Interweb Finds: Body farms, homemade cookie butter & more

Bradbury building

Oh hey guys. Remember me?

I’m officially on Thanksgiving break, which means I finally feel like I have a moment to exhale, relax and get back to this blogging space I love so dearly. I’m sorry I’ve left you so long.

A few updates from my world: I’m working on a couple of longer stories that I’m really excited about (and hope I can find a home for). I’ve made some very tough but what I hope will be rewarding decisions to take career-related risks that one day I might not have the luxury of taking. (As in, when those student loan bills start rolling in.) And John and I are cooking Thanksgiving dinner for the second year in a row. (This time, with his sister as our guest!) All very exciting things. I’m planning on having a much-needed catch-up session on my blog reader this week, but I’d love to hear what’s going on in your lives.

I thought this space was about due for roundup of the best web finds from the past couple of weeks. Check ‘em out!

How to make homemade cookie butter. (I die.)

Good news for grumpy people: they get the details right.

If you’re fascinated and awed by all things morbid, check out this piece on body farms and how they’re used to learn about the decomposition process.

“The bodies are donated and left out in the elements as part of research aimed at better understanding the process of decomposition, mainly to assist in criminal investigations. When an unidentified body turns up, the first question police typically ask is how long ago the person died — and the observations made at body farms have been crucial in allowing them to answer it.”

Did you see the video of the woman getting catcalls all day as she silently walked around New York City? Here’s a hilarious video depicting what it’s like to walk around as a white guy in NYC for 10 hours.

Best gift ever: a woman wondered if she and her mom would’ve been friends if they weren’t mother and daughter. So she Photoshopped pictures of both of them growing up and the results are perfect.

You should move at least five times in your life.

Check out this awesome, trippy and totally acoustic instrument handmade by the artist playing it. I’d like to meditate in that room.

Is Banksy a woman? This writer makes a case for it. (And if you haven’t seen Banksy Does New York yet, it’s a great documentary available on HBO.)

Here’s how Alexandra Franzen met the love of her life.

“I also expressed — by ticking the appropriate boxes in my profile setting — that I was interested in a long-term relationship. Not short-term-and-let’s-see-where-this-goes. Not casual. Long. Term. Love. That was the truth, so that’s what I put.”

The Men’s Central Jail in Los Angeles has its very own gay wing unlike anything else in any other jail or prison. Instead of violence and racism, there is fashion and love. (My badass classmate and friend Ani Ucar knocked it out of the park with her first cover story in L.A. Weekly!)

Do you ever feel like you’re not good enough? Stephanie from Loudmouth Lifestyle talks openly about her own experience with self-doubt and gives us all a much-needed reminder of realizing our worth.

On a similar note, Hannah Brencher kills it with this one: you can’t be all the things.

 

That’s all for this week! I promise not to be gone so long again this time—after the holiday, I’ll have another featured Feminist to Follow.

In the meantime, have a happy Thanksgiving! How are you celebrating?

Dealing with the time change

Daylight Savings Time blues

I didn’t think it was possible to feel S.A.D. in SoCal.

S.A.D., of course, being Seasonal Affective Disorder.

I mean, other than my big career goals and all, the primary reason I moved to an area where seasons are at times indistinguishable was to avoid the gross meh feeling I get at the beginning of fall every year. But lo and behold, I’m feeling a bit meh. I don’t exactly expect sympathy to come pouring in here, though. I still have a tan in November, for God’s sake.

Still, with sunset at 4:58 p.m. (and only getting earlier through most of December), I don’t think it’s totally ridiculous to get the fall blues in the Golden State. (Contrary to popular belief, SoCal residents don’t spend every day frolicking at the beach.) Research has proven the time change is overall shitty for your health, safety, the economy and probably everything else that’s good and important, but I’m just guessing.

So how to deal with the lack of vitamin D?

Lately, I’ve been setting my alarm a few minutes earlier than normal to spend more time soaking up the morning light that pours in through the kitchen. These days, our apartment gets dark pretty early, so it’s nice to make up for it by not missing out on the best sunlight. Plus, I actually have time to eat breakfast peacefully, and I’m more likely to conk out at 11:30 at night. (I used to be a night owl – what happened?!)

After a period of going light on the exercise, I’ve been making an effort to step it up and go on more runs. Putting my shoes on is the hardest thing to do when I’m in a fall funk (I’d so much rather eat leftover Halloween candy), but when I come back from a jog, I feel like a new person. There is no better pick-me-up.

I always like to have something to look forward to, but it’s especially essential this time of year. It helps that Thanksgiving is right around the corner (and John’s sister is coming down from Northern California to stay with us!), but little things like a new book or recipe, a Saturday afternoon drive or a movie night in all put me in a good mood.

And, if all else fails, a bottle of wine (to share) always does the trick.

For those of you who suffer from the hell of Daylight Savings Time, how are you coping with the time change? Do you think it’s as stupid as I do?

Through the Lens: photos from October

sunken-city-coast

November already? Who signed off on this?

Oh hello, I’m back! Grad school is crazy lately (crazier, rather), but I’m back to this space because I’ve missed it so. It’s hard to step away from the blog, but, you know, priorities. On that note, I’m accepting guest posts to help keep things active around here. I’m particularly interested in posts about travel, feminism, careers and writing. Have an idea? Send it my way!

A little update on life here in L.A.: we’re having fall-like weather (that means highs in the 70s), and I’m already signing up for my final semester of grad school courses. Unreal.

Despite the madness, I still managed to shut the computer and get out for some exploration. (Again, priorities.) Check out these photos from October.

sunken-city-golden sunken-city-below sunken-city-art

Have you ever heard of Sunken City? Pictured above is the coastal section of land in San Pedro that in 1929 began sliding away from the coast, taking the road and even a couple of houses with it. Now, it’s a hangout spot for teenagers, graffiti artists and tourists (like us) who enjoy a little harmless trespassing. (Sunken City is blocked off with a fence that has a nice person-sized hole dug underneath to climb through.) It’s a fascinating mix of beautiful ocean views, impressive art and eerie ruins.

sunken-city-cass

Below, behold: Corg-a-palooza at the Huntington dog beach. ‘Nuff said.

corgis-playing corgi-legs corgi-beach corgi-puppy corgi-collage corgi-resting

I died a little. And no, I sadly did not walk away with a corgi. But there were plenty of corgi enthusiasts just like me who were there simply to be spectators. Adorable.

Then, a little more South Bay and beyond exploration, and a hike around Griffith Park to Batman’s original bat cave!

bell-sunset friendship-bell Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

We kept Halloween local and casual, heading over to a couple of our favorite neighborhood bars.

What did you get into for Halloween? And what are you looking forward to most in November? (It’s finally almost time for the most delicious holiday of the year!)

 

@wittycassiehere Instagram

Interweb Finds: Dream jobs, Gillian Flynn’s influences & more

Interweb Finds

My birthday was the best, you guys.

Not only did I eat the tastiest sushi at my favorite local spot and drink mai tais in the tiniest, diviest tiki bar (pictured above!) with friends, but I also spent the rest of the weekend exploring the O.C. and hanging out with corgis at Corg-a-palooza, or Corgi Beach Day. There were hundreds of corgis. On the beach. It was as magical as it sounds. Pictures to come.

But now, web finds!

Speaking of corgis, Melyssa’s letter to her corgi pup Monja was just about the sweetest thing ever. (Do you feel the same way about your pets?) Aaaand while I’m on a corgi kick, here’s a video of a tiny corgi playing with a pumpkin. Okay, I’m done.

Have you seen Gone Girl yet? Author and screenwriter Gillian Flynn lists her biggest influences for the book.

Through stories of her encounters with racism, Amanda explains what it’s like being biracial:

“Being biracial means I’m always, eternally, perpetually both races, not what’s convenient for you.”

A long and fascinating read about a sting in the desert that ruined lives—and it was all over illegally removed Native American artifacts.

Creepy and unethical, or harmless fantasy? I vote the former. People are stealing baby photos on Instagram.

Grumpy Cat has an angry competitor, and I couldn’t love him more. (THAT FACE!)

The once-beloved Beverly Hills hotel is practically deserted, and the celebrity boycott is only hurting hotel employees.

Have you heard of Dream Jobbing? I’m on the lookout for my next gig!

I hadn’t noticed, but the musical fade-out is fading out, and the explanation is actually pretty interesting.

“The Beatles preferred cold endings throughout their career, but they became more open to the fade-out after they stopped touring in 1966. No longer burdened by the need to recreate their songs onstage, they got a lot more creative with their endings, and it was during this period that they recorded some of the all-time great fade-outs.”

Unbelievable photos of Melanie Griffith and her pet lion. (Um?! That playful swipe of the paw looks deadly.)

Something to make you feel better that your’e not the only one, and worse because, well, it sucks: student loan repaying is so complicated, even a top expert can’t figure it out.

We need to stop saying babies ruin bodies. It’s not just harmful, it’s completely shallow and is a disservice to the beauty of motherhood.

You’re in a relationship and you’ve laid out your baggage and issues. Great. That doesn’t excuse you from never working on them, as Jas so wisely explains:

“Instead of transferring the blame of our own shortcomings to the ones who refuse to indulge them, why don’t we ponder the following: you don’t get a free pass just because you alert your partner to your emotional baggage and bad behavioral patterns. It doesn’t make you a better partner and grant you a pardon from the negative things that you do.”

 

That’s all the web finds for this month! Why don’t you say hi on Twitter?

A quarter-century of wisdom (take it or leave it)

25

The internet is obsessed with being twenty-something—in list form.

Especially when it comes to turning 25.

A few choice headlines from Thought Catalog:

“The 25 Scariest Things About Turning 25.” “25 Things A 25-Year-Old Should Do.” “25 Things Every Woman Should Have By The Time She Turns 25.” “21 Immature Dating Habits You Should Grow Out Of By 25.”

(Couldn’t the author of that last one think up four more immature dating habits to make the headline a tad more consistent?)

I, too, am particularly moved by the significance of turning 25. Partially because that’s how old I turned today. And because it’s how old my mom was when she had me. (Whoa.)

But I don’t feel compelled to tell my peers what they should be doing, as so many lists suggest. What gives me the right? I’m only 25.

That doesn’t mean I haven’t learned a lot worth sharing, though. My crazy gray hair that won’t quit clearly indicates there is some wisdom to be gleaned from my quarter-century on this earth.

For example, I’ve learned (thankfully early on) that it’s more important to be smart than pretty. And that it’s even more important to be kind than smart.

I’ve learned that it’s okay to say no when it truly is right for you, but that sometimes, you need to say yes when it would be easier to say no.

I’ve learned the value of finding and honing your voice, both written and verbal. After about 20 years of writing, I truly feel at ease in a voice that belongs only to me, and that’s a beautiful gift. It’s a lot more challenging to be vocal off the page, but talking about the things I’m passionate about has helped me find my voice in other important ways. Like everything else, this takes practice, and I’m getting better at it.

I’ve learned not to struggle against the uncertainty of life, because what’s the point? I’d rather see the beauty in it. I don’t know where I’ll be a year from now, and I’m oddly excited by that.

And I’ve learned that there’s nothing “scary” about turning 25 (or 30 or 50), and that unsolicited advice about what you “should” do or be or have or aspire to is bullshit. Society tries so hard to tell us otherwise, and a lot of companies make a lot of money by doing it. But when I look at real people – the people I’ve grown up with, the people I’ve met and had a connection with and never saw again, and the people I hope to meet someday – I know that there is no such thing as the right or wrong way, but just our many, varied, flawed and beautiful ways of living our lives.

And no way of life worth striving for can be easily summed up in 25 bullet-pointed commandments.

So cheers to 25 and beyond – here’s to not having our shit figured out and being quite all right with that.

Feminist to Follow: Augusta Gail

The blog world could use more feminists like Augusta Gail.

The self-described grrl power princess is a Southerner who moved to Hollywood to pursue her writerly dreams, and Augusta’s blog of the same name is where she talks honestly and openly about her experiences of embracing herself through feminism. That’s why she’s this month’s featured Feminist to Follow.

Feminist to Follow: Augusta Gail

photo by Aurora Lady
 

Why do we need more bloggers like Augusta? She’s not afraid to get personal, and she’s not afraid to talk about the taboo. She curses and she’s open about her flaws, yet she can drive a point home and will make you love yourself more in the process. I admire her spitfire spirit, and I think you will, too.

Here’s Augusta in her own words:

“I wasn’t always a very good feminist; in fact, I spent much of my high school and college years completely disregarding the idea of feminism. It wasn’t until my life – and my self-esteem – hit rock bottom that I truly discovered, and embraced, feminism.

As a writer, I immediately realized that I wanted to combine my love for writing with my love of grrrl power, and create a place where girls (and guys) could find inspiration, reassurance, and share their stories. Writing about feminism is important to me because I want women to know that they’re so much more than a stereotype, or a dress size, or something to be stared at. It’s important because, every day, a teenage girl makes herself miserable trying to look a certain way and appeal to certain people. I want to encourage girls to embrace self-love and self-confidence. It’s important because, every night, women walk across parking lots with their keys clenched between their fingers, expecting to have to protect themselves.

I want to help create a world where there is no rape or violence against women – a world where yes means yes and consent is given the utmost of importance. I write about feminism in the hopes that people will join the fight for women’s rights and equality. I write about feminism because it truly changed my life, and I’m so incredibly proud to be a feminist!”

Some must-read posts from Augusta Gail:

The Story of My Selfie – On reclaiming confidence and self-love with selfies.
Feminism is SexyCan you wear sexy clothes and still be a feminist? (Yes. Here’s why.)
The Magic of Menstruation“If the thought of lady bits bleeding freaks you out, well then, you should probably keep reading.  Because, let’s be honest, you need to get over it.” ‘Nuff said.

 

Make sure you check out Augusta’s blog for every more great posts. (And if you missed the first installment of Feminist to Follow, meet Kate from Clear the Way here.) 

Who are some of your favorite feminist bloggers?

How to befriend anybody (even if you’re an introvert)

create a spark

I am a journalist and an introvert.

My job requires me to talk to a lot of strangers—including, sometimes, strangers who don’t want to talk to me—and my very nature dictates that I’m often perfectly content to keep to myself.

The challenges and pleasures of being forced into conversation with people I might not have much in common with has taught me a lot about befriending people in everyday life, and meeting new people has become all the more enjoyable for it.

The secret to befriending anybody? It’s not so secret: you just have to ask questions.

We introverts typically don’t require large groups of friends to feel happy and fulfilled. In fact, many of us prefer to have a handful of close friends and wouldn’t be sad if we hardly ever went to parties.

But what many of us do value is having meaningful conversations and making one-on-one connections. You can have those connections with almost anyone you meet, and you don’t have to suffer through small talk to do it.

Good conversation is a skill that can be learned. Before an interview, young journalists often will come up with a list of questions written perfectly neat in fresh notebooks and will cling to those notebooks for dear life, hardly straying from the order of their list. But the more interviewing experience they get, the more comfortable they become having conversations that flow naturally and asking smart follow-up questions.

As I’ve developed those conversational skills, I’ve gotten better at listening and picking up on the things that people will open up about, if asked. I’ve seen people’s eyes and body language become more engaged and less defensive by showing my genuine interest and endearing myself to them. You know what always does that trick? Asking someone to explain what they do: Not just “what do you do?” but “how do you do that?”

A few simple questions to keep the conversation going:

  • What do you like to do?
  • What is that like?
  • How did you learn to do/become interested in that?
  • That sounds challenging. (Not a question, but a good way to get someone to elaborate on the challenges of their work or hobbies – everyone thinks their job is hard.)
  • How did you two meet?
  • I’ve been meaning to check out new [books/restaurants/running routes]. Do you have any suggestions?

Of course, the more you talk to someone, the more specific-to-them questions you can ask!

If you assume the mindset of an interviewer, at the very least, you’ll learn something interesting about whoever you’re talking to, and chances are, they’ll automatically warm up to you. And if you’re talking to an equally thoughtful person who reciprocates the interest, you’ll have an engaging two-way conversation that you both can get something out of—possibly even friendship.

This method is good for anyone, and introverts especially will love this style because it puts the focus on the other person and on having a genuine dialogue. You’ll come off as outgoing and engaging by simply asking questions.

What tips do you have for making friends? What are some of the most surprising connections you’ve made as a result?

 

 

 

Through the Lens: photos from September

del-rey

I learned two very important things this week.

The first: Never feel guilty about taking some necessary time off. (Letting go of the guilt of not blogging feels really good, it turns out.) The second: Never say you haven’t been sick in a while. (Your throat will feel sore the very next day.)

September was an intense month all around. Not only did I get back in full-swing at school, but L.A. had temps in the 90s and 100s much of the time. Here’s a look at some of the highlights from September in photos, starting with a visit to Playa del Rey.

water playa boats

The yacht below came chugging into the marina with music blasting and people partying. Its name? “Wet Dream.” Stay classy.

wet-dream seagullburied-boat

I also went back to the Arts District to check out a funky flea market with tons of talented artists and vendors. I was easily distracted by murals and puppies.

arts-districtbootsflea-market corgi

Last week, John and I flew home to the East Coast for his brother’s wedding, and we had a blast partying and staying up too late, hence my feeling under the weather. I didn’t get any photos of the wedding that weren’t blurry—mostly, I just enjoyed myself. (It’s pretty sweet being the best man’s date—V.I.P. treatment!) But I did manage to snap a couple of shots in Annapolis and Baltimore. Going home twice in two months was a nice change of pace from my last eight-month stretch. If I could keep up this new track record, living far away from family wouldn’t seem so bad.

belvedere-square annapolisProcessed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

This week, I’m trying to take it easy and shake off this bug. I’ve been reading a lot lately, managing not to kill my basil plant and thinking a lot about spring. I’ll only have a handful of credits left to take for school, so my mind is on employment. (Whoa.)

I’ll be doing more of the same in October, which also happens to be my birthday month. I’ll be turning 25 in a couple of weeks, so I’m deciding what I’d like to do to celebrate. Any suggestions?

That’s all for today—I’ll be less scarce in the next couple of weeks. What are you looking forward to in October?

Beer with a Blogger: Hyperion Public in Silver Lake

With temperatures hitting record highs here in Los Angeles, it only seemed fitting to cool down with a brew or two.

Which is why I was delighted when a Twitter friend agreed to be featured in the next installment of Beer with a Blogger! It was a no-brainer when we realized we lived just a couple miles away from one another, and we met up at one of my favorite local spots.

Laura Donovan

THE BLOGGER

Laura Donovan, an L.A. native who is a regular contributor at Hello Giggles. (She’s also written for Mic, The Maude and more.) Laura is a master of writing listicles and how-tos with an authentic, relatable voice. And in real life, she’s as easy to talk to as you’d expect from her writing. Not only is she super friendly and fun, but Laura is also smart and thoughtful. I always say a good sign that someone is a genuinely nice person is if they ask more questions than you do. Laura’s that kind of person. Check out her writing here, and follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Hyperion Public

Hyperion Public

THE BAR

Hyperion Public, a popular neighborhood pub here in Silver Lake with a classy-yet-casual dining room up front, a dark and cozy bar room for sports-watching in the back, and a handful of sidewalk tables for people- and dog-watching outside. They have happy hour seven days a week (late nights during the weekend), and the F Yeah Fries and truffled mac are for real the bomb. Best of all? Hyperion Public is right around the corner from me, so I can enjoy myself with a beer (or two) and walk home!

Hyperion Public

THE BEER

I enjoyed the El Segundo Citra Pale Ale while Laura had the Trumer Pils. Both were incredibly refreshing on a 100-plus degree day.

save water drink beer

Hanging with Laura on a Sunday afternoon was the perfect way to cool off from the heat. We had plenty to talk about, and it was such a trip meeting someone who I feel like I’ve been following online for ages, even though I can’t remember how we came across one another. I’m so happy to have made a new friend!

Cassie & Laura

Are you a blogger living in (or visiting!) L.A.? Do you like beer? Shoot me an email at wittycassiehere (at) gmail (dot) com, and let’s go to happy hour!