Archive for January, 2011

Ciao From Firenze!

Florence is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. It is full of art, food, culture and of course, fashion. Everyone in Florence seems to have her own style. The Italians are naturally beautiful people, but the way that they dress themselves is different than the way people in the U.S. do. Corresponding with the Italian way of life, everything is carefully thought out—as if one’s outfit is a work of art. Italians are very proud of who they are, and they are not shy about boasting their individual personalities. Their appreciation for life, detail and beauty is truly a unique concept that cannot be found many other places. I hope I can share with you some of my experiences and visions here in this melting pot of creativity, beauty and passion.

Here are a few highlights of fashion I’ve seen on the streets:

Puffy jackets, fur, leather boots, brown leather shoulder bags, cropped leather jackets (leather, leather, leather), neck scarves for men, chunky wool scarves wrapped several times, pops of color, skinny jeans and minimal jewelry. Everyone here looks like they’re someone important; like they’re straight out of a magazine. They are clean, fresh, tailored; no detail is left unattended to. Every piece adds its own flavor to the mix.

Throughout the semester I will try to capture the essence of the Florentines and hopefully of other countries in Europe. I will share with you the trends and styles I see on the streets. Until next time, arrivederci!

-Eloise Hamilton

I’m going to be honest. I have a girl crush on Shakira. That woman is fierce, and her “hips don’t lie.” I dream of one day attaining abs like hers. Crunches after crunches and planks after planks, I envision having a smoking set of toned abs that will rival Shakira’s. (I am hoping to meet this goal by this year’s spring break.)

To reach this goal is going to take dedication and lots of working out. Thankfully, I am a big fan of the gym. Three, sometimes four or five, days of the week, I don my cute workout clothes, grab my iPod and hit the gym. While I am either warming up with cardio or lifting weights, I find my self zoning out and forgetting my never-ending to-do list. My time at the gym is solely “Hillary time.”

Lately, however, navigating the gym has proven to be a near-impossible task. Thanks to everyone’s New Years resolutions to workout, the gym is jam-packed. And while I applaud these people, I also despise them. Moving through these gym-newbies is like navigating through molasses. It’s frustrating.

One afternoon, I walked into the gym, saw the gym-newbies and walked right out. I couldn’t deal with it. Every cardio machine was taken, and every slot was completely filled. There were groups of men staring at themselves as they are attempting to lift weights.

It’s too much to handle. And I know this chaos is what drives the gym-newbies away after two weeks, the gym connoisseurs into hiding.

Then there are the gym-newbies who get frustrated and bored because they aren’t seeing immediate results. Well, I hate to break it you, but moving up in rank from a gym-newbie to a gym-connoisseur takes dedication. But I promise, working out gets better if you stick with it.

First of all, you should not start out at full force. No marathon runner starts the race running at top speed. If one does, one will quickly become tired and won’t be able to finish strong.

It takes baby steps. Start with a brisk walk on the treadmill and build your way up to running. When it comes to weightlifting, just because you are a man (or even a woman), it doesn’t mean you can immediately bench press 400 pounds. You’ll hurt yourself.

Start small (maybe even just trying to lift the bar, because I promise it’s pretty heavy), and as your muscles grow, add more weight. Becoming a gym-connoisseur takes patience and dedication. It’s the same for my fitness goal of achieving Shakira-abs. I have to keep working and crunching and improving. I’ll get there. And so will you, gym-newbie.

(As for those annoyed gym-connoisseurs, give it three more weeks.)

-Hillary Owens

“Room” Book Review

I loved this book! I couldn’t put it down, and finished it in three days.

*Book Description: To five-year-old Jack, Room is the entire world. It is where he was born and grew up; it’s where he lives with his Ma as they learn and read and eat and sleep and play. At night, his Ma shuts him safely in the wardrobe, where he is meant to be asleep when Old Nick visits.

Room is home to Jack, but to Ma, it is the prison where Old Nick has held her captive for seven years. Through determination, ingenuity and fierce motherly love, Ma has created a life for Jack. But she knows it’s not enough…not for her or for him. She devises a bold escape plan, one that relies on her young son’s bravery and a lot of luck. What she does not realize is just how unprepared she is for the plan to actually work. 

Told entirely through the perspective of the energetic, pragmatic five-year-old Jack, Room is a celebration of resilience and the limitless bond between parent and child, a brilliantly executed novel about what it means to journey from one world to another.

The perspective of this novel–young, optimistic, naive and sheltered–is what makes it so great. At first, it is hard to situate yourself in Jack’s voice because he is never grammatically correct. For instance, he says things like, “I get on Rocker to take a pin from Kit on Shelf, minus one means now there’ll be zero left of the five.” Jack refers to objects as if they are people and he tends to speak without conjunctions. After about 15 pages, however, you start to fall in love with his language so much that you miss it during the times when Donoghue falls out of this style.
This is the only criticism I have about the book: Jack’s language is not always consistent–his language suddenly becomes mature during some moments in the novel and it takes the reader away from the story for a second. This only happens a few times, and is not enough to detract from the brilliance of the novel.

The beauty of this novel is rooted in Jack’s discovery of the world. He has lived in Room since he was born and knows nothing except this small, windowless space. In a way, this creates an innocence about him that almost makes us think, maybe it would be nice to be sheltered from a world that can so easily destroy the optimism and fragility that we possess as children. On the other hand, we are reminded of all the beauty in the world that Jack is missing. It seems like a double-edged sword. There are so many great lines from Jack in the novel that capture this disturbing beauty. Jack points out small idiosyncrasies that we would never notice because we are born into this world that he has been hidden from. He questions the small actions in every day life that our society has stigmatized, such as “Why don’t we hug strangers?”

The novel ends in a way that offers subtle closure. It both restores Jack’s innocence and simultaneously gives him a new sense of maturity. It is Jack’s isolation from the world and ultimately his discovery of the world that offers the reader a reminder of what we take for granted. Through Jack’s endearing nature, he rediscovers these things for us and makes them new again. Jack will leave a permanent mark on your memory.

-Sarah Diedrick

*Source: “Room” blurb

Lanvin Collaborating with H&M?

It’s true! Alber Elbaz, Lanvin’s artistic director, has teamed up with H&M to create a French-inspired collection that will hit stores at the end of the month. Compared to other designer collaborations, this one will be a luxury brand for H&M and will feature higher-end clothing. Prices for dresses range around $200. What do you think? Will consumers go for the pricier, Parisian-chic look? Will Elbaz succeed in transcending Lanvin into mass-market designs? See for yourself!

Check out the preview video below.

-Eloise Hamilton

I’m starting to think so. Potato chip companies around the world are trying to become the next Bertie Bott’s, creating flavors that have never been seen before by the sliced potato industry. Instead of just bland cheddar cheese or boring barbecue, there are now chip flavors that transcend all food groups. From sausage to seaweed, and bacon to beer, there is almost literally something for everyone.

I did a little research on the vast variety of potato chip flavors sold worldwide, and from it I generated a list of the top five chip flavors known to man:

1)      Cajun Squirrel—I don’t think this one is on the market anymore, and I don’t understand why! Nothing tastes quite the same as spiced squirrel tail. Having it in potato chip form means you don’t even have to scrape it off the road first! Brought to you by Walker’s.

2)      Builder’s Breakfast—Looking for a hearty, well-balanced breakfast without making a big to-do? Well, this potato chip may not do that for you, but at least it will taste like it did. This chip, introduced in the same competition as Cajun Squirrel, combines the flavors of buttered toast, bacon, eggs and tomato sauce. Also brought to you by Walker’s chip brand.

The next three are brought to you by Lay’s.

3)      Mayonnaise—Were you that creepy kid that stuck your hand in a jar of mayo when you needed a snack? Well, now you have a socially acceptable outlet for your strange fetish! All the great taste of mayonnaise without any other flavor hindering it!

4)      Chinese cuisine—There are apparently a lot of flavors within this category, ranging from roasted pork to Beijing duck, that are mainly sold in China. Now you can chow down on chow mein-flavored chips without even climbing into your Chevy


5)      Filet mignon—This chip may not be accessible to the common man, but for you elitists out there, you’ve found your munching Mecca. Dining classy has never been so easy. Plus, you don’t have to deal with pesky waiters, or go through the tedious bustle of making reservations at a five-star restaurant.

Inspired by the genius of the ideas above, I have come up with three of my very own chip flavors! What do you think? ‘Cause I think I have a future in this biz:

1)      Veggie burger—I am a man sensitive to the needs of the few. For the vegetarians out there who feel antsy about eating chips that taste like regular cheeseburger, I have created a comfortable alternative for their snacking enjoyment.

2)      Mint chocolate chip—One glaring omission I noticed as I perused the different flavors out there was in the category of ice cream! Not only would this chip be just as delicious as its frozen counterpart, but it would be invulnerable to melting!

3)      Coffee—With beer already taken, I had to dig deep for a choice that was a good candidate for mass consumption and also altered human brain function. Why not coffee? They could even have different flavors for different preferences. Black, double sugar or cream… without the burned tongue. The business sense is undeniable!

-Tim Freer

Resolutions 101

2011 is here. We are over halfway through January….have you made a New Year’s Resolution yet?  Or are you still trying to think of a goal that you can, well, actually commit to? Making a resolution is hard, and sticking to it is even harder, especially for a college student. Personally, I love New Year’s resolutions. What better way to begin a brand new year than with a newfound determination to improve yourself for the better as a person?

I’ve listed five steps that I’ve used for the past few years that are guaranteed to help you choose a resolution that is both bold and possible.

1) Want V.S. Need…or Want & Need? Make a resolution that is both pragmatic and desirable. If you want to start jogging at 7am in the morning but you aren’t a morning person, then what’s the point? Morning exercise is ideal, of course, but if you don’t like getting up early then maybe nighttime bike rides are better. Make a plan to do homework in between classes instead of waiting until after dinner, and then your evening will be free! The best resolution gives you material benefits as well as personal happiness. Besides, you’ll be much more likely to stick with a goal that you personally enjoy working towards as opposed to a goal that you don’t.

2) Be Realistic. You want to lose thirty pounds, eat all organic foods, and learn to cook in a single year? My dear friend, although I admire your fervor, it takes a lot of work to do each of those things…either you’ll have a mental breakdown by August from trying to do everything at once, or you’ll lose steam. Fast. Your resolution needs to be realistic and attainable. Why not aim to just lose ten pounds? If you’re feeling particularly bold or motivated, you could tie cooking to your weight loss resolution and work towards cooking on the weekends instead of eating processed foods or take-out, which already cuts your calories by a lot if you learn to ditch the butter and oil. Bottom line is, don’t get too greedy with your goals without considering the work that must be done to reach them.

3) Be Specific. If you decide to “be healthier,” what exactly does that mean? Do you want to lose weight, start a daily exercise routine, eat organic food, or what? You can take action in so many different ways in order to “be healthier,” but if you try to focus on too many smaller goals you will lose sight of everything because it will simply be too much.

4) Make a Plan. Let’s say your goal for 2011 is to “avoid procrastination by doing your work when you say you will.” After a while, though, it’s way too easy to simply…give up. Facebook, Twitter, and CNN News are calling to you. By using month-by-month progress checks, you can make sure that you stick with your resolution. For each month, add a new mini goal to your resolution. For instance, in January you may start out easy by simply telling yourself to do work when you get tired of procrastinating (yes, that’s possible). Then, by February, perhaps you’ll create a daily schedule to list what hours to do homework and what hours to surf the ‘Net. Each small step will slowly become a habit.

5) Share It. There’s nothing better than sharing your resolution with a good friend who has a similar goal in mind. It’s best if your friend has a resolution that is slightly different from yours; otherwise, a friendly partnership may become a major competition. What’s great about working towards a resolution together is that you’re able to provide each other with healthy doses of moral support, constant motivation, and positive peer pressure. Plus, it will bring your friendship up to a whole new level that is even more meaningful and enjoyable than it was before.

-Wendy Lu