Ramen nights

tottoramenintI’m not a fan of being cramped or of being in crowds. Having lived in New York City for six years, I know my way around well enough to strategically avoid most of the claustrophobic, frenetic environments.

There is one occasion in which a tight space and crowd does not deter me. In fact, I accept it as a part of the experience, and still seek it out.

The occasion is a hot bowl of ramen. (Yes, even in the middle of summer).

A bowl of beautifully flavorful broth (heeey, umami!) and long, perfectly cooked noodles–swimming alongside a hard boiled egg, seaweed, green onions and pork–washed down with a swig of Sapporo is the very definition of satisfying.

The most sought-after bowls of ramen are inevitably in small, narrow restaurants. Seating is limited to stools along the bar, where you can watch your meal getting made, and a handful of two-tops along the opposite wall. Because of the shortage of seating plus the extreme deliciousness of the food, there’s typically a line out the door.

It’s a dining experience that’s perfectly acceptable to have alone, but if you want a dining companion, it’s best shared with a dear friend: there is no time for small talk here, so acquaintances aren’t your best option. These dinners tend to be light on conversation and heavy on slurping.

(For instructions on the art of slurping, check out this video guide I did with NowThis News last year).

Last Friday, Connor and I met after work for ramen. It’s an awesome way to wrap up the work week and start the weekend. Then we went to Central Park to see Shakespeare in the Park’s outdoor rendition of King Lear, starring John Lithgow. Lithgow was fantastic, the weather was beautiful, and we had good seats. Yet at the end of the night, Connor and I both agreed that the best part of the evening was that ramen. It sticks with you.

Ramen makes me happy I live in this city. Of course I could find it in Tokyo or other cities–I know, it’s not exclusive to New York City. But I’m not sure where else in this country I could live and be as surrounded by so many authentic, wonderful options just a quick subway ride away.

I consider ramen a perk of living here. And of living, period.

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Sometimes analog is just better

My Diana F+ camera is proof that getting experimental with film is a blast, and fully worth the wait for the film to develop.

The instant gratification of digital makes the patience that’s necessary to develop film all the more alluring.

It’s mid-July and there’s absolutely more summer fun to be had…but the first bit has sped by so quickly and has already been so memorable! So I’d like to take a quick pause to appreciate the beauty of this summer so far. Summer through a Lomo lens:

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Photograph by Connor Boals of yours truly. The rest of the photos taken are KQ originals.

0001440_0001440-R1-E014 0001440_0001440-R1-E012 0001440_0001440-R1-E011 0001440_0001440-R1-E010 0001440_0001440-R1-E009 0002092_0002092-R1-E014    0002092_0002092-R1-E010 0002092_0002092-R1-E007 0002092_0002092-R1-E005 0002092_0002092-R1-E002 0002092_0002092-R1-E003(The first 6 photos were taken at Cape Cod, the latter 6 were taken in Kewadin, Michigan).

Back in NYC, back in action

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Photo taken by Connor Boals, when we hiked Breakneck Ridge just north of Cold Spring, NY.

I’ve been back in New York City just shy of 3 months and I feel like I have my life back. I have my friends around, I get to see my boyfriend every day, and I get up and go to work every morning. Even the most mundane things of life feel SO AMAZING to have again.

After the ski accident, I couldn’t walk on my own because my vestibular system was so effed. After three months of recovery, I’d come so far that I could go for a run. I had regained my capabilities enough so that I could be a fully functioning adult again…

…But my confidence was shaken. In my impending return to the city, I wondered: could I handle my normal NYC activities? The jam-packed subway cars during rush hour? The happy hour drinks where music shakes the whole establishment? Concentrating in front of a computer for work all day?

To explain these concerns: while I was recovering, over-stimulation made my brain swirl into exhaustion. After a coffee date with a friend, for instance, I had to go home and collapse into a deep nap.

And yet, there I was returning to the nation’s capital of over-stimulation! I was nervous and slightly unsure; so I returned to NYC a tamer version of myself. A tentative Katie.

These 3 months back in NYC have been a similar evolution to the 3 months of recovery — though not nearly as dramatic, at face value.

Over the course of the past several months here in the city, I’ve shed my wariness. I’ve finally found my equilibrium after the accident. (It’s been half a year in the making, but I found it!)

Since my first step back on East Coast soil, I’ve had the best support (I’m looking at you, Connor B). The transition was also eased by landing a multimedia gig with my former team at the TODAY show; it’s done wonders for giving me the framework to return to normalcy.

New York feels like it had before: it’s invigorating, it’s home. And I feel like I did before…but I’m experiencing life through a slightly different lens.

There’s no way a camera lens can reflect my shifted perspective and appreciation. But for the fun of it, I put together a compilation of some photos I’ve snapped since my return to a full life.

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Let’s chat with Jake

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Jake on the Key Bridge in Washington, D.C. 2014. Taken by Katie Quinn with her super hipstery lomo camera.

Jake and I grew up next door to each other in Athens, Ohio.

Now, he and his husband Tom move all around the globe with the foreign service. They met in Guangzhou, China, have lived in Pretoria, South Africa for the past two years, and are headed to Beijing, China in several months.

I caught up with Jake in our hometown, where he stopped through between Pretoria and Beijing. At this juncture in his life, I thought it’d be a great time to have a Foggy Air chat with him. We had this informal chat in February of 2014…

KQ: What brings you to Ohio?

JM: I’m on home leave currently; in the foreign service you’re obligated to spend 30 consecutive work days in the U.S. before starting your new post. Home leave is intended to re-Americanize us.

photo(1)If you don’t have anywhere specific to travel to in the States, then you basically just go where  you have a home. For Tom and I, we spend time in our parents’ homes, which can be quite stressful (as a byproduct of our age. We’re adults living with our parents again!–although briefly). I wanted to stay in South Africa longer.

KQ: Did you ever see yourself staying in South Africa?

JM: No. I really enjoyed it, but I never thought of it as home. My favorite aspect was the natural beauty of it. But it just felt so far away geographically. I could feel that distance.

I spent a year in Beijing in college and loved it enough to want to go back–even though I slept in a 2 bedroom apartment with18 other people! So my desire to return was actually to do it as an adult, which I’m doing! That’s where Tom and I are moving in August. It’s an overwhelming city because it’s such a sprawling metropolis. It’s easy to feel like a number or a blip.

KQ: What’s on your mind right now in terms of moving to Beijing?

JM: At the moment I’m dealing with some Visa issues. China doesn’t recognize same-sex couples so I want to go there on a work Visa. [He pulls out a long list of jobs he can apply for at the Beijing consulate/embassy]. I’m optimistic about how it’ll all work out.

We’ll be in Beijing for 4 years. We want to get a dog, and are excited about what’s to come. The pollution is the biggest downfall, but we can overlook that for a few years.

…These next 4 years will be telling. Last time I was in Beijing, there was so much going on with the Olympics. It’s a hard city to live in; I could see myself living in other Chinese cities more longterm.

(Note: Jake’s opinions on Beijing do not represent those of the government.)

KQ: What is your biggest culture shock coming back to the United State from South Africa?

JM: The weather! It’s been freezing in the States everywhere I’ve gone since I got back: New York City, Ohio, D.C. I didn’t even have a winter coat! It was sunny and warm in Pretoria, SA.

KQ: Do you have a favorite quote?

Yes, it’s something President Obama said at Nelson Mandela’s funeral:

“We, too, must act on behalf of justice. We, too, must act on behalf of peace. There are too many of us who happily embrace Madiba’s legacy of racial reconciliation, but passionately resist even modest reforms that would challenge chronic poverty and growing inequality. There are too many leaders who claim solidarity with Madiba’s struggle for freedom, but do not tolerate dissent from their own people. And there are too many of us who stand on the sidelines, comfortable in complacency or cynicism when our voices must be heard.”

Here’s to best friends who do interesting, courageous things with their lives. Further, Jake proved to be outstandingly compassionate and supportive when I was recovering from my ski accident (hence why I was in Ohio at this time, too).

Jake visited New York City and he and Katie ate Pommes Frites on the train. Delish.

Jake visited New York City and he and Katie ate Pommes Frites on the train. Delish.

A Video Project

While I was in the final steps of recovery after my ski accident, I’ve worked on a little video project.

Yes, I know that videos are what I do for a living. But this one is a little different.

Starring the members of “Team Katie” (the nickname given for those closest to me while I was going through this wild experience), I asked them questions about life and love. It’s a tribute to them, though what they said had a big impact on me.

Making the video made me appreciate my loved ones even more. It also reminded me why I do what I do: sharing stories of amazing people is completely inspirational. I lose track of time when I’m working on projects like this; it’s a journalist’s high.

A screenshot of the video project. Scroll down to click on the link and watch it!

A screenshot from the video project.

 

Picking Up

During post-ski accident recovery time, it’s good to pick up some hobbies:

I picked up lomography photography (thanks to Connor).

Picked up crocheting (thanks to Grandma’s visits).

Oh yeah, and I’ve been picking myself up, too.

Emmett hangs in the driveway.

I can’t think of a better place to pick myself up than home, surrounded by love, snow, and Emmett the dog, captured here through a lomographic lens.

More on picking myself up in a minute.

Some other things I’ve picked up aren’t new, per se, but they’re new to me as of late:

Recently I picked up a knife for cooking! Cooking is one of my favorite things, yet I hadn’t cooked since the accident because my challenges with left hand coordination didn’t bode well for cutting things with a sharp knife (as you can imagine).

This past week I picked up car keys to start driving again. I no longer feel like a middle schooler stuck at home–hurray!

…I’m trying to avoid having to pick myself up from the ground during balancing exercises at physical therapy:

My fantastic physical therapist, Ashley, supports me while she conducts an exercise.

My fantastic physical therapist, Ashley, supports me while she conducts an exercise. Photo taken by my Dad.

At this point, I’m seeing and feeling big improvements week to week. It’s wild(ly awesome).

Physical therapy has been a big help, and it’s taught me to take things one step at a time. Any goals that seem too large or too difficult just need to be broken up into many smaller, more do-able goals. For instance, even two weeks ago I couldn’t have imagined jogging. Now, guess what I’ve started doing? Yep, you guessed it. Jogging.

Granted, I take it easy. I do a fair amount of stopping and starting. But still, it’s jogging! MomKQsoakedselfieJust earlier today my mom and I were on the bike path jogging when it started raining (soaking wet selfie to the left). Mom and I kept right on jogging because, holy crap, I can jog now!!!

But before I could jog, I mastered a variety of other coordination exercises. So truly, one thing at a time.

I feel like this is a lesson that applies to all of life’s lofty goals (I have a lot of them). Note to self, Katie.

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My big bro Brian (sans glasses)

I’m still picking up my glasses every morning, though. The blow of the ski accident affected the vision of my left eye, and it’s unclear whether that will be temporary or permanent. I’ve never had to wear prescription glasses before this, and my brother has never needed glasses…ironic, since both of our parents are optometrists.

I’m telling friends that I’m nearly back to normal. Yet I think it’s funny that “back to normal” is how I’m describing my goal. The concept that “normal” would be something I’m aspiring for makes me chuckle because, honestly, I wouldn’t trade where I am now for pre-accident Katie.

I’ve never had to struggle like this before. But as I’ve gone through it, I’ve had to dig deep. I’ve learned to trust myself and listen to myself. Two things that, if I tune in to them, give me deep comfort and make me–in a word–happy.

Thanks for reading and caring. Lastly, here are some lomography shots courtesy of the newfound hobby I’ve picked up:

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The day before

The day before my ski accident was an awesome day.

The day before, I felt like life was exactly where it should be.

I didn’t know the next day I would be knocked unconscious, strapped onto a spinal board and rushed to the intensive care unit of the hospital.

How could I possibly know? So I didn’t dread what was to come. No, I just lived life.

In Park City, Utah for a video shoot with the Sundance Channel

In Park City, Utah for a video shoot with the Sundance Channel

And enjoyed a gangbusters day.

The day before my accident I hosted a series for the Sundance Channel, interviewing Sundance Film Festival goers about films and food.

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With my fantastic producer (and soul sister), Jamie.

I was doing what I love doing.

Video clip of my Sundance Channel spot

That evening was relaxing, fun, and delicious. Connor and I played cards in our condo, then hit Main Street for dinner, and listened to a live band at a local bar.

 

The day, from the moment I woke up to the moment I went to sleep, was a day for the record books.

Then the unexpected happened.

A crash on a ski slope, limply falling into a ravine, followed by days that I have no memory of.

Flash forward.

The day before yesterday I was at one of my biweekly physical therapy photo (22)appointments. They have me do exercises that hone in on my vestibular system (to work on my balance and coordination), which was most affected by the crash.

I’m making huge strides each week. From where I stand now, I can’t believe that just a few weeks ago I had trouble walking unassisted.

My current reality is the greatest lesson in patience I’ve ever had, because I want to be back to normal immediately…but the estimated time for my kind of injury is three months.

Three months feels like forever. Three months seems like a long time to press pause on my life’s goals and dreams. But as one of the experts I’ve talked to recently told me, “Three months is nothing in brain time.” And really, what’s three months in the scheme of things?

The thing I’m most grateful for is that I can still have the same dreams I had the day before the accident. And I do–they’re as strong as ever.

photo (23)The day before today was different than any other day, because each and every day during my recovery is different. As well as I’m improving,  I’ve learned that each day is unpredictable; this is not a linear process. One day I feel great, and the next day is a frustration, a struggle.

If I weren’t going through this myself, I would have no idea what this kind of recovery entails. It’s not as simple nor as consistent as watching a wound heal.

When I feel like I’m the only one who’s ever gone through something like this, I remember the people who have come out of the woodwork to tell me about their experiences. One friend in particular told me about how his injury gave him a deep appreciation for the brain: what a weird, yet incredible organ it is. And wow, how I appreciate my brain now.

The day before my accident I thought I’d be in Brazil right now.

I’m not in Brazil, but I’m in a good place.

I don’t know what will happen tomorrow, so I just appreciate today. 

The day of my accident, I kissed tragedy, then turned away from it. I’ve still got more living to do.

On getting a freaky deaky MRI (oh yeah, and a serious concussion)

What are you usually doing at 6 in the morning? A week ago, I was at the hospital putting on scrubs for an MRI of my head.

Nearly 3 weeks ago I got in a bad ski accident while I was in Utah and now, though all doctors (and I) expect a full recovery, I’m still not quite 100% — which is why my neurologist wanted an MRI. So even though I might look normal, it’s a bit deceiving and hides some of the struggles I’ve been having with balance, coordination and vision.

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Life is full of unexpected twists and turns. Waking up in a hospital in Utah not remembering anything that had happened (because I was unconscious) was one.

Having an MRI was another: that was a unique, intense, and claustrophobic experience. One in which I was wrapped in blankets with a crate-like box placed directly over my face and then slid into a tight tunnel in the middle of the small room. Then what sounded like a cacophony of jackhammers started. The noise-blocking ear plugs they gave me weren’t sufficient to block it out.

Before they put me in the tunnel, they asked me at least 3 times if I was claustrophobic. Mm, claustrophobia. I’d had a previous experience dealing with those waves of fear.

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It was my senior year of college. I was the title role in a play called The Insanity of Mary Girard and it included me sitting with a snug wooden box over my head while my arms and legs were secured by taut, leather buckles for 30 minutes (from when the theater “house” opened until the show started).

I did it, night after night of performances.

I learned mind over matter like you wouldn’t believe. As you can imagine, that did wonders for my claustrophobia.

But the MRI was a wholly different experience. There was about 40 minutes of the intensity I briefly described above–quickly interrupted by an injection in my arm (to give me “contrast”)–then I was scooted back in the tunnel, and the banging continued for another 15 minutes or so.

While I was laying in the tunnel for nearly an hour, I thought about things. The MRI happened right around the same time I finally felt like ME again, after my accident. I had my brain back. I was back, despite any hurdles I still had to overcome. So in typical Katie fashion, I had a lot to think about.

I thought about my accident. I have an insatiable curiosity about how this accident will affect me going forward. It’s already made an impact on me and my mindset, in an overall positive way. How will it ripple throughout my life, in unexpected ways?

Connor snapped a shot when he and my parents were walking me around the yard of my home shortly after we'd gotten to Ohio from Utah. He called it "exercising the patient."

Connor snapped a shot when he and my parents were walking me around the yard of my home shortly after we’d gotten to Ohio from Utah. He called it “exercising the patient.”

Another question I contemplate: How should I refer to my accident? It was a freak accident on the ski slope. It gave me a traumatic brain injury and left me unconscious for approximatly 5 to 8 minutes. But that all seems misleading to say. I lucked out, and now I’m cognitively totally here, with a full recovery just around the corner.

But it’s tricky because by now I don’t LOOK very different, so I’m dealing with the contradiction of my appearance, which disguises some of the challenges I’m dealing with.

Considering I could be a quadriplegic (or dead) from this accident, these things I’m pondering are small beans. I’ll take ‘em any day.

Dad snapped this shot of Mom and Connor helping me with exercises that are focused on the vestibular balancing system, which I'd been told to practice by my physical therapist.

Dad snapped this shot of mom and Connor helping me with exercises that are focused on the vestibular balancing system, which I’d been told to practice by my physical therapist.

I don’t have any answers for the questions that popped in my head while I was frozen in position during the MRI…but thinking through them, just like typing them out, somehow helps.

I got home from the procedure and, with snow languidly falling outside, I cuddled up on the couch next to the fireplace and felt an immense feeling of gratitude.

That’s a common theme I’ve felt since I came to: gratitude. I’ve been shown so much love by people who mean so much to me. I feel outstandingly lucky (for the people on this earth…and for getting to be here, too).

Getting this time with my parents (and brother, who came in to spend time with me from Chicago) has been a real silver living. The accident brought me closer to my boyfriend Connor, who’s been a rock throughout this whole journey.

Fine, I’m a glasses-wearer because the accident gave me blurry vision. (That’s supposed to be temporary. Plus, I love my new glasses). And, okay, I’m still struggling with balance a bit. But I’m ME. And I’ve grown so much in this experience. Just how the play in college got rid of my claustrophobia and prepared me to handle the MRI with relative ease, I believe this unexpected life turn is priming me to handle something else down the pipeline all the better. At the very least, it’s given me empathy for anyone who has gone through a similar experience.

My body tells me two things quite clearly: sleep as much as possible (think: 3 naps in a day), and eat a lot, frequently. Sounds like a dream come true. Yup — copy that, body. Will do. Here’s me doing both things like a champ:

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In the hospital in Utah, asleep and cuddling with a stuffed koala bear my friend in Utah, Sam, gave me.

Connor and I stuff our faces with delicious cookies (given by a dear friend).

Connor and I stuff our faces with delicious cookies (given by a dear friend).

Speaking of sleeping, that sounds pretty nice right about now. Over and out.

 

Charleston’s food scene: A community of eaters

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Lamb and pork dumplings at Xiao Bao Biscuit in Charleston, SC. Folded moments before I snapped this shot. Just wait until they hit the frying pan.

Most Americans may be surprised to hear that the culinary scene in the charming little city of Charleston, SC is actually pretty mind-blowingly awesome. It’s no surprise to locals, though — food and beverage is the industry there, so its residents keep tabs on chefs and restaurants like the rest of America follows Miley Cyrus (ugh).

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The shrimp and grits dish at Husk restaurant in Charleston, SC.

The dishes frequently hat-tip to traditional Southern cuisine, but extend far beyond its usual confines with playful innovations like this shrimp and grits dish at Husk restaurant, which included andouille sausage, shishito peppers, fresh fennel and, epically, topped with fried, slivered pig ears.

 

It was a work trip, so this dish was made for us in a NowThis Food interview with Husk’s Chef de Cuisine of Husk, Travis Grimes. Interviewing Chef Travis and watching him make the dish without a doubt heightened my appreciation of it, but I would’ve been a clean plater even if I’d gone into it blind.

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Jammed into a pedicab and (strangely) loving it.

While in Charleston for just shy of a week, my coworkers, Connor and Sadie, and I spent our days hopping from one restaurant to the next, interviewing the chefs and stuffing our faces. It helps to be traveling with coworkers who are also friends in that every opportunity is not only ripe with productivity but a whole lot of fun..

In Charleston, I found exactly what I’d hoped would be there: passionate cooks inventing truly delightful food.

The unexpected element, and the one that’s stuck with me most, was the sense of community the food scene has. Everyone knows each other and — even cooler — supports each other. A rare find.

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Chef Josh Keeler plates sweetbread with salsify, brussel leaves and chanterelles at Two Boroughs Larder in Charleston, SC.

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Connor snapped a shot of me in the kitchen with Alluette, and Alluette’s Cafe in Charleston, SC.

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Sadie snapped this shot of me about to eat the smoked oysters dish with Chef Mike Lata at The Ordinary in Charleston, SC.

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Okra seeds to make new okra plants at the Grow Food Carolina garden in Charleston, SC.

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The gorgeous oyster knives of Chef Mike Lata.

I’d go back! And not just to jump in front of pretty old houses…

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Photo taken by Mr. Connor Boals.

 

On living life with an appetite–of all kinds

eating noodles shanghai

In Shanghai, there’s nothing like freshly made late-night noodles, eaten curbside with friends and beers.

I saw a movie last week that I can’t stop thinking about. It’s a French film called Blue is the Warmest Coloror La Vie d’Adele–and you may have heard of it because it’s just been released stateside, with a splash. (Lengthy lesbian sex scenes will have that affect). Regardless of the controversy, it’s the most beautiful love story I’ve seen depicted on screen.

The film made a big impact on me. Specifically, the appetite of Adele, the lead character.

In one of the opening scenes, she eats voraciously, with her mouth open, taking in huge forkfuls of pasta drenched in red sauce. It’s actually funny to watch the close-up shots of her lips smacking and teeth chomping, and the audience chuckles through the whole sequence. But it serves the plot in this way: Adele’s appetite for food is indicative of her appetite for life. It’s massive. It’s insatiable.

That kind of eagerness for food, and life, resonated with me. Behind her appetite is curiosity and a deep need to explore.

The fact that the director, Abdellatif Kechiche, uses food as a way to express this drive in Adele makes perfect sense to me. Taking pleasure in food and seeking pleasure in life go hand-in-hand in my eyes (no wonder I’ve dedicated my career to food journalism). To eat fully is a part of living fully. So Adele’s ravenous quality strikes me not only as truthful, but as something I can very much relate to.

And I have to address the more in-your-face correlation the film makes: her carnal devouring of food and her sexual appetite. There, again, I think life is fuller with a healthy dose of that kind of appetite, too.

To me, being human is to feel all these cravings, to feel them completely, and to take pleasure in satiating them. To an ecstatic and devastating effect, both. The film succeeded–outstandingly–in bringing this view of life to the forefront of my mind.

Also, I left that movie craving pasta. I went home and made myself a big bowl of it.