New Year Eve Hubbub

Good New Year's Eve. Every year everyone makes so much hype about New Year's Eve plans–First it's choosing which group of friends you wish to spend it with, then figuring out where you're going, what you're wearing, who you'll be kissing at midnight, etc. It's frazzling.

This year (partly due to the fact that I was stuck in an airport for 24 hours and made it back to the city already exhausted with only two days to spare before the ball dropped) I didn't really have the same anxiety about my NYE plans. Yes, I did buy a sequins dress for the occasion two months in advance, but I really hadn't given it much thought besides expressing my adamance not to go to an obnoxious, overcrowded club and to not pay more than $50 to get in any bar.

Having no expectations when it comes to NYE seems to be the best way to go into it. Just think of it as another day–well it is, but it also just happens to be a night celebrating the first day of a new year and “”new beginnings.”” No, I did not have an “”epic night”” in which I had an awesome buzz and was magically kissed by a handsome male as everyone yelled “”Happy New Year!”” but at the same time no, I did not have a horribly disappointing night. I was with friends simply enjoying myself and their company just like any other night I'd meet up with friends for drinks.
I'm not saying one shouldn't hope for an epic NYE. Everyone should have at least one of those. But we should be realistic about our expectations and that way we won't set ourselves up for disappointment. I think the same goes with New Year's Resolutions. If one has to really contemplate a resolution to implement in the new year, it's not genuine and will most likely be given up after a month or two

into the year. No one is forcing you to make a resolution, so there's no use in making an empty promise if it's not something you really want to do. Last year I didn't make a resolution. This year I simply said that I'm going to try to eat more fruits and vegetables. I make no promises that are unrealistic or unachievable. I feel content and I'm truly looking forward to all that 2011 brings.

Happy New Year!

Volunteering for New York Cares

This past weekend I completed my first project with New York Cares, the city's leading volunteer organization. I decided to sign up with New York Cares when I realized that I actually have more free time now after having finished up with school even with a full-time job. As a student my work was never really done. Not only was I a full time student but I also had an internship and was involved in several other extra curricular activities. There was always more reading or studying to be done for one class or another, so it was often difficult me to fully enjoy myself on weekends with the nagging in the back of my mind that I still had work to do in advance of classes on Monday. Now that I don't have work to do on weekends, that frees up my schedule tremendously, and I figured that it was time for me to give back and make good use of some of the new free time I've acquired.

There are numerous different projects you can sign up for with New York cares including: reading to younger kids, teaching older adults basic computer skills, practicing English with immigrants, working at soup kitchens, playing bingo with the elderly at old folk homes, and raking/gardening work. For my first project I decided to go to East Harlem to play sports with over a dozen first and second graders.
I wasn't sure what to expect with the volunteer project, and I was definitely a bit nervous about traveling all the way to E. Harlem by myself and trying to find where the school was located, but my newest thing since moving to NYC is to challenge myself on a consistent basis and force myself to try things that I'm originally uncomfortable or hesitant about. I'm not really used to playing

or even being around young kids, but I figured that since sports are something I'm familiar with, that would be the easiest way to be able to relate to the kids.

Overall, I had a pretty good time. The kids were, well,…kids. I forgot how hyper and rambunctious they are! Boy do I wish I had that much energy. They were running around as if they had an IV of Red Bull coursing through their veins. We started off the day by breaking into teams of 4 and having relay races to get warmed up. I was with one other volunteer and two second grade boys. I cheered on our team and encouraged everyone to run as fast as they could so we could win. I tried hard not to laugh when one of the little boys flagged down the male team leader and “”whispered”” in his ear that he didn't want to be paired with girls for the relay race. His attitude quickly changed though when our team won, and I finally got his approval. I then spent the next two hours playing soccer and football with the boys. They were aggressive little ball-hogs and liked to make up their own rules as we went along, but I just went with the flow of things, and the time passed fairly quickly.
By the end of the two hours I was exhausted and definitely ready for a nap. I'd like to commend anyone who works with young kids because, as cute as they can sometimes be, they sure require a lot patience, and you must always stay alert while keeping track of each individual. I really do believe that it requires a special sort of person to be able to teach and supervise young children. I feel like it's like life guarding on land.
During the last hour I spent with the kids, the other volunteers and I helped them make a healthy snack. I'd occasionally find myself simply observing the kids interact with one another. By the end of the three hours I was becoming familiar with their distinct personalities, and I thought it was cute how quickly seemingly attached they became to some of the volunteers in such a short time. Their innocence and vulnerability was so refreshing. It made me reflect on my own childhood.

While the first thing I did when I returned home from volunteering was to crawl into bed and relax for a few hours, I'm still very happy that I completed my first project with New York Cares. Isn't it funny that I feel like I took just as much away from this experience as I gave? I suppose that's what making a difference is all about in a way. When doing something makes you contemplate life and appreciate the thing you're doing, it becomes a mutual exchange with both parties benefiting.

The American Museum of Natural History

It is quite possible that I had more fun at the American Museum of Natural History looking at all of the ancient animal bones as an adult than I did when I was a little girl. I forgot how cool dinosaurs are until I was face-to-face with a skeleton of a T-rex towering above me.

Unfortunately I didn't get to the museum until 1.5 hours before closing, so I had to rush a bit in order to see the majority of displays on the four floors. It was fascinating just observing the things on display at the museum, but next time around I will definitely plan on staying longer in order to read the descriptive texts about each one. I especially loved the atmosphere in the Milsetein Hall of Ocean Life. It was dimly lit and the walls were dark blue making it feel as if I were in a giant aquarium. In addition,

“”The Milstein Hall of Ocean Life is home to the Museum's beloved
94-foot-long model of a blue whale, a powerful evocation of the massive yet graceful nature of the largest animal ever to roam the planet.””

Considering my love for animals, especially and whales, seeing the giant blue whale in person was pretty Milstein Hall and looms over the exhibit from above.
I'd definitely recommend checking out the American Museum of Natural History. People of all ages find it truly enjoyable, which is a rare thing to accomplish. What keeps the museum fresh and full of life are the changing exhibits and museum's calendar full of events. One event that especially caught my attention and is coming up soon is Adventures in the Global Kitchen: The Lure of Chocolate in which a food historian will lead a tasting while discussing chocolate's history. Sounds delicious to me!
In case you'd like more information, The American Museum of Natural History has

a good website too with descriptions about the permanent exhibits, limited time exhibits, upcoming events and lots of other information.

Film Review: Inception

Inception is a brilliantly complex movie that kept me interested the whole three hours in length. Leonardo is probably my favorite actor (although Joseph Gordon-Levitt was looking pretty hot in this movie as Leo's partner too). I was waiting in anticipation for several months for the release of Shutter Island, and although it wasn't a bad movie by any means, it didn't blow me away either. While the plot for Shutter Island was pretty good, Inception seems to have been better produced. I liked the combination of action and thriller in Inception. Thank god there wasn't a corny love triangle thing going on. I am so tired of those kind of movies. Therefore, all the unexpected gun action that took place was a pleasant alternative as odd as it sounds.

What I found most unique about this film is that every time the characters went into a dream, into a dream, into a dream, I felt my own mind layering the details and trying to sort out what was actually happening and what was just a dream. I find films that make you think throughout the entire film to be the most rewarding.
**Spoiler Alert**
My take on the ending is that Cobb, Leo's character, gets out of the dream in time and is actually reunited with his kids in the real world. I believe this because:
1. The look on his face when he woke up on the plane after barely escaping alive. He could hardly even believe it himself that he made it back.
2. What would have been the point of Cobb traveling through time and dreams in order to find Saito (the Japanese man who was going to clear his record so he could go home to his family) and bring him back to reality if he wasn't going to actually see his kids in real life?
3. Cobb never looked at his kids' faces when he was under because he didn't want to mistake his dream for reality like his wife did. At the end of the movie, his own father takes him to his kids and he and the audience see their faces for the first time, thus supporting my belief that he wasn't dreaming anymore.
4. I think that Director, Christopher Nolan, only made the ending ambiguous as a shock factor to get his audience members talking about the movie and speculating about whether Cobb did or did not escape the dreamworld. The outcome is up to each individual audience member's own interpretation, but I choose to be optimistic.
Lastly, I loved all of the casts' polished style of dress. Although the movie takes place in present-day, their clothing, which consists of business formal suits and ties, button-down shirts, dressy vests, and leather jackets coupled with their well-groomed, slicked back hair, had a flair of the bourgeois 30s or 40s.

Overall, Inception was an excellent film and I recommend it to those who enjoy a multi-layered storyline that forces you to pay attention in order to keep up.

My Film Rating: 9.5/10

Book Review: The Magicians

I just finished Lev Grossman's The Magicians today, and I loved it! To put it simply, the novel reminds me of Harry Potter, except aimed for a more adult audience. Okay, well to be honest, I never actually read Harry Potter, but based on the few clips of the movies I've seen here and there, I'm claiming that they are similar in several ways. If nothing else, it's the realm of wizardry that correlates the two–a story centering around a boy who pursues a life of magic and encounters strange, sci-fi like characters along the way, all while trying to figure out his life's purpose. Quentin, the main character, is moody and self-destructive. The oscillating first and third person narrative causes the reader to become frustrated with him because he has so much potential and has all the tools he needs in front of him, yet he is never satisfied. Essentially, the novel is about Quentin's quest for happiness. I felt so invested in his character by the end of the novel that even I was wondering what had to be done for him to finally be complacent. I guess I'll just have to wait until the next novel to find out. The sequel, The Magician King, will be released next summer.

Although the novel is about 400 pages, it was a pretty fast read. I recommend Lev Grossman's The Magicians to anyone who likes a Bildungsroman combo of action intertwined with a love story. I give it 4.5/5 stars 🙂

An Unsatiable Craving

I don't know if it's the Summer season, my hormones, or all of the commercials flooding my TV screen recently, but my craving for ice cream has been absurd. I will literally skip dinner just so I don't feel as guilty about devouring a frosty treat. I'm sure you have seen the commercials too. Dairy Queen is celebrating the 25th birthday of the blizzard, and while it should be a celebratory time, my waistline is telling me the party needs to come to an end. DQ knows what it's doing by flooding my easily dessert-persuadable-mind with images of the sweet, creamy, ingredient-loaded blizzard.

In addition, they did a double blast by advertising their irresistible DQ cakes for Father's Day. So, of course, I rationalized with myself that the DQ cake would be the perfect gift for my father after our long

day of golfing and figured that it would be okay to indulge “”just this once”” because I was buying a whole cake, and everyone in my family would eat some. Yeah, well that rationale didn't just kick me in the butt, it has decided that a better punishment would be to attach its little fat particles to my rear as a constant reminder that not my dad, but I, ate half the cake myself. If that isn't the right step in the direction of obesity, I don't know what is.

BUT, in my defense, I recently watched “”America's Favorite Foods”” on the Food Network, where it was revealed why DQ is so tantalizing to my taste buds. Ironically, it's because they don't freeze them! Let me explain. Regular ice cream is so cold that it often freezes many of our taste buds, thus preventing the total enjoyability of the ice cream flavor, whereas Dairy Queen uses soft serve ice cream that isn't quite as cold. Those few degrees can make a load (of flavors) of difference and effect the total ice cream experience. DQ's secret is what keeps millions of people visiting their numerous locations daily. And that is why, even when it's cold in the wintertime, it can't freeze (haha, get it?) my craving for a Dairy Queen treat.

Thanksgiving Dinner for One

This was my first Thanksgiving away from my family ever in my whole life. Originally I didn't think it was going to be a big deal. In my family, my mom's side of the family gathers for every holiday. We cook. A ton. And drink. Lots of wine. And laugh. Uncontrollably. I can always count on ridiculousness to ensue at any gathering. We're loud (and sometimes downright obnoxious), we know it, and we love it. I figured that this Thanksgiving would be like the rest, and buying a $400 plane ticket home, when Christmas is a bigger deal for us anyway, seemed unpractical since I only left Michigan four months ago anyway. My parents even shipped me boxed mashed potatoes, green beans, stuffing and a bottle of wine to make my own little Thanksgiving dinner at home.

I tried to keep myself as busy as possible to keep from thinking about my family coming together hundreds of miles away without me. I woke up early in the morning to check out Macy's Thanksgiving

Day Parade, and I had a blast. Then when I came home I thought I'd just sleep away the majority of the day. But of course, aftwe waking to an empty apartment, the loneliness quickly set in. I tried to diminish longing to be home by blasting music while I made my dinner for one and I put myself to work cleaning my bedroom, but before long I was confronted with sadness again which had evolved into a knot in the pit of my stomach.

What was also difficult was the numerous “”Happy Thanksgiving, we miss you!”” texts I kept receiving from family and close friends throughout the day, which served as a perpetual reminder that I was alone. As one who enjoys bouts of solitude, it was not much appreciated on this day, and I was aching for some human interaction. When one of my roommates came home he told me that most people who move to the city end up experiencing a holiday alone and how he considered it like an initiation to New York and becoming a New Yorker.

While I don't consider myself a New Yorker yet and I'm not sure I ever will since my roots are in Michigan, I certainly can say that I've been “”initiated”” into the New York lifestyle where everyone has experienced loneliness and almost everyone has spent a holiday without their family. To my wonderful family and friends who I thought I could be strong enough to spend a holiday without missing, boy was I wrong. I miss everyone tremendously, and although I was physically in another state, my mind allowed me to spend the day re-living past holidays together. What I finally realized, and maybe spending the day alone is what it took, is that it doesn't matter if family gatherings sometimes seem monotonous and boring in the traditional sense, it's being together under one roof for yet another year that makes it special.

Happy Thanksgiving from NYC. Love you all.