Take a Break Already!

Oh, ow, my eyes. *Puts sunglasses on* That’s better. *Creak, tramp tramp tramp, squish* Ugh, mud. *Looks up at the sky* Wow, that’s beautiful. Nice to see you again, sun.

Of course, the brief spell of warmth Baltimore experienced this weekend departed all too quickly, but we got to enjoy it while it lasted. Admitted students toured the campus, current students reclined on the Humanities Porch, and I rolled up my sleeves to feel the breeze across my arms. But then I looked down and was blinded by my own paleness. You win some you lose some.

A taste of spring is so very welcome right now – it’s midterms. Everyone is getting cabin fever, especially as break is less than a week away!

Ah yes, Spring Break. A time for reveling, relaxing, and revamping for the second half of the semester. I will be having a pretty low key time at home, you know, doctors appointments, summer job search, museum visits etc. Yeah, not exactly the most thrilling or adventurous activities, so I asked around my friend group to find out what other Loyola students planned to do with their week of freedom. I got some pretty cool responses!

My roommate, Erin, is planning to spend some quality time with family and friends and, drumroll please, boyfriend who’s visiting from Ireland! She’s very excited – she’s been counting down the days all week.

My friends Victoria and Katie will be in Florida – one visiting her dad and the other  kicking back in Disney World with fellow seniors – definitely a smart idea since the North is supposed to be getting more snow!

A trio of my friends, Ben, Alex, and Allie, are planning to camp in Pokomoke River State Park (I’m kind of super jealous, the last time I went camping was freshman year of high school).

Many friends and acquaintances will also be working – my roommate from Ireland is currently interning in Vienna and another friend from study abroad said that he would be working in a music shop most of the time.

There are of course my more lackadaisical (SAT word of the day meaning lacking in enthusiasm or carelessly lazy)* friends like my roommate Claire informed me that she will be sleeping for the majority of break and pro-active friends who will be going on SBO (my previous roommate Mary will heading off to the Appalachian region of VA to tutor and promote cultural awareness).

In short, spring break isn’t so much a “break” as an opportunity for adventures. Preferably sunny adventures.

*Edit from my roommate Erin

Young and Restless

Don’t forget to
unwind once in a while.
do remember to
embrace your inner geek.

Young and restless is
optimal for inspiration and creativity.
use that to your advantage.

Have a day, or two,
arranged for
venturing to comic stores,
expressing yourself in color.

Nestle into bed with a book
or host a Disney marathon/sing-along.

I don’t care what you do, but
do it with passion.
enjoy the music, the friends, the laughs,
and most of all, the memories.

This is what gets me through long hours in the studio, but also gets me pumped for weekends filled with exploring Baltimore comic book stores and having an “art party” with Loyola’s Urban Art Club.

 

(Insert London Reference Here)

This morning I amused my roommate to no end by trying to speak. And by trying to speak, I mean croak out an explanation of the communications project I was working on, only to have my voice break half way through a sentence and cause Julia to chortle into her coffee.

Yes, it is indeed that time of year again. The common cold creeps upon unsuspecting victims whose weary immune systems are vulnerable after weeks of personal stress, upcoming final papers, and a weekend excursion to London.

I think it was really that last bit that brought me down with the sniffles, but I don’t regret it one bit! London was…London was beautiful. London was filled with adventures, from strolling through Hyde Park and Baker Street to seeing the Crown Jewels in the Tower. London doesn’t feel like home, as Ireland does, but it fills me with possibility and wonder and joy and great expectations.

I’m afraid I have to say that London beats Paris. Because let’s face it, the following experiences I’m about to share with you will always bring a smile to my face.

As previously mentioned, Hyde Park and Baker Street were our first stops in the city, after quickly figuring out the London Underground of course (it actually isn’t that difficult – it’s way more straightforward than NYC). A brisk stroll through the park brought us to the construction of a winter carnival, which my friends and I got super excited about until we realized they wouldn’t be opening till next week. Bummer. But, we did manage to enjoy a beautiful sunset on the Serpentine!

Our quest for 221B Baker Street proved to be unfruitful, however, as the actual set where productions of Sherlock Holmes is elsewhere in the city. But, we did come across a Beatles paraphernalia shop which was oddly appropriate for the next day’s adventure to Abbey Road.

After witnessing an undercover cop chase down a man in handcuffs, we decided to head over to the Tower, eating a breakfast of baguette sandwiches along the way.

As you can see, we couldn’t have asked for better weather, the sun gracing us with warmth and beautiful lighting for shots of Tower Bridge.

It was really cool to walk around in a place filled with so much history. Just think of all the kings, visitors, and yes, prisoners, who came there through the centuries! We saw so much: the Crown Jewels, the armory, the minting process, the King Edward I’s bed chambers, gargoyles galore, and of course the ravens! (btw, I had no idea they were so big)

Our day continued to follow a historical theme as we made our way to the Globe Theater after winding our way through the London streets. This, I think, was Erin’s favorite part of the trip. I mean, walking past this:

to get to this:

had her jumping with joy. I know, I know, the Globe actually burned down centuries ago, but the theater that stands there today is historically accurate, even down to the method of construction! Our guide even told us that audiences still stand to see the plays, and participation (within reason) is allowed, just like during Shakespeare’s day. I would love to be a part of that someday, to be such an active viewer of one of his works.

I seriously thought my day couldn’t get much better, I mean, seeing historical places, right? Well, being the foodie I am, my evening rocked compared to the daytime activities. Rocked as in That was one of the best meals of my life ever. Hunger may be the best sauce, but add a little wine, good friends, and a delicious desert, and you’ve got the makings of a feast. I ate what was possibly the best fish n chips of my life, followed by sharing a desert platter of chocolatey goodness and raspberry peach cobbler (with apple sorbet!). Looking around the table at my friends, sharing in their laughter and good spirits is a memory I will always cherish.

To top off the evening (and walk off desert), we set off to view Big Ben, the Eye, and the Houses of Parliament in all their lighted glory. We also came across a telephone booth, and yes, we took the obligatory tourist pictures!


Despite coming down with a cold, London was truly an amazing experience and I sincerely hope I can return someday.

*Stay tuned next week for my day adventure in Cardiff!

Aristic Getaways to Dublin and Paris

As you may have heard, I have a thing for art.

Don’t ever give me a ballpoint pen in class ‘cause I’ll sketch all over my notes if I get distracted. My bedroom has become a mini gallery from the number of postcards that plaster the walls. As for museums themselves…well, sometimes it’s like I died and went to heaven. Which has happened twice in the past two weeks.

What, might you ask, could have caused me to smile uncontrollably when I entered the art galleries in Dublin and Paris?

Well, first off, being in Dublin and Paris (The purpose of which I’ll get to in a minute). Secondly, actually understanding the contents of the rooms. I love art for its beauty, but I also have a deep appreciation for the subtleties of hidden messages and the artist’s conveyance of social commentary or capturing an individual’s private life. It’s really cool when I get to see a piece I’ve learned about in class, or, in the case of Dublin’s National Gallery, am writing a paper on.

But I suppose I should probably explain why I was in Dublin in the first place, right?

Well….

I went to my first gaming con! Cons (conventions) in Europe are different from the US – it’s a lot more about spending time with cool people in a chill environment than cosplaying and attending panels. While I was at the con I learned a bunch of really cool games, like Resistance and Saboteur (SO MUCH FUN – but don’t play with loved ones ‘cause they’re all about lying/tricking people), and added to my collection of buttons and kooky earrings.

I love calligraphy, so these are perfect!

I also invested in some shiny dice!

On one of the days I wasn’t gaming, two friends and I went into the city to explore. After a blessed cup of coffee and access to free wifi at a cafe near the city center, we walked around the neighborhood of Trinity College and eventually decided to split up to visit the National Gallery and History Museum.

 

The Irish National Gallery is fairly small, but the pieces it has are no less spectacular than those at the BMA or the Met. Some of my favorite artists have work displayed there, like Sisley and Vermeer. I feel like seeing one of your favorite pieces of art is like meeting an old friend. You’ve seen them so many times, looked at every single feature, but every time you encounter them you discover something new to love.

Metsu's paired paintings

This feeling of greeting an old friend extended to my visits to the Louvre and Musee d’Orsay in Paris. The Loyola group trip to the City of Light included a tour of the Louvre and a chunk of free time to visit wherever we wished, which in my case involved a 3 hour stop at the largest collection of Impressionist art in the world.

I never thought I’d get to see these masterpieces!

I love Van Gogh’s work. I just kept smiling to myself the entire time I was in the room with his paintings.

After hours of staring at gorgeous works of art, Erin and I strolled down the Champs-Élysées (thank you high school French teacher for getting this song stuck in my head) and took the required tourist photos at the l’Arc de Triomphe.

Even on our final day in Paris, I was surrounded by art, this time in the form of the beautiful architecture of Notre Dame. Oh Mon Dieu! C’est encroyable! C’est magnifique!

I had never realized how large it was. I mean, just…HUGE. Huge and breathtaking. I feel like everything in Paris is breathtaking. From the Louvre, to the food, to the architecture (to the smell of the subway even), the whole city is an experience in itself. I can only hope that I will return one day to see it again.

Taking a Break

Ready…Set…Wait for it…GO!!!!

And they’re off! Spring break has begun! Fresh air! More sleep! No homework! Freedom!

Well, kind of. By the time this is published, some students will be on their way home and others will be chomping at the bit to finish their last midterm. And, ok, fine, maybe I won’t get that much more sleep, and I know I have homework, but the fresh air and relative freedom still stands.

I say “relative” because I know my time isn’t truly my own. I’ll be running around, being enjoyably busy, and I know I’m not the only one. Loyola students tend to be fairly active during the week away from school. During my talks with friends I’ve heard some pretty interesting stuff. Here are a few of my favorites:

Thanks to the ease of travel in Baltimore, my friend Mary is flying out to see her sister in Pittsburgh. She’s really excited to see the Andy Warhol Museum and ride the incline (like that little red trolley from Mr. Rogers). I visited there a few summers ago and had a fantastic time. She’s in for a treat!

I know my roommate Erin plans to take the opposite route, and will be spending much of her time catching up on missed sleep. She also has her sights set on gaming, reading and hanging out with friends from home.

Likewise, my friend Ben told me he’d be getting some quality homework time in, because school will follow you where ever you go!

On a school-related note, some of my friends (quite a few, come to think of it) will be participating in Spring Break Outreach, a program that students apply for, and during which serve in communities across the east coast. There are eight sites, all in different states, all addressing different issues. My roommate Nicole will be learning about environmental and energy issues and visiting with organizations and local communities who are trying to address the problem. Lindsey, my fellow blogger, will be leading a group that focuses on prison reform and works with Baltimore agencies to educate students about the difficulties faced by current and past inmates. Other programs deal with rural and urban poverty, migrant farm labor, building communities, HIV/AIDS awareness, and racial justice.

I’ve also heard from other students that they plan to hang out with family and friends (even to Arizona and California!), spend some time skiing, and more than once I’ve caught “Disney World” while walking through Boulder.

What are my plans, you might ask? Well….I haven’t quite figured them out yet! I’ve been eying a few art museums since I haven’t been to any this semester (and that just feels weird). I really want to visit the Barnes in Philly (so many Renoirs and Cezannes!) and check out the Brandywine Museum’s F.O.C. Darley exhibit. My dad will be celebrating his birthday by going to the Museum of Mathematics in NYC to attend a talk about math in Pixar movies (I’m actually kind of excited for that). Other than the usual hair cut, visit to my high school, and obligatory restocking of food, I have no idea what else lies in my future! I hope it involves a trip to Barnes and Noble, though. Maybe I’ll eventually get to see The Hobbit or catch up on Downton Abbey.

No matter what I do, I know I’ll enjoy my chance to breathe and recuperate from midterms!

Photographic Evidence

Wow! I haven’t written in a month and it feels … weird. At first it was nice not to stress about writing a post during finals, and then it was also nice to enjoy my Christmas peacefully, but afterwards I kind of missed it. Really missed it, actually.

By the end of break I was itching to write about my adventures and, oddly enough, get back to my hectic life on campus. Sometimes the schoolwork can be overwhelming (It’s only been two days and I have so much homework!), but I think if I wasn’t as busy as I am, I wouldn’t be happy. I need activity in my life; whether it’s mental, physical, or emotional, I need something to be invested in.

I think that’s why I was so busy over break, and let me tell you, this was no resort in the Bahamas or skiing in the Alps!

But I’m not going to give you a blow-by-blow. That would be immensely boring and I have enough pictures to make this much more interesting. However, I will explain a few events because not all pictures tell an accurate story!

Christmas at Grandpas

The Annual Ugly Sock Contest

My aunt started a crazy tradition of having an “ugly sock contest” and I usually got stuck with all the horrible socks. This year I got my revenge!

James

I think this was one of my favorite parts of break. My cousin who lives in New York City asked me to cat sit for her during New Year's weekend so I brought my friend Phoebe & Stacey along on the journey into the city and spent five glorious days exploring together.

 

Misty misty morning

At the Lego Store

The Intrepid Explorer!

Bethesda Terrace

Beware the Weeping Angels!

Our walk in Central Park turned into Let’s-Find-All-The-Places-Where-They-Filmed-Doctor-Who. Which was brilliant! I think we climbed on every boulder in the southern half of the park until we found the right one.

Superman Alex
While I visited my sister in chilly Massachusetts, I finished up this hat for my friend Alex.
Off to Sherlock...

You'll never believe where we went next!

At the ballThe Daintiest Thing Under A Bonnet Charity Ball hosted by the Baker Street Babes. A Sherlockian dinner and auction whose total proceeds went to the Wounded Warrior Project. (Photo Cred – Melinda Caric)

Silent Auction

Photo cred Melinda Caric

I got to spend a few days at home reading, doing laundry, and curling up with my cat, but it’s safe to say I had more fun running around with my friends than sleeping!

Somewhere in there I played Cards Against Humanity, saw Les Mis and Django Unchained (I can’t believe I got carded to buy my ticket), and almost made it to The Hobbit.

And that, my dear readers, pretty much wraps up my winter break! I hope you all had a wonderful time with your family, or away from work, or enjoying yourself in some small way. Here’s to a new year and a new semester!

See ya around guys!

Adventure Time!

If you ever visit my room, the first thing you’ll see is the “Room 213 Bucket List.”
Bucket List

My roommates and I made it at the beginning of the year because we kept on coming up with things to do but either a) forgot them in a week, or b) lost motivation to do them. This weekend we were finally able to check off a few boxes after our adventure to the Inner Harbor.

Our original plan was to visit the aquarium, as suggested by my roommate Erin, but their tickets were a bit pricey for the short amount of time we had available to us. Instead, we decided to meander around the Inner Harbor and let our stomachs lead us to an eventual destination.

Getting out of the apartment to explore the city was such a good idea. It was gorgeous. There was a light breeze, blue skies, and Christmas decorations were slowly changing the piers into a jungle of colored lights (Personally, I don’t want anything to do with Christmas till after Thanksgiving. But, I have to admit that the Inner Harbor decorations got me excited).

Crazy Roomies

USS Constitution

USS Constitution ~ I love maritime history!

As we walked along the crowded walkway, we snapped pictures of the beautiful sunset and sang along to the Christmas carols a street musician played on his saxophone.

It turns out the first destination we came to was Barnes and Noble.

Luckily, all my roommates love to read, so we killed an hour or two perusing the maze of books. I got side-tracked by a Hobbit display case (I’m so excited for the movie. Words cannot describe my enthusiasm for J.R.R. Tolkein and Martin Freeman). After many declarations of oohs and aahs in the fiction, sci-fi/fantasy, art, and knitting section, I finally decided I could indulge myself and buy Clash of Kings. Soon after, the fragrant smells coming from The Hard Rock Cafe next door caused us all to agree that it was time for dinner.

As we exited the store, a crowd gathered by one of the piers and a choir began to sing. I’m sure they sounded lovely, but our attention was drawn to Noodles and Co.

At Dinner

I had a lovely Chicken Pad Thai…

Chix Pad Thai

and we chatted about our Thanksgiving traditions over our food.

After a very filling meal, we walked around some of the shops and I got a bit of Christmas shopping done (shout out to Stacey: be prepared for an awkwardly awesome gift!).

By the time we returned outside, it had grown dark and Santa was making the rounds in a massive crowd of families by the pier. There was even snow confetti!!!

Snow Confetti!

And a giant pink poodle (I think it was a cotton candy vendor).

Pink Poodle

All the walking around and seeing the sights was fairly exhausting, so we headed home shortly thereafter to mugs of tea and lounging in pajamas. I broke out the new book and continued to work on some art homework.

All in all, it was a pretty good (and pretty tiring) weekend. I wonder what we’ll do next on the bucket list…..

Body as Machine

Fall’s Furry Friends

As soon as he said “Breathe in slowly and exhale, feel your muscles relax. Breathe in and let the stress flow away from your body,” I knew that as Friday wrapped up a wonderful weekend would begin.

I was not wrong.

You might be wondering why on earth I’d be psyched about a little meditation, but trust me, after the week I had, I was really happy the Student Leadership Corps focused on stress and time management in our weekly session.

Taking time to unwind is crucial at school; I know I sound like one of those info sessions everyone gets dragged to in high school, but it’s true. I’m usually wound up really tight (both physically and mentally) so having an evening to hang out with friends, while partaking in not quite “conventional” entertainment for 19 year olds, is really appreciated.

What might this unconventional entertainment be?

Build-A-Bear

My friend turned 19 last week, so she requested we go to Build-A-Bear as celebration of this momentous event. My roommates and I met her on the East side of campus, where I noticed the trees were changing and got really distracted by the beautiful colors:

SO PRETTY
I love little inconsistencies

After a brief ride to the mall, we embarked on our journey to make new furry friends (Hey, I’m just quoting their website).
Paige, me, Nicole, and Erin

And yes, we did do the little dance/embarrassing series of hops and hand motions to ensure our bears had hearts full of love. No shame.

So much love

Here is Dr. Hiddles Holmes, one of the newest members of my room’s family.
Be jealous guys, he's a triple threat!

After eating the obligatory food court dinner and meandering through some shops, we headed home and (literally) chased down a shuttle to take us back to our dorm.

Some hours of sleep later found me yet again taking an early morning stroll to the art studio (I’m amazed my roommate hasn’t thrown a pillow at me yet for waking up at 6 on the weekends).

I love this tree by Knott HallBones are very interesting to draw...

As much as I love art, I wanted to get back to my room so we could decorate for Halloween. See, my mom sends me care packages labeled with “Do Not Open Till” leading up to various holidays (including International Talk Like a Pirate Day) so my roommates and I were pretty excited when we opened the box full of fall decorations.

So festive!

Don’t worry, the festive atmosphere didn’t go unseen by others! Students from the Alpha  Theology class I’m an Aide for came over for spaghetti dinner that night. Apparently our room has a very homey atmosphere, but is very clearly “young adult” oriented (Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory stares me down when I walk out my bedroom).

Homemade Sauce, too!!!We have so much leftover....Anyone want to come by for spaghetti?

All in all it was a pretty good weekend. Jam packed, but totally worth it. I live for those moments that seem to span an entire day when it’s only been a few hours. Sadly, those days are the most tiring, and right now it’s coming back to bite me.

Maybe I’ll put those relaxing exercises to work later this evening….