Little Cuckoos.

You Know You Want One, 2019. Original Photo by SnapDragon X. All rights reserved.

I’ve wanted a cuckoo clock since I was a small girl.

But it’s one of those things that slipped into the recesses of my mind over the years, kicked to the corner and replaced by a million other hobbies and interests.

Yet whenever I’d see a cuckoo clock–albeit those times were rare–my heart would rejoice at its charm.

I love the old-fashioned, hand-carved artistry. I love the reliable inner workings of its gears, and the sonorous sound as I wind it each morning and night. I love the reminder twice an hour that life is moving on, displayed with a chirp and chime.

The Husband surprised me with the beauty you see above. It hangs in our kitchen by the farmhouse sink. Henry sometimes bats at the chains. I marvel at this classic treasure every single day. It’s ours.

So Dear Reader, find your cuckoo clock. Fill your home with whatever makes you happy. It doesn’t need to match, it doesn’t need to be brand-name. But those little things? The antique mugs and photo frames? They make your nest a haven.

Face It: Burt’s Bees Rocks.

I’ve dubbed myself Queen of Body Products.

I love ’em. I snag ’em. I dream of making a healthy little income reviewing what works and what’s just another bit of hype. (cough, cough. Burt’s Bees! I’m here, ready to write!)

So for this first review, I’ve decided to focus on my Number One Body Concern: Skin Care.

I am diligent (okay, neurotic is more like it) about my face. As a previous sufferer of acne and allergies, I pamper my skin like royalty.

Here’s my favorite.

Burt’s Bees for Life, 2019. Original Photo by SnapDragon X. All rights reserved.

This handy little line is just about perfect. The foaming cleanser is light, yet whisks away the grease (eww) and residue of the day. While it’s probably overkill when it comes to this product, I’m a firm believer in removing makeup prior to washing. That way you know that the cleanser is actually making its way into your pores, and not just gliding on top of your foundation. Maximize the goodness of that royal jelly!

Additionally, the day lotion is a must-have for those of you with vampire complexions like mine. It moisturizes and also provides broad spectrum SPF 15. Protect that skin year round, yo. Fair warning, though: the SPF leaves a bit of a white sheen, so plan accordingly by making sure it’s really rubbed in or by following with your favorite foundation.

And finally, the night cream should be your new best friend. It really does the job of nourishing your skin (hence the name) overnight, without feeling overly greasy. In fact, sometimes I use it during the day if I know I’m not leaving the house. #perksofahousewife

So in closing, this is one of my tried-and-true GO-TOs. It’s reasonably priced (you can get all three products for around $45 total) and has treated my face with the respect it deserves. Plus, the 99% natural ingredients make me feel good about life (but more on that later).

And who doesn’t want more feel-good moments in life?

Omg, it’s me.

Today’s epiphany is a simple one, yet I know its struggle will remain for the rest of my days.

One of my favorite Tori Amos lyrics is I know the truth is in between the first and the fortieth drink. (This relates, I swear.)

Whether that means booze, cold brew, or some nine-dollar magical elixir sold at Whole Foods, I do not know. But I think she may be on to something.

Because there seems to be a sort of Goldilocks Zone of self-realization, when you feel like the rawest, truest version of yourself.

Each day consists of a unique concoction of factors: the weather; the quality of last night’s slumber; my choice of meals, music, and social interaction. Sometimes that concoction is as satisfying as homemade mac n’ cheese, and I just want to write down its recipe in my best cursive hand. And other days? I wonder what the fuck the non-existent gods were thinking.

But when I woke up this morning, I had a Goldilocks Moment.

I washed my face, brushed my teeth, and dressed. Poured myself a glass of orange juice and sipped it slowly at the kitchen table.

Today will be a good day.

Because I realized that while there are many factors of my day-to-day–many of which I have no control over–my worst moments? Yeah. They come out of my own head.

Damn, girl.

For example:

I’m overweight. I’m unemployed. I call myself a writer and have yet to publish a single sentence.

I’m a painter, but balk at the mess of it all so therefore wait another day.

I’m a daughter, and a sister, and I constantly bludgeon myself with hate for not showing my family “the real me”.

But you know what I remembered this morning, in that beautiful moment of clarity?

Not once has anyone criticized me for these things.

Not. one. time.

It’s me. (gasp!)

I constantly live in a state of self-judgment. I really am, as they say, my own worst enemy. Because what kind of prick throws out words of hate at another person? You’re fat! You’re lazy! You’re fake! I would never say that to someone, and would stop being friends with anyone who did. But when it comes to myself? Christ. I’m worse than the meanest mean girl there is.

So let me try this again.

I love my body. I really do. Sure, I could work out a little more. But I also love the way this chocolate glazed donut melts in my mouth. I’m a human being, and I think I’m pretty. Period.

I write and I paint when I feel like it. I have goals for myself, and I know I will accomplish them. But no one is standing in the doorway with a stopwatch, arms crossed and blowing a whistle for me to get moving! Why haven’t you done something yet? 

I’m the only one I have to answer to.

And finally (and probably most importantly) I always try to treat people with respect: my family, my friends, and the strangers of suburbia I will likely never meet again. I need to remember that there are different levels of intimacy to the different relationships in life. It does not mean that I am responsible for making all of the people happy, all of the fucking time.

So, Dear Reader? Love yourself. Give yourself a break. Remember that not even one of us has it all.

But you are you, and I am me, and we’re in this thing together.

And maybe that’s all we need.

The Answer.

The Answer, friends, is beer. Heavenly, handcrafted beer.

Now, before you refer me to my local AA meeting, I’m specifically talking about The Answer, a brewpub located in Richmond, Virginia. Also, it’s pronounced on-sir, after its founder An Bui, whose portrait proudly hangs on display.

An Bui, 2019. The Answer Brewpub. Original Photo by SnapDragon X. All rights reserved. (Except this is a photo of someone else’s art. Not sure how that works.)

This place is off. the. chain.

The Husband and I have visited over 150 breweries (and counting!) over the past several years, and therefore pride ourselves in having a weee bit of street cred.

This is my new favorite.

(Okay, okay, you’re right. Hill Farmstead is still Number One. But it still blew me away. I talked about this place all damn weekend!)

Blanton’s German Chocolate Cake Stout, 2019. The Answer Brewpub. Original Photo by SnapDragon X. All rights reserved.

Sitting down for some tasters, I just had to try the famous “Joose” selections. I’m only sorry I couldn’t try them all.

Sample #1:

3 Scoops: Pineapple, Coconut, Strawberry: Sour – Ale

The scent of this alone is divine, like walking into an Anthropologie: sophisticated citrus you just want to dive into. The taste is a perfectly nuanced fruit explosion. Yes, you need it in your life. How far do you live from Richmond?

Drinkable Art, 2019. The Answer Brewpub. Original Photo by SnapDragon X. All rights reserved.

Sample #2:

Triple 3 Scoops: Passionfruit, Lemonade, Mango:  Sour – Ale

This is yet another 5-star ranking from The Answer. Just as I was known in the classroom, I’m a harsh grader when it comes to beer. It’s gotta be exceptional if you want an A. And friends, this makes the cut and then some.

Triple 3 Scoops, 2019. The Answer Brewpub. Original Photo by SnapDragon X. All rights reserved.

While I could certainly go on about the other masterfully balanced brews we tried, I need to take a moment to tell you about the food! (emphatically pounds fist on the table)

If I believed in Heaven, it would be a magical place filled with Paul McCartney albums and Asian cuisine. To me there is nothing more flavorful and artistic. (I’m specifically talking about the food here, but we can apply that to Paul as well. It works.)

This was my lunch:

Brussels Sprouts Heaven, 2019. The Answer Brewpub. Original Photo by SnapDragon X. All rights reserved.

The Viet Brussel Sprouts main dish did not disappoint. The mushrooms and red pepper medley danced so beautifully with the garlic sauce that I was momentarily distracted from the beer! (Oh, yeah. I also ordered veggie steamed dumplings but promptly devoured them before I could snap a photo. I like to eat. Sue me.)

I love my life.

So, in case you haven’t noticed, I’m obsessed with The Answer. It’s fresh. It’s excellent. And it’s beyond worthy of a road trip.

Cheers!

365 Slices of Life.

I’ve been unemployed for a year.

Woah.

I’ve done a lot in that year. The Husband and I traveled abroad to Paris, Madrid, Stockholm, Helsinki, and St. Petersburg. We also visited the Pacific Northwest, Colorado, and Las Vegas. In between those adventures, we took advantage of our tri-state area status and visited off-the-chain breweries in New York and New Jersey, sampling the finest suds in the region.

It’s okay; you can be jealous. I’m still in awe that these incredible, tasty, and memorable moments happen to me, and so very often.

In addition to expanding my travel log, I’m proud to say I made a lot of progress in my journey as an artist this past year, both in writing and in painting. I took classes at my local Art Association. I set up a make-shift studio at home, complete with drop cloths, easels, and an array of deliciously colorful acrylics. Our house displays my work in nearly every room, as odd and imperfect as it may be.

As far as the writing goes, I sat in numerous main-stream coffee shops, typing away like a stereotypical douchebag. (Currently am, in fact!) It is cliche, but solves the problem of both Henry and Raj either sitting directly on top of the keyboard, or being so damn cute that I just can’t help but stop everything and snuggle. (Yes, that happens. It’s as sweet as it sounds.) Anyway, I have a handful of chapters that I’m proud of. They’re still little babies at this point, in need of much development, but like a parent I’m banking on the potential that lay within.

So, I promise I didn’t start this post with the intention of bragging. Instead, I wanted–needed–to reflect on another year gone by. (starts singing: Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred min-utes! How do you measure, measure a year?)

Indeed, we all have ways of measuring our lives. For us academics, the school years make this all too easy. There’s New Year’s Day, of course. Birthdays. Anniversaries.

Take your pick, but Planet Earth keeps spinning (until we fuck it up so much that it inevitably disintegrates) and it’s up to you to make those days count.

So while I’ll continue to celebrate the big things, I want to savor the small as well.

Because perhaps life is also measured by the immeasurable: those tiny, intimate specks of time that go unphotographed, but add up to a lifetime of character.

This iced coffee has never tasted better. I’m wearing my favorite bluebird earrings. I just heard an obscure Queen song being played at Starbucks. The sun is shining.

I have a shelf full of books to read. We’re rewatching Game of Thrones. My heart is still beating for another day.

My grandmother’s ring sparkles on my finger. I feel warm. I’m getting a tad bit hungry and have money in my wallet to meet this basic need.

I have a brain in my head, a skip in my step, and a smile on my face, because I’m alive, goddamit.

Here’s to another 365 slices of life.

Tip of the Cap, Amy.

A Short Critique of Amy Schumer’s The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo

Review 1. Written by SnapDragon X.

A Note to The Reader:

Let me start by saying I plan to keep these book reviews brief and direct. As an avid reader (and one with a master’s in English) you’d think I’d love articles about the latest and greatest reads. But I don’t. I find most of them much too detailed; I’d rather just get the basics, and read the book to decide for myself whether or not it’s a complete waste of time.

It should also be noted that I’m a bit of a critical asshole when it comes to books. And music. And art. (But I swear I’m a nice person!) It’s just that I take the written word very seriously. There is so much out there (so much!) and I’m a firm believer that we need to separate the wheat from the chaff. (I hold myself to this same standard, which is why I’m giving myself a decade to complete my novel. I’d rather write a single masterpiece than a dozen half-baked pieces of shit.)

And so, let us begin!

Amy Schumer’s The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo (2016)

This is not a book I would typically read. I’m not into stand-up comedy and the only movie of Amy Schumer’s I’ve seen was Trainwreck, of which I wasn’t overly impressed. I also don’t have some obsession with exclusively reading works written by female authors, which I find can be counterproductive to the gender equality initiative I stand for.

But a few Christmases ago I decided it would be fun to ask my friends and family what they were reading, and to download said books to my iPad. As a writer, I aim to stay relevant. And sometimes this means reading works outside my usual, which typically includes: literature, contemporary short stories, and anything by Stephen King.

And so, my best friend had said The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo was currently on her shelf. 

Last month I was struggling with depression, and needed a light-hearted read. Finding Schumer’s memoir on my then-dusty iBooks app, I thought Eh, what the hell. I’ll give it a go.

I could not have been more pleasantly surprised at the depth of Schumer’s tales.

Neatly organized by chapter, Schumer literally had me laughing out loud at her crass yet on-point recounting of life’s intimate moments. I also choked up as she described her relationship with both of her parents. Her tone was earnest, and utterly hilarious at times.

Reading this book was like chatting with an old friend: I found myself comforted, and reminded that we all have stories. We all have memories–many from long ago– that somehow stay with us as we love, grieve, and evolve.

There were many delightful turns-of-phrase, but if I had to pick my favorite, it’s this one:

“Some of us want to look like ourselves. How we were born, a little goofy with some rough angles and some beautiful ones” (Schumer).

I mean… right? Throughout the book Schumer nails just how fucked up our society is, and does it in a refreshing and thoughtful way.

So in closing, I’d highly recommend this book to just about anyone. Curl up on the couch, pour yourself a glass (or three) of wine, and embrace how perfectly imperfect we all are.

Well done, Amy. I think we should be friends.

Those Gentle Beauties.

Land & Sea, 2018. Oregon. Original Photo by SnapDragon X. All rights reserved.

When I meet new people it takes about 30 seconds for them to realize:

I. Love. Animals.

Like, a lot.

Yes, I’m a vegetarian. But I promise I’m not crazy. I won’t throw red paint on your new mink coat. I don’t boycott chain restaurants. I’m married to a carnivore, in fact. I’ve happily cooked Thanksgiving turkeys and taco meat. I just won’t eat it.

Also, I can pretty much guarantee that my closet is home to non-vegan shoes and handbags. I’m aware of the contradiction, yes, seeing as I love love love animals. But I have never once proclaimed to be saving the planet by my dietary choices. I just hate the thought of blood or bones in my food. (Don’t you?)

But back to my original point: Animals make me ridiculously happy.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a pet, farm animal, zoo exhibit, or children’s illustration. Seeing the innocent eyes of a creature always makes me smile. I can’t help but coo and wonder aloud if it’s comfortable and happy and enjoying every moment of its animal life.

So it’s probably no surprise that I’m cat-mom to two sweet babies, Henry and Raja.

Henry, 2017. Original Photo by SnapDragon X. All rights reserved.

This is Henry. He was rescued from an alley in Kansas by my Mother-in-Law, and arrived at our door at six-weeks old. He’s a gentle giant. In fact, he has anxiety like me. If he’s not snuggling on my chest, you can find him “chirping” and roaming about the house. He loves to chase and play with our other cat, Raja. He is the light of my life (along with my husband, of course) and I’m pretty much obsessed with ensuring his every comfort and happiness.

Raja, 2017. Original Photo by SnapDragon X. All rights reserved.

This is Raja. As you can see, she’s not like most cats. She’s a sphynx. We adopted her at four-years-old from a friendly couple who could no longer give her the attention she needs. Similar to a dog, she follows us from room to room. She loves to perch on my husband’s shoulder, like a parrot. Just like Henry, she purrs and snuggles on my chest like a rabbit. She is beautiful, and perfect, and I get insanely angry when people say she’s weird or ugly. Fuck you.

And so, I have the joy of taking care of these beauties each day. I delight in seeing them interact, curious about every cog and corner of our home. When I see the gentle nature of their lives, it gives me pause. May we all enjoy the simplicity of each day.

Because truly: Isn’t life about feeling safe, warm, and loved?

So love your pets today, and always. Respect the animals who also call our planet home.

You won’t regret it.