Brotherly Love and Christmas Tidings

“I’m going to kidnap your roommate”
“What?”

A few moments later there was a knock on my door and my neighbor/friend came in, picked me up by the legs, and proceeded to carry me to his room.

Ah yes, the joys of having brotherly friends.

Don’t worry, I was going to hang out in his room anyway, so I got him to put me down so I could get my knitting and homework. But honestly? I love having friends who can be totally goofy and are like a second family.

Actually, they’re more like my primary family for nine months out of the year. And that’s truly what gets me through each day, knowing there’s someone who has my back (or legs), and can relate to my experiences. It’s true I have two sisters, but there’s such a large age gap it’s like we’re in two different generations!

So, when I get back from breaks it’s like a little family reunion, everyone hugging each other, visiting our neighbors, and enjoying each others company.

In the case of this Thanksgiving break, our reunion consisted of freaking out over homework, decorating our Christmas tree and the rest of the room, and other prep for the holidays.

I won’t bore you with the first bit of our reunion, except to say that reading a book (for history class) about the Holocaust will make you 100 times more thankful and appreciative of the life you are currently leading.

As for the second bit:

I have now experienced the joy of a Christmas tree in my own place!!!

You know when people move into their first apartment and have to buy their own furniture, or celebrate their first (fill-in-the-blank) in their new “place” and it’s a really big deal? Big in terms of life steps and making your own way in the world. Well, that’s why I’m so excited about having a Christmas tree in my apartment.

Setting up the tree

Always the dramatic one...

Last year my roommates and I hung things up and baked sugar cookies we then decorated, but we didn’t have a tree.

The Christmas tree at my house is always one of my favorite childhood memories. We would get a real tree, strap it onto the roof of the car, I’d help my dad bring it into the house, set it up, and laugh at the cats’ reactions to its sudden appearance in our living room. We’d spend one night decorating it, filling it with ornaments passed down through the generations, pictures of family members young and old, ornaments made in kindergarten with bow-tie pasta and glitter paint. The whole house would smell like pine; it was wonderful. On Christmas morning candy canes and small presents would be hidden amongst the branches.

The tree in my apartment is significantly smaller and therefore can’t be host to as many surprises, but it still adds Christmas cheer to the room.

Fin!Close up

As my roommates and I decorated, we listened and sang along to Christmas music, everything from Jason Mraz’s “Winter Wonderland” to Bing Crosby’s “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” I’ve also discovered the wonders of Pandora’s Folk Christmas playlist (my favorite artists so far: John Fahey and Windham Hill).

We’ve also been modifying the posters in our room; there will soon be a sleigh and reindeer traversing the Starry Night.

500 Days of ChristmasSheldon

I’m sure we’ll decorate more before we go home for the holidays, and I know I have to put some time into knitting Christmas presents for my roommates! I think I’ll be spending more time with my brotherly neighbors to work on that.

I want the presents to be a surprise!

Wooly Weather

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that when the weather turns cold, a knitter must be in want of good wool and a hot beverage.

It’s that time of year again. The time to bundle up in thick scarves, chunky sweaters, over-sized hats, and drink copious amounts of tea and coffee to ward away the afternoon drowsiness which accompanies darker evenings.

For me, this weather is perfect. I hate the heat, though my complaint actually lies with over-exposure to the sun (I’m super pale. Like, I glow in the sunlight in early spring. And I’m as red as a lobster in the summer). Right now I’m really excited to break out the wool socks and mittens. I’d be super happy if it snowed this week, but I know that it wouldn’t be a good thing for those who are still out of power from Sandy (like my parents; they already got half a foot of snow last night).

Still, my idea of a perfect winter afternoon is curling up in a huge armchair in front of a fire, snow swirling outside the windows, shelves of books host to infinite new worlds, my cat in my lap, and knitting in my hands. Some quiet music would be nice, too. Maybe some tea on a table beside me.

Biltmore LibraryTudor house in Elmira NY

Well, at the moment I’m lacking snow, a fireplace and my cat, but I have some form of the rest at school. The reading room has wonderful chairs to curl up in, Barnes and Noble is only a bus ride away, I have my iPod, I just bought a cup of coffee, and my knitting is in my backpack beside me.

When it comes to hobbies, I am not your average 20 year old. My art prof saw my knitting this past week and asked “Shouldn’t you be texting or something? Constantly tapping away at technology?”

Trust me, I do my fair share of that, but my answer will always be “No, I’d rather be knitting.” And what I knit isn’t your typical scarf or blanket either.

I started knitting when I was homeschooled, and made little stuffed animals and knick knacks but nothing very complicated. I stopped knitting for a few years, and then got back into it in high school when I was given sock yarn one Christmas. Since then, I’ve made

socks

First pair of knitted socks!

hats

Polka-Dot hat - took me forever!Blue Beret

scarves

Scarf in Progress

and now I design my own patterns. Which, let me tell you, involves more math than you think (Reasons why it’s good to have math core at Loyola).

I actually have Loyola to thank for getting me started on designing patterns. When I visited here my senior year of high school, I wore a hat my sister had knitted for me, but lost it when my mom and I were checking out Fells Point. I was really ticked because it was something my sister had put a lot of work into and I really liked wearing it. So, instead of associating bad karma with the school, I decided that I would try to make my own hat. I sketched out ideas, looked at other hat patterns, and came up with this:

Designs for my first hatLove wearing this, it's so soft and warm!

Since then I’ve made leg warmers, a fez, hand warmers, sweater motifs, and a Batman hat

How I plan out patterns: lots of graph paper!For my friend Ben :D

I currently have a Superman hat in the works!

Pattern in Progress

Writing patterns and knitting is so much more suitable for cold weather. Soft wool slipping through your fingers, smooth needles click clacking away, and the rhythmic hand motions are all very soothing.

I think it’s time to end this and take out my knitting. Productive Procrastination!

Tying It All Together: Sunday Morning Questions, Thoughts, and Fears

One of the things I’ve always valued and loved about the weekends is the Breakfast Ritual. It could be Saturday or Sunday, really, but I feel Sundays are better suited for this. Here are the basics:

  1. Wake up without an alarm. It sets a nice unrushed feel to the day.
  2. Tiptoe around the room so as not to wake your roommate.
  3. Listen to The Dallas String Quartet and Jingle Punks Hipster Orchestra as you do the dishes.
  4. Make (strong) coffee and a bowl of Marshmallow Mateys (ShopRite’s version of Lucky Charms)
  5. Sit. Eat. Think. Ask Why?
  6. Repeat step five for as long as you care to sit in solitude enjoying the quiet. Or until your roommates get up.

That is the start to a good morning. Just contemplating your life, thinking about what you want to do, not what you have to do, and ruminating why you chose the paths you did as the coffee kicks in.

Today, my Sunday morning questioning takes the form of this writing, and I’ve just hit all the marshmallows in the bottom of my bowl (I like to save the best for last).

I know asking really vague questions isn’t as fun as other things, or as comfy as staying in your nice warm bed. But sometimes it’s good to let your mind wander and take an uncharted and unplanned course. Which has led me to thoughts of yesterday afternoon.

I met with the same group of friends who gathered to talk about what authenticity is, but this time we focused on why people have trouble being authentic.

Why are we so afraid to be our true selves?
Why do we find the need to prescribe to societal standards that don’t always reflect our true inclinations or beliefs?
Why are we intimidated by letting people in?
Why are we afraid of being open or practicing self-acceptance?

The answers that come to mind without thinking are the ones most likely to be true. Peoples’ responses yesterday: Fear of rejection, fear of ridicule, fear of not being accepted for who we are. And the list goes on …

Those words: ridicule, rejection, acceptance, all bring me back to middle school bullies and trying to change who I was in high school (it took me a couple years to realize how much I was hurting myself and those around me in a fruitless battle to be “cool”). I’m 20 and I still have the fears of a 13-year-old. Please tell me I’m not the only one.

If I’m not the only one, then shouldn’t it be easier to reach out and connect with others, who undoubtedly want to feel like they belong at this school just as much as I do? Or is this a larger social problem, something that is impossibly huge and scary and multi-generational? Maybe it’s a combination of both.

Spiked hair on a Sunday

Confession: If I felt that people were more open, I'd probably spike my hair more frequently.

Self crossword - the missing letter is a T, by the way

You can't tell who a person really is just by looking at them. You have to ask and listen. Don't be afraid to initiate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I know I don’t have the answers to all these questions, and I’m not asking you to, either. I also know I don’t have perfect solutions. But I have an idea about the (possibly subconscious) intimidation of others.

When you walk over the bridge on Charles St, or through College Center, unglue your eyes from your phone or iPod and look at people as you walk by. Smile and wave. Ask how they’re doing and mean it. Show interest in their life and well-being; they will reciprocate. You don’t have to go out of your way to be present to others. Just a nod will do. I know I’m not the best at this; sometimes I miss a wave or “Hey’” because my earbuds are in, but I’m trying to get better.

One thought and smile at a time.

Oh, Sandy!

Rain rain go away,
Come again another day.
Sandy you don’t need to be
so darn close to me.
Pumpkins, candy, trick or treat,
washed away down Charles Street.
Staying in is fun
when you have movies for everyone.

Yes, there is a hurricane coming my way, and I‘m so happy I don’t have classes tomorrow, but it’s also Halloween week and I am not letting Sandy dampen my days.

I really like Halloween. A lot. It’s possibly one of my favorite holidays. Probably because of it being in the fall (favorite season), but also because there are so many options to be had for its celebration.

I have very fond memories of trick-or-treating with my parents when I was little (except for the time I got chased by a teenager with a chainsaw. That was so not cool): going through the ritual of pumpkin carving, dress up, pictures, walking around the neighborhood, and as soon as I returned home, sorting through all the candy and giving my dad all the Almond Joys. As I got older, I went out with friends and in high school started the tradition of watching creepy “Doctor Who” episodes and sleeping over at someone’s house.

Now that I’m in college I can’t really go out trick-or-treating, but my roommates and I have found other ways to celebrate Halloween without going out only to be drenched by torrential rain and 60 mph winds.

We decorated our apartment early this month but we added some decorations this weekend:

Snoopy

I also sketched out some designs for our pumpkins while listening to Pandora’s Halloween music stations.

Post carving swirls

Pre carving facepost carving face

The week leading up to Halloween I wear festive earrings, and my roommates and I will be wearing Halloween appropriate clothing on Wednesday. I might even spike my hair!

some crazy earrings

I think the best part about Halloween in college (besides having an excuse to eat candy) is bonding over movies, whether they be horror, cheesy, classics, or down right strange. A bunch of my friends and I watched The Ward (by “watch”, I mean I sat with them facing the opposite direction of the TV and provided humorous sarcastic commentary based on their reactions) on Friday and have plans to watch A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum tonight.

I really miss the 1940s black and white “horror” movies like The Wolfman and Dracula. Oh, and you cannot miss Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy! Even though it isn’t really an official Halloween movie, The Rocky Horror Picture Show has to be one of my all time favorites of “strange” that is shown at this time of year. Make sure you have toast on hand when you watch it!

True, this kind of Halloween celebration is fairly low key, maybe not your typical college experience. I’d love to go to the Lantern Parade in the city, but Sandy kind of nixed that this year. Maybe next year will be clear and crisp and I can have an outdoor Halloween adventure!

Freedom to Dance And Other Inalienable Room Rights

I really hope no one ever goes by my window when I’m listening to music. Why? Because I will either a) be singing, or b) dancing, or c) a dramatic combination of both.

HmYes, you can dance tooJust Sing

My dance moves are akin to the awkward flailings of a seal powered by the enthusiasm of Gene Kelly. I’m not as hard core as Napoleon Dynamite, but I still tango across the common room with my roommate to The Muppets version of “The Habenera.”

For me, dancing as if no one is watching and singing as if the walls aren’t paper thin are how I get the crazy build up of tension out of my system. You know those people who jiggle their foot incessantly in class? That’s me (sorry guys!). So coming home and just belting Florence + The Machine’s “The Dog Days Are Over” or dancing to Passion Pit’s “Take A Walk” while cooking dinner is a kind of therapy.

Of course, I wouldn’t be able to do this without trusting my roommates.

Having a good room environment is essential to having a good college experience. Some people say they’re OK just being acquaintances with their roommates; it’s only a place to sleep, eat and keep your stuff, right? Well, it works for some people, but not me.

As a freshman last year, I was really freaked out about having a roommate. I have a sister, but there’s a huge age gap so I was basically raised as an only child. As move in day approached, I got more and more anxious about my roommate.

What if she thought I was weird? What if she had completely different tastes in music? What if she studied all the time, or didn’t study at all? What if Loyola’s survey screwed up and I got put with the polar opposite?

Luckily, my worrying was pointless.

Sharing an apartment with five other girls was definitely a culture shock, but it turned out to be really fun. Part of this has to do with the sense of community Loyola builds within its dorms.

I was in an Alpha class, so I lived on a floor with other Alpha/Collegium students, which provided a sense of commonality starting day one. Throughout the year, my floor kept its doors open and I got to know almost everyone in my hall. My neighbors and I would have family dinners or get together to watch Once Upon A Time or Psych. We even made a fake family tree! (If you ever hear a guy call me Nana, this is why)

Family Dinner Freshman Year! Different Familiy Dinner, but same food

Sadly, not everything was always peachy keen. My room had its moments of tension last year, and I’ve heard horror stories from friends who just didn’t click with their roommates (not just at this school).

Overall, I lucked out and had a really good roommate experience and I’m super happy it’s continuing. Yes, this year I got to choose my roommates and yes they are really good friends, but the comfort level of what is essentially my home hinges on the room dynamic.
I don’t want to give a secret recipe for success, because let’s face it, every room situation is different. But here is what allows me to dance and sing without a care in the world:

  1. The room is a judgement free zone.
  2. Conflict? Bring it up ASAP. Talking it over helps.
  3. Don’t be afraid to speak out, even if it’s to make a bad joke.
  4. You don’t have to be best friends, but it’s cool if you are.
  5. Share! Ask to share! Share without thinking! The fridge has only so many shelves.
  6. Listen. With an open mind.
  7. Hug and dance and sing.

'Cause I'm that cool (jk, I know my dance moves are ridiculous)

The Way to a Girl’s Heart? Good Food and Good Art.

I think my brain has been thought-out. It’s processed so much information and absorbed so many visuals over the past three days it just can’t take any more. A nap might be the best remedy, but before I have the luxury of doing that, I’d like to share with you the cause of my Sunday sleepiness.

Fall Break

No, I didn’t go home like most of the campus (I did last year. Homecoming through the eyes of a college student: never again). Instead, I shared an exciting weekend with my mom, as we explored the sights of Mount Vernon and two art museums.

It all began with an insanely relaxing Thursday afternoon of painting

My Thursday Afternoonand watching Miss Marple: At Bertram’s Hotel (I’m a sucker for mysteries and British accents). After my mom arrived, we had dinner (fresh from the Trenton Farmer’s Market!) and Skyped my sister, who gave us the down low her kids’ Halloween costumes: a pirate and Yoda.

Of course, you can’t spend time with your parents on campus and not go to Miss Shirley’s for breakfast. This was my second time going, and I highly recommend the Cinnamon Roll French Toast! Combine their food with 60s/70s music, and you’ve got the makings of a wonderful day.

I know I said “art museums” and “exciting” in the same sentence, and many of you are probably shaking your heads in skepticism. But let me say this: The Walter’s Art Museum is not your typical art museum. Yes, they have large rooms filled with giant portraits of Europe’s nobility, countless paintings of martyred saints, and a very nice selection of 19th century landscapes, but they also have the “Chamber of Wonders.” Here resides everything from a mounted crocodile to delicately inlayed chests. Or

So pretty!!!

or

Lovin the Iridescence

or

Nobody expects the Spanish inquisition!

Nobody expects the Spanish inquisition!

And, OK, fine, I admit it, I had to go there for my art history class, so it wasn’t out of pure intellectual curiosity that I gazed at art for four hours.

However, whether or not you go for fun, the Walter’s is a really cool museum. It’s also in the Mount Vernon neighborhood, which is home to some of the best restaurants in Baltimore and the first monument to George Washington.

Mt. Vernon MonumentFlowers at Mt. VernonSt. Paul'sOh Young Grasshopper...After discovering the not-quite-so-young-grasshopper, we walked over to Sascha’s 527 Cafe and had a refreshing dinner of crab cakes (another Maryland must have).

You’d think that I’d had enough of walking around, but no. My Italian class brought me to the Baltimore Museum of Art which is right by Johns Hopkins University, and easy to access via the Collegetown Shuttle.

Even though several of their galleries were closed for renovation, I still got to see some beautiful art.

Landscape at BMA The Kiss by Rodin

There’s a sculpture garden by the museum, but modern art isn’t really my thing, so I took pictures of the flowers instead:

So many pretty flowers! Leaves Changing

Although it was still fairly sunny, the temperature had definitely dropped by the time I got home, so I decided to make a stick-to-your-ribs Tex-Mex macaroni dinner. My sister gave me a book of pasta recipes, and I had yet to try one, so I took the advantage of the calm Saturday evening to make this:

Prep for DinnerTex-Mex macaroni!

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why my eyes are so tired and my brain is so sore. It was so much fun, but *yawn* I think it’s time to heed the calls of my warm bed.

Walls Can Speak Louder Than Words

When I started blogging I was told “Write the way you talk. Have a conversation with your readers.” When I sat down to write, my brain filled with cliches of introductions and I stared at a blank screen for a very long time. And then I stared at my wall, which is far from blank.

Some college dorms are decorated so they look like they came out of a Pottery Barn ad. Others bear resemblance to an insane asylum with white walls and overly bright light fixtures. There are a lot in between, but it’s safe to say that my wall is a fairly accurate depiction of myself: my interests, humor, loves, hopes, and eccentricities.

Which is why I have come to the conclusion that maybe by explaining my wall I can describe myself to you lovely readers.

And so it begins.

The first thing you’ll notice on my wall are all the art postcards. I’m (probably) a double major in English and Fine Arts, with a minor in Entrepreneurship. I really enjoy beautiful things, from sunsets to sautéed chicken, or violets to Van Gogh.

After you get over the 100+ postcards interspersed on my wall, you’ll notice 4 large posters. The first is an illuminated copy of “The Tyger” by William Blake I made in high school (I like writing poetry, not just reading it!). I grew up on the West coast of New Jersey in a very small town and went to a medium sized high school that strongly encouraged the arts and reading (my first love). But before that I was homeschooled for 6 years, which included the watching of PBS as part of school, taking history tours of the cities my parents visited, and going to a lot of science museums (along with normal schoolwork).

Of course, you can’t watch PBS for years and not see some late-night Monty Python or go to museums and avoid the dinosaur exhibit. Which is why I have “The Ministry of Silly Walks” and “Dinosaurs of Distinction: Pittsburgh” posters. The fourth and final large poster is of the TV show Doctor Who, one of my favorite productions of the BBC. If you like British accents, ridiculous plot twists that defy the laws of physics, and traveling through time and space, you should watch it.

The rest of my wall is made up of smaller posters, like The Beatles, Extreme Ironing, and some of my friends’ and my own art work. I also keep a map on the wall covered in pins of where I’ve been and where I want to go.

Are you feeling overwhelmed?

I know it seems like a lot to have on a wall, something that is usually taken for granted as simply a building’s structure. But my wall is an extension of myself. Its bright colors and memories held up by thumbtacks make me smile after a long day of classes or an evening meeting of Philosophy or Knitting Club.

No matter how busy and stressed I get, I know I always have a place to call home. My room and my roommates are part of that, as is the Loyola community as a whole. Speaking of which, I have some homework to finish up before I watch 500 Days of Summer with my friends.

I know I haven’t told you as much as you might want to know, but there are many more posts to come!