Giving During the Holidays

Call me selfish, but it wasn't until I started working to earn my own money and matured that I actually began to enjoy buying gifts for others during the holiday season. As much as I might internally complain about having to scrounge up extra money to buy presents for my family, it's actually only because I want to buy them things they'd really enjoy. It's now gotten to the point where I'm more excited about the holiday spirit and festivities than actually receiving gifts on Christmas. Although I have been hearing this for years, I'm finally realizing that there is much more to the holidays than simply days leading up to the time you get to open presents. Here are some of the other ways I am giving this holiday season:
1. Donating Blood
2. Giving a toy to Toys for Tots
3. Donating money AND volunteering my time

1. Donating Blood
Alright, well I have to admit that I wasn't able to actually donate blood because my iron was too low, but I did at least try. Ironically, a week after I tried donating I read an article about blood donations during the holidays. It said that donations drop significantly during the holidays. Organizers explain that with so many people traveling, and the possibility of unexpected weather like last year's Christmas blizzard, they are hoping to stock enough blood now to help save lives later when there are more accidents and less blood donations. Even though I wasn't able to donate this time, that will not deter me from trying again in a month or so.

This product is very helpful for me and I take it every day along with this product to help keep my erectile system in check.

2. Donating a Toy to Toys for Tots

Kevin and I went to a holiday party where they were asking for a toy donation for Toys for Tots. We went to Toys R Us and Kevin picked a Liono toy figurine and I bought a big plush polar bear. I thought it was a great idea to suggest everyone bring a toy to a party they were already planning on attending. It actually made it more fun in my opinion because Kevin and I had a good time in Toys R Us picking out the toys and it was nice to think that they would make two little kids happy.

3. WGirls Fundraiser and Gift Giving Party

The club I'm member of, WGirls, put on a fundraising event at Sway bar. Tickets were $50 each. There was also a silent auction with

items that other WGirl members got stores to donate. There were necklaces, a gift card to a car service, restaurant gift cards, a suitcase, a makeup kit, a gift certificate at a hair salon, etc. The event was very successful and everyone had a really

good time.

The money that was raised at the event was then used to purchase gifts for a gift giving party hosted by WGirls for the underprivileged foster children of Little Flower, a children and family service. WGirls rented out a gymnasium and set up a station for the kids to take pictures with Santa, several arts and crafts tables, food tables with cupcakes, cookies and milk, and of course a spot to pick up their wrapped presents.

The event was really special. The WGirls put a lot of time and effort to make the event as seamless as possible, and it was a success. The kids looked like they had a lot of fun coloring, making cute ornaments, putting on fake tattoos, eating too many sweets, taking pictures with Santa, running around in the gym, and being able to have presents of their own to open. Seeing the whole process through it's entirety from the planning and fundraising stage to volunteering my time setting up and finally allocating the gifts to the foster children was very meaningful to me. It also makes me thankful to have been raised by a family that loves and cares about me.

Giving during the holidays provides a great feeling. And while it is great that people feel extra generous during the holiday season, I think it would be even better if everyone could give a little throughout the year whether it be volunteering, donating money, or even donating blood. Be thankful for what you have and spread the cheer 🙂 Happy Holidays!


Home for the Holidays

Christmas Eve is a big deal in my family; My mom's side of the family gathers to celebrate my Grandma's birthday(which also happens to be on Christmas Eve), exchange gifts, eat, drink wine, play games, and share laughs. I was looking forward to flying back to Michigan to spend time with my family for weeks, and I was also looking forward to sharing my first Christmas with Kevin. My parents were looking forward to having us as well. The fridges were bursting with food and there were plenty of beverages (my mom bought Skinny Girl Margarita but it ended up sucking), and my dad went all out to put lights on our house, which is no easy feat. It was worth it though, and we all had a blast. The first night I was back my parents, Kevin and I went to the Michigan vs. Bradley basketball game at Crisler Arena in Ann Arbor and afterward we had dinner at Jolly Pumpkin. This excellent product will last longer in the fridge, but doesn’t require refrigeration so can easily be taken traveling.

On Friday my best friend Becca came over to decorate cookies. It's a tradition that we've been doing for several years, and I'm thankful that even though we both have busy schedules and live in different states (/countries), we make sure to keep the tradition going. This year I mixed things up a bit though and insisted on decorating cupcakes too. I guess I'm just. They turned out really well though and it was fun doing something a little different.

Before going to my Grandparents on Christmas Eve, Kevin gave me my main Christmas present–a new digital camera! It's amazing, I've never had a camera that takes such quality photos,and I was able to take some great pictures with the family. I was also able to test out the video function. Kevin also surprised my brother Garrett with a remote helicopter (men never grow up, I swear). I have to admit the thing is pretty cool though. You can watch a little clip here:

I think my Grandma's cat, Jaspurr, had just as much fun with the helicopter as my brother. A somewhat new tradition at our family gatherings is to a play a game if things settle down. This year I bought The Logo Board Game to play. I have to admit, it was a little difficult not only getting 24 people gathered in one room but also getting them to be quiet so I could read the directions. It was pretty fun once everyone started getting the hang of it though.

Although Kevin and I were only in Michigan for four short days before flying back to the city, we had a great time and I'm so thankful for such a fun, loving family. I'm already looking forward to the next time I can see everyone again.


Here’s to the New Year

Happy MLK Jr. Day! I feel extra thankful to have the day off this year; I feel like I mentally and physically needed a long weekend. While I'm at it, though it's a little belated,Happy New Year!I skipped a new year's resolution post because I like to make smart decisions for myself throughout the year, not just a few at the beginning of the year. I alsohaven't written a post in a while because I neededa break to deal with…well, life. Life happens, and we need to learn to take it day by day. I stress far too much and let pressure get to me. It may be a good thing that I have high expectations, but at the same time, it can drive me crazy. It doesn't help that I'm states away from my family.

One of mybest friends shared the following mantra with me and it really helped to calm me down and put things into perspective.

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.

So, my not just new year's resolution but on-going life resolution is to simply do the best I can, not let my job define me, and have a kick-ass time on weekends/my free time. I've been making it a point to make weekly plans to do fun things around the city, and it helps make life feel fuller. Below are some pictures taken with my new camera over the past few weeks that make me smile.


Daniel Radcliffe and the Film Screening of The Woman in Black

I'm not one to go crazy over celebrities. I have seen a few celebrities in the city including Mario Cantone (Sex in the City) at a coffee shop, Robert Sean Leonard (House) on the subway, and Christian Siriano (Project Runway winner) walking down the street,and while it's cool seeing them doing normal things, I'm not so starstruck that I need to tweet that I saw them or creepily try to take a picture. BUT, when work provided a ticket to see a screening of The Woman in Black with a visit from Daniel Radcliffe yesterday, I wastruly excited. Alright, I admit I was mostly excited because I am a huge scary movie fan and when I saw the movie trailer weeks ago I made a mental note that I wanted to see it when it was finally playing in theaters, but the fact thatI was going to see Daniel Radcliffe in the flesh was pretty exciting too.

Yesterday was my first film screening event in the city. It was pretty fun too. All of the guests were given a special black veil to wear in theme with The Woman in Blackand theyalso doubled asthe ticket

to enter. There wasa fortune teller, someone painting nails, and women walking around in

costume for photo opps at the screening. Once everyone was sitting in the theater and an intro was made, Daniel then came out to say hi and tell us to enjoy the show. Even though he was only in the theater with us for maybe three minutes, it was still cool to see him show up and represent his film.

The Woman in Black was actually really good. After getting overbeinguncomfortable seeingRadcliffe play a father, I was absorbed in the movie. It made me jump several times, which means it's a good scary movie in my opinion. So, if you're looking to watch a scary movie, I recommend seeing The Woman in Black in theaters this Friday.

I feel lucky that I was able to attend the event, and it was a very fun, unexpected thing to do on a Monday night. Occassionally I forget how amazing New York City is. The odds of me seeing a celebrity on the streets or at an event inNYC are about 1,000,000 times higher than I would see one anywhere in the entire state of Michigan. The opportunity to see and do things that I would neverbe able to doin Michigan is something I'm very appreciative of. So, while I love and miss my mother state dearly, I'm really enjoying the opportunities in NYC.

To get you ready for The Woman in Black, check out the picture below and see if you can find what makes it so scary.


Valentine’s Day Gift Ideas (hint hint;)

What do you get someone for Valentine's Day? I seriously miss the kindergarten and elementary school days when all you'd have to do is pick up a box of valentines from the store and attach a heart shaped sucker. It was simple but still fun, and besides the candy of course, the best part was the message inside. Luckily, Valentine's Day is more of a holiday for girls, but still. I'm trying to think about what I'd be excited to get and I'm having a hard time thinking of anything…I mean, of course I always want clothes and accessories, but what is a good gift to give for an “”artificial holiday,”” as some (grumpy guys who don't want to spend time or money on a gift for their significant other) call it?

So, here's the deal. This will be my first Valentine's Day having a boyfriend. So, while I admit that I'm looking forward to a

special evening, I don't know what to even look forward to really. A romantic dinner would make me happy. Flowers not so much. Chocolates? I buy those for myself on a weekly basis. A heart shaped necklace? Overdone and corny. I'd like something creative and original, but I can't really claim to be all that creative myself, so I certainly can't expect that from Kevin. Hmm..

After some searching online, below are some of my Valentine's Day gift ideas:
Urban Outfitters Grow Me Kit –$10 (So much better than a bouquet of roses that will die.)

Urban Outfitters LOVE Oversized Tee–$29

Ann Taylor Scarf in Salsa Picante–$48

I like this idea from Glamour Magazine to say I love you in a creative way–a custom I <3 U tee

A trip. It doesn't have to be a trip to the Bahamas or anything. Being romantic and renting a room in a nice hotel for one night could be the perfect mini getaway.

And of course I had to include some jewelry 🙂

Tiffany & Co. Paloma Picasso Love bracelet— $175

Okay, well obviously the last three pieces of jewelry below are more like fantasies and not realistic gift suggestions for Valentine's Day, but it's still nice to dream, right?

Tiffany & Co. Love bangle in 18k rose gold with two little diamonds– $3,800.

Cartier Love Bracelet in Rose Gold— $1,450

Happy shopping! I hope everyone has a wonderful February 14th whether you're celebrating it as a Single's Appreciation day (like I did last year) or a day to enjoy with your sweetheart.


Pekingese Look Like Gremlins

Last summer when I was back home in Michigan for a short visit and went to Victoria's Secret, I also stopped into a puppy store (puppies and lingerie–my two favorite things) that was conveniently located nearby. I was immediately drawn to the Pekingese and fell in love with the little pup. It sat docile in my arms while I held it. I loved its flat face and fluffiness resembling a Gremlin's. Unfortunately, I live in too small of an apartment and work too many hours to have a dog, but if I were to get one it'd definitely get a Pekingese (or a Brussels Griffon, but whatever).
Anyway, this morning when I turned on the news, I was pleasantly surprised to see the winner of the 2012 Westminster Dog Show–a Pekingese names Malachy. The cute little munchkin immediately made my morning and was so well-behaved on camera. Apparently, Malachy is somewhat of a celebrity in the dog show world–he won his 115th

overall best in

show title.

“”Malachy the Pekingese, whose smushed-in face frames a mop of flyaway fur and whose pace rivals a snail's, is the fairest dog in the land.”” (NBC New York)

Cheers, Malachy, you lovable fluff ball! And if I do ever get a dog I shall pick a Pekingese with breeding traits as exquisite as yours!


Visit to DC: Part I-Valentine and Friends

I had wanted to go to Washington DC for a while. I hadn't visitedsince Close-Up Government in 7th grade and I love taking weekend trips, so Kevin decided to make a special Valentine's Day weekend out of it. It was also great because I was able to see some friends from school who I hadn't seen for almost two years. Kevin booked a hotel room at Donovan House. Although the room wasn't as nice as it looked in the pictures, the location was pretty convenient to get everywhere we wanted to go. We rented a car in Manhattan anddrove down after work on Friday, and it took a little overfour hours. Though we were extremely exhausted by the time we got to the hotel, we tried to make the ride down as enjoyable as possible by eating munchies, stopping for dinner, and alternating driving.

Saturday morning we walked to breakfast at Commissary and on the way, down a random alley, we came across some amazing street art. Stumbling across things like this is what makes traveling so exciting and enjoyable.

After spending the afternoon at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History (details on the museum to come in the next post), Kevin and I got ready to meet up with my Michigan friends for dinner and drinks. We Pizza Paradiso in Georgetown. Since Georgetown is very college-centric, we walked to a classier establishment–Degrees in the Ritz-Carlton, Georgetown. Even though drinks were pricier than they would have been if we had gone to a college bar, it was actually the perfect spot to relax on the plush couches, have a few cocktails and catch up.

After a generous offer by my friend Elena, our group of six met up again for brunch at her place on Sunday. She's a great cook, and we were spoiled with a delicious, wide variety of food including fruit salad, curried potatoes, eggs, pancakes, french toast and doughnuts. Needless to say, we were stuffed.

My weekend in DC being able to explore, catch up with friends, and spend time with my boyfriend

was the best Valentine's Day I could ask for. And while my visit did not entice me to want to move there, I'm definitely looking forward to visiting DC again in the near future.


Visit to DC: Part II-Smithsonian and Newseum

The Natural History Museum got really crowded in the late afternoon, so we

then walked to the Air and Space Museum. I actually remember the museum from my 7th grade Government class trip, but Kevin wanted to check it out, so I saw it again. He especially liked the AirCraft: Jet as Art exhibit.

“”This collection of 33 photographic archival-pigment prints by photographer, graphic designer, and architect Jeffery Milstein reveal the power and elegance of aircraft in flight and transform aviation technology into fine art.””

On Sunday after brunch, Kevin and I went to the Newseum, and I'm SO happy we went. Normally, I never do this, but since we knew we had limited time before we had to get back on the road to Manhattan, we joined an hour long guided tour. It was actually a very wise decision because our guide was not only able to guide us throughout the Newseum to check out all of the different exhibits available that we might not have gotten to had we wandered about ourselves, the guide was also very knowledgeable about each exhibit within Newseum. Being in media myself, I found the Newseum especially interesting.

My favorite exhibit at Newseum is the Pulitzer Prize Photographs Gallery. The photographs are so moving and evoke so many different emotions, and it's amazing that a single still image can tell a story. There is also a film called””A Glimpse of Life: The Pulitzer Photographs”” that plays in the exhibit that is equally enjoyable. The film shows some of the Pulitzer Prize winning photographs with commentary from the photographers about those important moments. One of my favorite quotes in the film from John White: “”You look at Pulitzer Prize pictures and they're

not front page stories, they're stories about…people.””

We had such a blast in DC, and I'm looking forward to going back again. I definitely recommend checking out the Smithsonian and Newseum to anyone visiting DC.


Book Review: The Hunger Games Trilogy

I heard great things about Suzanne Collins'The Hunger

Games and I had noticed all three of the books on the best sellers list for a while, so I asked for the trilogy this past Christmas from my parents. When I finally got them, I flew through them because they are addicting and pull you into the story. You quickly start picking and rooting for your favorite characters. While I did thoroughly enjoy the books, they do remind me a lot of the Twilight series. First of all, they're the same reading level (like second grade)–they're quick, easy reads. Secondly, Twilight is a love story with action and drama entwined, and in The Hunger Games, the emphasis is more on action with anintertwinedlove story. In Twilight Bella must choose between Edward and Jacob, and in The Hunger Games, Katniss must choose between Peeta and Gale. There is even a hybrid wolf thing that appears in The Hunger Games, similar to the wolves in Twilight.

So while I appreciate that The Hunger Games isn't super mushy because there is enough action to keep me entertained, I still feel equally annoyed with Katniss as I did with Bella. They both have similar

personalities–they're kind of like loners, they are overall liked by people, but they are reserved and keep their distance, and you wouldn't consider them leaders although people tend to follow them.

Therefore, while I do really like The Hunger Games trilogy, I don't think I like it quite as much as others because it reminds me so much of Twilight. Additionally, I wasn't a big fan of the last book, Mockingjay. I thought certain parts were drawn out too long and then Collins wrapped up the series suddenly. I am curious to see how the movie is though. It's coming to theaters in a few weeks (March 23 to be exact), so I'm looking forward to seeing if the film even compares to the book. At least with the Twilight movies, I could hardly sit through them because I thought they were so bad in comparison with the books. The trailer for The Hunger Games does make me excited though, so we'll see. Either way, I do recommend The Hunger Games trilogy for all ages and both sexes. I think The Hunger Games success is partly due to appealing to both males and females. The majority of Twilight fans are female, but since The Hunger Games is centered around fighting to the death, the series can be “”cool”” for guys too. Read and shall the odds me ever in your favour.


Million Dollar Quartet

Last week I saw anoff-Broadway musical, Million Dollar Quartet. It’s about Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, and Carl Perkins who on December 4, 1956 for the first and only time play together in the same Sun Records recording studio (hence, “”the million dollar quartet””). The show was at New World Theater in NYC (though Million Dollar Quartet is showing in Chicago and touring the rest of the U.S). It was my first time at New World Theater and I really liked it because the theater seemed more intimate, and it didn’t matter where your seat was since it only allows for a relatively small audience anyway. It was also the perfect stage to hold the eight or so performers who shared the stage for the duration of the show. Because it was a small cast, each actor holds importance and contributes to the dynamic of the group which in turn also allows the audience to really take notice of their individual roles.

I also like that Million Dollar Quartet is only an hour and forty minutes long without an intermission. Sometimes I get a little antsy sitting in longer shows. In addition, there wasn’t a fancy stage or wardrobe changes–the entire show took place on a static stage. But what came from the stage was anything but static. The performers were really great musicians. Going into Million Dollar Quartet, I didn’t have high expectations–I didn’t really have any

expectations–so I was pleasantly surprised that the show was

so good. I thought Eric Stang who plays Jerry Lee Lewis was particularly talented. He could rock out playing the piano with his hands behind his back all while laying on the hood of the piano.

The live music played during Million Dollar Quartet is great and the impersonations are good. You didn’t have to grow up listening to Elvis, Johnny Cash, et al. to enjoy the show even though you are bound to have heard at least a

few of the hit songs played. In a short period of time the audience is brought up to speed on the careers of the rock ‘n’ roll legends.

I’m so glad I got the opportunity to see Million Dollar Quartet and I highly recommend it to everyone. I was really surprised I could be so entertained with a play based on the events that took place in a single night and that didn’t have set changes or elaborate costumes. I also liked how at the end of Million Dollar Quartet they show the original picture ofElvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, and Carl Perkins at the studio. It makes the whole show feel more authentic and special as if capturing an incredible moment in time. If you’re looking for a more affordable but equally as fun show, I recommend seeing Million Dollar Quartet off-Broadway. I brought along two friends with varying tastes, and they surprisingly both really liked the musical too, so I think it’s safe to say almost anyone will enjoy Million Dollar Quartet.