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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Life

New Year’s Resolutions

My main focus for 2017 is to strive to be a better person for myself, my friends & family, the environment/planet, and other living beings. We’re already 2 weeks into 2017 and even though it’s too early to tell, I think I can say that I’ve already made lots of progress because of the different resolutions I set for myself this year. Last May I became a vegan overnight after educating myself about the huge impact animal agriculture has on the environment. This was the beginning of my effort to change my habits and learn more about how badly we’re treating our planet. [I wrote a blog post about my first month of being vegan; an updated version is really overdue] This past December I was introduced to the ideas of minimalism and the law of attraction. I can write a post about them in the future but essentially these ideas made me realize the importance of mindful thinking and that happiness can be easily achieved just by changing some things in your life. So without further ado, here are my resolutions for 2017:

  • Decrease how much I depend on my phone and social media by picking an hour (or more) during the day to put my phone away and actually do something.
  • Read at least 3 books every month (and not just fiction).
  • Expand my music taste by trying to listen to music of other genres like folk, jazz, soul, blues, reggae, and music form other cultures around the world (click the links for the spotify playlists I made).
  • Do something new or go somewhere new every month.
  • Buy things I only truly need. Shop less at fast fashion stores and more at thrift stores/goodwill.
  • Write more letters to friends and family.
  • Stop asking for new things and just appreciate what I already have.
  • Drink more water.
  • Meditate at least 5 times a week (maybe more).

I’m ready to make 2017 even better than 2016.

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Music

Summer Tracks (Playlist #6)

Hi all,

I realized that I haven’t made a playlist in quite some time so I’m here to share some of the songs I’ve been listening to this summer. Some are good tunes to listen to when you’re driving your car with your windows down, and some are good for times when you just want to chill. Many of the songs I picked came from the show, Shameless (amazing show by the way), and a few are new releases! Enjoy x

[click the link to listen on spotify]

Kisses- Funny Heartbeat

Band of Horses- Dull Times/The Moon

M.A.G.S.- My Love

The Temptations- My Girl 

Slow Club- Tears of Joy

Still Parade- 7:41

Tame Impala- The Less I Know the Better

Robert Francis- Baby Was the Devil

Paw City- Canyons

The High Strung- The Luck You Got

Father John Misty- Real Love Baby

Two Door Cinema Club- Bad Decisions

Local Natives- Wide Eyes

LANY- yea, babe, no way

Flume- Never Be Like You

 

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Health, Life

Veganism: One Month Update

As of today, I have been vegan for a little over a month, and guess what? I’m not a crumbling piece of flesh, my bones feel stronger than ever, and I am still enjoying the food that I eat. The first week of being vegan was difficult not because I’m “missing out on bacon and cheese”, but more because of the response I got from the people around me. It’s crazy to see just how butt hurt people will get when you make a decision to not eat meat or drink milk. I only bring up veganism when necessary but I’ll never be afraid to defend it. Don’t get me wrong, I used to be one of those people that would look at vegans as think of them as annoying people who think they are better than everyone else because they eat tofu everyday. Boy was I wrong. Being vegan has opened my eyes to many of the issues going on in the world that major food industries and the government try to hide from the public. I’m glad I went vegan because I feel like I’m doing something for my planet and I’m not supporting the slaughter, exploitation, rape, and murder of innocent beings. Sorry (not sorry) if that bothers you.

Things I’ve learned:

  1. Make sure you completely educate yourself. For anyone that tries to criticize you for being vegan, nothing will shut them up more than backing up your claims with real facts and statistics about what they are supporting if they consume or use animal products.
  2. If someone asks why you won’t drink milk or eat the platter of meat that’s for dinner, and you reply, “sorry, I’m vegan”, be prepared for:
    • You need milk to have strong bones. Getting milk from a cow doesn’t even kill them.
    • You need meat to get protein.
    • How will you survive without bacon?!
    • Let’s see how long this will last, it’s just a phase.
    • Don’t come to my house and expect me to cook anything special for you (yes this is actually something a family member told me)
  3. How to respond to these responses:
    • No actually I don’t need milk to have strong bones, have you ever heard of almond milk, coconut milk, or soymilk? Yeah well they are all great sources of calcium WITHOUT the fat and cholesterol that is in cow milk. Plant-based milk doesn’t involve the rape and exploitation of cows. It doesn’t make sense that as humans we feel the need to drink the milk from cows when they are meant for raising calves to the 500+ pound mammals that they are born to be. Do your research.
    • Protein isn’t only found in meat, where do you think the animals get it from? From eating PLANTS. It makes more sense to eat the primary source of protein without having to ingest all the saturated fats and cholesterol that comes with eating meat. Beans, dark greens, lentils, quinoa, bananas, and so many other plants provide just the amount of protein we need in a day.
    • Trust me, I don’t need a strip of flesh full of fats, cholesterol, and salt to survive.
    • I plan on living this way for the rest of my life, it may just be a “phase” to you, but at least it’s a “phase” that doesn’t support the overuse of water, deforestation, and slaughter/rape/exploitation of innocent animals while also increasing the longevity of my life.
    • I never asked to get any special treatment, but I’m perfectly fine staying at home or eating my own food before I leave.
  4. Not everyone is rude and ignorant; I am lucky enough to have a handful of friends and family that are supportive of my decision. I will never force my opinions onto others (maybe encourage), but all I ask is that my right to live the way I do is respected.
  5. Eat bananas, everyday.
  6. If you’re planning to eat out with friends or family, always look up the menu online first so you know what to order, or if you have to eat something before you leave.
  7. If you ever feel like you’re losing your grip with veganism, rewatch all the documentaries to remind yourself of what you’re doing for the planet and for the animals.
  8. Don’t fall into that “annoying vegan” category. It’s good to try to educate others and encourage the vegan lifestyle but don’t be too pushy and militant. Only bring veganism up in conversations if you have to, don’t be that person that says “I’m vegan” in every sentence. There are some really stubborn people out there that refuse to give up meat; don’t let them get to you. Spread awareness to others, but realize that the people who won’t listen are the ones that just don’t care, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

Things I have accomplished:

  1. I guess you can say that I kind of went vegan overnight. Some people usually start of as a vegetarian and then work their way towards veganism, which is totally fine. To me, the dairy industry is probably one of the worst ones so giving up dairy products wasn’t hard at all. For a month I’ve completely had a plant-based diet. I don’t crave bacon or burgers; the sight of raw flesh in grocery stores actually makes my stomach turn.
  2. I don’t buy any more products that are made of animal products, or are tested on animals. I’m in the process of using up all the non-vegan products I already own.
  3. I stopped using my genuine leather Fossil purse that I’ve had for over 2 years. The thought of having a once alive and thriving animal hang off my shoulders made me sick.
  4. Most of the meals I eat are raw; I rarely eat processed foods.
  5. I actually read the nutrition labels now! (To make sure that I’m getting the amount of nutrients I need and that there aren’t any animal products)
  6. I feel absolutely no guilt about the foods that I eat now.

Tips for newbies like me or anyone who is interested:

  1. Youtube is your best friend. It’s an easy way to educate yourself and make your transition as easy as possible. I watched many different youtube videos to learn more about why I’m choosing to be vegan and also recipe videos for inspiration and ideas.
  2. You don’t need to eat salad everyday. Salads are great, but it’s still possible to enjoy other dishes like pasta, stir fry, burritos, etc. A vegan diet can be limited to an extent, but it doesn’t limit you from being able to enjoy delicious and nutritious foods.

Sorry for the long post, there are just so many things to say about veganism and I am so grateful that my eyes were opened to this amazing lifestyle. It’s really not that hard to make the switch; I highly encourage everyone to learn about it and at least try it out!

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