The Astromaid Chronicles

Slow Travel, Creative Living, and Speculation

Category: Creative Living (page 1 of 13)

Beware The Onion Look-Alikes!

Shannon here, after a very long hiatus, after a very long and productive spring.

I have one message for you all:


What does this mean? you might be asking. Let me explain.

A few nights ago, Jorge wanted to cook a meat-and-veggie stew. He’s very good at these. It’s definitely something we’ve planned to offer in our eventual Argentinian restaurant. The sauce, the veggies, the meat, the spices–it’s all so very delicious and subtle and mixing.

However, when Jorge set out to make this stew the other night, he told (re: whined to) me, “But Shannon, we’re out of onion!”

“Go to Kroger and get some yourself,” I said. “You have a truck and legs. Go on.”

He didn’t go to Kroger. Instead, he set out to make the stew onion-less. I admit, I was a little disappointed. Onion makes everything better, for some reason. The same reason why I get a little sad when someone tells me they didn’t have garlic for a particular dish. Like, come on, people–these are basics. It’s a sad day when you run out of onion or garlic and can’t replace it.

But I digress. I was working upstairs in my office this evening at my newer part-time job, so I wasn’t around for much of the cooking part. When I came downstairs later to check in on all the tantalizing smells wafting upstairs, an exuberant Jorge greeted me.

“I found onion,” he tells me. “Look!”

Inside the pot, slices of onion simmer alongside potato, carrot and steak bits. I nod appreciatively. “Where did you get it?”

“From outside.” He swirls the spoon inside the pot.

I think about this. Duh. We have green onion outside in the planter, growing, healthy and green, lovely and onion-y! Of course! I take another look at it. But that bulb looks way too big to be the green onion I’d been cultivating. Those onion roots are usually slender and small. This root was bulbous and hefty.

Small, slender roots of the green onion. Mmm...delicious.

Small, slender roots of the green onion. Mmm…delicious. [Photo Credit:]

But I didn’t say anything. I figured, hey, what do I know? I planted those green onions last September. Their underground parts might have gotten very large in the interim. Who am I to judge an onion’s private soil bits?

Dinner was served. We sit down and enjoy a delightful stew. Everything was delicious–until I ate the onion slice. It was a horrible taste–so bitter and strange. I swallowed it down fast. I figured it was just one of those random disgusting tastes that sometimes inexplicably crops up in meals. Like, I dunno–a slip of the cook’s hand, something innocuous but gross, a weird bit of potato, who knows? Everything else tasted fine, so I didn’t think much of it.

Dinner ends, and I hurry back upstairs to continue my work shift. Meanwhile, Jorge cleans up downstairs, turns off all the lights and tucks himself into bed. I am working in my office for awhile, and about an hour or so after we’d eaten, I begin to feel really strange.

I’m dizzy. I’m unable to concentrate. And God help me–I feel like I could puke. I NEVER. EVER. PUKE, either.

“Jorge?” I call out. “I feel sick. I feel like I might puke.”

There’s a few second’s pause on his end. Then, he replies, like in a horror movie, “Me too. I really feel like puking.”

Three minutes later, while I’m sitting at my desk trying to convince myself I’m just hallucinating the nausea, Jorge rushes from our bed to the bathroom and begins puking his guts out.

“I love you,” I tell him feebly from my office, which is right next to the bathroom, while he retches his face off. “I’d come help you if I weren’t afraid of puking my guts out too.”

“It’s okay,” he tells me between heaves. “Stay in there.”

I wait for him to finish, intent on consoling him once he’s done retching. But once I hear the water running as he’s rinsing his mouth out, I feel a familiar sensation. A hot rush of sick barreling from stomach to throat. Dizziness, heat, and discomfort creeping through every cell of my body. I rush to the bathroom, put my face into the same toilet he’s used for the past ten minutes.

And I puke my face off, too.

“IT WAS THE ONIONS,” I wail as I empty the contents of my stomach. “THEY WEREN’T RIGHT.”

Later, once the puking has subsided slightly, he tells me the onions were slimy at the base. I google a little bit and read about others’ horrifying encounters with eating slimy onions. Vomiting, nausea, and the like. I feel distantly consoled. Like the internet is telling me, Hey, this happens to everyone. It’s okay. It was just bad onions.

I remind myself of this as I continue to vomit from midnight until 8 am every hour, on the hour.

Every thought about the stew I had eaten, or any form of any onion ever, makes me distantly nauseous, though.

Finally, I’m able to roll onto my side without puking around 8am, so I snag a few hours’ sleep. Once I’m up and about the next day, my first order of business is to uproot and dispose of all these slimy green onions I’d unknowingly cultivated. What horror in the garden! I storm outside, eager to upend all of these sinner scallions, to let them die a painful, shriveling death in the sun as a penance for our illness the night before.

When I get outside to the planter where my green onions were…I notice nothing missing.

As in, there are no green onions that had been pulled for yesterday’s dinner. Jorge had put something else into his stew. AND I HAD NO IDEA WHAT IT WAS.

When Jorge returned home that day from work, I showed him the green onion planter. “There’s nothing missing. What did you put in our stew, JORGE?”

He insisted it was onion. Onion growing on the side of the house. He gestured toward the back garden, the one up close to the house. The area of the garden where I had definitely, decidedly, never planted onion ever.

As we were walking down the driveway, he gestured toward a plant in the front garden. “It looked just like that,” he said. “Just like that onion there.”

My gaze landed on the plant. It was no onion at all. I never planted any bulb onion in my garden, front or back. I never planted anything but the slim, slender, totally innocuous, non-vomit-worthy green onion.

Jorge had pointed to the daffodils.

We ate a motherfucking daffodil in our stew.

Jorge pulled the daffodil in the middle stage, without the flower. Just when it looks exactly like a green onion.

Jorge pulled the daffodil in the middle stage, without the flower. Just when it looks exactly like a green onion.

Now it all made sense. Why else would we have puked our guts out like some modern rendition of the Exorcist: Food Edition? We had literally poisoned ourselves, as evidenced by any google search on Daffodils:

All parts of the bulb are toxic to people and animals, but the toxicity level is low unless you eat a large quantity. For example, a handful of bulbs is considered toxic, while one bite may lead to an upset stomach. If you accidentally ingest lycorine, you may begin to have stomach problems, such as diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain, as well as salivating, trembling, depression, convulsions and tremors. [Why Are Daffodils Dangerous?]

We had nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, salivating, trembling, and a whole lot of depression regarding WHY IS THIS PURPORTED ONION TRYING TO KILL ME?

Yeah, just an accidental dinner-time poisoning. OOPS.

Jorge felt horrible throughout all of this, I should mention. He stayed up with me while I puked the night away, and felt so badly for causing all of this terror from one simple stew. Once we found out it was a daffodil instead of a rotten onion, he felt even worse. Who harvests daffodils instead of onions? It’s a mistake anyone could make, I suppose, if you aren’t well-acquainted with your wife’s sprawling garden.

At any rate, we’re much better now, and definitely on the healthy side of our unintentional daffodil poisoning.

We’ve both learned what slimy onions can do to someone’s gut as well as the accidental daffodil, so I hope all of you will take all of these lessons to heart and avoid both rotten onions and perfectly good daffodils during your next home-cooked meal.

What Do I Look Like, A Drug Lord?

When Jorge, Kelli, our friend Sam and I began packing up and shipping out of Argentina, we opted for the night bus between Mendoza and Valparaiso. About 9 hours long, it’s an easy way to save a night’s expense at a hostel, though you do miss some of the stunning views by day as you ascend the craggy, rusted mountains of the Andes.

Being that it was a full moon the night of our trip, we were able to catch ghostly glimpses of the terrain. And with our bottle of wine, the four of us had a fun time chatting, sipping delicately out of the world’s tiniest plastic cups, and planning for the upcoming days in Chile.

andes mountains

Here’s a shot of the Andes during the day, from a border run in late 2013.

A few hours into the ride, we knew the aduana, or customs control, would be happening soon. The typical steps of a land border crossing, at least between Argentina and Chile, are as follows:

  1. Approaching the border, a border official will board the bus to inspect things. He usually leaves after a quick once over.
  2. Fifteen minutes later, you’re at the actual border. Enjoy the frigid mountain air.
  3. Everyone must get off the bus, line up in front of two windows, and get their passports stamped/attended to.
  4. Linger outside for awhile, buy some Chilean sandwiches, wait until your bus pulls up to the next customs door.
  5. All the luggage is offloaded from the bus onto a conveyor belt, where it is automatically X-rayed.
  6. Passengers must line up in front of two long tables, where we place our hand luggage in front of us. Dogs sniff up and down the tables a few times.
  7. Our hand luggage is then scanned through the same machine. Anyone who didn’t pass the screening has to open their luggage so it can be inspected by an official. (And if they don’t pass the inspection…well, they don’t cross the border!)
  8. Re-board the bus, and try to catch a few more hours sleep until you arrive in Valparaiso!

Los libertadores border crossing

“Los Libertadores” border crossing; every Mendoza-Santiago bus route runs through here, high up in the Andes. [Photo Credit: Soy Chile]

Fairly straightforward. Getting INTO Chile is often more difficult than getting INTO Argentina because their import rules are much stricter. They do not allow any fruits or vegetables of any kind to be brought into the country, and most loose food is confiscated.

So around the time we knew we’d be approaching customs, we collectively realized we still had a crapton of chocolates leftover from our impulse purchases earlier that day at the Mendoza bus terminal. And nuts! We had so many nuts and chocolates.

TIME TO EAT. We began scarfing chocolate, unwilling to let Chilean officials confiscate our hard-earned candy. They were gourmet, for god’s sake! I’ll eat myself sick before I hand these over just so they can be tossed in the garbage.

Our bus shuddered to a stop at the first control (step 1) while we were mowing down. The official boarded the bus as normal. Our bus was oddly empty, only about ten people on the 2nd level with us, where normally it could fit up to 60. The official didn’t have many people to assess before he made it to us.

He paused at our seats. After a curt assessment, he asked if he could see all of our hand luggage.

I nodded and grabbed my backpack, still popping chocolate almonds into my mouth. He began to rummage, one by one, through our bags. We exchanged confused glances as he did so.

He hadn’t asked anyone else on the bus for their hand luggage. And in my ample border crossing experience, on this exact route, the most I’d ever been asked to show was my passport.

As he rifled through our belongings, I offered him some chocolate. He curtly declined.

“What is this?” He held up Sam’s lip gloss, which was in a spherical pod.

JUST LIKE THIS LIP BALM, except without the pineapple, the floating face, and the HILARIOUS ENGRISH. Take care of that crackle with this adorable lip balm.  [Photo Credit:]

“Just lip balm,” she said, as he opened it up and examined it against the lights of the bus.

After he’d inspected all of our hand luggage, he told us to get off the bus. “Bring your hand luggage with you, we need to get your bags out from the bottom.”

Now this was really weird. Wordlessly, we followed him off the bus, sending wide-eyed looks between each other, wondering why we were being singled out. At the side of the bus where the luggage is stored, the border official and the bus employee pulled our bags down. They laid them unceremoniously on the side of the highway.

The official pulled me aside as he opened my big backpack. Wearing gloves, he pulled out my personal items and handed them to me to hold as he searched–my sandals, a Little Mermaid towel, piles of clothes. At the same time, another border official, who had already searched through some of Kelli and Sam’s things, grabbed my hand luggage and began searching through it again.

“Who’s is this?” His voice came out gruff, angry.

“Mine,” I told him, arms piled high with my crap as his colleague continued scouring my bag.

“Come here.”

I looked helplessly between the two officials. How was I supposed to go through two of my bags at once? “Uh…I don’t–…um, what do you–? It’s already been inspected!”

He grunted and pushed it aside. Then he motioned to Jorge to follow him behind the back of the bus. The official searching my bag finished, and told me I could put everything back inside. Then he disappeared to where Jorge and the other guy were.

All I could see was Jorge’s face as they talked. Serious faces; occasional nodding. Intense glances. They were fucking questioning him.

My belly flopped. Was this about to be a problem, like a real, honest-to-god IMMIGRATION PROBLEM? [Cue horrifying flashback to Bolivian Immigration problems.] My mind started doing somersaults as I waited for some word from them, or my husband. Kelli, Sam and I huddled nervously as we waited.

Finally, the officials motioned us over. “Get back on the bus.”

THANK GOD. We re-boarded the bus quickly, settling into our seats with something like delirious relief pulsing through the air.

“What did they say to you?” I asked Jorge as the bus rumbled to life once more. The passengers at the front of the bus side-eyed us, probably wondering what we had done to warrant such a search.

“They were looking for weed,” he said, and went on to explain that the officials were looking for marijuana in all our bags–all the way down to Sam’s lip gloss. Convinced that we had it stashed somewhere, that we had been smoking it somewhere. Behind the bus, the officials had tried to bargain with him–if you guys have any on you, just let us know and we can work something out for you. We’ll make you a deal. Just admit it.


We gaped at him, incredulous, horrified, totally confused. Why on EARTH would they suspect us for SMUGGLING AN ILLEGAL DRUG INTO CHILE?

Clearly, they didn’t find the treasure they were looking for, because we don’t smuggle illegal substances across international borders. 

Of all the passengers on the bus, they chose us. And why was that?

Was it because we were foreign? Maybe because of my dreadlocks? Was it because we were three American tourists, lost in a conversation in our own language, trying to be nice by offering chocolates?

Who knows. We sure don’t.

The incident weighed on us, hanging somewhere between astonishment and fear. What if this had been a different country, a place where cops bribe people to confess something, while they plant a drug in their belongings? What if this had been a situation where not finding anything in our luggage didn’t matter, and we’d be carried off to jail anyway?

Those places exist in the world. And oftentimes, it’s up to luck about what happens to you on the road: what society you’re traveling in, what border official is looking you up and down, what night of the week you happen to be traveling.

Once we made it to the actual border and our luggage was offloaded again to be X-Ray’d and sniffed out, none of the dogs noticed us, our backpack, or Sam’s “questionable” (yet adorable) lip balm.

It’s times like these that make you wonder all the ways that things can go REALLY wrong! Have you guys ever had a touchy situation like this traveling abroad? I want to hear about it!

NiceTalk, Nice Gig

I’m starting a new category today called #ShareTheWealth, where I share interesting and potentially lucrative or money-saving ideas. Today’s item came from my friend Justin Gray, a nomad often on the lookout for interesting jobs that support a life drifting with the wind. He has an uncanny ability to find some gems like this one below.

If you’re like me, maybe you’ve recognized the fact that you are fluent in a language people want to learn, but have never really jived with the whole “teaching” thing. It’s been a weird aspect throughout my life, I must admit. As a vagabond, the opportunity to teach English abroad is EVERYWHERE. Literally. It’s the most plentiful job opportunity out there (not that it always pays well, however).

But I don’t like to teach. I just don’t. I’ve known since a very young girl that I would never be a traditional teacher. It has never appealed to me. Creating lesson plans make me feel unsettled, and needing to control classrooms of 5 or 15 year old’s makes a factory job sound preferable. Can’t there just be some way to simply CONVERSE with people in my native language and get paid for it? You know, just skip the 9-5 English Teacher part and convey my skills another way?

Turns out there is. 

NiceTalk. It’s an app, and it comes from China, and it pairs English language-learners with native English speakers. What’s a good way for students to practice English outside of the classroom? Use technology to connect them to native speakers halfway around the world! Duh!

This app is like something from Back To The Future. As a teacher, I log on, and sooner or later I’ll get a call from a student. Once I accept, we’re looking at each other, thousands of miles away, talking as though face-to-face. Once each call is done, I send the student a comment or suggestion, and then I’m able to receive more calls. I can log on or off whenever I want (keeping in mind the time in China when I’m online).

Nicetalk Tutor App

And I get paid. $10/hour. Not bad for a side gig, eh? Even though some calls might last only a few minutes, they can add up quickly. The app pays weekly, as long as you’ve hit a $20 threshold. And all for just conversing in your native language, free of lesson plans and report cards and wearing sensible gray skirts.

The app itself isn’t the most polished or English-proficient tool. There’s definitely some Engrish-grade flubs here and there, and sometimes the app freezes. Overall, though, it’s easy to learn and quite user-friendly.

Prior to becoming a tutor, you must apply for the position via the app. This involves submitting an introductory video, which will be assessed by NiceTalk employees. If approved, you fill out your profile and begin accepting calls immediately. The profile includes things like education, languages spoken, and basic interests, so potential students can select tutors they jive with.

If you’re good, or sociable, or helpful, you’ll get repeat students. So far, I’ve talked with a wide variety of students: an 11-year old boy just before his grandparents finished making lunch…a 20-something physics teacher who studied in the UK…a 16-year-old girl who called just before her morning classes began at high school. And so many more! I never imagined I’d be able to peek into the home life of a regular Chinese family, or inside a high school. It’s a really cool cultural exchange for that reason. You’re able to glimpse slices of life that you might never come into contact with otherwise…and have some pretty interesting conversations along the way.

If you’re interested in signing up and you want to help a girl out, use my referral code: MTVE2B1L. Or just go to, sign up, and start tutoring!

Juice Cleanse Log, Days #3 and DONE


9:00AM: Up and at ’em! No yoga this morning since I have a doctor’s appointment first. I slug back one of my favorite juices, carrot-apple-ginger, but somehow it tastes less delicious after two full days of vegetables juices. Still, it’s not bad. I look fondly at the Keurig.

10:00AM: At the doctor’s office. The nurse readies the cuff to take my blood pressure. “I’ve been juicing,” I blurt out, feeling a little crazed. “Will that affect any of the readings?” She takes my blood pressure, I don’t pass out. “I expected it to be a little lower,” she says. It’s 120/80. Maybe it’s the stress of missing food.

10:03AM: I get weighed. I’m a couple pounds lighter than the last time I weighed myself, which might have been six months ago. I thought drinking nothing but liquefied kale plantations would have shown more on the scale.

11:00AM: Time for errands! I flit around the city for a couple hours for a  variety of tasks, but one of my most important goals: buy miso soup. This will pair nicely with the tofu I bought yesterday. A friend at the health food store asks if I feel amazing from juicing. “Ehh…I feel good,” I tell her. “Not bad, but not crazy awesome. I thought it would be more sparkly than this.” I do mention the heightened sense of smell. There is at least one superpower that comes from juicing.

2:00PM: Errands run long, and I’m just getting home to drink my mid-morning coconut water! I slam it as fast as I can, irrationally happy that I have no more of these pink bottles of tasty-yet-unsettling coconut water. Then comes the lunch juice. I make the Green Lemonade again, which goes down easily. I feel good. It’s okay. It’s less than 24 hours until I’ll eat miso soup.

4:00PM: Gentle yoga with Jorge. I feel surprisingly powerful. But some of those wide-legged forward bends didn’t feel so good in the head/dizziness area. He does part of the Primary Series with me, and then we switch to gentle yoga poses. Om! As in…ommmm, nom nom. Food is happening tomorrow!

5:00PM: I have a late juice snack, this time a new mixture of beets, carrots, celery, oranges, lemon and basil. It’s great–much more delicious than the other beet juice.  Husband fries an egg in the kitchen. I slink away, glaring at him.

7:00PM: Dinner juice time! I have leftovers from lunch. It’s fine. It’s green. It’s full of kale. Just trying to imagine those nutrients massaging my stem cells, or whatever the hell they’re supposed to be doing in there.

9:00PM: Jorge cooks dinner now, and it smells so delicious I can’t bear it. Freaking heightened sense of smell. Someday…I will eat again. Though I might break the seal with miso soup tomorrow, I probably shouldn’t rush straight into a dinner like this.

10:00PM: Is my skin glowing? I think I look slightly more radiant. I’m not sure. It might be juice haze in my eyeballs. Or maybe the fascinating array of nutrients being slam-dunked into my DNA. Again, not sure about the scientific gears behind this. I drink a herbal tea and settle down for the night…and this time, my belly is HUNGRY!



9:00AM: Good lord, I’m hungry. Despite this, I start my regular Ashtanga practice, slowly and carefully. I make it to standing postures and then I have to abandon in search of hot water with lemon and a breakfast beet-mix juice. After making it, I notice my fridge is considerably less full. Like, I actually have a little bit of space in it now, after barreling through thirteen pounds of produce in three days.

11:00AM: It’s almost miso time. I will definitely eat miso soup for lunch. I cannot wait. I’ve never made miso soup at home before; hell, I’ve only had miso soup a handful of times in my life. But I have never BEEN. MORE. EXCITED. FOR ANYTHING.


12:32PM: THIS IS GONNA BE SO GOOD. I cut scallions, and cube the tofu. It is so firm and ready. What lovely tofu. It’s gonna be so nice to eat. With my teeth and my jaw and mastication.

12:35PM: I think it’s ready. I can’t let the miso boil once the tofu is in, I read that. I wait a few minutes for everything to warm. My stomach has very nearly burst through skin to get a taste of this broth.

12:40PM: This is momentous. MOMENTOUS. I call my best friend Brian to tell him about the fact that I’m about to eat this soup. He doesn’t pick up. I leave a voicemail of my first slurp of soup. GOD, IT’S SO GOOD.

1:00PM: Bloated with miso, looking at my empty bowl, pondering another one.

1:30PM: Yeah, I’ll have a second helping. Bet your ass I will.  Brian calls me as I’m preparing the soup. He gets to hear the first slurp of the second bowl this time.

2:00PM: Juice fast complete.


That wraps up my first ever juicing log, folks! Overall, it was a fun experience, but it didn’t blow my mind. I’d definitely do it again, but probably a longer cleanse next time. However, not anytime soon.  I know this was a shorter duration, so maybe days four and five of the next juice cleanse will bring more interesting results.

Transitioning back into regular food took an additional three days, so it felt like this juice cleanse actually lasted longer since I continued with juices AND ate mostly soups (hello, miso!) for about two full days afterward. Even though during the transition I fantasized heavily about all sorts of foods I wanted to eat…thinking about how my body might feel and react to said foods caused (and still causes me) to weigh these options more heavily. And I think that’s a good thing!

In summation, I can safely say one thing: I really love food. I love preparing it, I love pairing it, I love eating it. I’ll probably do this cleanse (or even another one) again next year or whenever I’m feeling particularly unhealthy or unbalanced. Until that time though…viva la comida! 

Juice Cleanse Log, Day #2


8:00AM: Early morning, and we’re off to Cleveland! I take the leftovers from my dessert juice in a jar, and the leftovers from my lunch yesterday since we’ll be out of the house until 1pm. Oh, and don’t forget the glowing pink coconut water! There is an important meeting this morning, and I can’t be wilting in front of lawyers because I didn’t nourish myself properly. I nurse my hot water and lemon until almost 10AM. I am scared to drink the beet juice from last night again.

10:00AM: The meeting with the lawyer begins. She appraises my vivid red beverage and nods knowingly. “Are you juicing?” “Yep,” I reply. “This is a beet juice for breakfast.” She laughs. “I do that in the mornings, too. Disgusting, huh?” She understands me.

NOON: I shudder as the last of the breakfast beet juice goes down. There were little chunks of beet greens in it and for some reason it made me wanna puke. I reluctantly begin my coconut water and then lunch juice not long after. It’s gonna be a long ass day.

4:00PM: I skipped the post-lunch juice because I wasn’t hungry. How could that be?  I have consumed the equivalent of two meals through yesterday and today combined. But I’m just not. I lay down in bed because there’s a headache creeping in. Oh, god. They said this could happen. My body is rejecting the juice! Or maybe this is the cleansing process. 

6:00PM: I wake up, feeling a little better than before. I have my dinner juice, a hefty mixture of cucumber and, you guessed it, an entire crop of kale. It’s good but somehow not appetizing. Maybe the cucumber is too heavy. Maybe I’ve only drank juice for two days. Maybe I’d really like some of that fucking pasta my husband is making right now.

6:30PM: Fantasies about tofu commence. And tempeh. And vegetable soup. And more tofu. I can practically taste pan-seared tofu. I would give almost anything to eat it. ANYTHING.

7:00PM: Husband is cruelly using the oven again to cook food. Except is that a gas leak? I open the back door to let in some air. Man, it smells like something went wrong with the oven. He has no idea what I’m reacting to. Jamie tells me your sense of smell is heightened during fasts. This is what pregnancy will be like. Jesus God, save me already.

9:00PM: We go to Kroger to buy emergency apples for my juicing…and a package of tofu. Just in case. Just in case.

10:00PM: Oh, sweet herbal tea! There’s only one more day of juicing ahead of me. Just one more day of cucumbers, apples, carrots, kale, ginger, and lemons in liquid form. What is it like to chew? Will I even be able to after another day of juicing? What if your jaw works only from constant practice? I cannot wait to eat tofu. 

10:30PM: Belly rumbles, but still not really hungry.  Feeling sort of unsettled, somewhere between nauseous and bloated. Maybe I’ll never drink juice again. It’s time for bed. Only one more day left of this…and then I can eat tofu.

Farewell, 2015!

Welp, it’s basically the end of the year. Are you all as curious/chagrined/baffled/excited as I am?

Looking back at my blog, all the way from its incipiency (looking at Phil) in 2012, I see that in December 2012 I wrote nothing about the year behind, or the year upcoming. At the end of 2013 I didn’t either, but at the beginning of 2014 I did write a small list of resolutions (which I can verify were ALL achieved…though I might have made them highly achievable on purpose). At the end of 2014 I wrote nothing, and also in early 2015 remained silent on the matter.

In summary, I’m basically saying “I never write about year end’s or resolutions, except for those couple of times I did”.

So what’s different about this year-end? Well, not much. I don’t feel particularly inclined to wax poetic about the challenges faced, the cherry-picked memories—both good and bad—that dapple my little fruit tree of life. I mean, I definitely could wax poetic. I’ll wax your poets as hard as the next girl, don’t get me wrong.

What’s different is that I want to make a little mention. Not a full blown “grab the wax and the sun screen because I’m gonna be waxing this poet until I get a sunburn”-style, but just, hold a little memorial.

I want to lay 2015 to rest; say a few words over its grave, if you will. Because a year so highly awesome and strange as this one deserves it.

(But, see? I think all my years are awesome and strange. So this has no bearing on previous years, and my lack of mentioning them. What I’m trying to get around saying is that I’m an erratic blogger and sometimes I just write these posts in my journal instead of online. Moving on.)

2015 was a baller year.

I got married to the most incredible, sweet, delightful, and loving man I could have hoped to meet. I moved back to the United States. I went to India. I published a story about my poop, and got paid for it. I rented my first house in my hometown. Jorge and I applied for his residency and hired a lawyer. I lived in Peru, and left it. I climbed Huayna Pichu, which finally laid to rest any residual qualms about my post-surgical recuperationI studied with two Ashtanga teachers, both of which impacted my personal practice in a huge way. I sat in ceremony again, under a different shaman. I paid for my wedding reception in mostly cash, but also slipped further into credit card debt. I came home in a very significant way that involved re-connecting with so many people, re-integrating in a serious, lovely, much-needed way.

Thinking about January 2015 feels like it was just a couple weeks ago. That’s frightening (though not uncommon); before we know it, we’ll be in this spot again, feeling like December 31st, 2015 wasn’t that long ago.

I don’t have a problem with waxing poetic about life; really, we all should do it more often. Though I bristle that it’s typically year-end’s that prompt the introspection (whereas I think it’s helpful to maintain this introspection throughout the year), I also recognize the beauty and ritual of our need to reflect at a designated mile-marker.

Sometimes we get caught up. Or maybe we forget. Any reminder to pause and look back, and then also look ahead, is a welcome one.

I’m excited for 2016, as I have been for every other year. I expect the greatest, the best, the most meaningful, the most loving, the most challenging, the most trying experiences. And I expect I shall find all of them contained within the messy, sparkling, infuriating, perpetual yet fleeting gem that is the upcoming year.

How was 2015 for you guys? What stood out–and what didn’t? What do you hope for the next year? And what are some resolutions or intentions you have for 2016?

Feeling Centered…about the Centerpieces (Wedding Woes & Wonders Pt. 5)

I’ll be honest, I don’t really know what the hell I’m doing when it comes to planning this reception. My main MO is to make it as cheap as possible, as I’ve mentioned before, while not compromising the basic essentials of what I want this celebration to be.

That said, it’s coming together extremely well. It kind of feels like wandering into the forest for a routine camping trip, and then something happens and all of your important gear goes up in flames, and you have to figure out how to survive really quickly because it’s getting cold at night and there might be bears. At first, it really sucks to learn how to survive in the wild and forage for your berries and keep the fire going, but then you get the hang of it and by the time the rescue helicopter comes you leave the forest feeling like a legit survival expert.

That’s the only apt analogy I can come up with for how this reception planning process feels to me.  I’ve been doing things mostly my own way (which is also sort of just the way that my best friends suggest it to me). I don’t have a robust arsenal of survival skills–I mean, party planning skills–and sometimes I feel like the bears have sniffed out my location and will tear us to shreds. While this  means overseeing a lot of extra details (like, furnishing my own table covers, and making all my decorations from scratch, and figuring out real quick whether these leaves are poisonous), it also means that I am a little out of touch with what the rest of the world is doing when it comes to wedding/reception planning.

And after a visit to my local craft store the other day, I realized I’m actually way more out of touch than I realized.

After some very goal-oriented browsing at the store, I stumbled upon their bridal aisle. Ah yes, I thought. Most craft stores have these! I wonder what treasures they hold? I took a gander for posterity’s sake. And to see if there was anything I might “need” for my current mission.

To wit, there was not. But I did stumble upon this:

The $6.50 bouquet cover!

The $6.59 bouquet wrap!

Holy shit. Hang on. A bouquet wrap? I don’t know if my consternation upon viewing this has to do more with the wedding industry or just consumerism in general. A bouquet wrap is, to me, a useless product, as I’ll explain below. But at the same time, I can see lots of brides out there really getting into the details, all the way down to the color of the lace on the bouquet cover. So, hey. To each his or her own bouquet. 

On my wedding day, I used a bouquet of hand-picked flowers from my friend’s garden. I went to her house and we picked them out together. Then, I took the bunch of flowers to my house in a mason jar full of water. When the time came, I picked up the flowers, grabbed a rubber band, and tied that sucker around the stems.

Before we left for the courthouse, one of my friends said, “Do you have anything to wrap around the flowers? So it looks nicer.”

The question dumbfounded me. The flowers didn’t look nice enough already? I said, “Uh…no, actually.”

So someone in my intimate friend’s group looked around the house, and snagged a piece of ribbon attached to godknowswhat laying around.

There you have it. Bouquet wrap. On-the-go. Last-minute. Totally free.

did not know prior to that moment that bouquet covers were even a thing I’d have to think about when preparing for my “big day”. In fact, I still maintain that it is NOT a thing one should think about. Having a rubber band around some flower stems is totally fine. Because who actually cares?

I was grateful that my friend thought to snag the ribbon and tie up the flowers. It did look nicer. And I think that most people, if given the opportunity, could find some subtle, easy replacement for these “necessities” as posited by the wedding machine.

If I could save close to $7 on a bouquet cover that is, by all rights, unnecessary, what else could I save by looking around my house and using things more readily at my disposal? Instead of buying pre-packaged solutions that aren’t “solving” as much as creating a false problem?

The limits of this approach are totally self-defined, especially in an arena such as wedding and reception planning. How far can I take it? Well, I won’t be furnishing my own tablecloths by sewing together worn-out leggings, that’s for sure. Nor will I be only using recycled paper for my craft projects, or borrowed cutlery, etc. I’m buying lots of things new, and receiving lots of used things as well. Each bride/person is responsible for deciding what the important parts are, what deserves a higher percentage of the budget.

My centerpieces are a good example of this. I wanted 1.) attractive 2.) personal 3.) cheap, in that order. Being that our party centers around travel, I decided to make centerpieces that reflect places Jorge and I have traveled together–a way to showcase our travel photos, share information with guests, and create a unique table naming system.

Here’s the cost breakdown:

$1.87 per sheet of poster board needed to create the centerpieces. Each sheet makes 3 centerpieces, and we need a total of 16-17. So, we’ll get 6 sheets of this stuff. TOTAL: $11.22

$0.50 per print of 4×6 photos. I’ve printed about 40 photos for this centerpiece project. TOTAL: $20.00.

$0.10 per copy of black/white documents, printed at the library. I was doing this to print out the copy used for the centerpieces, but then switched to a printer I already owned but was at my father’s house. I made about 15 copies of various things. TOTAL: $1.50

$0.25 per copy of color documents at Staples. I printed a large variety of maps, which were used as part of the centerpiece design. TOTAL: $3.75


Like I said, I’m pretty out of touch with what things cost and how other people are doing their parties. But this seems like a pretty good deal to me, especially since this accounts for 16-17 guest tables AND blends function with personal meaning. It doesn’t count for labor, but let’s just say it’s free, because I enjoy doing it, and I’ll only have to put in this time once in my life.

What do you guys think? Anybody know what regular centerpiece prices are? What do other people even use for centerpieces? Am I crazy, spot-on, or something else? 

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