Monday, September 29, 2014

Forgotten Memories

This month had everything to do with my grandparents. I mean, yes, September has thrown a few wonderful experiences my way (though we both need to be patient and wait for my annual Disney’s Food and Wine Festival blog post for the full scoop!). And I’m also proud to say that my revisions for LOVE FORTUNES AND OTHER DISASTERS are finished. That charming manuscript is in copyediting right now.

But as 2014 creeps closer to its end, I find that my grandparents have invaded my mental bubble with their antics. Consumed by memories that are not my own, I’ve felt slightly dizzy. Daydreaming a little more often.  

Due to a series of events, we have hundreds of old photographs from when my grandparents were little. My mom and I were practically swimming in them as we sorted them as best we could. A kiddie pool tub of photos. Most of them are tiny, with scalloped edges that make it hard to turn the pages of the booklets my grandmother saved from her grand European tour when she was in her 20s.

I’ve always found old photographs to be inspiring and fascinating (yes, I have read and enjoyed Random Riggs’ work), but there’s something strangely muted and mysterious when it comes to family photos. You feel like you should know these people, even though most of them died before you started walking. Overexposures. Blurry arms and legs. So many blinking eyes. Strangers in long coats and hats. Ladies who pose better for a camera than I ever could (just how do they look so graceful all the time?). There were even photos from a World’s Fair – that much my mom knew, and I geeked out and hugged the copies.

I’d like to share a few of the photos I found: of people who will always be strangers to me, of places I have yet to see even in current time and space, and unknowable stories.

And here's my grandmother as a teen. Way more dapper than me!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Do Me a Flavor and Recover From Work

Have you ever experienced the sheer terror and exhilaration (but mostly terror) of trying to meet a deadline? More specifically, like writing an essay due by midnight and you're still madly typing your conclusion at 11:58? That was what my job was like these past two weeks.

Deadlines don't go away after you're done with school. In fact, the stakes of not meeting those deadlines only increases. When we write stories, our characters have deadlines. Our own lives are much the same. At work, I'm part of team, and we function like cogs in a great big timepiece. A timepiece that stalls a lot, doesn't tick when it should, and chimes deafeningly at the most random of times (think surprise emails and fire drills).

In an effort to meet our first big deadline, I spent a good couple days inputting information as the speed of light, which required my hand to produce the same set of actions over and over and over again with my mouse. Cut, hover, right click, paste, open tab, cross the thing off the list, continue. I did not stretch my legs, talk, or go to the bathroom for a good few hours. My deskmate, who is a kind woman who enjoys feeding me spicy Indian food, was appalled that I wouldn't try one of her snacks. "If you don't eat today," she said the following morning, "I'm going to give you an IV drip."

And yet, with the looming deadline, all I could think and feel was:

By the end of those days, My hands were kinda numb. And hurting. I think my left hand only hurt because its sister-hand was in pain. Sort of like how my brother cried and screamed when he saw me crying and screaming after Alien Encounter (nightmare fuel for a little kid, I tell you. There's a reason why Disney replaced that ride).

At times like these, it's important to try to maintain what they call work-life balance. Impossible, yes. But can you come close? If you try. I've been reading a lot. Writing a little. Watching movies and TV shows that had long been collecting dust on my Netflix account. Most exciting for me, as usual, is getting to try weird food. If you haven't noticed, the Lay's Do Us a Flavor contest is upon us again this year.

I was thrilled. I submitted my own flavor idea (obviously, this year is not the year of the prawn-flavored chips, aww) and couldn't wait to taste the finalists' chips. Last year, I had a hard time finding the chips where I lived, to the point where I tried special ordering them (and failing). Two of my friends ended up mailing me the chips - it was the only way I got to test-taste them last year.

Preparing for another chip-hunt this year, I was relieved to see that Lay's got it right: all four flavors were in my grocery store (in fact, they are everywhere). An awesome co-worker even went ahead and bought small bags of each; we ended up turning our lunch hours that week into exciting taste-testing sessions. The best distraction from work, haha.

Bacon Mac & Cheese: Honestly, there's nothing wrong with this flavor, except that it doesn't taste like bacon mac and cheese. At all. Can't taste the bacon. Or the cheese, for that matter. If you close your eyes and ignore what the bag says, it tastes like honey barbecue - and that already exists.  

Mango Salsa: When I saw the commercials, this flavor was the one I was most excited about. I wanted it to win; after all, I love everything mango. And mango salsa. Of course. How could this go wrong? Mango Salsa is still my second favorite choice, but I think the wavy shape of the chips don't lend well to the distribution of flavor. And as other reviewers said, it smells just like a Bath & Body Works product. Whether that is a good or bad thing is up to you. 

Cappuccino: ... no. I swear I tried it. I don't like coffee. My co-workers inhale it. Yet I was the one who made the plunge and ate the first chip *shudders* I don't know how to describe it. Like something plain, stale, and non-edible. 

Ginger Wasabi: Top choice, right here. At first, I wasn't very excited about Ginger Wasabi because it's already been done with Triscuit (wasabi and soy sauce, but you know, same principle). The Lay's version is more delicate, allowing you to eat a ton of chips without suffering from watery eyes and the stinging of the nose, haha. I think it's tasty. I also love sushi, so I may be biased. 

Have you tried any of the flavors? Voted? What did you think? 

Just like my coverage of Disney's Food and Wine Festival, I think this Lay's contest is going to be a regular thing. 

Meanwhile, I've also been celebrating the release of Sandy Hall's debut novel, A LITTLE SOMETHING DIFFERENT! Sandy's book was the first chosen by Swoon Reads for publication. I enjoyed reading the ARC, but nothing beats holding the real book in your hands. If you haven't gotten your copy, you need to get on that. Or at least, go to your local bookstore and pet the cover. You'll be glad you did.