Monday, August 31, 2009

how monday improved.

The weather today is perfect. Though I may try to describe it in other ways, no word can say it better than that.

The morning started off roughly, even for a Monday. Though the air was chilled and I was comfy in pants and a denim jacket, even though I got to ride my bike to the train station and make it on time, I sat down & paid for my ticket, only to realize moments later that I'd left my keys at home. Usually, this would be no big deal because hey, I didn't drive to work. But, since starting my new job at ADROP (don't judge even though there's campy muzak), I've gained five keys AND a new keychain in addition to my car keys, so I jangle around like a janitor, necessarily, so that I can get into my office building. My boss is at a conference in Mexico for two weeks beginning today of all days, which meant that without keys, I was not going to be able to get into the office.
Deep breath.
So I got off at the next station, and thankfully the kind SEPTA train conductor refunded me my money without me asking him to. Luckily my mom was free to come up and pick me up, so ten minutes later I was in the car driving to work. I showed up very late but got there in the end, keys and all.

I met up with my friend Kevin for lunch in Fairmount, an area of the city that I've yet to explore. It's most well-known for Philadelphia's biggest park and the Eastern State Penitentiary, a jail with an interesting history, spooky tours around Halloween, and a Bastille Day celebration complete with a Philadelphian version of Marie Antoinette shouting, "Let them eat Tastycake!" as she hurls handfuls of the calorific wonder down to crowds of plebeians waiting below. Though I saw Kevin on Saturday night at a (gulp) "college party"-- remember those?-- I was eager to get out of the office after sitting on the phone with Verizon for a couple of hours, frustrated that I had been left in charge of setting up an internet connection. We met up at Mugshots, which I was really happy to visit, as I'd heard so much about the place from various people & blogs. A skim latté and some hummus and pita bread later, I was feeling refreshed and ready to battle it out with Verizon once more.
All told, I had to set up an appointment with some technician and now have to be at the office on Wednesday, all day, because they'll be coming out at some point between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. Would it be so hard to pick a more narrow window of time? Looks like I'll have ample time to maybe decorate my cavernous office and finish up Eat, Pray, Love (yes I'm a girl reading it and loving it).

In addition to catching up with college friends and my sister this weekend, I spent the day on Sunday wandering the city with my baby sister, who is, I must clarify, sixteen years of age. We drove in on a whim, I wore a leotard, and we had a delicious brunch at Sabrina's Café, a little place I've been dying to try for ages. It was delish!

But I had my motives for this trip to the city. For the longest time, I've been itching to get a little stud in my nose. With my sister in tow, I visited a piercing shop off South Street, prepared to hand over $40 and leave with a cute little piercing. I spoke with the girl at the desk, all the while trying to avoid looking at her studded face and armpit tattoos (I kid you not), but all of a sudden, as she was photocopying my driver's license and began filling out the paperwork, I yelped, "Stop!"

I chickened out.

I took my license back, stuffed my wallet into my handbag, and bolted out of the store, wearing my shame on my face. A few text messages and phone calls from various friends and one irate sisterly, "You're being so stupid just DO IT!" later, and with a belly full of huevos rancheros from Sabrina's, I wandered back in, and bit the bullet.
Megan has some pretty heinous photos of the actual process, complete with a photo of a giant space needle sticking out of my nostril, but I'll leave those for private viewing.

So there we are. Just me & a hole in my nose.

And I love it. Though it hurt a bit yesterday evening and I'm absolutely terrified of snagging it on a towel or letting it get infected, I'm so glad it happened. In a cheesy way, it sort of represents how this year has made me feel like I've become more like myself, and I like that. Sure, I may take it out sooner than I expect, but for now, I'm really happy with it.

Oh, and listen to Fleet Foxes. If you think there's any music more perfect for the approach of autumn, I'd like to know.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

the glass is half-full.

Things that are making me feel better on a grey Saturday:

1. berries from the farmer's market with Greek yogurt & honey
2. finally tackling my reading list
3. freshly-painted fingernails
4. a plane ticket to San Francisco booked to see my college roommate Becky
5. my new job!...
6. ...and subsequent paychecks
7. the scent of fall creeping into the air

Happy weekend!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


This past week has served not only to better acquaint me with the Augustinian Volunteers program, introduce me to new friends, and nurture ideas of community and spirituality, but has also made me incredibly excited for January 11th, the day I will depart for South Africa. We even got our plane tickets; Mary-Kate, Becca, Meghan and I will be leaving for Durban (via Dubai) on the 11th, and return home December 15th, 2010.
I got to see a video walkthrough of the property where we'll be living, some photos of the people we'll encounter while over there, and hear stories of the amazing adventures some AV alumni have had while abroad.
Though "community" has been drilled into our heads all week, I know that this concept will be extremely important when the four of us are faced with the very harsh realities of life in South Africa. For example, we live in a pretty affluent area called Bothas Hill, which is populated primarily by white South Africans. The people we serve, however, live in the valley in a much poorer, rural setting- and they are almost all Zulu. I think the contrast between the two situations will be extremely hard to deal with. I'm really looking forward to the challenges though, because I signed up for this volunteer program hoping to be faced with just that.
And so, in addition to countless t-shirts, coffee mugs, and even a fancy travel bag, I got to count on a number of other people as new friends. The week was better than I ever could have hoped, though I'm quite exhausted, and I get butterflies every time I think of leaving my current life behind for a new phase thousands of miles away.

Mary-Kate, Meg, me, and Becca -- ready to learn Zulu & eat lots of cheese together

Monday, August 17, 2009

time to get oriented.

I'm leaving in about an hour to attend a week-long orientation for the Augustinian Volunteers. I'm anxious, excited, not really that nervous, & really mostly looking forward to getting more focused on my imminent year abroad in South Africa. One of my best friends from college just had her orientation for a different volunteer program, the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, and she said it really helped her re-focus and reminded her why she wanted to do this year of service in the first place. I hope to come away feeling that centered.
I think I've overpacked, but it is eight days long. Although it's just down the turnpike in Wayne, it'll be nice to have some time away from home with new faces. I think there are a handful of other Villanova grads in the program as well so maybe I'll make friends with people I never even knew while at school!
Before finishing my errands (like getting a heinous passport picture for my visa and picking up medical forms from the doctor), I stopped by the book sale at the library again with my mom and sister. Today, the remaining titles are half-off... which means I just bought:

Prodigal Summer
by Barbara Kingsolver
A Supposed Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again by David Foster Wallace (which I almost bought at Border's for fifteen bucks last week!!)
Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain, and
Brick Lane
by Monica Ali

for a grand total of.... FOUR DOLLARS. God bless the library.

That means that my "fall reading list" now looks a bit like this:

I can't wait to get stuck in! I think my commute by train to my new job in Center City will give me some much-needed reading time.

I hope you all had a great weekend! Mine was quite enjoyable; on Friday night, I stayed in with my family and then made a trip over to my friend Ashley's house for birthday cake and a hug, since she turned 22 this weekend. On Saturday, my college roommate Colleen & I met up in Philly for drinks and eats at Tria (one of my new favorite spots!) and then went to see Passion Pit at a sold-out show in the basement at the First Unitarian Church. It's one of my favorite venues, but I have to say it was less of a passion pit and more of a sweat pit. I've never been so disgustingly hot in my whole life. It was, however, one heck of a dance party!

Yesterday, my sister Niamh and I hung out together since she'll be moving back to school when I'm at orientation. We shopped (and I got super excited for fall), laughed a lot, & then made spicy black bean burgers for dinner- they were so delicious! The recipe is here if you'd like to try your own... I highly recommend using Hungry Student's variations on it.

And so, I leave you with a photo or two from the weekend, and à bientôt until I get home next week.

Yummy! Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA, truffled egg toast, & Tuscan white bean spread at Tria

Sweating it out to Passion Pit

Mm, mm, mm! That IS a tasty burger!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

the glass is half-full.

Things that are making me feel happy & excited this morning:

1. eating cake with a good friend on her birthday
2. hurting muscles after pilates class
3. On Beauty by Zadie Smith
4. the prospect of meeting new friends at AV orientation starting monday
5. tickets to see sufjan stevens in philly on 9/22!
6. cranberry nut bread from the farmer's market for breakfast
7. this article in the FT this morning

Happy weekend-ing!

Friday, August 14, 2009

please mister postman!

Since moving home after graduation, one of the downsides to not having my own place has been a serious lack of mail addressed to me. I don't mean bills-- those can stay far away, but I have to say I do miss silly local election flyers, coupons for a "free panty" (why can't they say underwear?) at Victoria's Secret, Trader Joe's latest newsletter with seasonal recipes, and three mailings per day from Bed, Bath, & Beyond.
Nowadays, I get my Netflix a few times a month (if I'm good with returning my already-watched movies) and bank statements. Thrilling.

But today was different.
Today, after a productive morning of car-washing, bike riding that resulted in a flat tire but was fun while it lasted, and a trip to our local library's epic book sale, I checked the mailbox and found...

Us Weekly, a mysterious apparition in our mailbox lately, since not one of my family members has subscribed
(and, okay, it's addressed to my sister but still, I get to read it)...

...and a letter! A real, live, pen(cil) on paper letter, from my dear friend Taylor,
whom I met at a summer camp we both worked at in July.

I've long wanted to get back into writing real letters. During my junior year of high school, I went over to England with my family and decided to take a tour of Oxford, just for kicks of course. As a prospective "international" student, I was placed in a tour group with other foreigners, and struck up a conversation with the blond, blue-eyed boy next to me. Geoff was a cross-country runner from Ann Arbor, Michigan, and our witty banter had the tour guide convinced that we'd been friends for a long time. After the tour had ended and we had decided our SAT scores would most likely never allow us to even be considered for acceptance, Geoff and I exchanged email addresses and, all told, hung out in London for a day, which ended with a very sweet Cadbury's chocolate-flavored goodbye kiss.
Geoff and I exchanged letters for a few months afterwards, very infrequently, but it was charming nonetheless. There's nothing like a page or two of personal handwritten prose to make you feel special. Written correspondance truly is a lost art (says she, typing a blog, of all things).

The ironic part? Both Taylor and Geoff are from Michigan. So, moral of the story... if you want a handwritten letter, make friends with Michiganders. And yes, they're really called that.

Sunday, August 9, 2009


Charlotte: Salutations!
Wilbur: Salu-what?
Charlotte: Salutations!
Wilbur: What are they? And where are you? Please tell me where you are and what are salutations?
Charlotte: Salutations are greetings. When I say salutations, it's just my fancy way of saying hello or good morning. Actually, it's a silly expression, and I am surprised that I used it at all. As for my whereabouts, that's easy. I'm up here. Look, I'm waving. See me now?
Charlotte's Web, E.B. White

Hello. I'm Sinéad.
The First Time in most arenas is never easy, and a first post is no exception-- except that, of course, this is not my first blog post ever. Two years ago, I recorded my adventures while studying abroad in Paris via blog (you can find it here).
Now that college is over-- I graduated from Villanova University in May with two bachelors degrees, one in English and one in "Honors"-- and I've entered a new phase of my life, I decided it was time to give this another go. Though my life back at home isn't fabulously interesting, I have had some really amazing adventures so far this summer. It also doesn't hurt to know that I'll be leaving in January for South Africa, where I'll be living and volunteering for a year with the Augustinian Volunteers. Judging by the success of my French blog, I think this one will be useful for friends & family wondering about my whereabouts during the next two years or so.

I'm not quite sure yet how this whole thing will pan out. I love writing but I haven't yet decided what types of things I'll include here on Sinéad, Freshly-Squeezed (SFS-- clever, eh?). Oh, and if you're wondering about the name, it comes from a rebus that my friend Melissa drew for me while I worked at a summer camp this summer (more on that later):

shin + lemonade - lemon = shinade

And freshly-squeezed because, well, let's assume that whatever I post here will be relatively hot off the press.
And so concludes the awkward First Time. Let's hope there will be a lot fewer elbows in the wrong places from now on.