The Year of Me, My and I

Taking crafts to a whole new nerdy level

As the new year creeps up on us, it is time to make decisions. I am talking about making changes, people! Over a week ago, I was introduced to the Day Zero Project and since then I have not shut up about it. The Day Zero Project is a more logical take on New Year’s resolutions. Instead of putting all of your effort into one goal (which is typically hard and sometimes unrealistic), this brilliant little plan lets you focus your efforts on 101 goals in 1001 days.

I prefer to call it my Life List, and some of the activities I have included are to read particular book series, road trip to music festivals, and give blood. I find that in the midst of trying to quit smoking, if I present myself with fun challenges (like creating a quirky apron), I will be less enticed to light up.

My work station

I am a Life List fan because not only am I putting my butt to work this year- but until 2014. Move over unrealistic bucket lists! Hey, live for today, right? I definitely do not want to wait until I am 50- years old to try to find the motivation to kiss my lover under the Eiffel Tower. Tomorrow holds no promises, get moving! Check my Life List out to spark some ideas. You can also visit the Day Zero Project official website to see what others have included on their lists for inspiration on how to start your own. If you decide to create one, be sure to check out their Tumblr blog, too. The possibilities are endless.

I could not wait until the symbolic Ball Drop to get started on a couple of the challenges on my list. I have completed number eight, “Create hanging art with garbage.” I wanted to get a bunch of neat stuff off the streets until I realized how awesome working with glass would be. I found three bottles: a Yellowtail wine bottle (dark green), Skyy Vodka (blue), a Heineken bottle (lighter green) and a gold ornament that was on the verge of gutter suicide near Target. I bought a canvas at JoAnn Fabrics and used my acrylics to paint the background a murky orange-red. I let the canvas dry while I took out some aggression on the bottles. I smashed them to pieces with a sledgehammer (I just wanted to use a sledgehammer!) and cleaned off the shards I was going to use.

Be warned: I own a sledgehammer!

I used epoxy, or glass glue, to start sticking pieces to the canvas. I had no idea where I was going with it until I accidentally dropped my craft hemp on the canvas while digging through my art bag and … voilà! The thin hemp piece fell in such a way that I decided not to touch it. So, for my first project, using glass as my “garbage”, I created a tree. It is for sure not the tree you would look out your window to find. Maybe it is dying, maybe it is a Weeping Willow, maybe the wind is blowing it down. You have to dig a little deeper to see this tree, and that is why I am so happy with the outcome. I plan on making another garbage piece soon. I know it sounds icky, but I would like to get into a dump somewhere. Access is limited at the dumps in my area, with a thousand eyes watching your every move. I will have to break the law somehow to get into one! No sweat.

Now while some goals are ongoing, such as completing number 27, (to watch every Oscar winner for Best Picture), I have other goals that require time as well, but never too much where I could get off track. Also, I definitely do not feel rushed with my Life List. There is an adequate amount of time to do it all. 

My “tree”

This coming year I expect to find my greatest potential and put it to use. Most of us say the same old thing every year. But what makes my expectations for 2012 so high are that I have had to deal with more bullshit this past year than ever in my life. I am done feeling sorry for myself, I am done making excuses, I am done living in the past. I am not too sure when I woke up and realized that I am young and capable, but it has happened. Starting my own .com has given me a bit of structure and a lot of satisfaction. I am proud that since this site’s start in October, I have had positive feedback and some loyal readers. I want to take this blog to another level next year. Thank you, to my readers, for staying interested in me. 

July 2011. Down 20 pounds.

One of the most important goals I have set in place for 2012 is to work on the overall betterment of my physical health. This year I will be training myself to no end, getting in the best condition I have ever been. I will be participating in Tough Mudder, an endurance race and obstacle course which states on its website that it is “probably the hardest event on the planet.” Who would I be to show up in April without at least one piece of a six-pack, a smokers cough and anything jiggling around. I could, but I want to prove to myself (and myself only) that my body can do more. As shallow, but realistic as this is, I look at other girls my age who are extremely fit and feel disgusted with myself. I am not talking rail thin, heroin for breakfast type of bodies, but toned and curvy. I have seen it work this past summer when I was going to the gym and running nearly every day. I lost 20 pounds by keeping myself on a semi-strict diet (no beer, only vodka tonics) and I cut out all fast food. Sadly enough, it did not last long and come winter, I am back to drinking dark beer and chowing on 25 cent wings during Monday Night Football.

Road trip to Atlantic City in the summer of 2010

Looking and feeling healthy this year is my top priority, but finding a job that I love is right up there with it. I have to find a job that I can see myself doing for a while. I have working knowledge of journalism, it is my major. So while I continue pursuing my degree, I feel it is only necessary to surround myself in that world. I know that work is work, and that I should be happy with anything because so many are jobless. However, I would like to think that there are freelance journalist gigs out there, office positions in a magazine company, bitch work at Travel Channel (I would scrub their toilets for the hopes of one day working with them). I want to have a job where I can move freely because 2012 promises an equal amount of planned and random travel adventures. I want to always be able to write and keep myself on the go. I cannot make a compromise.

Speaking of travels, I plan to knock off a few of my road trip challenges from my Life List in 2012. My friends and I have already planned our Bonnaroo Festival trip in Tennessee for June. While we are there, we will visit the Jack Daniels Distillery in Lynchburg. We are going to rent a minivan and take turns driving the 16 hour trek from Connecticut to the Volunteer State. Bonnaroo’s musical lineup this year is amazing, including some of my favorite bands like The Black Keys, Arcade Fire and The Strokes. Music festivals have recently become something that I love to do. No matter where it is this coming year, I will be there grooving to the beat. 

Note to self: Replace buffalo wings with watermelon

This summer, my same group of friends and I will be heading up to the New York, Canada border for our Niagra Falls road trip. The trip one way is about seven and a half hours, which is fine by me! We will spend a long weekend up there, possibly dabble in Canada for a bit, eat and drink a lot and enjoy one of the seven natural wonders of the world.

2012 is my training year. With practice and hard work I can and will set myself up for a lifetime of success, drive and focus. While taking my responsibilities seriously, I have my wonderful little Life List to keep me on my toes creatively.

I wish you and yours the best possible New Year. If you decide to join me on the Life List journey, I want to hear about it. Maybe, you too can start your own blog. Perhaps, a journal of sorts to keep your challenges in order. It truly is the best thing I did this year, and unfortunately one of the only. But like I have promised myself, you must also set aside your qualms and frustrations and move forward in reaching out your goals.

2012 may be the “end of the world” but it is my new beginning– our new beginning. Cheers to the New Year!

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September 2011 in the Catskill Mountains, NY

A Fresh Look at Egypt: What Cairo Has to Offer

When I was in the seventh grade, I moved from a diverse community in an urban setting to a claustrophobic cluster of suburbanites. I sat with the “cool” table for the blink of an eye before bouncing to and from clichéd teenage cliques until I realized that it was possible to incorporate all the ingredients of my last neighborhood. Puerto Ricans with whites, African-Americans with Europeans, anyone with anyone, it was all the more simple than previously thought. I was lucky enough to never have lingered too long in the friendless abyss of middle school mortification. As I met plenty, I became closest to Noha.

Noha (left) and myself on a snowboard trip in 2000

We did the normal teenager thing until she left me (and the United States) in the beginning of my first year of high school. I remember standing in the main entrance crying, hugging, and making promises to visit as soon as I could. My Egyptian friend was about to move halfway across the world, and this past September has marked ten years since she has left.

Fortunately, the two of us have remained in touch. And while our common interests and ability to meet up at the local mall have long changed, we have been able to relate to each other still, over 5,500 miles away. Thanks to the social networking outbreak, I have been able to communicate easier and more frequent. As we go back and forth about our very different lives, I cannot  help but ask myself what I really do know about her hometown of Cairo– Egypt– the Middle East. What I know is what Fox News shoves in my face. She answered some of my questions for this blog and for the rest, well, I researched. I have longed to put Egypt in a more deserving light for some time.

With a degree in Business, Noha now focuses her time on being a mother to a nine-month old boy. She is continuously balancing life as a mom, wife and part of the Egyptian youth who has faced a burdening amount of intolerance and national issues.

I hear my friend’s concerns, frustrations and hope for Egyptians. It has unfortunately been all too easy for many Americans to cast prejudice towards the Middle East, but is it just? Of course not. Like myself, there must be a place inside of you that is curious to know more about the inner workings of this culture; the food, the sights, life somewhere so … forbidden. A country whose existence is one of the first known civilizations, it is obviously worth the discussion. What has become of the capital city during recent political troubles and its constant subjection to discrimination? Hop on board this half day flight turned 10 minute read and open your mind.

Because the majority of tourists seem to always be an older crowd, I figured nightclubs, bars and casinos were acceptable concerns for the young and frisky when planning a loose trip itinerary. I wanted to start easy by covering Cairo’s rocking nightlife.

“Cairo really is the city that never sleeps,” the 24 year-old said, “It doesn’t matter what time it is, people are out; the malls are open until midnight and the cinemas close at 3 a.m.”

Nightclubs seem to be a big hit as well, just like the United States- whattaya know!? According to 10Best.com, Cairo is pretty stacked in the nightlife department. Absolute dance club is located on the Nile and hosts live DJ’s and cocktails until early in the morning. Bars in Cairo are similar to the strip of bars in NYC, lit up and doors open for business. After Google searching Cairo nightlife to death, it is clear that Egyptians are accommodating to tourists, offering a variety of entertainment; Arabic music infused with a Western twist. Many hotspots boast a great venue to people-watch tourists from around the world.

Luckily for the hungover tourist there is no shortage of cafes that cannot help get you back on your Louis & Clark traveling way.

“Here in Egypt we have so many cafes and yes, we have a Starbucks! But we also have places where you can eat a bit then make pottery, and smoke Shisha (vanilla, strawberry, mango, cherry). Also, we have casinos.”

You read that correct. Cairo is home to over 20 casinos which also act as luxurious hotels. Poker, slot machines, horse racing and your typical U.S casino gaming can all be found here. But after a long night of dancing and gambling, what does one hungry tourist eat? Surely filets are available but I would only expect myself, and all you other curious travelers, to try the local fare first.

“We have a lot of different kinds of foods, us Egyptians love food. There’s falafel, koshary, foul, mahshi, and so much more,” Noha proclaimed.

While we may be familiar with falafel, or deep-fried chickpeas, there is another popular dish mainly eaten for breakfast that is like falafel. Pronounced “fool”, this dish is similar in that it is made by mashing Fava beans and adding fresh ingredients such as Chili pepper, onion, Cumin powder, and olive oil and bringing to a heat. There are slight variations of this recipe by adding other fresh veggies to ones liking. Check out AlternativeEgypt.com to try to make your own. One of my favorite that I was fortunate to have at a Mediterranean restaurant in Barbados was Mahshi, or a stuffed eggplant with chopped meat (usually lamb) with rice. Delicious! Check out this recipe I found online that I plan to use this week.

I dare you to try falafel and say you don’t like it!

If you are looking to travel Egypt, here is some reputable advice from the Cairo native, “Anyone who wants to visit Cairo has to see the pyramids. You can also swim in the Red and Mediterranean Sea. You will find the whitest, purest sands and turquoise water there.”

Guided tours are readily available for both the pyramids and Nile River tours. This TripAdvisor approved website can help you customize your Cairo vacation and point you in the right direction for tours and sightseeing. If you are looking for more non-touristy things to see and do, I suggest watching the No Reservations: Egypt episode. Mr. Bourdain is known to keep off the beaten track. Click here for an overview!

The new mother says she at times misses the United States, especially the very clean streets and Taco Bell! But when asked about her future in Cairo, Noha says she has no idea what tomorrow brings.

“I love both Egypt and America. There are good schools here in Egypt and I want my son to know how to speak and write Arabic… but the States can give him a good education, too.”

Between the flurry of stereotyping and prejudice Muslims have had to deal with over the past decade, Noha can assure those leery of her people that Egyptians do not just ride camels all day.

“Some people think that we live in tents in the desert, we ride camels and everyone is poor. Well, that is what they show on news channels such as CNN. We actually have nice communities; nice cars like Lamborghinis and Maseratis. Of course there are poor people, but what country doesn’t have poor and rich?” She explained.

Thousands come together in Cairo to rally the new transition in government

If you are not aware of Egypt’s political troubles, this past February held a revolution for the Egyptian people, mainly on their rights for speech and free elections. They held protests in the streets of Cairo as well as the ancient city of Alexandria to overthrow Egypt’s President, Hosni Mubarak. Alongside his two sons, the former Egyptian leader will be tried in court next August for the killing of peaceful protesters and corruption. Although he has resigned, the ongoing struggle to end civil disobedience continues today.

“Hosni Mubarak was our president for 30 years, and as of recently our country has had a lot of trouble. He stole 70 billion pounds from his own country (one American dollar equals six pounds), and employed people were not getting paid well,” Noha explained, “of course this country is going through struggles.”

But she is optimistic about the future of her native land.

“I hope my country will become the best it can be. We have great tourism and history here. I hope that people will want to know more about this country in the future; this gorgeous country that is one of the oldest in the world,” Noha said. “It is amazing here and I am proud to be Egyptian!”

Regardless of this ancient country’s recent afflictions, tourists still flock to see the remarkable landscapes and architecture. The mystery of this country is relentless; through pictures, television and the words of my friends. I hope to visit someday to see my friend and celebrate her new family and our ability to have stayed connected. I also want to visit to gain writing inspiration; to prove to those with their bias preconceived notions that Egypt is a world wonder.