TSwizzle’s Launchpad

It’s not like I HAD to go to Nashville to be in the solar eclipse’s path of totality.  But that the path drifted through Nashville was a sign I wasn’t about to ignore. And lo, it happened. She started announcing her new album on eclipse day. We are kindred spirits.  We understand each other.
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Nashville, though it be what I consider to be deep south, is not at all how I imagined deep south to be (gun totin’ bible thumpin’, secessionists).  I was wrong.  Nashville is retirement-worthy, an honor I don’t hand out easily; it follows Hawaii.

It is a trendy place.  Fancy.  Gentrified.  What was that word some real estate articles like to throw around?  Tony?  Yeah, Nashville is a tony town. The people are glamorous.  It felt wealthy.  Coming home after hanging out in Berkeley or NYC makes me feel like our hood is so nice and clean. But after Nashville, I felt like I was coming home to a dump.  Isn’t it odd, the higher the cost of living, the dumpier the place? Something for me to keep in mind for the future. Maybe it’s the rising tide effect. Wealthier places have a higher gini coefficient probably.

Also, Nashville is hands down a better food city than DC.  We dined twice at Little Octopus where they served the most creative dishes.

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This is a cucumber watermelon salad made with chili, lime, peanuts, and mint. We came here two nights in a row.

Another delicious place we stumbled on is The Grilled Cheeserie.
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Tomato soup, grilled cheeses, and tater tots. All of this is plant-based! So addictively delicious!

And if you’re into music, you’re surrounded. We didn’t even have to try to see a show. One night, we stopped by a bar after dinner and they had a jazz/bluesy singer performing.
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Another night, we walked through Broadway and there were live shows all up and down the street. They all sounded record-contract worthy to me. I have even more respect for her skills after seeing Nashville. That TS was plucked from all of these gifted artists speaks to her level of talent. She’s the real deal.

So I wanted to walk where she probably has walked many times over.
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To her collaborating song-writer, Liz Rose’s studio on Music Row (which looks like a street of single family homes). They wrote Teardrops On My Guitar, Fearless, You Belong With Me, and All Too Well together, amongst others.

And of course, her own record label’s office, just a few doors down.
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Big Machine Records. Totally unmarked, it looked like somebody’s home so, feeling intrusive and rude for loitering about, I quickly took a picture and left. Being there made my heart flutter.

But we weren’t done fluttering my heart.
This is the Adelicia.
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Unless she’s since sold it, this was the first place she bought and the first night she spent alone in her own place inspired the song Never Grow Up.

The real star of the show for this trip was our star though. The sun! (Sorry, that was cheezy)
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Not a good picture of the total eclipse, but this was a photo of it. Experiencing it was awesome, in the truest meaning of the word. It was humbling. And for a split second before we had to put our eclipse sunglasses back on, the diamond ring was the most beautiful part of the show.
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These are crescent-shaped shadows cast from the trees when the moon was starting to uncover the sun.

reputation

Ok, unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard or at least heard of Look What You Made Me Do, Taylor Swift’s newly released single from her sixth album, Reputation.

I have been waiting for this album for a year!  She had been on a two year album cycle for her past five albums.  Since 1989 came out in 2014, I thought 2016 was for sure going to give us another album.  But it was crickets so I’ve been anticipating something this year.  And finally!!!

The first time I heard it, I was shook.  Pardon for using that term.  But it fits.  I didn’t know how to eat it.  It wasn’t like any other TS I’ve heard.  It’s dark.  It’s petty.  It’s an old narrative.  But I’ve since gobbled it up and I’m ready for more.  And I’ve now seen the music video a hundred times and even when I’m not listening to it, it’s in my head all day long.  I think the video really helps me understand the song better.  It’s meta.  She’s addressing the old story regarding past feuds, but also making fun of it.  It’s clever, it’s funny, it’s self-deprecating.  It’s new Taylor, but it’s also the same savvy Taylor.  I love it!

Best Shower Cleaner EVAR!!

Here’s how good this stuff is.  I don’t clean my shower for months.  MONTHS!!  Maybe 6 months?  Yeah.  I told you I took a hiatus from cleaning.  You think I’m kidding?  I don’t kid when I’m having important TV time.  Anyway, this stuff made cleaning the shower a breeze.

I learned it from Pinterest.

  • Dawn dish soap (the original blue stuff, but I got Target generic version which seemed to work fine)
  • Cleaning vinegar (Not white eating vinegar; this stuff, while still safe to handle, has higher acidity than eating vinegar. I found it in the cleaning products aisle at Home Depot.)

Two ingredients.  That’s it.  Mix it in a spray bottle.  The Pinterest instructions said to use warm vinegar so I microwaved it for a few seconds first.  I’m not sure if that makes a difference.  Anyway, spray it all over the shower, leave it on for an hour or so.  Come back and scrub. Rinse.  Re-scrub any remaining scum that you missed.  It pretty much comes right off.  I used to exert a lot of energy cleaning the shower. That’s why I dragged my feet about it, because it was so strenuous and tiring.  But this stuff really made the job super duper easy and the shower sparkles like new.  And mostly not too toxic as cleaning products go.

Vegan Fare

I tried two new vegan places last month.  One was Fare Well and the other HipCityVeg.  I had tried to go to Fare Well earlier with friends, but given an anticipated 2 hour wait, we went to Union Market instead.  Fare Well turned out to be just okay.  Their food was incredibly salty.  If I ever went back there, (which would be against my recommendation), I’d just get the polenta fries, which, while greasy, were tasty.

HipCityVeg on the other hand, I wanted to go back the next day.  I haven’t yet, but I still think about their chick’n nuggets which taste like how I remember McD’s nuggets. Maybe they figured out what’s in McD’s flavor crystals. Their bella burger was delicious too.  Even better than the nuggets.  None of their stuff tasted overly salty.  Just a well-balanced combination of flavors.

I’m not sure if I’ve written about Mom’s Market’s Naked Lunch counter but it’s worth repeating until I find something better – because they are my favorite vegan food place.  They serve uncomplicated fresh ingredients and they just let the food shine through without being smothered in too much salt, sugar, or grease.  It’s just combinations of good flavors that meld nicely.  And they don’t overdo it with the highly processed fake meat vegan crap which, while they can be tasty (chick’n nuggets for example) I have no idea what the fuck it is.

Omakase at Kobo

I wanted to love this place.  I want to support businesses that acknowledge that it’s important for ethical, environmental, and health reasons to provide vegan options.  Or heck, just plain financial reasons!  But it was good to okay.  Not I-want-to-go-back-take-my-friends spectacular.

The meal started off with a bang.
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These little balls of amazing flavors bursting in your mouth.  Mango with basil sprinkles, strawberry with fennel sprinkles, and lychee with rose sprinkles.  They were fun to eat and tasted true to the flavors.  But this was more dessert than starter to me.

Following on were more littles.  Little bit of tomato tartare.
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A little bowl of tofu with handmade vegan caviar.
A little cone of micro greens.
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None of it was enough, and they knew that, so as the last course, they hit you with a big bowl of gohan.

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That’s rice.  We got a normal full meal sized bowl of rice with bamboo and shiitake.  While good, it really stood out from the rest of the menu which was delicate and bite sized and pretty and then, plop, here’s some rice to fill you up.  Also, the website says it’s a 12-15 course menu, whereas I counted 11 courses, including the welcoming tea and the amuse bouche as two separate courses.

The chef was a great guy.  And he asked us for what we’d recommend to him.
We both told him that even though we probably didn’t need to eat more, and it was probably better we didn’t, we could have had more.

Here’s what I didn’t tell him –
This menu, though vegan, isn’t truly vegan-friendly.  I don’t eat meat but I still need protein.  The menu had plenty of carbs from rice and vegetables but the only protein in the entire menu was a tiny bit of tofu and fungi.  Where’s the natto?  Where are the pulses?  And for a Japanese vegan place, they could have incorporated more varieties of plants.  Lotus root.  Seaweed (there was some but I wouldn’t have minded more).  More tsukemono (pickled things – though there was a very interesting pickled ginger flower). I wanted everything to be something I couldn’t make at home.  This was not the case.  Some things were definitely unique, but it felt like the menu petered out at the end.  Instead of a grand finale that wow’d us, it was a sputter to the finish line.

The service was impeccable.  They were all super duper friendly with zero airs.  No snooty pretentiousness.  We slurped.  We picked up our bowls.  We Kirby’d our food.  We felt completely at ease.  And I was hungry by the time I got home.

Scratching the fountain pen itch

Instead of getting a new pen, I got myself a new bottle of ink. I reached the bottoms of the Diamine Evergreen and Iroshizuku Tsuki-yo bottles to the point where I can’t draw it up with the nib. I’ll have to use a syringe to suck up the last of the inks in those bottles. In the meantime, I wanted to have the convenience of a full bottle for easy refilling, where I can just stick the entire nib in the bottle and suck it up. And even though I still have other fairly full bottles, I didn’t want to take my nicer bottles of inks to work (Pelikan Tourmaline, Montblanc Irish Green). So this is more along the lines of introducing more frivolity into my life this year. And apparently, frivolity translates into buying shit I don’t really need.
Noodler's Ink - Black Swan in Australian Roses
But it’s so pretty and it has a lot of variation in light and dark shading. It’s a dark merlot/wine color that’s easy on the eyes.

Beauty products

Tony Moly Strawberry blackhead removing nose packs. Thumbs down.
Blackhead nose strips
I’m not a fan of these types of products, nose strips, but once in a blue moon, I forget that I hate these things and use them again. Then I don’t use it for a long time again. They probably do more harm than good.  I like this Tony Moly version even less.  They reek of a terrible artificial strawberry scent and the three step process is more gimmicky than effective.  It’s basically Biore, but more annoying and no more effective.

Real Techniques Expert Face Brush. Thumbs up. 
EcoTools and Real Techniques
I got into a conversation with a coworker a few weeks ago, talking about the one makeup we like to wear the most. You know, the whole, “I feel absolutely naked without … ” For her, it was lipstick. For me, it’s blush. Not that I wear it all the time, but it’s probably my most frequently used product. It makes such a difference on my complexion that I’ve had people ask me if I’m well on days I don’t wear it. I had a couple of them fall apart on me last year – a Sonia Kashuk and an E.L.F.  So I got a Real Techniques brush. It can be used for face powder, blush, bronzer, or powder foundation.  I’ve been loving this brush.  The bristles are dense and short and don’t shed.  It blends beautifully and feels very soft.

I also got the EcoTools brush for powder foundation. It’s incredibly soft but not as dense as the Real Techniques. For powdering the whole face though, it’s exactly what I need. Something big and floofy.

At Home Gym Equipment

While we’re on the subject of gyms, let me share with you my thoughts about at-home gym equipment.
Because I often attend gym classes that use all kinds of exercise equipment, I’m always wanting yet another new toy.  I ambitiously think, hey I could do this at home! As if my butt can lift off the black hole that is the couch.  So let me preface all of this by saying that I hardly ever use any of my at-home gym equipment. I do use them but most, only a few times a year.  Here are the items I do use – even if infrequently.

  • Foam roller – It helps tremendously with sore muscles. Sometimes no amount of stretching works as well as rolling pin the heck out of your legs or sides – like a self-massage.  I don’t know though, sometimes I wonder if maybe I could have just used the one at the gym and saved the space.  Ok this is a take it or leave it.
  • Yoga mat – It’s not just for yoga.  The grippyness of it helps when I use a foam roller, or if I just want to do some stretching or calisthenics.  I probably use this the most regularly – as in, I aim to use it at least once a week.
  • Jump-rope – This is a very effective cardio equipment.  It’s portable and takes up minimal space. The few times a year I use it, I jump for 5-minutes at a time (with minimal breaks) with squats and weightlifting in between the jump roping repeating three or four rounds. It’s an effective workout.  I don’t use this a lot because at the end of the day, I still need to take it with me to a place that has the room to skip rope, which ends up being a gym.  So… I could just use the gym rope.  BUT!  This one is tailored to my height and it’s to my liking so I jump rope more now that I have my own.  I am glad I have it for the times I want to do cardio but don’t feel like running.  Realistically though, I use it maybe a few times a year.  Which I suppose is still more than I used to jump rope, which was hardly ever.

That’s it! That’s all I have or would get (for now)
The other items I have and why I wouldn’t recommend them:

  • Weights of any sort – This includes kettlebells – which I almost got, but thankfully decided against it.  While I like kettlebells and other weights, they’re heavy! They can dent the floor when you drop them, which will happen.  And they take up a good amount of space because they will eventually multiply.  Lets say you get a set of 5 lb dumbbells to start.  Eventually, that gets easier as you get stronger and then you’ll need to buy the 7 lb or 8 lb ones.  Then the 10 lb.  So on and so forth.  Or if you choose to stop with the craziness, the sets that are too easy aren’t really going to be as effective and you basically have dumbbells that you’ll never use. A better alternative to weights, resistance bands.  For use at home, they’re definitely better than dumbbells. These things are light, portable and just as effective and frankly more versatile than dumbbells.  I didn’t get them though because I can’t see myself really using them enough to justify owning them.
  • Exercise balls – These big balls take up space.  I rarely use them except as auxiliary chairs when we have more people over.  Yes, there are some moves I can do with them but I can do similar moves that activate the same muscles without the balls just as effectively.  Mine is more furniture than exercise equipment.

OR save your money and just do what I do most days, which is sit on the couch watching Netflix or YouTube.

Loud Gym Update

So you know how I mentioned the deafening volume of the music and instructors at the gym classes I go to?  And how even with earplugs, the music and microphones were still too loud? I ended up filling out and submitting the form for gym membership cancellation. Ten days later, I asked them to cancel the cancellation. The reason was because in those 10 days, I noticed the music in the classes were less deafening. Still loud, but bearable. And even though I still feel the need to wear earplugs, it’s been a lot easier on my ears to the point where I can go back to enjoying the activity rather than focusing the entire time on the loudness of everything.  And the whole reason why I joined in the first place was to have some activity to do that got me out of the house.  So if it wasn’t this gym, it would have been another studio of some sort.  I was considering a yoga/pilates studio.  And now, since it’s not going to be a yoga studio, I am doing it at home.

If you’re interested, one of my favorite YouTuber’s is Fiji McAlpine.  She is an excellent verbal cue’er.

Cheap fountain pens

I have come to regret purchasing my quasi-disposable cheap fountain pens. The ones that cost less than $10. I thought apart from the ink filling mechanism (cartridge converters and syringe cartridge refills being less expensive compared to piston or vacuum fill), they would all be the same, especially carrying the Pilot name. Not so. At least by my experience. My cheapies leak more. They run dry. They’re scratchy. The caps crack. From now on, I will be staying away from the “toy” fountain pens (under $10, and look almost disposable). One of the reasons for using fountain pens is to be able to use and reuse them for many years as opposed to tossing one plastic disposable pen after another. If cheapies can’t last but a couple of years before they start falling apart, that defeats that purpose.  And if they’re a chore to use, I don’t want to be stuck with it for years either!

I’m talking about my Pilot Petit1 and Kakuno. The Petit is not pleasant to use but otherwise has no issues. I still use (put up with) it.  It’s scratchy and rather short, too small for my hand. The Kakuno runs dry. I’ve swapped the nib and feed with the medium nib from my Metropolitan and it’s improved. The cap cracked just a few months after use. Fountain pens should be pleasant to use, not a never ending chore to drag about.  On the plus side, the Kakuno fine nib swapped on the Metropolitan is a pleasure to use.

Also, one detail I’ve noticed about my nicer pens versus my junky ones is if I pause to think about what I’m going to write, the nib doesn’t dry out immediately.  For example, with the junky ones, I can’t do a crossword puzzle without constantly uncapping and recapping the pen.  With my Pelikan, it can withstand a pause for a little while longer.  Minor detail but it’s a significant improvement to my pen writing experience!