Friday, December 19, 2014

Christmas Village at Love Park

I wanted to wait until tomorrow to make this post so that I could say, "omg only five days until Christmas!" rather than "six," because five is a beautifully rounded number. Alas, I'll be on a plane tomorrow and thus unable to post. Over the past few weeks I've been swept away by essays, presentations, and assessments, but now I'm ecstatic to say that I'm finally done, and I've successfully (knock on wood) completed my first semester of college!

High school passed by just like that, and people had told me to expect college to pass by even quicker, but I never expected time to fly like this! There are still so many things I said I would do since the beginning of the year that I never got around to (meet ups, postcards, dimsum...). When I found out about Philly's Christmas Village at Love Park through Zubin, I decided that I was going to go now even though it was in the middle of exam week, though to be fair, I took my exams at the very beginning and very end, so I still had plenty of time to study. Aaaaand if I wanted to go to the Christmas Village at all, I'd really have to go now, because it'd probably be down by the time I got back from winter break.

I've always wanted to spend a white Christmas in New York City walking down the streets with a rich, warm drink in my hand while lights sparkled around me with a festive buzz in the air. Bridget's photos of the Christmas market in Edinburgh only amplified my holiday wanderlust.

Usually I spend Christmas in China or Taiwan, and all we have over there are plastic wreaths and pitifully spray-painted snow. So to me, going to Philly's Christmas Village was a big deal. People have told me not to get too excited about the Christmas Village at Love Park, but it was really hard not to be. The vibe I got was "it's cool, but not as cool as you think."

I invited Heather to come with me because we had been wanting to have a photo day. Good thing too, because I would never have made it to Love Park without her; it's not hard to find--I just have a hopeless sense of direction. When we arrived, I wasn't even sure we had arrived.

I was expecting to see a whole village bustling with life as people frantically shopped for Christmas presents, but it was quite mellow actually. It may be because it was forecasted to rain, which it did, but I wasn't going to let a little bit of rain stop me. I don't like crowds anyway.

A photo posted by Auderoy (@auderoy) on

The one thing that could have really made this trip so much better was if I was allowed to take pictures. Many of the vendors were artisans, and these creatives don't like having their work photographed, I presume so that their work won't be copied. I find no logic in this (okay I do, but I'm bitter), because photography is free advertising, and who has the time or skills to make those little trinkets themselves?

There was one shop I completely fell in love with called Christmas from Germany. I could have stayed in that shop all day taking pictures and ogling over the beauty! There was one Noah's ark ornament that opened up at the middle to reveal the animals in the ark. I wanted to buy it so badly! Unfortunately, I can't find it online to show you its awesomeness, but other things that caught my eye were the pyramids, nutcrackers, and schwibbogens. FYI, the pictures online don't do the shop justice.

Forget New York, take me to Germany!

Since we couldn't take any pictures, Heather and I decided to be tourists and fool around. Much attract.

And now for a quick list of some things to come:

  • A huge hoard of Christmas links saved to a Sticky that I'll be sharing in a roundup
  • Uncategorized never-before seen photos from my first semester at Bryn Mawr College
  • How college students can take care of their own health with therapeutic essential oils
  • How to start off on the right foot academically (or at least how to get around it)
  • Blog goals in preparation for the new year
  • Backwards blogmas? (starting on Christmas day in a 12-days-of-Christmas-esque style?)

Is there anything you'd like to hear more about from me? Special requests? I'm open to suggestions (or leave them in the comments below)! (Actually, I more like need suggestions if I plan on doing backwards blogmas). #TBWednesday to the Christmas movies post suggested by Cindy. (I'd like to add Rise of the Guardians to that list.) (Let's take a moment to acknowledge how my blog has... evolved.)

Some of these ideas have been incubating for months now. I'm just sticking them here so that you guys can hold me accountable. After all, winter break will probably be the most free time I'll have for awhile.
Much excite! Stay tuned!

This is why I love college: classes are semester long, so winter and summer breaks are actual breaks! As a former IB candidate, this revelation is heaven-sent (for those of you unfamiliar with the IB program, classes are two-years long, which is quite a bit longer than one semester).

Hopefully by now everyone's kickin' it. I'll be in Taiwan determined to have one of my best winter breaks yet. Now as a college student, I've started to appreciate all the little things like food and toilet paper, so I'll be easily amused. Even just doing nothing all break would be a nice change of pace, though I'd like to include blogging and independent reading into my Nothing Itinerary.

My winter break will only be sixteen days, because I'll be returning to campus early for winter break swim training, but some time during that time I'll be in Florida with the team for our training trip. It'll be nice to feel some warmth! I'll keep you guys updated. So what are your plans for the holidays?

1450 John F Kennedy Boulevard, JFK Plaza
Philadelphia, PA 19102
11:00AM - 8:00PM
(215) 268-7606

PS: Need Christmas advent calendars to make or Christmas music videos to watch?
Saturday, December 13, 2014

Christmas spirit

Is it Christmas yet? I haven't had a chance to properly deck myself (or my room) out with Christmas swag yet, because I've been swamped with end-of-semester projects and assessments (though I have been doing quite a bit of online shopping). Tomorrow I'll be taking my first final exam, and on Thursday I'll be taking my last one. In between, I'll be taking a little study break (remember my productivity tips?) with Heather at the Christmas Village. Until then, enjoy these Christmas music videos!

ONE // Jingle Bells - Minions

I first saw this in theaters while I was waiting for Interstellar to begin. The minions (and the fluffy unicorn) are one of my favorite parts of Despicable Me. I did not like Despicable Me 2, but I'm really excited for Minions. Not so excited for Penguins of Madagascar. And I still need to watch Big Hero 6.

TWO // Shake Up Christmas - Train

Train and Matt & Kim are my go-to artists when I need a little pick-me-up. I love the energy in this music video, and the snow globe motif is cute. I miss songs like this that tell stories, as opposed to songs that try to be "deep" with emotion or songs that repeat the same thing over and over.

THREE // Christmas Time Is Here - Daniela Andrade

I first discovered this YouTube musician through Mariell's blog Hjartesmil. Daniela Andrade has such a unique and calming voice, and her puppy Dina is so adorable! If you want to explore her channel, check out her covers of La Vie En Rose and Latch. Her cover of Falling Slowly was mentioned on HONY!

FOUR // Baby It's Cold Outside - Idina Menzel and Michael Bublé

Ever since I saw Idina Menzel perform in the Broadway Musical Wicked, I've always been in awe of her ridiculous talent, and now she's gained so much popularity from Frozen. Anyways, I love this music video because it reminds me of love in the pure form of an innocent childhood crush.

FIVE // That's Christmas To Me - Pentatonix

This is a beautiful music video. There's nothing like Christmas to bring out the sentimental side of us! In the midst of the magic of the holiday season, try to remember the true reason we're having these celebrations. It's not just about getting gifts, although that's always a plus. What's Christmas to you?

Sunday, December 7, 2014


I mean, if you get school off for it, then I guess it's a holiday. Otherwise, what's the point? Haha just kidding. Even though we as humans have unlimited needs and wants, I really do hope that amidst all the food and festivities you took some time to appreciate all that you have, because...

I believe that if you don't derive a deep sense of purpose from what you do, if you don't come radiantly alive several times a day, if you don't feel deeply grateful at the tremendous good fortune that has been bestowed on you, then you are wasting your life. And life is too short to waste. -Srikumar Rao

Booking tickets for the holidays is ridiculously expensive, so you have to do it really early in advance (this is also a great time to use mileage). At the time of booking, all I knew was that Thanksgiving break officially started after our last class on Wednesday. Being the overachieving freshman I was (yes, was), I was firmly set on not missing any classes, and so booked my tickets for Thursday. Yup, I decided to book my flight on Thanksgiving day. I was beating myself up about it, but a few days before break, the forecast for Wednesday reported snow storm, which secretly made me feel a little better about flying out so late. Some of my friends had very unfortunate experiences in the airport that Wednesday. Suckas.

Rozy, Jocey, Emily, and their mother generously hosted Poonie, Arleen, Jennifer, and me at their house in Palo Alto, California. Getting there, I was really stressed out about the trip, because it would be the first time for me traveling completely alone. I am happy to report that I made it to the airport, through it, and onto the plane in one piece (I arrived at my gate two hours before boarding, so kudos to me!). Everything after that was a breeze. (and some rain on the last day harharhar)

A few days ago I was extremely depressed because the dining hall food for the past few weeks hadn't been any good. If you know me, you know that I'm constantly eating--good food, bad food, all of it! I hardly ever think about the nutritional value of what I'm consuming, because you know what? You gotta live your life! Eat the food you want to eat and don't let anyone make you feel bad about it! So now when I say that I've been eating really badly, I mean that I've been eating really badly. My typical meal those last few weeks were pizza, garlic knots, and fried chicken, which is not substantial enough to sustain a college student. The lack of good food made me feel very emotional, threw me into a few late-night existential crises, and I think it was the first time I felt homesick since I got here.

And now to be treated to all this delicious food: sweet potatoes, broccoli, chips and salsa, cocktail shrimp! It was the best food I've eaten in ages. It took every ounce of strength for me to be on my best behavior as a guest and not pounce on all the food. I savored every bite, ate until I felt 100% full instead of the recommended 75% (because you'll get to the 100% after you digest in about 25 minutes), and didn't stop eating until the plates needed to be cleared for dessert.

My friends are these lovely bunch of photographers. Since I've come to college, I haven't had many opportunities to take photos, evident through my sparse posts these past few months. It was so nice to be back in this creative environment--oh the things photographers do to get a good picture! Rozy's mom kept calling us to say that we could start eating, which we'd acknowledge with a quick "ok!" before burying our eyes back in our viewfinders. We literally lined up around the table to angle ourselves for that perfect aerial Instagram-worthy photo. (Do you like mine? ;))

Never forget to bring your host a gift! I forgot (I'm a horrible person! I'm sorry! Please forgive me!), but Poonie didn't. She brought a glorious box of cupcakes, and even though there were eight of us, we only managed to eat three of the six cupcakes because we were so stuffed. Don't worry, we saved the rest for breakfast. The rest of the evening was spent in the best way possible: editing photos. You know you're good friends with someone if you hang out just to be anti-social together.

I have never experienced a Black Friday in my life, because I was in China for the last eight years and we don't celebrate this stuff, and I was only in the States up to the end of elementary school, a time at which I couldn't care less about shopping (Disneyland was the way to go). I have, however, heard many things about Black Friday. It's crazy and people literally die from being trampled to death as customers behind them ram through the entrances of the shop to nab the best sales before they run out. This is guaranteed to happen to you if you go to Walmart, so if you care about your life in any way, do not go to Walmart on Black Friday. It's really quite scary. The Legend of the BLACK FRIDAY. *ghost wails in the distance* How ironic that after a day of thanks you just go around trampling people to death to buy cheap stuff. And apparently Black Fridays are starting earlier and earlier. Capitalism, sigh. It's terrible. But nevertheless, I wanted to experience it at least once in my life...

Let's just say that this was my first and last Black Friday ever. Maybe I just went to the wrong places, but Black Friday wasn't what I hoped it would be. I expected to feel an adrenaline rush as I was treated horribly and pushed around by crowds of sleep-deprived psychos doing their Christmas shopping. In fact, there was no adrenaline rush, there were quite a few people but not overwhelmingly many, and most disappointing of all, the sales were lame. The Black Friday sales weren't any greater than other sales most stores have periodically around the year; it was just that all the stores had their sales at the same time. But even after the discounts, the totals still amounted to absurd sums.

I spotted the perfect blazer at Zara, but even after the sale it was still about $75, which I personally found too pricey. Anything over $50 is too expensive in my book. Maybe I'm just cheap. Idk, is $75 a good price for a blazer? Please tell me that it's not so that I feel less bad about not buying it while it was on sale. I'm hoping to come across a similar one at a better price. I love this blazer so much, because it can make a casual outfit seem put together without being too formal, but it would work for business casual too. It looks really structured, which is great, but it's also really soft and comfortable, which is also great, if not greater! Darn, now I wish I bought it when I saw it. A lame sale is better than no sale...? And I don't have any blazers in my closet yet, so I kinda need this one. Aiya.

At the end of the day, I ended up purchasing two items, both from the clearance section of Forever 21 (50% off mark-down prices): a sweater for $8 and a shirt for $6. They must be really out of season or something though, because I couldn't find them on F21's website when I was trying to get links for this blog post. The knit-sweater I got was black with a white barcode plastered across the front, and I got a few compliments about it when I wore it back on campus, so I'm optimistic that this sweater was not put in clearance for being too ugly to sell at its normal price. The shirt I got was long-sleeved and striped pink and cream with buttoned embellishments across the shoulders (similar).

On our final full day together, we watched Interstellar. I still have not gotten over this movie. It is the best. You have to watch it. In theaters. IMAX if possible. It's easily my favorite movie of this year and quite possibly one of my most favorites in my entire life (I'm not good at choosing favorites, so I don't want to commit to saying that it's the best one I've ever watched ever, but you get my point). I was a little worried that I wouldn't like it at first, because the trailer wasn't all that interesting (that seems to be a popular opinion), and I didn't like Gravity at all despite that it has been highly acclaimed and received positively by many casual viewers, but all my worries were for naught.
(click here to read about my full emotional experience)

When it came time to fly back to Philly, I was not ready, but I had to leave nevertheless. This time it was a little less stressful traveling alone as I had made the trip down here myself already, but by the time my plane landed in Philly the sun had already set, and as you well may know, everything is scarier at night. It's a fact. Luckily, on the train from the airport back to campus, I spotted someone sporting some Bryn Mawr gear and decided to approach her, make friends, and journey back to campus together. Approaching a complete stranger is something I never would have done back in high school. Actually, it's more likely for me to approach a complete stranger than to approach a distant acquaintance (you know, those people you always see, but never speak to and don't really know anything about other than what their face looks like), because a complete stranger I'll never see again so idgaf, but a distant acquaintance I may bump into once in awhile and feel their imaginarily-judgmental gaze pierce my back. I feel like I've really grown in character after this experience.

Despite Thanksgiving break being so soon after fall break, it was very much needed to replenish my mind, body, soul, and spirit. I don't know how much longer I could have lasted solely on campus food. Without Thanksgiving break, I'd be an emotional wreck right now. I mean, even more than usual. Just kidding, I've been pretty good about managing my stress (synonymous to academics) so far actually. Anyways, this week I have a Chinese oral and a final paper due for my writing seminar, and the following week I take my two self-scheduled finals. We got this! It's the final stretch! There is no way we can let all our hard work this past semester go to waste. It's our time, and we'll be ready to go when finals come around. Then I'll be off for winter break in the delicious country of Taiwan. Stay tuned!

Brunch at Audrey's © 2013.

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