07/28/2015

Ponchos // For Lazy Days and Breezy Nights

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You know those mornings where you wake up super groggy because you stayed up past your bedtime binge-watching UnReal or devouring a turn-of-the-century novel (I love you, “The House of Mirth”) or indulging in your favorite guilty pleasure message board? Those mornings where you literally drag yourself out of bed and scowl at the thought of picking out yet another outfit and making yourself presentable for another day? You wish it were socially acceptable to wear a robe outside. Or pajamas. Or sweatpants. Well. I’ve been there many times. So may I suggest… a poncho.

 

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A poncho is the fashion equivalent of wearing a blanket. Shapeless, comfy and warm, you can wrap yourself up in one of these babies and snuggle down. Bonus: wear one and you’ll look like you actually tried to put an outfit together.

 

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My work environment is really, really casual, so I can get away with wearing a poncho any day of the week. This may not be the case for everyone, so, on the weekend: go. for. it. Wear that blanket – er, poncho… and wear it proudly. It also makes a great beach cover up and will keep you warm when the sun dips.

 

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Poncho by Kerol D

 

Knit Bralette by Pima Doll

 

Necklace and right-hand bracelet by The 2 Bandits

 

Hat by Forever 21

 

Photos by Christine Cabanos 😉

 

 

 

07/26/2015

Saturdays in Venice // Things to Do in L.A.

 

 

We needed to get outside this weekend. Shebz (my man) has been slaving away at his computer for a minimum of 12 hours a day and I have been hopping from studio to studio all week. Yay, productivity! Boo, Vitamin D. Boo, feeling like summer is slipping away without enough beach time. So, we packed up our bikes and headed to the coast for some salty air and sunshine.

 

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After weaving in and out of the Venice canals and up and down the Marina del Rey marinas, we doubled back to Abbott Kinney in search of the Kogi BBQ truck.

 

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Seeing the beat-up, sticker-covered truck felt like reuniting with an old friend. During my first two years in L.A. when Kogi was paving the way for the food truck craze, I used to drive miles out of my way and wait in ridiculously long lines for a Spicy Pork Burrito. Seriously yum. These days my cravings aren’t as urgent but, if the truck is right there… why deny?

 

Speaking of right there: my college friend Emily lives in Venice, so she met up with us for an impromptu hang at The Brig, the bar next door that awesomely let us bring our Kogi inside so we could chow down. Such service. It’s the little things. We sat in an open window and people watched and traded stories about bad OKCupid dates (side note: a guy’s epic bowel movements should never ever ever be the most memorable part of a first date), the worst jobs we’ve ever had (turns out all three of us have had psychopath bosses. Rite of passage?) and whether or not a Wonder Bra is false advertising (if you’re in a relationship, no; if you’re on the prowl, possibly).

 

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Then, we went buzzed shopping. I highly recommend it. If you’re me, you’ll end up with really nice linen sheets from a boutique mattress store. Yes, you read that right. Only in L.A. are there such things as boutique mattress stores. This one was called Keetsa. I almost threw down for a striped linen blanket too but that’ll have to wait until next time I’m day drinking, I guess. Who gets buzzed and buys sheets?! Whatever. At least they’re a necessity and I’ll use them every day.

 

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All the people on Abbott Kinney were walking in groups: chatting, shopping, munching, sipping, soaking in the gold-tinted hazy sunshine that Venice is famous for… there was a good vibe all around. After awhile I noticed something else refreshing: hardly anyone was walking around with their heads down and their phones shoved in their faces, furiously scrolling and tapping and swiping. Ladies and gentleman, this Saturday on Abbott Kinney, “real life” trumped e-life. Hallelujah!

 

Living in the moment is what it’s all about. It isn’t always easy, but when you can manage it… gosh it feels good.

 

07/22/2015

Rompin’ in the Desert // Summer Style

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I remember when rompers first made their comeback. It was the summer of 2009, I was visiting L.A. for a month to see if I could actually live in this crazy city, and the heatwave was so intense that the Pacific Ocean was warm. Yes, the kind of warm that allows you to wade in the waves sans wetsuit or major goosebumps. It was glorious… and I needed some barely-there clothes to withstand the temps. Hence, my first romper. Well, “onesie” as I called it back then. I can’t call it a onesie anymore. It sounds too much like I’m talking about those white one-pieces that babies wear for the sole purpose of puking on.

 

Anyway, I’ve owned many rompers since that fateful summer, and aside from the fact that you have to basically get fully undressed to pee, I love them. Slip one on and you instantly look totally put together. Add a cute sunhat and a gypsy-inspired knit duster, and you’re ready to make an appearance almost anywhere in L.A.

 

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Romper by Kerol D Apparel

Jewelry by The 2 Bandits

Hat, duster, shoes: Forever 21

 

Photos by Christine Cabanos, fellow voice actress and curator of Honey + Blu.

 

 

07/16/2015

An L.A. Summer Weekend // Things to Do in Los Angeles

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Beach days. K-Town karaoke nights. Outdoor movies. Vintage flea markets. This past weekend was a lesson in what the perfect L.A. summer weekend looks like. It was made even more perfect by the presence of my college friends, who all happened to be in town from NorCal.

 

This is what we did. You should do all of it. Seriously. What are you waiting for? Get out there!

 

Friday.

 

Dinner at The Commissary. Even though there was a reservation snafu (“We have no record of you or your reservation.” “Really? Because someone left me a voicemail confirming it…”), the food, drinks and atmosphere at The Commissary in K-Town were pretty legit. The restaurant sits in a greenhouse on one of the roofs of The Line hotel. Definitely order the charred carrots, the mussels, and the lavender cocktail. I’d pass on the artichokes next time.

 

Dancing/Peacocking at Break Room 86. Is that a vintage vending machine? No, it’s the entrance to the 80s-themed Break Room 86. We talked our way past the bouncer because we didn’t have a reservation or guest list spot, and had fun admiring the cassette tape, boombox, VHS tape and arcade décor. But the crowd was a little weird. Also, the girl-to-guy ratio was leaning way too heavily on the female weren’t enough guys to satisfy my friends’ roving eyes. So we left after an hour in search of a new scene.

 

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The Real-Deal Karaoke. After a pit stop at a nautical-themed dive called the HMS Bounty (bonus: an ep of Mad Men was apparently filmed there!), we found our way to Young Dong Nohrebang. AKA The. Best. Karaoke. Club. Ever. Private rooms with glitter seats, tambourines, and the best party mix I’ve ever chowed down on? Hell yes! The majority of the karaoke menu was in Korean, with only a sliver being in English. But hey, we still serenaded each other ‘til security kicked us out at 2 a.m.

 

Late Night Food Trucks. I couldn’t tell you the name of the taco truck we found across the street from my friend’s hotel, but it hit the spot. Food trucks have become an L.A. institution, so any and all food truck cuisine is a must-try.

 

Saturday.

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Santa Monica. Every weekend should be a beach weekend when you’re spending the summer in L.A. Honestly, if I could go to the beach every day, I would (alas, traffic routinely squashes my dreams of driving to the coast for a pre-work morning stroll). My friends and I went to Santa Monica, but I’d have been just as happy in Malibu, Venice, Huntington Beach, Laguna… you get the idea.

 

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Cinespia is basically the holy grail of outdoor picnics and movies in L.A. It happens just about every summer Saturday night on a lawn in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery (no, not a lawn with graves on it… but you’ll pass plenty of those on the way in and on your way to the bathrooms). People bring elaborate picnic setups (we’re talking low tables with wine and cheese spreads, centerpieces and gourmet offerings), and once I even saw some dudes who set up a beer pong table on the outskirts of the lawn. Hilarious. My friends said this was their favorite thing we did all weekend, and the celebrity-sightings were pretty fun. My favorite? Britt from The Bachelorette on a date with some dude. LOVED IT. Pro tip: people begin lining up at 4:30pm to get in, but if you get there around 6pm, you’ll be fine; bring low beach chairs and a tarp to put underneath your blanket… otherwise the grass gets it (and you) all wet.

 

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Sunday.

 

The Rose Bowl Flea Market. L.A. flea markets are so. good. Especially if you’re looking to shop vintage. The Rose Bowl Flea is by far the biggest, with hundreds of vendors and thousands of items you can’t possibly see in one trip. It’s so epic that it only happens on the second Sunday of every month. But there’s a flea for every weekend in L.A., so if you miss this one, try the Pasadena City College Flea Market (first Sunday of every month), the Long Beach Antique Market (third Sunday of every month) or the Melrose Trading Post (every weekend, all year long!). My friends scored some vintage dresses and knick knacks, while I walked away with an old Yankees tee ($5!) and two ponchos that were only $10 each- one for me and one for my man, so we can match… like proud nerds 😉

 

Lunch at Green Street Restaurant. This is my favorite post-Rose Bowl Flea stop. Located in the heart of Pasadena, they’re famous for their Bloody Marys and homemade potato chips. I also recently proclaimed their specialty grilled cheeses (brie, ham and peach compote) the best sandwich I’ve ever eaten. So, there’s that.

 

After Green Street I headed back to my place to take a nap… because I’m old now (and honestly still had not recovered from my out-all-night Friday). But if you’re still raring to go, or just had a post-meal espresso at Green Street, you could stroll around the adorable streets of Pasadena and do some more shopping.

 

Phew. What do your summer weekends look like? Tell me in the comments!

07/13/2015

What Exactly Do You Do? // Life as a Voice Actor in Los Angeles

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I get this question a lot from strangers and old family friends that I haven’t seen in a decade or more. The short answer: I do voiceovers. This usually gets one of three reactions: a look of confusion followed by “what is that?”; a look of surprise followed by curiosity, and my all-time favorite, “but would you ever want to do real acting?”

 

I’m gonna be honest: the “real acting” comments bug me. Real acting? Could they mean the art of performing a fictional role? Or acting in a movie, or TV production? Well… I’ve done all of that. Voice acting or performing voiceovers, whatever you want to call it, is “real acting.” Yes, even those one-liner radio commercials require acting skills and are considered acting in my book. It’s not like I’m just being myself all the time behind the mic. No, that would be called hosting. Or, perhaps, with a certain suspension of disbelief, reality TV.

 

Anyway, I’m an actor. I’ve done TV pilots, film, commercials and plays, but I’ve had the most success with voiceovers. Just like some actors are most well-known for a certain TV or film role, I’m most well-known for a few characters that I’ve voiced. So people like to call me a “voice actor.”

 

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My job involves a few key things (in no particular order): auditioning, marketing myself, reading/preparing scripts, bookkeeping, auditioning, providing voices for projects, keeping myself healthy, auditioning, showing up to jobs on time, following direction and being a pleasant human being to work with, keeping up with popular shows and games, making appearances at conventions/events, and auditioning. Wait, did I mention auditioning? I did. I know. But here it is again anyway, in caps, just in case my point isn’t clear enough: AUDITIONING.

 

Auditioning is a huge part of being an actor. If you don’t audition, you don’t work. So, you go on all of the auditions. Even the ones you think you have no shot in hell of ever booking. According to one of my agents in NYC, if you’re booking 1 out of 20 auditions that you go on, you’re doing really well. And according to one former agent in L.A., if you’re booking 1 out of 40 auditions you go on, you’re doing really well. Just let that sink in. 1 out of 40. The talent pool is that huge in L.A.

 

My job involves having a few key traits (again, in no particular order): talent, confidence, resilience, flexibility, and being able to deal with rejection. Lots of rejection. (remember that 1 out of 40 remark in the previous paragraph?)

 

As for my schedule, it’s different every day and changes monthly. There will be weeks when I am recording from 9am to 9pm. There will be weeks when I have no sessions booked but am doing an average of three auditions per day. There will be weeks when I literally have no auditions and no jobs and I drive myself crazy questioning all the life decisions I ever made that led me to become an actor. I kind of know which months will be busy (May and June are always ridiculous) and which will be slow (December). But, my schedule is largely unpredictable.

 

Actors can have little control over our day-to-day, which is why we can seem flakey and tend to cancel plans a lot. If casting is only seeing people between 3 and 5pm tomorrow, we have to be there, or else we miss out on the audition. If the episodes need to be recorded by a certain deadline, we have to get in the studio to record, or we’ll be replaced.

 

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Then again, I can choose when to go out of town and for how long. I just have to be prepared to record VO auditions remotely, or accept the fact that I may miss out on a role because I’m away.

 

So yes, acting. Glamorous, right? I like to think of it as running my own business, and the product I am selling is… me. That sounds less creepy if you say it out loud. (I think.) Anyway. I love being able to act full-time.

 

…90% of the time. I will admit that, like any job in any industry, there are times when it can get the hair-pulling kind of frustrating or the tear-inducing kind of demoralizing. There are times when I’ve considered throwing my microphone against the wall, packing all my stuff into a U-Haul and leaving rubber tire tracks on the 101 while I head… somewhere. Where? Well, I never got that far. So you can see these were just fleeting thoughts. It happens. BUT. Overall, being an actor has been pretty amazing. And I wouldn’t trade the last decade-plus of experiences for anything else.

 

The “what exactly do you do,” question is always followed by “what have you done that I would know?” I usually answer with, what do you play or watch or what do your kids play or watch? Then rattle off a few credits that hopefully ring a bell (Final Fantasy! Snooki & JWoww! League of Legends!). I can’t ask you that question, dear reader, but I can tell you to check out my IMDB page if you want to see if you know any of my characters.

 

 

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Anyway, this little peak into a working actor’s lifestyle, what do you think? Would you do it? And also, what are the pros and cons of what YOU do for work? Tell me in the comments!

 

 

07/08/2015

Gypsy Palms // Desert Style Inspiration

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I have always been a style chameleon. My wardrobe ebbs and flows with the seasons, but a few things always remain the same: earthy influences, lots of texture, loose garments and accessories that make people stop and ask to see them up close.

 

Lately I’ve been majorly influenced by the Gypset books, my Hawaii, Bali and Big Sur trips, crystals and rocks, and classic Hollywood. What a hodgepodge! Mix them all together, and you get something like this outfit…

 

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07/07/2015

Summer in the City // Attending The Audies in New York!

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I had every intention of moving back to New York City. My L.A. stint was only supposed to last for three months. And then six months. And then a year. But five years later I’m proud to call the city of Angels home, and going back to visit Manhattan always brings mixed feelings.

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03/10/2015

Voiceover Update: Cinderella, Season Twos & Hawaii!

It’s that time again: when a bunch of projects I’ve been working on have been announced/made avail to the public, so I can share them with you all! Here are a few of my favorites that I’ve recorded in the past couple weeks…

 

Disney’s “Cinderella” movie is coming out at the end of this month, and I am the voice of four of the accompanying Cinderella Disney books! One of them is on Audible.com right now: “Cinderella: The Junior Novel.” P.S. How amazing is that gray horse Cinderella is riding on the cover? As my riding instructor would say, “GOR-JUS!”

 

I’ve been in the studio recording season two of “Doraemon,” which airs on Disney XD! Here’s a cute scene with character, Sue:

 

 

 

Keep Reading…

03/07/2015

Why I Hold a Torch for Carly Rae Jepsen (p.s. her new video is genius)

“What do you think of this song?”

 

My boyfriend, songwriter/producer extraordinaire, hits play on Carly Rae Jepsen’s new single, “I Really Like You.” Even before she starts singing, I want to like it. I have been secretly hoping that Carly Rae will break free of the “One Hit Wonder?” question mark curse that seemed to be looming over her head in every red carpet photo she’s taken since “Call Me Maybe.”  But after hearing the second chorus, I know that I won’t have to force myself to listen to it again. Because it’s really (really really really really really) good.

 

And the video? The video sealed the deal for me. A lip-synching Tom Hanks playing… himself! A mature-looking Bieber! A dance routine in the Manhattan streets reminiscent of Rent/West Side Story! An adorable Carly Rae wearing adorable street clothes! Behold. It’s a pop video sans cleavage, sexy mouth close ups, half naked ladies jumping/shaking/wiggling/bending, wind machines, shiny things and slick lighting. It’s honestly more “a day in the life of Tom Hanks” than anything else. It’s simple and it’s genius and it’s genius in its simplicity. I’ve watched it four times in the last hour.

 

 

I have a thing for Carly Rae Jepsen. I probably listened to “Call Me Maybe” more times in a row than one should publicly admit, but aside from that, I feel like she’s a kindred spirit. She did the Canadian Idol thing and placed third, slogged it out for five years doing the Idol tour and releasing EPs in Canada, and then finally struck platinum when Bieber heard her song on Canadian radio (five months after it had been released) and referred her to Scooter Braun. Five years! When do we ever hear of American Idol contestants making a huge splash five years after they do the show? Ne-ver. So, huge points to Carly Rae for sticking with it and keeping the dream alive.

 

Secondly, maybe one week after “Call Me Maybe” hit the U.S. in a major way, every entertainment, gossip and media site was crying “One Hit Wonder!” Ugh. Shut. Up. Let the girl bask in her success for a bit before you cast her aside in the leftover pile of post-millennium pop stars and attempt to make her irrelevant. Give the girl a chance! She wrote the song and can sing the hell out of it live; she’s not a manufactured lip-synching pretty glitter face with hair extensions. She has talent. I will defend you, Carly. But, it’s not like I could ignore the fact that post-Call Me, she also had a huge burden: a really successful first international single.

 

Seemingly-overnight success is a blessing and a curse. How was she going to top “Call Me Maybe?” Her second single, “This Kiss,” was not as catchy (I bet you can’t even remember how it goes. I can’t.) “Good Time” was pretty good, but it was technically a duet with Owl City. No, Carly! I thought. Don’t fade into pop star oblivion! You are adorable and talented and you look way younger than you actually are (just like me!) Pull through! You can do it!

 

Folks, I’m ready to declare victory for her. She did it. “I Really Like You” is the song that will allow Carly to shed her “Call Me Maybe-ness” and be reborn. Instead of thinking “oh yeah, she had that one song,” when you hear her name, you’ll instead just think “pop star.” The song is really (really really really really really) good, but the video is the icing on the triple-tiered cake of sweet success. You done good, girl. I still really (really really really really really) like you.

 

Or, to put it in the words of my boyfriend, “I think she out-Taylor Swifted Taylor Swift.”

03/05/2015

PHOTO SHOOT : THE MODERN AMERICAN HIPPIE

Twiggy. The Beatles. Flower Children. Second wave feminism. I’ve been obsessed with the Age of Aquarius since about 6th grade. This has lead to a closet full of 60s and 60s-inspired clothing that I almost never wear but continue to buy at L.A. flea markets (they’re kind of hard to resist at only $5 or $10 a pop). What to do with all these trippy hippie prints? Use them to style your friend for a photo shoot, of course.

 

I actually shot these photos of Kristen a long while ago when I was taking a photo class at UCLA. I originally posted them on Style Smoothie (the style blog we run together), but I decided to revisit them this week. I think it’s healthy to go back and look at old work I’ve done, whether it’s acting or photography or writing. I like to see how I’ve grown or changed. There are always those “I thought THIS was good?!” moments, and those “I didn’t like this at the time, but looking back, it’s not so bad” revelations. A little distance can offer a lot of perspective. Sometimes, your stuff just needs a little tweak to make it better. That’s exactly how I felt about these photos.

 

So here is take two on “The Modern American Hippie.” I wanted to make them look a little more moody and magazine-y with some color tweaks.

 

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What do you think? Did I succeed? Or will I look at these a year from now and have a “what was I thinking moment?”

03/02/2015

Don’t Eat the Plants and Exit Through the Gift Shop.

“Stand in front of that waterfall.”

“K.”

“Now give me your best, ‘I’m in front of a WATERFALL face!'”

 

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Did I capture the excitement, the thrill, the holy-crap-I’m-standing-in-front-of-a-freaking waterfall feeling?

 

I certainly captured something…

 

On Sunday the BF and I took a drive to the L.A. County Arboretum and Botanic Garden to stretch our legs and get some fresh air. We both pretty much spend all week cooped up in recording studios (me: voiceovers, him: music), so on the weekends we like to GET OUT… rain forecast be damned.

 

We’re not huge gardeners or tree people or anything, but it was fun to walk around and look at all the different plants. Especially when some of them looked like they came straight out of Super Mario Bros.

 

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Also, parts of the Arboretum smelled ah-mazing. So we were walking around sticking our noses in everything. Especially the honeysuckle and the cherry blossoms. At one point the BF found what he thought was a mint plant and decided to taste it (yes, you read that correctly). Pretty sure you’re not supposed to do that. He ended up spitting it out because it turns out it wasn’t mint, just something that smelled really good. We are grown adults, I swear.

 

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Our first thought when he saw this rowboat was, “let’s get in!” Yeah. We wanted to take it out on the pond, because, why not? I hadn’t been in one of those since YMCA summer camp in Connecticut. But, there were no oars. And it was chained to a tree. So, we just sat in it instead.

 

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Then we found The Queen Anne Cottage, in all of its Victorian glory. Fun fact: this is the Focker house from “Meet the Fockers!” They dressed it up a little differently for the movie, so you might not recognize it right away. Movie magic, and all.

 

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The Queen Anne Cottage is set up so people can walk around the deck and peer into the windows and see the rooms set up. Which was pretty cool for this Victorian-era-loving-nerd. That is, until I peaked into the bedroom and saw three creepy ass dolls staring back.

 

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Seriously, nightmare-worthy. My iPhone photo doesn’t do them justice. Their eyes. were so. disturbing. We’re talking horror movie status. How were these children’s playthings?! They look possessed.

 

The next room, with a game of gentleman’s poker set up, was a little more calming.

 

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Love the bottle in the middle. Maybe they had to drink to forget the creep-factor of their kids’ dolls.

 

And then, the icing on the cake of The Queen Anne cottage… the matching stable/carriage house.

 

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Horses AND a carriage in the backyard? Paradise. It must have been so cool to live back then. Well, if you were wealthy. The servants/factory workers had it pretty rough (and I am clearly very well-versed on this after having read every book in the “Samantha” series of American Girl when I was little, and watching every episode of Downton Abbey).

 

We finished off our Arboretum walk with a few more sights, and made friends with a peacock. He was eating all the plants for sale near the gift shop.

 

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And that was our Sunday trip! I can officially check the Arboretum off my list of “things to do in and around L.A.,” which has grown embarrassingly long for someone who is starting their 5th year here.

 

You see, I always end up going to the same places and doing the same things. Do you do that? For example, I still haven’t set foot in LACMA, I’ve only wandered around the outside exhibits (you know, those street lamps). I still haven’t driven to Mexico, yet I’ve done the Vegas drive about five times (and I don’t even gamble!). I haven’t done Big Sur or Joshua Tree or Coachella (although… let’s be real. I am okay with never, ever going to Coachella. Because it sounds like CoacHELLa to me), but I’ll go to the O.C. or Ventura any weekend. Ahhhh. This is the year I’m going to switch things up! Time to check some more places off that list. No regrets, 2015. No regrets.

 

02/28/2015

Launch Par-Tay for ‘There Came an Echo’

IMG_8748Last night was (finally, finally!) the launch party for There Came An Echo, an indie game that I am part of. I play the role of Grace, a bad ass goth assassin. So, she’s a little bit different than me, day-to-day. Juuust a little.

 

I auditioned for this game waaaaay back in the spring of 2013, and at the callback, I made sure to dress the part. Yes, voice acting is all about your voice and what you can do with it, but for this one, I thought it’d help to dress like the character a little bit for casting/producers/the director/all the important people who held the fate of my audition in their hands. 1) It helped me get into character, and 2) I think it helped them to see me as the character, too. I actually took a selfie right before I went in to read for it…

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Yes, that’s me trying hard to look like a teen assassin. I took major inspiration from Lights (my favorite favorite singer ever) and her Siberia Acoustic Tour look. Not that she’s a teen, or an assassin, but she is a major bad ass. Looking back, I probably could’ve messed up my hair more and gone with some heavy eyeliner. But. Hey. It doesn’t matter now. I found out that I got the part a year and a half later (that sounds even more ridiculous when I type it out. A year and a half! What?! Just so you know, that’s not the norm). And then we recorded this past fall (behind-the-scenes pics here).

 

The launch party was at the YouTube Space in LA, and it was packed full of people who worked on the game, friends of Iridium Studios (the company who made the game) and YouTubers. Sidenote: I expected way more people to be walking around filming themselves and vlogging. I only saw two. Come on, YouTubers! Step up yo’ game! Or is that not how it’s done?

 

So, back to the party. There was a giant screening room where you could watch people play the game…

 

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And then there were stations where you could test the game. It’s all voice controlled, which explains my nifty headset/microphone (sorry for the grain- it was dim in there!).

 

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There was a DJ spinning (“spinning…” ha. More like “laptop-ing”) house music and he was pretty good. But no one was dancing. So I decided to start… a conga line. There were some doubters, because of the aforementioned house music (‘This is SO not a conga line song! There isn’t even a beat for a conga line!”), but I tried anyway. I was either going to look like a giant fool with one person dancing behind me (oh hey Lauren, thanks for being all-in from the get-go, couldn’t have done it without you), or I was going to start what might have been the first ever conga line to house music at the YouTube Space in LA. This is what happened…

 

 

We freaking did it! I kinda wish the video was in slow-mo for parts of it because apparently some people came running across the room to join in, but you get the idea. You also can’t see me laughing hysterically and clutching my stomach because it was so. much. fun. The crowd was clearly awesome. I love when people saw “screw it” and let loose and don’t care what anyone thinks and just HAVE FUN. That’s when the best memories are made.

 

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Anywayz. If you’re into gaming, check out There Came An Echo on Steam! And if you’re not into gaming, tell your gamer friend or brother or coworker. Please? K. Have a lovely weekend, y’all.

 

xxo, Cassandra

 

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02/25/2015

Nominated for an Odyssey and an Audie… whaaat!

It’s awards season! While the red carpets are rolled out for the Grammy’s and the Oscars and the Golden Globes, there are some voiceover awards that aren’t as mainstream… namely The Odyssey Awards and The Audies. I can’t even believe I am typing this, but, a middle grade fiction audiobook I narrated, “A Snicker of Magic” by Natalie Lloyd, won an Odyssey Honor Award (courtesy of the American Library Association) and is nominated for an Audie in the Children’s Titles 8-12 category (courtesy of the Audio Publishers Association)! What?! I knew this book was special when I narrated it last year (seriously, Natalie Lloyd is such a wordsmith… and it was her first novel!), but I never imagined it’d be up for two awards. Seriously, surreal. Shoutout to Paul at Scholastic Audio for casting me, and Jerry and Joey at The Media Staff for their super pro recording and production skills. And… see all you audiobook friends at The Odysseys and Audies this year! Woot!

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10/21/2014

Bali: Climbing Mount Batur

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Two hours after arriving in Bali, I was informed that we’d be waking up at 2 a.m. to climb an active volcano and watch the sunrise from the summit. So much for conquering that jet-lag. Eh, I’ll sleep tomorrow night.*

When the cab dropped us off at the foot of Mount Batur, it was dark, wet and cold. The only light came from the various van headlights and the tiny flashlights our guides handed us. And if you looked toward the volcano summit, you could see tiny illuminated dots traveling in a zig zag up the side of the volcano: people who had set out even earlier than us.

Our group of 12 had four tour guides: locals who ranged from a girl who couldn’t have been older than 20 to a weathered man in his late 50s. As we started toward the trailhead, we could only see what our flashlights lit up in front of us, so we began to shine them everywhere: on the ground, revealing mostly packed dirt and tiny rocks; to the right, revealing skinny trees and foliage; to the left, some sort of crop fenced in with homemade wire and wooden boards.

The ascent started off easily enough: flat, then a slight incline, then a slightly steeper incline. It was nothing I hadn’t tackled in Griffith Park before. But then, the trail took a very steep turn. One guide would go a few steps ahead to light the way (they’d done the hike so many times, they had each boulder memorized), we’d climb up afterward, using our hands if we had to. It was no longer cold- I was sweating. It got so steep that the girl guide would go one step ahead of me and then literally pull me up the side. We were warned to not stray one step beyond the trail. They didn’t say why… it was just understood that we’d tumble down the side of the mountain if we misstepped.  Now, I was glad it was pitch black… I did not want to see how far up we were or know how steep it was.

About 100 feet from the first peak, the sky started to lighten. Fifty feet later, the sky lightened some more. We made it to the top just as the sky was turning from gray to yellow to pink, and I witnessed my first Bali sunrise, and my first sunrise from the top of an active volcano.

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Then came the monkeys.

No one had told us about the monkeys. Bounding down from the bushes and trees, there were about a dozen at first. Their mission: our breakfast.

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We had been given bananas and hard boiled eggs from the kitchen inside a tiny hut situated next to the crater. The monkeys were ruthless: screeching, jumping up and swiping banana chunks from our hands, even snatching a whole egg and de-shelling it as it ran back into the bushes. They were so used to humans, one of the girls in our group had them climbing on her shoulder before she gave up a morsel of breakfast.

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When it was light enough, we walked a little ways to peer down into the crater. Steam rose from its depths and leaked from mole-sized holes along the path.

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Mount Batur last erupted in 2000, but we were told that it wasn’t due to erupt again any time soon. If it were, all the monkeys (now there were dozens more of them running through the bushes and trees near the crater) would have fled the top of the mountain and made temporary homes at the foot. Ah, nature.

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After hanging out for a bit, we started our descent. It was barely 7:30 a.m. Not a bad first day in Indonesia. Tomorrow: a water temple.

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*No sleep was had for my entire Bali trip. Le sigh.

10/20/2014

A Trip to Jiufen: The Real-Life ‘Spirited Away’

I hopped in a cab outside the Hotel Eclat and handed the driver a card with an address in Chinese- my destination, as written out by my hotel concierge. Luckily, the driver spoke pretty good English, and gave me an impromptu driving tour of the city, pointing out the architectural differences between buildings depending on when they were built: during the Japanese occupation, during the war, etc. Poor Taiwan, so small next to all these giants.

When we passed a simple brick Catholic church the driver exclaimed, “And that church! It’s just beautiful. Gorgeous.” Of course to me, it looked like every other church I’d ever seen in New England. Simpler, even. Nothing special. And then I had to laugh. Because here I was, gawking at all of Taipei’s colorful temples and feeling like they had triggered some sort of art awakening inside me. Meanwhile, the Taiwanese pass them day in and day out without so much as a lingering stare. They probably thought I was so funny taking photos of every angle of their been-there-forever Longsham Temple when I could’ve been photographing the red brick church. So yes, the old cliche “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” never made more sense to me than in that moment.

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Anyway, I arrived at Hanako and Naoko’s (my new Japanese friends) chi-chi hotel and then the three of us hopped in a cab to Jiufen. They wanted to see the town that “Spirited Away” was modeled after, and I just wanted to explore Taiwan (confession: I still haven’t seen “Spirited Away,” but I promised Hanako and Naoko that I would!) After about 45 minutes of driving through the suburbs and then up a winding road on the side of the mountain, an ocean view popped through the trees, which was as breathtaking as you’d expect.

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We climbed a little higher and then there was a sudden traffic jam: cabs, tour buses, wandering tourists and a school group or two were all gathered at the foot of Jiufen.

Our cabbie said he’d meet us back in two hours, and set us free to wander the streets. Now, from the outside, Jiufen looks like any village. A busy sloped street with shops and restaurants and cars. On the inside, Jiufen is a different world. An ornate maze of two-person wide sidewalks weave up, down and every which way, and they’re lined with booths selling everything from coffee to stinky tofu (which is a thing in Taiwan. I decided to skip it because it was really… stinky) to kitschy souvenirs. It’s complete madness. It was shoulder-to-shoulder people with shop owners yelling out their specialities and tourists zipping from one seller to the next to sample everything. I felt like I was smack-dab in the middle of a medieval bazaar.

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After admiring the booths, checking out a cat specialty boutique and sampling some sort of dessert, we found ourselves at the end of one of the sidewalks and on the edge of Jiufen, overlooking the sea once again.  Photo-opp!

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Then, I watched the last Taiwanese sunset I’d see on my trip, and it was predictably magnificent. The cab ride home was pretty quiet, as my Japanese friends and I were exhausted. We said a bittersweet goodbye at their hotel, with promises to visit each other (it will happen, I swear. I really want to go to Japan).

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Tomorrow morning: Bali.

10/09/2014

That’s a Wrap on ‘There Came an Echo!’

I just spent three days in the studio recording for “There Came an Echo,” a real time strategy video game set for release on February 1, 2015 for Xbox One, Playstation 4 and Steam. This game is next level. Players can use a voice control system to play the game and direct their units, so it’s like they’re really in the game. The future is here, folks.

I play Grace, a 19-year-old out for blood and vengeance. Angry, tough, a true bad ass and a pivotal character in the story, Grace is currently my favorite character I’ve ever voiced. A heartfelt thank you goes out to Jason at Iridium Studios for casting me!

The plots and character development in video games are evolving more and more, and it’s such an exciting time to be part of the industry. The script for “There Came An Echo” read like a movie, and the cast recorded the scenes as a group. This was a nice change of pace from the solo records that have, up until recently, been the norm for video games. As video game scripts evolve, I think group records are going to become the norm.

Anyway, enjoy these pics from behind the scenes, and be sure to pick up “There Came an Echo” next year!

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From left: Ashly Burch (Val), Me, Jason Wishnov (Iridium Studios)

From left: Wil Wheaton (Corrin), Laura Bailey (Miranda), Ashly Burch (Val), Jason Wishnov (creator), Me! (Grace), Cindy Robinson (Farrick), Josh Saiwetz (director).

From left: Wil Wheaton, Laura Bailey, Ashly Burch, Jason Wishnov, Me!, Cindy Robinson, Josh Saiwetz.

09/29/2014

Final Fantasy Type-0 and Final Fantasy Agito Coming Soon

Coming soon to PS4 and Xbox One! You can hear me as Mutsuki in “Final Fantasy Type-0” and “Final Fantasy Agito.” I am a badass school girl who uses a ball and chain as a weapon. Plaid has never looked so intimidating.

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There is no official release date yet, but I’m hoping it’ll be soon. I’ve been waiting a long while for this project to come out, and from what I’ve read on the blogosphere, so have the fans!

 

09/23/2014

Taipei’s Din Tai Fung: Meeting Strangers Over Dumplings

Jet lag is a powerful drug.

I woke up dazed and realized I sleep-turned off my alarm, which was set for hours ago. It’s Saturday at 6 p.m. in Taiwan, but my internal clock thinks it’s Friday at 9 a.m. My eyes are pleading with me to go back to sleep, my stomach is rumbling for food, and my brain is trying to reason with both and persuade my legs to venture outside. This was all made even harder by the fabulousness of the beds at Hotel Eclat.

I summoned all my willpower, pushed through the jetlag haze, and hailed a cab. Destination: the steamed dumpling mecca and Michelin-rated Din Tai Fung (there are several locations; I went to the one on Xinyi Road in the Daan district), a favorite of Trip Advisor reviewers and foodies worldwide. There was an hour wait, so I put in my name and walked around the neighborhood, which was right near the Dongmen MRT stop.

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There was so much going on! All the shops, restaurants and mango ice places were open, everything was lit up, and people were crowding the streets. Taipei is known for its night markets, and things stay open late. It’s like a bunch of mini Times Squares everywhere; everything was lit up and people of all ages were walking around, so I felt really safe.

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I found my way back to Din Tai Fung, where my table was ready. I climbed two staircases to the third level, where I was greeted by a hostess who sat me at a table with two disgruntled-looking local couples. They didn’t say hello. Well.

The menu had some photos, and the waitress spoke a bit of English, so I pointed to a few things, took her recommendation for their renowned juicy pork dumplings, and started people-watching.

Then, the two disgruntled couples left. I was sitting by myself for a few minutes when- and I think the hostesses did this on purpose; Asian hospitality is the greatest!- the hostess led over two Japanese women who were visiting from Tokyo. They spoke in Japanese for a bit before asking me (in really great English) if I was traveling alone. I told them I was, and from there, we didn’t stop talking. Their names were Kanako and Naoko, they were on a girls’ weekend, and we had a lot in common! They even knew a lot of the anime titles I worked (I am actually a voice actor, and I work on a lot of anime titles).

Then the (amazing, intuitive, deserves-some-sort-of-hospitality-award) hostess came back to seat another couple: an American guy from Texas and his Korean girlfriend, visiting from Seoul for the weekend. Yes! It had only been just over 24 hours since I left America, but hearing a Texas drawl sweetened my unfamiliar surroundings and helped me relax.

So then all five us started talking, and it was like our own five-person dinner party. The Texan (I can’t remember his name now… but he had some colorful but weird-looking arm tattoos) moved to Seoul in 2008 to teach English after he graduated college and couldn’t find a job in the U.S. (thank you, recession). He’d been there ever since, and curiously hadn’t bothered to learn Korean. He said that he knows a few phrases, but since Seoul is a largely English-speaking city, he really didn’t need to. Besides, his girlfriend translated for him.

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Oh, I guess I should mention the food: It. Was. Bomb. It was also, embarrassingly, my first dumpling experience (aside from the dumplings you get in wonton soup- but those don’t really count when you compare them to steamed dumplings like this). The juicy pork dumplings burst in my mouth and were packed with flavor. I’m not sure what kind of Shao Mi I ordered (I really just pointed to a photo and hoped for the best) but they were so smooth and creamy and delicious. I also couldn’t tell you what green vegetable side I ordered, but it was buttery and amazing. And it was all made even more amazing by the fact that I had finally accomplished a travel goal of mine: visit a foreign country and make actual friends.

Hanako and Naoko were heading to a night market after dinner, and I shamelessly asked if I could tag along. They were so cool. I felt so cool. All three of us hopped on the subway (or shall I say, MRT), and wandered the bright night streets and bustling street stands and shops. Our favorite stop? A makeup boutique. We all bought the same shimmery eyeshadow. I really felt like I had met my Japanese bffs.

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Then, they invited me to go on a day trip with them the next day to Jiufen. It’s a small village about an hour outside of Taipei, and the inspiration for the town in Studio Ghibli’s “Spirited Away.” We planned to meet at their hotel at 3 p.m. and cab it. I made my way back to Hotel Eclat full of dumplings and giddiness.

09/22/2014

Hear Me in These New Audiobook Titles

I feel like I am the luckiest audiobook narrator in the biz, because I pretty much exclusively narrate middle grade and YA fiction. Even though my teen years are past me, I am one of those adults who still enjoys reading YA fiction, so these jobs never really seem like jobs to me. I’m reading these books for pleasure anyway (especially the Sara Shepard ones. Always the Sara Shepard ones.)

Here are some of the titles I’ve worked on this year, plus a link to listen to a clip on Audible.

“The Swap” by Megan Shull. Seventh graders Ellie and Jack find themselves in a Freaky Friday situation when they switch bodies. I narrate all of Ellie’s chapters, while Jesse Bernstein does the Jack chapters. And yes, the awkward questions like “how do boys um… go to the bathroom?” are addressed. Hilariously.

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“Middle School: Ultimate Showdown” by James Patterson and Julia Bergen. Did you know James Patterson writes middle grade novels? James Patterson writes middle grade novels. His characters are so smart and witty, it almost makes me want to go back to those awkward years. Almost. I voice Georgia Khatchadorian, while Bryan Kennedy voices my pain-in-the-neck brother, Rafe.

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“Sure Signs of Crazy” by Karen Harrington. A 12-year-old girl spends her summer uncovering the family secret… what happened to her mentally ill mother after she drowned her and her twin brother when they were two-years-old. Her brother did not survive, and her dad has been moving them from tiny Texas town to town ever since.

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A Snicker of Magic” by Natalie Lloyd. When 12-year-old Felicity arrives in Midnight Gulch, TN, she wants to stay forever. But first, she has to bring the magic back to town. Full of whimsical characters, beautiful dialogue and a town that will make your imagination run wild, this book was such a treat!

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“The Bear” by Claire Cameron. This audiobook took me into the mind of the 5-year-old heroine, Anna, whose parents are attacked and killed by a bear when they’re on a family camping trip. Anna and her 3-year-old brother survive, and this is their story.

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“The Stepsister’s Tale by Tracy Barrett. A new twist on the classic Cinderella tale… this story will take you into the world of one of the stepsisters, her mentally ill mother, and their descent into poverty.

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These are just a few of the titles I’ve been lucky to work on this year. For a full list of all the audiobooks I’ve narrated, just do a quick search for my name on Audible.com. I am in the studio this week recording more audiobooks, which I can’t wait to unleash on the world. Happy listening!

09/16/2014

Taipei: Finding (and Falling in Love With) The Longsham Temple

Funny thing about translating Chinese to English: The English signs in Taiwan and my helpful hotel concierge spelled it “Longsham Temple.” My Lonely Planet guide spelled it “Longshan Temple.” This was the first of many tiny errors that would throw many tiny wrenches in my 2-day trip, but more on that later.

No one told me (and by no one, I guess I mean my guidebook) that Taipei is basically the Taiwanese public transportation equivalent of Washington, DC. The subway goes everywhere, the map is color-coded and easy to read in 2+ languages, it’s clean, and people actually line up in an orderly fashion and calmly board the train car (something that I thought was impossible after living in Manhattan).

And while you’re riding the civilized and highly-evolved Taipei subway system, there are videos above you explaining how to board the train (wait between the lines!), how to hold on while the train is moving (handles!), and where the super touristy stops are (lots of places!). So Asian. So loved it. Oh, and they announced all the stops in Chinese and English. Huzzah! So my lack of Chinese language preparation wasn’t going to be such a big deal for now.

I got off the train, walked up the stairs, and there it was: The Longsham Temple. Dripping in colors and carvings and outlined in gold, incense plumes rising from the entrance, gong sounds drifting from inside, it was beautiful.

Then, a taxi cab drove by. Then a motorbike. Then came a head-shake and a chuckle from me at the modern apartment buildings and exhaust pressed up and against this gorgeous piece of history. This is why I love traveling. I ventured inside and… I’ll let the photos do the talking.

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The offerings, the incense, the gongs, the sounds of prayer, the energy, the carvings, the everything! It felt different in there versus the bustle of the street. There were still plenty of people inside (and it only got more crowded the longer I stayed), but the energy was different: peaceful, energizing, rejuvenating, kind. The Longsham Temple is actively used by the people of Taipei. I was pretty much the only person there who wasn’t praying or making an offering (I think I spotted one or two other American or European-looking tourists, identified by their DSLRS). I kept walking around and around the perimeter snapping photos and soaking up the good vibes.

AND THEN I GOT LOST

After tearing myself away from the temple, I thought I’d go for a walking tour of the neighborhood suggested by my LonelyPlanet guide. It… didn’t work out so well. I got lost. Really, really lost. In a very non-touristy neighborhood with no cabs or subway signs and plenty of hardware/auto shops (I think? It was very strange) and sparsely-stocked “convenience” stores with only a handful of products on the shelves.

Then I realized that the actual English street signs I was looking at didn’t match the spelling of the street signs in my guidebook. I had likely passed the original turn I was supposed to take. And I realized I was somewhat screwed.

The streets were a little twisty, an odd three-way intersection threw off my (already wonky) sense of direction, and backtracking my steps backfired because I only got more lost.

I figured I’d keep walking until I found a cab, but after another 20 minutes of walking, not one drove by. My heart rate sped up (maybe from walking, maybe from nerves), and as I tried not to be too obvious about pulling out my lame and totally inaccurate guidebook map again, a Taiwanese man walked up to me.

“You need directions? Longsham Temple?” he said. And I almost cried. Out of joy, of course. Thank you, kind Taiwanese man! After a few blocks, a left and a right, I was back in somewhat familiar territory and across the street from the subway station that would take me back to my hotel. Jet lag was setting in, and if I wanted to taste some dumplings and scope out a night market, I needed a nap.

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