Saturday, December 12, 2015

Christmas Tree Sightings

As I sit listening to Christmas carols (because what is December but the month for listening to obscene amounts of Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole), I am astounded by the current lack of snow outside my window. Global warming, anyone?

But regardless of the snow or lack thereof, there are still CHRISTMAS TREES everywhere! As a Catholic college, Saint Mike's is free to decorate with as much as pine and red ribbon as is deemed necessary. We may not push Catholicism, but it's sort of hard to ignore at Christmastime, especially since the chapel bells ring at random times (That are probably on a set schedule I can't figure out) and have switched to Advent tunes. Therefore, I have decided to regale you with all of the Christmas trees I have seen on campus, excluding repeats and including the two I saw in Burlington last night. Without further ado, the Saint Mike's trees: 

This is my baby purple tinsel tree, which I am very proud of, even though it is barely two feet tall. There is a very convenient overlap when your favorite color and your school color are the same.

Please excuse the blurry picture - night photography is not my specialty. This is the only outdoor tree I saw; it is a massive fir (pine?) tree next to the chapel that I am presuming can be seen from the street.

I found this small tree, decked out in the French colors, hanging out in the building where the French professors have their offices. 

A version of this tree is on both the second and third floors of Dion - if you cannot see, there are a lovely angel at the top and some pretty, festively colored ornaments.

This lovely specimen can be found on the first floor of the Dion Student Center, across from Einstein's. In addition to a snazzy snowflake topper and the classic white lights with silver tinsel, there is a strand of paper cranes that are a nice, non-traditional touch. This was by far my favorite of the "school trees."

I was down in Burlington last night to celebrate a friend's birthday. If you have as yet not experienced a Burlington Christmas (not that I can say I truly have), that is something that is absolutely necessary. There are Christmas lights everywhere, but unlike most places, they actually suit Burlington; Church Street looks like something out of a movie.

The other end of Church Street has a very tall Christmas tree, probably about the same size as the one by the chapel at Saint Mike's, which contributes to my "I live in a postcard" mentality:

My final tree was in Sweetwater's, which is a very reasonably priced restaurant that has a wide variety of options to suit all tastes and diets. They also have a bar, but I am unqualified to comment on that for several years. I ate there last night, in their elevated seating (that could probably also be termed a loft), and to our delight, there was a Christmas tree across from our table! If you are wondering about the Vermont seal behind the tree, that is leftover decoration from when the building was (according to a little research on my part) the Burlington Trust Company: a bank. Much of the original decor remains, although there have been significant updates. Definitely check out Sweetwater's!

This is my last post until the new year; next week is finals week so I will not be doing much other than studying, and after that I will be HOME for an entire MONTH!!! I leave you with this festive image, courtesy of the local bus system: 

Until 2016,

Friday, November 20, 2015

Snow in the Theatre

This past Sunday, I had the pleasure of attending the live performance of White Christmas at the Flynn, the local theater in Burlington. For those of you unfamiliar with my tastes, I am a huge fan of old movies, specifically those produced in the 1940s and 1950s. The performance I went to see was the theatre adaptation of the movie White Christmas, which I watch at least twice a year. Needless to say, my attendance of this show was never in question.

The show was performed by the Lyric Theatre Company, which produces shows regularly and shows them at the Flynn. I am, unfortunately but unashamedly, a bit of a theater snob, having grown up with Broadway. Therefore, I was not sure what I would be getting out of a theatrical production in Vermont; I was very pleasantly surprised. Although I do not believe their shows would ever reach the scale of Broadway (if only due to the smaller stage size), they are very good, for people who view theatre as a past-time rather than a career.

I could never say the live show was better than the movie; the likes of Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, and Vera-Ellen simply cannot be found in today's world of show-business. For that reason alone, in my opinion no show could ever be par with the film, or surpass it. Furthermore, since I have seen the movie so many times, any digressions from the film's plot and score seemed out of place to me, even if they transitioned well in the play itself.

That being said, there were several elements of the performance that I especially enjoyed, outside of my usual love for the score of White Christmas. In this version, the character of Martha Watson (who is the receptionist/concierge/general manager of the inn in the film) has a much larger part that is more firmly rooted in comedy and music. I thought that Kim Anderson, who had that role, did very well, taking on what was almost a Carol Burnett persona. If you do not know who Carol Burnett is, look her up. She's hilarious. Furthermore, out of all the leads, Sarah Madeleine Connor, who plays Betty Haynes, did a phenomenal job of filling the unfillable (Is that a word? If not, now it is.) shoes of Rosemary Clooney. Singing in that "Old Hollywood" style is very difficult (not that I am a professional singer with any experience in that regard) and I admire her for it.

I was also incredibly amused by the jokes about Vermont (which is the setting of the musical) that appeared in the show. I do not know if they actually existed in the script, or were added due to the location of the showings. They are not in the film, but I thoroughly enjoyed them - and the reactions of the primarily Vermont-native audience. There was also the edition of the character Ezekiel Foster, whose sole purpose seemed to be to portray a "Vermonter." I found him extremely entertaining. 

The childish part of me was also thrilled that they had snow machines at work at the end of the show (hence the title of this post).

Overall, my venture into the audience of a Vermont theater was entirely successful and will definitely be repeated. In addition to the shows put on by the Lyric Theatre Company, Broadway tours also make their way up here. The Flynn has a student rate, and there is also a way to get $10 tickets through Saint Mike's that I will be exploring. If you get the chance, check out the Flynn!


Thursday, November 19, 2015

The International Festival

I must admit, I tried to come up with a somewhat creative title... clearly that endeavour failed. 

The International Festival is the coolest event I've attended at Saint Mike's so far. It is sponsored by a number of organizations on campus, but the event itself was part of a series conducted by the Center for Multicultural Affairs. I wasn't really sure what to expect, and what I got definitely was not what I had anticipated at all. The festival is held in the Tarrant Fieldhouse - the building attached to Ross, the gymnasium. Upon entering, I was immediately struck by the flags hung around the balcony, numbering at least fifty if I were to take a guess. I actually feel bad; I should have been able to recognize far more of the flags than I was able to. When your eyes stop staring at the multitude of colors up at the balcony, you are greeted with the sight of a stage, a lot of tables for seating, and two loooong banquet tables with seemingly endless dishes of food. 

The performances would be the best part of the night, but I (as previously mentioned) am always more interested in food and the festival food was AMAZING. Performances ranged from a drumming class held here at Saint Mike's, to a Bollywood performer, to a trio of Hawaiian dancers. I only wish that I was more knowledgeable about the cultures displayed, so that I knew more of the meaning behind their movements.

Two of the three Hawaiian dancers. They are holding the Hawaiian version of maracas.

The male Hawaiian dancer; yes, he is actually blowing into a conch shell!

Members of a Korean culture school also performed; these are their teachers performing a drum routine.
Unfortunately, I do not have any pictures of the food I ate; I was more concerned about trying everything before it became cold than I was about documenting just how much I tried. But I can tell you that probably around twenty countries, more or less, were represented in the different types of food offered. Although I did not like everything I tried, I did try almost everything, and most of it was delicious!

If you are up here when the International Festival comes around again, I definitely recommend going! After all, how many chances do you have to eat your way around the world in four hours?

Stay tuned for my next (theatre-related) post!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Witch Hunting: Then and Now

My posting schedule has been a little off lately, but this last skip was for a reason! Two weeks ago, I went to a panel discussion that centered on Arthur Miller's play The Crucible, which is also the show currently being performed by the SMC theatre department (and other awesome students). This panel looked at the history behind The Crucible, and is something I have been informed the college does periodically in connection with its performances. I hope they continue to do so; it was very informative and interesting!

Three professors from different departments spoke about, respectively, the witch trials in Salem, anti-communism sentiment in the 1950s, and today's Islamophobia. They then connected them to Arthur Miller and his play, which was actually written in response to the paranoia of the 1950s. I was most interested in the Islamophobia presentation, because that is the most relevant today (but because it is current, often less talked about), but all three made good points.

Then, last Friday (now comes the reasoning for my delayed posting) I had the pleasure of actually going and watching our student performance of The Crucible! I was concerned I would find it boring, having read the play in an English class and therefore already knowing what would happen (although the gist is fairly obvious anyway), but I was pulled into the actors' characters almost immediately. I did think that having only four or five scenes made the scenes rather long, but I have had that opinion about Miller for several years now; it has nothing to do with the performance.

 I was also very impressed by how well the actors' connected the story, as there was no pit orchestra. As a musician, I must confess to slightly egotistic opinion that a pit is necessary; clearly, I was wrong. I found myself caught up in the drama of the characters despite the lack of moody background music, to the point that I complained to a friend that I didn't like how so-and-so smirked every time he spoke, only to receive the reminder that that was part of the character. Evidently, I struggled keeping fiction and reality apart. 

If anyone is in the area next weekend, there are more performances coming up! I would highly recommend going, as it is very well done and worth the stiff legs that come with sitting in theater seats.

Stay tuned for an international update!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Chili, Cheese, and the Congo

Let me start off by saying SORRY for such a late post, but classes have been a little hectic lately (still are, actually). However, since my post is late, I had the opportunity to use a fabulously alliterative title, although not all three things are connected.

After an amazing weekend home (with awesome food and a REAL SHOWER), I flew back on a cute little propeller plane and had fun watching the foliage I was flying above get steadily redder. Vermont is much deeper into autumn than New Jersey, which was a balmy 55 degrees for most of the weekend. I had a relaxing rest of my week, which culminated in the Harvest Festival on the quad Saturday.

This brings me to parts one and two of my alliterative title. Sadly, as I was woefully underdressed for the roaring wind (yes, that is a tad exaggerated), I did not take the time to find out the specifics of the event. What I can tell you is that there were huge quantities of chili and butternut squash soup, hot apple cider, cider donuts, apples, bread, and at least six kinds of cheese. I had chili, several types of cheese, and the best coarse bread I've had in a long time. It was "bring your own mug," so first-years, take note! At least two mugs are necessary for SMC life: one for tea/coffee/hot chocolate, and one for things like chili. And also soup, if you don't want to bring a bowl, although I would recommend bringing one.

Normally I'm not a chili fan, but maybe because I was cold, or just because it's Vermont, I actually really liked it! I also took a friend's advice and discovered that sticking cheese cubes in one's mug of chili is an excellent combination. Granted, that was because we didn't have plates, but the end results were very tasty.

So that's the chili and the cheese; now for the Congo. Tonight I had the pleasure of attending a presentation about the ongoing violent conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I had never known much about it, but to hear it explained by a man who had lived it for a year, and spent the following years involved in solutions to it was probably the best way to learn. I could never do the Congo's complexity justice in my uneducated words, but suffice it to say, there is much more going on there than the stereotypical generalization of savagery and child armies. So much more. If you are interested, you should really take the time to read about it from a variety of perspectives; there are an infinite number of contributing factors, both past and present.

Another reason I enjoyed the presentation was that for the first time, I participated in something that really justified my major (International Relations) to me. I've never really had more than a vague idea of the capacity of the United Nations, but the speaker explained the political aspect in a way that made me realize I truly do want to be involved in that type of work, even if I wouldn't work with conflict resolution. 

I was also extremely interested during the question and answer period of the presentation by the questions posed by several Congolese. They understood their history on a depth I could never hope to achieve, even for American history, and so their questions were much more moving and effective than if a student had asked an identical question. I was also pleased to be able to pick out a few words when two of the men asked their questions in French - their first language. Clearly my French 101 class is having some effect!

As I said, I haven't done very much this week, although I know there's something I've forgotten that will be tacked onto this weekend's post. I promise I'll also find a picture of something, even if it's "only" our lovely SMC foliage. Just like picture books are always better than regular books, posts with pictures are far more interesting.

Bye for now, and happy (early) Halloween!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Multicultural Madness

Hello, friends! Today's post will be longer than usual; I did a lot of cool things last week, and since I'm going home for the coming weekend I will not be posting anything. 

My exciting tale starts with last Wednesday, when my RA took my floor stargazing at Shelburne Pond. Being from New Jersey (which is very suburban) I was a little skeptical; how interesting can stars be? But I forgot that this is Vermont. Out in the woods with light pollution, sitting on a rock next to what should really be called a lake, the stars suddenly became much more captivating. We sat by the pond for awhile, then went back to a grassy area and practiced meditation. Overall, it was a very zen-inducing experience. Sadly, I have no pictures to share, as my iPhone just isn't smart enough to pick up stars when it is pitch-black outside. 

Wednesdays there is also a farm stand set up on campus. Everything sold comes from the college's garden, which is managed by students. Lacking a kitchen, I usually don't go for the produce, but I always buy flowers.

My zinnias!
Friday night was cultural event number one. I went to see a French movie - or maybe it is better labeled as Canadian - called Bon Cop, Bad Cop, to fulfill one of my Cultural Engagement Requirements for my French class. For both my French and Spanish classes (so presumably for all language classes, but I'm not sure), I have to attend two events where that language or culture is present. Movies count, so off I went.

I wasn't sure what to expect of the film; my only hope was that there would be subtitles. Much to my relief, there were, and I spent two hours enjoying a surprisingly funny (yet slightly violent) film that Wikipedia terms a "dark comedy-thriller." The film makes light of the tension between Quebec and Ontario that is heavily rooted in stereotypes and other, more complicated issues. Although I'm not a fan of thrillers, I still enjoyed it. Check it out!

Saturday I finally got to experience the organized chaos that is the Burlington Farmers' Market. There is just about every kind of food imaginable, from a butcher's stand to everything maple to a tent selling pumpkins and flowers. I had a fresh sausage sandwich for lunch, and tried some maple cookies, which were amazing. I wish I could better describe all of the awesome, local food they have to offer, but the market is really something you have to experience for yourself. Guess you'll have to come and see!

My evening was a little hectic; there was henna, tea, and mandala-style coloring on the first floor of Dion, so I started with that. I've gotten henna several times, but usually at amusement parks, so it was really cool that it was only three flights of stairs away from my room. Yes, that means I live on the fourth floor, and yes, my legs remind me of that fact every day. But sometimes I use the elevator.

My henna, with the paste still on. It looked much cooler after.
So I got really cool henna, and a picture of an elephant that I am still coloring. I have since been convinced that coloring as a form of decompressing is a completely valid theory. 

After the henna, I went up two flights of stairs to the Latin-american culture event. The school had brought in a dance teacher, who gave salsa lessons for an hour, and then there was a dance (with food!) for another four. I'm not much of a dancer, but the food was definitely worth attending for. I even tried plantains, which I am still not a fan of, but would rank above bananas - the absolute worst kind of fruit, in my opinion. 

I then spent Sunday recovering from my Saturday, and also fit in some homework, too. 

As I said earlier, I won't be posting anything next weekend, as I will be home (!!!). See you in two weeks!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Gourd-Painting and 5K-Walking

Hello! As promised, read on for exciting information about my weekend!

Friday night's pumpkin fun was a little disappointing initially, to be honest. We were supposed to be painting pumpkins, but all they had were gourds. However, the pumpkin pie and ice cream as a definite plus. For the record, pumpkin pie is always a plus in my book. Gourd painting did turn out to be exciting, though; I met Casper! Casper is a gourd, that I oh-so-creatively painted a smiley face on. I nmed it Casper because of its resemblance to a ghost's shape. Casper the Friendly Gourd. See what I did there?

Casper the Friendly Gourd
Saturday was far more eventful. We lucked out and had amazing weather for our 5K; not a cloud in sight! We started in Battery Park - for those of you not from the Burlington area, it's down by the lake waterfront - went down a few streets I don't know the names of (directions are not my strong suit), walked up to and across Church Street, up Pearl Street, and back down to Battery Park. 

The View from Battery Park
A group of percussionists (loud drums and tambourines) led the walk for a while, all the way up to the end of Church Street. Normally, I would say following a bunch of drummers for that long would drive anyone crazy, but they had the perfect cadence not to be annoying. At any rate, they certainly got the attention of anyone in the area. On Church Street, people stopped to watch us, including those on a walk against animal cruelty (we may have temporarily overpowered Church Street). The anti animal cruelty people had a tiny pig walking with them that was really cute... we had several dogs that I really wanted to adopt. Even though they belonged to other people. 

Surprisingly, people would honk at us from their cars in support, and one woman even ran up to us to give us a monetary donation. Never having participated in a 5K cause walk before, this was light-years better than any reception I could have anticipated. I wasn't expecting to get tomatoes thrown at me, of course, I just didn't think we'd get such a wide show of support. 

While in Burlington, I ate lunch at Bruegger's, a place on Church Street that sells bagels, sandwiches, and coffee. I had an Asiago bagel with pastrami, Swiss, and egg, on it; I was stuffed afterwards and cost under $5! I've eaten there before; if you can manage the (somewhat fast) long line, it's definitely worth it.

I also found a farmer's market that I will hopefully have more about next weekend. It was huge and I did not have enough time to check it out properly.

Overall, a fun weekend was had by everyone. See you next week!

Friday, October 2, 2015

What I'm Doing

I was sitting in my room, enjoying my Pandora jazz station, when I realized I never posted last week! Sadly, last weekend was a staycation; sometimes you just have to stay home and write a paper. Therefore, this is my make-up post, about one of the groups I've been working with on campus: Active Minds!

 We are essentially a mental health advocacy group, but there is so much more to it than that! Tomorrow, we are participating in a 5K walk with the National Alliance on Mental Illness, near the waterfront in Burlington. It's going to be a bit chilly, but I'm psyched! In addition to the walk, I know we do a lot of anti-stress things during finals week; I'm not sure what else we'll be up to, since our planning meeting is next Tuesday. Speaking of which, I should probably mention we meet every other Tuesday from 8pm to 9pm. We also just did this really cool photo montage (that's probably the wrong word, but I have no idea what else to call it) with #ReasonsISpeak; check it out on our Active Minds at SMC Facebook page! If hyperlinks are scary for you, this video (also on the Facebook page) explains more about Active Minds:

I will be posting again later this weekend, because this time I do NOT have to have a staycation! Stay tuned for more about tonight's pumpkin-related activities and tomorrow's 5K! (Fortunately for you, I will not be regaling you with a play-by-play of Sunday's homework.)


Sunday, September 20, 2015

Eating Local

This past weekend was Family Weekend, so my parents were here! Since they have a car it was nice to venture out beyond the limits of the public busing system. This is a long post, so hang in there.

Friday night we made the token Walmart run, and went to dinner at the Vermont Tap House in Williston, which makes really awesome wood-fired pizza. There are three sizes of pizza you can order, and in addition to the pizzas on the menu you can make your own. I had a cheese pizza with grilled chicken and artichoke hearts - it was surprisingly good! They also have a ton of brews on tap - not that I've tried any, of course. They also have a house root beer, if I remember correctly.

Saturday we did some of the Family Weekend activities; there was a student - alumni softball game that we went to go see. A girl on my floor is one of the pitchers. I used to keep the book for my high school team; it is really weird to watch from the sidelines and not the dugout. We also went to tour the new health center in Bergeron. It apparently used to house media classes; now it's a really classy health place. There's the usual medical and counseling services, but they also have a host of programs that they'll be starting soon. My friend Lorrie and I are excited to try their introductory yoga classes.

That night my parents and I went to check out the Eat X NE food festival, which is all about local Vermont food. Everything was SO GOOD. The festival was sponsored by The Skinny Pancake (aka my favorite place) and Higher Ground (which as near as I can tell is some sort of venue). I don't know the names of all of the vendors, but there was a wide variety of cuisine. There was a beer and cider tasting setup towards the back of the park, and live music. According to the schedule, during the day they had presentations about healthy and local eating. 

The entry sign to the festival

A crazy hay sculpture
The Farmhouse Tap and Grill had a food stand; we had their local beef burger, which is topped with cheddar, arugula, and pickled red onions. Apparently I like pickled red onions and arugula. Our burgers also came with mixed green salads with a maple vinaigrette dressing. It was only $11, although according to their online menu, the price is usually $16.95. Regardless of the price, you can definitely taste the difference between fresh and store-bought beef!
My awesome burger - that I ate on a hay bale!
Lake Champlain Chocolates had an ice cream stand, where I got Belgian chocolate ice cream with salted caramel sauce made from actual caramel and not the processed goop. If you haven't heard of Lake Champlain Chocolates - they have a store on Church Street. The prices are a little high, but everything is amazing so it's worth it. For the colder weather, I recommend their dark hot chocolate. I would live off of it if I could!

We also tried maple kettle corn, which is much better than regular kettle corn. My small excitement of the day was the fact that everything left after my burger including my fork was compostable! I did not know that compostable forks existed. Apparently they're made of corn.

Just a few more pictures:

All around the festival were signs of various shapes with cool quotes, including the infamous line from When Harry Met Sally. This was my favorite.

The music tent - complete with dance floor
My favorite fact posted at the festival
Overall, the festival was definitely the highlight of my weekend - aside from my parents, of course!

Stay tuned for more Vermont fun!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Pancakes and Ice Cream

Warning: tonight's post will make you hungry! Or at least it should.

Last night I went with a few girls from my floor into Burlington. You have to take the bus there, which at first seemed really complicated. But it has since been explained to me and so now it's pretty easy. There's only one route that goes past Saint Mike's, so it's nearly impossible to take the wrong bus. Oh, and that is the most important thing: with your KnightCard - that's the SMC ID card - all public busing is free! So if anyone tells you we're really cut off from Burlington... they are lying.

Anyway, we went into Burlington for dinner. There are a lot of places to eat that are definitely college-budget affordable: I've yet to have a dinner that cost more than $10 and it's all really nice food. Church Street, the pedestrian shopping area, has a lot of restaurants, but we went back to The Skinny Pancake, which we'd tried last weekend. They're not on Church Street, but it's only a ten minute walk from the bus and they do have a food stand on Church Street if you really don't want to go far.

The Skinny Pancake is a creperie, and they must have at least 20 different types of crepes, both savory and sweet. They also have salads and other dishes for your pickier eaters. So far I've had the Crepadilla, which has cheese and pico de gallo filling, and a spinach and feta filled crepe. Both were delicious and I have plans to go back and try more kinds!

My favorite part about the restaurant (besides the food of course) is the fact that everything is (somewhat) local, so it's all really fresh. They even have a foodshed map, which shows where everything they use is from.

The Foodshed Map
After dinner, we went to Ben and Jerry's, which is on Church Street. Ben and Jerry's is a frequent stop for any Vermont college student; the line can be long but if you are with fun people it doesn't seem like it. In case you didn't know, Ben and Jerry's is an ice cream shop. Everything is amazing, and they have a huge list of flavors.
The Ben and Jerry's Menu
The people there are really nice; I've also been told they like hiring college students but since I didn't apply I can't confirm that. But in general, if you come to Saint Mike's you have to have Ben and Jerry's; we even sell pints in the bookstore!

That's all I have for today; stay tuned!


Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Welcome to the 802

Welcome to My Oyster!
My name is Laura and I am a first-year (first-year, not a freshman, because first-years are infinitely cooler than freshmen) at Saint Michael's College in the always awesome Vermont. We're so awesome that we even have our own area code (that would be the 802). 

Why a Mason Jar?
My dorm building is Joyce Hall, whose only flaw is that I am right in the middle of everything, so I always see a ton of people. Just kidding - that's one of the best things about my building. But I digress. My floor's theme is mason jars, and I live in a single room, so technically, my room is my mason jar. 

What Are You Talking About?
This is the first time that I've ever written a blog with a purpose, although there will probably be some healthy rambling going on here, too. But in connection to the name, I will be blogging about different things I do around campus and in Burlington (otherwise known as Burly), both so I remember and to explain why SMC is so amazing. There might even be some ventures into Montreal, once I figure out the bus system. Most of my non-ramblings will probably be food-oriented, because that is the most important part of college life and one of my biggest social activities.

Do You Know What You're Talking About?
Of course! I am writing about my life, and my experiences as a Vermont newbie from New Jersey who will hopefully provide a fresh breath of mid-Atlantic air.

Keep your eyes peeled for anecdotes and adventures from yours truly,