Wednesday, July 23, 2014

My Three Favorite Foods: Eggs, Shrimp, & Doughnuts

Since moving to New York, I have noticed a decent number of Mexican-Chinese fusion restaurants scattered all across the city. You heard me right: Mexican & Chinese are together at last. These are places where you can order a chimichanga with a side of egg drop soup, and if you're into it, you can order sesame chicken and ask them to put it all in a flour tortilla. It's kind of amazing.


And while these two cuisines may have seemingly little do with each other (besides the fact that they both serve rice), the plain truth is that they are both delicious. I appreciate this business model because I enjoy imagining that it was created when someone thought aloud to themselves, "You know what I like? Egg rolls. You know what else I like? Flautas. Hey, wait a second..."

The idea of combining favorite foods into one culinary experience is a great one, but unfortunately, I may never find a restaurant that heavily features all of mine. For inquiring minds, here are my top 3 favorite foods -- by far:

Eggs

Shrimp

& Doughnuts

Brooklyn food vendors, listen up: If any one of you ever decides to create a restaurant called "The Egg, Shrimp, & Doughnut Shack", you better believe I will be your number one customer. I will pay good money to eat a shrimp frittata and follow it down with some sweet, fried dough. No shame whatsoever.

But even I know the concept for this restaurant is unlikely. These foods really just don't fully belong together (shrimp and eggs maybe, but it's definitely not the most conventional choice). Still, I'm an optimist, so if anyone ever does decide to create the restaurant of my dreams, I want them to be ready. Here are some delicious versions of these three outstanding foods (and pssst...you can just make these at home if you're into that kind of thing):

Eggs

Simple Poached Egg & Avocado Toast via Pinch of Yum

Pan Roasted Asparagus with Fried Eggs via Shutterbean

Tortilla EspaƱola via Saveur

Shrimp

Spicy Shrimp Corn Chowder via Playful Cooking

Garlic Butter Shrimp via Damn Delicious

Prosciutto Wrapped Garlic Shrimp via BS in the Kitchen

Doughnuts

Black and White Baked Donuts via Joy the Baker

Baked Apple Spice Donut Holes via Chew Out Loud

Doughnut Pancakes with Doughnut Glaze Syrup via Cooking Classy


So there you have it. Nine representations of my three favorite foods which should probably never be paired together, like, ever. Still, I'm hoping and praying for the grand opening of The Egg, Shrimp, & Donut Shack.

Do your favorite foods pair well together? Would the restaurant of your dreams be as weird as mine?

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

My First Blogging Conference: Alt Summit Recap


“If you have an apple and I have an apple, and we exchange these apples, then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea, and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas.” 
These wonderful words, first spoken by playwright George Bernard Shaw, perfectly encapsulate the spirit of Alt Summit. Alt is a place to spark conversation, share ideas, and feel generally understood. I loved my time there -- the people, the insights, the glorious decor. Here were some of my favorite bits:

The Grand America Hotel

The conference took place at The Grand America Hotel in Salt Lake City, and let me tell you...it was grand. Like, guys, I did not belong anywhere near a hotel that nice. Chandeliers everywhere, victorian wallpaper for days, chairs that were so fancy I was afraid to sit in them -- it was a wonderland packed with amenities and I was not worthy of any of it. I actually didn't sleep at the Grand America, but I basked in the glory of it any time I was there.

The bathroom sponsored by The Honest Co.

I'm not ashamed to admit that I may have spent like 30% of my time at Alt in the bathroom. For one, it was a great place to run into people (Oh hey, girl! I'm loving that lip stain you're applying. Also, can we be friends forever?!). But the biggest reason I kept finding myself attracted to the bathroom was the SICK swag spread laid out by The Honest Company. It was basically what I expect the bathroom in heaven will be like. All of The Honest Co.'s products are eco-friendly & non-toxic, so I felt guilt-free snatching pretty much all of them. 

Silhouette's Sponsor Dinner


The first night I arrived in SLC, I went to a dinner sponsored by the beautiful people at Silhouette. It took place at The Melting Pot, you know, the place where you DIP THINGS INTO CHEESE AND CHOCOLATE. So yeah, obviously, it was delicious. But even better, the company was absolutely top notch. There was one long table where most of the attendees sat, but I ended up at a small booth with four other phenomenal women. It was such a joy to laugh and swap stories with these genuine, hilarious girls. Big shout out to Carly, Brooke, Emily, and Camille and a big, huge thank-you to Silhouette for creating such an amazing evening.

Pinterest Strategies Breakout Session

Alex Evjen and Rachel Faucett



I actually stole the George Bernard Shaw quote I used earlier from Rachel Faucett of Handmade Charlotte. She and Alex Evjen of Ave Styles had me and a room full of others positively mesmerized during their presentation on the ins-and-outs of Pinterest. You might not expect a session about Pinterest to be deeply inspirational, but I found myself so riveted by the way they framed the conversation. One of my greatest takeaways from this discussion was the idea of being an "influencer." I tend to reserve that word for people with thousands of Twitter followers and signature fragrances, but it turns out if you know any humans who like you even a little bit, you get to call yourself an influencer. Your mom, your sister, your college roommate -- all of these folks are people whose lives you influence, and it's totally okay to call on them to help share your content because, hey, they're your biggest fans. That's how you grow your influence: work with the people you've already got.

Hosting a roundtable discussion


I hosted a roundtable on Blogging with Comedic Voice, and I loved absolutely every minute of it. Since this was my first time at Alt, I really didn't know what to expect from the roundtable format, and I was particularly nervous that my topic wouldn't really work with it. As it turns out, it went swimmingly, and it was all thanks to the lovely gals who showed up. They just made it such a profoundly fun, easy experience. Before long, the table was full of women from all parts of the blogging world discussing what it means to utilize humor in our various contexts. I learned so much just by listening to their experiences, and I honestly could have stayed in that little comedy huddle for days.

Oh, and for anyone who wasn't able to make it to my roundtable (or those of you who weren't even at Alt), I posted some of my notes for you on the blog. 

The beautiful people

Blogging can be a really isolating experience at times. It's usually just you, your computer, and thazzit. Alt created a place (a real place, not an online one) for all of us isolated blogger weirdos to be together and just marvel at each other. There were times where I would see people whose blogs I read, and I would think, my god...they're moving. Breathing, eating, occupying physical space. That blogger is more than just her profile picture or her DIY tote bags -- she's a human being.

And I met so many beautiful human beings at Alt. Everyone was truly kind, ready to embrace you and talk about any and everything (not just blogging). I engaged in conversations about marriage, womanhood, cocktails, Tina Fey -- you name it. It was so uplifting to be around such talented, authentic people.

The business cards


Remember all of those beautiful human beings I was talking about? Well, those guys made some seriously creative business cards. While business cards are usually a staple at most conferences, they have become somewhat of a magical tradition at Alt Summit. People deck their cards out with trinkets, toys, gorgeous designs. It's amazing, and every time you get a new one, you feel like a million bucks. It felt like I was a nine-year-old in the 90s trading Pokemon cards -- gotta catch em all.


There was so much I loved about Alt, and I actually don't even think I began to scratch the surface here. Oh, like I forgot to mention this insanely pretty garden party that took place on the final evening:


So in summation, Alt was excellent. I am so fortunate to have had the opportunity to go, and I would love to go again. Going into this experience, I was nervous about awkwardly inserting myself into conversations or being the comedy gal in a sea of designers, but I decided to just go with it. I sat down with strangers, I mixed, I mingled, and it was great. There is a lesson to be learned here, probably something about putting myself out there or making the best of every situation, but meh, I won't overthink it.

Thanks to all who made Alt the joyful thrill ride that it was!

All photos (except for that one Instagram of me awkwardly standing by my roundtable) courtesy of Justin Hackworth and Brooke Dennis

Friday, June 27, 2014

That week in June when things were just crazy

I’m not trying to be dramatic here, but last week may have been one of the craziest weeks of my life. It was not so much about being busy (though I was busy, but like, who isn't?). It was more about having a substantial series of "firsts." In great ways, in crappy ways, in weird, wonderful ways, last week kind of changed a lot about how I see the world. Within the span of five days, I went through three fantastically new experiences that I will certainly remember forever. Each of these events deserves their own blog posts, but for now I'd just like to get it all out there on paper, if you don't mind. Here's what went down last week:

1. I ran my first HALF MARATHON. Me. Christy. I ran it.


And Daniel wore a fierce fanny pack.

How did I do this, guys? Willpower, maybe? Absolutely not. I don’t have that. Ghosts? Did ghosts carry me across the finish line? That's a bit more plausible, but still unlikely.

The point is, I did it. I didn’t stop, I didn’t cry, and I didn’t barf. I just kept running, my man at my side, and I felt very accomplished as a result.

Even a week after finishing, I'm still trying to process what this means for my life. I have superhero friends who enter half marathons on the reg, but I don't know if that will be me. Still, there was something so powerful for me about sticking to a training regimen, and maybe that's my takeaway here -- I need to be more committed in general. Maybe?

2. I went to/spoke at Alt Summit

And I held a giant balloon. (Photo credit: Brooke Dennis)

Seriously, this one really deserves its own blog post, and seriously, it will get one. I just can't fit everything I want to say about this experience in a quick little blurb, but just know this -- I am overwhelmingly pro Alt Summit. For those who don't know, Alt is THE blogging event of the century, and it is, in a word, amazing. Everything is beautiful, sponsors deck out the bathrooms with free swag, and Martha Stewart tells you everything you need to know about life. It's like going to a swanky summer camp, only substitute canoeing with breakout sessions about Pinterest

Be on the lookout for a full-blown post all about Alt. I want to be able to really do it justice.

3. I wrote my first viral article, and it was terrifying

Via Salon

You might have read this article last week, or maybe you read an article referencing it, but this piece I wrote about Honey Boo Boo kind of turned my world upside down for a few days. The day it ran, it quickly became the site's top story, and several other major news sites started picking it up. Entertainment news programs began reaching out to me for interviews, and of course, my Twitter notifications were through the roof. It should have been thrilling seeing something I wrote get such traction, and in many ways it was, but it was also really anxiety-producing. 

The article was released last Thursday while I was at Alt Summit, so in between collecting business cards and jumping into photo booths with new friends, I was also trying to figure out just how quickly this article was spreading. The answer -- fast. Really frickin fast. At times, it seemed too fast.

I learned a lot from this experience, and just like my half marathon and the glory that is Alt Summit, I am still processing all of my feelings from this viral madness. I may have more words on this and the whole idea of being a freelance writer at a later time.


So there you have it -- a crazy week, y'all. Not tragic-crazy or busy-crazy, just crazy. Just new and exciting and weird and great and also hard at times. I'm looking forward to continuing to digest all of these events, and I promise I will come back to you with full clarity and wisdom. That, or I'll just distract you with a GIF of a cat eating pizza because I'm on the Internet and I can do that.

Via xuwriter

Have a happy weekend, guys!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

How Improv Comedy Will Make You a Better Writer, Blogger, and Person

I have no pictures of me doing improv because they would probably look ridiculous, but here I am doing standup at The Stand.

The act of blogging can often feel like a completely solitary act -- just you and your computer taking on the world. While the process is definitely independent, the truth is (and you know this already), you are not alone. Your blog, just for the very fact that it is exists in an online space, is part of a larger cultural conversation, one that is continually evolving. The content we create may be original, but so much of what we do is either 1) a response to what is already happening in the world around us or 2) an attempt to start a new kind of conversation.

For these reasons, it's easy to draw parallels between blogging and improv comedy. In improv, two people get on a stage, one makes a statement, the other responds, a conversation is had, and in that process a world is created. No scripts, no props – just people. When untrained audiences watch improv, they often marvel at the readiness with which the players advance their scenes so creatively. The truth is, these actors are actually working within a specified set of boundaries, principles of improv that enable scenes to be great. These rules of improv comedy can be applied to any creative practice, but as a writer and blogger myself, I have found them to be transformative to the way that I view the writing process. Here are a few of my favorites:

“Yes, and…”

You may have read about this one in Tina Fey’s fabulous memoir, Bossy Pants. Essentially, “yes, and” means that when you are in a scene and your scene partner says to you, “Margaret, you hair is on fire!” – you should not respond by saying, “No, it’s not. It’s just fine, and also my name isn’t Margaret. It’s Tammy.” Saying “no” in a scene effectively kills it. Instead, the right move would be to say something like, “Holy crap, it IS on fire! That’s the third time this week!” In doing this, not only are you agreeing to what your partner has set up, but you are also adding new information for them to work with. The “and” part of “yes, and” is essential.

How this relates to blog life: It can be so tempting to use formats and conventions you’ve seen work on other sites. For instance, with the success of sites like Buzzfeed, the online world began turning everything into quick, readable lists. These lists are easy to digest as a reader and easy to produce as a writer, so it makes sense that so many are turning to this method. While pulling inspiration from other sites is definitely not bad, we must ask ourselves as bloggers, how can I add new information here? How can I utilize a similar format without just duplicating it? In other words, am I just saying “yes” or am I saying “yes, and”?

ABC Initiations

If you go to an improv show, the actors will usually ask for a one-word suggestion from the audience. Someone will usually shout out something like “Pickles!” (fun fact: people often yell out names of food because that’s usually what we are thinking about). From there, improvisers will either go straight into a scene or they will play some kind of “pattern game” to help generate ideas. Essentially, with any suggestion, the job of an improviser is to think of ways to utilize the word or phrase without being too literal. The process looks a lot like… A makes me think of B, which makes me think of C. Pickles make me think of hamburgers, and hamburgers make me think of the 4th of July. Great, let’s initiate a scene at a 4th of July block party.

How this relates to blog life: So much of the writing process exists outside of actually writing. Much of it involves just collecting inspiration, whether that’s scribbling observations throughout your day or perusing other blogs for ideas. If you are wondering if you are being too literal in the way you are using your inspiration, or if you are just struggling to come up with an idea to begin with, do a pattern game in your mind. PICKLES. Pickles makes me think of Snooki from Jersey Shore (because that’s her favorite food), and Snooki makes me think of how I want to make sure my daughter never becomes like those girls on the Jersey Shore. Great, I’ll write a post all about how to keep that from happening.

Find the Game

“Game” is that thing about a scene that makes it unusual or interesting. It’s the big joke, the pattern, the point. Once an improviser spots a game in a scene, they will then take measures to enforce and heighten it.

How this relates to blog life: First off, writing should be like a game. It should be a place to play, a place to imagine and explore, but we often treat it with such unnecessary seriousness. If you are a blogger who creates content on a highly regular basis, you might be neglecting an important step in the writing process – first drafts. Not just first drafts, but “shitty first drafts” as author Anne Lamott calls them. This is the part of writing where you throw it all out there, every crazy, weird thought you have on a certain topic. Then you look it over, find that one interesting or unusual thing, and then you work on heightening it from there. In writing, this usually means adding as much detail as possible. The more specific you can get, the better.

Be Real

It can be so tempting in a scene to make a choice that will get a laugh, even if it might be a little forced. This usually results in a scene escalating way too quickly with nowhere to go.

How this relates to blog life: In the blogging world, we spend a lot of energy trying to make everything about our platform look pristine, but sometimes the unpolished things in our lives are exactly what our readers need. The best thing you can do, especially in comedic writing, is express the parts of yourself that are not so glamorous. For me personally, my most viral post was when I wrote about things I did terribly wrong at my own wedding.

Make Statements

Improvisers are often discouraged from asking questions in scenes because it leaves your scene partner in the position of having to come up with an answer. It’s much better to make declarative statements. I had a great improv teacher who would always say, “Say that again, but this time, KNOW.”

How this relates to blog life: Confidence is key as a blogger. You already know this because you constantly have to justify to friends and estranged relatives that this thing you are doing is more than just a hobby. In your writing, when you know exactly what you want to say, when you have a good sense for the game of what you are doing and a strong point of view, then you free your readers from the burden of having to fill in the gaps. Ask yourself the questions (“What exactly am I trying to say here?” “Why am I doing this?”), but only meet your readers with declarative, bold statements.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Am I living up to my childhood expectations?

Sometimes I look at the state of my life, and I wonder what my childhood self would think of me right now. Not that it matters, but I just know that back then I had some pretty rigid expectations for how my life was going to go. For instance, at the age of five, when anyone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I always responded, "Reba McEntire."

...

Reba.

McEntire.

Not "a singer." Not "a musician."

Reba....McEntire...

..................Reba.

Via 3chicspolitico

I mean, really, I completely set myself up for failure with that goal. It should go without saying that my genetic code is still pitifully the same as it was back then. I did not suddenly morph into the magnificent redheaded creature pictured above (though make no mistake, I can rock a denim blouse like you wouldn't believe).

My life now is way different than the one that I planned for myself when I was a child. If I could travel back in time and tell Little Christy all about her future, I think she would have some big opinions about how things have gone down. Since that's impossible, for the purposes of this blog post, I'll use my childhood pictures to depict her emotional response if such a conversation were to take place.

Hey, Little Christy, it's me -- Future Christy. How you doing, girl?



Nice, nice. You're just chilling with a cat, as per usual, I see. Well, don't worry, girl, I won't keep you for very long. I just wanted to let you know some stuff about your future, if that's cool with you. 


Great. Well, I feel like I should just get this out in the open -- just rip that bandaid right off -- Little Christy, when you grow up...you are not going to be Reba McEntire. 


I know, I know. You're disappointed. But really, how did you think that was going to go down? Like, it's literally impossible for you to become a different human being. You can't be Reba. Only Reba can be Reba. You didn't think that one through, so that's on you. But good news though, while you may not become Reba McEntire, you will become -- get this -- A WRITER.



What? You don't think that's cool?



Okay, well, I guess you have a point. Being a writer is almost never glamorous, and you basically live in constant fear that you'll never get work again. Plus, whenever you meet new people, you always have to answer the question, "Have I read anything you've written?" (for the record, the answer is usually no). But get this -- you're going to live in New York City!



I know! I'm psyched too! It's definitely cool, but just so you know, you don't live in an apartment anything like the one Tom Hanks has in the movie Big



Look, New York is expensive. Not everyone can have an elevator and a trampoline in a loft on the Upper West Side. But listen, you live in Brooklyn, one of the most diverse areas in the world. I mean, you live less than 15 minutes away from what has been deemed the best pizza in New York City



Yeah, I see you licking those lips, girl. I got your attention now. Well, how about if I told you that your neighborhood, Ditmas Park, is one of the few designated historic districts in NYC?



Okay, cool it with the fake snoring. It's not as cute as you think it is. But I got it, you haven't developed a love for history yet. That's fine. Let's see, what else, what else....OH! You get married!


And your husband looks like THIS (click the link, Little Christy)



I know, right?! Also, he makes really delicious casserole.


Man, this whole husband thing might be the only thing you approve of, but trust me, there is more to life than having a super hot man around to cook you casserole. The thing is, Little Christy, your future will definitely be different than the one you've been planning. For instance, I know you have your heart set on it, but you are not going to have a moon bounce at your 21st birthday. In fact, from here on out, each birthday you have is less of a celebration and more of a reminder that you are crawling closer and closer to the grave.



OH, aaaand spoiler alert -- the Spice Girls break up.



Cool, well, I'm going to go, kid. This was kind of a waste of time. Hope I haven't left you in a confusing state of anger and despair.



In general, I think Little Christy is pretty pissed with the prospects of her future, but she'll get over it. What would your childhood self think of the life you're living?

Sunday, June 8, 2014

My Alt Summit Assumptions

As I mentioned previously, I will be hosting a discussion at Alt Summit in Salt Lake City, and I am positively beside myself with anticipation! By the way, if you're unfamiliar with Alt, don't feel too bad about it. I mean, hey, I didn't even find out about that whole bear lying in a hammock story until just a few days ago, so you're not the only one who needs to catch up on what's what.

Truth be told, I'm not exactly an Alt expert. This will be my first time attending, and save for the fact that I have come to realize that it is THE blogging event of the century, I know very little else. During their last conference, I watched with unbridled envy as every fabulous lifestyle blogger on the Internet shared their glittery, glamorous pictures from the event. Everything looked so beautiful, so pristine, so inspiring, and I was filled with determination to make it to the next one. When the opportunity presented itself to speak about Blogging With Comedic Voice, I was like, girl yes please.

Via altitudesummit.com

In the weeks leading up to Alt, I was invited to a Facebook group along with every other upcoming Alt attendee, and it has been positively lighting up with discussions -- posts about what to wear, what to bring, who to connect with. I am constantly getting notifications from people, and it's been a fantastic resource for me.

I have especially loved the honesty of some of these folks. From experienced Alt fanatics to wide-eyed newbies, several have expressed that while they are super pumped, they are also kind of nervous. These are individuals who have built brands, crafted their own business models, endured childbirth, yet the idea of going into a room full of strangers to "network" still triggers a slight anxiety response in their brains. Good to hear because the same is true for me.

It makes me long for the days of kindergarten. Back then, when you would meet someone who shared your same favorite color, or who lived on the same block, or had your same proclivity for scab-picking -- boom, you were friends. Instantly. Maybe even friends for life.

But honestly, if you're a kindergartener who is this cool, do you really even need friends?

As adults, however, with all of our self-awareness and baggage, it's just not that simple. But what I already love about Alt is that it doesn't seem like a stuffy place for people to just force connections. From what I understand, Alt can be a lot like kindergarten if we let it be. I mean, it's honestly just a bunch of humans who are enthusiastic about similar things, and maybe we can just let that be enough. "Oh, you like crafting? I like crafting too!" "Oh, you have a lifestyle blog? Me too! Me too!" "Oh, you're super nervous? Phew, good, me too!"

It seems like the people who are attracted to an event like Alt are just genuine, kind, and ready to have a great time. I'm confident that they would still accept me and be perfectly lovely to me even if I showed up wearing a potato sack and handed out my baby pictures as business cards.

Still, I'd like to do this whole thing right. These are some things I've learned so far regarding how to make the most of my Alt experience. If you've been before, feel free to tell me if I've got it right.

1. It's important to come in with a goal in mind.

A lot of Alt regulars have encouraged the idea of starting the conference with a concept of what you want to get out of it. For me, my goals are simple: I want to facilitate healthy dialogue about connecting with readers through humor, and I want to leave with new insight and editorial inspiration. Oh, and obviously, I want to win. There's a winner at Alt, right?

2. Business cards are, like, kind of a big deal.

I've seen the word "tradition"used a lot to describe the business card exchange at Alt. Apparently some people show up with cards that aren't even cards at all, but rather paper cranes or cookies or toys with their name on it. In the spirit of this tradition, I have been racking my brain trying to come up with some way to make my business cards more clever, but fortunately there have been plenty of regulars who assure me that as long as my name is written down on some scrap of paper, I should be fine. Will a gum wrapper suffice, though? We'll see.

3. Dressing up is fun and encouraged, but it's not live-or-die.

Look. Ever since The Spice Girls introduced me to platform shoes and The Golden Girls introduced me to high-waisted pants, I have felt fairly confident in my ability to make bold fashion statements. Still, my level of concern with style never borders on the obsessive. I usually just throw a belt on an a-line dress and call it a day. From what I understand, though, Alt is full of the world's most stylish gals, and chances are they are the kind of homespun geniuses who make their own clothes. In imagining this fashion frenzy, I started to get a bit overwhelmed, but then I read this post from Hilary from Dean Street Society. She's a stylist, and even she admitted that dressing to the nines didn't need to be the main focus of Alt. Phew. Sounds good to me.

4. There's going to be swag.

This Alt checklist from Capella Kinchelo explicitly states: Leave room in suitcase for swag. I am unabashedly excited for this aspect of the conference.

5. There's going to be food.

The first night of the event, Alt attendees are invited to sign up for dinners hosted by sponsors of the event. I'll be at a dinner put on by the good people at Silhouette which is being held at THE MELTING POT! I'm so jazzed to dip assorted items into melted cheeses while asking my hosts every question under the sun.

6. It's all going to be fine.

Even though this will be my first time attending this conference, I am certain that this point is 100% true, and that's because it's true of most things in life. I may be bugging out now wondering how to structure my discussion or which day I should wear my new pineapple crop top, but in the end, everything will be just fine. Probably better than fine, honestly. Like pretty fantastic, probably.

So those are my assumptions about this thing called Alt, but again, I'm no expert. Have you been before? If so, give me the skinny! 

Will you be there in a couple of weeks? Ooo, me too! I hope to snag your business card, see your pretty face, and of course, chat with you at my roundtable!

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