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Best Free iPhone Games for Calming Anxiety and Relaxing

Stress and anxiety suck, big time, and they always seem to strike hardest when you need to be at your best. While it’s usually smart to address the issues at the root of your stress/anxiety, sometimes we all just need a quick way to relax and calm down. These are all free game apps that I find helpful when in a pinch. My research comes from personal experience and sites like Gizmodo and Mic.

Calm

OK, so Calm is not really a game—it’s a meditation app. The premium content comes at a cost, but there are lots of shorter meditation practices (10 minutes) that are free. The app will walk you through meditation specifically for stress, and there’s no experience required. I love this app more than others like Headspace because I swear it can read my mind. Every time I catch myself thinking “jeeze, I’m SO awful at meditating,” the app will reply “and if you think you’re bad at meditating, there’s no such thing.” How’s THAT for an awesome way to combat stress AND self-criticism?

Neko Atsume

This game is absolutely wonderful because it involves CATS! Everyone starts out with a yard that you can then fill with toys and treats. Cats will wander in and out of the yard as they please (because cats). You can read up on each cat and take pictures of them being pixelatedly adorable. Up your game by “purchasing” the coolest gadgets and highest-quality chow!

Rise Up

Keep a balloon from running into obstacles as it makes its way toward what I can only assume is space. This game is challenging, but in a way that you really don’t care if you win or lose so there’s no pressure. Instead, it’s just mind-numbingly calming.

Cut the Rope

Candy tied to ropes
Cut the ropes and use balloons
Feed the blob candy

Haiku FTW! Now go out and get that li’l blob some noms!

Homescapes

This spin-off of Candy Crush is WAY better than the original. First off, there are no sparkling colors and flashing lights that feels, to me, seizure-inducing. Secondly, Homescapes is fun because it has a storyline. Help Austin the butler fix up his parents’ mansion and (potentially) get a date (I don’t know, I’m only on level 400, but I’m REALLY hoping he gets the girl!). NOTE: I will warn that this game can be sexist. The mother spends a good amount of time lamenting her inability to bake a pie without burning it and “woe-is-me I’m a terrible housewife yada yada.” BUT, if you can ignore those blips of yes-a-white-dude-probably-invented-this-game, then it’s a LOT of fun.

Jurassic Park Builder

DINOSAURS! Need I say more? Create your own park, invent new dinosaurs, complete tasks and battle your beasts to make more money. This game is pretty slow. Turns out, it takes a long time for dinosaurs to hatch—even in the game world. BUT, if you’re looking for something to relax your brain, there’s nothing like feeding a dinosaur and watching it evolve.

Boggle and/or Ruzzle

Find as many words as you can in the shortest amount of time. This game can be a *little intense because of the timed aspect, but it really does a great job of taking your mind off of whatever’s stressing you out.

Words with Friends

My Algebra II teacher must’ve been crazy stressed because she spent most of the class hunkered down at her computer, playing this game. And though I sometimes get flashbacks from high school, that doesn’t mean this game can’t be super calming. Play Scrabble with people from around the world. Don’t have the attention span for a full game? No problem! You can sign up for lightning rounds that last about two minutes. AND, if you play against the app, you can access the game offline. WIN!

EndlessDucker

In this game, you play a dude who jumps and ducks his way through obstacle courses that resemble pool halls, football fields and outdoor trails. Drones, flying pies and low tree branches all have it out for you. The farther you get, the faster you run and the more you have to rely on your reflexes. It’s simple, engaging and totally stress-reducing.

Angry Birds

We all know about Angry Birds. There’s even a movie. After years of avoiding the inevitable, I finally broke down and got the game. I’ve been missing out! For some reason, chucking birds at pigs is incredibly satisfying. Give it a go yourself!

Outfolded

Unfold shapes to get from one point to another. This is like geometry on steroids! And, if you’re stuck, the app lets you ask for hints. =) I love the game’s design and feel—just looking at the landscape is already pretty calming.

Six!

Break down the Tetris wall
Let yourself relax
Don’t let the hexagon fall
Keep depleting those stacks

Your fingers must be steady
To clean up the mess
When the download is ready
Your mind will destress

P.S. This game is my fav so far!

Tetris and/or Pong and/or Snake

All the “old” games are available for the iPhone and kick-butt when it comes to busting stress. Download a few and take a ride down memory lane!

Photo by Leon Liu on Unsplash

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How to Host a Friend Speed Dating Event

Friendship is hard. Once you’re out of the friendship-incubator that is college, it’s tough to meet new people outside your own little bubble. I’m here to help! Friend speed dating is for awesome women who are interested in platonic friendships with other, similarly badass, ladies! It’s a speed-dating format without any of the awkwardness. I’ll be serving up huge helpings of coffee, tea, cookies, doughnuts*—and friendship! *Email me at news@mbloudoff.com if you are vegan etc. so we make sure you get some noms, too!

How To

As I planned this event, I relied heavily upon this librarian’s site. She had a GREAT explanation of how the event should flow, and it was really helpful as I planned my own meetup. I made some alterations, like each “couple” got to talk for five minutes. In retrospect, if I’d had a smaller group (we had 16), it would’ve been great to let people chat for even longer!

I printed and cut out groups of ice breaker questions and placed one chunk of questions in front of each seat. I found the questions here and here.

I used yellow sticky notes with arrows to direct people on where to go after their time was up. Then I printed out this star and this arrow for the trickier moves. (See the librarians site above for details on movements!) Overall, the sticky notes and the arrows didn’t help so it’s best if you stand by at the end of each chat to direct people until they get the hang of it.

In case of an odd number of people, I had a “craft station” where folks could either draw or write letters. We ended up not using it. I just filled in to make it an even number until the latecomers showed up. (Note: If you do decide to fill in, make sure you rotate like everyone else! I didn’t rotate for a couple rounds, and it made things a little tricky toward the end of the meetup!)

Food

I made sure to provide my email address and ask about food preferences. It’s just common courtesy, but it goes a long way to making everyone feel welcome. While no one emailed me about food allergies, I still had fruit, gluten-free cookies and chocolate, in addition to the dozen (Dunkin’) doughnuts, two muffins and a cinnamon role, so that there were options for everyone. On top of that, I bought tea for everyone in the group who wanted it (our group wasn’t into coffee!). The coffee shop we were in just filled up a gallon jug of hot water and had a variety of tea bags available. (I set this all up in advance with the manager.)

We had all the fruit, a muffin, a cinnamon role and six doughnuts left at the end of the evening so I had everyone take some home. I think it’s better to get too many treats than not to have enough, but in the future I think I might just bring doughnuts and skip the cinnamon role and muffins. (Fruit is a must-have for any vegan etc. people!)

Venue

I started off by reaching out to a whole bunch of established restaurants and cafes, and was astounded by how difficult it was to host events at these places. Some asked for thousands of dollars to make a reservation! That wasn’t going to happen.

Out of ideas, I reached out to an acquaintance who hosts weekly meetup.com groups for a rather large number of people. She recommended this new coffee shop called Central Coffee Bar. It was PERFECT! The service was amazing and the people were incredibly accommodating. (I think new places are great partners because they’re still trying to generate buzz around their new venture, and they want to develop relationships with the community.) I will definitely be giving them a ring for my next event!

For friend speed dating in particular, make sure it’s a place that’s relatively quiet and large enough to accommodate a big group. There’s nothing worse than having to shout over other people when you’re trying to get to know someone new, or having to squeeze around tables and chairs to move spots when the time is up.

Marketing

Marketing was, by far, the most difficult part of the whole process. I tried printing out posters and posting them in the neighborhood, but that was super ineffective. Most places wouldn’t let me put up posters, and the ones that did ended up tearing them down in just a day or two. Complete waste of money!

My next tactic was using Facebook’s paid advertising to get the word out. But unless you’re willing to fork over the big bucks, and I’m talking more than $50, it’s not worth it. I paid the least amount, $16, and no one told me they saw the event pop up on their Facebook. I’m glad I did it just to cover all my bases, but I don’t think it helped with marketing.

Eventbrite got the most number of people to sign up. Creating an account is free and very easy. I shared the page with local listserves, blogs and asked my friends to post it to their Facebooks and share it with their coworkers. This was, by far, the BEST idea. I don’t know how often I can bug friends to be my personal marketers, but I’m gonna give it go for my next event, too! (Thanks, guys, you rock!)

(And if you’re worried that friends sharing the event will mean that only YOUR friends will show up, thus defeating the purpose of meeting new people, don’t worry about it. I only had two of my friends show up, and they were from different friend groups so they’d never even met!)

I also paid for a meetup group. It only got me two sign ups, but I think it was worth it for future events. Now, everyone who went to friend speed dating can join my meetup group to get alerts about my future events. We’ll see if that pans out! So far I have just under 100 members in the meetup group, which could be helpful for my next foray into marketing.

Lessons

I had a blast, and so did everyone else! The attendees all said they loved it, and—better yet—they all made new friends! SUCCESS! *big smiles

Looking back, I think my biggest lesson is that most people are not hardcore planners like I am. (I love planning months in advance!) Most people signed up in the last three days. I went from five participants to 16—with one person signing up the day of! SO, if you’re planning an event, don’t freak out if you don’t have “enough” people one week out. They’re probably just more spontaneous folks! (Plus, many blogs won’t promote your event until the week-of so that also explains some of it.)

Along the same lines, I also think I worried far too much over making everything “perfect.” Several people complimented me on how organized everything was, and that made me SUPER happy! But, when little mishaps occurred, everyone just went with the flow. I even asked an attendee to take over timing the event so I could go pay the bill—and they were more than happy to do it. So my advice is to breathe more and worry less. =)

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What to do in Iquitos, Peru (Amazon Rainforest)

 

  • Budget
    • s./ 12 for taxi
    • s./ 15 per hour canoe rental pp (x 3 hrs s./ 180 total)
    • s./ 6 for bus to lagoon pp
    • s./ 5 for lagoon admission
    • s./ 25 each way to manatee research (s./ 50 total)
    • s./ 5 fee per person for manatee center
    • s./ ?? boat road to butterfly farm (s./ 100 total) (overestimating)
    • s./ 15 butterfly farm
    • s./ 25 taxi to la playa
    • s./ 100 per person/day for food
    • s./ 500 souvenirs
  • Feb 28: Iquitos

    • Flight leaves Lima at 8 a.m., arrive in Iquitos at 10:30 a.m.

    • Hotel

    • Getting picked up by hotel; if taxi needed instead, it should cost no more than 12 soles ($4) from the airport

    • Staying at: Casa Moray

      • Calle Loreto 200 – Plaza Ramón Castilla – Iquitos, Perú

    • Visit the Belen Mercado (floating market)

      • Go to Bellavista on the Rio Nanay, neighborhood for canoe rentals

      • Rent a canoe for 15 soles ($5) per hour

    • Visit Quistococha Lagoon (5 soles, $1.60)

      • That’s where they breed GIAGANTIC fish called paiche and have a small zoo, a small beach and a lakeside restaurant/bar

      • Buses go the the lagoon from the corner of Bermudex and Moore near Plaza 28 de Julio (cost is 6 soles, trip time is 20 min)
  • March 1: Iquitos
    • Transfer to Amazonia Rainforest Lodge (would NOT recommend. They threatened me for writing a bad review)
  • March 5: Iquitos
    • Return to Iquitos

  • March 6: Iquitos

    • Explore Iquitos

    • Manatee Rescue Center (have to visit in the morning)

    • Can go from Bellavista to Playa Nana (It’s nice, but don’t swim. Strong currents)

    • Visit El Boulevard, which has an amphitheatre for live entertainment most nights

Where to eat:

  • Yellow Rose of Texas; Putumayo Street 180; 51-65-23-1353; (via NYT)
  • Al Frio y Al Fuego: upscale floating restaurant; Avenida La Marina 18; 51-65-96560-7474 (via NYT)

More info:

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How to Make Homemade Fondant

I love baking quirky cakes, and I make all my fondant in my kitchen. Using store-bought fondant may be easier, but it’s more expensive, and it tastes, well, BLAH. Homemade fondant is delicious and pretty easy to make en-mass once you get the hang of it.There are two ways to go about making the fondant. You can use fresh marshmallows or stale marshmallows (they’re kind of tough and hard). Fresh marshmallows are less likely to get burnt and easier to turn into fondant, BUT the fondant they produce can tear more easily. Stale marshmallows are more likely to burn (which can mean you have to throw the whole batch out, depending on the color you’re going for), but the resulting fondant is easier to work with.

That being said, ALWAYS use brand-name marshmallows. Yup, the more expensive ones just work better. Store brand is a no-no unless you’ve got mad skills, in which case, write to me and let me know how you did it!(Usually one bag of powdered sugar and one of marshmallows is fine for a cake, but I always have at least three of each on hand in case something goes wrong! You can always return what you don’t use—or bake extra!)

You’ll want to put the entire bag of marshmallows in a Crisco-coated microwavable bowl and, on a regular setting, microwave them for 30 seconds. Stir. Repeat the process until the marshmallows are one, big, gooey mass.
Then, coat your hands with Crisco and mix the marshmallows with powdered sugar. I like to use brand name powdered sugar, but it’s less important than with the marshmallows. BE CAREFUL because you can burn yourself pretty nastily on the hot marshmallows, BUT wait too long and the marshmallows will set, and you’ll have to microwave them all over again. It’s a fine line!
Once the marshmallows can’t take anymore powdered sugar, you have your fondant. Wipe your counter clean and then coat it with Crisco. Recoat your hands with Crisco. There’s a LOT of Crisco going on here. Using a rolling pin (coated with Crisco) or a wine bottle (also coated with Crisco), roll out the fondant until it’s the size of the dessert you want to cover. Don’t let the fondant get too thin or it will rip. And try not to make it too thick or your guests will be chewing huge gobs of fondant!Crumb coat your dessert with cream cheese frosting and put it in the fridge for ~5 minutes. I like to buy the frosting in the can. Homemade frosting is great, but the canned frosting is actually less expensive and holds the fondant better.Roll the fondant around the rolling pin/wine bottle to get it off the table and then drape it over your dessert. Use kitchen scissors (NOT a knife) to cut off the excess fondant. Smooth fondant, and TAH-DAH! your dessert is ready to be colored.

If you have an airbrush (go you!) just follow the directions on the packaging. If you don’t have an airbrush, you can mix food coloring with vodka to paint the cake various shades of colors. (The vodka evaporates, don’t worry!) All it takes is a regular paintbrush—but one that hasn’t been used for anything else.

Have fun, and message me with questions!

Photo Credit: Lance Anderson

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Top Things to Do in South Africa

This is the list I used when planning my trip to South Africa. Scroll through it and see what jumps out at you. Enjoy your trip, and ping me with any questions!

Johannesburg 

Two days is plenty of time to see all that Joburg has to offer. Tack on an extra day to do quirkier trips and explore the city. Uber is the best (and cheapest) way to get around if you’re new to the city and unaware of its good/bad areas, especially since there aren’t that many sidewalks for walking. Make sure your cell phone works overseas without crazy fees because there’s very little free wifi in this city!

  • Soweto
    • “For real insight into post-apartheid South Africa – a visit to the township of Soweto, home to an estimated 3.5 million people – you need to hire a guide. Besides providing a glimpse into how millions of black South Africans live today, Soweto is historically fascinating. Nobel Peace Prize-winners Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu both lived on tree-lined Vilakazi Street and Mandela’s former home is open to visitors. Left as it once was, Winnie’s military boots stand next to a bed with a jackal-skin throw, and old photos line the walls. Just down the road, the Hector Pieterson Memorial Museum, named after the 13-year-old whose murder by police sparked an uprising in 1976, is another hard-hitting reminder of the horrors of apartheid.” –Condé Nast Traveller
    • The guided tour of Mandela’s home is simply a memorized speech of significant dates. It’s interesting, but don’t expect it to take more than 20 minutes at the maximum.
    • The Hector Pieterson Memorial Museum was fantastic. It did a great job of explaining the uprising and its aftermath. All the feels.
    • I was skeptical of paying $70 to take a tour of Soweto, especially when I’d been told that it’s fine to walk around in the daytime. But I’m really glad we went with Township Travel (Siphiwe Kumalo info@township-travel.co.za sowetour98@gmail.com). The tour offers perspectives, not only from the tour guide, but from residents in their early 20s who take you around their neighborhood and answer all your questions. I highly recommend it!
  • The Apartheid Museum:
    • Built by the casino next door, this museum is pretty awesome. It’s also incredibly overwhelming (the layout is like a labyrinth!) and crowded. It’s worth a visit to learn some basics, but I think you’d get much more out of reading a book.
    • This place is difficult to get to. You can call an uber from where you’re staying, but there’s no wifi at the museum or the museum’s cafe to help you get back. Luckily, the pawn shop next to a gas station down the street has wifi. Ask an uber driver (they pull up to the museum all the time!) to take you to the gas station, ask for the pawn shop’s wifi and then request him/her on the app from there.
  • BOOKS!
  • Sporty Things
    • “If you can, try and watch a Premier soccer league game at the FNB stadium- kaizer chiefs (most famous and loved soccer club in SA) play there (world cup stadium finals were played and biggest stadium in south africa) tickets should be no more than $5 usd.  Sit in the heart of the crowd and get in the mix of their singing and dancing all game long. Another good PSL game to go to is Orlando stadium- for Orlando pirates (second most popular team in SA) –sit in the heart of the crowd to gain full experience.” -Emily Chow
    • “If you care to watch cricket games–you can watch at the wanderers stadium—warning: games can take up to 8 hours… or 3 hours for a “t cricket game”” -Emily Chow
    • “You can also go to Ellis Park, now known as emirates airline park to catch a rugby game. world famous stadium– where invictus was filmed and where mandela unified the black and whites thru sports.” -Emily Chow
  • Witchcraft
    • https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/museum-man-and-science
    • Kind of a letdown, actually. It’s only fun if you go with a tour and can have everything explained to you. The proprietors of the shop won’t take the time to point out all the cool stuff, (unless you show up at around 7 a.m. and ask for the owner’s son) which is understandable.

Click the link below to read more:

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Packing for Winter in Iceland

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Always be Reading

TWO years ago I asked y’all for book recommendations, and I JUST finished reading all the recs! You can check out my reviews on GoodReads.

  • Enchantress of Florence!
  • the final testament of the holy bible by James Frey. It’s a little intense but i love it!
  • I’m reading A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth right now. It’s about 1400 pages but pretty good so far.
  • The Alchemist
  • The Orphan Master’s Son – Adam Johnson. (One of my favourites in recent years; takes you into the strange world of North Korea)
  • The Last Lion: Winston S. Churchill (1940-1965). LONG but brilliant.
  • The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.
  • Are you into classic lit? If you haven’t read Dickens or Steinbeck in awhile, get to it. And I’d be remiss to not suggest Austen.
  • if you like historical fiction, cutting for stone is a great read. narrative journalism – love thy neighbor by peter mass is excellent.
  • Reading “Bird by Bird” and loving it…
  • Depending on what you’re up for — Fiction: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time. Narrative nonfiction: Devil in the White City. Biography: Mountains Beyond Mountains. YA lit: Eleanor and Park … and as we get closer to the end of the year, Holidays On Ice by David Sedaris is always a good standby.
  • Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield. Think of it as “300” only much more historically accurate
  • Fall of Giants by Ken Follett is really well done. It is a historical fiction that takes you through WWI from the perspectives of some great characters living in the various countries involved…If you have any interest in science fiction check out Old Man War’s by John Scalzi…I know the title leaves something to be desired but it is truly epic…also maybe try rereading the Giver….Way better as an adult.
  • Mad Magazine.
  • You still need to read Ajax Penumbra 1969! It’s a quickie:https://www.goodreads.com/…/18657790-ajax-penumbra-1969
  • The Great Gatsby. Midnight’s Children.
  • Wanna read this together? https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/816.Cryptonomicon
  • Try Pedro Paramo, or one hundred years of solitude.
  • The Ghost Writer by Philip Roth. The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. Catch-22
  • Can’t argue with Cryptonomicon, Old Man’s War or any Philip Roth. Here are a few more:
    • In non-fiction: Griftopia by Matt Taibbi; Back to Our Future: How the 1980s Explains the World We Live in Now, by David Sirota;
    • In historical semi-fiction: The Book of Lost Books: An Incomplete History of All the Great Books You’ll Never Read, by Stuart Kelly;
    • In urban fantasy: Storm Front, by Jim Butcher; Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, by Robin Sloan;
    • In space opera: Consider Phlebas, by Iain M. Banks;
    • In ‘hard’ SF: Permanence, by Karl Schroeder;
    • In British Satirical Fantasy: Good Omens, by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman;
    • In light (if high) literary: Last Night at the Lobster, by Stewart O’Nan;
    • In ‘modern cyberpunk/steampunk’ re-imaginings: Cinder, by Marissa Meyer;
    • In literary: Swamplandia!, by Karen Russell;
    • In high-concept SF: The Windup Girl, by Paolo Bacigalupi;
    • In disaster fiction: Lucifer’s Hammer, by Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle;
    • In modern cyberpunk: Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline;
    • In post-apocalyptic novels with huge self-publishing success: Wool, by Hugh Howey;
    • The Snakehead by Patrick Radden Keefe
    • A thousand splendid sun by Khaled Hosseini (on Afghanistan), The white tiger by Aravind Adiga (on India). Or for something more Science fiction/fantasy, China Mieville is an author I’d recommend, especially Perdido Street Station, The City and The City or Un-lun-dun
    • Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card (also taking notes from other recommendations)
    • Anything written by Philippa Gregory (Other Boleyn Girl etc)
    • On Khaled Hosseini’s note, The Kite Runner is unbeatable. If you want a good mix of fiction and science but not your stereotypical sci fi, read No Time to Die by Kira Peikoff. She just did a story for us and she writes medical thrillers. It was an awesome read.
    • I’ll second The Orphan Master’s Son. Also, of course David Mitchell if you haven’t read him. For older, more “classic” fiction I LOVED loved loved The Magus, by John Fowles. It’s so trippy and beautifully written.
    • Oooh yeah, I second Eloise Awure-Nsoh on The White Tiger. IF you like that, try City of Thieves too. You might like it.
    • Pride and Prejudice
    • White Teeth by Zadie Smith is my fave!
    • Here are some really excellent books I’ve enjoyed reading this year: The Handmaid’s Tale (Atwood); Till We Have Faces (Lewis); The Eye (Nabokov); Kafka on the Shore (Murakami); and Invisible Cities (Calvino). All are interesting and worth reading.
    • I absolutely love the Dresden Files series. It’s complete escapism fiction about a Wizard in Chicago. He’s the only entry you can find in the phone book under Wizard.
    • A tree grows in brooklyn, Life of Pi, Unbroken, Growing Up
    • The Name of the Rose, by Umberto Eco; Foundation, by Isaac Asimov; The Catcher In The Rye, JD Salinger; all of the Game of Thrones books…
    • 1. Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake (science fiction focused on genetic engineering with an apocalyptic flair. Soon to be a TV series, I believe). 2. Lightspeed’s Women Destroy Science Fiction (anthology of short stories by established and emerging women writers). 3. Good Omens. I think someone already mentioned this one, but seriously read it. Hilarious. Wonderful. 4. Margaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin (book within a book within a book. One of my most favorites. Just got it en espanol so I can reread as I progress).
    • Also, also, C.J. Cherryh’s Cyteen (another of my favorite science fiction writers. Cloning and nature vs. nuture). Okay, stopping now or else I’ll go on forever.
    • Gone Girl, a sweet story about Nick and Amy, a young married couple who lose their journalist jobs in the recession, and about how their marriage is affected by this setback…
    • OK, seriously. I second Catcher In The Rye. Read it yesterday if you haven’t yet. The Hunger Games trilogy, A Walk to Remember- Nicholas Sparks (don’t judge), Hillary Clinton’s first bio “Living History”, The Racketeer- John Grisham. And two non-fiction reads by great journalists: Nickel and Dimed- Barbara Ehrenreich on living poor in the US and Drama High: The Incredible True Story of a Brilliant Teacher, a Struggling Town, and the Magic of Theater- Michael Sokolove. That last one is one of my recent favorites.
    • Ooooh, KITE RUNNER, good one, Lina! And one of my favorite authors, Kazuo Ishiguro, wrote two books that touched me deeply: Remains of the day and Never let me go.
    • Still thinking about this. Quick read -> The Giver by Lois Lowry. The first dystopian fiction I ever read – it made a big impression on me.
    • Boss by Mike Royko.. This is mandatory
    • Or America: The Book by the Daily Show for a light read
    • Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz. It has the best reading-effort-to-wow ratio of any book I’ve read.

 

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Kittens

Best Vets in Arlington, VA by Price

These prices are for kittens as of September, 2017. Not listed—the feline leukemia vaccine, which you should definitely get for your li’l one!

Courthouse
http://caringhandsvet.com/
Appointment: $68.50
Preventative heartworm meds: $36.96
Flea/tick prevention: $57.17 Provecto (lasts six months)
FVRCP booster shot: $24.50
(Feline Leukemia Vaccine + booster: $60)
Total: $187.43
Total per year (excluding booster shots, including two office visits): $325.26

Clarendon
http://clarendonanimalcare.com/
Appointment: $75
Preventative heartworm meds: $59 Revolution (lasts six months)
Flea/tick prevention: $?? Provecto (lasts three months) –>estimated $28.58
FVRCP booster shot: $41
(Feline Leukemia Vaccine + booster: $96)
Total: $203.58
Total per year (excluding booster shots, including two office visits): $382.32

Virginia Square
https://novacatclinic.com/

Appointment: $75
Preventative heartworm meds: $149.97 Revolution for cats above 5lbs (lasts one year)
Flea/tick prevention: included in Revolution
FVRCP booster shot: $31.50
Total: $256.47
Total per year (excluding booster shots, including two office visits): $299.97

Cherrydale
http://www.cherrydalevet.com/
Appointment: $89
Preventative heartworm meds: office wouldn’t disclose cost
Flea/tick prevention: office wouldn’t disclose cost
FVRCP booster shot: office wouldn’t disclose cost
Total: Unknown

http://www.northsidevetclinic.com/
Not accepting any new patients

Fairfax
http://www.suburbananimalhospital.net/
Appointment: $89
Preventative heartworm meds: $46.95 (six months)
Flea/tick prevention: $47.33 (three months)
FVRCP booster shot: $29.40
Total: $212.68
Total per year (excluding booster shots, including two office visits): $508.55

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Waking Up Katie

*I found this gem on an old computer while I was looking for a different file. I wrote it almost a decade ago during an early-morning creative writing class. (Resemblances to my actual little sister are pretty far off as she’s a gorgeous woman!)

Waking Up Katie

Two red-rimmed eyes peer through the semi-darkness, their blurred pupils suddenly coming to focus on me. Caked in gunk and watering slightly at the edges, these orbs of irritated flesh stare expectantly. A lone finger, its nail bitten to the quick, revealing the raw pink inside, interrupts this questioning gaze and proceeds to methodically explore the grimy crevices, smearing yellow goop across an eyebrow and down a cheek. The remnants of Barbie magenta nail polish dip in and out of the two small pockets and finally come to rest on one of the pale blue irises, causing the globes of color to cross and uncross rapidly.

With her hair sticking up at odd angles and her arms and legs entangled rather dangerously in summer sheets sticky with sweat, she resembles a mad contortionist, a science experiment gone awry. The being in the bed next to mine sniffs twice and, after casting another, pleading glance at me, rolls over in a convulsion of flailing arms and knotted curls. Soon, her breathing slows and she begins to snore, loudly.

My little sister can sneeze up to 25 times in a row. It’s a world record; we’ve checked. She has asthma, severe allergies, scoliosis, weight issues and chronic colds. When you look at her porcelain fair complexion, knobby knees and stooping way of carrying herself, you’d think she was about to drop dead any second. But the child has an impish smile that confirms it—ignorance is bliss. She still hasn’t gotten her head around her own physical limitations enough to recognize them. My mother hopes she never will.

The alarm clock goes off, its scream beginning the day in a manner as tranquil as a punch in the face.

My sister’s posture tenses subtly as she instinctively clutches tighter, her tiny fingers wrapping securely around a post in the headboard. She feigns sleep but sneezes five times and utters a word she probably shouldn’t know under her breath.

My sister is a weakling, but she’s a fighter, and it’s my turn to wake her up.

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New Game: Airport Scavenger Hunt

Necessity is the mother of all invention. Greg and I created this game the last time we were stuck in an airport, waiting for a flight that was more than three hours delayed. Everyone was bored, JetBlue had run out of free chips and the CNN anchors rambling on about the economy just weren’t cutting it as entertainment. We needed a distraction.

The rules of airport scavenger hunt are easy. All you need to do is grow a pair (of ovaries or cojones, take your pick), and talk to strangers. Revolutionary! Each team (*ahem, Greg and I) comes up with 10 questions, picks a section of the airport and then runs around asking questions. The first person to find different people who can answer each of the questions accurately, wins!

But the real win is meeting a whole bunch of really interesting individuals. I was given the opportunity to connect and learn from people whose paths would never again cross with mine—something I rarely take advantage of anymore. It’s amazing how often we go about our days, sitting next to people on the metro, walking past them at parties and never get to know them (even in the most basic sense).

I was surprised at how many stranded passengers wanted to participate, were stoked to get involved and tell their stories. Even those not participating looked pretty darn amused. I like to think our little game made their arduous wait a little less BLARGH. And that’s the whole point of being alive, right? Making things just a little better for others.

When you try the airport scavenger hunt, lmk the questions you used and how people responded!

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