Woodworking | Azzy Girae

Ok, I confess, Azzy Girae is the most pretentious LA hipster name ever, but at least I’m giving it to a bench, not a child. “Azzy” is for the aztec/tribal inspiration that I had in mind when I started building the bench, and “Girae” is because when it was finished it reminded me of a giraffe. Not sure why. Maybe the colors or the skinny legs or both. But, anyway, blog world, I ask you, is this bench as pretentious as its name? Or something you’d want under your Christmas tree today? Merry Christmas, everyone!

Experience | Sew-Sew Somewhat

It’s been a very strange year for me. A lot of new experiences, a new home, new travels, new relationships, new drama, new jobs… it’s been somewhat overwhelming. I’ve spent most of my social/non-work time hiding out alone in my apartment, sometimes spending almost entire days in bed, because that was all I could handle. But the last few weekends, I’ve at least been productive in my hermitage, sewing pillows and curtains, wrapping up the final decorating process of my apartment by finishing these projects which I’ve had half-started for months now. The sewing—and completion of these open-ended projects—has been somewhat therapeutic in pulling me out of the quicksand of funk I felt I was trapped in. Moving in a direction—ANY DIRECTION— at least feels like just that: you’re moving. So, here’s to moving forward and sewing that last closing stitch to fuse random broken pieces into something new and beautiful.

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Pillows made from fabric I bought in Chania, Crete, Greece (the blue and white), and fabric I bought from an etsy store that sells fabric from Peru, which I will travel to SOME DAY.

new curtains for my kitchen/office/garden

retro-looking geometric fabric for my retro geometric apartment

MiniMoon | Texas | Houston — The New York Invasion

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I went to Houston, my hometown, a few weeks ago to be the photographer AND videographer (sweet baby Jesus) for my New York’s friend’s wedding to his Houstonian fiancé. They are a great couple, but had a tight wedding budget, so they Southern-sweet-talked me into doing both photography and videography. BUT, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, this is [WAS] the last time. If you are one of my few friends who is still single and you have been practicing your puppy-dog-eyes speech to get me to shoot your wedding, save the pleas and the pouty lower lip. I can not leap tall buildings in a single bound. I tried it that weekend in Houston. And pulled a hamstring.

I knew what I was getting myself into, and I attempted it anyway. I managed to shoot both photos and video, operating three video cameras and a still camera with a mere two hands. AND managed to get good footage for both. But the superhero life is not for me. I prefer sitting at a desk hiding behind my coke-bottle glasses, thankyouverymuch.

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The Balkans | Day 30-33 | Return | USA | NYC

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If you’re counting days, Day 29 was mostly a travel day. I took a bus from Kalathas to Chania where I shopped a little and killed time before my bus to the airport. I became quite proficient at the Crete bus system. As well as the Italian train system. I flew into Bergamo, (Milan area) around midnight, and then had to take two trains at 6 a.m. the following morning to get to the Malpensa Milan airport to catch my flight to New York City. There’s such an anxious relief when you’re waiting for your return flight home after a long trip.

Day 30, I landed in Newark and took a bus to midtown. How have I flown in and out of Newark so many times and never knew there was a direct shuttle bus from Newark that stops at 3 midtown locations?! I normally take the PATH train, but the bus is so much easier! Once I arrived at Port Authority, I hopped on the subway to Queens where I spent a few days on the couch of my friends Aabye and Frank who, even in their 30s, are huge advocates of couch surfing. New York is just too expensive to do it any other way.

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The Balkans | Day 27-28 | Greece | Crete | Kalathas

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DAY 27: KALATHAS

Unexpectedly returning to Chania with no notice left me with little choice in hotels, but fortunately I found a nice family-run hotel outside the city in the teeny-tiny town of Kalathas. I arrived there the night after Elafonissi beach; I had stored my luggage in a locker in the Chania bus station, which was quite handy and convenient. The following morning, still suffering from heart-ache, I was slow to get up and do anything, and even then, it wasn’t much. I washed some clothes in the sink; went to the one tiny market in the town to buy bread, meat, cheese, and fruit; then got tired of the cleaning lady swarming my door of my hotel room, so I finally walked down to the beach.

I don’t think I cried on the Kalathas beach. Probably because I had already cried that morning. So I enjoyed the water and sun, and had my heart warmed by a stray golden lab who seemed to have made that beach her home. She charmed many of us on the beach by playing fetch with one tourist who endeared himself to her. Sadly, I didn’t take any photos of her. I decided to just enjoy the moment. But now, I wish I had taken one shot of her sweet wet sandiness.

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The Balkans | Day 26 | Greece | Crete | Elafonissi

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Elafonissi (also spelled with one ‘s’) is a really pretty lagoon, beach, and tiny island that boasts pink sand, but that’s a bit of a tall tale. There was pink sand, but it was in small patches scattered throughout the lagoon. Despite the oversell, I really recommend this day trip from Chania (also spelled Hania). Actually, if you have time, and you can find a room at one of the few hotels in Elafonissi, and you love a good beach, spend the night here. There is only one bus per day from Chania, so it dumps a load of people around 11 a.m. Even then the beach wasn’t overwhelmingly crowded, but it got worse as the day went on. I guess the crowds came from tour buses and people with their own cars. If you get to the beach early enough in the morning, you could have this Greek paradise practically to yourself. It was by far the best beach I visited in Greece.

There’s a large lagoon area that you have to wade through to get to the less crowded tiny island beach. The water is about waist-high at the deepest point, and inches deep at the shallowest. The water is beautiful and warm. Not Hawaii warm, but probably the warmest it gets in Greece, which is tolerable, even for this wimp.

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The Balkans | Day 23-24 | Greece | Crete | Loutro

2300_loutro_titleI’ve been composing this post in my head over and over and over since I left Loutro seven weeks ago. It’s taken many different shapes. What I write today is far different from what I would have written a month ago. And the way my life is going right now, might be far different from what I’d write tomorrow.

The main reason for Journeymoon #2 was because of a boy I met in Journeymoon #1 in Loutro.  Honestly, I never expected anything between us to go beyond Loutro last year. Then, about six weeks after I met him in Greece, I went to visit him in Albania. And after that weekend in Tirana, I never expected any sort of relationship to go beyond Albania. But here I was, back in Loutro, after nine months of talking to Geni on Skype and WhatsApp. I tacked on the trip to Croatia so that if it didn’t work out between us, at least I had a nice vacation. And, well, as it turned out… at least I had Croatia.

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The Balkans | Day 22 | Greece | Crete | Chania

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After spending all night (about 13 hours) in four airports, on three planes, and on one bus, I arrived in Chania around 7 a.m., much like our early morning (before sunrise) ferry arrival last year to Chania. This time, however, I was on my own, not with a tour group. Exhausted after the all-nighter, I went to my hotel hoping by a miracle that my room would be available, but as you’d probably expect at 7 a.m, it wasn’t. So I had breakfast at the same restaurant as the year before, not because it was particularly great, but because it was one of the few places open that early. And bonus, I still had the wifi login stored in my phone. Then I walked around the Old Town to kill time, but I really just wanted to sneak aboard one of the little boats docked in the harbor and take a nap. When I’d finally had enough of walking around slapping myself awake and dodging cruise-shippers, I went back to my hotel to see if my room was ready yet. And fortunately, whoever was there the night before left early, so I checked in, and then promptly checked out. Snooze style.

So why did I return to Greece 51 weeks after my first trip there? I’ll answer that in the next post. For now I will answer another common question I’ve gotten about this trip.

Q.”What was it like going to the same places again?”

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The Balkans | Day 20-21 | Slovenia | Ljubljana

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The Croatia tour ended in Bled, so I then headed to Ljubljana for about 1.75 days, and honestly, it was a stretch to fill all that time. If you’re ever in Slovenia, I suggest staying in Bled or Bohinj or some other beautiful town in the Alps and just take a day trip to Ljubljana. There’s a minibus company at the Bled bus station that runs a direct shuttle to Ljubljana for just €7.

The most worthwhile thing to do there is the free tour. Well, it’s technically free, but if you are happy with the tour, which you most likely will be because it is a good tour, you are encouraged to give a donation of your choice after the tour has finished.

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The Balkans | Day 19 | Slovenia | Lake Bohinj

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We took a bus from Bled to Bohinj where we first hiked to the waterfall, Slap Savica. Then we split up and the grandparents took the cable car up to the top of the mountain, which they later said was a great view, and ATSL (all the single ladies) followed [far] behind Tomi as he “led” us on a hike around the lake. And by led, I mean he bounced from boulder to boulder, like a pinball, while ATSL trudged steadily on far behind him.

At one point in our 2-ish hour hike, when it was getting well into the afternoon and we hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast, ATSL, hangry and tired, mutinied and stopped to eat snacks we’d been carrying in our backpacks. Far down the trail, Tomi eventually turned around realizing we hadn’t caught up to him. When he found us, we explained that we had to stop and eat because we were too hungry to wait for the picnic he promised us at the end of the trail. He offhandedly said that the hike is taking longer than he expected because of all the stops. Jules retorted, “clearly we have been on different hikes.”

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