The Topics

The Latest

Articles by Sarah Fisher

Summer in Chicago

It’s summer! Is it just me, or did this school year fly by? Three quarters, forty-eight credits, thirty weeks of classes, six weeks of winter break, and three weeks of finals, finished off with three months of summer break! 

As I have already mentioned, I am moving to Washington, D.C. at the end of July for graduate school, so I only have five or six weeks left in Chicago! That part makes me really sad, but I am getting really excited to move, explore a new city, and have a new adventure. 

Ice Cream
Before I move, I want to do as much in Chicago as I can! Some of the items on my bucket list are kayaking on the Chicago River, ordering the 25 scoop sundae at Margie’s Candies, and having one more beach day with my friends. I also want to work as much as possible. I can’t get a full-time job because I’ll only be here for a few weeks, but I hope to get as many random babysitting jobs as I can. You think Chicago is expensive? Somehow, D.C. is even pricier! 

The highlight of my summer, however, will be the 10-day trip to Israel I am going on. It is through a program called Passages and is aimed at college students. We will get to tour a lot of historic Biblical sites and learn a lot about the past and present political state of Israel. Two of my best friends are going, too, and I am so excited to spend that time with them, explore Israel, and grow in my relationship with the Lord. 

What are you guys up to this summer? I hope you have a relaxing, exciting summer! 

Washington D.C.

Washington, D.C.: our nation’s capital; the home to monuments, the (free) Smithsonian museum, cherry blossom trees, and George Washington University, where I will be spending my next two years receiving my Master’s degree!

Washington D.C.
I went to Washington, D.C. over spring break, and I had such a fun time. I flew in early on a Friday morning and got to my hotel room with enough time to spare to take a quick nap. I then met with someone who works for the United States Agency for International Development and we talked about global health opportunities in D.C. It was great to meet with him and get advice about the career pathway I want to pursue. By that point, it was late afternoon and I had the rest of the day to myself! I took the Metro over to Capitol Hill​ and saw the Capitol Building and the Library of Congress and walked around the neighborhood for a while. I then went back to my hotel, read a good book, took a bath, and was in bed by 9pm – the perfect evening. 

The next day was Admitted Students Day for GWU, so I spent the day doing that. It was exhausting, but informative. I then took the Metra out to Maryland and spent a day with one of my best friends who recently moved to that area. It was a whirlwind weekend visit, but really fun, and I can’t wait to live there permanently in a few months!

Public Health

Public health is kind of my thing. I’m studying it at DePaul, I’m getting my Masters in it next year… I am super interested by all of it. Particularly, though, I am interested in global health, and what can be implemented around the world to alleviate health disparities and gaps that cause highly preventable diseases and circumstances to prevail. For example, no one should have to live without clean water, or without access to a doctor, or in fear of contracting cholera or tuberculosis or HIV/AIDS. Science and medical technology are advanced enough that many of these worldwide problems could be eliminated, but unfortunately, resources and funds are not allocated and international politics gets in the way. 

Goals
Fortunately, there are a lot of organizations and international agencies working to eliminate a lot of these disparities, and one organization that is working hard is the United Nations. From 2000-2015, the United Nations implemented the Millennium Development Goals, which were eight anti-poverty targets that the world committed to achieving by 2015. Some goals were to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, reduce child mortality, and improve maternal health. While the Millennium Development Goals produced significant results, they were not successful in addressing and ending poverty and its root causes. The United Nations​ then implemented the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development program, which lays out seventeen goals that “address the root causes of poverty and the universal need for development that works for all people.”

I personally geek out over programs like this because they are making such a difference to the health and lives of people all over the world. I am excited to see what the year 2030 holds for the people of this world – and you should be, too!


Spring Break

Spring break just ended! If you were on DePaul’s campus you probably simultaneously saw stressed out students cramming for exams and writing papers and students celebrating because they just finished their last final. It is a strange dynamic.

Spring break is a lot different than winter break, solely because of how much shorter it is. Winter break is 6 weeks long, while spring break is about 10 days long. That makes spring quarter a little harder - it is easier to get burned out because you did not have as long of a break in between quarters. So, that is why it is important to make as much of spring quarter as you can! 

I mostly stayed in Chicago, working and relaxing as much as I could. It was weird to watch Netflix with no guilt attached to it! However, I wanted to limit my Netflix intake and instead, read books or explore Chicago as much as I could. Breaks are the time to do things you never have time for during the quarter! You could go to the Art Institute for an afternoon, or go explore some Chicago neighborhoods that you have never explored before.

GWU
The last weekend of break, I am went to Washington, D.C. to go to the Admitted Students Day for George Washington University. I was really excited about that trip - it was short, but Washington D.C. is really fun to explore and I was looking forward to learning more about GWU. I was also going during Cherry Blossom Festival​, so it was exciting to see all of the trees in bloom. 

What were your plans for spring break? I hope you had something fun planned!

Going to the Movies

I think the movie theater is overpriced, kind of grody, and always too crowded. I am patient enough to wait until the movies come out on DVD or Netflix. I rarely go to the movie theater…except for this quarter.

My friends and I have seen four separate movies this quarter in theaters! That’s almost one every other week. For some people, that may be normal, but for me and my friends, it is not. Through this, I actually am learning to love the movie theaters.

At the Movies
First, movies are overpriced. However, the theater near DePaul (Regal Webster Place 11) offers $6.50 Tuesdays, where, as you can probably guess, tickets are only $6.50. That’s almost half price! My friends and I have also become experts in sneaking in snacks in our coats...I know that’s not really allowed, but $9 for popcorn? Really?

Second of all, you can buy tickets ahead at most movie theaters, which is especially handy when the movie you want to go see is a new release or a popular one. The theater on Webster also allows you to reserve your seat ahead of time. So, while the theater may be crowded, you don’t have to worry about not getting a seat next to the people you came with.

Finally, there is something pretty cool about seeing a movie on such a large screen.  Plus, reacting along with the crowd adds a whole other level of experience. I still am totally happy renting or streaming a movie in my apartment, but going to the movie theater is growing on me (even with all its grodiness).

Oh, and what movies have I seen? Passengers, Split, Get Out, and Hidden Figures. I recommend all four, especially Hidden Figures and Get Out.

Summer Bucket List

Oh, I am so looking forward to warmer weather. We have been super blessed this winter (this weekend is supposed to be 60 degrees!!!), but I miss being outside in the sun and wearing shorts and Birkenstocks and sleeping with my window open. My best friend Steph is just as antsy for warm spring weather, and we have a bucket list going of all of the things we want to do this summer to take advantage of the weather! 

Hammocking is at the top of the list. We both have hammocks (think ENO brand) and we cannot wait to hang them up at Oz Park​, by the lake, at the beach, on the quad, or really anywhere we can take advantage of. 
 
Annette's
Annette's is best 
We also want to go camping somewhere for a weekend! Starved Rock is about an hour and a half southwest of the city, and it would be so nice to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city for a little bit. I really want to see the stars!

Ice cream of course is on the list. Annette's​, Jeni’s, Oberweis, Bobtail, Margie’s...so many delicious places. Of course, we still get ice cream in the winter, but it is so much better in the summer. Steph’s favorite flavor is Superman and I am a fan of anything with chocolate and peanut butter. Yum! 

We also want to explore the beaches more. The Fullerton one is the closest to campus, and Oak Street Beach is fun because it’s right downtown, but I’m sure there are less crowded and more peaceful ones more north and south of us. On Labor Day some friends and I went to the Foster Avenue beach, and it was so nice. It wasn’t touristy and was so much more relaxing. We want to find more like those!

This is just the beginning of our list! I know we still have a few more months of winter, but I am counting down the days until summer. I’m sure you guys are, too!
 

Use Your Voice

This is a very divisive time for our country. Many people are feeling hurt, scared, angry, and disbelief at all that has happened this past week since President Drumpf’s inauguration, and to be very honest, I feel very similarly. One of the most important things that those feeling discontent can do is to take some sort of action – volunteer, donate, let your voice be heard. My goal for this post is to not get in a deep political discussion, but to provide a resource to those who are curious about how to help. 

Use Your Voice
 
● Write to your senator. If there is an issue you are super passionate about, write to your state’s senator about it! As citizens of the United States, a democracy, we have a powerful voice that can be used to make a big difference. 

● Volunteer your time. There are so many organizations that would value your donated time. For example, places like World Vision and RefugeeOne ​are great organizations that provide aid and assistance refugees entering the United States, if that is where your heart is being led. 

● Educate yourself. Stay up-to-date on what is happening in our country, whether you support or disagree with it. Read reputable news sources. Come to your own conclusions. Do not just jump on the bandwagon and believe whatever your roommate, friend, professor, boss, or parents believe. You have your own thoughts and opinions and there is power in developing them. 

● Stand up for what you believe in. Now, I am not saying argue with every single person who you disagree with (especially not on Facebook!). But, if you see something that really bothers you, I think there is power in healthy political discourse. It is okay to have a peaceful conversation with someone who believes something different than you – you two may not have your minds changed at the end of the conversation, but you can learn to respect each other and how to voice your opinions civilly and clearly. 

Above all, I urge you to love and respect others well. Many people do not currently feel that. There is power in using your voice, and whatever side you may be on, I hope you use your voice to help those in need.

Winter Quarter

Hi, readers! It is hard to believe that the Christmas season has passed, that it is 2017, and that we are already almost a week into winter quarter. I had a really nice break, and even though it was six weeks long, it still flew by. I went home to Ohio for Thanksgiving and Christmas, but the rest of the time was spent in Chicago. I had the dream job of being a full-time nanny for a three-month old baby girl named Cecilia and did a lot of other babysitting on the side. I applied to graduate school, took the GRE, celebrated my 22nd birthday, went to one of my oldest/best friend’s wedding, and caught up on all of the TV shows that I follow (Grey’s Anatomy and Law & Order SVU, anybody?). It was a busy, but fruitful, break! 
 
Zoo Lights
For my birthday, some friends and I went to the Lincoln Park Zoo Lights 
Now that we are on the other side of winter break, the end of my senior year seems so much closer! I graduate in six months! It is exciting and a huge accomplishment, but scary nonetheless. I do not have a lot of control over where I will be post-graduation - it really is dependent upon what graduate school(s) accept me and how much money they give me. Currently, I would love to stay at DePaul or move to Washington, D.C. to attend George Washington University. Stay tuned for more updates on my post-grad life!

I hope everyone is off to a great quarter! Per usual, I have a crazy schedule, but at this point that is what I am used to. I would not be productive if I had an overabundance of free time! I am excited to keep you all updated on my life here in Chicago, through school and nannying and the bitter winter weather!

Go Tribe - or Not

Unless you have been hiding under a rock for the past month, you know that the Chicago Cubs are the new World Series champs. It is incredible that the city is still standing! 

As you may know, I am from Cleveland​, so I did not get the outcome that I wanted. It was such an exciting and close series, though, that I cannot be too upset about Chicago winning. I mean, it had been SO LONG since they had won and Cleveland just won the NBA title so we’ve had enough winning for the year. We can share the love a little bit - ha!

Chicago Cibs
I watched Game 7 with my roommate, who is a bandwagon Cubs fan. I did not dare go out to watch the game- I think I would have been attacked if all of the Cubs fan heard me cheering for the Tribe! We stayed in and ordered Chinese food and watched the stressful, nail-biting game. I am pretty sure we were both hyperventilating at some points in time. 

I have never seen the city so excited after the Cubs won. People were speeding down the streets, honking their horns and waving flags and signs out the windows. Fireworks were going off and the Cubs song was playing everywhere. I have had that gosh darn song stuck in my head for WEEKS and I was not even rooting for the Cubs! 

The city is finally starting to calm down after the big win. It has been an exciting few weeks and now it is time for my favorite season: basketball season. Maybe the Cavs will pull through for us again! 


Cru Fall Retreat

​Who else is enjoying this glorious fall weather? We are entering into my favorite time of the year. It is cold, but not cold enough that it is miserable out and we are getting close to Thanksgiving and Christmas!

Last weekend, I headed up to Lake Geneva, WI with about thirty other DePaul students and another couple hundred students from other Chicago schools on our annual Cru Fall Retreat. We definitely took advantage of this awesome fall season.

Cru Fall Retreat
At Fall Retreat, we stay at Conference Point Center, which is right on Lake Geneva. We stay in cabins, snuggle in sleeping bags, and explore the lake front trails. A speaker and worship band come every year to Fall Retreat and most of our time is spent in sessions with them, learning, worshiping, playing games, and growing in community. However, they always provide time for us to explore the lake, play a mega-tournament of ultimate frisbee, and relax in nature away from the city.

Oh, it was so nice to be away from the city for the weekend. I love Chicago, but it can be so exhausting and energy-draining. I felt so at peace spending the weekend at the lake and definitely felt rested when coming back to the city to start another week. We only have a couple more weeks until finals begin - yikes! I hope that you can find some rest and rejuvenation in these next weeks - remember, our reward is a big turkey dinner!

Let Girls Learn

I have a homework assignment for you guys. Stop whatever you are currently doing and go watch the documentary “We Will Rise: Michelle Obama’s Mission to Educate Girls Around the World.” You can find it at this link

I know, I know, you already have a ton of homework and cannot possibly take an hour out of your day to watch this. I promise, you will not regret staying up a little later or skipping the next episode of Stranger Things to watch this. 

I have to give a final presentation in one of my classes and I am presenting on the education inequality that girls around the world face. I stumbled across this CNN film that names girls’ education a global crisis. There are still 62 million girls worldwide who do not have the opportunity to receive an education. Doesn’t that break your heart? Gender stereotypes, money, safety, and basic health needs prevent girls from going to school. 
 
Raphina
Raphina, one of the beautiful girls highlighted in the documentary. She does her homework late at night by flashlight after all of the chores are done. 
This film will open your eyes to the privilege we have here in the United States. All of those barriers that I listed above are things we take for granted here. Public school does not cost money here in the States, but that is not the case in other countries. If a family has to choose between sending their son to school or their daughter to school, they will most likely send the son. Also, girls do not have as good of access to sex education in a lot of developing countries, which affects their schooling experience. Girls are not allowed to go to school when they have their periods, which means they miss one week of school every month. I cannot imagine that happening here in the States. 

I am glad that I was able to watch this film because I am more educated on the lack of education equality in the world, a very important topic that needs to be faced. I am thankful that there are initiatives to shrink the education gap, like the Let Girls Learn campaign started by President Obama and the First Lady, USAID, the Peace Corps, and other agencies and programs. I pray that someday girls everywhere are given equal opportunity to learn. 

So, go watch it! Learn how to help and empower these girls! Do not take your education for granted - we can help be the change. 
 

Ohio Visit

I ventured on the Megabus this past weekend and made a long overdue visit back to my hometown, Chardon, Ohio. 

I hadn’t been home since May, so I was really looking forward to seeing my family, my dogs, and enjoying the nice fall weather in a small town setting. My best friend Stephanie joined me for the weekend, and it was really fun getting to show her where I grew up and for her to be a part of my Ohio life. 

Pumpkin Patch
Every year, my family hosts a huge Fish Fry (no, not a pun on our last name). My dad goes on a few fishing trips every year with his friends and they collectively catch enough fish to feed over 100 people, meaning our house was the place to be on Saturday night. I hadn’t seen a lot of the people who came in a really long time, so it was nice to catch up. 

Oh, it was so nice to be out of the city for a long weekend. I absolutely love Chicago, but the craziness and energy of the city can be tiring sometimes. It was a joy to be in a slow, quiet town for a while and cuddle with my dogs. Stephanie and I went to a pumpkin patch one afternoon and it was glorious. When I sniffed the air outside, it smelled like leaves, which was awesome. I’m back in reality now, but a weekend back in Chardon was the perfect treat and made me really excited for this fall season. 


I Survived Grey's Anatomy

Is anyone as obsessed with Grey’s Anatomy as I am? I JUST finished watching the series on Netflix and goodness, I am going through some serious PBD (post-binge depression). 

I started watching Grey’s Anatomy this past May when my best friend got me hooked. I had sworn to myself that I would never watch it: I knew I would like it and get sucked in immediately and I did not have time to watch twelve emotional, dramatic seasons. However, I obviously failed and went through twelve seasons, which is 269 episodes or 188.3 hours, in three and a half months. At this point, I can’t decide if I am appreciative or mad at this friend who got me hooked.

Grey's
For those who are unfamiliar with Grey’s Anatomy, it is a show centered around a surgeon named Meredith Grey, the daughter of a world-famous general surgeon. The show follows Meredith and her friends as they go from interns to residents to attendings, with lots of drama, relationships, and mass tragedies in between. How Meredith Grey has survived a bomb explosion, near-drowning experience, a mass shooter, a plane crash, the deaths of many friends and family members, and a vicious attack from a patient is beyond me, but hey, all the more power to her. I am not an emotional person and this show had me sobbing multiple times. If you haven’t seen it yet, prepare yourself for an emotional journey. 

The season premiere for season 13 just aired on Thursday and Shonda Rhimes did not fail to bring in the drama and emotions. I was digging my fingernails into my face and my roommate was weeping - the typical responses to watching Grey’s Anatomy. I am looking forward to seeing how the show continues on and let’s hope Meredith Grey will catch a break sometime soon. 


Welcome Back!

Welcome back! Wow, I cannot believe that school is starting again. I feel like I just turned in my last final from this past year!

Ocean City Group
I had an amazing summer and am feeling refreshed and excited to start another school year. As a reminder, I spent the summer in Ocean City, NJ with 100 other college students on a mission trip with Cru, a Christian organization on DePaul’s campus and on campuses around the country.

While in Ocean City, we all got jobs at different places around the island, learned a lot about the
Lord and about ministry, and did a lot of outreach on the boardwalk. I made lifelong friendships and grew a lot - it was an awesome summer!

However, I am now back to reality as school started on Wednesday. It’s my senior year I cannot believe I am almost done with my undergraduate degree! These past three years have gone by so quickly and have been some of the most impactful and fruitful years of my life, and I expect nothing less from my fourth and final year.

This quarter is turning out to be a really busy one18 credits, a paid research position, leadership with Cru, applications for grad school and STINT (yearlong international ministry program with Cru). It’s going to be crazy, but I’m really excited to see all that this year will bring me and what my life will end up looking like. I graduate in 9 months - eek!!

I hope you will continue to read my blog as I write about school, my experiences, and my adventures around Chicago!


PAWS Chicago

Nothing makes me happier than going home and seeing my dogs. My family has three dogs: Oreo and Frisco are Boston Terriers, and Abigail is a Boston Terrier/French Bulldog mix. Dogs are just the best. They are friendly, always happy to see you, loving, and comforting. I went home a couple of weeks ago and got prime cuddling opportunities with my dogs. We have had Oreo since I was eight years old and I definitely am the closest to him. I almost smuggled him back to Chicago in my suitcase.

All my friends know I am obsessed with my dog, Oreo. Who could blame me, though?
Now that summer has come upon us so quickly, all of the dogs seem to be around Lincoln Park. I swear there is one being walked on every city block- which is great for dog lovers like me. I remember one time during my freshman year I ran into a family walking a Boston Terrier and they let me pet it. I felt so much better afterwards – something about dogs just lifts my mood so much.

If you walk a few blocks south of campus, you’ll find this awesome organization called PAWS​, which is committed to building no-kill communities for stray or unwanted dogs and cats. They help spay and neuter cats and dogs and help get them adopted into permanent homes. They even have a giant team each year that runs the Chicago Marathon to raise awareness and funds for their efforts.

Animal lovers rejoice, because PAWS welcomes volunteers! I know a few people who have volunteered at PAWS and love it. Is there a better way to spend time then playing with dogs? I don’t think so. 

Exploring Chicago

One of my favorite things to do in Chicago is explore the different neighborhoods around the city. Did you know there are 77 total neighborhoods? That is a whole lot of places to visit!


Thething I like most about the different neighborhoods is that each neighborhood has its own unique identity and culture. You would get an entirely different experience visiting River North (right near downtown) than you would visiting Lincoln Square (way northwest of the city). Each neighborhood has its own collection of stores, restaurants, and cool places to visit. 


Recently, my good friend Jasmine and I drove to Gold Coast, a very affluent and historic neighborhood right near downtown. We wanted to celebrate the end of the quarter and her graduation (she graduated a quarter early!) and she wanted to go the cafe located inside the Restoration Hardware store​.  I know what you are thinking. A cafe in a Restoration Hardware? That sounds crazy. 


Inside Restoration Hardware in the restaurant -  it was so cool!

You guys, this was one of the most amazing places I have ever been in Chicago. It is four floors of beautifully designed rooms and spaces with an exquisite cafe in the center that has glass ceiling. It was STUNNING. While Jasmine and I waited for our table, we explored the different floors. I had a strong desire to marry someone rich and buy a house and start having babies just so I could afford/buy all of the beautiful furniture in this store. Once we got our table, the food was delicious (unsurprisingly). If you ever get the chance to walk through this store, I highly recommend it. You will never feel so simultaneously amazed and poor in your life, but it is an unforgettable experience. Continue to take advantage of all the cool places this city has to offer!

Springtime in Lincoln Park

I love spring when Chicago seems to blossom again. People are less tentative to wear winter coats and wince when going outside, and are more likely to spend time outdoors and enjoy the wonderful spring weather. Not only are the people blossoming in Chicago, but the flowers and trees are, too. Lincoln Park is beautiful during this time of year. I was lucky enough to have my parents come and visit this past weekend and we certainly enjoyed the great weather.

One of my favorite things to do is head east to the Lincoln Park Zoo and Conservatory​. Both are free and make for a very fun afternoon. My parents and I first went to the zoo and headed straight to our favorite exhibit: the gorillas. They were super active this past weekend and were really entertaining to watch. There was a baby gorilla, too! 

Our other favorite animal to see is the giraffe, which we got a really good view of, as you can see in the picture on the side. It was the perfect day to visit the zoo and now that the weather is steadily improving, you can visit, too!

After the zoo, my mom and I headed over to the Lincoln Park Conservatory. It does not take that long to walk through, but is absolutely beautiful. It is filled with any type of plant, fern, or flower you could imagine. I have friends who will bring homework to the conservatory and sit in the midst of the flowers and study. It is so peaceful.

The conservatory is a great backdrop for photos!
These are only a minuscule amount of the crazy cool and beautiful things we can do in Chicago now that the weather is warming. Make this the time to pack away your winter coat and start exploring the city again!



Summer Foods and Farmers Markets

Have you ever noticed that the food you tend to eat in the winter is a whole lot different than the food you tend to eat in the spring and summer? I definitely have. The frigidness of the winter seems to permeate my entire body and that makes me crave heavy, rich foods. I made many pots of chicken soup and pans or casseroles this winter because they were filling and warmed me up from the inside. My friends and I always seem notice a little extra padding on our bodies once the winter is over because warm, comforting foods usually tend to mean unhealthy foods.  

Once spring and summer hit, I no longer crave these comfort foods, but am excited to go to the store and buy lighter, healthier, more sustaining food. One of my favorite things to make is called a Buddha Bowl, which is described as a “grain-, protein- and vegetable-rich dish.” They are super customizable, meaning you can put almost anything into it and it will most likely turn out delicious! My favorite combo is quinoa​, broccoli, avocado, sweet potato, and spinach. Yum! 

A picture of Green City Market, one of the Farmers Markets in Lincoln Park located just south of the zoo. This picture was taken from their website.
Now that we are (hopefully) nearing summer in Chicago, fresh fruits and vegetables will be available in abundance. There are many Farmers Markets around Chicago, and quite a few in Lincoln Park. The produce and goods at these markets is a bit more expensive than at your typical grocery store, but the freshness and quality is so much better and plus, you are supporting a small business. Let’s hope for a fast-approaching summer! 


Chinatown

One of my best friends, Clay, recently celebrated his 22nd birthday. I was in charge of helping plan his party and when I asked him what he wanted to do, he replied with one word: Chinatown​

Even though I am nearing the final quarter of my third year at DePaul and in Chicago, I had yet to visit Chinatown. It was always a fact that perplexed me because I love visiting those kinds of neighborhoods and my favorite food is Chinese food. Somehow, though, I had never been given the opportunity to make the trip down. I was so happy that Clay decided he wanted to go to Chinatown for his birthday. Celebrating Clay was the perfect excuse to venture to Chinatown!

A cool sign we saw on the main street of Chiantown
If you have never been to Chinatown, I really recommend you go experience it! It was super authentic and beautiful. One of my good friends recently went to China and she said that walking along the main street of Chinatown really made her feel like she was back in China. The food was great, too, which was another perk. We ate at Seven Treasures, which was delicious. I ordered pork chow mein and ate the whole thing - it was so delicious. We ended up having a huge group with us - there was about 25 of us total! Luckily, we could make a reservation and all eat at one place. It was a great night. 

My first visit to Chinatown was definitely a success and I look forward to heading back there soon to try a different restaurant. It was certainly a memorable evening and a great way to celebrate Clay. 


Big Break

Spring break just ended and when faced with what my plans would be, I had a few options. I could have gone back to Ohio and visited family, stayed in Chicago and worked, or gone to Panama City Beach in Florida with Cru ​on a spring break conference called Big Break​. From that list, I think it’s fairly obvious which one I picked. I packed my bags and went to the beach!

Big Break is one of Cru’s​ major conferences throughout the year. There are speakers, a worship band, and lots of bonding with students from all over the country. There is also a big focus on outreach, meaning we get the awesome chance to go around the city and to different places on the beach and talk to people about their faith and spiritual beliefs. I am super looking forward to it and to see all the amazing ways that God will show himself to us throughout the week. I also am looking forward to some much needed sun, sand, and relaxation on a Florida beach! ​

We certainly had quite the drive ahead of us!​
We left for Big Break right after finals end and drove down to Panama City Beach. That’s about a 15-hour drive, which sounds horrible, but was actually fun because we had lots of bonding and fun times with those in the car with us, and we got to drive through so many states and I got to see parts of the country that I have never seen before. Plus, at the end of the drive, the beach awaited us! It was a fun-filled, relaxing spring break and I hope you had a great spring break, too!​
​​​

Gilmore Girls

This past week was pretty bad. School was rough, life was rough. It was just one of those weeks. Something was announced this week, though, that made everything feel better. ​

Netflix is officially reviving Gilmore Girls!

The lovely blue-eyed Gilmore girls
I know that there were rumors of this back in October, but it was not officially confirmed until late this past week. I had refused to get my hopes up because Gilmore Girls is one of my favorite shows. I would have been so bummed if the rumors had proven false! I am convinced that the reason I talk so fast is because Lorelai and Rory also talk fast - Gilmore Girls is one of the quickest, wittiest, fast-paced shows out there. Oy with the poodles already, am I right? 

I grew up watching Gilmore Girls. I grew up in Stars Hollow, following Rory through her Dean vs. Jess vs. Logan stages, figuring out if Lorelai will get together with Luke, watching Emily cycle through her many maids, witnessing the burning of the Independence Inn and the opening of the Dragonfly Inn, and experiencing so many moments and memories with the citizens of Stars Hollow. It is a show that is near and dear to my heart, one that I hope my children will watch one day, and one that I will love forever. 

The release date and length of the revival of Gilmore Girls has not yet been announced, but I sincerely hope the mother/daughter duo from Stars Hollow will grace our presence again in the near future. 


Hakuna Matata

​​​Growing up, The Lion King was my favorite Disney movie. I loved all the songs, Timon and Pumba cracked me up, and I had a major childhood crush on Simba. Imagine my joyful surprise when I learned that The Lion King was also a Broadway musical! The Lion King came to Cleveland the summer before I entered my freshman year at DePaul and you can guess how excited I was. As a special treat, my grandma and I bought tickets to the show. It was my first Broadway show that I had ever seen and it was absolutely amazing.
​​Watch the video below to see a song from ​The Lion King.
Early every fall, I check the Broadway shows are coming to Chicago. So far, I have been lucky enough to win lottery tickets to The Book of Mormon and Motown. Two hours before each show starts, you can enter your name into a lottery to win dirt cheap tickets. It is a great opportunity to see shows that you otherwise would not get to see because of expensive ticket prices. The only downside is that getting a ticket is not guaranteed! When I looked at what shows were coming this season to Broadway, The Lion King was one of them. I was pumped! My goal was to see it again on Broadway.​

When I went and saw it the first time, my grandma and I had seats on the main floor on the aisle, which I think were the best seats to have for this specific show. During the opening number, “The Circle of Life,” a lot of the animals and characters walk down the aisle to the stage. It is one of the coolest things I have ever seen. I knew that if I got tickets to see The Lion King this season, I wanted similar seats. I went out on a limb and asked for The Lion King tickets for Christmas and to my immense surprise, I was blessed enough to get them! The show was this past Thursday, January 14, and it was everything that I imagined it to be. If you ever get the opportunity to see the show, I highly recommend it! You certainly will “feel the love tonight.” ​

Basketball Season Has Begun

The other night was the first Cavs ​game of the season. For those who don’t know, I am from Cleveland, Ohio and am a HUGE basketball fan. Sadly, the NBA championship last year did not end in our favor, but I am so excited to watch the Cavs dominate this year. They better do well - I’ve talked enough trash talk to my friends who root for the Bulls. I am too competitive for my own good!

I am not just a fan of basketball, but have played it since I was in first grade. It was something my father was passionate about and those genes seem to have passed on to me. Basketball is such a fun, exhilarating sport to watch and to play. It is fast-paced, physical, never boring, and something amazing always happens. 

I’ll never forget the games in high school that went into double overtime or games that were won by a lucky half-court shot. I’ve made life-long friends through playing basketball and I am so glad it was such a big part of my life. I don’t play for DePaul, but sometimes will still shoot around or scrimmage with some of my friends, which I think is sometimes more fun than playing super competitively. 

The DePaul Women's 2015-2016 basketball team. Go Blue Demons!
Speaking of competitive basketball, DePaul basketball will be starting soon! The men’s​ first game is on November 7 and is at home, and the women’s ​first game was on November 2 at home, as well. I actually have never seen the men play because the Allstate Arena, where they play, is a hike for a car-less girl like me. The women are super fun to watch and are really talented. If you are on campus during one of their games, I encourage you to get tickets! It is a fun way to spend an afternoon. 

Go DePaul, go Cavs, and go Chardon High School! 


Halloween Costumes

My family has never been big on Halloween. 

I don’t think it is for any particular reason, but my parents never celebrated Halloween that much. Sure, when my sister and I were little we wore costumes and went trick-or-treating, but that stopped as soon as we got a “little too old” for it. We never decorated, never gave out candy, and never viewed it as a big holiday. 

I did love dressing up, though. The two big costumes I remember were Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz​ (I LOVED the red ruby slippers) and Buttercup from PowerPuff Girls​. I took a hiatus through the end of elementary school and middle school, but in high school, my school had costume contests. My favorite costume that I wore in high school was a pun more than a costume. I unwrapped a bunch of Smarties packets and glued the individual candies to an old pair of jeans. I was Smarty Pants! It was the nerdiest, best costume ever. This year, I am dressing up with one of my best friends. We are doing the Mom Jeans sketch from Saturday Night Live​ - again, super punny, super dorky, super awesome.

I will be rocking the Mom jeans this Halloween.
As you can tell, I think clever costumes are much more fun than buying premade ones from a costume store. They’re so much more comfortable, too! I would much rather wear a pair of worn-in thrift store jeans than an itchy, packaged costume. Halloween in Chicago can be celebrated without the stress and pressure of going out. One of my friends is hosting a low-key costume party and I personally am excited to eat some Twix and pose in the classic Mom Jeans position. 

Apple Picking

Fall is upon us! I find it really hard to pick a favorite season because there are wonderful and beautiful parts of every one, but I think that fall is the only season where I love it in its entirety. The weather is wonderful, the trees are beautiful, lazy football-watching Sundays are acceptable, apple and pumpkin-flavored items are in surplus, and sweaters are extra cozy. My friends and I took full advantage of this wonderful season a few weekends ago and drove to an apple orchard in Indiana.

It was such a fun day! The weather perfect: there was not a cloud in the sky and the temperature was not too cold or hot. We went to County Line Orchards, which is only an hour outside the city but it could not have felt more far away. The orchard had apple trees, corn mazes, pumpkin patches, and a big barn that housed all of the food and fall items. The first thing we did when we got there was buy apple cider and apple cinnamon donuts. Yum! We then took a hay ride out to the apple trees where we were able to pick apples fresh off the branches. They were delicious! I am ready to make my apple pie. 

It was so nice to take a trip out of the city for the afternoon. I love Chicago, but I need my nature fix every so often. It was also great to spend some time with my close friends. With the busyness of the quarter, our social lives are often not the top priority, and this time spent with friends in such a beautiful place was much needed. Fall is a wonderful time of the year and I am thankful that I was able to take advantage of the season. 


My Trip to Costa Rica!

I was cleaning my apartment this weekend and found my passport under a large stack of papers. I don’t know what it was doing there because I haven’t used it in almost a year, but I was glad I found it because it allowed me to look at all the stamps inside. I have already written about my trips to Honduras and Ecuador, but I have not shared about my experiences in Costa Rica​.

Kayaking in Lake Arenal
I got the opportunity to go to Costa Rica for ten days with my Spanish class the summer before my senior year of high school. I went with about eighteen people total - students, teachers, and chaperons included. It was such an amazing trip! We visited four different cities: San J​osé​, Arenal, Jacó, and Monteverde. Each city was unique in its own way and was so fun for exploring and adventuring. 
​​
​In San José, we took a couple of day trips to a coffee field, an observatory, and Poás Volcano​ (which last erupted in 2011!). We actually hiked up to the top of the volcano and saw it smoking, which was both awesome and a good leg workout. 

Arenal is famous for its volcano. It is also still active - the last time it erupted was 2010. We did not hike up that one, but went kayaking in the lake that surrounds the volcano. We also hiked to a hidden waterfall and got to swim in it. 

Jacó is a city by the Pacific Ocean. We could not swim in the ocean because of the dangerous riptides, but we took a day trip to a national park where there was a beach. That was my favorite day- the beach was an oasis! It was also inhabited by monkeys who liked to steal our stuff, which was both terrifying and amusing. 

Monteverde was my least favorite city, but not because it was boring. The city was beautiful - nestled in the mountains and lush green. 

The group in front of the Poas Volacano. It was smoking!
We got to explore the rain forest and go zip-lining and horseback riding. It was my least favorite because I was sick the whole time! The bus combined with unpaved, windy, pot-holey, bumpy mountain roads did not do good things on my stomach. I actually am surprised we did not die. There were a few times where the bus had to drive in reverse around a curve by a cliff without a guardrail. Yikes! 

Costa Rica was my first country abroad, so it will always hold a special place in my heart. It is a beautiful, peaceful, safe country filled with the friendliest people. I hope to return someday! Looking back, I can’t believe all we did in ten short days. It was one action-packed trip and so, so much fun.

Treat Yo Self to S'mores in a Mug

Nothing is worse than getting hungry at 1:00am in the midst of a major study session. From my experience, the only food that alleviates the craving is something sweet. At 1:00am, the Student Center is not open anymore and most of the time, I do not want to shell out money for Insomnia Cookies. Thankfully, I found an alternative: dessert in a mug​! Desserts in a mug have taken over Pinterest lately, and for a good reason. They are easy to make, do not require a lot of preparation or ingredients, and make a single serving. I have tried many different recipes, but the one below is one I have wanted to try for a while. The recipe is found on the blog How Sweet It Is. It looks absolutely delicious! Here is the recipe for Chocolate Fudge S’mores Mug Cake.
 
You need:
2-3 tablespoons graham cracker crumbs
3 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (mine was dark cocoa, hence the dark color)
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 ounces milk chocolate (chopped or morsels)
Marshmallow fluff, cream or actual marshmallows
  
Directions:
Combine 3 tablespoons butter and 1 ounce of chocolate in a small bowl, then melt in the microwave for 20-30 seconds. Set aside. In another bowl, combine remaining melted butter with 2-3 tablespoons of graham cracker crumbs and stir until moistened. Press graham crumbs into the bottom of your mug.  

Doesn't this just make your stomach rumble? Again, this picture is taken from the blog How Sweet It Is and all credit should go to the blog's author.
In a bowl, whisk egg, sugar and vanilla until smooth. Add in flour, baking powder, salt and cocoa, and stir until a thick batter forms. Stream in melted butter and chocolate, mixing to combine. Fold in remaining chocolate chips. Add half of the mixture on top of the graham crust, then throw on a scoop of marshmallow fluff/cream or a few marshmallows. Add remaining batter on top, then pop in the microwave for 1 minute and 20 seconds to almost 2 minutes. Remove and top with additional marshmallow if desired. You can pop it back in the microwave for 5-10 seconds to make them melty, or pop them directly under the broiler for about 10 seconds to toast if desired. You can also use a kitchen torch if you have one. Sprinkle with graham crumbs!​

Welcome Back!

​​​​​Hello all and welcome back! I am so excited to be joining DeBlogs for another year and getting the opportunity again to share my thoughts and experiences on this page. I truly am looking forward to this upcoming quarter - I think it will be a great one! Summer break, however, was definitely needed. It was a busy, crazy, but exciting and fun summer! 

This summer, I worked as a nanny for a family with three beautiful, young children. The mom mostly stayed at home with the baby, so the two older boys and I were free to go on many adventures. We visited lots of parks (some with water!) and museums, made homemade ice cream, performed some science experiments, dabbled at potty training (I am now an expert at the potty dance), read many stories, cried many tears, and giggled many laughs. It was a jam-packed, but unforgettable job, and I discovered a new appreciation for motherhood. It is hard work!

My family also took a vacation this summer. We have been going up to Traverse City, MI​ for the past few years and it is becoming our new tradition. We rent a cottage on one of the many lakes and sometimes hitch our boat to the car and bring it, too. The week is spent exploring the many towns surrounding Traverse City, trying new restaurants, and reading and relaxing on the water.
The view from the dock at our cottage. So relaxing!

This year we experienced an unexpected occurrence: we lost power for almost four days! A mega hail and thunder/lightning storm hit where we were staying and knocked a power line down. Because we were located in such a remote area, we were one of the last groups of people to have our power turned back on. It was not the most fun way to spend vacation, but we made do and it certainly was memorable. Bathing and shaving my legs in the lake is a memory I will keep for a long time!

Even though this summer was really busy, it was refreshing and I am excited for the challenges and opportunities this quarter will bring me. Junior year is a big year where I will have to make many big decisions and start figuring out what life after DePaul will look like - yikes! However, I believe that I am ready for whatever this year will throw at me. I hope you all are look forward to this new school year, too.

It's Summer, Baby!

It is the end of another school year. I cannot believe that I am done with finals, that this is my last blog post for the year, and we get three months of summer break! It has been an absolutely crazy year that has gone by so fast. I got an apartment, learned how to live on my own and as an (gulp) adult, became more involved around campus, got a hernia, changed my career path, and learned a lot about myself. Somehow, I came out alive! My sophomore year is over and I am now a junior, an upperclassman. Gosh, so crazy!​

I am excited for this summer and I already know it will be a busy one. Hopefully, it will not fly by as quickly as this school year did. I have a full-time nannying job for three sweet children, which will keep me on my toes and surround me with lots of love. I have to go back to Ohio a couple of times for a few family graduation parties and I am looking forward to seeing lots of extended family and friends. My aunt, uncle, and two of my cousins are coming out to the city over the Fourth of July weekend, so it will be very nice to spend time with them as I do not get to see them very often. My family is also taking a vacation up to Traverse City, which is one of my favorite places on Earth. We have gone there for the past few years and it is such a beautiful area. Northern Michigan is the best. We always rent a house on one of the many lakes and this year, we are planning on hitching our boat to the back of the car and pulling it up to Michigan. I am really excited for a week of relaxation, beach, and sun. ​

One of our first trips up to Traverse City feat. Momma Fisher. Isn't the water beautiful?
I also want to get some peace out of this summer. This past school year was great, but really stressful, and I already am anticipating a busy, jam-packed summer. I want to take the time to find sweet, quiet moments where I can read a book or go on a walk, spend time with my friends, cook dinner for myself, and just soak up the beauty of Chicago before school begins again in September. I want to take care of myself this summer so I can begin the next school year healthy, happy, relaxed, and with the motivation and drive to do amazing things. I already finished a book the day after my last final, so it looks like I am already off to a good start. 

It has been such a pleasure sharing pieces of my life with you all this past year, and I look forward to doing it again next year, as well. Happy summer! 

Graduation Season

Graduation season is upon us! I feel like every time I log into Facebook, there are new pictures of high school and college graduates and their families. I remember how fun my own high school graduation was. It was a sunny, warm day outside, my friends were all graduating alongside me, and my family was there to support me. I was valedictorian​, so I got to speak at the ceremony, which was a huge honor. Afterwards, my family and I went out to dinner to celebrate (hello, Cheesecake Factory!). Overall, I had a beautiful day and am excited to see other graduates enjoying their days, as well.

This year is a special one because my sister and two cousins are graduating high school. I feel so old! My one cousin goes to school in North Carolina, but my other one and my sister both go to Chardon​ High School, the same one I graduated from. The ceremony is this weekend and I am excited to go home and see them and celebrate their successes! I have not been home this entire quarter, so this will be an extra special and fun weekend. I am staying in the city this summer to work, but I get to go home for both of their parties, which will also be a great time. Margaret, my sister, will go to Kent State University next fall while my cousin Emma will go to the Ohio State University. OH-IO! 
My sister, Margaret, and me on my graduation day. This year, she will be the one in the cap and gown!

I also have many friends this year graduating from DePaul. There are seven, which seems like so many! It is wonderful to see all of their hard work paying off and it makes me excited for my next two years of school. They are all going off in different directions, which makes me sad, but I know they have been blessed with different gifts and talents and will do amazing things. Even though graduation season is bitter sweet, it also means so many happy times, too. Congratulations to the Class of 2015! All of you will do wonderful things. 

My Favorite Movies

Last week, I discussed my all-time favorite books and why they are so special. Reading is the best! What is also the best, though, are movies. There are so many good ones out there. Even ones in the same genre can be vastly different. Personally, I am not a picky movie goer. I will watch almost anything. I do, however, have favorite movies and I have listed them below.​

•  The Sound of Music​. Who doesn’t know this movie about edelweiss, nuns, seven children, a widowed sea captain, and favorite things? Julie Andrews is the seriously the best and her voice will give you chills. I have grown up watching and loving this movie and know that I will someday show this timeless classic to my own children.​ 

The hills are alive with the sound of music!
•  The Amazing Spider-Man​. Between Toby McGuire and Andrew Garfield, I find Andrew Garfield to be the vastly superior Spider-Man. He’s funnier, a better actor, and his chemistry with Emma Stone is much better than McGuire’s with Kirsten Dunst. I am a big fan of superhero movies and Marvel, and even though Spider-Man is not part of the Avengers, I like him the best. 

•  She’s the Man​. You would think that Amanda Bynes cross-dressing as her brother to play soccer and befriending/crushing on Channing Tatum, her roommate, would make for a weird movie. And you would be right. However, it is a weird movie that is also funny, great, and whose cast includes David Cross. This is another movie that almost everyone has seen, but it’s still a great one nonetheless. 

•  Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story​. "If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball." This is one of the more famous quotes from this crass, silly, hysterical movie that includes Ben Stiller in a unitard. My father first showed me this movie when I was far too young to watch it, but it has remained a staple in our family ever since.

I certainly have a few other favorites, including The Prince of Egypt​, Juno​, About Time​, The Hunger Games​, Harry Potter​, and Les Miserables​. I am in no way, shape, or form a movie critic or reviewer, so excuse the poor summaries. Anyway, go put in a good movie, pop some popcorn, and enjoy!

My Favorite Books

As I have posted before, I love to read. It is my favorite pastime. Unfortunately, it is one of the first things to go on the backburner when life gets busy. As much I want to, I cannot justify reading a book for fun when I have got 60 pages to read for another class. However, now that we are nearing on summer break, I will get to indulge in a good book as much as I want, especially when my family goes on our vacation up to Traverse City, MI. I am sure I will bring many new books, but there are the few that have stuck with me throughout time and remain my favorites. I have listed them below, along with a brief plot summary.

•    A Thousand Splendid Suns​ by Khaled Hosseini​. This book tells the stories of Mariam and Laila, two women born a generation apart in Afghanistan. Their lives in Kabul span from the monarchy rule to the communist reign to the Taliban terror. Mariam and Laila form a strong bond that ties them together throughout the dangers around them- both in their home and in Kabul. The book illustrates how the women’s love and commitment to each other and their children transform their lives. 

•    To Kill A Mockingbird​ by Harper Lee​. This classic takes place in rural Alabama during the Great Depression. Lee tells the story of the Finches: young Scout, her older brother Jem, and their father Atticus. Throughout a span of three years, we read of Scout and Jem’s new friend Dill, their attempts to sneak a peek at the town bogeyman named Boo Radley, and the long trial of Tom Robinson, a black man accused of raping a white woman who is defended by Atticus, a lawyer. By viewing these events from 8-year-old Scout’s eyes, we get a unique perspective at the issues of race, class, justice, prejudice, and growing up.

•    Me Before You by Jojo Moyes​. Louisa Clark is an ordinary girl living in a small town in England when
she takes a much needed job caring for Will Traynor, a paraplegic. Before his accident, Will was young, successful, a traveler, and into extreme sports. Now, he is still young and attractive, but is moody, bossy, and depressed. When Louisa refuses to treat him like a victim and shows him that he still has a life worth living, an interesting, fateful relationship blossoms that leads to a heartbreaking ending. 

I have many more favorites, including Harry Potter​ (I did not think that I needed to summarize those!), but these definitely make my top five list. I hope you find the time to dive into a good book this summer! Even if you do not get to go on vacation, a book will take you somewhere new.

Taking the Opportunity to Study Abroad

A beautiful little guy I met at the clinic in Honduras
Studying abroad in college is always something I have wanted to do. It is such the perfect time to do it and usually, you get course credits for doing so. So far, I have not studied abroad, but I have gotten the opportunity to travel outside the country with different organizations on campus and gosh, it just makes me want to travel so much more! I went on a medical brigade to Honduras with Global Brigades in the December of my freshman year and we set up a temporary clinic to give medical treatment to the rural Honduran people. Then, this past December, I traveled to Ecuador with Cru and we went on a few of the college campuses in Guayaquil and shared and talked with the students.  

Both of these trips were amazing experiences. My worldview has widely expanded as I was able to see how people outside of the United States live. The Hondurans and Ecuadorians were so loving and thankful for all they had, even if it was not much. It certainly made me think about how blessed I am back in America and how it is so silly that we let money and objects define and fuel our lives. I made friends in Ecuador who I still talk to today and they keep me grounded and remind me of what is really important. Both of these trips have changed my life and as I think about my schedule for my upcoming junior year, I think it is the perfect time to study abroad.

I have always wanted to study abroad somewhere in Europe and considering that I am a Spanish minor, preferably Spain. It is a gorgeous country rich in history, culture, and good food. I have a few friends who are studying in Spain and their pictures are amazing. Plus, they can easily leave and spend the weekend in Paris or Morocco or Switzerland. Casual, right? How cool would that be? However, to my surprise, the DePaul program that has stood out to me the most is the study abroad trip to Mérida in Mexico. It is during next year’s winter quarter (goodbye Chicago winter, hello Mexico), I would finish the requirements for my minor, and I would experience so many cool things throughout the ten weeks I would be there. I currently am in the process of applying, and I pray it works out! It is an amazing opportunity and would be a wonderful experience. Once you begin traveling, you never want to stop!

Theater in Chicago

I am one of the least musically talented people to exist. I mean, I can sort of play the piano (I used to take lessons) and I can semi-carry a tune, but make me do those things in front of a crowd and I will most certainly get booed out. I’m sure my neighbors don’t appreciate my (loud) shower voice. Hey, I try my best. I do, however, have a lot of musically talented friends, which makes me feel vastly inferior. To name a few, I have one friend who is an opera major at DePaul, one who was admitted to the Chicago College of Performing Arts, and one who is in The Theatre School at DePaul. Even though I have no talent in that area, I have grown up with friends who do have talent and who have been in many shows and performances. I think these wonderfully talented friends are the reason that I have such an appreciation and awe for theater and people who can sing and act so fantastically. 

My grandmother and I have made it a tradition to go see a show in downtown Cleveland every summer. We leave extra early and have dinner at one of the restaurants in Little Italy and then grab dessert at this lovely little place called Presti’s Bakery. I get a chocolate-covered cannoli and she gets a chocolate
Grandma Shirley and I after seeing The Lion King.

macaroon, every time, and goodness, are they delicious. Then, we drive on over to Playhouse Square and enjoy watching people vastly more talented than us. So far, we have seen The Lion King and Million Dollar Quartet. Side note- if you ever get that chance to see The Lion King on Broadway, DO IT. It is an indescribably beautiful experience and my absolute favorite show to date. Watch the opening number that was performed at the 2008 Tony Awards and see how superier the show is. 

Coming to Chicago, I was excited that I would get the chance to see many more shows. Last May, two of my friends came out to Chicago for the weekend and we got rush tickets to see Motown, which was amazing. All the songs were popular ones from the Motown music era of the 1960’s, so it was really fun to recognize a lot of them and see them performed so well. Later that May, two different friends came out at we saw The Sound of Music at the Lyric Opera House. We had seats that were really high up, but the opera house was built so that the higher up the seat is, the better the acoustics are. Gosh, it was beautiful. 

This year, my best friend, Lauren, and I are trying to get lottery tickets to see The Book of Mormon. I have heard from many people how funny and great the show is, so we are excited to hopefully get tickets. I highly recommend taking advantage of all the opportunities in Chicago to see performances. There certainly are other venues to see shows besides the expensive ones downtown. I believe it truly highlights the amazing gifts that we have all been given. Some people are gifted at science, some at journalism, but the ones in theater definitely have the gift of music.


Springtime in Chicago

Now that spring break is over, it is time to get into the swing of school again. Spring quarter has begun, and only 10 weeks stand in the way of summer! That somehow makes the quarter seem a lot more manageable. Spring quarter is infinitely better than winter quarter, not just because of the lack of snow and bitter winds, but because there is so much to do around Chicago. Now that the weather is improving, I have actual motivation to leave my apartment and explore the city. It is amazing how much warm breezes and sunshine make the soul happy. Below I have listed some of the must-do activities that take place this spring in our newly awakened city.

•    The beach. Chicago has miles of beautiful lakefront to explore. Thankfully, most of the lakefront also has beach access​. I’ve been to the Fullerton beach and North Avenue beach, but I know there are many other amazing ones. And what better place to lie in the sand than with the city view in the background? 

•    Enjoy the parks. Chicago is full of beautiful parks: Lincoln Park, Oz Park​, Millennium Park​, Grant Park​, the Maggie Daley Park​…I could keep going. Now that the weather is improving, take advantage of it and go outside! I love reading a good book and people watching, but you could hang out with friends, do homework, have a picnic…again, the opportunities are endless!

The highlight of Millennium Park: The Bean!
•    Take advantage of random events. Just on Facebook this past week, I have seen event pages made for a ginormous book swap in Old Town, a vintage garage sale off the Argyle red line stop, and a massive kite flying festival on Montrose Beach. These types of events are the really cool, memorable ones. They are unique, interesting, and bound to make a fun impact on your day. 

•    Ice cream. Ice cream is the essence of summer, but why wait until then to enjoy? Chicago has a bunch of delicious ice cream places: Annette’s, Jeni’s​, Ghirardelli, Oberweis, Margie’s Candies​…there is even a neighborhood guide to the best ice cream places in Chicago. Go get yourself a big ole’ cone and indulge in some creamy goodness!

Chicago is obviously full of many more wonderful outdoor activities to try now that the weather is improving, but these are the ones that I am the most excited for. It is an amazing time of the year- don’t waste it!


Whole Foods

Almost a month ago, DePaul received a gift: a Whole Foods​. And boy, it is a wonderful gift. We were in desperate need of a grocery store. Going shopping was becoming a chore. I did not mind walking the 0.7 miles (yes, I mapped it) to the Trader Joe’s/Aldi combo on Clybourn Avenue or even taking the Fullerton bus to Jewel Osco. But after buying a huge cartload of groceries, was I really going to lug all those bags back? Heck, no. I almost always took a taxi back to my apartment and let me tell you, that was becoming an unnecessary expense. So, imagine my excitement when Whole Foods opened a mere two blocks away from my apartment. Exciting stuff, guys!

When I first heard last year that a Whole Foods was coming, I was less than enthused. An overpriced, health nut grocery store? No, thank you. However, I have had some health issues these past few months that have required me to change my diet. Guess what store was the best place to shop at? That’s right, Whole Foods. My original impression of Whole Foods certainly was wrong.  I had to trek out to the Whole Foods by North and Clybourn, but this one is so much more convenient. 

The view looking out to DePaul from the top window of Whole Foods
Yes, Whole Foods is a little expensive. But I have realized I am paying a little more for food that is a lot fresher and better tasting. The produce section at Whole Foods is amazing and the quality of the produce is way higher than other grocery stores that I have been to. Every time I go to Whole Foods I stumble upon a food item that I have never heard of or tried before, and it definitely is widening my taste bud horizon. Also, their prepared food section is incredible. They have a wide variety of hot foods, soups, salads, sandwiches, desserts, and sushi that taste really good and are so convenient. I have stopped at Whole Foods numerous times to grab a quick lunch or dinner and the great thing is that I know exactly what I am putting into my body. Whole Foods has been a superb addition to Lincoln Park and the DePaul community and I know it will be widely visited and praised. ​

Staying Warm in Chiberia

It is common knowledge that Chicago winters are brutal. We are not nicknamed “The Windy City” for nothing. While winter is characteristically thought of as only a three month long season, in Chicago, we enter almost six months of blustery, frigid weather. I have been told by many people that I should not complain about the weather because by going to DePaul, I somehow consented to the horrible weather we get every year. Sure, in some sense that may be true, but there is a very drastic difference between talking about -30ºF wind chills and experiencing -30ºF wind chills. Experiencing the weather is 10x worse, but as Chicagoans and DePaulians, we have to know how to handle it. Below are my tips for staying warm.

•    Invest in a great coat. When I came to DePaul as a freshman, I brought a normal winter coat. It was a little puffy and had a hood. After only experiencing Chiberia for a week, my kind mother sent me a new coat that went almost down to my knees. It helped, but still, the winds were too strong. This year for Christmas I got a huge, puffy coat that goes down to my ankles. It makes me look like an eskimo, but it is glorious and warm. 

•    Seriously, bundle up. This goes beyond having a great coat. A hat, scarf, and thick gloves are necessary. Brave one day without them and I promise, you will agree with me. Sure, you may look a bit silly, but that silliness is worth not having to be painful and numb for half of your class. Also, a good pair of snow boots are useful. DePaul does a great job of shoveling the sidewalks, but not a lot of other places do. I always shake my head at the poor soul who is wearing Toms when there is 10 inches of snow on the ground.

•    Drink warm beverages. Always have a mug of your beverage of choice at your disposal. I am not a coffee fan, but tea and hot chocolate never fail to warm my insides. It gets so cold out that you can actually feel the drink traversing your esophagus and warming up everything it touches. It is a wonderful thing. My go-to places to get that feeling are: Starbucks (there are three within two blocks of campus), the Bourgeois Pig (a cute, book-themed café), and Mindy’s Hot Chocolate (a bit far from DePaul, but just look at that menu).

Obviously, even with these tips, you may still be freezing. Spring and summer in Chicago are worth the agony we experience every winter, I promise. Do not let these winters deter you from Chicago! You will become a true fighter and Chicagoan. 


Lincoln Park

Chicago is divided into numerous neighborhoods, each with its own personality and experience. DePaul University is located in Lincoln Park (LP), which is one of Chicago’s best neighborhoods, in my opinion. One of the reasons I have loved my experience at DePaul so far is because the school is located in LP. It is far enough away from downtown that life is a little more relaxing, but close enough that it only takes ten minutes on the red line to get into the heart of Chicago. LP is full of restaurants, beautiful homes, numerous parks, a zoo, and is less than a mile away from Lake Michigan. Here are some of the best assets and excursions that Lincoln Park has to offer:

•    The Zoo: The Lincoln Park Zoo is awesome. It is open year-round and has free admission. It is not huge, but every time I have been there I have had a great time. The monkey, lions, and giraffes are my favorite exhibits to see. The coolest part of LP Zoo is the events it holds. In the summer, it has movie nights on the main lawn. Last summer, my friends and I went and saw Harry Potter. During the winter, it is decorated beautifully with a light show and there also is an ice skating rink. The LP Zoo is definitely a place to check out. 

•    Oz Park: Right in the heart of LP is Oz Park, named so because of the statues of Wizard of Oz characters spread throughout the park. The park has baseball diamonds, basketball and tennis courts, a playground, and lots of paths to explore. It is the perfect place to read a book on a lazy Saturday afternoon.

The Scarecrow at Oz Park
•    Homeslice: Homeslice is a pizza place a block away from DePaul’s campus. The pizza is delicious, with lots of options to choose from. The best thing about Homeslice is its patio out back. It has heated lamps, cushions, couches, and Christmas lights [Editor’s note: A really cute French bulldog named Gary also lives there!] It is a really cool environment to enjoy some really good food. 

•    The houses: LP is full of amazing architecture. Some of the houses and apartments in LP are insanely beautiful (and expensive). I once walked past a house that was built on six lots, was fully gated, and had actual gargoyles built into the house. It is worth it to take a walk around LP and see some of these incredible places. 

•    Annette’s: Hands down, the best ice cream ever. Annette’s is a tiny ice cream shop in LP that never disappoints. Owned by Annette, who is almost always working every time I have been there, the shop not only sells ice cream in almost every flavor imaginable, but also homemade Italian Ice. I am more of an ice cream girl myself, but I have heard the Italian Ice is really good. I tell myself that I go to Annette’s so often in order to support a local business, but truthfully, it is just to eat a scoop of peanut butter cookie dough. 

There is so much more to do and see in LP than what I have listed. Come check out Lincoln Park and see what is has to offer. 

Lessons I Haved Learned as a Bibliophile

Ever since I learned how, reading has been a pastime to which I have been avidly devoted. Now, as a college student living a hectic life, my free time has diminished, as has my time to read. Even when I am consumed with homework and extracurriculars, I still remember the feeling that washes over me when a memorable book ends: sad, a little satisfied, but mostly like I’m awakening from a dream. In that dream I have traveled to California along Route 66 with the Joad’s, defeated Voldemort with Harry, Ron, and Hermione, felt the harsh racism of the south with Scout, and flown a kite with Hassan and Amir. I have battled the Capital with Katniss, written stories with Skeeter, solved a forty-year old murder with Mikael and Lisbeth, and married a Native American chief with Mary Dodd. I have visited the Inkworld with Meggie, performed in a circus with Jacob and Marlena, flown through worlds with Peter Pan, and helped Liesel hide Max from the Nazis. The beautiful stories I have read continue to teach me valuable lessons that I adhere to each day. 

College presents us with countless opportunities that seem overwhelming and difficult. It is hard to choose a major, make new friends, and live alone in the third largest city in the country. Dr. Seuss addresses this in his book Oh, the Places You’ll Go! : “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You're on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who'll decide where to go.” For an author of children’s books, Dr. Seuss is pretty wise. As adults, we have the choice to make our life what we want and live in a way that makes us happy. The unnamed narrator in the book asks his readers a vital question: "Will you succeed? Yes, you will indeed (98¾% guaranteed)." College is challenging, but with courage, confidence, and faith, it can easily become an exciting journey, and the best time of our lives.

 J.K. Rowling also shows awareness of how valuable our choices are with her creation of Albus Dumbledore. In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Dumbledore says, “It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” Rowling created a profound man with wise insight into good and evil, morality, and human spirit. This quote is one of my favorites that Dumbledore says, as it is applicable to not only the Wizarding World but to our world as college students. 

As a child, I always walked around with a book in my nose, so much so that I would run into walls and doors. My mom would get frustrated at me for how much I asked to go to the library. I eagerly awaited the Scholastic Book Fair at school. The librarians in my hometown know me by name. I give a lot of credit to the books I have read for forming the person I am today and for the decisions I have made. An author named William Feather​ once said, “Books open your mind, broaden your mind, and strengthen you as nothing else can.” Books unleash new worlds and dreams and blissful memories. It would be impossible for me to list every book I’ve ever read, but each book, even if I don’t remember it, has given me immeasurable and irreplaceable wisdom. My life would be meaningless and would have turned out quite differently if I did not have books. 

Of all the books I have read, these will forever be my favorite.


Why I Changed My Major

If you were to ask me when I was a little girl what I wanted to be when I grew up, you would have gotten a stereotypical answer like a teacher, or a singer, or an actress. If you were to ask me between the times of middle school and last week, I would have said a doctor. Now, I would not be able to give you a concrete answer.

I have been set on going to medical school and becoming a doctor for almost ten years now. It is something that I was very passionate about. I think, however, I was naïve about the process that it takes to become a doctor. Beginning this year, I began to realize just exactly how long I would be in school and how hard it would be, and it filled me with a sense of dread. School wasn’t fun anymore, I was stressed, and the thought of my future began to affect my mood and health. 

Go explore and enjoy this marvelous city!
This is not what I wanted my college experience to be like. So many people have told me that the four years of college are the best four years of your life. For me, it was beginning to turn into the worst four years. Therefore, I decided to take control of my life and change my plan. I dropped out of the accelerated path and changed my concentration from pre-med to a more general concentration. I still am a Health Sciences major​ because I still want to do something in the health field, I think. However, I now have room in my schedule to study abroad, take crazy electives, minor in Spanish, and explore and discover what I want my life to be like. 

I already feel so much better! I have so much more freedom and a lot of paths for my future have opened up. I for one am excited to see where I am taken. It is difficult for me to do something like this because I am a person who thrives and lives for a concrete plan. I don't have one anymore, but it is for a very good reason. College is such a fun time, and it is useless to spend so much time, energy, and money on something that you don’t enjoy or aren’t passionate about. Whether you are an art major, a chemistry major, or a business major, enjoy yourself! DePaul and Chicago are the perfect places to discover so much.  

Beating Those Winter Blues

Chicago has a long-term relationship with disgusting weather. Now, granted, this winter’s weather is an immense improvement from last year. We have yet to reach -50ºF wind chills, thank goodness. However, this dreary, cloudy, overcast weather is quite a bummer. It makes doing even the simplest tasks a trial and severely diminishes the motivation and work ethic of all. This is not my first year dealing with such foul weather. Last year, Chicago became a Polar Vortex for four months, and I am from Chardon, Ohio, the snowbelt of northeast Ohio. Regardless, no amount of experience with nasty weather prepares you for the dull and dismal sensation of winter. 

I have developed a couple of tricks that help deal with the overwhelming blanket of grayness that comes with a Chicago winter. They will not make winter go away, but hopefully they will make the sun appear to shine more frequently! 
The Snowpocalypse of 2011. Let's pray this doesn't happen in the near future!

•    Get enough sleep! Sleep is essential anytime of the year, but when the gray skies threaten to make everyone drowsy, a base of good slumber can never hurt.
•    Find a good playlist. Music defeats the blues anytime, anywhere. An upbeat, catchy accumulation of songs will make it seem like a party in July.
•    Treat Yo’ Self. The quote taken from the wonderful show Parks and Recreation reminds us that there is nothing wrong with splurging on a special thing every now and then. Whether that is a massage or a pedicure, the treat will feel extra special in this dreary weather.
•    Watch Netflix. Yes, that’s right. I am saying that it is alright to watch a movie or binge watch a new TV show. This is not something that should be done frequently, but sometimes, a mindless activity like Netflix-ing is all that is needed to give your mood a boost. 
•    Surround yourself with loved ones. Whether it is friends or family, loving faces are sometimes all that is needed to improve your mood. Having a movie night, going out to dinner, or busting a rib from laughing are all phenomenal ways to spend time with those who matter the most. 

Everyone has different tricks to help them cope with winter, but these are some of the ones that I find work pretty well. Winter is a very long season in Chicago, but hopefully, it will be springtime before we know it!

Banter about Bucket Lists

I don’t watch that much television. It is not because I dislike it; I just don’t have the time. However, there are a few shows that I follow: Parenthood, Parks and Recreation, and Bones. All three are very different from each other, so I get nice a taste of drama, comedy, and crime. Because I am so busy during the quarter, breaks are times where I get caught up to the episodes I have missed. I recently have gotten into watching old episodes of Bones (thanks Netflix). 

I was re-watching an episode the other day and one of the topics the episode tackled was having a Bucket List. A Things-I-Want-To-Do-Before-I-Die List. It made me think: what are the things I want to do before I die? This is a very loaded question because there are a multitude of facets that merge to create our lives. That means that within those facets, there can be copious wishes and desires. That makes for a very long and diverse list! There are familial goals: get married, have babies, be loved. Travel goals: see the Yi Peng (Festival of Lights in Thailand), the aurora borealis, the Swiss Alps. Adventurous goals: ride an elephant, float in a hot-air balloon, go snorkeling by the coral reefs. There are career goals, faith goals, school goals, personal goals, and so many other categories.

Yi Peng: The Festival of Lights and one of the items on my Bucket List
After I finished the episode, I became excited to make my list. I am not the type to journal or write creatively, so making a list like this was something I normally would not do and I was surprised that I was so excited to make one. That got me thinking. Is this type of list good to have? Or is it harmful? It is wonderful to have goals, dreams, and aspirations. It is necessary because it gives us something to work towards and be excited about. However, I think creating a Bucket List makes us yearn for the idealistic life and dislike the one we have. Have goals, but live in the moment! Appreciate the everyday occurrences, the sweet moments we have with friends and family, and the seemingly trivial accomplishments. Sure, visiting another country or seeing a famous monument is amazing, but it is the small memories that will accumulate and define our lives. It is becoming quite apparent in today’s society that life is short. Dream to see the big things, but want to experience the small moments.

My Ecuadorian Trip

It is difficult to write one blog post about winter break, as six weeks is a lot to cram into five paragraphs. It was six weeks full of travel, family, relaxation, and celebration. One of the activities that occupied my winter break was a trip to Guayaquil, Ecuador. I went with Cru, one of the organizations on campus that I am actively involved. A group of 13 went, comprised of college students, adults, and high schoolers. We went for a week.

In Guayaquil, we went to three college campuses and talked to their students. I have studied Spanish for the past six years, and it was super cool to be able to use it. It is amazing how different the Ecuadorian culture is from that of America. People in the States are much more time and money-oriented. Those two things fuel our society. In Ecuador, relationships are cherished. It was a wonderful change of pace and truthfully, it was weird coming back to the United States. Going abroad makes you realize how the American way is not always the best way. 

We went to the three universities during the week- ESPOL, Católica, and La Universidad de Guayaquil-, and then on the weekend, we took a bus for about seven hours to a small town called Baños which is tucked in a valley in the mountains. That was definitely an interesting trip. I don’t know if the highlight was roasting in a 95ºF bus or almost being left behind at a random bus station. Imagine a gringo (the Spanish term for a white person) in Birkenstocks sprinting after the moving bus- it was quite the spectacle. 

Once in Baños, we unleashed our adventurous sides. First, we went canyoning, which is repelling down waterfalls. That was definitely intense. We donned wetsuits and harnesses and scaled down these massive waterfalls, with a rope being the only thing preventing our untimely deaths. It was terrifying while I was doing it, but now, it is an amazing memory. After canyoning, we went zip lining, which was beautiful. We sped along over these wide open valleys and rivers. I wish I was able to take a camera. Finally, the last thing we did was take turns on The Swing at the Edge of the Earth, which is a swing attached to tree house that soars over a ginormous valley. It was incredible. There is a picture below, as it is impossible to describe. 
 
The Swing at the Edge of the Earth. Don't look down!
The entire trip was such a blessing. The weather was warm and sunny and it was a great escape from the stress of school and the impending Chicago winter. I had the best time and am so happy I went. I urge anyone who even thinks they want to travel to do so! I know once medical school starts I will have zero time to even think of traveling, and I’m sure other people who are planning on going to grad school or start working after graduation are in the same boat. Life is short and the Earth is so big! Explore it and fall in love with it- I know I have.

Apartment Life

I lived in the dorms my freshmen year (Go Monroe!) and even though I had a good experience, I decided to live in an apartment my sophomore year. I lucked out by finding a teeny studio apartment a block away from campus. The location is so fantastic. As I was planning to live alone, I was quite excited to have a kitchen, bathroom, and the choice of how to decorate all to myself.

I definitely had a picture of how my life was going to be in my apartment, which my friends and I aptly refer to as the Fishbowl (a Fish[er] lives in a Fishbowl...get it? Give me this one bad pun, you guys). I thought I would be cooking meals for myself every night, that there would never be a dirty dish in the sink, and my place would be clutter-free, vacuumed, dusted, and spotless every day. Oh boy was I wrong! If I had no classes or responsibilities I’m sure my expectations would be fulfilled, but it’s crazy how life gets in the way of even the tiniest tasks like doing laundry.

Now, I’m not saying that my apartment is a pigsty. I am not a dirty person. I’m just saying that there are moments, and everyone has them, where I can be a bit messy. And I’ve discovered it is definitely not the end of the world. The dishes eventually get done (Can we get an AMEN for paper plates?), I’ve gotten quite speedy at vacuuming, and I’ve discovered a few go-to meals that take 15 minutes at the most to make.

Even though my life in the Fishbowl isn’t what I totally expected, it is still a joy. Every time I walk through my front door I am greeted with the personal touches that scream “Sarah,” and that leads to a peaceful, happy, cozy life in Château Bissell.

Nothing better than Christmas lights and a map of our great city


Baking Extraordinaire

I love to bake. I am really good at it, too. Cooking is wonderful, but nothing beats pulling a sweet, warm dessert out of the oven.

The first time I ever remember baking, my mom let me make sugar cookies by myself. All was going well until I could not find any eggs in the fridge. I did, however, spot some Southwestern-flavored Egg Beaters. I thought that if I picked out the peppers they would be a fine substitute. As you can imagine, I was quite wrong. I promise my skills have improved since then!

My favorite recipe to bake (and probably the best) is chocolate chip banana coffee cake. Oooohhh boy is it good. It is so good that it is the treat all my friends and family request. It is the golden recipe. The cake-y bread, the melted chocolate chips, the crunchy cinnamon-sugar topping…my stomach is grumbling. The most adventurous thing I have made, though, was a Seven-Layer S’mores Cake for my best friend’s birthday.

You guys, this cake was RIDICULOUS. The layers were: brownie, chocolate chip cookie, cheesecake, and graham crackers, all combined with marshmallow frosting and chocolate frosting. And, I made everything completely from scratch. It took me probably five or six hours because everything had to bake and cool and then the pans had to be washed so I could reuse them for the next layer…you get the picture. Another thing you should know about me is that I am the messiest, most haphazard baker. My mom refuses to come into the kitchen while I am experimenting with a new recipe. Something almost always explodes, leaks, overflows, or is dropped, whether it be the food processor or flour or batter. Who cares what the process looks like if the final product is delicious, though, am I right? When I finished the cake and brought it over to my friend’s, her dad told me I should drop the dream of becoming a doctor and enroll in culinary school. That was one successful cake! Here is the cake’s recipe. Enjoy looking at the pictures and if you have a go at the recipe, good luck!

This is one of the pictures from the blog where I got the recipe. All credit, of course, goes to Fat Girl Trapped In a Skinny Body.



Visiting Home

​The first week in October, I was blessed with the opportunity to go home. I’m from a small town in Northeast Ohio called Chardon that is about seven hours away from Chicago, so I do not get to visit that often. In fact, last year I did not go home at all except for breaks. In a way, not being close to home is a good thing because I do not get super homesick or behind on homework, but lately I have definitely missed Chardon and my family.

Chardon, like I said, is a small town. We are 15 minutes away from Lake Erie, 20 minutes from Amish Country, an hour from Cleveland. We are known for maple syrup and snow. Chardon is absolutely beautiful in the fall, so I was glad I got to go home when I did. Every year, my parents host a giant Fish Fry. My family has a boat, so my dad and his friends go out on Lake Erie and up on Lake Chautauqua in New York and catch a huge amount of fish. At the Fish Fry, the fish gets cooked and about 120 people come over for a celebration of fall, football, fish, fire, and friends. It is a super fun evening and I was so happy to attend this year as I was unable to last year. Tradition is very important to me, and the Fish Fry is an annual Fisher event. 

I got to see my dogs that weekend, too, which was amazing. My dogs are my favorite things on this planet and cuddling them makes everything seem right! My flights got messed up from Chicago to Cleveland, so I ended up only getting a few hours of sleep on the Friday morning I went home and had to leave to get to Midway at 4:00 AM. Needless to say, getting home away from the chilly fall air and snuggling under a blanket for a nap with my dogs was the perfect remedy for a stressful couple days and an incentive to get through the rest of the quarter.

Me and one of my dogs, Oreo.