Friday, August 5, 2016

Liebster Award: NYC/Philly Edition

Time to break some rules! So I've been tagged in this award twice and I did it twice (here and here if you want to see), but I'm frankly running out of facts to give about myself so I'm going to give you eleven facts about my trip to New York City and Philadelphia instead! But first I'm going to answer Alexa's questions, because they're good ones. Thanks Alexa @ Summer Snowflakes for tagging me! I'm not going to tag anyone else because this tag has circulated so much. If you'd like to do this tag consider yourself nominated. You can check out this Liebster Award on how to do it officially and use some of the questions I asked before.

Alexa's Questions:

1.)  If you could go back in time to any time, what time would it be?
I really want to meet Leonardo DaVinci. He's one of my favorite historical figures and a major inspiration to me. I went to an exhibition devoted to him last November, and it only fueled my love for him.

2.) What are your favorite hobbies (besides writing)?

I have a lot of hobbies. It's hard to keep up with them all. I like playing video games, cooking, drawing, and sculpting.

Killer Bunny Bites from Allison's Wonderland Recipes adapted with pork sirloin. This is to die for good.

A clay mouse I made.
3.) What’s your favorite character you’ve ever written?
This is always a hard question, but probably Bryce. I relate to him in a lot of ways, since he also struggles with depression. His relationship with his little brother touches me to no end, and I love his cat features.

4.) Favorite character you’ve ever read?
Katniss Everdeen. She was so well-fleshed out and realistic. I just love her. She's so inspirational to me.

5.) Favorite outfit?

I'm not a girly girl, but I do have a sense of geeky style. I have a lot of favorite outfits, but one of my favorite is my Twilight Princess tank top with triangle earrings that remind me of the triforce, wolf studs, and my fairy in a bottle necklace. I like to wear this with either shorts and sandals or jeans and leather books depending on the weather.

This is the outfit though you can't see everything too well.

6.) What do you do to relax?
Drawing or video games relaxes me.

7.) How many siblings do you have?

Seven. One whole sister, three half sisters, and three half brothers.

Me with one of my younger sisters.
8.) Can you think of a single best day of your life?
Single best day. Wow. That's a little tough. I really, really enjoyed Valentine's Day this past February. Valentine's Day was never my favorite holiday since I haven't had a boyfriend and it's usually spent avoiding Facebook, but this past Valentine's Day I was in Canada with one of my best friends in the world. We celebrated friendship love. 

Her mom made us a Valentine's Day breakfast then my friend and I went to a gorgeous snowy wildlife reserve where we took pictures for hours of me in a red coat with a background of snow. She loves photography, and I like modeling as a hobby. That particular photo shoot was a mini dream of mine. The contrast of red and white is so beautiful to me. Then we went out for ice cream and went to church afterwards. That evening we enjoyed character chatting with each other in the evening. It was a wonderful day. 

9.) Do you have an all-time favorite quote/motto?
Can I pick a song? This song has really been on my mind a lot lately, and I really feel like the lyrics perfectly represent where I feel like I am in my life right now. It's a short song called "Gravity" sung by Maaya Sakamoto from the anime Wolf's Rain.

Been a long road to follow,
Been there and gone tomorrow,
Without saying goodbye to yesterday.
Are the memories I hold
Still valid?
Or have the tears
Deluded them?
Maybe this time tomorrow
The rain will cease to follow
And the mist will fade into one more today.
Something, somewhere out there keeps calling.
Am I going home?
Will I hear someone
Singing solace to the silent
Zero gravity, what's it like?
(Am I alone?)
Is somebody there beyond these heavy, aching feet?
Still the road keeps on telling me
To go on.
Something is pulling me.
I feel the gravity
Of it all.

I've had a lot of doubts about my dream to be a writer this year, but I feel this pull, this gravity to still go on even though my feet hurt from the journey. It feels like a lonely journey even though I know others have ventured it. I keep hoping and praying the rain will go away and I'll finally reach my dream. 

10.) What are your three favorite movies?

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, and The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies.

11.) What do you think is the prettiest animal in the universe? (note: I did not say your favorite. I said the prettiest.)
White peacocks. White is always an enchanting color to me, and I think peacocks are very beautiful birds.

NYC/Philly Tacts:

Day 1

I got up at 3 a.m. to get dropped off at the airport. I was exhausted since I worked that previous day, but I managed to get through security and find my gate all right. Fortunately, my plane didn't have full seats so I got to sleep in an actual laying down position for part of the flight to Philadelphia. Once in Philly, I met up with some fellow Realm Makers conferees. 

After a bit of a hassle we dropped off our bags at Villanova University (where the conference was to be held the next day), then we went to Reading (pronounced redding) Terminal Market for lunch. The place was full of all kinds of food from fresh groceries to barbecue, stromboli, and what I got crepes. I got a savory Euro crepe which had feta cheese, spinach, ham, and tomatoes. It was so yummy. Then another conferee and I split a dessert crepe which had strawberry, peaches, and caramel in it. Also the way they made the crepes was amazing. They squeegied the crepes to make them flat! I took a video it was so cool.

With full bellies, we decided to do some exploring in downtown Philadelphia and we got to see the Statue of Religious Freedom, the Liberty Bell, and Independence Hall. 

Then we went back to Villanova to meet up with other people, including one of my besties Cassia, to go back to downtown to get Philly Cheesesteaks for dinner and go to Escape the Room. Escape the Room is this event you pay for where you and other people are locked in a room of a certain theme full of puzzles and you have one hour to get out. On the way down to dinner, we passed City Hall which was such a beautiful building.

Then we got to Escape the Room. Oh my gosh it was so much fun. It was Indiana Jones themed and there was a creepy church, and an idol, and an archaeological dig and I forgot it was a game several times! I actually solved a bunch of the puzzles and I felt really smart like Castle. And we won! I was on a high for like a day after that.

Fact 1.) I discovered I can indeed solve problems in a high pressure situation. In Escape the Room I figured out a bunch of the puzzles and it made me feel exceedingly clever. I used my smarts just like Rick Castle and I ended up helping solve several puzzles that the group was stuck on. 

Day 2

This was the early bird day, so I had time to sleep in, thank the lord. I took the marketing boot camp with SuzyQ, which was extremely informative and I learned a lot about branding and marketing in general. Afterward I went to the party hosted by Splickety Magazine and hung out with friends which was really fun.

Fact 2.) One of the things I learned in the marketing class is that signing bookmarks (for those who are published or plan to get published) turns them from being disposable to collectible. 

Suzanne was kind enough to buy the whole class tomato pie which is apparently a West Philly thing. It's really good. I had five pieces.

Day 3

Today was the official conference first day, so I had to be up and at 'em for the keynote by NYT Bestseller Thomas Locke, which was very encouraging. Next I had my continuing class on theology in fiction which brewed some intriguing discussions. Then I had several appointments with publishers and one with SuzyQ who taught the early bird class. Suzanne and I ended up talking for a full hour and she really loved the So Your Character Is ... project. We had such a great talk. She gave me so many ideas for this blog.

Mike Duran talking about theology in Christian fiction.
That night was the big costume dinner. I donned my elf costume (because it matches the old Villanova architecture) and had a pretty rocking time engaging in some of the games and taking loads of awesome pictures with people including some of my readers! I got to meet Anna, Alea, and Rachel! Loved seeing you guys in person! You made me feel like a celebrity having people from my blog want pictures with me. XD

I also got these freaking amazing pics with a dwarf cosplayer. It makes me enormously happy. Squeee.

Fact 3.) Seize opportunities when you get them. I originally was going to just have my fifteen minute appointment with Suzanne Kuhn then just go back to class, but she had time and I consulted with someone who's marketed NYT bestsellers. Sometimes you have to change plans to accomdate opportunities. 

Day 4

This was the last day of Realm Makers. I took more classes, one with NYT bestseller Tosca Lee, and savored the last bit of time I had with my friends. I also had more appointments, one with a press James Dashner was actually published in. Squeeee! That night I won an awesome Nerf gun, which I've named Vera, at a raffle. I subsequently used it at that night's conference-wide Nerf war. I stayed up ridiculously late doing that and barely managed to get all of my stuff packed for the next day. 

Fact 4.) Sometimes low points hit you when you least expect it. I haven't talked about it too much, but I do struggle with depression. It's been especially hard for me this year. During the Nerf war of all times I hit a low point. I felt better after a few hours, but I just didn't expect it to hit then. If you've experienced this and felt guilty for feeling sad when you feel like you should be happy, just know you're not alone.

Day 5

On this day I said goodbye to my fellow Realmies and hopped on a train to New York City. I was so exhausted I slept while waiting on the train and while on the train. As I got off the train in NYC, I played "Welcome to New York" by Taylor Swift, cause dream made. I met up with my cousin at the station and we had New York pizza for lunch at NYC Suprema. I experienced white pizza, which is absolutely amazing. It's pizza with ricotta and mozzarella cheese.

Then we hit a toooooooon of places in New York City. We went to 34th Street, Battery Park, Trinity Church, the 911 Memorial, and St. Paul's. 34th street was so cool, because I couldn't help but think of Miracle on 34th Street. 

Battery Park was surreal because I could see Lady Liberty in the distance. She's such a huge symbol of our country. 

I loved going into the big churches. There's something so holy about going into those places where people have prayed for centuries. I also got to see Alexander Hamilton's grave for all you Hamilton fans.

The 911 Memorial was a tough place to go. While gazing upon those names etched on the sides of the Infinity Pools, I could feel the weight of their needless deaths. I got choked up a few times. It was a gorgeous memorial, but really hard to think about.

We ended the day with a bang by going to the Star Trek Academy Experience at the Intrepid. Oh. My. Gosh. It was EPIC. You have these wristbands that you use throughout the exhibit that gather data so you can find out at the end what part of Star Fleet you're most suited for. There were also holograms and you could use a tricorder to diagnose a dummy and shoot a phaser. And at the end they had a bridge like from the shows! Eeeeeeee! I ended up being in Communications division.

On the way back to my cousin's apartment with my luggage, she got an alert on her phone for a flash flood. Literally a second later, the sky poured rain and the roads became rivers. My first thought was, "NO! MY NEW BOOKS FROM THE CONFERENCE AND MY SIGNED COPY OF RULE OF THOUGHTS!" Thank goodness my copies of Tainted, A Time to SpeakFirebird, and Rule of Thoughts are a-okay. Lining your suitcase with garbage bags saves lives, people.

5.) New York is such an alive place. You can go there any time of the day and it's busy busy busy. It has so much sensory stimuli. Every street has a different smell from trash to Chinese food to roasting nuts to cigars to fresh paint to trees and so on and so forth. There's lights and movement all around you from billboards to people to trains. You constantly hear noise like the subway beneath you, beeping horns, sirens, the din of people, the clicking of footsteps, the sizzling of grills. It can be really overwhelming.

Day 6

I got to sleep in (why am I talking about sleep? Because sleep is important. VERY IMPORTANT!). Then I rode the subway on my own from Queens to Manhattan (and I only got lost once, though I wasn't really lost I just wasn't where I was supposed to be.). Google Maps is my bestest friend. I wore my Spirited Away shirt, cause that movie and trains.

I got to have lunch with my cousin Cafe Lalo which is the same place Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan went to on their date in You've Got Mail. Oh my gosh the quiche was to die for. I also had Rose Elderflower lemonade which is basically heaven bottled.

Then I explored Central Park on my own. Central Park had to be my favorite part of NYC. It was a breath of fresh air (literally) from all the buzz of the city. I absolutely loved Cleopatra's Needle which is this 3500 year old obelisk erected in the middle of Central Park.

I also went to Belvedere's Castle which is an old observatory built in the 1800s. 

And I went to Shakespeare's Garden which is this lovely garden of flowers with Shakespearean quotes on plaques. ^ ^

At the end of the day, my cousin and I went to the Empire State Building! I was thinking of James and the Giant Peach the whole time! It was so cool to be so high up in the air. It reminded me of when I went to the Eiffel Tower. I got to see the whole city from a grand height. It was just awesome. 

Then we finished by going to a ThinkGeek store and playing with just about everything in there. They had life-sized mannequins of superheroes! I bought a Super Mario ice cube tray, because ... I want coins and ? boxes in my drink.

6.) You do a lot of walking in NYC. Driving is a nightmare, so you take the subway or walk. I got at least 10K steps every day the whole time I was there. I got 23,000 steps on Sunday. My body still hurts. You need to keep snacks and water with you or you'll just burn out of energy. 

Day 7

I got to sleep in again (*snoopy dance*). Then I rode the subway back into the city. The weather was spectacular. 75 F, windy, and sunny. I had crepes for lunch and then went to Madison Park and enjoyed the beauty there. Afterward, I went to Eataly, which is this giant Italian market which I swear is a TARDIS because it's so bigger on the inside and I had some scrumptious coconut gelato. 

That night my cousin and I snagged some more pizza (Yes, I talk about food a lot. Why? Because I love food.) before going to see Phantom of the Opera on Broadway. Squeeeee! It had a live orchestra and I got chills throughout the whole play. It was so coooooool! 

Following the play, I got to see Times Square at night, which is a totally different experience than the day time. It's so bright! I also got to stop briefly in the country's largest Disney store.

7.) You really have to take initiative in New York. You can't be afraid to get on the subway quickly or cross the street when you get the chance or shove or weave around people. I felt like I was from Assassin's Creed sometimes in the throngs. NYC definitely improved my confidence and intentionality. 

Day 8 

This was my last day in New York City. I packed up all of my stuff then delved one last time into the city. My cousin and I hit Columbus Circle and saw the big statue of Christopher Columbus.

We had lunch at Lillie's which is this super cool Victorian-style restaurant. I had roasted pear and brie panini and It was soooo good. I never thought of eating pears that way.

Then we zipped to Bryant Park where I found the quote on the statue of William Cullen Bryant very deep.

Yet let no empty gust 
of passion find an utterance in thy law
a blast, that whirls the dust
along the howling street and dies away.
But feelings of calm power and mighty sweep
like currents journeying through the windless deep. 

I also got to briefly see the New York Public Library and Grand Central Station. Both were spectacular. I also happened to be wearing my Twilight Princess shirt at Grand Central Station and I heard a guy whistling Skull Kid's song. I stopped him and we had this great exchange that ended with a high five. Day made.

Then I had to head home. It was sad leaving, but I also missed the quietness of home and my body needed a rest from all of the walking. XD

8.) New York City is an interesting hybrid of old an new. Some of the buildings were built centuries ago while others have been there less than a decade. 

Closing Facts

9.) Everything is more expensive in New York. Their tax is crazy. 

10.) Using Lyft actually isn't so bad. I used it to go to the airport. 

11.) Don't ever fly Frontier Airlines. Just ... don't. 

All in all Philadelphia and New York were amazing unforgettable experiences. If you get a chance to go to these cities, go. They've changed me as a person and a writer. 

Have you been to New York City or Philadelphia before? Have you been to a writers conference before? Have you ever cosplayed? If so who? If there is one play you could travel to where would it be?

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