Life

It’s World Environment Day

We are so incredibly blessed to call Earth our home. I’m glad that more people are becoming aware of the issue of climate change, but awareness isn’t enough. There are more things we can do to help conserve and appreciate our environment. Here are some of the things I do to minimize the negative impact I have on the environment:

Thrift

  • Over the past year I have tried to stop myself from buying clothes from “fast fashion” stores such as Forever 21, H&M, and Zara. Besides the terrible conditions that the foreign manufacturing workers are forced to deal with, fast fashion products are not sustainable. Every season, factories mass produce cheap clothing items for new fashion trends. Anything that doesn’t sell after each season gets thrown out and piles up in our landfills. It’s hard to avoid getting swept up by every new trend, but the effect these trends have on our environment is the bigger issue. In order to stop supporting fast fashion, I started to thrift more at local resale shops, Goodwill, and Savers. Thrifting not only gives wearable clothes a second chance, but it’s also super fun to walk into a store and not know what you’re going to find.
  • If you want to learn more about fast fashion I highly recommend checking out the documentary, The True Cost (on Netflix).

Visit National Parks

  • When I pay to go to parks, it’s almost always a National Park. I think it’s important to support our National Parks in every way that we can. Over the past year I have visited the Grand Canyon, the Sequoia Forest, and many other state parks and beaches. Visiting these places not only helps fund the protection and maintenance of the parks but it also gives you a greater appreciation of Earth and its natural beauty.
  • Some other parks on my bucket list are: Yosemite National Park, Zion National Park,  Big Bend National Park, and Joshua Tree National Park.

Public transit and carpooling

  • Going to the city is one of my favorite things to do and I’m lucky to be near public transit that will take me there. Instead of driving to the city every time, I choose to ride the train. Utilize the resources that are already available to you. Besides, trains and carpooling are more fun anyway.

Being a Vegan

  • I wrote a few posts about veganism, but I’m not kidding when I say that the animal industry is a huge contributing factor of climate change. The cattle/dairy industry alone is the cause of deforestation (need acres to raise the cattle and grow the corn that feeds the cattle), mass consumption of water (for cattle), and methane emissions (worse than CO2 emissions from transportation vehicles).

Limiting the use of resources

  • There are little things you can do at home and at school to avoid wasting resources. If you don’t already, PLEASE turn the faucet off when you’re brushing your teeth. Letting the water run for your convenience wastes water and your money! Whether you’re in the shower or bath, just be aware of the amount of water you’re using. (This also goes for leaving lights on)
  • Unless I absolutely have to buy my textbooks for school, I choose to rent or purchase the e-book version of my textbooks. College textbooks come out with new versions almost every year, wasting and killing so many trees. If the new version isn’t required, I’ll always try to find an older version because they’re usually way cheaper and are still usable!

We should treat everyday as an Earth Day or Environment Day, so let’s do our part!

Much Love,

Syd

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Health

Vegan To-Go

Hey all,

It’s been a year since I went vegan and over the past 12 months, I discovered the difficulties of finding vegan “fast food”. But with extra research and effort, I was able to “veganize” a bunch of super tasty options from places such as Potbelly and Panera Bread! I also tried to find choices that provide a good source of protein to keep me full. For any other vegans out there that are also facing this obstacle, here’s a little list of what I order when I’m on the go:

Potbelly: The Mediterranean Sandwich

  • on multigrain bread
  • without feta cheese
  • (optional) I love to add avocados for the extra $1
  • the hummus and artichoke hearts are so flavorful and the cucumbers give the sandwich that extra crunch

Panera Bread: Modern Greek Salad with Quinoa

  • without feta cheese
  • the dressing is amazing and the quinoa pretty  much completes the salad

Noodles and Company: Japanese Pan Noodles

  • delicious udon noodles with soy sauce, shiitake mushrooms, other veggies, and a little kick
  • this one is definitely one of my all time favorites
  • it’s already vegan as it is, but I love to add tofu for some extra protein

Chipotle: Burrito Bowl

  • I usually ask for: brown rice, black beans, sofritas (organic tofu), mild salsa, corn salsa, and lettuce
  • this one will definitely fill you up
  • I like to order the bowl instead of the burrito because you can always put the cover back on and save the leftovers!

Einstein Bagels

  • almost all the bagels are vegan (besides french toast, asiago cheese, etc.)
  • I usually get the everything bagel with hummus, and toasted (you can never go wrong with hummus)

MOD Pizza

  • these thin crust pizzas (vegan dough) are completely customizable, so feel free to load up on whatever veggies your heart desires
  • they offer vegan (Daiya) shredded “cheese” too!
  • I usually order the “mini” (6″) pizza with red sauce, basil, mushrooms, spinach, bell peppers, and vegan cheese
  • their bbq sauce and garlic rub sauces are also vegan

Vegan Fries 

  • Chick-Fil-A waffle fries
  • Wendy’s natural cut fries

Other restaurants that aren’t really fast-food, but ones I would highly recommend:

  • If you’re in the Chicago-land area there’s a pretty good chance that you have already heard of this one, but if you haven’t, definitely go check out the Chicago Diner (there’s one on Halsted St. and one on Milwaukee Ave.). All of the choices are meat-free, vegan or vegetarian, and are DELICIOUS. I usually order a sandwich or burger, a side of sweet potato fries, and a mint-chocolate chip vegan shake.
  • Native Foods Cafe is actually a restaurant I discovered during my recent trips to California, and I was so happy when I found out that there was also one in Chicago. Like the Chicago Diner, this one is also completely plant-based. Their seitan and tempeh burgers and earth bowls are so good.

There are so many other options out there that aren’t on this list, so if you’re a vegan and have your own go-to’s, feel free to comment below! I would love to try new dishes!

Much Love,

Syd

 

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Life

Tips for Trips

Whether it’s to the next state over or across the country, I love traveling. [My goal is to one day travel to another country on a solo trip] I wouldn’t call myself a professional traveler, but I have learned a few things from the handful of trips I have been on. Since I’m going to LA for spring break this year, I decided to share them:

Plan:

  • I have a journal where I write down all the places I want to see and all the things I want to do. It’s pretty much a bucket list, but it has helped SO much. In November I went on an Arizona/Vegas/California trip for my birthday and if it wasn’t for this journal, I would’ve wasted so much time figuring out what to do. And now, I have a little checklist of all the things I’ve done in those places (and the ones I still need to do) so it’s pretty cool.

Packing: 

  • Who has time to iron clothes during a trip? I never do, but I was always annoyed with the folding lines on all of my clothes from being squashed in my suitcase. So instead of folding my clothes, I started to roll them. This not only prevents those annoying lines, but it also saves a lot of space. Roll up a few shirts and fit them in the small extra spaces in your suitcase.

Music:

  • Make a travel/trip playlist. I’ve discovered that making a (long) playlist beforehand makes traveling so much more enjoyable. Trust me, you don’t want to have to shuffle around songs while being stuck in the airport or on a long flight. My favorite thing in the world is hearing a song from my playlist in the future and immediately being reminded of the great times I had on that trip. Here are my travel playlists:
  • If you don’t have time to make a playlist, lucky for you, there are already tons out there to listen to! Here are some of my favorites:

Entertainment:

  • When I’m not listening to music, I’m either doing homework, reading, listening to an audio book, or watching Netflix. ALWAYS bring a book wherever you go, you never know if there’s going to be a delay, or if you don’t want to use up your phone/laptop battery (plus reading is great). If you’re someone who doesn’t like reading (???), audio books are great too. I’m sure everyone has heard about Audible on Amazon at some point; it’s AMAZING. There are so many books to choose from and listen to (if you want to go the free route, podcasts are a great option too). Also, I love that Netflix now allows you to download movies and TV episodes for offline streaming, perfect for the plane when you don’t want to spend $ for wifi. And don’t forget portable chargers!
  • Books I’m currently reading:

Water:

  • This isn’t really anything new but, drink LOTS of water. Headaches aren’t fun on a plane, and those tiny cups of water last about 5 sips. TSA will make you toss any bottles you have with water in it during the security screening process, but there’s a pretty simple solution: bring an empty water bottle and fill it up once you pass checking! I bring my glass water bottle pretty much everywhere I go (I think water tastes better in glass, and it’s reusable so less waste).

Much Love,

Syd

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Reviews

Review: Logan

First off, I want to start by saying that Logan is the best Marvel film I have seen so far. The last time I ever felt this way about a “comic book” movie was after seeing The Dark Knight, and that says a lot. Logan lacked the quality of a fantasy/sci-fi comic book film (pretty much the opposite of X-Men Apocalypse) but that doesn’t diminish it in anyway. I feel like movie-watchers who aren’t huge comic book fans will still enjoy Logan as long as they have some background knowledge on the Wolverine. The film had grit, emotion, and character. I think James Mangold did an incredible job with directing Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart’s final film portrayal of the Wolverine and Professor X.

[Spoilers ahead!]

I went to the theater and saw Logan twice. The first time, I played close attention to the plot and character development, while the second time, I focused more on the little details and the cinematography. I highly recommend seeing it twice because I was surprised about how much I missed. Before I get into the details, I’m going to discuss the major theme I noticed in the film.

Even though comic book movies usually revolve around “good vs evil” storylines, Logan was different. Don’t get me wrong, there were antagonists and conflict, but the main theme of the film revolved around family. Three scenes in particular stuck out to me the most and really pulled at my heartstrings. The scene when they were all eating dinner at the kitchen table, smiling, and joking around, was a moment that felt “normal”. Even if it was only for a moment, it felt nice to see Logan, Charles, and Laura briefly step away from the madness and live like a normal family (before X-24 showed up of course, also why do nice helpful families always have to die??) .

The two other scenes involved Logan carrying Charles and then Laura. When Laura watched Logan carry Charles up the stairs, there was a moment of tenderness that really hit me. You could also see this happen when Logan lifted Laura off the ground (after temporarily knocking out X-24) and carried her to the truck. He was torn up, limping, in pain, but he showed a different kind of strength in those two scenes. I loved that the idea of family was emphasized in Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart’s last time playing their X-Men characters because not only did they have “father and son” relationship throughout all the X-Men movies, but because I grew up watching all the X-Men movies, and they both kind of felt like family to me. And let’s not forget the ending. When Laura turned the cross onto its side to form an X, I became a blob full of tears. I wish there could’ve been more done for Charles’ death but what more can you do when you’re on the run and most mutants are gone anyway. I think Logan was a good send off for both Jackman and Stewart. Besides Mangold’s great work on this film, Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, and Dafne Keen’s performances were outstanding.

After seeing Logan for the second time, there were many small but significant details that I noticed. In the final scene when the kids buried Logan, I noticed that one of the kids was holding a yellow suit Wolverine figurine. I loved that they brought this back into the movie because although they never really included the yellow suit in any of the recent X-Men movies, it was nice that they included some of the comics and the figurine. The character that has inspired so many deserved to make an appearance in the final moments of an era. By seeing it again, I was also able to make out some of the dialogue that I missed. For instance, Charles’ last words to Logan about being on the water and the boat they were going to buy together.

And the last thing I have to say is how glad I am that they decided to make Logan a rated R film. Following the success of Deadpool, it made sense that they would incorporate the grit, gore, and profanity that made Deadpool so popular. Seeing Charles and Logan swear at each other like a bickering father and son felt so right.

Overall, I would rate Logan a 9.5/10, and I highly recommend it to any movie lover out there regardless if you like comic books or not. 

Much Love,

Syd

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Music, Reviews

My First Chicago Symphony Experience

On Saturday, February 4th, I went to my first Chicago Symphony Orchestra concert. Since this was my first time attending a performance for classical music, I had no idea what to expect. As I arrived, I was blown away by the sophisticated, but also exciting, mood in Orchestra Hall. The venue was designed by Chicago architect Daniel H. Burnham, and after many renovations, it continues to be the place where people are able to see and hear world-class musicians demonstrate their talent. The conductor of the concert was the highly acclaimed Bramwell Tovey, a Grammy and Juno award-winning conductor and composer. Tovey has travelled to China, Korea, Canada, Australia, and the United States, where he has taken on the role of a guest conductor while also inspiring many other musicians. It truly felt like an honor to be in his presence and to be able to see his impact on the music.

At 8 pm sharp, the lights dimmed down and the Chicago Symphony started their performance by playing a piece composed by William Walton, the first of three composers featured that night. William Walton was a famous British composer who was one of England’s most important composers. Walton was influenced by Edward Elgar, Igor Stravinsky, and Paul Hindemith and composed scores for numerous films like Henry V (1944), Hamlet (1947), and others. But that night the symphony played Orb and Sceptre, which really woke up and drew in the audience. The piece utilized the many aspects of sound, especially dynamics. It is also the march played for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. The Chicago Symphony played it so beautifully and the piece was memorable and sensational. Because of this, it completely makes sense that the symphony chose this march as an “entrance” for the rest of the concert.

They continued the performance by playing Benjamin Britten’s The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra. As described in the name, this piece singled out every family of instruments in the symphony and allowed me to distinguish the different timbres. He introduced the higher pitched instruments like the piccolo and the flutes and then went down to the lower instruments and the percussion. Britten composed The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra because he was asked by the British Ministry of Education for it to be used in the short educational film Instruments of the Orchestra (1946). This piece was also featured in Wes Anderson’s film, Moonrise Kingdom (2012). I’m glad that the symphony played this because I was able to really focus on each family and appreciate how unique every different sound is.

After about a fifteen-minute intermission, the Chicago Symphony ended the night by playing Act 2 of Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty. Before they started the piece, Tovey spoke to the audience about the story that goes along with Act 2, and how hearing the tone color and dynamics change throughout the piece allows you to imagine what’s going on in the story. As someone who has seen Disney’s Sleeping Beauty many times, I was amazed when I realized that the music wasn’t built on the story, but the story was built and inspired by the music. The symphony played the entirety of Act 2, which was almost an hour long. But there was not one second where the musicians showed any signs of exhaustion or boredom. It was fascinating to see how you could feel their passion not only by hearing the music, but also by watching their body language. Overall, I really enjoyed my first experience seeing the Chicago Symphony and I definitely will be coming back to see future concerts.

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Music

Current Favorites (Playlist #7)

It’s been awhile since I shared a playlist, and lately I’ve been listening to a lot of different music. Part of the reason behind this is because recently I saw the movie musical, La La Land, and have been overplaying the soundtrack ever since. Another reason why I’ve been listening to different music is because one of my new year’s resolutions is to try to listen to music from genres I don’t normally listen to. So here are some of my current favorites (as usual, click the links to listen to the songs on spotify):

The La La Land Soundtrack

This December“- Ricky Montgomery

On Hold“- The xx

Best Friends, Right?“- Amy Winehouse

If This World Were Mine”– Marvin Gaye, Tammi Terrell

Feel This Way“- Tangerine

Drive It Like You Stole It“- Sing Street

Brooklyn“- Fickle Friends

Kitchen“- Kid Cudi

I Love You So“- The Walters

 

Much Love,

Syd

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