Saturday, October 31, 2009

the glass is half-full.

Orange and black decorations? Is this Halloween, or Princeton Parents' Weekend?
I need to know whether to be scared, or proud of my cousin.

30 Rock

A spooky Halloween weekend happy list:

1. reminiscing about last year's shenanigans with my roommates-- dressed up as Mario Kart characters!
2. pumpkin bread
3. candy in packages small enough to not be that bad for you (right?)
4. a chance to reuse my fantastic Wilma Flintstone costume -- thanks Becky!
5. pumpkin soup
6. scary movies that make me jump even after having seen them hundreds of times
7. still having that magical Halloween feeling at the age of 22

Have a spooky, silly Halloween! I hope everyone gets a chance to dress up today, even if it's only in a Phillies or Yankees jersey...

Friday, October 30, 2009

driven to distraction.

I'm notorious for getting distracted. Whether it was procrastination during my years as a student, or an inability to watch just one thing on television, it's always hard for me to stick to a task with blinders on.
Some of the worst incidences of this distraction come when I'm trying to clean my room. It may be just a simple picking up of clothes on my floor, but then I spy a photo album on my shelf and get sucked into hours of reminiscing and reflection. When the clean-up job is something bigger, like today's attempt to organize my closet, I'm a lost cause.

So here are two items sitting on my desk that I thought worthy of sharing! Take that, closet.

The first is a gorgeous set of notecards & envelopes that I got from the woman I babysit for. They're handmade and I love the string closure on the notecards! There's a website advertised on the packaging ( but it doesn't seem to lead anywhere.
(Edit: You can see more handmade stationary at the designer's blog -- -- thanks Kim!)

And secondly, these are the contents of a square envelope I found waiting for me when I got home on Wednesday. One of my South Africa roommates, Becca, had been thoughtful enough to send me a mix CD with songs that reminded her of our imminent year together, as well as a lovely card and a gorgeous stone pendant. The pendant was given to her by a man at a Peace festival in San Francisco, and has a design on the front, and the Zulu word for peace, ukutula, on the back. I'm in love with it, and thread it onto brown string as soon as I pulled it out of the envelope. Wearing it was a good reminder all day yesterday of my upcoming adventures. Two months to go...

hey jude.

How cool is this flow chart of "Hey Jude" by the Beatles! I discovered it via Clotilde's Twitter. Check out her immortal food/Paris blog, Chocolate & Zucchini, for a lovely Friday treat.

The chart was originally posted on love all this, a tumblr page. I'm still trying to figure out this tumblr thing but it seems pretty cool. Anyone have any experience with it?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

as american as baseball...

I'm not much of a sports person-- I dabbled in CYO basketball and track in elementary school, cross-country in high school, and had a go at gymnastics sporadically throughout my childhood. I've thrown a frisbee around more times than I can count, but growing up, I was never the little tyke in a bright magenta t-shirt and black shorts down to her ankles running after a soccer ball, or pushing a too-large helmet up from her eyes to swing at a softball. I don't know whether it was the fact that my family didn't stay in one place for too long when I was young, or that I just was more interested in reading, but I don't think athletic is the first word that comes to mind when people look at me.

There is, however, a part of my character that I can definitely attribute to the way in which I grew up, and that is my basic lack of excitement towards most sports as a spectator. Until the age of eight I lived in England and then Ireland, and just when I could have matured enough to adopt a soccer or rugby team into my heart, we left for America. I had no idea why every boy (and many girls) in my fourth grade class wore Starter jackets (see here) and spoke of touchdowns or homeruns, and I feigned understanding when I started to play "two-hand-touch" football out in my neighborhood with some of the guys.
In high school, I got better at two-hand-touch and developed bare bones knowledge of some of the rules of American sports, but still never felt much affiliation for the Phillies, or the Eagles, or the Flyers. And you can be sure I always bypassed the games on TV.

I think a lot of my outlook on sports has come from my parents; they're still not big into any team, though these days my dad has gone back to his rugby roots (he played in high school). I've found rugby to be pretty great to watch-- over in a set amount of time, quick, and interesting. Plus, rugby jerseys are much more flattering for a female fan than football or basketball jerseys!

But I digress.
It was in college that I really began to understand a fan's affection for a team. Villanova University (my alma mater) has a pretty stellar men's basketball team, and last March, my roommates and I took a roadtrip out to Detroit, Michigan, for the NCAA Final Four games. Though we were disappointed at our loss to UNC, being among so many other fellow students and fans really changed my view on spectator sports, at least where college basketball was concerned. March Madness really is an exciting tournament, and I was sad to move on from being a student spectator to a Villanova alumna, mostly because tickets are no longer free.

Now that I've been spending a lot of time in Philadelphia, and South Philly specifically, I can't escape the Phillies "Phever" that has taken over the city. Though Phillies fans are out in full force all season, now that we're facing the Yankees to take the World Series title two years in a row, the excitement is palpable. And the other day, after reading yet another scathing article dissing the Yankees in metro on the train, I found myself understanding that though my days as a Villanova student were over, I could find a similar love for Philadelphia teams. I am not and never will be a diehard baseball fan (I just can't understand the point of watching people plan throws for five hours), but in talking to people with whom I work and friends from the area, I'm beginning to find a real place in my heart for those Phillies.

While I can't say I'll be crying if the Phillies end up losing the World Series to the Yankees, I will feel pretty happy if they take it again this year. I don't understand all the rules of baseball, but I do understand the great dedication the Phillies have to their fans and the city of Philadelphia.
And who can protest such cause for celebration! The best thing about working on Broad Street? I've got reservations for front-row seats if the champions happen to be parading down the streets of Philadelphia (and not New York!) next week.

Photo courtesy of wallyg

Thursday, October 22, 2009

fake friday.

Today I had a seriously grumpy morning. I've been tired all week and finding it really hard to get out of bed when my alarm goes off, and I haven't worked out as much as I'd like to.

I got really frustrated after ESL class today for a couple of reasons: Rosalba's computer stopped running Rosetta Stone completely after a few weeks of spotty performance, which led to her insistance that I take the entire hour and a half to learn extra Spanish (and by learn, I mean try to make out what she's saying). Then I got irritated thinking about how I'm considered the default IT person where I work; it seems that just because I work with older people and am straight out of college, they assume I know everything about technology. I'm not completely dumb when it comes to computers or internet or networks, but I'm no technician either.

Thankfully, another young guy who works next door happened to walk into my office (as the steam was still spouting out of my ears). He and I shared stories of our mutual frustration for a while, and then he took the troublesome laptop from me and seems to have fixed the problem-- fingers crossed.

A few deep breaths later, I was a bit calmer, but still wished to be at home preparing for Homecoming weekend rather than sitting in my cold office. I stepped outside to run next door, and the sunshine felt so welcoming and boosted my mood so instantaneously that I called to my boss and let him know I was leaving, then packed up the heavy laptop and walked outside.

I had originally planned to go take a little peek in H&M for a sassy dress for Saturday night, but the thought of lugging my heavy bag all the way to the center of town was off-putting, so instead I wandered over to Cafe Ole, a great discovery since working at ADROP. It's a trendy little European coffee shop with the most amazing vanilla chai I've ever tasted-- and I decided to get a Greek salad and sit outside, enjoying the unseasonal warm weather.

So here I am, iced coffee next to me, and having just eaten the best Greek salad I've had since returning from Greece! It's got leaves (unlike traditional Greek salads...), but also giant chunks of fresh feta, diced cucumbers and tomatoes, marinated olives, and.... stuffed grape leaves! I'm in heaven.

Plus, this neighborhood is just brimming with young people outside at the moment, enjoying the weather. It's perfect for people-watching-- one of my all-time favorite activities! There are young parents showing off their adorable babies to each other. There's a boutique gym across the street with a couple of mustache-adorned men flexing their muscles. Everyone around here seems to be dog-walking at the moment, and it doesn't hurt that cute boys riding bicycles zoom by every few minutes.

And the best part of it all is knowing that after ESL class tonight, nothing stands in the way of me and a much-anticipated weekend reuniting with my college roommates. I'm getting a badly-needed haircut early tomorrow morning, then I'll be off to pick up Becky from the airport (she's flying in from San Francisco!) We're going to eat lunch on campus and then hang out with my sister Niamh for a while, mostly so that I can raid her fabulous closet. And then the rest of the weekend festivities will begin! I'm so excited to be reunited with my college friends-- especially since I may not see some people again before I leave for South Africa.

Fake Fridays are even better than real Fridays!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

the glass is half-full.

What a wet weekend! Here's what I'm thinking of to keep myself warm & dry.

1. summertime evenings on the patio outside our French cottage
2. the laughs during Toy Story 1 & 2 (in 3D!!) with my sisters today
3. the triumphant return of polaroid film!
4. smooth and creamy Guinness
5. having the chance to break out the tights and boots in this terrible weather
6. Jones FuFu Berry soda
7. only one more week until homecoming at Villanova!

Happy weekend-ing.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

with love, from paul.

What's better than waking up to find your parents home safely from a few weeks across the pond?

Waking up to find a pain aux raisins sitting on the kitchen counter for breakfast, in its recognizable off-white paper bag, PAUL printed in black across it.
What a lovely morning encounter with a treat from my favorite French boyfriend, a pastry shop named Paul.

Paris, tu me manques beaucoup, ma cherie.

Photo courtesy of -- try not to salivate too much.

Monday, October 12, 2009

apples to apples.

My parents have been off enjoying themselves in Europe for the past two weeks, first stopping in Ireland to visit with family and then entertaining and being entertained at our little cottage in the Loire Valley in France. While my sisters and I have been missing them-- especially when we realize all the things they take care of for us-- we've really been enjoying our independence since they've been gone. And no, I'm not talking about raging parties and staying up way past our bedtimes.

We've spent a lot of time in the kitchen together. Before Niamh came home from college for her fall break, Meg and I planned our breakfasts and dinners every day-- banana chocolate chip pancakes, veggie bacon & eggs, spicy black bean burgers with homemade guacamole, and homemade pesto pizza were just a few of our efforts. Now that Niamh's home, our culinary endeavors have only continued just as successfully, with a bit of added silliness and a lot more rap music.

Tonight, after a day of hardcore cleaning in preparation for the return of our parents tomorrow, we decided to make a hearty, warm meal to fend off the chilly autumn temperatures. Niamh took it upon herself to lead the way on this one, and messed with a few vegetarian spaghetti bolognese recipes from the internet. She eventually came up with a concoction incorporating elements of a few different ones. We also cooked with tempeh for the first time, and it added the consistency of a turkey-type meat to the dish. It was delicious!

Since I'd spent a perfect Saturday afternoon picking apples from an orchard here in Bucks County this weekend (an activity I highly recommend!), I wanted to make something with the fruit (har har) of my labors. So, I scoured some of my favorite food blogs to find a suitable recipe, and came up with this apple crostada from Bread & Honey.

And it was delicious. We ate it with vanilla bean ice-cream as we caught up on Season 3 of 30 Rock.

I didn't have high hopes because I used different apples than the recipe called for, and I was nervous making pastry as I've never really made my own pie crust before, but this turned out really really well. I also substituted grapefruit zest for the orange zest in the recipe, and I loved the sweet tang it added to the crostada. I can't wait for mum and dad to try my creation when they arrive home tomorrow afternoon!

With warm apple cider, this was the perfect way to end a really lovely long autumn weekend. And I've still got six apples to use up; anyone got any suggestions? I might try apple turnovers, but with work starting up again tomorrow, I may not have time to attempt those until next weekend. Hurry up, Friday!!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

the glass is half-full.

Since it's a long weekend (for some-- sorry to everyone else!), I'm allowed to post a weekend list on Sunday night. So there.
Things making me happy this weekend:

1. my sister being on fall break this week :)
2. going apple-picking for the first time on Saturday
3. surprises involving gummy bears
4. apple cider donuts*
5. the return of my parents this week from Europe
6. spending 6 dollars on today's New York Times, featuring this and this
7. brunch in NoLibs today & catching up with old WXVU friends

*This blogger cannot be held responsible for how many of these delicious treats she may or may not have consumed this weekend.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

noah & the whale.

I don't have much to say about life right now, except that this album has been keeping me very busy. Every time I listen to it, I discover something more to love.

I guess, actually, that says a lot about my life right now.

Check out Noah & the Whale (I love their outfits & those beards!). You won't be sorry.

The First Days of Spring Official Trailer from charlie fink on Vimeo.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

the glass is half-full.

This weekend's happy list!

1. the prospect of spending the night reunited with my three best girlfriends in new york city
2. feeling better after a bout of the sniffles yesterday
3. my new black patent leather heels
4. finding myself to be a very capable older sister/head of the household this week
5. getting halfway through Cry, the Beloved Country in one afternoon
6. my trusty Schwinn
7. CVS nighttime cold medicine

Hope your weekends are happy too!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

the rosalba stone.

Today, for the first time-- despite my semester of duty as a philosophy TA, despite my countless hours babysitting, and despite my years as 3rd grade "teacher" with old textbooks in my basement as a child-- today, I finally felt like something of a real teacher.

Part of my job as Program Coordinator for a small Augustinian non-profit in Philly is devoted to English as a Second Language classes. I don't do much; I simply show up for ninety minutes, morning and night on Tuesdays and Thursdays, at an empty room at St. Rita of Cascia church in South Philadelphia. There, I oversee as many as six non-native English speakers who wish to refine their grammar, speaking, and writing skills, using Rosetta Stone. I can't tell you how many times I've sat and listened to What are you doing?, There are sixteen blue flowers, and Yes, I am looking for some money during that time. The phrases that the developers at Rosetta Stone have chosen to educate non-anglophones force me sometimes to question the great praise the program has received. How often is a woman from Colombia going to need to say My parents are from China, but I speak English?

Regardless, I was nervous to dive into this position at first, as my pitiful Spanish was limited to hola and como esta. My chosen language was French in high school and college, and though it's served me well, I am now witnessing the evidence that supports the "But why take French when Spanish will be much more useful?" argument.

The students in my classes caught on quite quickly that I had barely a lick of their native language (though not all are Hispanic-- we also have one Vietnamese woman and one from Indonesia). And so, kindly, a student named Rosalba has offered to instruct me in half hour increments before our regular ESL classes begin on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. She proudly brought in her "Spanish for Beginners" picture book donated by her grandkids from Colombia, and so this is how I find myself twice a week at 10:00 in the morning. She's patient with me, and like my very own Rosetta Stone-- or better yet, my Rosalba Stone-- most of the phrases I learn aren't exactly useful (such as, "The children watch the duck swim in the water inside the red bathtub"), but I'm glad to have exposure to the language nonetheless.

Today, Rosalba was waiting for me when I ran into the room, ten minutes late after a heinously long wait to deposit a check at the bank. She had next to her a black plastic bag, and offered me its contents: two gorgeous tiny apples, looking like they had just fallen from an equally gorgeous apple tree.

But I wasn't allowed to have them until the correctly pronounced phrase dos manzanas crossed my lips, and with that, I was given the apples and initiated as la profesora. And those thirty minutes with my Rosalba Stone have already shown me the importance of good, solid relationships with any sort of student. It's these days I hope to tuck away and take with me when I go to South Africa in just three months.

Photo courtesy of Ivan M, / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0


Rabbit, rabbit!!

I don't know why this happens, but someone told me at some point that saying "rabbit" twice, first thing on the first day of a new month, is good luck.

So here's to October, and good luck.

Photo courtesy of