Another Awkward Week [8.30.13]

Guys, hi! How are you! It's been awhile, what's new? I'm sitting here eating pickles and drinking wine and trying to come up with my usual witty ("witty") Friday recap of the past week but coming up blankety blank sooo I'm just going to ramble on for a while about my vacation. How about that? Could get long. Could turn into a stream-of-consciousness word vomit but hey, it's the Friday before Labor Day, were you really going to do any work anyway? Didn't think so.  I figure, you could either read about Miley, Syria or whatever it is I've got going on so...your choice!

And letz begin.

So two weeks ago I took a  most magical All American Vacation with my boo (haha gross! What if I really called him that?). We visited my family in Pennsylvania, and took a quick road trip to the Shenandoah National Forest in Virginia for a few days of hiking and sleeping in a tent.  Here's a few highlights from le trip:

1. In Lancaster County, even the pool clubs are barns:

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(I don't mean to sound snide, I only tease ya cuz I love ya, Lancaster. Photo snapped during a fab afternoon  visiting my dad.)

2. Shenandoah National Forest is G to the Orge to the U to the S...that didn't really work, did it? 

Anyway, as I was saying:

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G to the O to the...let it go, Liz. Let it go.

3. I'm not so great at taking self-timer photos:

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That's a framer.

4. But AM pretty great at hiking. 

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One of the best days of our trip was spent climbing Old Rag Mountain in Virginia, a rocky peak which sounds like it was named after a used feminine hygiene product (sorry, but true) and which Tina Fey once climbed to impress a boy, a story she recounts in Bossypants aka My Bible.

At any rate, Mount Tampon is known for its stony face over which hikers must "scramble" to get to the summit. When I read about this in guide books I craved fluffy eggs...and then pictured goats kind of running around a rocky field. It couldn't be that hard, I thought. Tina Fey did it. At night! I was somewhat wrong. The trail started as a sloping, gentle forest climb but quickly turned difficult. Blue painted arrows marked which way we should go and often they had us scaling down into tiny crevasses between giant boulders...or heaving ourselves over slippery rocks with no place for a solid foothold.

We made it to the summit and y'all, It felt BAD ASS. I'm sure it's not even a three on a 1 - 10 scale of difficult hikes but for me, it was a pretty big one. Despite being thin and in decent shape, I tend to suffer from some poor self-image issues (thanks, Hollywood!) and fixate on flaws instead of actually appreciating my bod for all that it can do, but climbing Old Raggedy Andy made me put some things into perspective. There were moments when ahead of me lay bare rock and I had to somehow find a way to get my body up and over with nowhere easy to put my feet. I had to use my arms, my back, my legs and my brain and make them all work at once and I did it. I did it!  Often I lead the way in our twosome. I may not look like Giselle or Heidi Klum or Queen B but dang, I felt bold and I felt strong and it was really, really cool. I am hoping to maybe tackle a few even more difficult hikes in the future. Look out Everest!

Juuust kidding.

Also...

5. I'm Sweaty.

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So remember that terrible self image we were discussing? Let's dig into that. I have always suffered from what shall henceforth be known as Sweaty Torso Syndrome or STS. When I am active, my stomach sweats. This is probably totally normal but because I am a crazy girl, I have always felt ashamed of this. My abs also tend to be my least flattering feature and I tend to fixate, to an unhealthy degree, on my tummular pooch (I was a vulnerable tween in the prime of the Britney years, how could I NOT be obsessed with flat bellies) and for that dumb reason I have always been extra insecure about sweating in my midsection. I have memories of summer soccer camps in high school in 100+ weather, and me slathering Secret Antiperspirant on my stomach because I'd rather smell like a rotten baby powder factory than be seen with a sweaty middle.

You guys, it is NOT GREAT being a teenage girl. Not great.

So flash forward 10 years older and zero wiser and here's me and Brian, after a seriously strenuous hike and I should feel nothing but pride about this photo but I can't stop fixating on my drenched tank.

I made this my profile pic on Facebook and had a cleverr poem written for the caption, read to the tune of On Top of Spaghetti:

On Top of Old Rag

All Covered in Sweat

Don't Look at My Torso

It is Soaking Wet

But then I thought to myself: stop being self deprecating. You were hiking. You got sweaty. OWN IT. I deleted the caption and hit print.

Four minutes later my (well intentioned, I sincerely believe) cousin (hi Jamie!) (no hard feelings!) posted a comment asking if we were in a "mountain top wet t-shirt contest."

No, dude, we just suffer from STS, big time and you know what? 16 year old Liz Ho would have probably hurled herself right OFF of Old Rag had anyone drawn such public attention to her sopping stomach but 28-for-two-more-weeks Liz Ho has decided to flaunt it.

On Top of Old Rag

My Torso is ... Damp.

I Climbed a Fucking Mountain

Cuz I am a CHAMP!

6. Sleeping in the great outdoors? Over rated.

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This was our homesite for a few nights. See that clothesline? Made it myself using nothing but rope and trees. Pretty proud, guys. Prettty pretty proud. Anyway, we camped in Shenandoah for two nights (Big Meadow Campground, highly recommended, despite what I'm about to say) and I'd say we slept a collective 6 hours of sleep during those two evenings.

The first night we enjoyed a delightful dinner of cheeseburgers and macaroni salad and retired to our humble canvas abode when no sooner than we had zipped the tent closed did it start raining, and hard. I was convinced the tent was going to collapse upon us and drown us both and Brian was just trying to figure out logistically if he could unzip the tent enough to pee out the front window without letting in rain water and we both just laid there, awake, willing sleep, morning or death to come.

Spoiler alert: we lived.

The second night we were strategic: we were getting CRUNK. A light buzz would lull us into a delightful slumber and we'd wake up the next morning refreshed and revived.

We polished off a bottle of wine and a plethora of PBR's (you can take the girl out of Brooklyn...) and checked off the" fall into a delightful slumber" part which worked until I woke up at about 1 AM with WICKED dry mouth and spent the rest of the night laying awake itching my 400 + mosquito bites and taking every sound to be a murderer while Brian lay wide awake beside me, having been up all night on a vigilant patrol for bears.

Next time, we're staying at the lodge.

Why was Brian scurred of bears?

7. They're Everywhere!

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That dark blob surrounded by professional graphic editing is a black bear, y'all. Live, up close and in the wild.

Pretty cool, huh?

Speaking of cool, did you know that

8. QUIZ on a triple letter score is a 66 point word.

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Just FYI. Here's a snap of Brian getting BURNT.

Annnd then I lost the next 2 games in our Best of 3 competish but still: Q-U-I-Z, dude. Never forget.

And then we went back to PA and ate..

9. CHICKEN WINGS

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I've said it once, I'll say it a thousand times. I love me some wings. So when my mom asked if we wanted to go catch a game of our local baseball team (obviously called the Barnstormers) on an all you can eat wings/ all you can drink Yuengling package, well, my chicken lovin' Pennsylvania heart just about up and stopped.  And then started again and then actually stopped because between my brother and I we polished off this graveyard of wing bones:

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Disgusted? You should be!

We kept the All American Fat Kid trend going into the next day with a stop at

10. The Elizabethtown Fair

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I know I seem supremely cosmopolitan but my heart, which is deep fried like an Oreo, belongs in a small town. Our town has a designated Fair Ground where every August the finest in agriculture and teen moms congregate together for an event known as the E-Town Fair. There are cows and goats and a talent show and rides and cotton candy and funnel cakes and alllllll the people watching your judgey heart could desire and tractors. Did I mention tractors?

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And OHHH the milkshakes. About 100 years ago there was this agricultural collective known as The Grange Movement where some stuff involving farmers' rights happened or something...I don't know. We learned about it in history class but all I took away is this: the Grange Movement is still alive and well and making the BEST GODDAMN milkshakes you have ever tasted. Don't try to contradict me, I don't care if you come from Milkshake City, Capital of Milkshakeland on the planet Milkshake, you ain't never had a shake til you've had a Grange shake, am I right, E-town readers, or am I right? (85% sure that none of my HS pals read this blergh so I'll go ahead and answer for myself: I'M RIGHT!)

The fair happens every year on the last week of summer and when we were in middle and high school it was THE thing to do. This was pre cell phones and snap chat and One Direction and whatever the youths are up to these days, so every night we'd meet at a pre-ordained time in front of the tractor display. We'd all wear our new clothes that we bought for back to school because the REAL debut happened at the Fair, not in the hallways, and we'd spend the next several hours just circling the grounds in packs, again and again and again.

I hadn't been in somewhere between six and 10 years but the second I stepped back on that midway I was rushed back to high school summers and we were so silly...but how fun was it?

I find I get especially nostalgic during summertime. Is it just me?

Brian was XXXXtra cute during the fair, his first, he was like a kid in a candy shop.

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If by candy you mean gigantic stalks of corn.

Also cute, this prayer station, where we picked up a pamphlet with advice on how to love Jewish people.

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Good old LanCo, getting more open minded by the century.

Whoa. I feel like it might be time to shut this down, I think I've done and gone wrote a novel! One thing I just realized din't make the narrative somehow was a fantastic BBQ with my extended family, most of whom were meeting Brian for the first time. I have to give a shout out to all my Aunts, who I know read this (hi guys!!!) and are hilarious and wacky and who I thought might do something crazy with Brian just for fun, like sing or pretend to interrogate him or ... who knows. But they were all totally cool and charming and normal and it went GREAT! Not like I would have blamed them if they had, you KNOW when my future nieces and nephews and children start bringing home dates I'ma embarrass the heck out of them and then probably write a blog about it, because I'm nice like that.

Don't worry, Aunts, we can make him sing at Family Christmas!

Annnd that's what's been going on round these parts. What have YOU been up to? Loving the Jews? Twerking? Overcoming STS? As always you know I'd love to hear about it. PS I just accidentally deleted literally this entire post - when I typed that capital "A" at the start of "As always, instead of hitting shift-A I h it control A and then delete for some reason and hoooooooly shit I thought we were a goner here but I saved it. I saved it!

Let's get this weekend started IMMEDIATELY. Hope yours is sweaty and delightful!

xoxo Liz Ho

Another Awkward Week [8.16.13]

Good morning, buttercups! How's everyone doing on this fine Friday? I am gr8. I just need to power through a few quick hours at la oficina and then I'm on vacation for a full week! It is going to be glorious. Brian & I are headed down to PA for some time with my family and then taking a quick jaunt down to Virginia to hike in the Shenandoah National Forest. Oh and camp, too. In a tent. Something I haven't done since my girl scout days.

Brian & I knew our plan was some mountain hiking time and looked into staying in a few different lodges but decided to keep it thriftay and tent up in a campground. It's only three nights, how hard can it be? I just literally like three days ago realized that this could go horribly awry. It never occurred to me that it might like...rain. Every time I've pictured it in my head it is just sunny and beautiful and then just chilly enough at night to throw on a flannel for a campsite chic look butttt it may very well storm and drench all of our things and I don't know how far the bathroom is from our campsite and I'm fine with peeing outdoors but y'all know (farrrrr too well) how my stomach can sometimes rebel and I don't think I can do that outside.

So yeah, trip could be fantastic OR an epic, soggy, outdoor pooping disaster. Wish us luck!

Now without further ado, why don't we take a look at what was keeping it awkward this week:

This Devastating Mess:

sad soda

I managed to check off a number of my August Bucket List items in the past week, booyah! One such item was a long ass bike ride throughout NYC. For a few weeks in August, there is a program called Summer Streets, where what is essentially 4th Avenue in Manhattan is blocked off to car traffic from the Brooklyn Bridge all the way up to 72nd Street on the East Side. There are various vendors lining the sides plus lots of fun outdoorsy adventure opportunities - giant climbing wall in Soho, boot camp classes in Astor Place. It gets a little crowded but is a cool way to see the city via bike or foot. I think tomorrow is the last day so if you're in the NYC and looking for some fun, don't miss this!

We rode our bikes from our place, across the Manhattan Bridge (there was one moment ascending the bridge when I was certain that I was d-e-a-d donefor but I made it!), up the blocked off Summer Streets, across 72nd to the West Side Highway bike paths, down town, across the Brooklyn Bridge (do not attempt this, it is a death trap of human bodies) and back for a total journey of 21 miles. Pretty proud of myself if I can just quickly toot my own horn.

We stopped for a picnic lunch in Central Park in the middle of our journey and ALL I wanted, all I had been fantasizing about during all of this epic physical activity was a big ass Diet Coke. Preferably from a fountain. When I spotted a Subway Sandwich Emporium it was like the gates of heaven had been opened before me. I filled my cup to the brim with ice cubes and delicious, fizzy, soul nourishing DC, took one sip, walked out the door and dropped my soda on the ground.

Whomp WHOMP.

I know they say it's no use crying over spilled milk but spilled Diet Coke? Totally acceptable.

These Sunglasses:

sunnies

 Also on the summer list: a visit to the beach. Sunday was the most gorgeous day, so Brian & I made the trip out to The Rockaways for a little surf, sun and sand. And seaweed. It's a great beach, free, with fantastic boardwalk dining options and easily accessible, clean public restrooms and they're doing a ton to restore post Sandy damage so I don't want to give them a bad rap but on this particular Sunday afternoon the sea was so weedy the ocean was probably more greenery than water. It was gross. It was like swimming through a bowl of miso soup. Minus the tofu. Gross.

But still: Great beach, accessible via public transit so highly recommended to all my NYC peeps. I'm a regular NYC tour guide this week!

Anyway, I'd somehow managed to lose my sunglasses sometime the previous week so in a pinch ran to the dollar store on my street for a cheap, quick fit. All sunglasses look ridiculous on me because I have a toddler sized head, so I figured I'd just embrace it and go full absurd with the cheesiest sunnies they had for sale.

And there they are. Looking pretttttty fly, if I do say so myself.

This Sunburn:

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And, as always, nailed it in the sunscreen department.

This Scene:

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Another summer/life bucket list item crossed off: Shakespeare in the Park. People line up for hours every summer to get free tickets to Shakespeare in the Park but I was able to get in easy peasy thanks to my company. We were one of the sponsors of the program and were also testing out a cute new book mobile to sell books prior to the show. I volunteered as a bookseller and snagged a ticket to the show after. Sah-weet.

I obviously had to instagram the occasion for posterity, in this "pics or it didn't happen" world of ours, but was swiftly scolded by an usher the second I took out my phone: "No photos allowed!"

I tried to be rebellious and snap a shot when she had a her back turned but chickened out and did it all too fast and viola: here's my photographic evidence. I'd say this one is a framer.

And finally:

This Foot:

sleeping foot

It's mine. Shoes by target, nail polish Sally Hansen, skin & bones: God and/or science.

This is not a summer bucket list item, instead a recurring problemo. I always sit really pretzelly at my desk with one of my feet up under me or crossed over the other or in some other weird position which causes one of my feet to fall asleep and then when I stand up, I can't walk for several minutes. I'll get up and have to limp to the printer or hop on one foot to get my snack or sometimes just stand up and fall right over in front of my desk or the very worst: make it a few steps out of my office before stumbling in the hall, where everyone can see.

It is REALLY embarrassing and happens probably 3 x a week. I understand this might be a problem (I've obviously searched WebMD rigorously for "frequent foot sleeping + cancer = death?") but I can not seem to sit like a normal person.

Does this happen to anyone else?

Annnnd that's the week, kids. Short & simple. I'm now desperately craving fountain Diet Coke and it's 8:15 in the AM. Too soon?

Have a fantastic weekend and pray for sunshine over Virginia next week!

xo,

Liz Ho

Some Awkward/Awesome Travel Tips

passport In case the 146 billion degree temps + fireworks + corn on the cob haven't tipped you off: summer is upon us. It's here, drink beer, get used to it.

Summer + travel often go hand in hand, hence the term Summer Vacation, so I thought I'd toss out a few fun travel tips to help take your summer trip from zero to hero. These tips are also applicable to fall, winter and spring vacations - timeless travel tips, that's what I aim for.

But listen. I'm not going to tell you how to dress or how to efficiently pack a suitcase or what to read or eat on a plane or any of that jazz, you already know that and if you don't, you can flip to the latest and greatest issue of Real Simple and they'll hook you right up. No,  thought I'd share some special, supplemental travel tips that will have you the star and hero of your own vacation, making the most out of any trip whether you're headed to Little Rock, Arkansas or Paris, France or somewhere in between.

You're welcome in advance!

  • Always wear good underwear when flying. You never know what those full body scanners might show up and if, God forbid, your plane crashes and you end up in some kind of Lost island scenario, you're going to want to be looking and feeling your sexy best.
  • Speaking of underwear: always have an extra pair in your carry-on and pack three times the amount you think you might need for your trip. You can never be too prepared when it comes to underbusiness.
  • Don't bother bringing toiletries when staying with friends, it's fun to use other people's stuff.
  • DO bring toiletries when staying at a hotel, you can never guarantee the quality of the free products. That said, if they are high quality, obviously and no duh, stock up.
  • If your hotel has a continental breakfast, it is your duty to go back for thirds and fill your bag with leftovers.
  • When going on a road trip, make your companion drive 93% of the time.
  • Always bring your exercise clothes. Never use them.
  • Sneak a razor onto a plane by hiding in the running shoes you're bringing but not using. Yes, you might get caught and shipped right off to Guantanamo buttttt it's a risk you have to be willing to take not to have to buy razors at resort prices.
  • If your travel destination has a special local cocktail, just drink it. No questions asked. And order another round.
  • Same goes for food - whether it's chicken fried steak or boiled monkey brains, just try it! As the youths say: YOLO.
  • To be frugal, pack your lunches.
  • To experience the best of local culture, eat at all of the finest restaurants.
  • To get the most bang for the all of your money, do both: pack a lunch, eat it by 11:05 AM and then hit up a fine dining establishment an hour later. By the transubstantiatial property of 2 x 2 = 4, you'll be four times happier and t is a proven fact that credit card debt doesn't count when you're on vacation, so just go for it.
  • Don't wear a string bikini in the ocean unless you're prepared to go accidentally full-frontal at least once.
  • Pack a lot of bandaids. You never know.
  • Take 70 billion photographs. Upon your return, print them out and invest in a fancy scrapbook. Keep the photos in a box for 6 + years and eventually just throw the scrapbook out.
  • Before you travel, watch a movie set wherever you're going and then reenact scenes all over town. The cheesier the better. (See photo above of a pal & I reenacting a pivotal scene from the Mary Kate & Ashley CLASSIC Passport to Paris in the Luxembourg Gardens, circa 2006.)
  • Send postcards! It's cute and makes someone's day. Write dirty stuff on the back and make the postman's day, too.
  • It's 5 O'clock somewhere
  • Two Words: Sun Block
  • Two More Words: Aloe Vera
  • If you're travelling by bus, don't change your entire outfit, including bra and underpants in the bus bathroom while en-route, even if you're on the way to see your new long-distance boyfriend for the first time and you want to be as fresh and sexy as possible. Just take my word on this one.
  • And finally, do your best not to be a crazy stress monster even if that is your natural state of being. Your job - that's back at home. You missed a connecting train? Get drunk at the station bar. Trip not working out exactly as you envisioned it in your brain all these weeks - that's ok! Slow down, go with the flow and enjoy it as it is. You can get right back on the anxiety bus the second you get home but for now, you're on vacation. Ain't nobody got time for that!

And there you have it.  Follow these tips and you're sure to have a top notch vacation at any destination.

Now your turn! What do you think makes a perfect vacation even perfecter? That's a word now, just roll with it.

Happy Summer, my fine friends!