Thursday, December 29, 2011

Brunch in A2

As my stomach rumbles before my lunch break, I often find myself daydreaming about favorite foods and restaurants.  In the middle of last week, I suddenly began to picture thick slices of toast, delicious fried eggs, and piles of pancakes that no matter how hungry I was I could never finish.  Man, I thought, Angelo's would be great right now.  Oh, brunch in Ann Arbor, how I miss you!  Brunch was one of those meals I only went out to when (a) my parents were in town (b) it was a special occasion or (c) I could convince my friends or boyfriend to get up early enough to beat the rush at my favorite brunch spots. (I am now realizing that (b) and (c) are redundant.)  I'm sure there are tons of great breakfast places in Ann Arbor that I never got to try, but here are the three I always dream about:

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas Surprises

Before I arrived back in Lexington on Wednesday night, my mom told me that she really hadn't had time to do too much decorating.  She'd been busy working, choosing amazing Christmas gifts for everyone, and baking the best cookies of ever. (Not just the cinnamon cookies with the chocolate kisses, but the Italian flag cookies and Linzer tarts!)  Oh, and also she did all of this:

My mom makes this cranberry wreath and it always looks nice against our white front door.
I think she even made the bow!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christmas Shopping in Ann Arbor


Around this time of year in Ann Arbor, I used Christmas shopping to procrastinate studying for finals.  I would bundle up in my big puffy coat and trudge down to Main Street, where the trees were always lit up and the stores were decorated for the season.  It got me into the spirit of the season more than sitting on the couch writing papers did, though the lights up around our living room on Hamilton Place were always bright and helpful.

I'd walk in the front door and have this waiting for me. 
My roommates were (and still are) the best.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Polenta Story

Christmas Eve is one of the few traditional celebrations in my family.  All of my siblings come over and my dad makes polenta for dinner.  Polenta is a dish made from corn meal, water, cheese and butter.  It takes some time, since you need to heat and stir the ingredients until the mixture becomes mostly solid.  When my dad was growing up, his grandmother would make polenta in a huge copper pot whenever he and his parents came over for dinner.  To serve it, she would flip the pot upside down on a towel in the middle of the dining table.  Everyone would cut a piece from there.  In order to celebrate our French heritage – my grandparents emigrated from Europe in the early part of the twentieth century – my dad makes polenta on the holiday we always spend together.  It’s the one part of my French heritage that has survived through the years.  Unlike my grandmother, though, my dad serves the polenta on a plate.

Vive la France!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Women on TV Part V: The Women of Mad Men

Part of the reason I enjoy the series Mad Men is the show’s commitment to creating an accurate picture of the 1960s.  The writers tie historical events into the show’s plot well, and as the series has continued from 1960 through 1964, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Kennedy assassination, the Civil Rights Movement and even Marilyn Monroe’s death have been in the background (and sometimes forefront) of episodes.  One of the best parts of this is that it gives the viewer an opportunity to see how people in that time reacted to the major changes happening across the country.  In particular, women slowly gained access to new opportunities.  The show explores these through the women of Mad Men, particularly Joan Holloway, Peggy Olson and Betty Draper, demonstrate the different ways women reacted to these changes.

The writers have done a good job of exploring the changing role of women in the 1960s.  Though many of the secretaries seem to exist only so that Don Draper can sleep with them, the three main female characters are more representative of the complex choices women had at the time.  While the women’s movement had started to garner national attention after WWII, especially after the publication of The Feminine Mystique by Betty Freidan in 1963, the 1960s were a transition between an era when women were expected to get married and start a family by age twenty-two and an era where women had a greater range of choices.  Betty, Joan, and Peggy embody those choices and the challenges that came with them.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Sunday Morning

On Sunday mornings when I was little, my dad always read the comics pages to me. We'd laugh at Garfield, wonder what would happen next with Spiderman and puzzle over Zippy (I still don't understand Zippy). I would always pour myself a bowl of Berry Berry Kix for breakfast, then I would sit and listen to my dad read the bubbles over the character's heads. By the time I turned back to my cereal, it was a big pink and purple mush that I wouldn't want to eat. After a while, my mom started refusing to buy Berry Berry Kix.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Women on TV Part IV: Detective Kate Beckett



Kate Beckett has been near the top of my list of strong female characters on TV since I started watching Castle.  She's a lead homicide detective for the NYPD.  She is well known in the force for her talent and well known in general as the muse for Richard Castle, the bestselling mystery writer who bases his character Nikki Heat on her.  She is intelligent, she can throw around suspects twice her size, she can banter with a womanizing bestselling author, and she looks amazing all the time.  On top of that, she's a fully developed character.  Yet I've been struggling to write this post, and I've finally realized why.  It's not because I have any problems with Beckett, it's that I think it's almost too obvious why she's an incredibly strong woman.  What I could I really say that wasn't just plot summary?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

How Majoring in History Almost Stole Christmas

"Get the biggest aluminum tree you can find, Charlie Brown,
maybe painted pink."
When I got to college, I noticed that my Christmas seasons were getting a little dimmer.  I spent the lead-up to Christmas studying for finals, writing papers, and generally hiding in the library or Union Tap Room.  After Thanksgiving, I had my Christmas music playlist on constantly, but the Charlie Brown soundtrack can only put you in the spirit so much when you're facing multiple exams.  By the time I got on my plane to Boston, I had just started to relax, and then within days Christmas was over.


In the past two years, though, I noticed that there were other factors that were stealing my Christmas season away.  I studied twentieth century American history and while I loved my classes and there are a lot of uplifting stories in that time period, there are also quite a bit that, for lack of a better phrase, just bring you down.  After each lecture of my Cold War era class, I would come home and tell my roommates, "Yep, today was about atomic bombs"or "Yeah, we talked about the rise and fall of labor unions" or "Lecture today was about the Vietnam War.  I'm going to take a nap.  For a while."

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Women on TV Part III: Kindergarten, Columbia, and Metro News 1


I have loved How I Met Your Mother since my friend Hope introduced me to the first season on DVD during winter break freshman year of college.  I love the characters, the dating rules, and the writing.  I liked the way the show was so well planned that stories referenced in season one reappeared in later episodes.  As time went on, however, I started noticing that characters were changing in ways that I didn’t always like.  As they met new challenges and crises, Marshall, Lily, Ted, Robin and Barney had to learn to grow up and let some dreams go while clinging to others.  While Marshall and Ted have gotten to achieve their dreams, the women on How I Met Your Mother both have not achieved the goals they set out in season one and have changed significantly since those first episodes. 

For those who aren't familiar with the show, it is currently in its seventh season.  Ted Mosby is telling his children how he met their mother, starting from the day his best friends Lily and Marshall got engaged until... whatever happens a season from now (hopefully - I love the show, but come on!).  There's a lot of show to discuss, and I'm going through major plot arcs quickly to make my points.  If you want to have a better understanding of the plot lines in the past several years, here is a more detailed summary.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Women on TV Part II: Knope in 2012

This post should be no surprise.  The first woman I think of when I consider strong female characters is played by one of the two women I have wished I could be since I started watching Saturday Night Live in seventh grade: Amy Poehler.  (The other is Tina Fey.) 

Leslie Knope - Parks and Recreation

Often, female characters can be career focused at the expense of their personal lives.  Think of Shirley Schmidt of Boston Legal or Megan Hunt of Body of Proof.  Even Liz Lemon of 30 Rock, who may appear on this series later, spends all her time at work.  Others, like Pam Beasley of The Office or Lily Aldrin of How I Met Your Mother, give up their dream jobs for more practical careers and then their story lines turn to pregnancy and motherhood in later seasons, as if writers don't know what else to do with them.  Leslie Knope is a strong female character because she's as career driven as Shirley Schmidt, but she has friendships as strong as Lily Aldrin.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Women on TV Part I: My Problem with Pam

Sophomore year of college I took a class on Sex and Sexuality in US Pop Culture.  For my final paper, I wrote about depictions of single white women in film throughout the twentieth century.  Since then it has been nearly impossible for me to watch movies or TV shows without analyzing the characters, if only to myself.  (After watching He's Just Not That Into You with my mom and sister, I learned that maybe analyzing out loud is not as much fun for other people as it is for me.)  I watch a few TV series regularly and in the past couple years I've been disappointed in the women on some of my favorite shows.  I have strong female role models - my mom, sisters, friends and teachers - but I still like to see great female characters in fiction.


The Office gives receptionist Pam Beasley a strong story arc for the first four seasons.  Pam slowly gains self-esteem and begins to speak her mind and demand more out of her relationships.  She finally decides to pursue art seriously and enrolls in a summer graphic design program in New York City.  From the first season through the fourth, Pam grows from a woman waiting for her fiancé to finally set their wedding date to a woman who tries to achieve some of her dreams.  

Monday, October 31, 2011

Rule 3: Don't Provoke the Monsters in the First Place

It snowed in Philadelphia yesterday.  I was not okay with this for many reasons, but one in particular was that yesterday was the Saturday night of Halloween.  It was the night when most people were headed out to Halloween parties in their carefully crafted/thrown together at the last minute costumes.  If you had been counting on a relatively warm night so that you could wear shorts, short skirts, or other equally cold costumes, things just didn't work out so well.

Personally, I prefer being warm on Halloween and am willing to sacrifice the look of my costume so I don't freeze.  Usually, this just means wearing a coat.  In order to be helpful to anyone who might be going out on Halloween itself, here's a list of warm costume ideas that you can probably still make sexy if you want:

Monday, October 24, 2011

Rule 2: Always Pay Attention to the Warnings from the Cryptic Old Man

Happy Halloween month!  Part of the reason I love October so much is because of the lead-up to the end.  There are jack-o-lanterns up and down my street, the scariest haunted house in the country across the city, and Halloween costume ideas everywhere.  I have more of an excuse than usual to buy my favorite candy* and I get to go to parties while wearing wings and/or bizarre hats.  It's great! 


*My roommate Anita on fun-size candy: "...but they're not fun because they're smaller than regular candy!"

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Rule 1: Never Search the Attic Alone

I can't say that I like scary movies.  There are parts I enjoy, such as the suspense and plot twists, but in general I get caught up too easily and need to hold someone's hand (or grip their arm, either way) to get to the end.  I've watched a few Paranormal Activity-type movies, but in general I avoid anything remotely slasher-like.  Suspense and psychological thrillers are more my speed.  I know most people older than twelve can handle a terrifying-movie-packed October, but in case you want to get in the Halloween spirit without as many nightmares, here are my favorite frightening movies that most people would probably rate PG for scariness.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Weekend in the Mitten


 For my birthday weekend, Eric and I flew back to Ann Arbor for the Michigan-Minnesota game.  We both got to see good friends (though sadly, there were some people I didn't get to see!  Forty-eight hours was too fast a trip for me - I'm sorry if you're reading this and I didn't get to say hi!) and go to some favorite places around town.  I got to hit Frita Batidos, and though they weren't serving the Caramel Rum Cream batido anymore, they did get their liquor license.  Eric and I also stopped at Zingerman's, Ashley's, and the Brown Jug, among many other places.  The weather cooperated and it was a gorgeous weekend to walk around and visit parts of campus I'd missed.  The leaves were just starting to change colors on the Diag, and the air was crisp.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Cheers to Wine

For many years I've had a very specific vision of what my life would look like after I graduated from college.  I would get a good job - that part was always vague - in a major city.  I would have a well-decorated apartment that was often filled with sunlight.  I would wear professional, fashionable outfits and adorable shoes, which would be miraculously comfortable, and I'd walk around the city wearing cool trench coats and pea coats as the weather permitted.  After work, I'd either go out to a wine bar and have a drink or two with my equally successful and fashionable friends or I'd go home and whip up a nutritiously well-balanced meal that looked like it came from the pages of Gourmet.  Since graduating, I've learned that this is harder to do than I'd thought.  For one thing, decorating an apartment to make it look like a Crate & Barrel catalog is extremely expensive.  But still, I've slowly started on the path towards my Sophisticated Urban Working Girl dream.  

Kind of like Kate Beckett from Castle, though I'm not tough enough to be a cop.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

What Happened to September?

September has been a really busy month.  A week after I got back from Greece, I started a full-time job, my boyfriend and I searched the city for a new apartment, it was restaurant week, we went to New York for a weekend, my mom was in town, and, well... things just seemed busier.  When I start listing things, it doesn't seem like so much.  To be honest, I have also started watching Mad Men on Netflix and with four seasons to catch up on, relaxing on the couch after work has been beating out writing more often than not.
After work, I look kind of like this, but less fluffy and with more Don Draper.
I have also run into a bit of an issue in that I've had a lot of ideas of what I want to write about, but none of them have been enough for a whole post.  For example, a couple Saturdays ago, I woke up missing the intersection of Main Street and Washington Street in Ann Arbor.  I've written before about how I tend to miss specific locations.  That intersection is one that I always associate with autumn because of my first off-campus adventure to Washington Street that happened over fall break.  If I had tried to write the whole post, it probably would have sounded like a huge sigh and a whine about how much I miss Ann Arbor.  Happily, though, this past week I've gotten to slow down a little and have had time to organize some of my ideas.  Hopefully I can get back to posting at least once a week again!  For now, let me catch you up on something I've been up to lately.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Eating My Way Through Autumn

On Labor Day, my sister and I went apple picking.  It was a perfect way to kick off the fall, but since I had just returned from a summer vacation, the idea of autumn starting so soon made me panic a little.  September?  When did that happen?  However, as we picked Macintosh and Gala apples (as well as peaches, strawberries, pears and a few tomatoes - this orchard was massive!) I started remembering why I often consider the fall my favorite season: the beautiful oranges, reds and yellows of the changing leaves; new books and new classes (though not for me this year); the crisp air that seems like a relief after a humid summer.  As I imagined myself wearing a puffy vest and crunching leaves under my feet, I also realized that much of my love for the fall has to do with food. 

This photo goes along with an article in the UK's Telegraph about "leaf peeping" in New England.
That makes looking at foliage sound like an unusual, shameful act 
instead of something that you'd do as you go antiquing in Western Mass.

Monday, September 5, 2011

White Buildings and Blue Doors

I am back from Greece and I have a lot of pictures.  In an effort to maintain that on-vacation glow, I thought I'd share a few and give you an overview of my trip!  I traveled with my boyfriend's family and we spent sixteen days total on the road/plane/ferry.

First stop: Athens

After a ten hour flight from Philadelphia, we arrived in Athens, a massive city that houses 1/3 of the entire population of Greece.  We checked into our hostel, Athens Backpackers.  (In addition to normal dorms, they also rent out small studio apartments, which frankly had better kitchens than my house in Ann Arbor.)  We hit the major spots around the city - the Acropolis, the Temple of Zeus, the Plaka, and that really good gyro stand in the Plaka.  I ate some good baklava and delicious souvlaki.  I hadn't tried Greek food very often before a couple years ago, and I'd been missing out.  It's really good and more diverse than I had thought.

Ruins of an ancient market

The coolest part of the Acropolis Museum is the actual excavation going on underneath it.

The Parthenon - at night!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Being a Tourist

I'm writing from Naxos, a beautiful island in the Cyclades. I haven't seen many Greek islands, but so far Naxos is probably my favorite. It is a big island that has its own economy separate from the tourist trade, so while there are plenty of tourist-oriented shops, tours, and sights, it feels like there's more going on here than just catering to summer visitors.

View from an ATV riding around Naxos!

In the other two cities we've visited so far, Athens and Chania, there are very clear tourist areas. The Plaka in Athens is a mix of streets full of shops, restaurants, bars, gyro stands, and occasional ruins. (There is also an incredible baklava place that sells Nutella baklava - oh man, it's good.) Chania's old city has narrow alleys that lead between gorgeous homes and ruins from both the destruction of the Minoan civilization and World War II bombings. In both cities, the history is present and mingled into the everyday landscape. Naxos does have significant history - I'm not sure how many centuries it goes back, but quite a few - but as you wander through the old market and the old city, you easily find yourself stumbling into residential areas, churches that are still in use, and signs that are only in Greek. There are definitely more touristy areas, but they blend quickly into the everyday physical landscape.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Opa!

I haven't posted in a few days, but I have a solid excuse - since last Friday I have been in Greece on a family vacation! After a summer with a lot of new adjustments and some uncertainties to face this fall, it has been a very relaxing trip. I spent two days in Athens, and I'm now on the island of Crete. I wanted to share a few things I've been thinking about as I've been traveling:

The United States Wins at Showers

This isn't always true, but I've noticed some interesting bathroom trends in the few times I've been to Europe. Often, showers do not come with tubs. I don't mean that it's annoying not to be able to take a bath - I mean that there is no tub rim to keep the water from flooding the rest of the bathroom. Bathrooms frequently have drains in the center, but tubs seem to make a little more sense. Also, shower curtains are optional here, which has caused me to soak my clothes or towel on more than one occasion. I like a lot of things about European hostels and hotels, but I do love my American showers.


What's that? You made a vase in art class with your bare hands?
Yeah, I guess that's cool, too.


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Michigan's Campus: Part IV

This is the fourth entry in my series on my favorite campus spots, which is a more focused version of my series on places I miss in Ann Arbor.

Angell Hall is a gorgeous building at the University of Michigan. It houses many of the humanities classes and departments. It is connected to Tisch, Haven and Mason Halls - it works, but I've never quite understood it - and is one of the buildings you see as you walk down State Street. It has huge columns on its facade and always looks grand. Even when I didn't have a class there, I still walked by it every day, and it was one of my favorite places around campus.


Angell Hall has the Fish Bowl, the giant computer lab, and the honors commons, which is a great place to sit and read/sleep in comfy chairs. It is also where you can find the Classics Library, where I wrote the second and third chapters of my thesis. Some of the classrooms are gorgeous, and the Angell Hall auditoriums have some of the best desks and chairs. I also worked in the basement of Angell Hall at the Peer Tutoring Center, which can have pretty cool mood lighting when the tutors feel like it.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Back to Massachusetts

This past weekend, I went back to visit my family and friends around Boston. It was just a short visit, but I got to eat my mom's cooking, spend time with a couple friends, and visit two of my three favorite ice cream places around Lexington. Here are some photos from the weekend!

This is the view from Megabus on my way into the city. You can see the Prudential Center, the John Hancock Building, and the Citgo sign by Fenway Park.

This is why I always try for the window seat.

At the beginning of the summer, I wrote a post about my favorite ice cream spots in Lexington and the surrounding towns. Happily, on my first night in town I went to Bedford Farm's with a friend to get the flavor burst soft serve that I love.

This is the bubble gum flavor burst - it's so pink and pretty!

Here's Boston Harbor. My friend Hope and I walked around the waterfront in the North End for a bit before attending a free wine tasting at the Golden Goose Market.

Ahoy!

There was a little girl at the wine tasting with an adorable puppy. When we went over to pet it, Hope tried to make conversation with the girl. She asked, "Is your dog a boy or a girl?" to which the little girl replied, "Well, she's wearing a pink ribbon." Hope and I did not impress that girl with our smarts, apparently.

It was so small and so fluffy and if the girl hadn't had it on a good leash,
I may have tried to lure it away with the salami from the wine tasting...


This is one of my favorite views of the city, from the Charles/MGH T stop on the Red Line.

When heading inbound, you pull out of the Kendall T stop and suddenly you see this.
It's beautiful even on rainy days.


In that same post about ice cream places near Lexington, I wrote about Kimball's over in Carlisle. I went with my parents one night and tried their pumpkin ice cream. Delicious! As you can see, they have a regular menu, but then even more flavors stuck next to it with thumb tacks.
It takes me forever to pick a flavor.

Kimball's serves huge portions. Pictured below is my dad's kiddie size cone of frozen pudding. I'm hoping seeing his hand there will give you a good idea of the proportion.

Maybe it's called "kiddie size" because it's the size of a small child's head.

After a rainy bus ride from South Station, I made it back to Philadelphia last night. All in all, a fast but great trip to Boston!

30th Street Station - one of my favorite places in Philly!

How have your summer travels been?
Have you gotten to visit any favorite spots?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Michigan's Campus: Part III

This week, I am focusing my series about places that I miss in Ann Arbor on my favorite spots around campus itself.

I did not understand winter until I moved to college. As a New Englander, I thought I had experienced cold weather. We have nor'easters and regularly get multiple feet of snow in the winter. I figured the midwest couldn't throw anything at me that I hadn't seen before.
While in some ways this was true - Michigan snowstorms aren't much worse than Massachusetts snowstorms, but winter does seem to last longer - I had not considered what winter is like when you don't have a car. Sure, it was cold waiting for my ride home from high school, but my mom would pick me up and my snow boots barely got wet. If I wanted to visit a friend, I could drive across town and only have to grumble about the time it took for the car to heat up.

I took this picture on April 19, 2011. Why, Michigan, why?

At the University of Michigan, I walked everywhere. My freshman year dorm was up on the Hill, which meant I had at least a fifteen-minute walk to the Diag, longer if I was walking against the wind or if I had to make it to the opposite corner of Angell Hall. Snow boots had a real purpose, especially when I failed at stepping over the slushy puddles that pool at crosswalks. I collected scarves and was thrilled when for Christmas freshman year my mom gave me brand-new long underwear and double-layer mittens. My friends and I had dinner conversations about the merits of wearing leggings under your jeans. It was serious business.

Throughout my four years, I developed certain coping strategies for the winter months. One in particular involved places on campus: shortcuts through well-heated buildings.


When I lived in Couzens Hall, several of my classes were in Angell Hall or Mason Hall, which is on the southwest corner of the Diag. This was a solid fifteen- to twenty-minute walk from my dorm room, and in the cold, it was not especially fun. As the winter blustered away, I learned a few paths through buildings to make my trek a little more pleasant. At least, it was warmer for a minute or two at a time. From Couzens, I took the bridge over Washtenaw Avenue toward Palmer Commons. At the end of the bridge, there's an entrance into the
Palmer Commons study area (which has now been turned into the Glass House Café). By cutting through the study rooms, I gave myself at least 45 seconds of warmth.

It only seemed right to draw in maize and blue.

From there, I had to brave my way through the wind tunnel created by the Undergraduate Science Building and the Life Sciences Institute. Once I got past the Dental School and crossed North University, I reached my favorite spot: the Chem Building. The Chem Building has a huge atrium that leads directly from North University to the Diag. It was almost a minute and a half to reheat if I walked slowly. From there, I could dash across the Diag (avoiding the M in the center) and make it to class with enough time for my hands to warm up before I had to take notes. I realize these are small things to be excited about, but believe me, as a freshman finding my way around a big campus, they felt like accomplishments.

If you step on the M, you will fail your first blue book exam.
I played it safe for all four years and avoided it like my boyfriend avoids a salad.


There were other little tricks here and there - like how the LSA Building has doors on opposite sides that make a direct line between the crosswalk on State Street and the sidewalk down Jefferson, so cutting through was just more efficient - that made me feel like a Michigan insider. I'm sure other students had even better keeping-warm ideas, especially those who lived up on North Campus and had to wait for buses in the cold. In the same way that intersections make me feel at home, being familiar enough with the campus to know shortcuts made me feel much more comfortable in Michigan. Whether I was more comfortable because I was warmer or because I was well-acquainted with my surroundings is hard to say.

Where are your campus shortcuts?
Do you have any favorite routes that might be longer but warmer?

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Michigan's Campus: Part II

This week I'm focusing my series on places that I miss in Ann Arbor to my favorite spots around campus.

I visited the Michigan Union almost daily, and I always loved walking up to the grand, ivy-covered facade. My friends who visited from other schools often remarked, "That's your union?" It looks as gorgeous and as majestic as the Law Quad. On the front steps, JFK announced his idea for the Peace Corps in 1960, and the building is just as fantastic today as it was then.

"...as a graduate of the Michigan of the East, Harvard University."
That's right, Crimson. Michigan of the East.

There are many parts of the Union that I love and miss: the Amer's, the phone booths with computers in them, the UAC office on the fourth floor, the circular couches outside the UAC office, the ballroom, and so on. One of my favorite spots in the Union, however, was the Union Tap Room.

I think universities plant ivy on purpose to make their buildings look more intellectual.
(Photo from visitannarbor.com)

Separated from the underground area with the various fast food places, the Tap Room was one of my favorite places to study. I stopped in there a few times freshman year, and then from sophomore year onward I lived within two blocks of the Union, so the Tap Room became a close work spot where I would be less likely to fall asleep than if I studied on my couch. The Tap Room was a popular spots for my roommates, too, so during finals we would often camp out, take over an entire stretch of tables, and work like crazy until the Union staff kicked us out at 2 AM. We scouted certain tables based on the number of electrical outlets nearby for our laptops, and settled in to write our papers, study for our exams, and share youtube videos when we needed study breaks. With food and coffee conveniently in the same building, it was easy to stay for hours.

It became relatively normal to run into one or more of my roommates at the Tap Room on any given night. We also frequently made plans to meet there and study. On one particular night in December of my junior year, one roommate and I were among very few Tap Room residents of the evening due to a massive snowstorm that had hit the state that day. Despite the inclement weather, we spent a good portion of our "study time" trying to convince another roommate to join us. I'm pretty sure our persuasion tactics revolved around texting the word "snooooooooow" over and over. During finals, somehow that seems like an effective strategy.

By my senior year, I had expanded my studying to other locations, as detailed in my post about writing my thesis. However, the Tap Room remains one of my favorite campus spots, and one that I associate with productivity. Ignoring the youtube video sharing and texting, that is.

Have you ever studied in the Tap Room? Where are your favorite study spots on campus?
And if you're curious about what the Union looked like years ago, before Subway and Panda Express, here's a link to a website about it!

Michigan's Campus: Part I

This week, I am going to share a few of my favorite places around campus at U of M!

There is a view of campus that I have always loved. When you stand on the steps of the Graduate Library, you can see directly through the Diag to the area by the Bell Tower and the Rackham School of Graduate Studies.

Ah, spring! The Michigan sky is no longer gray but the temperature is still pretty damn cold.

You can see all the people traveling through the Diag and from the MLB and Michigan League. You can admire the beautiful architecture of Michigan's central campus. You can gaze at the open green space on the Diag as well as the frisbee players, musicians, and giant squirrels that may be occupying it. Over the trees, you can see Burton Memorial Tower silhouetted against the sky.

My mom may or may not have taken this same picture on every single visit to Ann Arbor.

The area by the Bell Tower is one of my favorites. It's a beautiful spot to sit and relax when the flowers are blooming and the sun is out. I also have connected to it for various reasons over the past four years. When I was a freshman, two of my lectures were held in the Modern Languages Building and one discussion section was on the eighth floor of the Bell Tower itself. Often, I would sit outside on the little wall reading books before classes in the MLB. Regularly for the past year, I trekked down the walkway past the Bell Tower and the League each Wednesday morning, even in blizzards, to go to the Alumni Center for Welcome Wednesdays. It is an event where Alumni Association provides free bagels and coffee to students from 8 AM to noon. (If I ever donate money to the Alumni Association, it will be for Welcome Wednesdays. Every Michigan student should have access to free Wednesday bagels.)

The entire view from the grad library steps is a favorite area for me mostly because of its beauty. I often found myself walking between the Diag and the Bell Tower area and thinking, no matter how stressed or tired I was, that I was so happy to be at school in such a gorgeous place. The buildings, especially the grandeur of the grad library, the Bell Tower, and Rackham, made the area inspiring for me. It was also always a comforting feeling. If I was worried about an exam or I felt overwhelmed by work, I was still happy to be where I was.

Where are your favorite spots on campus?

Monday, August 1, 2011

Intersections

Another entry in the series on places I miss in Ann Arbor

When I left for college, I found myself missing really strange places in my hometown. In addition to the usual spots - my house, the town center, the center playground - and the people, I missed specific locations, such as the intersection right next to my house and the traffic light in the middle of town. I couldn't explain why I missed these places so clearly, and I'm pretty sure my mom thought I was weird when I mentioned it.


I've noticed the same thing happening since I left Ann Arbor. I miss the usual things - friends, our house, places around campus, favorite restaurants (oh
Frita Batidos, I long for a caramel rum cream batido!) - but I also pine for intersections. I love the one near my street, right by the Ann Arbor District Library. I also miss all the corners on the walk down Liberty toward Main, past the post office, Cafe Japon, and a bunch of shops. I miss where Detroit Street cuts diagonally up towards Zingerman's. I love the corner between the Law Quad and Dominick's. I miss the corner of Main and Washington, where I'd turn left, cut through bd's Mongolian Barbeque's corner and walk down to Sweetwater's or Frita Batidos.

A is for An Intersection I Miss.

So why intersections? When I move to a new place, I've found that the best way for me to feel at home is to walk around the city or town. By walking, I see things that make the place special for me - stores I like, gardens that are especially pretty, houses with cool windows, or little hidden doors. Ann Arbor itself began feeling more like home once I got off campus and found my way around the city. It was also the first city where I lived on my own and started to feel like an independent adult (or as much of an adult as your average college kid can be). Though there were many things that made Ann Arbor feel like home to me, the various streets around where I lived were a major part.

After two years on Hamilton Place, we finally got a street sign!

What are your favorite spots in Ann Arbor?
Are there any specific streets you like best? Or do you like intersections, too?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Little Doors

Another entry in my series on places I miss in Ann Arbor

One of the first unusual features of Ann Arbor that I heard about was the Fairy Doors scattered around the city. I've mentioned them in a couple posts previously - they were one of my favorite parts of the city. I ventured out to see a few of them in my first couple years, but this past Easter Sunday a friend and I walked around to try to find as many as possible. The weather was beautiful and it was a perfect day for wandering up Main Street. We found a bunch of the doors, though there were a few we couldn't reach. (We couldn't see the one inside the Ann Arbor District Library, since it was closed.) Tonight's post is mostly pictures.

Here's the one at the Ark, a music club:

They even have a ticket window!

This one is squeezed between two of the storefronts. Watch out for brightly colored bugs!

The fairies at Peaceable Kingdom close up shop at the same time as the humans.


This one is at Red Shoes, a store I wish I'd visited before my last week in town!

This is the first one I ever saw. It's inside Sweetwater's just off of Main Street.

When I was little, I used to build little rooms out of sticks and bark for the fairies that I hoped lived in my backyard. One summer, I also wrote a book of fairy recipes for a tea party - most of them involved exotic-sounding ingredients or substances I could find in my backyard, like dirt and leaves. Wandering around Ann Arbor and spotting these doors - and the other fairy doors and windows not pictured here - made any given day feel whimsical and allowed me to remember my seven-year-old self's love of fairies. I liked walking around town, being mostly grown up, but still getting to pretend. The fairy doors always made my days feel more magical.

Have you visited the Ann Arbor fairy doors?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A Book and a Cup of Tea

I recently read Sherlockian by Graham Moore, which I really enjoyed. I feel a little blasphemous, since I haven't actually read any of the real Sherlock Holmes mysteries yet. (They're on my list for the summer! Really!) However, I think it's a sign of a well-written book if even someone who is not especially familiar with Sherlock Holmes can find it hard to put down.

A theme running through the book was the idea that even though the past had its share of horrors and tragedies, there's a certain romanticism to the late 1800s that readers of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's work wish to recreate. In a scene with two men who switch gas street lamps for electric ones, Moore writes: "So much that had been hidden was revealed in the electric light, so much had been gained. But perhaps something had been lost as well. Perhaps, both men thought but did not say, a part of them would miss the romantic flickering of the gaslight." (page 346).

I have to say, I often feel the same way about Agatha Christie mysteries. To me, there's something romantic about the idea of Britain in general - afternoon tea, the royal family, words like "wanker" and "flat" and "loo." There's something that seems special and dignified about Britain in the 1930s through the 1950s that attracts me in the same way that having a tea party did when I was growing up. (If I'm being honest, I still want to have tea parties on a regular basis. The only difference is that this time I'd drink tea instead of water and the cups would be regular-size rather than doll-size.) Reading an Agatha Christie book allows me to imagine that if I step outside my door, I might see double-decker red buses and someone might offer me a scone or ask me my opinion of how Scotland Yard handled the most recent unusual crime.


Clearly I'm not the only one, since I found this picture with this article.
Other people relate Agatha Christie to tea!

Also, I get to indulge in the idea that if ever my heirloom jewels were stolen or I had a sneaking suspicion that my long-lost brother was not actually the same man who had recently returned, I could call Hercule Poirot, who would use those gray cells in his brain and solve the crime. (This would also assume that I was the type of person who had heirloom jewels or a long-lost brother.) Or, if I visited St. Mary Mead, Miss Marple would pour me some tea and tell me about the latest crimes in her village that she had solved.

If you haven't read any Agatha Christie, at least read this one.
It was published in 1926 and is my favorite mystery.

Within this romantic world of fiction and tea and detectives, there is also the appeal of rationality. Graham Moore makes this point in his book, since Sherlock Holmes was one of the most famous rational sleuths, and it's absolutely true - the world seems safer if all crime can be solved by simply observing, thinking, and determining the only possible way the crime was committed. In a world where there is much uncertainty and many unfathomable tragedies, imagining a life in a small British village or in the London of the turn of the century - whether true or completely off-base - is comforting.

For me, the entire United Kingdom is easy to romanticize, but that certainly doesn't limit the time or place. Growing up in New England, I loved the colonial era and thought often about living on Plymouth Plantation. When my second grade class learned about the Oregon Trail, my teacher set up a covered wagon for us to play in, and two kids were selected during "silent reading time" each day to read in the wagon. I also still like to imagine that there were actually dragons in the medieval era.

There's a certain fantasy to the past - it's easy to examine with rosy vision, to see the events that you want in the way you want and ignore those you don't. As a history student, I can understand the dangers of this, even in leisure activities. (For a great article about selective historical memory in relation to X-Men: First Class, check out Ta-Nehisi Coates op-ed in the New York Times from June 8.) It's fascinating to me how history can be altered for varied purposes. But still, on any given summer afternoon, I would be thrilled to curl up with a pot of tea, a scone, and an Agatha Christie mystery so I can disappear into a seemingly more dignified era.

What historical periods seem romantic to you?
Are there any books you've read that get you caught up in a different world?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Midnight Snacks

I recently started working at a coffee shop/cafe here in Philadelphia, and so my sleep schedule has been out of whack. Opening shifts start at 6 am during the week, and closing shifts can last until 11 pm. Coupling that with my 10-5 job two days a week, I have been feeling more than a little jet-lagged. After opening shifts, I often find myself napping between 5 pm and whenever I hear dinner being made, then I have a hard time falling asleep at a normal hour. In addition to some late nights, this schedule has also reintroduced a habit that I thought I'd kicked when I turned in my thesis: the midnight snack.

For the last two semesters of college, I never had a class before 10 am, and even then, it was only three times a week. The other two days I got to sleep until noon, if I had any class at all. Because of this, I frequently stayed up until about 2 am. (I'd like to say that I used this time to diligently work on my assignments, and not watch many TV shows online.) Now, when I would eat dinner at 6:30 pm or so, I would often find myself up reading through assignments or writing my thesis (or watching Parks and Rec...) at midnight, and my stomach would start to grumble just a little. I wouldn't want a whole meal, but I'd want a little something... and a little something can quickly become a regular nightly event.

On a related note, while I am often lazy in the afternoons and evenings, I also like to feel like I'm being at least a little bit productive. For some reason, my solution to this often involves making baked goods. I whipped up some apple muffins a few weeks ago, and during the 4th of July weekend I made this:

I would have cut a bigger piece but Eric stopped me.
Damn nutrition.

That is a s'mores pie: graham cracker crust, chocolate filling, and toasted marshmallows on top. It is exactly as delicious as it looks. I got the recipe from this website. (The only change I made is the oven temperature - the writer used a Tyler Florence recipe for the chocolate filling, and while she set her oven to 325 degrees, he set his to 350 and it cooked faster.) It was a great treat and definitely a good use of my time.

However... there were only two of us to eat this pie. We each had a piece that night, but it is very rich, so we had most of a pie leftover in the fridge. For the next week, each night I would think: "Well, I'd like a little something, but I guess it's getting late. I could just go to bed. Or..."

Pie that's made of chocolate and marshmallows, it turns out, is not a good midnight snack. Something about excessive amounts of sugar, I guess? It is absolutely delicious and tasty and seems like a wonderful idea until I realize that I am super awake and it's 2 am.

Here's another picture. It was a very photogenic pie.

I would have taken photos before I cut the first pieces but I really wanted to eat it...

It seems that it will take some more time before I truly get out of the midnight snack habit. Until then, I will try to stick to non-sugary, non-caffeinated snacks. At least until I bake again, that is.

Do you find yourself eating midnight snacks? Do you have any favorites?