Christmas Items at Target: A Review

There are very few purely, truly, unambiguously one hundred percent Good things in this world. It is the nature of living. But there are fully good things to be found. That picture of Orlando Bloom delightedly bicycling with a small dog in a makeshift Babybjörn, for instance. Or the cinematic masterpiece Zendaya is Meechee.

Three such gifts to humanity are Target, Christmastime, and ridiculous and unnecessary items that cost less than $10. As Justin Bieber once said, “It’s the most beautiful time of the year”: the time when the Target dollar spot is transformed into a shrine to yuletide.

The only thing that could make these items better is a full, thoughtful, very serious review.

Continue reading “Christmas Items at Target: A Review”


National Holidays: The Definitive Ranking

It’s November, and you know what that means. The yearly smackdown has arrived. Once more, the weirdly passionate section of the American people has been screaming on the Internet about the respective merits of Thanksgiving and Christmas.

When the clock strikes midnight on October 31, some instantly hit play for the first time out of hundreds on Mariah Carey’s seminal hit “All I Want for Christmas Is You.” Others, meanwhile, plead for some well-deserved attention to be directed to Thanksgiving, apparently completely ignorant to the fact that there are exactly zero Thanksgiving-themed Mariah Carey songs. Some people are still talking about Halloween, because people who love Halloween never stop talking about Halloween, but that’s not even a national holiday so it’s completely out of the picture anyway.

There’s only way to solve this issue. And that’s a definitive ranking of every national holiday on the American roster, from worst to best. (It’s a surprising lineup.)


Columbus Day – Second Monday in October

Nope x infinity. Nooooooo thank you. Goodbye Christopher. Indigenous People’s Day or bust.


Labor Day – First Monday in September

Labor Day will never escape its well-deserved bad rep. It was drilled into every child in (most parts of) America for twelve years: Labor Day is the last day of summer break. Labor Day is for moping, waiting in long lines in Office Depot, and the return of that good ol’ it’s-Sunday-night-at-seven-pm-I-wasted-the-weekend-I-have-a-whole-week-ahead-of-me anxiety.


Inauguration Day – January 20 (every 4 years)

Every four years is BS for a holiday, and also nobody gets off from school or work for this, except perhaps some people who work in certain sectors of Washington, D.C. Also an inauguration can be reaaaaaaal hit or miss. To say the least.


George Washington’s Birthday – Third Monday in February

There’s a lot to unpack when it comes to old GW’s b-day. First, this is the only guy with a birthday marked with a NATIONAL DAY, which is a baller move. But what is really hilarious is that this isn’t actually on his birthday, but the third Monday in February?? Whose idea was that? What purpose does this serve? I have no answers, but this made me giggle and that means it’s getting a boost in the rankings even though it offers absolutely no festivities.


New Year’s Day – January 1

Who cares about New Year’s Day? Do people even do anything? New Year’s Eve is where it’s at and we all know it. I guess it’s nice to have the day off for recovery from the night preceding, but that’s not enough to rescue this day from its total boring-ness.


Memorial Day – Last Monday in May

Memorial Day is cool because it’s summery. Barbecues and stuff. Also, I guess you can start wearing white again? If you follow societal rules like that and stopped? Not really too sure if that’s an actual thing that people do.


Veterans Day – November 11

Always good to pay respect to our veterans and also get a day off from school in mid-November.


Martin Luther King, Jr. Day – Third Monday in January

MLK Day was always really awesome in elementary and middle school. In elementary school the second grade always put on a play (it was two-for-one for MLK Day and the approach of Black History Month) so we got out of class for an assembly. In middle school we watched My Friend Martin a bunch of times. Anyway this day is very important and it’s pretty rad and extremely deserved that it’s a national holiday.


Independence Day – July 4

Summertime! Fireworks! Barbecues! Those popsicles where the top bit is cherry and the middle is lemon and the bottom is blue raspberry! Fourth of July is great and involves a lot of red and blue food dyes which is always extremely fun.


Thanksgiving Day – Fourth Thursday in November

Yes, this is the moment you have been waiting for. Thanksgiving only lands second place. It’s made it even to second place only for the following reasons: everyone celebrates it; the arts and crafts potential is magnificent; we usually get several days off for it; some of the food is good. (Yes, only some. Turkey is nobody’s favorite poultry and many of the combinations placed on the feasting table are full on embarrassing. Sweet potatoes and marshmallows?? Green beans and cream-based soups??? Maybe I just hate casseroles.)


Christmas Day – December 25

I am a huge fan of festivities. That is why this list is essentially ranked based on amount of festivities granted to each day. Christmas is, bare minimum, a month-long holiday. There are entire genres of songs and movies dedicated to it. Every self-respecting season of television has a holiday episode. There are one million recipes that are Christmas-exclusive. Also I love cookies and there is no more cookie-centric holiday in the world.



Or, “National Day of ____” things that I believe should be actual holidays

International Ninja Day (December 5)

National Lumpy Rug Day (May 3)

National Just Because Day (August 27)

National Everything You Do Is Right Day (March 16)



Holiday Gifts on a College Budget

The holidays are the time of the year where you want to give presents to your friends, family, pets, teachers, co-workers, and whoever else is special to you. But there may be one thing that’s  stopping you . . . money. Buying gifts for multiple people definitely adds up, so I created a list of presents for your college budget that is perfect for all of your loved ones.

Photo Book

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 Photo books are a great personal gift for someone special in your life. You can purchase an empty photobook and fill the book with pictures or you can create a photo book online (on websites such as Walgreens and Shutterfly). If you choose to purchase an empty photo book, here are some ideas. For a more personal touch, you can fill the majority of the photo slots and then leave some empty to save space for the memories to come. You can also add personal notes and/or captions along with the photos.You can print the photos at your local drugstore, online (such as a Shutterfly), or from your computer.

Cookie in a Jar

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For those who love baking, give the present of a cookie in a jar. Instead of baking cookies, layer all of the ingredients in a mason jar. After you put all of the ingredients of your desired cookie in the jar, add a recipe around the lid with a ribbon for the final touch.

Vintage Shop

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If you want to give clothing as a gift but you can’t afford retail prices, go to a vintage store. The great thing about vintage shopping is how unique all of the pieces are. Vintage shops are also a great place to look for funny gift exchanges such as a white elephant. The garment district is a great place to go vintage shopping.

Make a Card

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A simple and fun way to get into the holiday spirit is to create a card. Whether you hand make, purchase, or create the cards online, this gift is a fairly inexpensive way to give presents to many people. This year my suitemates and I have decided to give our friends a card and add candy. Depending on how much you want to spend per gift you can even add a gift card or anything else that will fit in the envelope.

Coupon Book

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This presentation is one of my personal favorites. One reason I love this gift is it doesn’t cost anything. Ok, I’ll admit, I have used this as a present because I didn’t want to pay for an actual gift for my mom. But in my defense, I did add coupons for a movie date and a spa day, so I knew I was going to have to pay for something eventually. Coupon books are especially great for parents and grandparents, but they are also great for friends too. I still have a full coupon book from a friend that I can’t wait to use.

“Open when..” Letters

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Open when letters are usually known to be for your significant other, but they can be written for anyone. This is especially a great gift if you live far away from a loved one. Some of the envelopes may be titled “Open when you miss me”, “Open when you need to laugh”, or  “Open when you’re sad.” Of course, those are just a few ideas and there are so many more. Ultimately it is completely up to you to determine what you would like to write the letters.

Planner with Fill-in-the-Blank Quotes

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I recently was just about this gift and I am obsessed with it. There is a planner with spots on each of the pages to personalize with your own quotes. If someone ever gave me this present I would automatically start tearing up because of how personal the present is. This is also a great gift to give right before the start of 2018. If you want a personalized gift and don’t mind spending a lot of time writing in the planner, then this is an amazing gift. My personal favorite planners for this gift are Day Designer planners.

Another tip to save money is to do a gift exchange. Instead of your buying gifts for everyone in your friend group, workplace, family, etc., do a gift exchange instead. Now everyone only needs to purchase one gift instead of multiple gifts. There are many different fun ways to do gift exchanges: secret Santa, white elephant, drawing names, and more. I hope that these gift ideas gave you some ways to buy presents this holiday season on your college budget.


It’s a Wonderful Life

It’s midnight on a Tuesday night, you’re sitting in the Iwasaki library struggling to finish uploading that video project to Median before you’re politely asked to leave as the library is closed. Surrounded by empty coffee cups, electronics chargers and old halloween candy you’re praying will help you power through, there’s no denying it: you are exhausted. With all the hustle and bustle, it’s so easy to lose sight of the bigger picture. Somewhere between the stress of finals and end of semester projects in both classes and extracurriculars the true reason for the season tends to get lost. The world around us has officially entered full holiday mode, but we as college students with too much on our plates (unfortunately not Thanksgiving dinner this time) struggle to leave our stressed, distracted bubbles.

Continue reading “It’s a Wonderful Life”


Winter Wonderland: My Adventure to City Hall Plaza’s ‘Boston Winter’

  Before arriving at Emerson I had lived in Sarasota, Florida for practically my whole life, and while I wouldn’t change that for the world and will always be a beach babe at heart the idea of a true winter is still so exciting to me! Snow replacing sand and a sled replacing Santa’s surfboard (which I’ll never understand, there’s no surf off of any of Florida’s coasts) is what’s getting me through the end of this long semester, even after a second year, which was why I was so excited to visit the “Boston Winter” at City Hall Plaza!

Continue reading “Winter Wonderland: My Adventure to City Hall Plaza’s ‘Boston Winter’”


How to Have a Vegetarian Thanksgiving

If you are a vegetarian or vegan, the holiday season can be uncomfortable in terms of food. You sit around the table with your family as they all stare at your plate trying to figure out what you will eat.

This time around, you can have the opportunity of showing your family and friends how delicious plant-based food can be.

These are some of the plates that I plan on cooking for my Thanksgiving dinner with friends.

Roasted Squash with Red Onion, Oregano and Mint

Tgiving issue: roasted squash, brussel sprout slaw

Easy and so delicious, this warm appetizer will be loved by everyone at the table. It’s as easy as baking the squash and spicing it up. Enjoy.

Recipe can be found here.

Zucchini and Caramelized Onion Quiche


Delicious and filling. Works well as a side dish or even a main dish. This is the kind of dish where you can choose the vegetables you love the most. In my case, zucchini is the chosen one. I suggest squash, tomato or mushrooms. This is a yummy, easy and quick addition to the table.

Recipe can be found here.

Squash and Celeriac Quinoa Stuffing


Give your classic Thanksgiving stuffing a twist.

Replace the bread with quinoa, and treat yourself to a healthy stuffing. This is a great vegan approach to the stuffing, where you replace classic ingredients like chicken broth and eggs for butternut squash and celery root. This is healthy, full of protein and the quinoa will give great texture to the dish.

Recipe can be found here.

Whipped Coco Cream Tart with Fresh Berries (Vegan)


Delight yourself and your guests with this quick, easy tart. The berries are your choosing. This tart will look so gorgeous, you will be surprised!

Recipe can be found here.

Chocolate Pecan Pie (Vegan)


Some delicious vegan chocolate pie to end the meal. This pie won’t take you longer than half an hour to make, and you will thank yourself you did.

Recipe can be found here.

Additional tips can be found on Food&Wine’s website.


Sweet Treats for the 4th of July

One of my favorite internet pastimes is browsing through recipes, mostly because I love food, but also because eventually I would like to try some of those pinned recipes. This is especially fun to do right before a holiday, because the food gets even more creative.

Whether you’re in charge of dessert this year, or, like me, you just like to look, here is a roundup of my favorite 4th of July desserts from the internet.

Thanks to Colleen McMahon for the photo!
Photo by Colleen McMahon

These are so easy to make, yet so festive! All you need to do is dip the marshmallows in frosting or chocolate, dip in colored sugar or sprinkles, and viola! Also, I love anything with marshmallows, so this is obviously a favorite.

Thanks to Colleen McMahon for the photo!
Photo by Colleen McMahon

I’ve seen this firecracker cake on Pinterest a lot and the burst of colors inside and outside the cake are so eye-catching. You want to put the food coloring on top of the cake after it’s in the baking pan and smush it in a little to create the waterfall of red and blue.

Thanks to Samantha Caudle for the photo!
Photo by Samantha Caudle

This professional cake is just amazing and I had to include it here.

Thanks to regan76 for the photo!
Photo by regan76

Cookies are a great idea if you’re looking for something easy that everyone will love. They’re especially great for younger kids who love to decorate!


If you’re looking for something that will stand out from the red, white and blue, then try a barbecue cake. This works great for any barbecue and not just the 4th of July. When I baked this cake, I used an extra cupcake that I stuck on top as the grill and the pool actually sunk in by itself, but if it doesn’t, just cut a bit out of the middle and that should work too! The minions could be switched out for regular teddy grahams, but who doesn’t love minions?

Thanks to Tim Pierce for the photo!
Photo by Tim Pierce

These strawberries have the triple benefit of being adorable, healthy and delicious. Keep it healthy and use whipped cream inside or switch out the whipped cream for some sweeter frosting.

Thanks to US Embassy Canada for the photo!
Photo by US Embassy Canada

This is another beautiful professional cake, but it can be easily reproduced without the white stars or with some candy. You can also use strawberries instead of raspberries.


I made this cake for another barbecue a few years ago and even I didn’t expect it to come out that well. It may look intimidating, but it’s surprisingly easy. It’s just like any other three layer cake but with different colored frosting.


There are lots of variations of this cake, and they are all easy ways to make a festive dessert. Make sure to use a lot of food coloring for the red and blue, otherwise you’ll end up with pink, white and light blue.

Thanks to Colleen McMahon for the photo!
Photo by Colleen McMahon

I really love that the pieces of watermelon are cut into stars. Now, even the fruit salad is celebrating Independence Day!

Thanks to janeyhenning for the photo!
Photo by janeyhenning

This is probably the most incredible pie I have ever seen. I never would have thought to use a cookie cutter for the top of the pie crust.

Thanks to yaybiscutis123 for the photo!
Photo by yaybiscutis123

The giant cookie is a tasty alternative to cake.

Thanks to Ann for the photo!
Photo by Ann

More sugar and frosting/white chocolate, but this time on strawberries! The strawberries have the benefit of already being red, unlike the marshmallows, so you’ve got all your flag colors right there.

Thanks to Ann for the photo!
Phtoto by Ann

We move slightly away from dessert with this one, but you could always use pieces of cake or banana if cheese for dessert isn’t your thing. You could also keep in the cheese and serve it before dinner instead of dessert.

Art, City, Opinion

The Nutcracker Ballet and Me

Now that Thanksgiving break has passed and the end of the semester is rapidly approaching, it’s time to start thinking about the holiday season. Everybody has their own traditions, whether it’s a specific food only served during the holidays, a favorite movie that the whole family watches, or a ritual, like going out on Black Friday.

For me personally, one of the things I look forward to the most around Christmas time is seeing The Nutcracker Ballet. I can’t really remember how this tradition started for me, because I don’t remember the first time I watched it or heard about it. Much like Christmas itself, the Nutcracker Ballet is just something that’s been a fixture in my life for as long as I can remember.

I have several cousins who took dance lessons and a dance teacher for an aunt, so I came by ballet naturally. I can vividly remember being four or five-years-old, watching my cousins perform in a local youth production of the Nutcracker and being absolutely enthralled by it. All I wanted was to be like the beautiful dancers on stage, so I started taking lessons, and finally got to be in the Nutcracker when I was seven. Of course, I ended up with a cute little role that didn’t actually involve any dancing, but every year I came back and every year I got bigger parts and got to dance more.

Even though it was the busiest time of year, the Nutcracker was almost the most fun time of year when I was little, especially leading up to the performances. During tech week, I got to stay up way past my bedtime to be at rehearsal, where I could hang out with my friends and watch all the dancers. Plus, every year I got to skip a day of school to perform in the “school show,” which was for field trip groups. The weekend of performances-almost always threatened by some kind of snow storm-were complete pandemonium, but I loved every minute of it. I felt very grown-up being backstage, putting on my makeup and my hairpieces and getting to wear the gorgeous costumes.

When I was 12, my usual annual Nutcracker treat was supplemented because my grandmother took my mother, my sister and me to see Boston Ballet’s production of the Nutcracker for Christmas. I’d been performing with the same group for five years by that point, so I’d had that production memorized, but being able to watch a different company-and a professional company with actual, adult, professional ballerinas and in the real, honest-to-goodness Boston Opera House-was an unforgettable experience. It was one of those truly transformative moments, one of those moments where you’re so happy that all you want is to be that happy for the rest of your life.

Around that time, though, my local production of the Nutcracker was becoming a little less fun for me. At 13, you could start trying out for roles on pointe. I hadn’t started pointe yet, though, so the number of roles I qualified for was limited. (They were even further limited by the fact that the directors played favorites and gave the same kids the good parts every year, but that’s a different story.) I was also older and just getting to be too busy for the show. It was fun as a nine-year-old to stay at rehearsals and shows until 11 o’clock every night, but as a high school student with other commitments, it was too much.

I quit the Nutcracker when I was 16, after performing in it for nine consecutive years. I kept dancing with my own studio even after that, but after getting injured my senior year of high school, ballet has mostly been put on hold for now. But even after all the frustration, the Nutcracker is still extremely close to my heart. Every year I find some way to watch it multiple times. I don’t always make it to Boston Ballet’s production before it closes, but I own the Pacific Northwest Ballet’s version (with designs from children’s book author Maurice Sendak) on DVD. I also watch any version of it I can find playing on TV (especially Ovation’s “Battle of the Nutcrackers,”) and sometimes I’ll even stop by my old company’s production of it, just to see how the show has changed over the years.

I can’t pinpoint what exactly it is about the Nutcracker that I find so magical. Maybe it’s because I’m a fantasy nerd  and I’ve always been obsessed with stories that involve magic, transformations and journeys to other worlds. But I also think that nostalgia is a huge factor in why I love it so much. Whenever I drive around my hometown in the fall and winter, I think about being a little kid and being shuttled to Nutcracker rehearsals on the weekends. The Nutcracker is something that’s always stayed constant in my life for so many years, even if the way that it plays a role in my life now is different than the one it played when I was younger. I think everyone has these things in their life, the things that they can’t quite let go of and that stay important even after so many years. Moreover, I think it’s good to have these things. They’re a good measuring stick for how much you’ve grown but also good for reminding you of the ways that you’ve stayed the same, even after all these years.

What are your favorite, nostalgic holiday traditions? Let Atlas know in the comments!



Although I recognize that “home” may not always be the place where people feel the most welcome, it certainly hasn’t been that way for me. There is always something special about going back home after being away for a long time.

First, there’s the food. For the most part, it’s good. It has taste, substance and doesn’t instantly send you running to the bathroom. Most of the time, even if it isn’t necessarily good, it’s familiar and it’s something you’ve grown up with your whole life, which is a feeling that always makes me smile.

Then, there’s the comfort of being somewhere that you know like the back of your hand. You can stumble out of bed in the morning and make your way to the bathroom without even fully opening your eyes. You can sink your into the familiar spots of the pink carpet that you picked out when you were five and the horse posters on the wall offer a bit of comfort that the Fight Club posters in your dorm room never quite will.

And of course, there’s the people. You may not always get along with your family and your friends from home may be far from perfect, but there is usually someone that you’ve been dying to see. Personally, I find myself constantly surprised by the people I end up missing after being away from home for a while. Sometimes, you end up missing the weirdo kid you’ve known since first grade who actually makes you laugh or maybe it’s your best friend’s ex who was kind of a jerk but now is sort of getting his act together.

There’s something about home, something so comfortable, that comes back to you in unexpected ways. And of course, if all else fails, at least there’s the food.


Season of Giving

Sometimes when I volunteer or give back to my community, I am struck with the possibility that what I’m doing is somewhat selfish.

This sounds very odd I’m sure, considering the very definition of volunteering or donating requires selflessness. But I sometimes find it a little selfish simply because of how good it makes me feel. I find myself wondering if that is the only reason why I do it: to gain a small sense of altruism and kindness.

In truth, I don’t really think there’s anything wrong with that. I’ve never felt particularly bad after doing something for someone else, even if it is a little bit on a self-serving level.

As Thanksgiving quickly approaches, I’ve been thinking about this a lot. I always feel an even stronger urge to help people around this time due to the abundance of food and family members I am surrounded by. As a result,  I become especially aware of the privilege that I take for granted.

In a sense, my desire to volunteer around this time might be partly guilt-based but it still gets the job done. Volunteering is something I can do that makes me feel better after a long day. It helps me to put my problems into context and realize that they are not as bad as I believe them to be. Helping people can also be a brilliant distraction; it helps to remind you that it is not your little world and that your actions can have an even larger impact than you realize.

So, go ahead, be a little selfish. If changing the world a little bit makes you feel better, it sounds like a pretty good idea to me.