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Friday Favorites #7: Netflix Documentaries

I’m easily inspired by real people doing things. Very general, yes, but this is why documentaries are so inspiring to me.

About a year ago, my boyfriend and I used free tickets he got for Christmas to visit the Boston Museum of Science. We had tickets to see something called National Parks Adventure in their IMAX theatre. This beautiful 40 minute doc exposed me to the images of National Parks I had only heard the names of. I had no idea that Yellowstone had so much (Icelandic) beauty to offer or that Yosemite was literally a magical fairyland.

Seeing this short film gave me the idea to throw some irons in the National Park Service fire. The next day, I was sending out requests for internship info to the parks I was vaguely familiar with. The rest is history. I spent an incredible six weeks in Death Valley National Park and visited 10 others.

I had no idea one year ago that this seemingly minor documentary would inspire an internship, vacation, and perhaps a career. With its recent addition to Netflix, I want to cover some of the docs that have really given me the feels lately.

  • National Parks Adventure

As previously stated, the forty minutes of beauty between credits are the reason I am where I am today. I feel so fortunate to have seen this when I did, and I hope it can have a similar effect on many others who catch it on Netty.

  • Minimalism: Everything that Remains

What an eye-opener for me to our world of consumerism. I refuse to buy any more clothing unless it is quality, and I have gotten rid of so much stuff since I first watched. Every once in a while, I watch it again to become re-inspired. I read the book to which it is a companion, and I’m not the hugest fan of their particular brand of minimalism, but it’s a great way of getting one’s foot in the door.

  • Before the Flood

The Bae Almighty, our lorde and savior, Leonardo DiCaprio. This flawless dad-bod-ed specimen traveled and researched to provide evidence of climate change. The wonderful thing? IT’S NOT TOO LATE. We can prevent further damage, but it’s something that EVERYONE has to buy into. It’s also been thrown in my face how many food I must stop eating because THE EXTRACTION OF PALM OIL IS SO DETRIMENTAL TO THE ENVIRONMENT.

  • Expedition Happiness

This was a Sunday morning special and a little more basic than what I normally go for. With the intention of driving from Canada to Argentina, a young couple attempts a journey in a renovated school bus. (It could have been better used as a mobile market, amirite?) It gave me some ideas and made me want to visit more places on THIS continent.

Netflix is p much my ride or die. What are your favorites?

I wish I could be basic, and the story of why I can’t stop caring

I wish I could be content making a little bit of money and immediately spending it on overpriced clothes at Vineyard Vines.

I wish I could get a latte at Starbucks and not worry about where my straw is going to end up.

I wish I could worry about having a shiny new handbag instead of questioning the marketing schemes of retailers and the dangers of fast fashion.

Life certainly seems like it would be easier to be more materialistic, but it is too easy to get sucked into the never-ending trap of always wanting more than I have.

Is this the life you’ve been waiting for?
Or are you hoping that you’ll be where you want with a little more?
“Ask Yourself,” Foster the People

As I learned in the Minimalism documentary on Netflix, people tend to live a pay grade above what they actually earn. I’m glad that I’ve snapped myself out of buying things just because they’re cheap, but I’ve found that there are basic individuals in all communities.

In the fitness community, there are people more concerned about buying the newest workout tops and leggings than having a healthy relationship with food and exercise. In the outdoorsy community, there are those who pose with their pristine Chacos and synchilla pullovers who don’t consider the ramifications of constantly buying chic hiking boots.

There are ways of being eco-friendly and addressing world issues no matter what your interests are. It costs nothing to be conscious of how your decisions affect the world around you. Perhaps you could pay a little more attention to where your clothes are being made or choose the fruit with less wasted packaging.

Small things that I do to make a small difference:

  • Turn off the water in the shower unless I’m rinsing
  • Always bring a reusable bag to the store
  • Bring travel mugs to coffee shops
  • Say no to straws at restaurants
  • Order my ice cream in a cone
  • ALWAYS use a reusable water bottle
  • Say no to plastic produce bags – there are reusable alternatives and we have arms for a reason!
  • Buy foods in large quantities to save packaging
  • Use old notebooks with extra unused pages

Although making these changes seems minor, every little bit helps.

Long-term goals I have for myself include turning a normal car into an electric one, eating only local fruits and vegetables, and buying only loose-leaf tea.

 

What are some changes you can make?

Friday Favorites #6: Movies

My movie taste is diverse and changes with my mood. I’m a sucker for re-watching movies a million times, but I like to float among genres when the mood calls for it. January was a rom-com-dram time for me, but now I’m easing back into the horror genre I covet most. My individual favorite movies are eclectic and hopefully full of surprises.

1. Say Anything

This is the best love story I’ve ever seen. Lloyd Dobler is the greatest boyfriend/husband character (he does have some competition with Jack Pearson) and has ruined men for me. This movie has some excellent quotes and never fails to impress an audience I force it upon.

I’m looking for a dare-to-be-great situation.

2. Cruel Intentions

There is something about this odd movie; the quick (at times, disturbing) romance is really entertaining. Young Reese Witherspoon is very charming and young Ryan Phillippe is not bad. The soundtrack is so 90s and grungy; it makes me happy.

3. Halloween

This classic movie easily puts me in the autumn spirit (yes, it’s a thing), but it is so well made. The series brings me a lot of nostalgia as I spent many hours watching youtube videos and the anniversary documentary as a tween. I’ve gone through many phases in my life, but horror and Halloween have remained constant since I was 12.

4./5. Disturbia/the Exorcist

I can’t remember exactly, but either Disturbia or the Exorcist was my first ever horror movie. Because of this, they both hold a special place in my heart. Disturbia is something I’ve rewatched up to six times in one day, at times with the commentary on. The Exorcist is such a classic and really introduced me to the old school horror world.

Some honorable mentions are:

Every John Hughes movie, every John Cusack movie, every slasher movie released in 1981, every Netflix-original movie, and every movie in which Leonardo DiCaprio has earned a large sum of money.

 

Are you a film-fan? Do you have any favorites?

Does ignoring cultural phenomena make you cooler?

I don’t watch football. In fact, I mostly only watch sports live. When I saw WALK THE MOON recently, the energy was amazing due in large part to the Eagles’ game that was happening in the same city. Regardless of my interest in football, that energy felt AMAZING.

I’m the type of person who makes jokes about forgetting that the super bowl is happening. Because I’m so far removed from football and that sect of toxic masculinity, it makes sense that it’s not a big thing on my mind. But, does it make me cooler to ignore this huge thing that’s happening?

I never paid much attention to the Olympics until London 2012. After convincing myself to watch, it was magical to see Michael Phelps in his last (but not actually) games and to watch the US athletes take home gold in beach volleyball. Ignoring these world games only gave me fewer connections with my peers.

Same with the solar eclipse, political debates, etc. Some events carry more meaning or cultural significance than others, but there is value in feeling that we are part of something bigger. These phenomena create bonds and connections with our friends and peers, and that is how we truly get to know ourselves. I believe that we find parts of ourselves in others, so if the super bowl encourages that, why criticize?

Last Semester Bucket List

I have had those moments in which I look up at all of Smith’s buildings (even the large construction zone around Neilson), and I feel so lucky to have been a part of the campus for my four years. It went by so much faster than I could ever have imagined, but here I am: about to start my FINAL semester. Ahhh.

As I embark on my last Spring semester at Smith, I have come up with a list of things I still want to do.

  1. Go into every Smith house
  2. Eat at an Amherst dining hall
  3. Eat at a Mount Holyoke dining hall
  4. Eat at a Hampshire dining hall
  5. Go sledding down Hospital Hill
  6. Visit every coffee shop in Northampton
  7. Bring a date (not be a date) to senior ball
  8. Make your own thank you notes for advisers and mentors
  9. Get rid of stuff so that everything fits in your car

Me ending up at Smith was a long and difficult journey, but I feel so fortunate to call Smith home. I want to spend this semester making the most of my last moments as a college student.

I can’t believe I won’t be a Smith student this fall, but I have to practice that whole “Smile because it happened” mentality.

WALK THE MOON @ The Fillmore

Talking is Hard was the album of the end of my first year at Smith, so I have have very happy associations with the music. Even after the semester ended, I fondly recall running every morning of a Disney World trip to “Portugal” and “Avalanche” (and Blurryface which seems like lifetimes ago). Just a few weeks later, I watched them perform these songs at Firefly Music Festival. Though very exciting, I was standing in mud and very far from the stage and seemingly from civilization, so I had a hard time enjoying myself during their early-in-the-day set.

My enjoyment of that album had staying power, and I was thrilled with their new album, What If Nothing. When their tour was announced, I was certain I had to catch a show. Being at home for January placed me within two hours of Philadelphia, so this seemed like a given. Though I don’t know why my mother detests driving to Philly, I know that she once offered to drive me to Niagara Falls to see Arctic Monkeys rather than taking me to their Philadelphia show. Up until hours before this WALK THE MOON show, she was still trying to talk me out of going.

I made the two-ish-hour drive just fine despite the giant football game happening in the same city. I paid too much to park and waited in line briefly (wow, do I hate waiting in lines, especially for concerts). A few back-spasms later, the show began.

Because of my negativity, the opening act was forgettable, and a lovely drunk couple forced themselves into the space next to me right before the show started. A shared hatred of them created a bond among myself and the others around me, so that was nice.

WALK THE MOON’s set was really quite amazing. I often expect crowds to go into shows like this one only knowing the most popular songs, but most people seemed to be fans and familiar with most songs (I can be very snobby about things like this, and I don’t like it).

I love it when bands tell a little story about a song or its creation because it makes me appreciate it so much more. The lead vocalist, Nick Petricca, explained that “Next in Line” was written about them waiting for their “turn” to be a well-known, well-loved band, hence it has been stuck in my head for the last 12 hours.

My concert experience was surprisingly really good. Though I was alone, I stood my ground and managed to have space around me to freely move my arms. In the times that I do have a bad experience, it is usually entirely avoidable. I tend to let the actions of others bring me down, though I have the power to prevent that displeasure. I did a good job at this show of living in the moment.

Though I love to have fun, I’m also the type of person who pops balloons if anyone dares to start hitting them around. I didn’t pay $50 to attend a rave, I’m here to view what I can of the stage. And don’t get me started about beach balls… This is why I might not be a festival person.

 

Have you attended any fun shows lately?

Friday Favorites #5: Shows I Repeatedly Binge-Watch

Though I prefer to always be on the move, I get used to being on the couch while at home or school. While reclining, I consider it productive to watch as much streaming programming as possible. If I’m going to spend my time doing basically nothing, I might as well achieve some contrived goal I never needed. I wish I read more, but I am too easily distracted these days, and TV allows me to heavily multi-task.

I’ve realized that I value watching TV so much because it has always been something my mother and I do together. This has given it great value in my life.

Here are my top picks/repeat offenders:

  • Parks and Recreation

I’m pretty sure I was forced into watching the show initially, and the first two seasons are pretty bad, but I fell in love with it after Adam Scott and Rob Lowe joined the cast. The characters are so original, and I really related to Leslie Knope’s vision for progress. As someone hoping to be a public servant, I respect her character’s dedication to making Pawnee a better place.

Work hard at work worth doing

  • Gilmore girls

In fifth grade, I accidentally caught the beginning of a few episodes as it was in reruns on ABC Family after Sabrina the Teenage Witch. After hearing some kids in school mention it, I decided to give it a try. During this era, the easiest way to watch old episodes of a show was to purchase the very expensive season boxed sets. Each month, my mother allowed me to buy one season (seriously, though, they were $40-50 each). Thinking about it now, I don’t think I actually had seen the sixth or beginning of seventh seasons when I watched the last few episodes air on the CW. It simply was not accessible at that time. I can watch this show forever and not get bored. Stars Hollow is a home in my mind, and the characters feel like friends from a past life.

  • 30 Rock

So good, so funny. 30 Rock doesn’t get nearly enough credit for its humor. I still find myself quoting Tracy Jordan. Of course, I have seen the series nearly ten times all the way through, but those jokes are so good.

Tracy: Orange and black decorations? Is this Halloween or Princeton Parents’ weekend? I don’t know whether to be scared or proud of my cousin.

Kenneth: It’s Halloween, sir.

Tracy: Proud it is.

  • This Is Us

I gave this a try during a moment of weakness and a TV rut. Jess Mariano (see above) is a beloved old friend, so I had to see something that Milo Ventimiglia plays a big role in. The first episode had me – it was heart-breaking and warming. I was smiling, then uncontrollably sobbing. It’s an emotional roller-coaster that gives me hope in some strange way. And Sterling Brown is incredible and deserving of every award.

  • Community

I haven’t stepped back into this one in a while. I watch the Halloween episodes every March through October and the Christmas ones every December, but I need to give it a proper run-through. I have some excellent memories of watching new episodes as the network stations scrolled through school closings at the bottom of the screen. Oh, to be young and get something out of snow falls again.

 

What have you been watching?

Kombucha: I’m so cultured

Back in May, Greg and I used his remaining (600) dining dollars to buy snacks for our road trip from the UMass cafe. To use up the money, we bought a bunch of $6 bottles of kombucha. I recall sipping it on the highway in Wyoming and comparing it to a mixture of wine and beer. (I believe all alcohol tastes like poison, so this was no compliment.)

Earlier this semester, I was tempted to try it again after reading more about its health benefits and craftiness. I tricked myself into liking it by associating it with good things and happy times.

I became so interested in kombucha that I decided to try making it myself. The process seemed straightforward, and the instructions are all available online.

I bought a scoby and a glass gallon jug and got started.

DSC_0414
Giant scoby

The proportions for a gallon-sized container are 12-14 cups of tea, 1 cup of sugar, 2 cups of kombucha (or distilled vinegar to get it started), and the scoby, a gooey disk made of microorganisms.

After it has brewed for 7-12 days, it can be flavored and bottled.

I was excited to follow recipes I found for flavoring, things like lemon-ginger, blueberry, and pomegranate juice. However, I discovered that I was more impressed with my raw kombucha than the ones I had flavored.

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I reuse glass bottles and use tape to mark their flavors.

I’ve decided, I would rather play with the teas I use than the flavorings. Having a peppermint or berry-flavored tea impacts the flavor of the brewed kombucha more than I expected and without juices, the final product is less sugary-tasting.

Everyone has their own taste, but I prefer my kombucha to be less sweet and more vinegar-y. The longer it brews, the more vinegar-y it gets. I wouldn’t wait a whole month like I accidentally did last month.

I taught myself how to like the drink and now I’ve taught myself how to make my own. The feeling of accomplishment when I sip my own home-brewed kombucha is amazing.

Whether it be bread, baked goods, or a home-cooked meal, making something for oneself is an excellent creative outlet.

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How she looks when she’s busy brewing

 

How do you let loose your creativity?

The WOMBATS @ Union Transfer

The alternative radio stations have been playing the few mainstream hits of the WOMBATS for years, but that didn’t teach me more than all of the lyrics to “Jump into the Fog.”

Eventually, I felt compelled to listen to all of their songs obsessively. Of course, “Let’s Dance to Joy Division” is a banger and a half, but I fell in love with their sound. I saw them during a brief set they performed at a local radio station’s show and lusted for more.

I have patiently waited two years for the moment they toured in my tri-state area. As I have been home in NEPA (Northeastern Pennsylvania) for my winter break, the most convenient tour stop was in Philadelphia.

My mother has many issues with Philadelphia, and she won’t fully explain them to me. She thinks the traffic is so bad that she refuses to drive there. She’s fine with my flying across the Atlantic, driving to Boston regularly, and driving across the entire country, but driving to Philly is out of the question. Luckily, I’m an adult, so (after much convincing) she gave her blessing.

After a quick stop at the Independence National Historic Park to see the Liberty Bell, there was nothing left to do, but a few hours before doors opened. I then made the huge error of deciding to get in line. Though very close to the front, I immediately remembered why I hate waiting in lines.

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She’s old

In addition to the freezing temperatures and my brand new Vans not keeping my feet very warm, being forced to stand near people and overhear their conversations is painful. I don’t want to listen, but it’s impossible not to. The young people essentially wearing costumes are all performing for each other in line. This is the special night, this is their time to shine and show how they perfected their cut-off jeans and crop top look.

After waiting a couple of hours in line, I had to wait another hour standing in front of the stage. The two opening acts were… interesting. It’s difficult to watch a esoteric band perform in a strange way that they could get away with if they were more famous. I’d let my favorites get away with dancing in whatever manner they choose and move their body however they want.

And then there were the WOMBATS. Despite forgetting the words to the first song, they were charming and amazing. I was so content screaming along to every song. I sweated, I jumped, I was happy. A concert is like a party in which they play all the music you like.

What I wish I could be better at is living in the moment. Even at concerts, my mind is running about how I’m going to feel later or some interaction from my past. I couldn’t wait to hear their new single “Turn” live, yet I couldn’t just enjoy being there. I try very hard and smile through it, but this is something I’ve struggled with for years.

Well, either way, the show was great, and I’m looking forward to seeing them again in two years. The bassist, Tord, has incredible energy and is so fun to watch. And I’m excited for their new album Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life! Their new singles are so good, I look forward to hearing the rest!

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In and out in seven minutes or fewer

How do you live in the moment?

My history with Lilly Pulitzer

As we reach the time of year that they typically hold a major sale, I am reflecting on my history with the Lilly Pulitzer label.

It all started as me trying to imitate the young women on tumblr who flaunted their hundreds of Lilly items, drawers full of Lilly shorts, and weekly new Lilly shifts. As someone who is so far out of reach of that lifestyle, I was intrigued. Though Lilly Pulitzer is expensive, it is not unattainable if purchased used or on sale. I made it my mission to buy as much Lilly as I could afford with my work study job.

The pieces were colorful and fun and made me happy to wear and look at. When I wore them, I tended to receive compliments from knowing onlookers. Because I was new to the brand, I didn’t know what I would regularly wear or feel most comfortable in. This translated to me buying anything and everything. I bought an ill-fitting romper and long-sleeved silk shirts. It was about collecting and accumulating, not carefully considering my own opinions. Sure, I chose the prints the were most pleasing to my eye, but I also wanted what was rare and coveted.

I dove head-first into the Facebook groups that resold clothing items and discussed the styling of various pieces. There were groups for specific prints and ones for vintage clothing – sooooo many! The women of these groups all gushed about the pride they had for their closets and the memories they had with the brand.

Pretty soon, I had more Lilly than I could wear on even a monthly basis. I had discovered that the rompers don’t fit my athletic shoulders, the fancy dresses required a special occasion, and the linen pants were way too long for my petite frame. In the summer, I wore the shorts all the time, but throughout the non-summer months I only sported the printed tees and casual dresses. Still, it seemed ridiculous at first to get rid of the closet that I had worked hard to pay for and cultivate.

One evening, I was feel particularly ~intuitive~ and ~philosophical~ while looking at my colorful closet. I was excitedly telling someone about how each piece is associated with memories of wearing it on special vacations or dates, and it suddenly clicked. I was only saying that because I had read it somewhere. A woman in one of the Facebook groups had talked about how she loved the brand because she could look back at the memories she associated with each of her prints. This dialogue always occurs when I read articles about the brand that contain quotes from diehard fans.

We only repeat this cutesy phrasing of our adoration because it is what we are taught. This reasoning for blowing hundreds of dollars on a colorful dress likely originates from a marketing ploy within the company. I slowly came to terms with how easily I fell for a brilliant marketing scheme. The clothing truly is beautiful, but like most things is very unnecessary. With new prints coming out every few weeks, there is a constant push to buy more.

Luckily with a brand like this, the clothing doesn’t completely lose its value after it’s worn. I’m in the process of selling everything that I don’t regularly wear. I don’t need 15 pairs of shorts just because the print is blue or has a cat on it. I’m going to stick with the casual tops that I could wear with jeans or to work. Their athletic lines are cute, but they don’t have spandex shorts, and I’d prefer leggings that are versatile.

I still love Lilly for its fun and beachy aesthetic, but this is a phase that I am willing to recognize as a phase. It didn’t ruin me financially, and I learned about myself, marketing, and minimalism.

Have you had an obsession with any similar fads or popular brands?