August 30, 2013

Current obsessions

These are the things that are "it" for me right now...

The Newsroom. Currently re-watching the 1st season (after having just watched it for the first time 2 months ago).  It's just as good, almost better with each re-watch.  The characters are some of my favorites ever.  Sometimes I manage to find a place to watch an episode of season 2 (currently airing on HBO).  Kinda like a treasure hunt to find a friend who has On Demand.

Wish I Was Here.  Zach Braff's new movie is currently in filming in LA.  How do I know this?  Well, because I'm a Kickstarter backer for the movie.  Every week I get a playlist with new music and a ridiculously well made video highlighting a different person on the crew and what their job entails.  Can I just admit that it is one of the coolest things I've been a part of in the online world?  Zach is so appreciative and generous with his backers.  We get tons of behind the scenes scoops and info.

Mint Julep tea. Or any tea really. I can't stop drinking it.  A cup in the morning.  And one again at night too.  It's bad.  I don't need the caffeine.

The National.  Listening to Trouble Will Find Me on repeat.  Over and over and over again.  I'm of the opinion that one should listen to a piece of music until you are entirely sick of it and can't hear it one more time.  It's how I roll.

Writing.  Whether it's on pen and paper or typing away on a computer screen. I'm obsessed with getting the words out.  It feels good.  Honestly, it's been a while since writing has seemed appealing. I've missed it.  Intensely.  I've been a scribbler since I was in elementary school.

Reading.  I recently finished Life As We Knew It, and I can't stop thinking about it.  It's about a girl and her family and their story of survival when the moon gets hit by an asteroid.  The story was alright, but the idea behind it and what the family goes through when the earth's weather changes was fascinating.  As I was finding the link for the book, I found that there are 2 more books in the series.  I had no idea.  Awesome.

Now, I'm almost finished with Kisses From Katie.  I've been reading her blog for years, so it isn't really anything new.  However, her story and how she loves Jesus and lives her life is something that is always good to be reminded of.  When I start to get frustrated that I can't afford something I want, I think about all the children that she helps who have no food or clothes or parents.  Good for perspective.

What are you obsessing over lately?

August 29, 2013

Tea trip

One of the things I was really excited about when going to the Big Apple was going to a David's Tea storefront.  I first heard about David's Tea this past winter and have since placed a few orders.  There are no actual stores in my area, so I usually just take a chance and order something that sounds delicious in the website descriptions.  I've only gotten one kind that wasn't really as good as I was hoping it would be. The rest have been so yummy.

Coffee isn't for me.  I always think it smells heavenly, but can't stand the way it tastes.  Tea, on the other hand, is perfection.  I'm blaming my British grandmother and my mother who drinks hot tea constantly every day, all year.  

David's Tea has multitudes of flavors to try.  They have new flavors for the seasons, cute mugs and containers, strainers, etc.  If you love tea, you should give them a try.  Black tea is my favorite type and their Read My Lips is the most perfect chocolate, black tea ever.  

I might have gone a bit nuts in my purchasing while I was there.  The girl working at the counter was so patient and let me smell lots of different kinds based on the flavors I already loved.  I ended up buying so much that they threw in my cup of hot tea in for free.  So nice.

I've been drinking the Mint Julep constantly.  It's ridiculously delicious.  I want some right now just thinking about it.  The infuser was my splurge (okay, the whole lot was a splurge, but hey, I never go to Starbucks).  It works so much better than a tea ball because the holes are so small, trapping all the tiny leaves inside and letting the larger leaves float around freely.  Love it.  Worth the money.

If you love tea, check out David's Tea.  You won't be disappointed.

August 28, 2013

NYC: Part IV

I think the city is good for us right now.  The hustle and bustle.  People everywhere.  We need that.  This week is usually so lonesome with everyone leaving camp and it being so quiet.  But, here, we can be surrounded by people and feel their energy and life.  It doesn't feel so sad.  The city is good for us.
-paraphrasing what my roommate so wisely said while we sat in Times Square processing our meet and greet with Zachary Levi.  I was still shaking all over like an excited puppy.

So true.  The week after camp ends is usually a lonely, melancholy time.  All of our summer staff/friends scatter across the country.  The tiny, skeleton crew that runs the rest of the year at camp is left kinda shell shocked, battered.  It's hard to describe in words, but if you've ever lived the camp life, I'm sure you totally get it.
Hence, the city, the busy-ness, the life everywhere feels comforting, not overwhelming. The city really was a very good idea for us.  Maybe this should be a yearly tradition....hmmm...

There was the cutest little park (again with the parks and the nature) right across from our hotel.  Lots of cute tables and chairs.  Shade trees.  Complete with a freakin' waterfall?!  Awesome.  Wish we could have spent more time here.

We spent a few blissful hours sitting in Rockefeller Center, which I know is a huge touristy area, but I just love it so much.  Literally hours, sitting in the shade.  People watching.  Making up stories of where this person and that family came from.
There was a farmers market right in front of the NBC store, so we grabbed some fresh (and ridiculously delicious) peaches for the ride home.  It was a little strange to be shopping for baked goods, jellies, fruits and vegetables looking up at 30 Rock and the Today Show set.  Weird, but great.

Wish I could have brought these home with me.  I'm a big Parks and Rec fan.  Ron Swanson.  It's my favorite comedy on TV right now.

(First Date playbill signed by Zac, Rose petal that blew into our seats at the show, metro cards, receipts from the bus, hotel, metro and Shake Shack, First Date ticket stubs, David's Tea bag, scrap paper from the hotel)

I always love and hate at the same time cleaning out my bags at the end of a trip.  So many mementos and memories attached to them.  I used to save everything and then realized that I have no room for such things.  Now I take photos of all of it and they get stored digitally instead.  Except the playbill and ticket stub.  I kept those!

Thanks, New York City.  You were lovely and adventure filled as you always are.  You were the perfect 2 day vacation at the end of crazy summer.  I'll be back soon.

NYC: Part I / Part II / Part III

August 27, 2013


The day after my roommate and I saw First Date, there were no plans on the agenda.  We had only been done with camp for 4 days, so having no plans and no where we had to be sounded like perfection. One thing we wanted to do was eat a Shake Shack, so we jumped on the subway and went to the Madison Square Park location.  

Side note:  I am notorious for eating terrible food when I go on trips.  I'm so focused on what I'm going to see and do that I never even think about food until I'm hungry.  I'm all about the adventure.  Food is just an annoyance.  All my foodie friends are so annoyed when I get back and they ask me, "so where did you eat?!!" and my answer is always "I don't know.  Some place."  They just can't comprehend that I don't care what I eat.  I made a promise that I would do better on this trip.  I did for at least one meal.  That's an improvement, right?

S and I realized that we gravitated towards parks.  Even in the big city, we were looking for nature.  Camp girls at heart, I suppose.  Madison Square Park was lovely.  

One of the reasons I was excited about this location, besides it being in a pretty park, was that it was used in an episode of The Newsroom.  I have been ob-sessed with The Newsroom this summer.  And the scene at the Shake Shack was one of my favorites.  

The burger was good, but I have to admit, it wasn't nearly as good as the burger I had at Good Stuff Eatery a few days before.  [We had gone there because my roommate is a massive Top Chef fan (I've never watched it) and has been wanting to eat there for a long time.  It really was delicious.]  The Shack Attack concrete was super yummy.  I want another one of those at this very minute.  Yum.  

We got there early and ate an early lunch since the line usually get ridiculously long at this location.  While we were there, I was texting with a friend back at home.  She told us to run and get in the view of the line camera so she could see us.  How crazy is that?!

There we are.  Hello, America.

We were right by the Flatiron building, so of course photos had to be taken.  It's so charming.

The Empire State Building is always so regal and old Hollywood to me.  King Kong.  An Affair to Remember.  Staring at it takes me back in time.

There really is something strangely magical about this city.  It has a totally different vibe than any other city.  Every time I visit it, I find new corners that I really love and think "maybe I could live here for a year".  But then I start to miss the river and the grass and the openness of life in the country.  Apparently I'm a country girl at heart.  The water has a bigger draw on my heart than the concrete jungle.  And you know what?  I'm totally okay with that.  That just makes trips like this to the city even more special.

NYC: Part I / Part II

August 26, 2013

NYC: Part II - The Show

I have re-written and re-worked this post so many times.  I still don't know exactly how to put this experience into words.  You know those times in life when things feel totally surreal and out of body?  This was one of those for me.  

The reason for this trip to NYC was to see First Date.  It is a brand new musical on Broadway staring Zachary Levi.  I may have mention before that I kinda think Zachary Levi is just adorable.  

When I heard he was staring in First Date, I immediately knew I had to go see it.  My lucky stars (and Jesus' kindness) were aligned and Living Social had a deal for tickets, which I scooped up immediately.  The tickets were for front row seats, which my roommate and I found out when the usher directed us to the middle section, front row, basically sitting with our knees under the stage.  Almost too close for comfort.  Like sitting on the front row at the movie theater.  I could have tied Zac's shoes, if they had been untied.  It was all kinds of fantastic.  

The show is fun.  It's light hearted.  It's fun-ny.  Laugh out loud funny.  The small cast of 7 people is fantastic.  It's 90 minutes with no intermission, and it flies by.  It's the story of a guy and girl who are on a first date.  The other people are their friends, the waiter and their ex's that pop up often to give their opinions and "wisdom" on how things are going.  The songs are catchy.  It's rather crass at times (think: Rent), but not overly so.  And Zac is absolutely, perfectly cast.  He shines in this role.  Not only his voice, but his comic timing makes the show.  He had to stop several times and wait for the audience to stop laughing so loudly that they were drowning out his lines and applauding his small quirky movements and perfectly timed quips.  He definitely makes the show.  

After the show, we zipped outside because I had heard that he would give autographs and maybe photos to the people who waited at the stage door.  The rest of cast slowly trickled out and signed a few autographs before disappearing into the beautiful New York City evening.  

Then some mysterious speakers began to play music and out the door with a happy "Hi, guys!" appeared Zac.  He immediately began signing autographs as all 100+ of us, crammed into the gated off, stage door area were excitedly waving playbills and happy faces at him.  "Did you guys like the show?"  he asked, to which we all enthusiastically answered "yes!"  "Aw, thanks.  Be sure to tell your friends.  Tweet it.  Instagram it.  Let everyone know, would you, please?" 

He was so kind.  So generous with his time.  He said after a few minutes, "just pass your stuff up for me to sign.  I'll sign it and send it back (ps...his fans are all so nice.  Everyone was offering to pass things forward and make sure it got back to the right person.).  Everyone gets a picture if you're patient.  I'll stand here and you can come up."  To which we said a collective, heartfelt thank you and he responded with a genuine "you're welcome" like it was no big deal for him to take 2 hours to sign things and take photos with perfect strangers.  

I watched him make small talk with handfuls of people as he walked along the ropes signing thing after thing.  He looked at them in the eyes.  He acknowledged them. He laughed and smiled and listened.  Over and over I heard him say "thank you.  thank you for coming."  Genuine.  

He finished signing and then began taking photos.  

Zac has said multiple times in various places (like his own Twitter feed) that he loves Jesus.  After meeting him in person, I must say that his compassion and kindness toward people shines Jesus so brightly.  It was inspiring.  Sounds silly, but when you see someone love others (especially strangers!) well, it makes you want to do the same. 

So, thank you Zac for giving your time.  Thank you for being so kind.  Those of us who were on the receiving end of your kindness saw how Jesus' influence in your life has impacted the way you treat others.     

***Zac's shirt is from his company The Nerd Machine.  They just raised over $200,000 for Operation Smile through Nerd HQ at Comic Con in July.  You can watch all the Conversations for a Cause (which are crazy fun) for free here.  

August 23, 2013

NYC: part I

I went on a quick trip to New York City this week to see a show.  

I'm sure you want to hear all about it, right?  

Well, here you go.  

Part #1:

On this trip to the city, we (my roommate and I) took a chance and decided to take the bus.  It was $30 roundtrip.  You can't even pay all the tolls with $30, not to mention gas and parking.  Needless to say, it was a good choice.  3.5 hours and we were through the Lincoln Tunnel and in the heart of the city.  Awesome.  

There were a few things I wanted to do in the city on this trip.  One of them happened about 2 seconds after I stepped off the bus steps.  Literally.  Two seconds.  

I've been reading Love, Taza for years now.  It's one of my all time favorite blogs.  I knew that the chances were pretty much .07% of me seeing her in the city.  However, I looked up from stepping off the bus and saw her zipping by me, pushing her two adorable kids in the stroller.  I instantly recognized them and kinda freaked out a bit.  She was walking quickly through the mass of people, but I did about 3 double takes and knew without a doubt it was them.  
If I wasn't so surprised, maybe I would have had the guts to say hi.  But what do you say to someone that has no idea who you are, but you follow their blog and know lots about them?  Do you call their children by name or is that creepy?  Is it okay to ask them for a photo because you feel like you are meeting a celebrity? Is that weird?  Oh, well.  I didn't have time to settle all these things in my head before they were across the busy street and we were headed in the opposite direction.  I took it as a sign that this was going to be a great trip full of epic moments.  
It was.

On this trip, I used the HopStop app constantly.  It's kinda like Google Maps.  You put in the address of where you are (or where you want to start) and then the address (or place) where you want to end up.  Then you can use a bunch of different options to get there like walking, cab, subway/rail, bus, etc.  It also gives you the smartest route if you want to use it.  We used it to find out how long it would take us to walk and then about how much it would cost to take the subway. Good maps and easy to follow.  Really liked it.  It's available for lots of cities too.

We decided to pick up the tickets for the show we were going to see while we were relatively close to the theater district.  Plus, it was nice to walk after being on the bus for hours.  

**Side note:  we only took backpacks since we were only there for one night.  Perfect decision.  No luggage to cart around the city.

(my roommate said I had to have a photo next to the crazy large photo of Zachary Levi that was at the theater)

The theater was easy to find and we got our tickets and realized that the show started an hour than we thought it was going to.  Epic moment #2.  If we had waited and picked up our tickets later, we could have missed the show.  I don't even want to think about it.  But instead, God was smiling on us and epic moments just kept coming. 

After tucking the tickets away for safe keeping, we headed out to find our hotel.  It was a longer walk that we knew we would do later, but at the moment, it was nice to stretch our legs and see the city.  
We stayed stayed at the Pod 51 Hotel.  Really liked it.  One of my favorites that I've ever stayed at in the city.  It had personality and wasn't cold and institutional like most budget hotels.  Our room had a bunk bed with a sink. We chose a room with a shared bathroom, which meant we used the bathrooms in the hallway.  In our room, there was a sign with a light next to each numbered bathroom.  When that room was in use, we could see the light illuminated.  Super easy.  And the bathrooms were ridiculously clean.  Each bath"room" had a toilet, shower (with rain shower head!) and sink.  Small, but manageable.  And after our tiny cottage bathroom, it felt normal to us.  No big deal at all.  I would do it again. 

There was also an adorable little lobby area with a bar/restaurant.  The furniture was modern style with bright colors and metals and wood.  Charming and inviting.  There was a long table with a strip down the center with outlets running along it.  Perfect for charging phones and computers.  We used it a few times and got drinks too.  We also played a game of backgammon since there were several board games out for guests to use.  
There was also a rooftop terrace, which we checked out, but didn't use during the day because it was too hot while we were there.  I do wish it was open later than 10pm because it would have been a beautiful view of the city at night.  
The only complaint I had was that our room was on the hallway (thank you, which meant it was noisy at night.  Bathroom doors, room doors and elevator door slamming all night.  The door to our room wasn't soundproof at all.  If I stayed there again, I would request a room down the hallway away from the bustle of the everyone.  Other than that, it was a fantastic deal in a clean, fun hotel.  And it was 4 blocks of Rockefeller.  Score. 

One of the partners for the show we were seeing was Uber.  They are a car service.  If you signed up for them for the first time and used a code they have, you could get a free ride (up to $20) to the theater.  We took advantage of that and got a ride in a fancy black car all the way to the theater that evening for free!  The only draw back was that the traffic was bad and it took our car about 30 minutes to get to us.  That meant we had to change our dinner plans and just grab something quick to eat before the show began.  But it was nice to ride in style and step out of a quintessential New York black car at a Broadway show.  For free.  

Next: Part II - The Show....

August 18, 2013


(my Starbuck costume for this year's Smoothie Night)

Hard to believe it, but summer is over.
Camp is finished.
And it is way too quiet around here.

Funny how you get used to having 200 people around you at all times.
Then suddenly, they are gone and the birds are the only things making noise outside your window.
Kinda sad, but then again I did get to have both Saturday and Sunday off completely this weekend.
That's wealth and riches right there.

So this week, instead of moping around and feeling melancholy, I'm running away to the Big Apple on an adventure of epic proportions.
Because sometimes you need a break.
And sometimes a mini-vacation is just what the doctor ordered.


Cottage Girl

August 04, 2013

last week

We begin our last week of residential camp tonight.

I don't even want to think about camp being over, even though we do have one more week of day camp left.  Thank the good Lord.

Anyway, I've been writing quite a bit lately and wonder if I should post of it here.

It's more personal in nature and makes me feel quite vulnerable.

But writing it has been so freeing and inspiring.

Maybe one day.

I don't know if anyone even reads these ramblings anymore as my posting has become quite sporadic.

I guess it doesn't really matter anyway because I write for myself, not to gain followers.

But this week....

This week is all about finishing well.  Loving well.  Caring for others well.  Giving and pouring out as much as I can.  It's about being grateful and thankful for the ministry we are allowed to do here.  It's about giving my Redeemer the glory He is due in this crazy life I am granted.  It's about being open and honest and sharing what He is doing in my heart and my life.

This week is also about laughter.  Lots of it.  Last night, I laughed harder than I think have in literally years.  Laughed so hard I couldn't breath and my eyes were pouring tears and my sides ached.  I'm thankful for friends that I can laugh like that with.  They are a treasure near and dear to my heart.

Dear summer camp,
I love you so much and wouldn't trade you for millions of dollars.  I love that you are a fast and furious 11 weeks.  I love that you force me to say goodbye, even when goodbyes are my least favorite thing in the entire world.  I love that you show me (and everyone else too...) my faults and failures .  I love that you give me the opportunity to serve others in a way that I enjoy more than anything else in life.  And I can't wait to do it all again next year.


Cottage Girl