My Thanksgiving College Haul

My small Kanken backpack, a small duffel bag, and a medium suitcase. All filled up except the suitcase.

Now, why would I need all this for a 5 day Thanksgiving weekend? And I only traveled about 4 hours from Boston to New York City. It may have looked like I have overpacked, but that’s not the case. The suitcase was designed to bring back all the things that I have been craving and needing in the past 2 or 3 months that I have not been home. So, as unravel my suitcase back in my dorm, let me give you a little Thanksgiving break haul.

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Amazon Wish List Deep Dive

Halloween has passed and Thanksgiving is upon us, which means I am currently listening to my all-time favorite Christmas bops. Don’t fight me on this—Thanksgiving is cute and all, but I’m really just waiting for Santa to come down my chimney. Let me deck my halls and ring my silver bells while I eat the Figgie pudding so graciously brought to me by those random carolers at my door.

With the Christmas season almost upon us, I figured it would be a great time to revisit my Amazon wish list and see what I might want to ask for. As I scrolled through the list, I really couldn’t help but laugh at myself. While most of it was practical and reasonable, there were some strange oddities on the list that had me questioning my state of mind when I first saw them. They were probably items that I added either at 2am when I was too tired to be rational, or during the 15 minutes before class when I dissociate and just troll the internet.

If you’re looking for a unique, funny gift to give a friend or family member, consider this list a guide to potential gift options. The below items would also be great for a Yankee Swap, White Elephant, or Dirty Santa gift exchange. If you’re just here for a laugh at my expense, that’s quite alright as well. If you’re my mom and you’re reading this (hi mom!), I encourage you to continue reading: great gift ideas ahead!

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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)



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.



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.

Holiday Elf Quote

Holiday Cheer

By November, you’d expect stores to clear out their stock of candy and start selling things for Thanksgiving. It’s the next major holiday, after all.


It’s November 1st. The sleigh bells are jinglin’ and the stores are stocked with holiday merchandise. Every radio station plays “White Christmas” and “Home for the Holidays,” and you know if you hear the word “snow” one more time you might just go insane.

When is it too early to start? Is all of this excessive? It’s not even Thanksgiving and the holiday season is already in full swing. Should they wait until after November to officially start the holiday cheer?

I suppose I’m not really the best person to offer an answer to this question. I, for one, spread the holiday cheer whenever the mood strikes me. My friends often complain, “It’s completely inappropriate to be singing ‘Jingle Bells’ in July.” What can I say? If it’s stuck in my head, I just sing it.

Sometimes I think the holiday cheer in November is overkill, but I do understand it. There are no Thanksgiving songs and there’s a very limited selection of things to sell for Thanksgiving. You can sell Thanksgiving food, but there’s not much else in the other areas of merchandise. Of course stores are going to start selling the holiday items as soon as possible; it’s a way for them to make money. But I do see the annoyance in it all at times.

I’m a pretty optimistic person (or at least I like to think I am). So I do enjoy all of the Christmas songs and the pretty holiday displays in windows and the overall feeling that washes over everyone in the months of November and December. But like any person, I also recognize the downsides.

Christmas carols are only fun for a little while. There are only so many times you can hear “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” without wanting to smash your radio. Also, while the holidays are a pretty enjoyable time, they also bring a lot of stress. There’s the shopping for presents and the stress to get everything done before break and the little nagging fear that probably sticks in the back of your mind because you have to see your family over the holidays; even the ones you really don’t want to see. (Don’t lie. Everyone has those.)

That being said, is it easy to understand how annoying it may be to have Frosty the Snowman on every single channel when you haven’t even carved the turkey yet? I think the best thing to do is to just take it lightly. The holidays are supposed to be fun and as stress-free as possible. So if you find yourself wanting to lash out at “Dominick the Donkey” (which, I’m not going to lie, is probably my favorite Christmas song) then you should take a deep breath and realize it’s probably stemming from something a lot deeper than the donkey.

No matter how stressful the holidays may seem, you’ll get through them if you just try to enjoy yourself. So kick back with a cup of hot cocoa and try to get into the holiday spirit. After all, it does start in November.

Opinion, Style

Bleak Black Friday

by Erin Kayata

Image via Flickr user Jonathan Pobre.

Warm, roasted turkey, a plethora of home made food, family and friends all around, football, and a chance to be grateful for what you have. Who doesn’t love Thanksgiving? It’s difficult to see why anyone wouldn’t look forward to a holiday that involves a plethora of scrumptious food, family gatherings, and appreciating everything we have. As we take a day to celebrate, however, a dark cloud looms overhead. While almost everyone looks forward to the holiday, some have come to dread it due to its successor: Black Friday.

According to, this shopping frenzy began in 1924, around the time of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade. Police in Philadelphia first coined the term in the 1960’s, to describe the chaos that came the day following Thanksgiving. For many, this day marks the true beginning of the holiday season, and is a day for scoring the best deals on gifts.

The day is perceived differently from a retail employee’s perspective. This Friday will be my third consecutive year working Black Friday. While I have not yet had the pleasure of working the midnight shift, I’ve still seen the down side of this post holiday frenzy. People begin arriving at stores hours before they open, cutting into their Thanksgiving, in hopes of getting a good parking space. They fight their way into stores and spend the day running around, hunting for the best deals. And all for a few sales. In fact, the store I work at didn’t even start their Black Friday sale until that Saturday.

It’s easy to see why some people get caught up in the idea of Black Friday sales. Advertisers do an excellent job appealing to the public eye and creating a hype around sales. However, Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate what we do have (and I do not mean material goods). Thanksgiving is a time to be grateful for all the joy in our lives, the kind that comes from those around us. By turning the day after Thanksgiving into a shopping frenzy, we are losing that focus. Millions of people spend Black Friday fighting for a parking space, waiting in lines, and hunting for the best deal, but take a second to as yourself: is this what you really want to be spending your holiday doing?

My employment at a retail store is all it took for me to see the real black side of Black Friday. It is easy to get caught up in all the materialism of the day. Who doesn’t want to get the best deal on holiday gifts that their friends and family will love? I think Americans need to reevaluate their holiday priorities. While getting gifts for everyone you love is an amazing feeling, those hours you spend in line and in stores could be spent enjoying time with those loved ones. And there is really nothing more valuable than that.