Harry Potter is for Adults Too

I remember when my dad stubbornly refused to read the Harry Potter books for years. Anytime my mother, sister, and I would encourage him to pick up the hard-cover 7-part series, he’d scoff and claim that Harry Potter is for kids. He was a fan of heart-racing action adventure novels, not some magical fantasy children’s series. Of course, I finally convinced him, as I can be quite persuasive.

Fast forward a few months. We are in line for the midnight premiere of the final film, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2. Typical of my father, he has still not completed the series. However, he has become absolutely enthralled by the novels (a fact I would gloat about for years to come). He is mere chapters away from the last line, “All was well.” While my family friends, sister, and I wait in line in outside the theatre, we urge him back into the car to finish the book. Thankfully, just in time for us to enter one of the best movies of our lives, he had closed the cover and left it to rest in the backseat.

Harry Potter is not just for children, as proved by my skeptical dad. And here’s why:

The Characters

Everyone knows that the characters can make or break a show, movie or book. If the characters are lifeless and bland, they can make the plot fall apart at the seams. It’s also important not to confuse good characters with good character development. You don’t have to like them; you just have to understand and really experience them. What sets Harry Potter apart is its superior character development. Within chapters of meeting each character, you already feel like you know them. This can be shown by my distaste of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Being the obsessive fan I am, I wasn’t constantly repeating throughout my reading, “He/She would never say that!” When a series lets you connect with the characters on such an intimate level, it’s impossible not to be riveted by it. Whenever Harry does something unnecessarily brave (and borderline stupid), Hermione makes a matter-of-fact comment or Ron is just plain obnoxious, it just makes sense. And that’s a characteristic of a series that adults can’t help but enjoy.

The Action

Whoever claims Harry Potter is for children must have not read or seen the series. If they had, they’d recognize that every single book is overflowing with action, adventure, and violence. We constantly experience the characters looking death in the face and somehow warding it off. From facing three-headed dogs to being chased by enormous serpentine creatures to fighting dragons to battling dark figures, your head might spin from the danger with which many of the characters face between the ages of 11 and 17. J.K. Rowling scripts these action sequences eloquently. You feel the pulsating fear, the slow pace of the intense battles, and the heart-wrenching deaths of beloved characters. There’s never a dull moment. Some of these scenes may prove a little to frightening for kids, and that’s why they’re perfect for us fearless (ish) adults.

The Relationships

Nothing keeps someone hooked to a series quite like a well-desired relationship between two characters. Several of these occur throughout the series, but none other like that of Ron and Hermione. It’s an underlying idea that we see develop through each book. Watching the two grow from enemies to friends to best friends to something more can be simultaneously frustrating and exciting. You just want to shake them both and say, “Just go for it already!” But the years that spread out between them makes it all the more engaging. The woes of their inevitable relationship are entertaining to read, especially when they’re so obviously into each other but refuse to admit it (a.k.a. The iconic Ron and Lavender Brown relationship that left Hermione in pieces). A little romantic drama always creates a more exciting plot line and makes this series much less of a “children’s series.”

The Magic

The best part of Harry Potter, of course, is the incredible magic. J.K. Rowling creates a world that most of us would die to be a part of. Learning about spells, divination, and transfiguration in school rather than math, physics and English? Count us in! Rowling manages to take magical creatures and experiences that we’ve heard about as children and make them into a realistic world. For most of us adults, we’ve learned to accept that “magic isn’t real.” Maybe this is true and maybe it’s not, but Harry Potter makes us believe that it could be real. It helps us see an honesty in Rowling’s words, and not just view magic as silly magician’s tricks, ancient witches brewing bubbling potions, and meaningless Abracadabra’s. This type of magic actually makes sense to us, and we believe in the power of magic and how it can be used for the good and bad. With this, Harry Potter teaches readers a valuable lesson about the world. As Dumbledore says in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, “Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” It reminds us that not everything in the world is black and white; there is a lot of gray area that we can interpret in our own way. There is a beauty and mystery in the idea of magic, and Harry Potter gives us a reason to believe in something more.

So, next time you hear your mere Muggle friend scoffing about the ridiculousness of Harry Potter, remind them that it is so much more than a magical, fairytale series. It is packed with incredible character development, an intense and enthralling plot, riveting action and adventure, and a beautiful world of magic. Maybe this is just coming from a woman who’s read the series more times than she can count, but, in my humble opinion, there’s a lesson that we can all learn from Harry Potter about believing in what we don’t quite believe.

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Getting the Most Out of Sweetgreen

Over the summer I worked at the Back Bay Sweetgreen location in Boston. My co-workers were easy to get along with and I got to have summer full of healthy food. I was interested in working for Sweetgreen because I had been a fan of their food for a long time. As someone who goes to college in Boston, looking for healthy vegetarian options, I was sold the first time I tried it. Working at Sweetgreen taught me a lot about customer service, multitasking and teamwork. However, I also learned all the ins and out of getting the most out of your Sweetgreen experience. Now that I’m going back to being a loyal customer, I’m so grateful for this knowledge.

The Sweetgreen App

This is an absolute must for anyone who wants to enjoy Sweetgreen on the regular. You can scan to pay and earn rewards as you go. It makes checking out a lot easier for everyone involved and you get neat perks.

Ordering online

Another feature of the app is the ability to place online orders for pickup. This means that you can skip the crazy long lines that Back Bay is famous for and get your salad to-go. You can still get bread and a drink too. I recommend getting double dressing! With online orders, you’re able to save your favorite salads and custom recipes right on the app.

Order a custom if you’re going to make more than a couple of changes

This makes it so much easier for everyone involved. The Sweetgreen team is always happy to go above and beyond for customers, but it’s also frustrating when you’re doing mental gymnastics to make sure the order gets charged right at the end. Swapping out proteins, changing a dressing or adding something is no big deal. However, if you’re going to switch three things out and then add a bunch more, do everyone a favor and order a custom salad. That’s what they are there for! It also increases the likelihood of you getting charged correctly for your salad. *Eggs and Cheeses cost the same so you can swap them out without changing the price of your salad*

Don’t be afraid to ask about the ingredients

Sweetgreen makes everything in house so a good portion of the staff is pretty familiar with the fine details of the food. They also always have a nutritional binder on hand just in case they don’t know off the top of their head. It’s always better to ask than risk your health! Sweetgreen wants people to be confident and happy with what they’re eating. The supervisors are trained to handle allergies so while not every employee can assist you, you’ll be in good hands.

The best time to visit

10:30-11 am and 3 pm or later is always going to pretty decent line-wise. 11-2:30 pm is the lunch rush which usually means a line out the door and around the corner. If you have the flexibility in your schedule to go at a different time you’ll be doing yourself a great service. It’s also a lot easier to find a table.

Spicy Cashew dressing is a MUST

The sweet and spicy dressing became an obsession of mine during my time at Sweetgreen. It’s not only great on salad (currently featured on the Thai Watermelon and Rad-Thai) but it is really tasty on the bread slices. If you haven’t had it before, it’s definitely worth trying your next stop in.

Sweetgreen has *five* seasonal menus

So, they have Fall, Winter, Spring, Summer 1, and Summer 2. This means new salads, ingredients and a new beverage. Right now they have Thai Watermelon, Peaches & Goat and Roasted Pepper & Feta. Oh, and the Watermelon Cilantro Fresca. One of the best parts about working at Sweetgreen is being able to try the salads in advanced. Take advantage of each season and try the new salads while they have them.

Don’t get stuck ordering the same thing

Before working at Sweetgreen, I always ordered the Shroomami. Every. Single. Time. I totally understand having a favorite order. The Harvest Bowl and Guacamole Greens are two of the most popular orders. However, with our custom and seasonal options, I highly recommend trying something new from time to time. I was constantly surprised by the flavor combinations that I liked and it gave me a way to eat healthy without getting sick of the same thing. You’d be surprised how many different ways you can eat salad!

Enjoy the sweetlife!

What I’ve Learned In 20 Years

Yesterday I turned 20 and I have had time to reflect on a lot of things. The greater part of the last 20 years has been filled with laughter, love, and adventure. Just the way I like it. I decided to create a list of lessons I’ve learned thus far to analyze how I’ve grown over the past 2 decades.

Failure is a Necessity

Recently I have been faced with a fair amount of failure and rejection but it’s only made me stronger. I hope for the best but have learned that I cannot control everything and failure is good for me. I have learned to appreciate the philosophy that everything happens for a reason. I can choose to focus on all of the negativity, but I’ve learned to move past it and continue working for what I want.  A lot of rejection in a row can take a toll on a person but rising up through the pain is such a rewarding feeling. There is hope out there, but only if you keep trying no matter how many people tell you no. Keep persevering and keep telling yourself you are worth it. I’ve spent hours creating cover letters for internships that never even got back to me. I applied to jobs where the interview went really well and still never got the position. I’ve come to realize that I’m not what everyone is looking for. There is someone out there coveting your personality and skill set, keep looking for it.

Love Gets You Through

No matter how many bad days I have, the people I love are always there to make me feel better. Keeping steady relationships with family, friends, a significant other — I believe those are the foundation of a good life. The people I trust are everything to me and having a solid support system has allowed me to learn more about myself than I ever thought possible. These people have taught me about what I need in a relationship and what I am expected to give back to maintain mutual trust and respect. If you give love, you will get love. Whether it’s with your friends, your family, or your significant other. There is always room to invite love into your life and I have learned to welcome the love with open arms. In a way I believe that love is at the center of human existence because it gives us a deeper purpose and validation in the world. There are most definitely times of heartbreak and loneliness, but no matter where those feelings fall they can be replaced with love. Friendship love is one of the most beautiful kinds because you pick your friends. When you score with someone who truly cares and understands you, it is quite an amazing feeling.

You Can’t Be Friends With Everyone

Work has taught me about this most. I worked in a restaurant for about two years and I most definitely did not like everyone I worked with. I had some great friends, but people who didn’t carry their own weight always got on my nerves. I learned how to take a deep breath, focus on myself and give my best personal performance. I did my job and I did it well, which is all that I can ask of myself. I’m not going to like everyone and not everyone is going to like me. That’s just the way life is and it took me a long time to realize that. In grade school you are, for the most part, surrounded by the same people who you’ve grown up with since kindergarten. When you enter the real world after high school there are people you’ve never met before that have no reason to dislike you, but will. I learned this lesson going into college and I have accepted the fact that that’s how life goes. I am myself and simply because of that people won’t like me…and it’s okay. This is a big one for me. In high school it was difficult for me to get caught involved with petty friend issues and problems with my family. Looking back on how I’ve matured since then is really a rewarding feeling because I’ve learned to brush things off a lot easier. I won’t deny that I’m a sensitive person, but I try to reason with my emotions to not take things too personally. When I’m faced with a problem I think about where the other person is coming from and how I can use that information to gauge the situation. This mental process helps me let things go a lot easier and in return lowers my stress levels. I used to take it so personally when a customer wouldn’t be friendly to me, but now I think about how I am doing my best and if they’re having a bad day I can’t change that and I hope they feel better. The more I think about letting things go and filling my life with peace, the more it takes form and happens.

Me Time

I am a busy bee all the time. If you aren’t busy 24/7 do you even go to Emerson? I balance my life equally between academics, work, friends, and myself. There have been many times when I forget to care for myself and I feel overworked very quickly. By age 20, two years into college, I have found a a way to prioritize myself as well. Taking nights off to drink tea and do absolutely nothing. The thought sounds disgusting… doing nothing.

However, I need to do nothing sometimes. Alone time is sacred to me. Just to unwind, yoga breath, and have everything be still for a little while. Boston is a fast paced city anyways so it can be difficult to take a step back. Find your happy place and soak in the solitude. This lesson might be the most important thing I’ve learned over the past 20 years. It has led to more happiness for myself and those around me. It allows me time to think about everything going on and evaluate if I am truly happy or not. I cut out any negativity and focus on all of the great things going on in my life. There is no better feeling than when you feel content with the decisions you’ve made for yourself. Don’t be afraid to be selfish!!!

I’m excited to be 20 and break into a new decade filled with new challenges, adventures, and life lessons. Expect another article in 10 years about what I’ve learned by 30…hopefully some of the lessons listed above will still ring true with me.

Millennials as Trendsetters

Millennials: the generation everyone loves to hate, including ourselves. You can catch us laughing at how ridiculous we truly are, sipping on our $6 cold brew coffees in jeans that reveal more skin than actual denim. However, there is no doubt that we are style and foodie icons, revolutionizing our lives with trends that are so outrageous that they somehow work.

Avocado Toast

Of course, we begin with the idolized avocado. It’s a fruit so perfect, it has endless forms. Need a kick to your salad? Throw in some cubed avocado. Smoothie time? Don’t mind if I scoop in some fresh avocado. However, it’s undeniable that the millennial’s favorite use of this treasured treat is simply mashed on toast. It’s the breakfast of champs: a golden-brown piece of your favorite toast (for me, it’s rye), topped with creamy mashed avocado and sprinkled with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. It’s as close to perfection as I’ll ever get. And that’s clear from a CNBC article, stating that Americans spend approximately $900,000 on avocado toast a month (and no, I didn’t add any extra 0s). While it may get some hate from our elders, claiming it is a huge investment in a piece of bread with green mush on top, it’s truly the perfect way to get in some healthy carbs and buttery goodness, without actually fatty butter, of course. You can surely find it served at almost every cafe or brunch place, perfect for a lighter breakfast or afternoon snack.

Unicorn Anything

You’ve seen it all over your Instagram feed. A series of rainbow-colored milkshakes, doughnuts, and even corn, not to mention the unicorn-printed shirts, hats, and room decor. If you’ve forever been a die-hard fan of fairytales, now is your shining moment, as millennials have brought the make-believe into real life. Some trends didn’t go as well planned (ahem: the Starbucks Unicorn Frappuccino), but most are well-executed. And even if it doesn’t taste great in food form, it never fails to be an aesthetically-pleasing addition to your photo collection. Sure, most parents probably think it’s just full of unneeded sugars and artificial dyes, but what’s a little treat now and then? And if you’re trekking all the way to New York City, it’s a shame if you didn’t even try a rainbow bagel.

Millennial Pink

Fasten your seatbelts, because millennial pink might just be the new black (gasp!). It’s true, the color has spread like wildfire throughout our generation. From suede Converse to laptop covers to hoodies, millennial pink has made its mark. It’s the color that defines our generation, showing that we can make even the most innocent shade of blush into a rebellious, daring icon. You’d be shocked to find brooding college “sad bois” in baby pink hoodies, young women in rose-tinted shades, and professional boss ladies strutting to work with a tote bag in the same shade as Pepto-Bismol. The new craze has even been seen in our wine preferences: rosé beats red and white almost every time. It’s almost impossible to avoid giving in to the trend, what with it completely taking over favorite millennial stores such as Forever 21, H&M, Zara and Brandy Melville. What’s so empowering about this trend is that it is for all; finally, pink is no longer “just for girls,” but appreciated and supported by all millennials.

Whole Foods

This one might just be the most peculiar trend to non-millennials. Why go out of our way to a grocery store to spend almost triple what we might at a normal grocery store? Well, parents, it’s the idea of it. Whole Foods represents all of a millennial’s wildest dreams: organic produce, healthy eating, and a branded grocery bag to show off that, yes, I can afford to shop at Whole Foods. And, since our generation is infatuated with the idea of natural and healthy cooking, it’s a win-win. More so than past generations, we are all about fruity smoothies, roasted veggies, quinoa bowls and lean chicken breasts. And the perfect place to live out our organic dreams is in the heaven of all grocery stores itself. Not to mention it’s the best spot for a weekday work lunch with your coworkers. Talk about health goals.

Athleisure

Last, but not least, there is the golden fashion trend of our time: athleisure. It was honestly a gift from above. How we managed to make comfort look stylish is beyond me, but our plans have succeeded. Brands like lululemon, Adidas, Nike, and Athleta are absolutely booming today as millennial flood their prized locations. While the gym life has also become popularized in our generation, it seems that the idea of seeming as though you go to the gym is even more popular (much to all of our relief). It is now considered fashionable to show up to class, your favorite cafe, or the mall in track pants, neon sneakers, geometric sports bras, and sweat-resistant tanks. I could go even as far as to say it’s considered glamorous. Of course, regularly showing off brand-name athleisure products proves your wealth and good fortune. Those may just look like stretchy black running pants, but you know she dropped $80 on them. And the best part about wearing those clothes is the mystery of it. Did they just go to the gym and are now grabbing a post-workout smoothie? Are they pregaming their workout with a sweetgreen salad? Do they even have a gym membership? Who knows? It’s all about the perception you put out of being a hip, trendy, fitness icon.

While some of our millennial trends may be borderline preposterous, there’s no doubting their influence on today’s world. We are constantly coming up with new and exciting ways to improve our lives, both physically and aesthetically. We are rebels, within reason, and love nothing more than finding the next best thing to show off to the world via our social media. The pursuit of each social trend stems from our desire to both stand out from the crowd and be supported by our millennial community. And with that, we continue to push forward (maybe with significantly less deconstructed dishes and overly-priced basics).

The Difference Between Healthy Eating and Dieting

Lately, I’ve been struggling with this idea. I’m someone who has always tried hard to live a healthy lifestyle. I rarely eat fast food, work out when I can and would much rather snack on hummus or fruit than on popcorn or cookies. I would classify myself as healthyish. I’m not the type who would turn down pizza on a Saturday night, but it’s not something I like to do on the regular.

As someone who will soon be going abroad to the Castle, I’ve been trying to dedicate the rest of my summer to losing a few pounds and slimming down. I started off by going on a “diet,” which consisted of limiting my carb intake to one meal; a banana or yogurt for breakfast, salads with fruit and nuts for lunch, and typically stir-fried chicken and veggies with multigrain rice for dinner. I felt that, if I didn’t title it as a “diet,” I would be lazy and give up easily. This turned into a competition with myself; every time I was hungry, but opted to go to the gym over snacking unnecessarily, I was washed over with immense pride. I could do this! But when the scale was stubbornly unmoving, I got frustrated. What was the point of eating so little and healthy and going to the gym multiple times a week if it wasn’t going to do anything?

This is where I started recognizing the difference between healthy eating and dieting. For me, the problem with dieting is that it puts too much pressure on an individual. “Carbs for just dinner” sounds so easy, but then when you break that even once, you lose hope and confidence. You think, I already failed, why bother continuing? In a lot of the diets in which we partake, from guided ones like Weight Watchers to self-guided ones like paleo diets, our daily routine revolves around never wavering. We have to be perfect, never giving into cravings and keeping our eyes on the prize at all times. That is a recipe for implosion. And even when we allow for cheat days, those days sometimes lead us to eating way more and much unhealthier than we might have had we been eating more balanced meals every day.

The idea of balance is the key to differentiating between healthy eating and dieting. Healthy eating is so much more effective because it’s all about balance; maybe you ate a lot of protein and fruit for breakfast. Well, then maybe some veggies and grains for lunch. And if you ended up eating a lighter dinner, maybe you can have some frozen yogurt for dessert. You aren’t controlling the quantity or quality of what you’re eating. No more calorie-counting or food-deductions, just balanced eating that leaves room for some cravings, but incorporation of all important food groups. Even if you have a “bad day,” you can always balance it out the next day with healthier meals and a trip to the gym. Healthy eating is a lifestyle, whereas dieting is a temporary phase. It puts less pressure on you to abide by self-proclaimed rules and recognizes that we’re all humans with cravings. Life truly isn’t worth it if we never allow ourselves to eat the foods we really love, even on occasion. And it’s not fair to reprimand ourselves for giving in to a gooey plate of nachos or a moist slice of chocolate fudge cake.

In my new version of “getting my body ready for Europe,” I’m not going to force myself to not eat when I’m hungry and say no to something if I really really want it. I’m still going to try my best to eat beautiful foods that are good for my body, drink as much water as I can, and work out a few times a week. But, on the weekends, I’m going to treat myself to breakfast sandwiches, Rocky Road ice cream, and late-night Maria’s because life is too full of delicious eats to say no.

How Musical Theatre Shaped Who I Am

I started theatre at the age of nine and continued with it until the age of 18. I always felt happiest up on stage in front of an audience. Theatre forced me to become comfortable in front of large amounts of people very early on which boosted my confidence more than I ever knew.

I never really had dreams of being on Broadway, my goal for each show was to do my personal best. I love going back and watching old DVD’s because my stage presence gets significantly better every show. Theatre is an amazing way to boost self confidence because the audience gives so much reassurance about what you are doing. It is not easy as a nine-year-old to remember choreography, song lyrics, and lines, but I have seen so many young kids perfect their performance in the end. It’s impossible to tell what you’re capable of before your first performance but once you leave it all on the stage you feel an instant wave of relief and accomplishment.

The Spring after my freshman year of high school I was nominated for EMACT’S (Eastern Massachusetts Association of Community Theatres) Best Young Actress award which was a high point of my theatre career. It was for my role as the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland. The nomination came as quite a surprise to me and I felt elated to attend the award gala and see many other talented actors. 13-year-old Hannah did not exactly feel at place in a room surrounded by much older actors  who had been performing longer than I had been alive. Looking around me and realizing that I was being recognized side by side with so many other amazing people made me hold my head up a little higher and smile a little brighter. Although I did not win the award, being recognized for doing what you love is always an achievement in itself. The nomination showed me that what I was doing was meaningful not only to myself, but to others. I had always felt a little different being a theatre kid and never getting involved with sports so this source of validation made a big difference in my social development in high school.

Through the Easton Children’s Theatre I was able to perform for nine years as well as become an assistant director for about five years. I helped out with two musicals during the year and over the summer I was a counselor for a four week camp that resulted in a completed musical. This opportunity allowed me to choreograph many shows and help young actors between the ages of 9 and 15 sharpen their acting skills and gain confidence on stage. It is amazing how much a young actor can change between their audition and opening night. The amount of joy I feel watching a completed show has brought me to tears multiple times because I feel so much pride in the actors. I wouldn’t trade my theatre experience for anything in the world and I would do anything to relive every show I directed one more time.

Flash forward to my senior year of high school, I knew that my theatre career was coming to a close. My major was declared at Emerson and I wasn’t too sad about my final curtain call at my high school musical. Theatre was the right choice for me throughout high school and I did not regret any of the late night choreography sessions or stressful dress rehearsals. To all of the theatre kids out there, you are making the best decision by sticking with it and performing on a stage. You will carry the skills and confidence with you for the rest of your life and it will bring you many, many opportunities (theatre related or not) in the future.

Because of musical theatre, I am now able to speak in front of crowds, hold myself with poise, and watch young actors grow  with my guidance. When I start to reminisce on my theatre experience I miss it more and more. There is absolutely nothing else like live theatre which makes the feeling irreplaceable in my heart. I hope one day I will step foot on a stage because I really do still hear it calling my name.

Disney as an Adult

1. Etsy Ears

  If you don’t know already, Etsy is a wonderful website to buy Disney themed merch at. Not only do they have shirts and jewelry, but there are countless shops solely dedicated to handcrafting and selling Disney ears. You can find pairs in almost any color or theme. Many shops will even do custom orders. My most recent purchase was a pair of skull ears that glow in the dark. 

2. Wait Times and Planning 

   This probably doesn’t speak well of me, but I swear I’ve grown more impatient as the years go on. So when it comes to Disney, the wait times can be excruciatingly long. However, I also now have apps like the My Disney Experience and Headsup to help me make the most of my time and provide some entertainment in line. One of the best parts of being an adult at Disney is being able to completely plan and customize your trip to your every whim. Planning out fast passes in advance help you to make the most of your time and avoid as many long lines as possible. 

3. Dining and Drinking Around the World

  Something I’ve learned to greatly appreciate in my recent ventures to Disney is the food. Sure as a kid I loved to get a snack here and there, but never fully appreciated the full experience  Not only do the parks have mouth watering must-haves such as pretzels and dole whip but countless sit-down restaurants available if your budget allows for it. Epcot and Disney Springs are the places to go if you’re looking to have the Disney eating experience. Being 21 and Disney is a great combo. Epcot has an endless array of alcoholic beverages that are both tasty and strong. 

4. Money

One of the biggest things I’ve come to realize as an adult is how expensive going to Disney is. Everything from the food to the park tickets themselves is pretty high in cost. Even with Disney Blogs giving us all the top notch ways to save money, there’s no doubt that a Dinsey vacation is going to cost you a pretty penny. I’m definitely way more appreciative of my trips looking back.

 

5. Extra Magic Hours

Extra Magic Hours at night are some of my best hours spent at Disney. Simply put, fewer kids and shorter lines.

 

6. Changes to the Park

One of the things about being able to return to the Disney park as an adult that is equally as exciting as it is heartbreaking are the changes they make to the parks. Your reaction undoubtedly depends on your taste as a Disney fan. New park additions can mean more rides and experiences for park goers, but can also mean older and more classic attractions get torn down. I’m still pretty bitter about Tower of Terror.

7. Memories

Since I was fortunate enough to be able to go to Disney more than once growing up, I have some pretty fond memories (mainly of Disneyland) that make going back even more special now. Returning to places and reliving experiences that made me so happy as kid help to make it just as special as an adult. I often find myself tearing up during the firework show (I know, make fun of me all you want.) Disney sure knows how to capitalize on nostalgia.  

8. Disney is romantic

There’s nothing better than spending a day at Disney with your S.O. The food, the mutual love of pin-trading (I got lucky with that one) and the firework shows at night all make for a great date.  There’s a reason I’ll be spending my five year anniversary at Magic Kingdom this year!

My most recent trip to Disney (Spring 2017) rockin’ some classic Minnie ears.

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Chicago in 3 Days

 

Looking to explore a new city? Want to experience a breathtaking skyline that’s also right on the water? It may be time to look into visiting Chicago. This past week I went for 3 days and really fell in love with the city. There are great deals on Expedia that will make it easier to travel on a budget and this guide will help you get the most out of your trip. 

Chicago Cubs

If you’re a Red Sox fan, Wrigley field will feel very familiar to you. It is the second oldest ballpark behind Fenway and has an awesome old timey feel. Wrigley is a beautiful field with great a great view from every section. There is history packed into the stadium and fun facts posted around the park to read up on the history of the Cubs. Awesome food, die hard fans and ice cold beer. Basically Boston, right?

The Bean

The Bean!

An icon in Chicago, the Bean can’t be missed. Located in the heart of the city in Millennium Park, it could not be easier to get to. Grab a Chicago dog from a nearby food truck and sit by the Bean for an hour or so. The perfect place to people watch and snap some fun pictures. There are other sculptures and artwork scattered around the park to check out too. Research restaurants around the Bean because there are many cool food joints hidden around the downtown area!

Art Institute

A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte by George Seurat

After you’re done with the Bean, move on to the Art Institute of Chicago to explore an incredible selection of artwork. The institute carries an impressive collection of pieces from Seurat, Monet, van Gogh, Warhol and so many more. It is not hard to spend an entire day here exploring every wing of this beautiful museum. Be sure to check out the modern wing upstairs for very funky, contemporary paintings and sculptures.

Navy Pier

James Curran ferris wheel santa monica santa monica boardwalk GIF

What is better than an amusement park on a boardwalk?! Navy Pier is a fun place to visit while in Chicago, even if it’s only for half a day. On certain days over the summer they feature outdoor movies on the pier along with other cool activities. There are many fun restaurants, carnival rides, and boat tours to explore. The Navy Pier ferris wheel is the perfect way to view the entire Chicago shoreline from end to end. To make thing even better, the shuttle from downtown to the pier is always free and runs about every half hour! Grab a bite to eat and enjoy the beautiful shore of Lake Michigan.

John Hancock Tower

Sunset from the top of the 360 Observatory.

The top floor of the Hancock tower hosts the most amazing view for a sunset. An elevator takes you 94 floors up in less than a minute. When the doors open, you are greeted by floor to ceiling glass windows showcasing a 360 view of Chicago from a bird’s eye view. It is so peaceful being in that beautiful tower and a perfect way to relax at the end of a busy day exploring the city. You pay for admission to the top of the tower and can stay as long as you want. There is a fun new feature at the top called Tilt! where you lean against the glass at the top of the tower and hang out above the city. Very scary, but worth it for the thrill!

Chi-town is my new favorite city and maybe it will become yours too!

My Big Greek Vacation- Part 3: Santorini

I think I can safely say I saved the most beautiful place on the planet as the ending for my trip to Greece. Santorini is another island in the Aegean Sea and is primarily known for its sunsets. Many people say it’s the most beautiful place to watch the sunset, and I can’t say I disagree. Even looking back at my pictures I realize that no camera can capture Santorini. It defies technology.

Santorini was very easygoing. We spent most of it lounging around the pool in our hotel or out on the ocean. The ocean cruise was actually the best part of the entire trip. We were on a small ship with about twelve other people for six hours cruising around the shores of Santorini. We got to see the black, red and white sand beaches. There were cliffs made of lumpy volcanic rock due to the fault line right underneath the island. I got to sail right by an active volcano, so that was a little terrifying. The volcano was actually right off the coast of our hotel, so I got used to being near it after a while.

Back to the cruise. For me the best parts of it all were the few stops we made so we could jump into the sea and swim around for some time. It was like swimming in Mykonos only better. The water was crystal clear to the point where I could see fish swimming underneath my feet. One of the stops was at a hot springs by an inactive volcano, because there are actually two volcanos next to Santorini.

Santorini also has a cute town just like Mykonos. This one was called Oia (it sounds like EE-aa), and it’s the most famous in Santorini. It has the same white walls as Chora, but these are rounded with blue domes at the top. Despite the shops and all the great gifts they had to offer, Oia is most known for being the best place to watch the sunset.

Honestly, you could watch the sunset from anywhere and it would be just as beautiful. The view from my hotel was stunning. The first night we were there, I couldn’t stop looking out at the skyline during dinner. The sky looked like a pastel rainbow. That’s the best way I can describe it. The mountains and rocks looked lavender during the sunset too. Then there was the moon coming up opposite the sun, which is something I literally couldn’t capture it on my phone. I could watch it change right before my eyes. When the moon was lowest, it was bright red. The higher it got, I could see it change from red to light orange, when finally to yellow once the sun was totally gone. I really wish I could get a better description for you guys, because it was absolutely surreal.

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Surreal is the word that keeps coming up when I think about Greece. It was the best place I’ve ever been to in my life, and I can’t recommend it enough for anyone who hasn’t been there before. You won’t be disappointed.

Being a Non-Music-Major Pianist

I’ve been playing music for as long as I can remember. My childhood was more so a series of staffs, black notes and complex finger patterns than it was words or steps. I learned music as a third language (after English and Tamil), and it brought me a type of simultaneous joy and frustration that nothing else in the world brings me. It’s the fire that lights my every move.

I was 5 years old was when my parents drove me to my first piano lesson. I’d be lying if I said I remembered it like it was yesterday because I don’t recall it at all. I prefer it that way; it wasn’t some huge moment in my life. Instead, it was just what was meant to happen, simple as that. I’ve had 3 piano teachers in my life, each one growing in difficulty and sternness as I, too, grew. Although I don’t remember these first few piano lessons, I will never forget that rush when I’d struggle through a piece and make it through without a single false note. That rush started in my belly and glowed all the way up my esophagus. It was a pride like none other.

After those many years of youth piano books, I finally got into the good stuff. Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, and, my favorite of all, Tchaikovsky. I wasn’t anywhere near being a perfect pianist. Every piece I learned was tough, and I suffered through misplaced fingers, misread notes and misunderstood key signatures. I was so beyond frustrated. All I wanted was to be a piano maestro, taking one look at a page and playing it as fluently as I can speak a passage of the English language. All my friends were playing pop music in their lessons, and I craved the ease of Adele’s chords under my fingertips. I lost sight of the treasure that was classical piano.

What had always discouraged me from being the best pianist I could be was the fact that I knew deep down I didn’t need to be, even if I wanted to. I wasn’t planning on majoring or minoring in any music-related fields. Music was my past and present, but it was sadly not my future. So the hours when I should’ve been practicing my concertos and sonatas, I was instead grabbing iced coffee with my best friends, scribbling out my Calculus homework or researching about and applying to colleges. I had lost my innate passion for music and, rather, treated it like an annoying chore. I instead focused my energies on playing simple chords to my favorite radio songs and singing along to them with my friends. I spent most of my high school career partaking in open mic nights and talent shows, always accompanying myself and my friends on those trusty keys.

It had been a long time since I had played my classical pieces, and I mean really play them. I quit piano lessons by the end of my senior year of high school, preparing for the inevitable move to Boston. My beautiful, rich piano books began collecting dust in the corner of my living room at home, aching for their pages to be turned and set up against the piano stand. But I was a Marketing Communications major, now, and I had no business playing piano.

It was a few weeks ago when I came home for a weekend and went over to my living room (a.k.a. The music room). I play piano often when I come home, but typically Ingrid Michaelson or Ed Sheeran sheet music that I pull up on my laptop. This time, however, I picked up my favorite piano book, Tchaikovsky’s The Seasons. It’s a collection of twelve pieces for every month of the year. I set open the book to January: At The Fireside and began stumbling through the notes. That rush from my belly to my esophagus returned instantaneously. I felt alive.

The point is that music should never have a life sentence. Music lessons are not for children and young adults, until they frolic away to college. Music is not just for the Music majors. There is something so soothing and electrifying about really playing music and forcing yourself through those tricky pieces. I feel the best musician when my eyes glaze over staring at the measures of black notes, sharps, and flats and when I have to keep restarting a measure. It’s when I am the most determined, confident, and focused. It has shaped every aspect of my life, making me a more attuned person. Even though I am no professional maestro, I know I am still a pianist.