Recent Reads – Halloween Edition 2017

Bookstores should offer human horse blinders at the front door, right next to the plastic shopping baskets.

We’re all either the type of person who needs the former or the type that needs the latter. Key word: “needs.” This girl right here happens to want a basket, but need some blinders. When struck with the urge to have a particular book, it consumes me. It quickly evolves into something primal, with a sense of the highest immediacy to get to the nearest bookstore. Upon arrival, rather than get what I came for and go, I tend to get carried away and submit to the frenzy. Few hours and many dollars later, I emerge with what some (looking at you, Mom) might consider too many too much. Unfortunately, the have-to-have-it craze doesn’t always translate into a have-to-read-it urgency. Stacks on stacks of volumes lay unread in a home by the name of mine.

I’ve recently tried switching to the online ‘Reserve In-Store’ option with the theory that this will allow for less ambling amoung new release tables, less perusing the YAF aisle, and fewer frenzied pick-ups. Get me in, get me out, small paperback in hand, only one addition to the stacks. Shocker, it hasn’t worked yet. Alas, there are worse things to foster an addiction for.

Now that we’ve gone through that little personal story time journey together, let’s get on with it. There was a point, I swear. It’s that we’ve done recent reads around here before, but this particular one features a few of those stack selections. They’ve been lying around my house for upwards of a year, just waiting for me to pick them up and dust them off and lovingly read them through with ample consideration for their poor spines (crack kills, folks). I’ve also held off because they align with a certain Octoberly theme…

Halloween is my absolute favorite season. Every year, I look forward to teeing up the hot apple cider and spooky-but-not-scary movies and pumpkin decor and autumnal playlists. Naturally, this love extends to the biblio nature. So here are some of my recent reads, ’tis the season edition. Enjoy.


Anno Dracula – Kim Newton

This has been out for a while and sitting in my ‘to read’ pile for almost as long. In one of my frenzies, the title caught my eye and the Neil Gaiman review snippet on the cover sealed the deal. This book is a take on vampire lore (check) set in Queen Victoria’s England (check) with references up the werewolf’s wazoo to other popular fictional characters of the time (the biggest check there ever was). Van Helsing, Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Henry Jekyll and that other guy Mr. Hyde, Inspector Lestrade, Bram Stoker himself, Lord Ruthven, and more! A decently hefty read, it’s getting tough for me to lug it across the country and back (more on that another day).

Unlikely that I’ll finish this one before Halloween, but I’m giving it the good ol’ Monsters University try.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle – Shirley Jackson

I cannot rightfully take credit for willingly wanting to read this one. My best friend has had this book on her list for quite some time, and I believe her spooky-horror-loving mama was the one to put it there. The cover art of this edition is absolutely beautiful so right off the bats I recommend it for that reason alone. Jackson’s writing style is interesting and her dialogue can get… unsettling. Not scary, not spooky, but there’s something about the emotional shifts in how her character’s talk to one other, or on occasion to themselves, that you can’t help but think something’s not all there. I came into the book trying to puzzle out the grand finale scare the entire time and I recommend others do the same… because there doesn’t happen to be much of one, so that’s as much excitement as you’re gonna get.

The Castle of Otranto – Horace Walpole

The veritable patriarch of the Gothic novel – the “OG,” if you will. Think Dracula, think Frankenstein, think The Monk (does anyone think The Monk anymore these days?). All inspired by Walpole and his tales of Otranto. I’ll admit, I had never heard of him until the professor of my Jane Austen class in Cambridge gave us some short passages to study. It’s a quick read, just over 100 pages, and the story keeps the pace at move-along speed. I got through it in the span of a bubble bath (I mean, blood bath…?) so you should be able to chomp on through it as well. Funnily enough, it may have been considered scary way back in the day but I wouldn’t worry too much about it in the present. This is just Stephen King’s world and we’re all living in it.

This fell into the frenzied pick-up pile courtesy of my time at Strand.

Frankenstein – Mary Shelley

I mean… I’m not even going to gratify this one.

The Dollhouse Murders – Betty Ren Wright

Not to be mistaken with The Doll People (which is precisely the mistake that I made, which led to completing yet another Reserve In-Store hasty pick-up because, again… have-to-have), this is another such doll-related book of a much more macabre variety. I recall going through a very odd, short-lived murder mystery phase in the days of my youth and this book happened to be part of it. Basically, a young girl goes to stay with her Aunt in their mysterious old family home with, you guessed it, history of a gruesome murder. The dollhouse happens to be an exact replica of said old family home and the dolls happen to be itching their wooden limbs with a story to tell. The overall plot is… interesting? It’s stuck with me in bits and (rest in) pieces(???), but I’ll also forewarn that Wright takes on some sensitive topic, social commentary threads that I completely forgot about. Wouldn’t really recommend this one unless it is literally one of the last books on earth. So. Yeah.

More importantly, anyone out there able to remind me what The Doll People is actually about? It’ll be a few years before I get around to that one, I’m sure.

Red Moon – Benjamin Percy

Another that’s been on my list for perhaps years, as in multiple. The cover art is rad. People who say don’t judge a book by it’s cover are lying to you, it’s something that is a very okay thing to judge it by. Percy has a really great narrative style and the story itself is so interesting and adaptive. It brings to mind all sorts of politically-charged times in American history (think AIDS crisis, think post and pre-9/11 terrorism, think the Red Scare, Civil Rights, World Wars, any oppression you’ve ever heard about, and riots for peace… think anything in the news these days, really) with a werewolf (“lupine”) twist.

This is a bit of a monster read (are you having that???), so it’s looking to be the one that carries me through to that Halloween finish line.


As always, feel free to follow along with my real time bibliove over on Goodreads. I’ve learned how to update page progress.

Voyages: New York City [@NYNY]

Remember when my Voyages used to feature little-to-no words? Yeah, me neither.

Work commitments recently packed me up and sent me off to the Big Apple for a week. New York City isn’t my favorite place on earth, but I knew that I’d have some time to kill so I wanted to make the best of it. First and foremost, that meant visiting some old haunts from when I lived there in college for a few months. Beyond that, I did some research (mostly by asking others to do some for me) and gleaned a few new spots to try.

Even though the song itself alludes to San Francisco, visiting New York City always makes me think of Belle and Sebastian’s ‘Piazza, New York Catcher.’ While there, I did in fact drink myself awake but did not get eloped… though I can’t safely say that I would have turned down the offer if it were presented in a coffee house awarded certificates. Okay… I’ll stop.

What I’m trying to say is that the theme of this here adventure is pretty much brews, books, and… well, other brews. Presented in the hybrid form of a Voyage and a Travel, these are my excursions. Enjoy.


SUNDAY

The Whitney

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It was very difficult for me to forego the American Museum of Natural History on this trip, but alas, it would not be a true Voyage without something new (feeling old and blue). The Whitney has been on my mind for a few months now for no other reason than the Edward Hopper collection. I’ll save the lengthy anecdote and fast-forward to the part where I copied (“interpreted”) his work for every single high school art class artist study project. I’ve only ever seen images of the art, so I was shocked to find that the originals are actually HUGE. Totally changed my perspective.

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Tears were shed over the fact that I could get this close to Edward’s ACTUAL HANDWRITING. (Anyone else think that’s extremely cool???) Even though I came for the Hoppers, I stayed for the Calder: Hypermobility exhibit. Legend has it that Calder created the mobile. In the 1930s. Allow me to pause and check if anyone else is as shocked by that fact as I was (and still am)? I had always assumed mobiles were like fire… created long, long ago by an unknown sapien and now just a basic foundational staple of humanity. Turns out, no. Fairly recent invention.

Quick aside, this Calder exhibit had scheduled ‘activations’ of the art, which in short consisted of a man in a lab coat poking things with a very large stick. But only certain things, which is why my strategy was to linger towards the last piece he was going to poke so I could avoid the large crowd gathered around the first one and get a good look when the last one’s turn came around. As I stood waiting, unsuspecting of yet another mindblowing experience, a man and his daughter approached to view some of the other pieces beside the one I was standing near. Subconsciously, I began to tune into them. “Yeah, we all had these when we were kids.” The man was flippant as he drew in a deep breath. My subconscious couldn’t help itself and gave way to full conscious. My gaze flickered over just in time to watch as the man leaned forward and started huffing at the art, which sure enough slowly started to move. This unauthorized activation occurred in the span of less than minute, whereas most other people in the room had been waiting for upwards of twenty. And while I don’t encourage this sort of rule breaking I suppose I can’t help but condone it. I should have known that an art museum is where I’d find the people who don’t play by the rules. My curiosity at what an ‘activation’ looked like was satiated. I didn’t even bother to stick around for the guy with one after seeing that.

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Strand

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Shockingly enough, this was my first time visiting Strand. I’m sure none of you underestimate my bibliove because of that, but I’ll admit that it felt like a rite of passage to visit this coveted NYC bookstore. It was just as overwhelming as I had anticipated. Spent the majority of my time in the rare books room, laughed at some witty magnets, purchased some new reads, and carried on with my life, bitter that I don’t get to be an employee here.

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The Dead Poet

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One of the first times I ever came to this bar, my best friend and I ended up getting into some kind of heated discussion which spanned multiple actual hours and myriad actual beers. I will be the first to admit that I do not recall any detail of said discussion, other than that I talked a lot, walked out of the bar arm-in-arm with best friend at the end of the night, and wore Budweiser stickers under each of my eyes a la eye black.

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In my humble and inexperienced opinion, The Dead Poet is the best bar in New York City. It’s my comfort zone, the place I feel I’ve never left no matter how long I’ve been away. I didn’t make friends easily when I lived in the city, but boy did that never matter less than when I walked into this place. Suffice it to say, the remainder of my Sunday evening was passed here, curled up with a book and many a pint of the black stuff.

Monday

Citizen’s of Chelsea

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Previously the home of Pushcart Coffee (which I believe they still technically serve here? but it’s technically Unity coffee? either way it’s delicious?), this used to be my Sunday morning city spot. I’d pick up a copy of the NYT, tuck myself into the corner of the bar with a cold brew and a peach pistachio muffin, and see how many ridiculous yet fitting (in all senses) answers I could come up with for the Sunday crossword. The biggest redesign in the new space is the plant-lined bar and kitchen area. Extremely rad. Kicking off those Monday vibes, I pushed myself to try the raspberry chia bowl… then immediately regretted not opting for the waffle instead.

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Also, apparently they serve hot apple cider here. ALL. YEAR. !!!.

The Headless Horseman

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This place confirmed that part of my aesthetic is in fact late-18th century in nature. Dark, dungeony, and filled with people much cooler than myself. My intention was to come by for a drink, so I pulled out my book to accompany my bourbon, got teased for reading by candlelight, and met some very interesting people representing Games for Change.

Lillie’s Victorian Establishment

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Another part of my aesthetic? Victorian. Lillie’s was a little too hip for my comfort, but there was an old man named Brian sitting next to me (or rather, that I was sitting next to given everyone knew him by name… clearly he’s a staple) and I like to imagine that he’s the owner, or the son of the owner, or somehow personally connected to this place via the good old days of yore. My fondest memory of Lillie’s is that at one point I swear I overheard the bartender say to a server “herein lies the ruckus” before going to town with a cocktail shaker full of liquids and ice. I swear. Then again, maybe I was just projecting.

Tuesday

Tompkins Square Bagels

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Let me just level set here… I don’t really care about bagels. I’m personally pretty indifferent to flavors (which is probably why I always opt for the plain variety), I don’t even really like cream cheese, and I’ll fare just fine if the toaster is broken. This particular East Village bagel spot came recommended as “pretty good” and I can confirm, pretty good it was. The bagel, for all intents and purposes, was fine but the playlist was on fire. Tears for Fears, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, Phil Collins… my people. That’s the way you want to start a Tuesday.

The Supply House

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Never spent much time on the Upper East side of Manhattan before, so on Tuesday evening I decided to stop in and try this place. The beer menu was great (drained a Montauk Driftwood Ale in mach speed thanks to the irregular city heat), the food menu was great, and the overall vibe was great. The hostess sat me beside the massive open window, so I carried on reading my book and living my life for a while. Have I mentioned said book yet? No? Well, this here Lady in New York was accompanied by “A Gentleman in Moscow” throughout her adventures. Highly recommend, Towles is a splendor.

After grabbing a quick bite, I set my sights on a stroll across Central Park from Upper East to Upper West for a nightcap at… you guessed it, The Dead Poet. This also allowed for the triumphant return of the NYC phone calls I used to bestow upon my best friend where I talked absolute nonsense for at least an hour. This time around: I declared I was going to apply for a grant to become a squirrel translator in the park.

Cafe Lalo

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A sweet tooth is meant to be indomitable and there is no such thing as too late for coffee. With these philosophies in mind, I ventured over to Cafe Lalo after finishing my last drink at The Dead Poet. I should have gotten a key pal first so that I could have been stood up, and therefore continued on my quest to live life like 1990s Meg Ryan would, but alas. Hindsight.

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While “You’ve Got Mail” is truly iconic, Cafe Lalo isn’t all that great. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have every intention of returning with a rose tucked into my “Pride and Prejudice,” anxious eyes on the door… Told you I would have eloped.

Wednesday

Third Rail Coffee

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Wednesday left me a little more pressed for morning exploration time, so I needed something I could grab and go with. That something was the age old classic: coffee and a doughnut. Stopped into Third Rail right at opening for a coffee so hot and fresh that I think my fingerprints have permanently been burned off (even now, weeks later, as I edit this, they feel remiss). Couldn’t resist adding a vanilla bean doughnut (apparently from Doughnut Plant, which is apparently notable). Let me tell you, this combo really carried me through that 8am call. Very rad vibe here (can you tell I’m in a “rad” phase?). 10 out of 10 would return.

(Also, stopped by a spot in the Times Square area called Cafe Grumpy with my team after said 8am call – tried the Ombre and would suggest not ordering it when you have to go back to work because you’ll end up spending a solid hour and a half wishing you were enjoying it outside.)

(Also, also, not pictured – Wednesday evening was spent with coworkers at Houston Hall and then a little underground bar called The Folly… let’s just say Thursday morning wasn’t much made for adventuring after that.)


And there we have it folks. A summary of… well, basically just brews and brews, with a dash of activities thrown in on a Sunday afternoon for good measure. Highly recommend trying a spot of two of these next time you find yourself in New York, New York. Don’t bother letting me know if you happen to be in vicious disagreement with anything I thought about them.

Real Moments: Lost

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“Are you okay, Cassie? You look a little lost.”

These are actual words that someone spoke to me just a few days ago, seemingly out of nowhere. There I was at work, sat at the large conference room table in our team room, hands resting on either side of the track pad on the laptop whirring before me. The comment registered slowly, the words stringing themselves together one by one. First as a question, then more definitively a statement. Bold. Final. It took a few seconds for me to understand, to look up and realize that I had been eyes unfocused, completely still, and staring at nothing. Someone was expectant.

“I am lost.”

The words tumbled from my mouth before I had any reason to stop them, before I even knew what they were. Impulsive. Reactive. But veritable.

Someone had no follow up to my words; no question, no statement, no second glance. To them, the call and response was satisfied but to me, the damage was done. This was an attack on the state. A targeted polemic. This sparked an aberrant enlightenment, an existential crisis.

It was disturbing. I left the experience feeling slightly disturbed. Sitting there, in the same spot, at the same table. Hands in the same place, shifting my gaze back to the screen of my computer. Thinking to myself over and over again, “I’m lost?!”

Let’s take a moment to examine lost, AKA Etymolo-gee that sounds fun!:

adjective

  1. unable to find one’s way; not knowing one’s whereabouts.
  2. denoting something that has been taken away or cannot be recovered.

Great. Awesome. Boding well so far.

Surely this someone, this incomplete stranger who knows me but barely, must be referring to one of the many different states in which a person can be lost.

Physically (especially if someone tells you to get that way). Something fairly obvious about my corporeal presence in that room told me that their statement was not referring to the physical. Unless they meant health wise? Sure, I don’t exercise as much as I should. I get approximately 0 of the vitamins I’m probably supposed to in a day, unless Budweiser and Bourbon now count as ‘B’ supplements. My skin is slowly preparing to stage it’s revolt against my shoddy sunscreen shenanigans. My muscles left me high and dry a long, long time ago but I’m still breathing. I could always do with more water, but I’m trying. On the whole I am very lucky to be so healthy, considering.

Mentally, or intellectually, lost. I’m no Mensa candidate. No Nobel prize winner. A Pulitzer would be rad, but we’re not there yet either. Sure I wish I read more books. I wish I were still in school studying things of interest, expanding the depths of my intellect. I wish I encountered more stimulants, via people or materials or places or things. Again, on the whole, those are all matters of will power. The options are available to me should I seek them.

Emotionally, I am more in tune than any human being probably should be. Everything is felt at the extremes. Jasper Hale wouldn’t come near me with a ten foot pole. Sometimes unstabling events occur, but those occur to everyone, all of the time, all over the world. There are recoveries. The movie ends, the stubbed toe de-inflames itself, you work out the puzzle, the day takes a turn. Sadness, anger, frustration, happiness; the emotions are assuaged. In my case, they’re there to my beck and call whenever the need should arise.

Socially lost doesn’t feel right either. Employing as much humility as the sentence allows, I have friends. I have family. I don’t see all of them frequently, but the channels are there. I’m fortunate enough to have the relationships, to be able to pick up the phone or open my email, to jump on a plane or walk down the street. There are times when I prefer to keep to myself for a bit, sure, but I consider myself a balanced intrextrovert. Enough encounters occur that I couldn’t possibly declare social neglect.

Spiritual loss is too broad a piece of this puzzle. Shall I use the phrase once more? On the whole, I’m content with how this one gets worked out. True, I don’t attend mass as much as I should. Faith is there, in some way, but I’ll be honest I make half of this stuff up as I go along. I still repress thoughts that I feel less inclined to think these days. But do I feel abandoned or afraid or disavowed, in the spiritual sense? Absolutely not. I have breakthrough moments just walking down the street or after an adrenaline rush or lying on a yoga mat at the end of a class, feeling the heat of my physical existence rolling off of me in waves, awakening this inner spiritual sense of presence. Its practically factual that within us all, this is the sense in which humanity is most complex. It’s almost impossible to define for and measure against others. We all operate under our own plane of forces.

Major states examined, nothing notably out of the ordinary. Yet still,

“I am lost.”

To be honest, I’ve known for quite some time now that things weren’t all there for me. There has been a feeling, an off-ness if you will. Supposedly, this manifestation of loss is derived from said off-ness, but upon my detailed review of the senses everything seems fine (and not in the ‘Fine.’ way, in the acceptable way). Off-ness is not unusual these days, it is simply a product of change. This is the point in my life for adjustment. There are gears turning into and out of one another, anchor weights lessening, pendulums hitching, chimes changing. Is this not the first of two age brackets in which I’m supposed to be lost? My early twenties, the world at my fingertips, the limitless spectrum of opportunity. Then again later on in the mid-life region, facing enclosure, reexamining purpose.

When someone, or something, prompts this kind of self-examination, you begin grasping to find anything at all that might possibly be wrong, anything that might be different. Maybe nothing was wrong, nothing was different. Again, this someone barely knows me, but maybe barely was enough.

Imaginatively lost was as close as I could get to anything plausible. Things that once ruled over my imagination unbridled have since diminished. It’s something I’ve been cognizant of, but not attentive to. I read, but less than I used to. I write, but less than I used to. I watch and I listen, both less than I used to. I daydream just about every moment I can spare it, albeit less than I used to. But to call me lost for that seems heavy-handed.

On the whole, I suppose it’s fair to admit that there is a piece of me in flux. Not lost, so much as out taking a walk, hiding itself away for a while, subconsciously adventuring, seeing what it can learn from the bit of world within me that it feels a need to become more familiar with. It’ll return. It’ll get homesick and trek its way back to me and maybe some other piece will feel inspired to take a turn at expedition.

I, right here, right now, at this point in my life, am lost. I’m out looking for someone, something, someplace. And this will continue, on and on, likely to the end of my nights. Pieces out, pieces in. Coming and going. Lost and found.

Follies & Fixations: July 2017

Yikes, when was the last time we did a Follies & Fixations around here? Unfortunately for all of us, I’ve been running a little low on Follies lately. Thankfully, I’ve got plenty of Fixations to share. Time to bring back an old favorite. Read on.

Morning Fog Candle

I’ve mentioned these folks before in a previous Follies & Fixations post, but left out the bit about my obsession. We did a case study on United By Blue in college and they’ve been one of the few brand names that have stuck with me over the years. They’re amazing. Please go check out all of the incredible work that they do and then come back to this. Also follow their insta, as the kids say, for a LOT of wanderlust (not sponsored, just wishing my life was lived through their lens).

Back? Great. This candle was a recent purchase that I was very worried about. I generally don’t trust ordering candles online if I haven’t in-person scent tested them first but ‘Morning Fog’ just sounded so intriguing! “This soy wax candle has a fresh, earthy scent with hints of dewy moss.” Confirmed. Everything it was cracked up to be and more. Now, please join me in patiently waiting for the Pine Tree Hat to not be sold out anymore because, ouch UBB, break my heart wide open. This is why people impulse shop. Take it from me: do not just think about it for literal months because it’ll pull a Dan Stevens and SELL OUT.

Arrival (2016)

Okay, so, this movie has been out there in the world for a while now. It’s been positively ingrained in my brain (crazy insane, got no brain! … no?) and I just can’t get it out of my life. However, I’ve been very distressed to find that not many people I know have seen it. Visually, it was wondrous. Storywise? Wondrous. Scorewise? Wondrous. Similar to Pacific Rim (another film I highly suggest seeing if you haven’t), the promotions and trailers really didn’t do the story justice. Whatever you think it’s about, I promise you that it holds so much more. So many emotions. I sobbed my eyes out for over half an hour in the theater parking lot after the first time I saw it. Please do yourself and myself and every self there is a favor and watch Arrival.

Rainier Galvanized Bar Cart

The recent move (yes, that happened) has led to quite a few new furniture acquisitions for Casa del Cass. Let me tell you, this bar cart and I had quite the flirtation. I saw it online one day and couldn’t get a feel for it. Weeks passed, and when I finally decided that I wanted it I dragged my entire family to the mall only to find that it was sold out! Another Pottery Barn location apparently had one left in stock, but she-wants-it-not struck hard so we went back home and I resolved I’d find another in the future. Fast forward to the next day and it was back in my heart’s desired. In the car we piled and hark! What happiness was achieved wheeling this galvanized beauty into the pre-designated bar corner of my living room and piling it high with bottles of this, that, and the third (not so high, any friends who would like to send me belated housewarming gifts should see below for suggestions). This is such a Southern-aesthetic piece and quite a cost-effective alternative to the gilded gold glass carts currently in fashion elsewhere. Add some terra cotta plant pots and you’re in business, baby.

Scotch

Your girl has recently begun her slow emergence into the whirled wide web of Scotch. By which I mean that a few years back I submerged myself into some bourbon and haven’t looked back since. Every now and then I’ll try a whisk(e)y (aside: one time my best friend made me try a Japanese whisky and wow, did I hate it a lot… tears of hatred level, a lot) but currently my eyes are on this highlander heritage prize. I want to get good at Scotch. I want to just like Scotch, full stop. So here we are. My first big-girl-,-bottle-of-my-own foray was into Glenkinchie (that’s definitely not the way to hyphenate, Cassie, you menace):

My review: “Tastes like wood with a hint of soap.”

My best friend’s review: “A slight cheerio taste on the palate and a swift kick to the windpipe on the swallow.”

Basically, we love it?

Visitors to the Queen (and her) City

Now that I no longer hate my apartment, it’s been quite the treat having friends and family by to visit! In the past few weeks both of my best friends have come down to the Queen City, one for the millionth time and one for the first time. Also my brother, sister, mother, and grandmother – yes, all 4 at one time and yes, all 4 staying with me in my one bedroom apartment. Even though Charlotte has never felt like a permanent home to me, I’m thankful that it has been so kind in the interim and that I get to share all of that kindness with friends and family. Can I entice you to come visit? That bar cart of mine has recently gotten its own guestbook (thanks to a friend’s suggestion) so come on over and let me make you a drink and then you can write about how awful it is and think about how you wish you never had it and warn others to beware and come, bitter conduct, come, unsavoury guide! Oops, I broke me again.

“The Hidden Life of Trees” by Peter Wohlleben

The second page of the Foreword. That was how long it took for this book to make me cry. Usually I save all of my bibliove for specifically designated posts, but I couldn’t help myself with this one. A recent search for a tree species guidebook (we’ll get into reasons for that in a different post on this site some day, I’m sure) led me to this bestseller about, well, the hidden life of trees. When my family came to visit I teared up just describing what I learned from the first few chapters and my sister, who rarely reads, felt compelled to rush out and get a copy for herself. It’s such a beautiful read, please join us! And then also become friends with me on Goodreads and let me know what you thought about it.

Tuneage

It’s been absolute ages since I made you all a playlist, hasn’t it?? No theme this time around, just some recently discovered tunes that I’ve been listening to lately. Enjoy.

Learn Stuff: 10 Tips for Making Moves

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Next weekend marks the one year anniversary of my move down from Rhode Island to North Carolina. Can you believe it!? I cannot, and yet here we are. I’ve been thinking back on the past year of life I’ve lived down here in the Tar Heel state (fun fact: still no idea what a “Tar Heel” is) and let’s get one thing straight. Making moves is not easy. Especially when you’re moving to a place that you’ve never been to before, where you know no one, and you’re starting off on a brand new chapter of your begrudgingly “adult” life.

Let’s just say I learned some things. Things like vampire teeth bottle openers are a necessity in every modern home. Things that I would like to share with you in the event that you are thinking of making moves of your own. Enjoy.


1. VISIT

Do not search for apartments from the screen of a computer, way across the Atlantic, while sitting at a desk in a house on the Emerald Isle. Not my most brilliant idea because, shocker, I hated my first apartment here in Charlotte. Even though I hadn’t seen it before I moved in, I happen to be pretty… let’s call it unaffected (when I looked up synonyms for that I found ‘unsophisticated’ which also works) when it comes to stuff like this, so I knew I could make it work for the length of the lease. Understandable that everyone is not like that, so my advice is take a flight to the place you’re thinking of moving towards. Rent a car, get out there in the neighborhoods, and get away from the tourist attractions of the city / town. If you move there you will not be a tourist, you will be a resident. Go see where you want to reside. With your actual eyeballs.

2. Keep an open mind 

When I was first looking for apartments (again, stupidly from afar) I was convinced that I needed an outdoor patio and a fireplace. There was a compromise on the fireplace but I was still completely unwilling to budge on the outdoor space. Which then led me to spend an entire year never once using said space because I hated my surroundings, so, refer to #1… then also remember that the things you think you are dead set in need of you probably aren’t. Scope out all sorts of arrangements from your wish list and go with the place that gives you the best vibe. It might be the one you expect to like the least but you’ll never know if you don’t keep an open mind about the whole thing.

3. Clean first, move boxes later

When you finally find your dream dwelling and moving day comes around, take your time. Let the moving trucks idle for a few minutes. I know, this can be difficult, but trust me. Pick up your keys and walk into the place. Look around, see what the layout is like, if everything is prepped and ready for you to really immerse yourself and your boxes and boxes of useless belongings (no one needs that many mixing bowls, NO ONE) into it. If the guys who gave the place a fresh coat of paint weren’t so careful about leaving their shoes at the door, give the floor a quick mop down (or Swiffer if you’re not fully embracing that adulthood thing yet) before you start bringing everything in. Take the time to prep the place before you start the fun parts of unpacking. You don’t want to clean at the same time, trust me. I did that with my first apartment and it was miserable.

4. Don’t rush through it all

This goes for unpacking the old and purchasing the new. There is no race to unpack. Take your time, look at the things you’re moving in, and see if any slipped through the first round of “spring cleaning.” Put them places with a purpose. If something seems to have no place, and you’re stressing about where to shove it off to (because the hall closet is somehow already miraculously full with your two costume bags which you simply cannot downsize in any way), maybe just chuck it out. I am the QUEEN of holding on to things. I genuinely still have an old acorn in my possession from… no less than 6 years ago. Couldn’t tell you where or why or any semblance of significance but it moves with me everywhere.

I also happen to be the Queen of impulse buys, a woman of many talents. I see something or think about something that I want and it becomes a need to have it as soon as possible. Don’t be like me. Think about that children’s train rug from Ikea before you buy it. Give yourself a week or two or four to really think on the new things that you want to purchase. Then come back and see if they’re still in your head and if so, no one will stop you from buying them. Hopefully no one will stop you anyways because I assume you are an adult and are capable of making your own decisions, but you get the picture. I will not practice what I preach so be a doll and do it for me.

5. Get used to new creatures

Especially if you move down to the South. Let me tell you, this little Northerner had never seen bugs until she moved to the other side of the Mason-Dixon. There were a lot of new creatures I had to become accustomed to and… you know, I’m still not fully there but I’m doing alright for myself. And I have decent friends who will kill things for me when I ask them to… with tears in my eyes. Just accept that this is a new part of the culture, wherever you go. There will be new animals and critters to get used to. I believe in you.

6. Don’t let everyone scare you

You’ve never met My Nana but let me tell you, a more terrifyingly superstitious tiny Scottish woman you never did see. My first month down here she sent me a care package comprised of one little newspaper clipping. The harbinger herself sent me an article about a brain-eating amoeba that was found at the Whitewater Center in Charlotte. Other people I knew warned me against certain parts of my new town and tried to repress the habits I’ve cultivated growing up in a close-knit Rhode Island city. There is danger out there in the world in every place, city or small town. Not trying to get too deep into that rabbit hole, and I’m not saying to trust every stranger you encounter, but know that it’s not healthy to let every little panicky Patricia out there get into the core of your livelihood when you’re moving to a new place. Just be smart about yourself.

7. You are much tougher than you think you are

Two weeks. That was how long it took before I had a complete mental breakdown, sitting alone on top of my bed in the early morning hot summer air, with about two months left before I started work, realizing that I just wanted to go back home. It was really hard to be in a place where I knew absolutely no one and at the same time, I knew that I had done this to myself. I wanted this! I wanted a change and a new area and I knew that came at the cost of friends and family nearby. I had to remind myself that I had never experienced a new place before where I had gone the whole duration without meeting anyone (and Charlotte has been no different – I’m very thankful to have met all sorts of wonderful and interesting humans, a few of which I get to call my friends). That reminder didn’t come to mind very quickly, and it didn’t make things any easier to deal with for a while. It probably took me a good month or two before I came to terms with the fact that I’m a tough cookie. I can stick it. But tough cookies still get homesick and that’s okay. You will get through it, even though you might not think so.

8. Find routines

Anyone else a big routine person? A planner person? A, I believe what they call us is, “type A” person? Part of what helped me get acclimated to my new city and my new life is the Sunday morning routine I’ve built for myself. I love going for drives with the windows down in this Southern swelter, so on Sunday mornings just before 10am I hop in the car and hit the road for a 20-25 minute-ish trip down to one of my favorite coffee spots. I turn on NPR’s Car Talk (shoutout to my best friend’s mom for getting me into that one) and laugh along with the radio as I cruise there and back for my caffeine fix. It’s an hour of my time, in all honesty, that has kept me sane. It’s something that I look forward to every weekend and it’s a routine that’s helped me adjust to my hectic work-life down here. Highly recommend getting something similar for your own.

9. Know your space

Whether it’s a walking city like Boston or a driving city like Charlotte or a small town in, I don’t know, wherever you’re going with a small town, get out there and know your space. I pride myself (on many things, but on this in particular) on knowing how to navigate most of the bottom half of Charlotte without a map. Queen of the (yeah, one more) backroads… in my own heart and mind. When I first moved down here I experienced getting myself lost a few times and eventually finding my way home. Figure out where your favorite stores are, where the best coffee place is, what routes to take when your usual cut-through is blocked off for a 5k. It makes you feel really good about yourself and like you’re actually getting a bit more settled. Sidenote: my uncle is one of those guys who can tell you directions for literally 99% of the country (“85 has a lot of traffic? Just hop on 49 to 77 to breaker breaker 1-9” etc. etc.) and I aspire to be that so this helps.

10. Receive change

Refer to the above, god knows how many times, when I mentioned some form of my stubbornness. Charlotte has never been on my radar as a forever home. When I moved down here I was convinced that I was going to absolutely love my first apartment and live in it for the few years that I stayed down here. I thought my trusty little blue VW would get me through those next few years. I thought work would have me traveling all over the country and I’d never get to know this fair city. I thought I would keep to myself and make 0 friends. What I’m getting at here is that, basically, I thought a lot of things and very few of them have held true. Yeah, guys, I made friends.

In March my best friend came down to visit and as I told her my woes of having to start the new car search process, she voiced the very core of my fears out loud. Change happens. Plans get deviated from and that’s okay! In my head, it was everything but okay. I had all of this figured out, it was step by step, cookie cutter. And now, merely a year later, almost everything has changed from what I expected. You’ve heard it before, and you’ll hear it again: don’t fight that. I did, until I realized I can’t. Receive the changes that happen in your life. Tell yourself what I tell myself:

It will all be a-okay, Jack.

 

Learn a Book! – 20[Seven Teen Series]

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“Don’t let the Muggles get you down.”

One of these years I’m going to run out of gimmicks.

This is not that year.

Over the past two years (2015 and 2016, go check ’em out) I’ve found that my annual reading challenges have gotten pretty intensive. In 2017 I’d like to make it a bit more relaxing and, get ready for it…, give myself some time to do other things. Like finally watch Westworld and Stranger Things and actually do all that stuff that I said I would on my halfway bucket list (I know, I know, I get it, leave your judgment elsewhere, I’ve hit my quota for the month).

As we all (hopefully) know, I’m a HUGE advocate of Young Adult Fiction. This year I’ve decided to go back to the beginning of my torpent love affair – all the way back to my not-so-long-lost teenage years – and revisit some of the series that made me into the reader I am today.

By the end of 2017 I’m hoping to have finished at least seven popular “teen” series (it’s all relative). I’m sure a few other bits and bobs will distract me along the way so I’ve included a section accordingly. In order to get a decent mix of the old and the new, I’m soliciting fan favorites from back in your own younger years. I don’t ask for recommendations very often, so take advantage while you can.


The Main Course – Seven Teen Series

1. Harry Potter – JK Rowling

First up, the OG fan favorite.

  1. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone [304 pgs]
  2. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets [341 pgs]
  3. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban [435 pgs]
  4. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire [734 pgs]
  5. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix [870 pgs]
  6. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince [652 pgs]
  7. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows [759 pgs]

2. Blue is for Nightmares – Laurie Faria Stolarz

These books have stayed on my mind for years and years. I was terrified of them, I loved them, and I can’t wait to get back to them.

  1. Blue is for Nightmares [283 pgs]
  2. White is for Magic [301 pgs]
  3. Silver is for Secrets
  4. Red is for Remembrance

3. A Series of Unfortunate Events – Lemony Snicket

In all honesty, I don’t remember ever finishing this series. Maybe I got through the first 6 before returning to the latest Junie B Jones.

  1. The Bad Beginning [162 pgs]
  2. The Reptile Room [190 pgs]
  3. The Wide Window
  4. The Miserable Mill
  5. The Austere Academy
  6. The Ersatz Elevator
  7. The Vile Village
  8. The Hostile Hospital
  9. The Carnivorous Carnival
  10. The Slippery Slope
  11. The Grim Grotto
  12. The Penultimate Peril
  13. The End

4. House of Night – P.C. Cast

One my my very first Vampire, or should I say “Vampyre,” obsessions.

  1. Marked
  2. Betrayed
  3. Chosen
  4. Untamed
  5. Hunted
  6. Tempted
  7. Burned
  8. Awakened
  9. Destined
  10. Hidden
  11. Revealed
  12. Redeemed

5. Heartland – Lauren Brooke

6. Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants – Ann Brashares

7. The Spiderwick Chronicles – Tony DiTerlizzi & Holly Black

  1. The Field Guide [107 pgs]
  2. The Seeing Stone [108 pgs]
  3. Lucinda’s Secret [108 pgs]
  4. The Ironwood Tree [108 pgs]
  5. The Wrath of Mulgarath [136 pgs]

Additionally

Not teen series, but you can’t expect me to rein in my wandering eyes all year long can you? No, I thought not. This is where I’ll list whatever else it is I’m reading, because I’m psychotic about tracking page counts.

  1. Lincoln in the Bardo – George Saunders [343 pgs]
  2. Eligible – Curtis Sittenfeld  [488 pgs]
  3. Heartless – Marissa Meyer [453 pgs]
  4. Carry On – Rainbow Rowell [521 pgs]
  5. The Hidden Life of Trees – Peter Wohlleben [250 pgs]
  6. A Gentleman in Moscow – Amor Towles [462 pgs]
  7. Bear – Marian Engel [122 pgs]
  8. Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter – Seth Grahame-Smith [336 pgs]

As always, feel free to follow me on Goodreads. I still don’t write reviews, but I’m getting better about remembering to rank the stars. So… enjoy that.

Be forewarned that some of these planned series may change with the seasons… I fall in and out of reading phases on a terrifyingly consistent basis. So check back every once in a while to see what’s happened – like, for instance, all of a sudden I’ve just decided to read all 62 original Goosebumps books…

24 Lessons Learned To Get To 24

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New year, new… just about nothing else.

The planets have been a-turning and once again, I’m faced with the internal dilemma of tacking another year onto my young age. As my mother so lovingly likes to remind me, every day is another one closer to 30.

Last year, I rather liked thinking up 23 thoughts on turning 23. This year, though, I thought to myself “Cass, what in the hell are you going to write for the big 2-4?” At the time, I was driving down a familiar street on a cold and rainy day, home in ‘lil Rhodey for the holidays, and it started to become apparent that it’s really a small miracle I’ve even made it to the age of 24 at all.

So there you have it, folks. 24 lessons learned that got me to the age of 24. This list is in no way exhaustive, I can assure you of that. But some of my favorites. Enjoy.


1. Laughter will not always be your best medicine. Sometimes it’ll be tears. Sometimes a little quiet contemplation. Sometimes a spontaneous trip across the Atlantic. Sometimes actual medicine, you idiot.

2. The best skill you can ever learn is how to be comfortable alone. By yourself. On your own. Don’t wait for other people to help you live your life, choose your own adventure book and then sit in a coffee shop all by yourself for a few hours and read it.  That’s how the proverb goes, right?

3. Slow down; in all things, slow down. You do not need to sigh loudly in line at the post office because I’m here to tell you that you sound like a jerk when you do. What is the actual rush? The world will keep turning. Patience.

4. Blueberries grow on tiny little tree bushes. I know. And peanuts? “Peanuts grow in the GROUND and are therefore GROUND-nuts, and after you take them out of the ground you grind them up and you have ground ground-nuts, which is a much more accurate name than peanut butter, you just don’t understand English.”

5. Always settle practical questions with sentiments which have nothing to do with them. Make your anger never furious; your love never fierce, but instead deep and tender.

6. People will change and you will have to adapt to that. Which maybe might mean taking separate paths. I speak from experience, though, when I say that those that are meant to join up again some day, will.

7. Impactful moments come in packages large and small. A good song on the radio when you’re having a tough day. An unexpected friendship that is on track to last a lifetime. When something wants to hit you, let it, and appreciate it for whatever it is.

8. Listen to your body and let it help you get to know yourself. For general medical problems, realize what your systems are trying to tell you and remember those signs for next time. But also we all have those moments where something ever so insignificant happens and it somehow manages to throw off your entire day, giving you that awful back-of-your-mind-anxiety or pit-of-the-stomach-discomfort. Call it out. If I say something I regret to a loved one or some kind of uncomfortable interaction happens with a friend or I do something embarrassing at work, I force myself to acknowledge it. Tell yourself it’s going to be okay. The day is gonna go on, life is gonna keep being lived, and it’s gonna work itself out. 9 times out of 10 confronting it helps me move on from those bad feelings a lot faster than if I had avoided and repressed to begin with. Know how to help yourself get over it.

9. You got the music in you, don’t let go. You got the music in you, one dance left, this world is gonna pull through. Don’t give up, you got a reason to live. Can’t forget, we only get what we give.

10. Family does not always mean blood. Not to me, anyways. There are so many people on so many corners of this beautifully expansive world that I consider to be my family, and I very much want them all to know that.

11. Listen with your heart, you will understand. And also left side, strong side.

12. Cry if you want to cry and don’t be embarrassed by that very natural emotional response. For joy or anger or sadness or because it’s Tuesday. A whole childhood of people scolding me for being “too sensitive” taught me that what the heck is wrong with crying? What the heck do I need to be from Mars for? (.2% of my readers will get that reference…)

13. There’re some things I know for certain. Always throw spilled salt over your left shoulder. Keep rosemary by your garden gate. Plant lavender for luck. And fall in love whenever you can.

14. Get competitive with yourself, not with others. Getting competitive with others makes you obnoxious, but getting competitive with yourself makes you push your limits, hopefully in all the right ways.

15. When someone makes you laugh, tell them. It helps the both of you know that you want to keep them around. Nothing makes me happier than having a good laugh.

16. Make your time always well spent, never wasted. If there are things you don’t want to do, don’t. You’re the only one determining how you live this life and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

17. Potatoes have 48 chromosomes. That’s 2 more than humans. You can draw whatever conclusions you want from that one, I’m just providing the facts…

18. When you make mistakes, own them. Lying or avoiding it because you’re afraid of the consequences is not a good idea.

19. Never doubt yourself on your ability to adventure. Book the flight, google the bus timetables and write them on little slips of paper with emergency addresses on the backs. Get out there into whatever piece of the world it is that you want to see because I’m a firm believer that it won’t always be around to be seen like this.

20. When you feel love for something, anything, let it run unboundedly.

21. Have courage and be kind. Always, always, always be kind. And always have the courage to do so. There’s enough bad stuff going on out there, we don’t need to get it from each other too.

22. Trees. Are. So. Rad. Did you know the oldest tree in the world is over 4,000 years old??? And here I am stressed about being 24. Respect the trees.

23. Imagination is the most beautiful gift to ever be given to humankind. I feel so supremely sad for people who don’t use theirs. I entreat you, please find a way.

24. I still find that for all things in life, I can’t ask why. And I’m always going to be a better person for that.


As always, I’m thankful to see another glorious year on this here earth. And I’m thankful that you and I get to see it together, dear reader.

Something makes me think that 24 will help us find quite a few new Tales to tell.

Real Moments: On Remembrance

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“Oh you’ll take the high road and I’ll take the low road and I’ll be in Scotland ‘afore ye, but me and my true love will never meet again on the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond.”


First and foremost, this is for you. Not for them. I don’t need  to tell you that I miss you, but I do need to say that I’m sorry. I’m sorry that some days I try not to remember you.

There are so many things that could be said about the so many days that have passed since you did. What I will say is that I remember the sound of your laugh, the feel of your calluses as we held hands in prayer. How you loved Bob Marley, which still makes me laugh out loud. McDonald’s Apple Pies will always be our treat, Budweiser our beer. Rod’s “Forever Young” the song we never got the chance to dance to at my wedding. Your nee-nee alien hands. How you let me practice parallel parking between your friends’ actual cars. The feel of the bristle on your cheek when I kissed you goodnight, every night. The sound of the radio you hummed along with in the old black and white tiled bathroom every morning before school. The sight of you waiting there, at the end of the train platform, every time I came home from college.

The point is, just because I say I try not to remember you, doesn’t mean that I don’t. And I know you know that. I know you know that it’s just because it’s so hard, and it hurts so much. But I’m sorry for it anyway.

Now, on to a few words for them. But I promise that the rest of this lifetime is for you, Papa.


In the beginning, there was sorrow. Every single day.

Then came repression of the unhealthiest emotional nature. Focus on school, Cass. Finish school. You’ll have time to grieve later. Later came and school was finished. No, not now. It’s back to home and back to work, definitely not now. Work harder. Read books, devour books. Put yourself utterly and completely into those books and pretend you are anywhere but here. Wait for Ireland, you’ll be alone to grieve in Ireland. Get to Ireland and what nonsense! Enjoy Ireland! Keep your spirits up because you’re mostly on your lonesome. Look for ways to grieve but feel unfulfilled in that, feel uncomfortable at the idea of anyone else catching on. Do not grieve in Ireland, wait until anywhere else. Keep reading.

Ireland passes, you’ve gotta go home now. Time to prepare for Scotland, oh how you’re dreading Scotland. His place, his home, your first time ever returning without him. Please don’t send me to Scotland, why are they sending you to Scotland? Why has everyone insisted that this is a good idea? That you, of all people, are the choice? Are you not the most unfair of choices? Whatever you do, absolutely do not grieve in Scotland. More books, bring more books. Lose yourself again. You’re not there, you’re not here, you’re in between the pages. Do not mourn yet. Soon. Later. There will be a time.

Return from Scotland, now get through graduation. You only did all of this for him anyways but he’s not here so don’t look up into those stands, no matter what you do – do not look into those stands. Sit by yourself. Stare at your hands. Make the walk, do not look up. Mourn later, after the ceremony and the pictures. Later comes back again and still not the time. Pack and get ready for the changing of lifestyles, the moving away. Start your new job, focus on that. Get down there and wait until everyone leaves. When you’re left on your own in this new place, with these new people, then you can give yourself over to grieving. Months pass in this new place, with these new people, and still nothing. Little bits and pieces here and there but no big confrontation. No realization. No hit.

The Day comes back. It’s one year later. Force yourself, you have to force yourself. You’ve become an absolute professional over the past twelve months, one of the elite class of people able to utterly repress that anything like this has ever happened to them. Not today, no one deserves that today. Not you, not him. Remember it all, every last detail.


And I miss the way he was whistling, walking down the street. And every time I do something I think of what he would say. “Well, it’s cold today, wear a scarf.” But lately, I’ve been forgetting little things. He’s sort of fading and I’m starting to forget him. And it’s like… like losing him again. […] And sometimes, not always but sometimes, I can actually see him. It’s as if a cloud moves away and there he is – I could almost touch him. But then the real world rushes in and he vanishes again.
 Before Midnight (2013)

A man was sitting next to me on a plane recently. The stewardess came around to ask if anyone wanted anything to drink and he, being polite, reached out to tap me on the arm. I looked down at his hand, the wrinkled leathery skin that stretched across his knuckles, and I felt as if all the oxygen had suddenly rushed to evacuate my body. That hand, it was his hand, it looked just like his hand. What I wouldn’t give to see that hand again. I still have a tough time looking at most old men that pass through my life on a daily basis. Their mannerisms, their baseball hats, their hands, the way they walk. They all remind me so much of what I had.

The past year has held so many lessons in remembrance for me. The biggest was probably my extreme fortune at encountering a family very similar to my own, in a distant emerald land, who had gone through their own loss of a beloved patriarch. I listened to their stories and their laughter, even offered up a few of my own every now and then. I thanked my stars for them every night, hardly realizing at the time that they were the first to arrive with the needle and thread to stitch me back together again.

Most of what I learned from them was that there is a way to talk about it. I still can’t have anyone bring it up to me, tell me what a great guy he was or how much they miss him. It has to be me, I have to tell the story or make the comment. I want so desperately to be like that family I met, to be the champion of all remembrance on behalf of our beloved Terry.

I spent a year repressing the tears and the thoughts and the memories. Something would happen, a catalyst if you will. I’d remember something or sometime and my chest would contract. The tears would start and I’d hold my breath, bite my tongue, blink up at the brightest light in the room, try desperately to calm myself. I got very good at that, the whole repression thing. I won’t say I didn’t encounter a few massive breaks along the way, because I did, but for the most part I was strictly composed. It got to the point where some nights I’d plan rare allowances, as if remembrance and mourning could be scheduled. I’d lay outside in the backyard of my childhood home or down the street next to the ocean, looking up at the sky and pouring a beer out into the waves surely like the kind of crazy person everyone already thought that I was. I’d pull out my favorite pictures and wish with every breath I had to rewind back to the moments they showed me. If only for one more hug, one more laugh, one more word.

I keep waiting, I’m still waiting, for it to just hit me. Last year I spoke about living within my little removal from reality. A year later and I feel like not much has changed. One of these days the gravity of it all will really register and I’ll just crumple to whatever ground I happen to be nearest to and I’ll sob and I’ll scream and I’ll clutch at the mud thinking that somehow that will fix things. Isn’t that what’s supposed to happen, when you really love someone? When you still feel like a child? You cry loud enough and eventually that’s the pain, that’s the release, it’s all over with. Is my inability to do that what it means to grow up, to learn that this is a part of life?

It’s okay to know that your heart will never heal. Time will not fix all wounds. It may make them bearable, but it may also fool you. There is a balance but I have not found it yet. I try, but there is guilt no matter which side I lean towards. My life is mine to live, and yet I feel I am forgetting him. All my time can be spent in remembrance, and yet too much of that will lead me to nothing else. My solution so far is this: if you begin to remember, remember. The good and the oh so terribly bad. When you have thoughts, think them. When the tears start, don’t stop them. Let your heart ache, let your chest feel like it’s caving. Sob as hard as you can and if you can’t then don’t grow frustrated at yourself because that’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with a little repression. It’s when a little becomes a lot that you’ll get into trouble. Some day, you’ll let yourself remember. Until then take your time, take absolutely all of it.

As Alastair McDonald once said, “there is an old Celtic belief that when a man dies in a foreign land, his spirit returns via the low road,” a special road which the fairies take to carry him back to his home. To the man who raised me into the fantastical, life loving little sprite of a child that I am – I know that we’ll be meeting for many more adventures together on all sorts of roads. And until that day when we get to the last one, I will do all that I can to remember you.

Voyages: Into Twilight [@ForksWA]

About three things I was absolutely positive. And “I love Forks” was every single one of them.

I lied to you all, this is the real reason I went out west to Seattle country – because Seattle is very close to the small town of Forks, Washington. Otherwise known as the town in which The Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer is based. Even if you’re not into the series, there are some beautiful photos of the Olympicly Peninsular landscape for you to scroll through. However, I absolutely adore the series so… I’m kinda hoping that some of you do too.

On Sunday, my best friend and I rented a car, woke up early, and took a little Twilight-themed day trip out away from the Emerald City. May or may not have returned as members of a different species.


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After sufficiently caffeinating in the earlier hours of the morning, we hit the road to the tune of “This Is Halloween” followed by the Ghostbusters theme song.

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I literally could not resist howling out the window in hopes that all nearby werewolves would come run alongside the car under cover of the massively impressive thick trees. Our entire trip was spent winding in and out and around the Olympic National Park. Did I mention massively impressive trees? One more time for good measure? They were massively impressive.

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As we drew closer to the town limits we switched the playlist over from general Halloween to the soundtracks from the Twilight Saga movies. I just about lost my mind when we spotted the first road sign.

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The iconic sign! Missing the 3,120 population count, but I’m assuming that’s because it’s grown ever so slightly since 2008.

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The Forks Chamber of Commerce/Welcome Center was our first stop, where we picked up a town map and some other fun little bits and pieces. The woman who helped us out was supremely nice and I’ve decided that if ever there was a dream job, it would be me sitting on the porch of the Forks Chamber of Commerce in a rocking chair, talking about this Saga with anyone and everyone who will listen to me. While cross-stitching “Team Jasper” pillows.

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Foreground truck: Bella’s from the movie. Background truck: Bella’s from the books.

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The Swan Residence, which happens to be up for sale (I don’t blame them even in the slightest). Seriously considering putting in a bid, who wants to join?

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Very familiar with this sign. We circled the perimeter in search of some picnic tables to perch ourselves on but they were sadly absent from the property.

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A local inn had offered up their digs as the official Cullen House. A giant beautiful tree was out front and right next door you could see the Forks Police Station with plenty of cruisers a la Charlie’s.

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Rad rad rad rad rad! This was a super cool spot. About a 25 minute drive from Forks – La Push actually is an existing Reservation and actually does have quite a few beaches (which a lot of people were taking advantage of). Pretty sure those cliffs off in the distance were the ones Bella would have jumped off of, as they’re land accessible. Facts, that’s what you’re here for people.

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A best friend, spotted roaming in the wild! This is my road trip, life companion Robin!! We spent a lot of time looking for cool pebbles on this beach. And yes, I did bring one home with me.

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As Robin so truthfully put, the driftwood collected at the edge of First Beach looked eerily similar to the Elephant Graveyard in The Lion King. Very fun to climb over and play on, though.

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Queen of Fashion, you can call me. I channeled my inner Eric all day long and Robin had to ask me more than once to stop saying “La Push, baby… it’s La Push.” Didn’t stop, though. And this snapchat was what came of it.

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Very pretty ocean and rocks and everything, all the things.

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Can’t stop won’t stop with my window pictures. Won’t stop. This was a lake somewhere in the middle of the Olympic Peninsula that we had the extreme fortune of getting to drive along the perimeter of on our way to Port Angeles. Don’t be lazy, Cassie. Look up the lake for your loyal readers… Lake Crescent, of course it was Lake Crescent.

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I wish we got to spend more time in Port Angeles, but Seattle is quite the drive away and as it was we were pushing the later hours for our return journey when we got there. Our final stop on our Tour de Twilight was to indulge in the same Italian restaurant Edward and Bella went to on their first date!

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I’m not even a fan of ravioli but I couldn’t come all the way here and skip ordering it! If you don’t understand why, how did you even make it this far through this post? The mushrooms were delicious and Robin, the kind wonderful best friend soul that she is, even ordered a second Coke so she could slide it across the table to me. Again, true fans only, please. After filling up on delicious carbs, we hit the road for our return to Seattle.


And that just about wraps up my first ever West Coast adventure weekend! Going to Forks was an honest to goodness dream come true. Going with a best friend who completely understands when you burst into tears at lunch over how every character in The Twilight Saga was fated together is even better.

As always, thanks for reading! Oh, and…

Be safe.

Voyages: The Emerald City [@SeattleWA]

Baby’s first trip out West! That’s right. Until this year, the furthest west I had ever been in my life was probably Pennsylvania. But my best friend (the one who went to New Orleans with me) recently moved out to Seattle to start her real life grown-up… life. And naturally I had to get out there to visit.

Most of my trip was in the spirit of spending time with her, so we got out and saw quite a bit of the city but this is in no way meant to be a “Weekender’s Guide to Seattle.” It’s just the things we’ve been talking about wanting to see and some pictures of what came from seeing them together.

For those of you interested in going soon, I will say that we experienced some delicious eats in the Capitol Hill area. Notably a fall-themed lunch at Americana, a tex-mex brunch at Rooster’s, and the fineries of Italian wine and 1,000 degree-cooked pizza at Via Tribunali. So, go crazy. And bring me back some Mexi-migas. There, you’ve got your “guide” element – are you happy???

Scroll on to see a Seattle Saturday at its finest.


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First stop, the new Starbucks Reserve Roastery & Tasting Room. I had my sights set on visiting this place since its opening was announced almost 2 whole years ago. The Reserve features rare, small-batch roasted coffees which you can find in most stores but this particular spot is really the mothership of the whole operation.

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So chic, so sophisticated, so absolutely packed on a Saturday morning. The roastery featured a few different places to try out the elite coffee offerings but we went for the main stage, if you will, right smack in the middle. The whole aesthetic of the place is everything that I aspire to be.

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THE MOMENT I HAD ESPECIALLY BEEN WAITING FOR. Starbucks recently announced the launch of their Nitro Cold Brew and allow me to tell you the story of when I first heard about it. I was sitting on my couch, reading through Twitter, and happened upon the aforementioned announcement. “Nitro?” I thought to myself. “As in Nitrogen? As in brewed with Nitrogen? As in BREWED LIKE GUINNESS???” Yes, Cassie from the past. Yes, exactly like that. When I discovered it was being released in select cities, not including the one I just moved to, my heart was aching and breaking all over the place. But we made it, folks. We made it and we loved every single ice cold delicious sip of it.

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A stroll down Pike Street brought us to our next stop: the iconic Pike Place Market.

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Also crazily busy, as to be expected. A sensory overload happened between the flowers and the food and the people and the lights and and and. It broke me a little bit, it truly did.

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Never have I seen such delicious looking fruits and veggies. Also, we got to sample some dark chocolate spaghetti which is a very interesting concept. The locals must have this place down to a science, cause I can tell you that if I lived there it would definitely be a frequent shopping center.

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Am I forthcoming enough with my personal interests? After the Reserve experience, we still weren’t done with our Starbucks fix. We went to visit the one and only original location at 1912 Pike Place. Kind of, sort of, the original location… the first “store” was actually at 2000 Western Avenue but that was back in the early 1970s when they functioned as more of a roastery than a brewery so you could only really buy whole coffee beans and maybe get a sample or two to drink.

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I love a good Siren! We waited in line for a bit but it was worth it to pick up some commemorative mugs with the original branding and the best frappuccino I’ve ever had.

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After Pike Place, we hopped on the monorail out to see the Space Needle! Iconic! We admired from the ground as we knew we’d need quite a bit of time inside of our next stop: the EMP Museum.

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The entire EMP building is super cool and futuristic and architecturally amazing. There are a ton of amazing pop-culture exhibits that currently include pieces from genres like Fantasy, Horror, and SciFi and Seattle music icons like Nirvana and Jimi Hendrix.

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The Lure of Horror Film exhibit had a whole wall of archetypes (I would call them that but not sure if that’s the legitimate name for it). Each little board featured explanations and examples. Take a wild guess what my favorite one was…

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And our final stop. The one that we spent the majority of our time going through. The one that brought us here in the first place. The piece de resistance. The Cassie Tears-a-palooza. The Star Trek: Exploring New Worlds exhibit.

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The exhibit featured props and costumes and set designs from all facets of the Star Trek lifecycle. My favorite piece was this concept art for the USS Enterprise. The OG ship design. I’m getting chills just looking at this again.

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Words cannot describe the impact that Leonard Nimoy and his portrayal of Spock has made on me and my life. I thought pretty much everything was going to make me cry in this exhibit, but it was the Vulcans that hit me the hardest. It was the perfect ending to a beautiful day spent seeing this magical city.


I hope you enjoyed this little snippet of my first ever West Coasterly voyage! I’ve got a little something else coming up next week, but until then join me in daydreaming about the next time I’ll get to go back over to play in The Emerald City. There was so much left unseen but I’m confident it won’t stay that way for long.

Live long and prosper.