Thursday, May 31, 2012

What $20.14 Gets You

Last week I posted about buying advertising on Etsy in an effort to make my first photograph sale (challenge no. 18). I bought a week's worth of ads, which stop after seven days or $25, whichever comes first. After the seven days, I ended up spending $20.14. And here's what that money got me:

No sale yet, but some page views that came out of 17,236 impressions (this was how many times my ad popped up in someone's search results).

And the winner of the week with the most "favorites" is a tie between Blue Door and Italy by Train:

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Row Your Boat

On Memorial Day I took one more step toward completing my year-long water challenge (challenge no. 19). I rowed a boat across a Central Park Lake. Austin helped with the rowing. And by "helped" I mean he did most of the rowing. Apparently I have "weak girl muscles" that were "embarrassing" him in front of all of Manhattan. He saved me from a lifetime of mockery. A keeper, that one.

Anyway, it was beautiful and stuff: 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


I celebrated my half birthday on Saturday, which means that I only have six more months to complete my challenges.

Oh boy. Here are some nervous exclamation points: !!!!!

Let's have an update, shall we? The challenges in blue are the ones I'm actively working on. The challenges in green are the ones that are completed. The challenges in purple are the ones that I haven't started but are "in the works" or being planned out. If it's in green and I haven't written about it yet, a post is coming.
  1. Do yoga three days a week.
  2. Give a stranger $100. Film it and post it on YouTube.
  3. Eat 29 cupcakes in 29 days and write a review of each. 
  4. Research and identify 10 procedural reforms that would help move congress and the executive office back to being a government of the people and for the people. Print these 10 reforms on handout cards and distribute to anyone and everyone you know. Post them on your Facebook page and website. 
  5. Travel overseas, ride trains only, and put together a collection of photos titled "Window Seat."
  6. Sit in silence and stillness each morning for 15 minutes before you start your day.
  7. Write and direct your own short film and submit it to a film festival.
  8. Spend one night in a women's shelter, make a connection and offer to take family portraits.
  9. Make and bottle your own wine. Save it for a future birthday.
  10. Lie down on your back in a NYC street and pretend to be a dead bug. 
  11. Write a sad story about a girl who gets the things she always wanted -- on your typewriter.  
  12. Make a conceptual photo series, preferably a book. 
  13. Your 27th and 28th years were characterized by massive life changes that included a move and job change; my challenge is make one more life change. I'm not going to define it, but some suggestions would be: take another step with Austin, get a friend for Dagmar, get involved with something you care about in an incredibly inconvenient capacity.
  14. Take flying lessons.
  15. Do 200 crunches and three 1-minute planks every other day. And assist your scared, almost-grad cousin in finding a job in Atlanta. 
  16. End every day by writing down one positive thing that happened in the previous 24 hours.
  17. Learn how to perform an authentic Japanese tea ceremony.
  18. Get a photo (or photos) into a gallery/showing AND/OR sell one of your photos.
  19. A year-long water challenge: Drink 1 liter of water per day, wade across a stream, swim across a pool, row across a lake or pond, and fly across an ocean.
  20. Make and bring your lunch 2 out of 5 days a week.
  21. Manifest yourself in an act of humanitarianism that permanently and positively enriches the life of a child. The act may not be accomplished with direct financial, but must involve sacrifice of your time and attention.
  22. Research your Jewish heritage going back at least four generations. 
  23. Pay one compliment to a different person every day.
  24. Raise a basil plant and name it Kyle.
  25. Take an art class and create an original painting.
  26. Keep a Smash Book (scrapbook) for the year.
  27. Write words (the grouping of letters that hints of story and promise), even if it's only one line or thought or idea, in a momentary embrace of lapse of reason, everyday, and incorporate these words into a future novel.
  28. Learn to sew, design an outfit, make it, do a self-portrait in it.
  29. Attend 10 religious services. Record your impression of each.  
  30. Write the first chapter of your first novel and the outline. Submit to a publisher.
My plans for June include more religious services, starting to sew my outfit, buying my utensils for my Japanese tea ceremony, finishing my short film script, lying on my back and pretending to be a dead bug in the street, taking more photos for my portrait series, and giving a stranger $100.

Oh, and selling one of my damn photos. I might have to go door-to-door for that one.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Advertising Experiment

Yesterday evening I dabbled in some Etsy advertising for my photography shop (challenge no. 18). It's relatively easy, and I appreciate the spending cap they utilize. It's also fun to see how many impressions you're expected to receive. Seems like money well spent, right?

After going live at 8:00 a.m. this morning, my ads have generated a whopping ONE page view (!) and 146 impressions.

So far it has cost me $0.14.

This is a results-oriented side of advertising that I rarely get to see, but I find it interesting to follow along on the website and see what my money is actually getting me:

If anyone else has taken advantage of Etsy advertising, I welcome any advice you may have.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Smash Book: Life Change Edition

A certain mother of a certain fiance was kind enough to give me a wedding Smash Book, a place to write down ideas and keep a handle on the time-eating stress monster that is wedding planning. Don't worry, I'm totally looking forward to it.

Side note: Mr. Hamilton did not ask for my hand in marriage just so I could cross Challenge no. 13 off the list. He actually does want to marry me, I suspect for the following reasons: (1) My grammar skills are superb; (2) Watching me attempt to dance is the fast train to a good laugh; and (3) I keep buying him swords.

Back to the Smash Book. Aesthetically, I'm loving the vintage, design, typographic, and rustic details that are scattered among its pages:

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Fashion Sketches

I never sketched out my idea for my DIY outfit (challenge no. 28), primarily because I can't draw. But I do have the vision in my head and my fabrics have been purchased, which I'd argue is half the battle.

But speaking of fashion sketches, here are some beautiful ones I came across recently:

And just to prove that I have no sketching talent whatsoever, here are two of my own:

No one would ever buy this outfit.

 At least the hair is better in this one, but there is the problem of the chicken bone hand.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Photo Series Part Two

Happy belated Mother's Day to all of the moms out there (including my own, who has held the no. 1 spot since about 6:00 p.m. on November 26, 1982).

So it was rather appropriate that on this day I completed another session toward my photo series in which small children style their parent(s) for a portrait.

This one I call Abstract Cupcake

And it is my great pleasure to introduce the artist behind this masterpiece:

Friday, May 11, 2012

Friday Faux Gras

A few months back I ranted and raved and squealed about this stuff, Faux Gras, also known as Toasted Walnut Lentil Pate:

My friend Ian, dazzled and moved by my glorious blog, decided to try out his own version. According to him, it was spectacular. So I had to make it for myself:

1.5 cups of uncooked brown lentils
About 4 cups of water
1 heaped TSP of Marmite
2 large onions, sliced/chopped
Olive oil
A bag of walnuts*
1 TBS soy sauce
Freshly ground pepper

Cook the lentils for 45 minutes with the water and Marmite. Drain any excess water.

While the lentils are simmering, saute the onions on low heat slowly in olive oil. Check and stir frequently. This slow, gentle caramelizing of the onions gives this spread its outstanding flavor.

Blend everything (I used a food processor) until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

*I decided to toast my walnuts in the oven at 375 degrees for about 10 minutes before blending with the other ingredients.

Okay, so it looks a little like cat food. But trust me, this stuff is insanely good. I put it in a collard leaf with some julienned carrots and zucchini for a nice lunch earlier this week (challenge no. 20).

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Basil Plant That Could

Kyle (challenge no. 24) may be the turtle of basil plants (he's growing at a slower rate than I read he should be), but he sure is good lookin':

And to think this is where we started:

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Time for Tea. Almost.

Early on in my challenge year I took a Japanese Tea Ceremony lesson for challenge no. 17. The experience was great, and while I don't really have the funds for continuous lessons (the Japanese study the way of tea for lifetimes), that initial introduction provided me with a basic understanding of what this whole thing is all about. Yes, there are a million and one details to conquer within this art, but I am confident I can learn enough to perform my own bare-bones ceremony for a few of my friends.

As a step toward performing my own ceremony, I found a book that outlines all of the steps, the equipment needed for each step, and many other components (etiquette, the aesthetics of the room, the history):

The next step, after reading the book of course, is to purchase all of the tea tools. Stay tuned for my tea ceremony haul.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Yes, Quakers Still Exist

I refuse to make a joke about oats. Trust me, I was planning on it. But after experiencing a Quaker religious service (otherwise known as a "meeting") for challenge no. 29, I have nothing but respect for those who call themselves "Friends." These were some of the nicest people I've ever met, faithful and hopeful despite a dying membership and dwindling funds.

Below is a description of Quakerism straight from the website of the Fifteenth Street Religious Society of Friends, where I completed religious service number six out of ten. Pay close attention to the third paragraph, for this is the essence of this religious service experience:

So on Sunday off I frolicked to the Fifteenth Street Religious Society of Friends. It went a little something like this:

9:30 - I arrive and take a seat. Fourteen Friends sit in remarkable silence and stillness inside the sanctuary. Rows of pews on all four sides of the square room face inward toward the center. There is no light beyond the sun coming through the large windows. It looks like the inside of the church that burned down in The Patriot. RIP Heath Ledger.

9:34 - Another Friend arrives. The door creaks rudely.

9:36 - A dog barks.

9:39 - My pinky twitches. I fear I have attracted too much attention.

9:44 - No one has said a word yet. I observe the positions of the others: one with her hands in her lap, cupped and facing upward; another with his shoulders back, outstretched arms resting on the pew; one with her elbows resting on her knees, her head down and hands clasped together.

9:51 - I accept the silence and begin to attempt some sort of meditation. It goes well until someone coughs and I have a near heart attack.

9:58 - My back hurts.

10:05 - Police siren.

10:08 - Thirty eight minutes of silence. I'm starting to wonder if my sarcastic internal monologues are interfering with the Quaker energy. I vow to open up myself to messages from above.

10:11 - I could really go for some pancakes.

10:14 - I hear an owl. I know, right? An owl!

10:17 - I send a silent message to whoever might be listening, expressing my gratitude for my health, my family, my friends, my employment status, and my recent betrothal.

10:25 - Five minutes left. Wondering if I should say something just to freak everyone out.

10:30 - An elder Friend rises from the pew, signaling the end of the "meeting." All others follow suit, start shaking hands with one another and saying, "Good morning."

At this point the elder Friend, an old man with a cane, thick-rimmed glasses and a fedora, addressed the group in a shaky, kind voice. He invited everyone for snacks in the hall so that they could discuss what was experienced in the silence of the last hour. Then he made a heart-breaking plea for funds. I took a look around at the FIFTEEN members that had come to worship that day. They each shared his look of desperation. If the man in the fedora had a credit card machine I would have maxed mine out right then and there out of sheer pity.

I find Quakerism to be such an interesting faith, one that exists on the utter fringe of our day-to-day life, but what I realized in this visit is that its few members need each other and their meetings and their space to worship. This is a huge part of their life, and its being slowly taken away by skyrocketing rents and a lack of exposure.

I actually felt bad for showing up, for making them think that I may be interested in joining their community. I led the Quakers on and genuinely feel horrible about it.

And so this is for them: I realize that you have no good reason to give your hard-earned money to some Quakers you've never met in NYC, but if for some reason you feel so inclined, or are under the influence of alcohol and happen to be a generous drunk, click HERE to donate money to keep their church up and running.

Good morning.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Positively Speaking

Every night I write down one positive thing that happened in the previous 24 hours (challenge no. 16). Here are just a few of the ones I've written down lately:

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Don't Be a Bully

My adventures in tutoring (challenge no. 21) continue. I've been "permanently and positively enriching the life of a child" since the first week of January, and as I mentioned before, my first student, the beloved M, moved away to a different school. Who knows if I ever got through to her, but I saw giant leaps of progress, both intellectually and behaviorally, over the course of our tumultuous relationship. I came out of it without any physical wounds, so overall the whole thing was a huge success.

After M came J, who is new to the school. She's sweet, quiet without being shy and, for lack of a better word, large. We all know what happens when you're the chubby kid in class. Yesterday during our session I asked her how she was adjusting. Turns out she has only one friend and quite a few bullies. "I don't let them get to me though," she said, but her eyes revealed an obvious sadness.

The moment made me think about the award-laden film "Bully," which opened on March 30th (everywhere April 13th). I have not seen it yet, but the trailer tells me that it's going to make me sad and then angry and then hopeful and then still kind of sad:

I just hope that for J it doesn't get worse. Because from what I can tell, the teachers and parents of a public elementary school filled with transient students on the Lower East Side have other things to worry about.   

As I dropped her back off at her classroom, I took the liberty of having a cheesy Full House end-of-the-episode moment. I told her that "the only way to let the bullies win is to let them affect you. You are so much better than they are. You may not see it now, but you will one day."

Then we high-fived as the music faded out.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Kale and White Bean Salad

For today's lunch (challenge no. 20), I made a hearty and delicious salad with homemade caesar dressing. I found the recipe here.

1 small or 1/2 medium head dinosaur (lacinato) kale, sliced into thin ribbons
6 sundried tomatoes, sliced into narrow strips
1/2 cup white beans

1/2 cup cashews
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/4 tsp salt
Juice of two lemons
Black pepper
3 pitted dates
1 tsp dulse flakes
3/4 cup water

Blend all of the dressing ingredients until smooth and creamy. Massage over the kale (I used three tablespoons of dressing for my portion). Add the beans and sundried tomatoes and toss.