I've had some wine and I'm already running out of topics for my blog. So this entry will probably be on the shorter and/or more rambly side.
This Saturday night I went to the MAC Championship for marching band. For three years I was in the East Hartford High School marching band. I learned drill and my music and went to championships like MAC. Perhaps I am remembering incorrectly...but I am pretty sure we were terrible. 
These bands were amazing. Here is a clip I found online of the band that won:
It made me think of how important it is to care about what you are doing. Those high school students would not have been as precise and amazing and together as they were if they didn't all care. I don't think my fellow classmates cared when I was in a marching band. And I think a large part of it was we had no expectation of success or history to live up to. I know for at least one of the championships we went to, there were no other bands in our division so we had nothing to go up against.
Back when I did dance, I cared. I remember whenever I got a compliment it usual went something like this: "You are a great look like you are having such a good time!" I think those things are absolutely linked. If I had been a technically perfect dancer but didn't have the usual GIANT SMILE that I had during recitals I don't think I would have gotten any compliments.
It matters in theater and improv as well. A lot of improv means being ok with looking silly at times, because looking silly and giving 100% looks amazing whereas looking silly and not caring looks awful. I remember a defining moment of realizing how amazing and trusting and OK with being silly my troupe is when we were doing an exercise where someone would give us an item we would have to create as a group with our bodies. The suggestion was dragon and I lept forward to be a wing and half a second behind me was another member being another wing, then immediately followed some jaws and hesitant, no one was doing it halfway. We were all invested and caring, no matter how silly it might seem.
So yeah...caring matters. And creating things with other people that care matters too. I hope this entry feels like it has a point.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

NaNoBlogMo2 - From Within (My First 5K)

**Apologies for the extremely long entry. Apparently I am wordy today.**

True motivation comes from within.

I've often considered myself to be a person that looks externally for motivation, affirmation and validation. I was a very good student throughout my entire educational experience and my usual answer to the question "why do you work so hard?" was that I wanted to make my parents happy & proud. I am also an improvisor now, which means I am constantly reacting to outside stimuli:  my scene partner(s), the audience, etc.

The more experiences I have, though, the more important I realize it is for me to internalize and look within for my reasons to do what I do, no matter how big or small. This blog is an example of that. I've only told about a handful of people that I am doing my 30 posts in 30 day challenge this year, because the real challenge is for myself, not because I am looking to get a lot of readers. Losing weight these past two years is another example. This was the first time I didn't have some deep lingering doubt that I would fail. I just looked at it as something I needed to do, and realized that I was the one and only person responsible for my success.

And now....running. Running is something I never thought I would do or enjoy. After I graduated from high school and no longer had to take part in the presidential fitness test (even the memory of those days makes me shudder), I thought for sure I would never run again. And yet after I started going to the gym and had been for a few months, I first dared to step on to a treadmill and try to run.

It was pretty terrible. I had no sense of pace and could barely breath and just felt awful about the whole thing. And for reasons I can't explain, I kept at it. I just knew that I wanted to get better at it. The same mix of frustration and motivation and desire to improve that was there when I started playing guitar or started TaeKwon-Do (both things I struggled with at the start) was coming from within while I was on that treadmill. I never thought I would feel that way about running. There was no coach with a timer and clipboard telling me I needed to do this for class, no one watching or judging or making me do it. I just wanted to do it. For me.

I improved a bit. It was slow going. I noticed I didn't have to walk as long in between my run breaks before I noticed any improvement in my running. I don't know if everyone else feels the same way, but I tend to feel awful while I am running. Even now. I feel achey and out of breath. But more and more I feel amazing when I am done. My body feels strong and powerful and I have a lot of energy when I start my morning with a run. Maybe as some point I will actually enjoy the running part of running (I can report in after I finish my 40 miles this month), but not yet.

As I've said, I work better with deadlines. I said in the spring that I wanted to do a 5K in the fall. And after making half-assed plans quite a few times, my friend Julia (who is amazing at so many things, including having run the Hartford Marathon last month) and I finally picked a 5K and went today. The Freedom Run.

Last Saturday I realized it was going to be cold and that I had never run outside before (at least not since high school). So I went to EMS and after wandering lost and confused about the store, a kindly saleswomen pointed me in the direction of some warm, breathable, wicking clothes. Having no experience and no opinion, I just bought what she suggested. On Sunday, after sky diving, I put on my gear (the pants are the most comfortable pants IN THE WORLD) and headed to my old high school track to attempt running outside before my 5K.

I figured since I had already gone sky diving that morning, it was already a pretty successful day so I didn't need to run that much. I would just do a mile to make sure I could breath in the cold and that my clothes were comfy enough to run in, and then I would head home. I ended up doing 3.5 miles. Again, I don't know where it came from. No one was there to watch or to judge me, but something inside made me want to finish that first mile...and then run even more.

Before our 5K
Honestly, I think I was more nervous for the 5K then I was to go sky diving. I had more responsibility in the running. Sky diving I was attached to someone else who was going to handle all the tough stuff like directing us to land and knowing when to pull the chute. With the 5K...that was me. I would need to pace myself. I would need to be responsible. I would need to not fall down. And if didn't complete it I knew it would only be my fault and I would be the one discouraged.

I sent ridiculous emails with all the questions I was worrying about to Julia. When should we get there? When should we register? What should I eat the day of? How much music should I prepare? As my usual panicky self, I insisted we get there far too early. We registered and got our numbers and shirts (which was super exciting for me) and spent the time chatting, walking and stretching.

I used Julia like a sounding board for my ricidulous worries. All I could think was, "I'm fat, I can't do this." "I have chronically sprained ankles, I can't do this." When I started bemoaning the fact that I had a blister on the arch of my foot, Julia just laughed at me and said "You are just looking for things to worry about". I agreed she was right and shut up. Considering I had run the equivalent of a 5K a few times before this, I really have no idea why I was worrying.

The start seemed to happen pretty quickly. We all (I think about 400 runners were there) moved forward in a herd. Julia laughed and said "This is my favorite part." as we all bunched up. Soon the runners were spread out and we had our pace set pretty well. We passed a bag piper and Julia noted how its not the most inspiringly music to run to, though it does feel like a salute. For most of the run, Julia talked while I gave mostly monosyllabic responses (which is exactly how I predicted the run to her before we started). She told me about the book she was reading and previous races. She checked in often about how I was doing and our pace, and said encouraging things and made me laugh. All in all she was a joy to run with. We laughed together as the man in front of us (who I had been using to pace myself) gave an encouraging butt slap to his female running partner.

Happy 5K Finishers!
When our feet hit the 1 mile mark, we kept running. That was actually a big deal for me as I have never run more than a mile without taking a walk break. We planned to walk at the 1.5 mile water break, but it wasn't was actually after the 2 mile mark. There was also a bit of a fakeout where we thought we were just about at the finish only to find out we needed to loop past the finish and come back. As we were nearing the end we both put on some music to get us ready for the end. Right when we were ready for the last bit of running to the finish, "Don't Stop Me Now" came on my iPod, which first of all is just a great song as you near a finish line but also has special Sea Tea meaning.

Julia and I held hands as we bursted past the finish line. I heard the announcer say "Steeeeeeeephanie RICE!" which was absolutely awesome. I did not know they announced the names when you finish. We got some water, Julia patted me on the back and said "You did it!". And now, just like Julia and Laura said I would, I am wondering why I was so worried. It was easier then I thought it would be and I feel great having done it. I am already thinking of how I'll need to sign up for another in the spring and see if I can beat my time (36:47).

Mileage: 3.5

Saturday, 10 November 2012

NaNoBlogMo2 - Yoga

Yoga is one of those hobbies that just sort of creeped up on me.

I went a few times on the invitation from my friends Sabrina & Kathryn, and mostly went to be social since I rarely get to see them (despite the fact that they both live less then 10 minutes away from me). I actually put off going for a while when I was at my heaviest. I didn't like the idea of not having the stamina to make it through the class, or getting embarrassed if I couldn't keep up or do all the positions. At some point I realized that putting off exercise until you are in shape doesn't really make sense (plus I had shed quite a few pounds on diet alone), so I finally tagged along.
At this point let me say that I would still consider myself very much a yoga n00b, despite having gone about 10+ times or so. I don't really know the terms or styles and I've really only had one instructor. So. That warning label aside...
At a "Yoga in the Streets" event in West Hartford this July.

I like it. Coming from a dance background, I especially like that Nykki, the Saturday morning "Power Yoga" instructor, plays music during class and often has us flow through different positions in a way that feels very much like choreography.

Its also served as a way to show myself that I am getting stronger and fitter. When I first started showing up for yoga classes, more then 30 seconds in downward facing dog and my arms and legs would be shaky and painful, but now I feel stronger. Steadier. After every class I have a satisfying whole-body ache that comes from a good workout. And almost every time I leave thinking two things: 1) I did not know I could get into that position and 2) I did not know I could sweat that much.

Each class ends with shavasana (huh, I guess I do remember some of the terms), which basically involves lying on your back and meditating/breathing. Sometimes there is a prayer/positive thinking moment. I am not a religious person in the least. I would consider myself agnostic: I would love to be proven wrong but at no point have I felt the existence of a higher/greater power and there is no part of me that believes there is. I also tend to be extremely cynical when it comes to most things that fall under the umbrella of "New Age". And yet, I do think there is something to be said about the power of thought and the importance of clearing your mind once in a while. That is a large part of why I think I feel so good after yoga. It forces me to be in my body and to get out of my head. I focus on my breath for a lot of things. To get through pain, to help me relax, to help me fall asleep. Spending some time turning off the constant stream of conciousness once in a while and only thinking about breathing in and breathing out is very refreshing.
Easy Bird of Paradise
As a quick side story, in the last class I went to before today's, I realized how much of kid, or specifically a teacher's pet, I still am. While getting into the pose "easy bird of paradise" (despite the name, not the easiest position), I was able to get into the pose smoothly and confidently. Nykki made eye contact with me and gave me a quick smile and nod. That was it. And yet I felt as proud as a first grader who just got a scented "GOOD JOB!" sticker on their spelling test. :D

I've got two more classes on my card. At the moment I'm a bit torn if I want to add more when I use those up or start looking more seriously into taking up a dance class or other hobby again like I've been thinking about. I guess we'll see when the time comes!

Friday, 9 November 2012

NaNoBlogMo2 - Improv Networking

There is a part of me that doesn't really "get" networking. As a person that can sometimes be honest and blunt to a fault, networking almost feels like lying to me. Pretending to like someone more then you do, acting like you are friends so that you can get favors from one other, or changing personality from event to event to be the person you think people want you to be. I suppose that is a rather cynical way of looking at it, but I want to spend time with people I genuinely like that genuinely like me. All that aside, I can definitely see the pluses of networking and have reaped the benefits of it personally and professionally.

Improv networking is something I can get behind even more. Especially in Connecticut. The improv community in CT is still rather small and spread out, but it is growing and connecting more and more each day. One of the main reasons I (and all of Sea Tea) is excited for our new studio space is that we want it to be a hub of improv for all improvisors in Connecticut, not just us. We have a board by the door where anyone can hang up show posters or their troupe logo or notices regarding events. There's already been a mixer and I hope more troupes and individuals will soon take advantage of the space.

Also, on the subject of networking and improv, I rather unexpectedly ended up helping to forge some connections on a much wider scale recently. A few months back Sea Tea brought Will Luera from Improv Boston to teach a few workshops in Hartford. We were all discussing our improv backgrounds, so I mentioned how I did improv in Shanghai with Zmack and The People's Republic of Comedy. After the workshops, Will mentioned how Improv Boston was going to Japan later this year and how they were trying to find a reason to stop in China too. He asked me to put him in contact with my former troupes, so I very happily did.

Fast forward to now and its officially happening! I felt a thrill checking out Zmack's website and seeing a poster for Improv Boston's visit. They are doing a show and workshop and I helped it happen! I gave Will a few suggestions of tasty Shanghainese cuisine to eat during his visit (I miss sheng qian bao more then I want to admit) and asked him to tell me how it goes afterwards. Its very bizarre and exciting at the same time to think how I helped to connect these improv troupes from thousands of miles away....there's networking for you! I hope the show and workshop go amazingly. I just wish I could be there myself.

Tonight is the the official grand opening for the studio, so I guess I'll be doing even more improv networking. Its easier, though, when you already know pretty much everyone that's coming and we'll be talking about something I love to do!