This Beautiful Photo Collage Blanket Made an Awesome Gift!

photo collage blanket

For a while now, I’ve really enjoyed taking advantage of my Nikon DSLR to take some great pictures of NYC. I used to be a broadcast journalism major in college and got to get my hands dirty a little bit with DSLR cameras for some of my projects, and I’ve loved it ever since. I also love to sit and edit, whether it’s film or photos, so it was natural for me to keep up this hobby post-college. I’ve been lucky enough to do some portraits and freelance on the side, but it’s my NYC photos that I take just for myself.

In one of my previous posts, I talked about my ongoing photography project. One day — maybe it’s when I’m long-gone from this beautiful, crazy city of lights — I’d like to put together a coffee table book of sorts with my photos of the city. I don’t take out my camera as much as I’d like to (just seems like I forget half the time), but I have been having fun with my snaps in the meantime. Every now and then, I’ll choose a print and get it blown up on canvas for my apartment (Groupon and LivingSocial always have great deals!).

Recently, I thought to try out the website to try a new project. I had seen a deal (LivingSocial to the rescue again!) for a photo collage blanket and instantly thought of those beautiful blankets that Susan Sarandon’s character in Stepmom makes for her kids. I LOVED those and wondered if maybe my NYC pictures might look good on a blanket.


I can’t even EXPLAIN how impressed I was when I got my my blanket in the mail. Not only did the pictures print absolutely BEAUTIFULLY and so crisp, the quality of the blanket was also wonderful. It was a super light fleece blanket that is just the right amount of weight for a comforter alternative or a couch throw.

I gifted this blanket, but I’ve seriously considered taking it back because I love it so much. 😉 Seriously, it’s one of the best projects I’ve worked on and definitely one of the best purchases I’ve made.

Also — when I was on the site putting together the blanket, they had another promotion going on to upgrade the blanket size with a coupon code, so I was able to use my LivingSocial voucher and the coupon code! (The blanket covers a full-sized bed.)

Here are some other pictures of the project:

photo collage blanket photo collage blanket


The Confessions of a [Newbie] Online Dater

online dating experience

Okay, I did it — I joined an online dating site.

And pigs aren’t flying? Well, that’s a relief.

People Do This?

I realize it’s 2013 and a confession about indulging in the online dating scene isn’t as groundbreaking as it seems, but apparently I was left off the memo that this is the “new thing to do.” No, really! Apparently people — my age — do this, and it’s totally normal.

I know, I know. Half of you are thinking that I’m some judgmental ignoramus, who has been sitting in her apartment watching Netflix alone on nights when others were out on dates wondering why it’s so hard to just meet a freakin’ guy but refusing to do anything out of the norm for it to happen. Well…I’m not even going to lie — you’re kind of right. It’s just that I really didn’t know that online dating had somehow erupted into something that people just do and didn’t resort to — although I know those reasons aren’t mutually exclusive either.

Big Apple, Big Disappointment

Let’s start from the beginning. When I moved to New York City last year, I was about a year out of college and excited for my new life as a city girl working and frolicking in The Big Apple. All Carrie Bradshaw clichés aside, the thought of being single and ready to mingle in a city where you literally can’t walk a block without running into an attractive guy was pretty exciting. A potential relationship was exciting — all those guys I’d be meeting and dating — oh, la, la!

Except, I didn’t.

How is that even logistically possible in the largest city in the US? I know, everyone and their mom has asked me this. All I can say is that you really need to stop watching Sex and The City because that show is a freakin’ lie if there ever was one.

Dorothy, We’re Not in College Anymore

So over a year later, I’m wondering why in the world it’s so hard to meet normal guys or even PEOPLE to hang out with post-college, and it hit me — I’m not in college anymore. This isn’t a little Utopia, where life is contained in perfect harmony between your work/education and social lives. There aren’t frat parties or campus events where you can run into a cutie and know that you at least have that one thing in common. No, in the real world, you have to do this thing called “making effort.” Damnit.

So, more than a year and a few frogs later, I was convinced to try online dating. Maybe it’s more common on the East Coast, but as much as I’d had my impression that people resorted to online dating because of whatever reason, I realized none were  as dramatic as I’d assumed. I have more than a friend — hell, I have a club of friends my age with whom I talk about my online dating adventures. In some sense, we all did “resort” to online dating but not because we’re spinsters, a bunch of crazies or desperate to get married. We just couldn’t freakin’ meet cool singles living in the city with similar interests who wanted to just date.

I’m a couple months in to this new club, and I have to say it’s pretty fun. I have my own rules on meeting a potential date, and to whom I respond and why. More or less, it’s just like normal dating with a few obvious differences. I won’t divulge too much, but if you are wondering what it’s like, I’ll give you the unofficial Cliff Notes version.

The Confessions of an Online Dater

Take these with a grain of salt, and please, just please remember — I can be really awkward when it comes to dating and relationships (like middle school awkward). It might be of interest to take that into consideration first.

  1. The first message is 10x harder than an opening line at a bar, party, wherever. My rule of thumb in determining whether the guy is a total creep or weirdo is to ask myself this: Did he actually say something weird? If the answer is no, then give him the benefit of the doubt. The first time a guy messaged me, “Hey, how’s it going?” I literally wanted to think he was a creep just because it felt so weird getting a message like that from someone I didn’t know, until I realized that this whole thing was an unnatural process to begin with. This is where it’s definitely not like normal dating. If he or she doesn’t say something weird, then it’s a good sign!
  2. I really hate ignoring messages — like I really hate ignoring messages. I just feel like a bitch not responding to or acknowledging this human being trying to show interest in me. But then I think — he gets it. There’s some understood social etiquette to online dating, and an unanswered message probably means: I looked at your profile and your pictures, and you didn’t interest me — or your message was freakin’ weird (see #1). He’s throwing out a fishnet into the ocean; he’s expecting to catch one or two, and he’s probably not going to take this that personally if his first message isn’t answered. Just don’t be such a girl when your fishnet only comes back with a few swimmers too…(So, I tell myself.)
  3. Okay, I’m glad this site has a nifty messaging service, but I’m going to need to know you’re a real person at some point. My thing with online dating is that I want to use it as a means to be introduced to a guy — not to get to know him. Some people are okay with online messaging for a significant amount of time, but I’d rather not. A handful of messages is fine, but I’d like to actually see you in person sooner than later because, let’s face it, that’s really going to be what I’m going to judge you on. That also means no long-distance. If I can’t meet you, then I don’t want to talk to you — simple as that!
  4. The most important thing about online dating is being comfortable with doing it. It’s different, new and a little intimidating, but if you can’t jump in and just do it with 100% confidence, then don’t do it. It’s a means to meet people; you’re not signing your soul away! (Unless you join the site where they do that…) Don’t feel ashamed to do it, and definitely don’t feel ashamed if you meet someone great from it. Embrace it, and enjoy it!

Have you done online dating? I want to know your thoughts about it and/or experiences!

Did You Just Say That? Oh, The Ridiculous Things Guys Say

Okay, I promise this isn’t a post just to bitch about “why guys just say the dumbest things,” blah, blah, blah. I really do empathize with the pressure a guy must feel when introducing himself to a new girl. He not only needs to have the right approach that’s just smooth enough without being douchey and forward enough without being creepy, but he also has to make sure to have a great opening line. Unfortunately first impressions stick, and all the so-called rules can be a lot to deal with. Totally on your side, there.

But seriously…sometimes I just want to ask a guy, “Did you just say that….out loud?”

I’m sure I heard some pretty crazy ridiculous things in college (because college guys are the best for saying the stupidest shit, let’s just be honest), but I feel the post-college guys have left a bigger impression. Maybe I’m just hearing a lot of ridiculous things back-to-back, or maybe guys are just getting worse at understanding that a simple “Hey, how are you?” is totally okay as an opening line, but why not take a look back at the best, most ridiculous things guys have said to me — at least in working memory — and reminisce a little…

Is That Really You?!

(Looking at my ID)

Him:  Wow, you’re so much hotter in person…

Me: …Um…yeah..I was 18 in that picture. I had some baby fat, I guess…

Him: No, but really…you look much hotter in person. It’s not just the baby fat. You just look much better in person.

Me: Thanks…

Dear God, do you just not know when to stop talking? I know some devil’s advocate out there wants to tell me, “The guy was trying to give you a compliment, give him a break.” I understand that that may have been the intent, but I’m not even really sure. This guy was so insistent on making sure to continue to point out that I just looked SO much better in person than I did in a picture that was six years old. When you’ve already said something that could so easily get misconstrued anyway, why are you going to keep repeating yourself as if it’s helping the case? Comparing a girl to her own self and telling her that one version is SO much better looking? That’s not a compliment, and now you sound like an ass…three times over.

Don’t Be So Uptight, Okay?

(Text before meeting up for the first time)

Him:  I’ve been having a hard work week, so you have to promise not to be uptight and be laid back.

Who, in his right mind, thinks this is a totally casual, perfectly okay text to send someone before meeting up for the first time? He followed this up by saying that I also had to let him pay for the bill without any arguments, so I took that he was trying to be nice in his own weird way? Still, asking someone to promise not to be uptight because you’ve had a hard work week…that’s a bit much, especially when you don’t know each other.

Where Are You From, Really?

(A guy talking to me and my [clearly] African-American friend)

Him: So, do you know where you’re from in Africa?

Us: *crickets*

My Friend: No…I’m not from Africa. 

Him: No, I know. But I had a friend named [some very African name] who was from Ghana.

(Did he even make a point?)

My Friend: Okay, but he was obviously actually from Africa. I’m not. My name is Jane Doe.

Him: No, I know, but I just thought that maybe you know where in Africa you’re from.

My Friend: I’m not from Africa…!!

Sadly, this conversation kept going on in circles like this for a couple of minutes with the guy still arguing his point that he had other Black friends who were actually from Africa, so maybe my friend knew her “origins.” (Come on, way to be so stereotypically racist.) His other friends, just so you know, had actually recently emigrated from Africa and had ethnic ties to their respective countries, not just a shared genetic pool with other “Africans.” Yet another instance when I just can’t help but wonder why someone would continue going on and on when the first attempt to say something that could totally go hit-or-miss OBVIOUSLY missed.

Oh, the ridiculous guys things say…

Stroke of Midnight: Welcome 2013

Welcome to the Future

Welcome to the Future

Wow, is it really 2013 today? When I was younger, growing up in the 90’s (the good old days), I used to refer to the far-away future by saying something like “…yeah, maybe in 2013” as if it was unimaginable to even think I’d be alive to see a year that far away. Realistically, it wasn’t that far away because I’m only still in my early 20’s, but it still feels pretty futuristic to be living in a year like 2013. But here it is: 2-0-1-3.

People always put pressure on what they’ll be doing at midnight every New Year’s Eve, and it’s a bit silly when you think about it. Time is ongoing, cyclical — and the beginning of a new year is more symbolic than anything else. Still, it’s a memorable time — to remember exactly what you were doing and where you were at the beginning of a new chapter.

12:00 a.m., January 1, 2013 for me was already memorable because I was in my favorite city: New York City. Not the friendliest to the passerby, but a soulmate to those living here, NYC had given me some great memories in the last year. I was spending New Year’s with a few friends at one of their apartments in the city, and the night was expected to be a great time ringing in 2013 with drinks, foods and general merriment. The hilarity and memorable ridiculousness that ensued wasn’t anything that we thought would happen, but it will definitely stay in my mind as one of the most memorable New Year’s I’ve had so far.

I was with just a few friends having snacks, playing drinking games and enjoying each other’s company on New Year’s Eve. We had a great view of the New York City skyline from the apartment we were in, and we had been debating for over an hour whether to head up to the rooftop to make an attempt to the see the fireworks that would be going off all around the city at midnight. Finally at 11:58, we decided to make a dash for it. There seemed to be an issue communicating to half of the 5 of us to walk out of the apartment and get into the elevator quickly before we missed midnight altogether. By the time we all made it in, there was less than 30 secs left before the stroke of midnight…

Then the elevator got stuck.

The rooftop had been closed off so the elevator made an attempt to go back down the 3 floors it needed to for us to be back on our floor. With 10 seconds left, we couldn’t believe our ridiculous predicament and resolved to begin the countdown. 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1…

Happy New Year!

In all our vain to make our New Year’s spectacular with fireworks and an amazing view, we had missed everything altogether. We didn’t see the ball drop; we didn’t see any fireworks — we just spent it together laughing at the superb mess and perfect ridiculousness stuck in an elevator.

A minute later, we realized our elevator doors were only opening a few inches and closing up again. We really were stuck.

One of the brave in our party decided to try and pry the doors open, hoping the censors would kick in simultaneously. We got the drama we had wanted of beginning the New Year with something to remember as we literally scrambled out of the elevator hoping we wouldn’t be crushed by the steel doors.

And back in the apartment we went, only a few minutes after we had left. So, the first moment of 2013 was spent stuck in an elevator of a very nice apartment building in one of the most wonderful cities in the world. Not quite what I expected, but memorable it was nonetheless. Perhaps it was just the beginning of many circumstances this year that will play out in the same wonderful chaos into something better than expected?  Who knows!

Happy 2013 to you all, and may this year finally bring us what 2012 didn’t and more of what it did.

Foprah Meets Anderson Cooper

Ryan and I at Anderson Live

So, it happened again: I met another one of my idols today — and it was nuts! It all started when I came across a website a couple of weeks ago that listed  live shows that taped in NYC with free tickets. Since I moved here in May, I’ve wanted to take more advantage of the amazing things that go on in this city everyday — a lot of things that some people might call “touristy.” I’ve realized that I forget I live in New York City sometimes, and as much as being a local is great, it makes you kind of lazy. Sometimes, I just get the urge to live like a tourist because they’re doing things that are really…cool — for the lack of a better word. Getting tickets and standing in line to see someone like Anderson Cooper might not be something every New Yorker wants to do, but I was ready in a heartbeat.

I’ve been an Anderson Cooper fan for years and started watching his talk show last year when I was living at home in Texas. I had completely forgotten his show filmed here, and getting tickets was as simple as filling out a form and choosing a date. Voila — I had my ticket in a couple of hours! Originally, I had decided I would just go on my own because my schedule is more flexible, and I knew most people couldn’t just take off a day of work to go. Then I enlisted a fellow UT Journalism grad friend and Anderson Cooper fan, Ryan, who recently moved to New York himself. We both got our tickets really easily and were counting down the days until we’d be in the audience of Anderson Live!

This morning, all I could think to myself was: I have got to talk to him or meet him. After what happened 2 years ago at Oprah’s show — I figured nothing was impossible, and I could feel the crazy in me starting to unleash itself (Ryan was forewarned). We arrive promptly at 10:30 for the 11:00 call-time and stood outside for a while before we were checked through security and escorted to the waiting room. Surprisingly, they didn’t take our phones or cameras. I was approached to see if I’d like to ask the guest on the show that day (who I can’t talk about) a question, and I said of course! I was told there might not even be time for questions, but they took my name down and the question I’d ask ahead of time just in case. About half an hour later, a couple of small groups of people including Ryan and me were escorted to the studio first. If Oprah’s studio was small, Anderson’s was tiny (much smaller than it looks on TV!) The studio was set up in mostly long benches on the ground floor and then individual seats that tiered up. Lo and behold, I got the aisle seat right in the middle (and on the last ground floor row) because I was supposed to ask my question.  Needless to say, flashbacks of Oprah’s show were coming back to me. I was so excited thinking that Anderson might be walking by me to the stage. Unfortunately he didn’t (yet), and we just saw him pop up on the set from another entrance. Before he came out, the audience team got the audience pumped and excited for the show. The lady walked over to where I was sitting and told the audience that Anderson really liked to hang out there when talking to the audience (!!!) so, just to know that he would probably coming by.

A little later, Anderson came over to greet the audience — he stood less than 3 feet in front of me and the rush of blood just took over. He took questions from the audience, which I had no idea would happen, so I started frantically thinking of what I could say to him. Without thinking, I raised my hand and because he was standing right in front of me, he looked at me right away and called on me….!

My first reaction was that of a 5-year-old girl’s who just met Prince Charming: I shrank down, giggled and blushed with my heart pounding. Oh my gosh, what do I say?! He and the whole audience laughed (although he didn’t do his famous giggle), and he graciously came closer to shake my hand and ask me how I was. (He added, “Hi, I’m Anderson.” with a big smile on his face — swoon!) I took a big breath, introduced myself and told him that I was a journalist, had moved here in May and meeting him has been my main goal since coming here. (Partially true) I told him embarrassingly that I always looked for him when walking around in NYC (to which he said “Oh I’m all over!”). I told him I tweeted him all the time too and he actually asked what my Twitter handle was (as if he would recognize it?). Again, slightly embarrassing when I told him it was “IamFoprah.” He replied, “I am Foprah?” and I explained to him that I met Oprah a couple of years ago because I told her my nickname was Foprah (full circle or what?), and she actually told me that great things like this would happen to me if I just let them. I told him that I felt like that’s why I was sitting there and I was so excited! He then asked me where I had moved from and I told him, following it up by asking how he liked Texas. Anderson said he really liked it — mentioning Houston and Dallas and only Austin when I asked him about it (bummer). He said he really liked Austin too and mentioned the new 85 mph speed limit, and how he really wanted to go down there and just speed like crazy down the road haha!

And that was my chat with Anderson. He didn’t give me amazing insight or ask me backstage, but we had a small conversation (and he subconsciously knows my Twitter handle…). My friend, Ryan, was no less lucky.

The audience team lady had called on him prior to this and asked him about himself. When she realized how nervous and embarrassed he got being called on (by the different colors his face kept turning), she kept picking on him during the commercial breaks. At one point she jokingly said, “I wonder how many more colors your face can change.” to which I told her to bring Anderson over and see. Halfway through the show, during another commercial break — she did it. She brought Anderson over to meet Ryan on the pretense of trying to see his face change color (it did), and they met and shook hands, too.

After the show, Anderson took more questions and he stood inches from me the entire time. All I could think was, how do I get him to take us backstage?! Alas, it didn’t happen — but the experience was just amazing. Truthfully, he is a really funny and down-to-earth person that I couldn’t respect more. He spoke about his love for reporting and storytelling and how staying neutral in his work helped him to connect with people he interviewed. The audience clapped when he said he felt that sometimes people are their best in tragedies, and he had seen it firsthand during situations like Hurricane Katrina when total strangers helped each other. What he had to say about journalism was really admirable, and when people ask me why I’m so in love with Anderson Cooper, I say because I respect him and his work. Anderson Cooper as a person and professional is truly great — and okay, he’s gorgeous and extremely charming in person, too!

Sigh, what a fantastic day! Anderson, I sincerely hope we meet again very soonnnn!

On the Move: Buddy Boy Movers to the Rescue

Buddy Boy Movers

If there was one thing I hated almost more than anything else (although — I’m sure grocery shopping is a close tie), it’s moving. The whole process couldn’t be more stressful: the looking for a new place, signing forms and leases (and that’s just the beginning!), packing boxes, throwing out and donating things, and then of course — the laborious, exhaustive part of actually moving and then unpacking it all. I’ve moved at least 10 times in my life, and I’ve come to realize it’s not only physically tiring but also emotionally. Why? I don’t really know — maybe the process of seeing so many things tied to your life being packed up? Probably a bit of the “starting anew” part too adds to the stress of moving. Whatever it is, I’m always a mess when it comes to moving, and doing it in New York City was a completely new experience — 10x more chaotic and stressful than ever before…

You don’t realize how much you just need a car (or a friend with one) until you are trying to transport things from one place to another. I absolutely love and live for NYC’s public transportation, but not when I’m lugging things around. Today, I was supposed to move two large suitcases, 1 small suitcase, and 2 1/2 small boxes — items that would have easily fit into an SUV or van, but since no one around here has one, I had to hire a mover — because there’s no way I was going to be able to lift all that into a cab.

Last night I called these guys: who were supposed to charge $25/hr for one man and a van and $45/hr for two men and a van. I was told I would have to get two men so one could stay with the van and the other help me; in the end I was quoted a flat rate of $50. I knew the job would take less than an hour because I had all my things ready and was just moving further downtown, so I really think $45 was more fair, but I booked an appointment for 9 a.m the next day and agreed on $50. I was told I’d get a call ahead of time, so I made sure to be ready by 8:45 — no call. 9:00 — no call. 9:10 — no call. I gave them a ring and was told I’d get a call back. 9:30 — no call. I called back angry but professional and was told someone was “on the way.” I asked for a discount considering I had been on my stoop for 30 minutes and had to call over and over. The guy told me I was already getting the “minimum price,” so I told him that I was actually paying $50 when their ad advertised for $45/hr. The guy told me, “Well, you can find someone else then.” and hung up — while I was in mid-sentence.

Exhausted and at a loss of what to do after having lugged all my heavy bags and boxes outside, I tried to hail a cab for 45 minutes on my stoop, but to no avail because each one was full. I even had a neighbor miraculously (the same nice man who helped me open my door for an hour the night I moved in) come out and watch my things while I tried to get a cab on a main avenue. One cab stopped and told me he wouldn’t come back around.

Completely a hot mess, desperate and unimaginably exhausted, I started just looking for another mover on my phone who could come and help me. It was also at this point that a rat came out of nowhere and ran over my toes…and yes, I was wearing open-toed sandals.

I found Rob from Rob the Mover and gave him a ring nearly in tears. He told me he would try to help me but it would probably be hours and asked me to text him my number. A few minutes later I got a text from him saying John would call me and could come in two hours at the earliest. Lo and behold, John did call. Practically crying at this point, I told John how desperate I was and adding to my argument that there are genuinely nice people in NYC, he actually seemed to feel bad for me. He even lowered his price for me a bit and said he’d be on his way ASAP because he was at a job already. A little over 30 minutes later, I got a text from him saying he was on his way, and less than 10 minutes later — John from Buddy Boy Movers showed up.

Not only was John professional, but he was genuinely gracious and kind. The first words out of his mouth were “Just breathe — it’s going to be okay.” 30 minutes later, I was at my new apartment and John had taken my heavy items up to my apartment on the 2nd floor already. After the most horrendous morning, he was truly a Godsend. So, if you need to move in NYC, definitely check out Buddy Boy Movers, and John will take care of you. (You can also call him directly at 917-861-6493). Turns out he used to work for Rob at Rob the Mover, and Rob had kindly called him for the job after hearing my sob story. So, I would highly recommend his service also.

To both gentlemen, and especially John, thank you very much for just coming through today and also your discretion and kindness!