By Eleanor Kelman:

One thing that Instagram has made abundantly clear to me is that everyone I know is baking delicious goods these days except for me. It seems like the whole world has acquired a passion for baking all at once, but the end product of baking has always appealed to me more than the process. It’s just so time-consuming, and my mile-a-minute brain is not suited for labors of love. However, there is something I have found time for myself to experiment with: beverages.

Like any good twenty-something, I miss being able to go to the Dunkin’ Donuts on campus (Boston really does run on Dunkin’) and pick up a large decaf soy latte with raspberry shot whenever I needed something to sip on while doing homework. Even now, with Starbucks opening up slowly but surely, I’ve been sorely missing having fancy coffee and tea drinks at my disposal. The only solution I’ve come up with was making my own (without the methodical ratios required of a real cafe to label a drink a “latte”, an overly pedantic term that I like to use to refer to all milk-and-other stuff hybrids), and that quickly transformed from a necessity to one of my favorite things to do everyday.

So, here is a quick introduction to one area of study I’ve devoted quite a bit of research and a whole lot of passion to.

The easier beverage to master would be coffee, so if you already have a taste for it, I’d recommend starting your latte journey there. There are a hundred different ways to brew a cup of coffee, but the simplest method is just… use a coffee maker. Although it’s one thing I cannot wait to purchase, I don’t have an espresso machine or even a french press, so I make do with my dad’s coffee maker. Simply take some ground coffee beans (we have owned this one grinder for about as long as I’ve been alive), pack them into the machine, and turn it on. You might have to fiddle around with the ratios, but I’ve found that just following the most basic of directions brews a pretty decent cup of joe. And, voila! Your coffee base.

[Sometimes I’ll decorate my drinks with a sprinkling of cinnamon or another spice for some flair.]

Tea, on the other hand, is a bit less forgiving. First and foremost, there are different types of teas and tisanes (the latter being herbal mixtures not from the tea leaf, Camellia sinensis1). All “tea” (white, oolong, green, etc.) come from the same plant at different levels of oxidation. While the actual process behind tea harvesting is fascinating, the most important information is more based in trial-and-error. While all tea is wonderful in different uses, more robust teas, such as green or black tea, tends to handle additions better, and that includes the necessary milk to create a latte. They also just so happen to be more convenient to find in the United States, although the other types are certainly worth seeking out if you want to sip tea in its unadulterated form! Unless you want to invest in a tea strainer (mine looks like the Loch Ness Monster sticking out of the hot water; I call her Nessie), tea bags are your best bet. Black teas and tisanes such as rooibos or chamomile are hardest to mess up; just stick one in a cup with boiling water and let it steep for four or five minutes. Green teas require a bit more finesse, with slightly cooler water, and should not steep for longer than two-ish minutes. You’ll know instantly if it is overstepped, as it will taste incredibly bitter! Matcha is a slightly different beast, being powdered green tea rather than whole leaves and requiring frothing in a small cup of water, but there are a host of videos online showing how to create matcha in the most beautiful settings that just writing it in a blog would not do the process justice. Whether you prefer the strong bergamot notes of earl grey or the delicate nuttiness of genmaicha, making a latte with a tea base is a worthy meditative process.

[Nessie the Loch Ness tea strainer in her natural habitat.]

Now that you have your caffeinated (or decaffeinated, if that’s more your style) component prepped, it’s time to pick your milk. I prefer soy milk, as I enjoy the environmentally-friendliness of non-dairy milk, but will use the skim milk the rest of my family drinks in a pinch. In all honesty, milk is entirely up to personal preference: Maybe you like the creaminess of coconut milk, the nostalgic texture of whole milk, or the trendiness of oat milk. Different milks have different strengths, and whichever you choose (or if you forgo milk and just use a creamer) is going to turn out delicious. As a slight word of caution: If you want to froth your milk (an optional step I sometimes do for the aesthetics), dairy milk is going to work a bit better. I’ve found that whereas some dairy milk whipped for a few seconds with my milk frother then microwaved for twenty seconds to stabilize it will hold an insane amount of foam for what seems like hours, soy milk just doesn’t have the same “soapy” ability, although it does make a lovely foam in and of itself. The microwave step is essential to really increase the longevity of the milk foam, but obviously I skip it entirely when making an iced latte. As well, while I use a handheld frother, anything from a devoted machine to just shaking some milk in a covered jar for a while will make a snazzy display.

Finally, we have reached the moment to finish our latte! Just take your coffee or tea and add your milk. If it’s just too hot out, add some ice before your other ingredients. If you’re a rebel, add your milk first then stir in the rest. If you want beautiful latte art, me too. I haven’t unlocked that level of barista yet.

Although most days I just make a simple drink, sometimes I like to spend more time working on my lattes. It becomes a creative outlet for me, and while not every creation is particularly successful, all give me a sense of accomplishment. I have two Torani flavored syrups at home, unsweetened vanilla and unsweetened raspberry, and I plan to purchase more when these are used up. Both go great in coffee and I’ve found some good combinations with teas. An earl grey latte with some vanilla makes a delicious London fog, one of my go-tos. Any warming spices, such as ginger or cinnamon, play very nicely with coffee and black tea (there’s a reason masala chai is so popular!). I finagled the Turkish coffee my dad is always making on the stovetop into a latte, albeit a very assertive one. I’ve stopped getting the side-eye when icing it down and throwing in a ton of soy milk, despite it being a very, very Americanized take on my Middle Eastern roots. Once I even made a tangentially-related drink, horchata, a Latin American dessert drink made from rice, milk, and some spices. I could only drink a bit at a time (it’s so sweet), but I was very proud of myself for devoting an afternoon to it! On the other hand, my attempt at bubble tea didn’t turn out nearly as tasty as what I would buy from a cafe, but learning that tapioca starch and water make a sticky non-Newtonian fluid was a fun experience. I also quickly found that the fluffiness of dalgona coffee, despite being very popular online and stunning to look at, simply cannot be mixed into milk. It sits as a pretty layer of mediocre-tasting foam atop plain milk. I also discovered that the medicinal smell of almond extract is a lot to overcome, even when I balanced it with a good squirt of honey. And mixing hibiscus tea and milk is an absolutely horrid experience. Just… learn from my mistake with that one.

[Did you know that boba pearls are naturally white? I was surprised to find out!]

The best part of making a latte for me isn’t even always drinking it. While it is, of course, nice to reap the rewards of my labor, putzing around in the kitchen thinking of new and creative ways to make a drink or finally getting around to that recipe that had been saved in my bookmarks for a while feels really good. While the sense of accomplishment when a drink turns out cafe-worthy can make my entire day leagues better, making lattes is such a low-stakes game that even when I mess up three times over I still feel like I’ve been productive. So what if the latte of the day is quasi-inedible and I’m just drinking it out of spite? I still put time and effort into something, and that’s worthy of applause in and of itself.


1https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tea

by Lia Weinseiss

In the current times, it can be difficult to uphold friendships in ways that we have become accustomed to. We can’t share a dinner, go for drinks, and/or hang out at each other’s houses. It seems cruel that in these times when our mental health seems to be at its most fragile, we cannot even see a portion of our support system.

So what can you do? You can text, arrange Zoom calls, send letters, and send gifts. You can show your love and support by checking in every once in a while. While it is certainly a different, modernized form of friendship, it is possible. We do, after all, stay in contact with our home friends when we are at school and with our school friends when we are at home.

However, in these times when our mental health is so fragile and we are doing our best to keep our own heads above water, how much do we find ourselves with an obligation to ensure our friends are doing well? Is a weekly text enough or should it be daily? Are we bad friends if we can’t bring ourselves to do those Zoom calls?

man having a video call on his phone
Photo by Edward Jenner on Pexels.com

(Zoom is a popular method of calling, and people use it when they are distanced)

We are all going through different struggles, some of us more than others. “Family therapist Catherine Lewis says communication can be fraught when friends are experiencing the pandemic differently.” (Noveck, Jocelyn) If some of us are struggling more than others, it can often be difficult to have the will to reach out or even incite feelings of jealousy if some are dealing with isolation better than others. This can make it even more difficult to keep up friendships, especially if you are in the position of the one expected to keep up contact. 

Being alienated from friendships that used to be a part of daily life can create unexpected rifts because “people are now having to pick and choose what works in a friendship, and what’s maybe no longer a good fit.” (Noveck, Jocelyn) Without seeing people in person, we can easily read texts in a negative way or think that a lack of Snapchats means that a friendship is now lackluster or unimportant. A simple lack of communication can lead to rifts and the eventual fading away of a friendship. With extra time, self-reflection can help us realize that people who used to be in our lives may not have a place there anymore.

 To put it bluntly, this time can make or break a friendship; so, what are some tips you can use to stay close with your friends even if you can’t communicate with them?

  1. If you have a problem, address it.

In a time where verbal communication is one of the only tools we have, letting issues brew because it feels like there is more time to solve them is not the answer. Ignoring your friends or pretending things are normal will only amplify the issues – quarantine or not.

2. If you can check in, do it every now and then. If you can’t, let your friends know why.

Communication is key, though you are under no obligation to text your friends every day. That being said, in times when people are often struggling, texting a friend when you can will have an impact on their day. If you are unable to communicate daily, texting your friends and being honest can often avoid issues that are likely to arise by complete silence.

3. Set up Zoom events.

Though setting up Zoom meetings can sometimes feel like a burden, they can also be a beneficial way of bonding. A simple quiz as a reminder of enjoyable past moments can help bring back to life a friendship that feels largely online.

4. Set up a book trading system.

pile of books on green summer lawn in park
Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

(sharing books is a great way to stay connected)

Being able to send books to one another not only lets you and your friends know what each other are thinking, but it also gives you more things to read and do. I’m not going to list out all of the benefits of reading, but it can definitely help.

5. Listen to your friends if you can.

If they are having issues, and you can take on the mental capacity to listen, do so. Talking out situations with your friends can often help strengthen a bond that might be fading because you cannot see one another face-to-face.

6. When asking friends if they have an ear to listen, ask if they are able.

Dumping issues on your friends when they are struggling themselves can create an unintended issue in a relationship. Just checking in with them to ensure they are okay can ensure that you create healthy boundaries in your relationship.

 

by Eleanor Kelman

When I first received news that my campus would be shutting down and classes would move to remote instruction due to COVID-19, my initial fear wasn’t directed at how I personally would adapt to the change; rather, I worried how my dad would fare. I had been living at my university in Boston, which quickly became one of the hot zones of the virus; however, once it became apparent that I would need to leave the bubble of my university housing, I only worried about the possibility of catching the virus. Though it does seem a bit shortsighted in hindsight, I truly believed I would be absolutely safe from catching the virus. At the time, the news was reporting that younger and otherwise healthy people would simply catch the equivalence of the common cold and recover without issue; therefore, I shrugged off the prospect of becoming gravely ill in the event I would become infected. However, once I realized I would need to head back home, I began to panic.

Like many others, despite not being in the at-risk group for COVID-19, I have family members who are. I’m living with my family at home, and my dad is immunocompromised. Even simply coming home from school made me nervous. Parties were thrown every night, and since I lived in a popular upperclassmen-only area of campus, these parties occurred directly outside my front door. I was at the crossroads of wanting to enjoy the final days of my college experience and not wanting to put myself, and subsequently my dad, at risk. I even considered trying to remain on campus or staying with my boyfriend’s family to avoid any chance of passing on the virus. Neither option would prove particularly feasible, and on top of that, my parents wanted me to come home so I could maintain a sense of normalcy.

My family is doing its best to act like we have the freedom to move around, but our need to be hypervigilant reigns supreme. My parents go shopping once every two weeks when the supermarkets open in the morning. We wear masks every time we leave the house to go on walks around the neighborhood. I’ve been keeping connected with friends via messages and video calls. At first, I found this to be a suitable substitute for actually living on campus close to my friends at all times, but lately, I’ve been feeling more and more antsy and fidgety. I have felt completely lost within my own thoughts for what seems like hours every day. The one time I got some reprieve when I drove to stay at my boyfriend’s house for a few days, I never left the car until I was at his house and reinstated my entire quarantine routine while there. When I returned home, I quarantined inside my bedroom for a week (with my parents placing food outside my door that I ordered by calling our home phone). My parents will crack the occasional joke about paranoia, but we understand that it’s something we all have to do in order to keep my dad safe.

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[Each of us has our own personal mask in my family. I got the groutfit one.]

It’s been difficult, to say the least. When I see friends posting on social media about going grocery shopping, I feel a pang of jealousy — my parents don’t allow my siblings and me to go to the store with them. I got plenty of messages like “Oh, that’s stupid!” when I documented my in-room quarantine to my Snapchat streaks, but it wasn’t stupid in my household. Sometimes I want to hop into my car and drive to the local hiking trail or shopping center just to get out of my head for a while, but I know that I shouldn’t. Maintaining safe quarantine practices isn’t all that essential for me, but it could be literally lifesaving for my family. I still can’t help those feelings of lamenting having to be so tightly-wound from sneaking in, though, no matter how much I know they are selfish. 

Whenever I get caught up in jealousy and a weird new-age type of FOMO I thought I had left behind at college, I find people in similar situations to mine. One of my best friends from childhood is severely immunocompromised and, for months, found themselves unable to leave the house just to take a walk. Many of my friends live with elderly family members and have been more worried than myself. Some people I know have even caught the virus themselves, know people who have caught it, or have come in contact with someone who caught it. I also know some people who are in the exact same boat I am with an immunocompromised member of the family.

In all honesty, it’s been a tough time for everyone. That being said, hearing how I’m not alone in my fears has made it a lot easier to handle. If I need to, I can call up a friend who understands my frustrations perfectly and just vent for an hour without feeling guilty. My support network has truly strengthened during quarantine, which was something I was not at all expecting when I said my “final” goodbyes to my friends before beginning the long drive from Boston. My friends and family have been there for me in a way I’m eternally grateful for, especially given that this has really challenged how close we are!
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[My beloved Google Calendar even has some standing friendship dates!]

Whereas remote learning was, pretty objectively, absolutely terrible, remote socialization has been lovely. People who I hadn’t seen in a while and had accidentally fallen off my radar (sorry!) due to my hectic pre-COVID day-to-day life have become my close friends again. I’ve been more inspired to reach out and initiate conversations, something I have always struggled with, due to the fact that there are no longer any real ramifications. After all, who is going to be too busy to video call? We’re all stuck here with too much time on our hands! And no one has lamented me being more active on social media; in fact, I’ve started commenting on posts of people I haven’t seen since high school who have found themselves elated to reinvigorate our friendships. Navigating and mastering social media to stay happy definitely had a bit of a learning curve for me at the start, but it’s allowed me to focus my energy on the people I really care about and fully nurture those friendships.

This isn’t to say that everything has been rainbows and sparkly unicorns and I love having the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to stay home and relax. I’ve been terrified to leave my house, but I am equally afraid of the ramifications that come with staying inside. I miss my friends dearly and wish I could say I am too busy rather than too bored. That being said, the resilience I’ve seen in everyone, including myself in a way I don’t feel uncomfortable bragging about, has been inspiring. Quarantine has had its fair share of negative side effects, but I think it has presented a feeling of “we’re all in this together” that I have never felt before. When I chat with my friends for the umpteenth time about my problems and see them listen intently, it makes everything feel just a little bit better.

Especially with this pandemic going on, people are running out of ideas on what to do at home. Besides baking banana bread, oversleeping and engaging in heavy exercise, what many individuals decide to do is online shop. There’s essentially no drawback to online shopping. You can make fun purchases while also maybe supporting a small business. That being said, your finances can also suffer if you shop too much. Here are some of my favorite tactics to use when I shop in order to buy what I want but not spend too much money.

1. Use reputable and reliable websites.

  • This is not crucial since most websites that have good clothing may not be known, and sometimes small businesses are not known, so they are seen as not reputable. With that being said, be sure to do your research and find a good website that seems legitimate. 

2. Try not to impulse buy. 

  • Whenever I shop online, I really try to think about whether or not I absolutely want or need this clothing. I often leave the stuff in my shopping cart for a day or so, which gives me enough time to decide if I really want this top or these shoes. Another thing that helps me is to envision myself wearing said item; if I am not sure that I will like it, I won’t get it. Sometimes you’re surprised, but your intuition is usually correct; it’s often not worth buying something you’re not 100% sure about. 

3. Consider thrifting! 

  • Some websites are super expensive and people can’t justify spending so much money on certain items. Thrifting is a great way to save money on nice clothing. Now, it is very hit or miss, and you can’t really expect to find something. You also can’t really expect to come back and find it, because it might not be there. One time I went to a thrift store in Santa Barbara and found a cute pair of shoes but didn’t buy them because I was a few dollars short; when I came back, they were gone. You might have to expect this to happen. With that being said, thrifting saves a ton of money, helps the environment, and is a wonderful way to spend a day. You can also thrift online if you look hard enough; Instagram is all the rage to find thrifting accounts. 

4. Know your size.

  • Before you buy, MAKE SURE TO KNOW YOUR SIZE! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve bought clothes that don’t fit because I didn’t know my size. It’s hard to plan for clothes that have different sizing, but be sure to utilize size charts and use your best judgment. Don’t buy something that won’t fit because it’s the only size; it’s better to try your luck somewhere else.  

5. Familiarize yourself with return policies. 

  • If something happens where you don’t like the clothing or if it doesn’t fit, it’s important that you know how to return or exchange it. Nobody wants to keep something that doesn’t work for them. You can always donate or sell your clothing, but it’s often best to try to return the item so that you can get your money back or purchase the style or size you desire once you find it. Sometimes it’s hard to find return policies, and some companies have none. Just make sure to do your research!

6. Use coupons.

  • If you’re the type who often shops online, you might find that your bank account is being drained quickly. The best way to keep yourself from spending too much is to use coupons/cashback services. Honey and Ebates are some that I use. They find coupons for me and give me cash back on purchases respectably. Credit cards also do this too, depending on the card you have. This is a given that you will save money, and you don’t have to do too much work! Make sure to install Honey on your browser and connect Ebates to your bank and get to saving! 🙂

by Fiona Rose Beyerle

Even though you cannot physically pack up and travel right now, these films all provide incredible storytelling from different worldwide perspectives. The best part is that there are quite a few films to be discovered that offer compelling stories and perhaps a chance to practice a language you studied but have not practiced in a while. Without further ado, here is a short list of (not so popular) international films to enjoy! 

I Am Not a Witch (2017) 

Director: Rungano Nyoni 

Languages: English, Bemba, and Nyanja

Where to Watch: Amazon Prime, YouTube, and Google Play 

Synopsis: Set in a local village in Zambia, a mysterious eight-year-old girl named Shula shows up and is accused of witchcraft.  She is soon found guilty and promptly placed in a witch camp.  

Why you should watch this film:  After watching this at the 2018 San Francisco International Film Festival, I have spent the past few years searching for it on the internet waiting for it to be released. This is a film that should be known.  Rungano Nyoni delivers this story with authenticity and moving symbolism that stays with you.

I_Am_Not_a_Witch

(The official movie poster for I Am Not a Witch.)

The Way He Looks (2014) 

Director: Daniel Ribeiro 

Language: Brazilian Portuguese

Where to Watch: Amazon Prime, Google Play, YouTube, Vudu and iTunes

Synopsis:  A blind high school student named Leo longs for independence.  When a new student named Gabriel arrives, everyone instantly falls for him including Leo.    

Why you should watch this film: This is one of the cutest films!  You will fall in love with these sweet characters.  Another thing I love about this film is that it is not only a love story, but also focuses on friendship and working through the balancing act of friendships, jealousy, and new romances. 

The_Way_He_Looks_Official_Brazilian_Poster

(The official poster for The Way He Looks, written in Portuguese.)

My Life as a Courgette (2016) 

Director: Claude Barras

Language: Swiss-French

Where to Watch: Amazon Prime, YouTube, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu, and Netflix

Synopsis: Icare is sent to live in a foster home after a tragedy strikes. Icare informs the police officer he meets that he wants to be called “courgette” (meaning zucchini in French) since this is the nickname his mother gave him. Courgette befriends the other children and learns about their stories and problems as he works through his own. 

Why you should watch this film: Though this is an animated film, it is not for children. This film deals with tough conversations surrounding alcoholism, violence, sexuality, and other mature content. That being said, this film manages to balance sadness with sweetness.  What makes this film interesting is an accurate perspective of children dealing with these hardships. Oftentimes, I believe that films gloss over children dealing with grief by writing it off as a lack of understanding. This film chooses to dive into the depth of emotions the children feel as they struggle. 

My_Life_as_a_Zucchini

(The official poster for the film, written in French.)

Monsieur Lazhar (2011) 

Director: Philippe Falardeau

Language: Canadian French 

Where to Watch: Amazon Prime, YouTube, Google Play, Vudu, and iTunes 

Synopsis: Monsieur Lazhar, an Algerian immigrant, steps up to fill the role of an elementary school teacher after a suicide occurs. Lazhar helps the students work through their loss as we simultaneously learn about his own tragedy before coming to Canada.  

Why you should watch this film:  If you are looking for a feel-good film, this is not your film.  If you are looking for a heart-wrenching yet incredible film, this is a must-watch.  Not only is the main character an amazing actor, but the children are also all wonderful in their roles. 

Monsieur_lazhar

(The official movie poster for Monsieur Lazhar.)

Thelma (2017) 

Director: Joachim Trier 

Language: Swedish, Norwegian 

Where to Watch: Hulu, Amazon Prime, Youtube, Google Play and Vudu

Synopsis: Thelma is a shy new student at the University of Oslo in Norway who begins to experience seizures which turn out to be part of her menacing supernatural powers. 

Why you should watch this film: If you like unusual artsy horror, this is the film for you.  It reminds me of the film Hereditary by Ari Aster in the way that it is unconventionally creepy and does not sacrifice the element of beauty in a film. This film is also part love story as Thelma falls in love with another student named Anja.  If the combination of all this in one film does not at least somewhat intrigue you, I do not know what will. 

Thelma_(2017_film)

(The official movie poster for Thelma.)

By Nicole Mattson

Normal People is a story worth knowing. Written in 2018 by Sally Rooney, it explores the tumultuous relationship between Marianne and Connell, two Irish students who go through high school and college together. After becoming a New York Times Best Seller, it became a television show on Hulu that premiered at the end of April. I first heard about it when it was featured in model Kaia Gerber’s Instagram Live book club, where actors Daisy Edgar-Jones and Paul Mescal (who are Marianne and Connell in the show, respectively) made an appearance to discuss the show. Both the book and the show are riveting and ultimately it is your preference whether or not you want to read it and visualize the story yourself, or watch how it is portrayed on the screen.

What is it about?

Marianne and Connell are two people who come from different backgrounds and have different social lives. Their story begins in 2011. In the town of Sligo, Ireland, their lives merge through their parents’ connection. The story starts off during the end of high school and goes until the end of college at Trinity College in Dublin. They have an on-again-off-again relationship throughout the book/show but they always remain friends. Readers and viewers can expect to see Marianne and Connell grow over time and how they adapt to each other despite their differences. 

The Book:

Reading the book went by quickly. It was difficult to put down since it was fun to read and easy to comprehend. Unlike the television series, the reader can experience the inner thoughts of Marianne and Connell, especially with their relationships with other people; Marianne has a terrible relationship with her older brother and mother, and Connell has a close relationship with his mother and a complicated relationship with his friends. It can also be easy to read over certain parts of the story that tie it together; for example, Marianne dealing with her aloof mother and talking about her father’s death is better experienced by seeing. However, reading can help experience events in the book in a creative way. Imagining what the lecture halls, apartments, and even parties are like can be fun, even if they end up being nothing like what the television show portrayed.

The Show:

The TV show showed how different perspectives can be. As a college student in the United States, it can be difficult to visualize both high school and college life in Ireland. For example, colleges in the U.S. are based around a central campus, and colleges in Ireland are more centered around the city. The buildings featured in the show were older than I expected and looked more classic, and the apartments were different than I could have imagined. Certain scenes provoked emotion that I otherwise would not have known by reading the book. When Marianne is talking with Connell at the coffee shop, the camera and background add power to their conversation, and seeing characters cry, as sad as it sounds, adds more emotion to the story and makes me think more deeply about the things happening in the show. Both actors, Daisy Edgar-Jones portraying Marianne and Paul Mescal portraying Connell, did a lovely job and it was better than I could ever imagine, since it felt so real. Not to mention that the show has great music choices throughout the episodes; I forgot about Imogen Heap’s “Hide and Seek”, along with music by Kanye West, Frank Ocean, and Selena Gomez. I also discovered new music such as “Everything I Am is Yours” by Villagers, an indie Irish band. The combination of the cinematography, music, dramatic pauses, and actors transported me to a different story than I experienced reading the book. It felt so familiar yet so different at the same time.

So… which is better: the book or the television show?

Overall, it is your preference whether you want to read the book or watch the television series on Hulu. Both offer a beautiful story about friendship in different ways, but you will not be disappointed with either option. Throughout the last month in what seems to be a never-ending pandemic, Normal People has kept my mind off of what has been happening. If you want my opinion though? I would say the book was easier to get through, and perhaps it was because I read the book first and by the time I watched the television series, I already knew the story. This is not to say, however, that the show was bad; the cinematography in the show enhanced the characters and scenery and is a high-quality show. Sally Rooney is a talented author, and Lenny Abrahamson and Hettie Macdonald are brilliant directors that brought the story to life.

Meditation, previously seen in the West as something more New Age than mainstream, has been around for thousands of years and is inherently the basis of most of the world’s faith systems. Meditation has seen a rise in popularity in recent years, especially in Western culture, as it has become increasingly connected with stress reduction and a boost in overall well-being. In a time of constant technological bombardment, reconnecting with space itself seems only wise. Add in the constant feelings of being stuck indoors and it makes sense to re-embrace the feelings long lost. 

However, there is no singular way to approach meditation, even if you are just coming into it for the first time. There is no right way to meditate. As an associate professor of religious studies Elaine Yuen, Ph.D. puts it, “The purpose of meditation is to bring a sense of calmness and awareness.” (1) As someone that practices meditation myself, let’s work through some of the basic components that will allow you to find peace in a time of Zoom calls and screen staring.  

Position/Movement 

What position do you find yourself most relaxed in? Are you the kind of person for whom a walk promotes your stress relief? Would you rather find yourself unmoving, cemented in place as the world moves around you? 

These questions do not need to be yes or no answers. For some it can be a mix, or it might depend on your mood on any given day. As long as you get into a mediation rhythm, position can vary. For me personally, I enjoy a walk to get away from the computer, and sitting meditation before bed.  

If you go with walking, where are you going to do it? Are you the kind of person for whom nature is the key to meditation, or are you someone who needs the power of a city to relax? For me here in New London, I love the Connecticut College Arboretum for some long weekend walking meditation. 

If you do choose to go the unmoving route, what position are you going to remain in? For some, cross-legged meditation is preferable, but others find that it can be straining on the joints. Laying down can be a valid option, as it lessens the stress on the body as a whole.  

A word of note, please do not feel guilty if in the process of meditation you happen to doze off. It happens to everyone, and perhaps it just means that your body needed just a bit more of a deep meditation.  

Indoors or Outdoors 

Where do you want to be when you commit to mediation? Is your home a comfortable space for you to exist and be in? Do you feel that you need to separate your mediation from your home? Do you have the ability to mediate outdoors safely? 

While nature for some provides the purest connection to the earth as a whole, others find the comfort of home to allow for the mind to feel at ease. For some, it may be an accessibility issue, living in a place where outdoor access may prove difficult. 

If meditating inside, I find it helpful to designate a space for it. Somewhere where your mind enters a meditative state when you enter the space. For me it’s the corner of my room, and I keep it clear so that my mind may also remain clear while within the space. 

Sound or Silence 

Do you find it hard to focus without something to focus on? Do you find relaxing moments in the purest of silence? What makes it possible for you to focus? 

For some, absolute silence is needed for their minds to come to a point of ease. Yet for others, something has to exist in the space for their mind to be at rest. Guided meditations are wonderful, and it sounds odd but certain voices work better for some than others. As a transwoman, I find that a woman’s voice puts me in a calmer place than a man’s, for instance. Everyone is different, and for some people, simple white noise or classical music provides enough of a focal point with which to focus from, no voice needed.  

The tougher the day for me, the more I find I need some sort of noise to occupy my mind. When walking, I like the sound of rain (over, of course, actually walking in the rain). For indoors, a fan running behind me will do nicely.  

Final Notes 

I am no expert, but these observations come from years of practice. Like anything, meditation just takes time. You just need to find your rhythm, and let yourself flow. There is no wrong way to do meditation, just as long as you are doing it.  

One piece of advice that has helped me immensely is that when you get those intrusive thoughts that come up, do not just ignore them. Like a dam, they will build up until it makes it impossible to focus on your breathing. Instead, acknowledge its presence, saying something to yourself like “I see you, thought, but I will come back to you later.” This simple act allows for your mind to return to a sense of ease, much like this rock as it balances, creating a lovely alcove. 

Remember, the key to meditating is just to do it. Let yourself find the way that works for you, and change if you feel like you need to. Let it be a place where you can just be you, and let your mind come to ease away from the world of technology that controls our every moment. Just breathe, and keep on going, whether that be for 15 minutes or an hour.  

  1. Melero, Angela. “This Trendy Meditative Practice Is Said To Help Combat Anxiety.” The Zoe Report. Accessed May 21, 2020. https://www.thezoereport.com/p/these-different-forms-of-meditation-take-both-fresh-traditional-approaches-on-ancient-practice-22888900. 

by Mia Foster

batteries lot
Photo by mohamed Abdelgaffar on Pexels.com

(A bundle of multiple colored batteries)

Currently it is considered safe to throw away single-use batteries in all states except California. However, just because it is deemed safe enough by the government does not mean it is the best option. Today I will go over how to recycle different types of batteries and, if you are unable to recycle, how to properly prepare your batteries for the landfill. 

Recycling Alkaline/ Single-Use Batteries

Every single-use battery contains reusable materials, such as zinc, manganese, and steel (Earth911). As in any other form of recycling, by choosing to recycle our batteries we divert them from the landfill, create new products, and prevent excessive mining for new metals because the metals from the recycled materials fill the quota.     

To recycle single-use batteries, find a mail-in or drop off recycling service near you. Call2Recycle is a wonderful resource, and Home Depot has partnered with them. If you live near a Home Depot, you can take your dead batteries to said location and they will recycle them for you. Earth911 also has an extremely helpful Recycling Locator that can help you find recycling facilities near you.

Recycling Rechargeable Batteries

It is required that we recycle reusable batteries when they are at the end of their life because they have toxic chemicals and heavy metals that are not safe for landfills (Home Depot). They are recognized by the EPA as hazardous waste and should be treated as such (Earth 911). These batteries can be recharged and reused hundreds of times but they will eventually die. When they do, follow the same process as with single-use battery recycling; the same facilities often handle both types of batteries. It is important to note that if you have a piece of technology with a rechargeable battery that dies, with the exception of cell phones, it is best to remove the battery from the device prior to recycling.

anonymous person showing recycle symbol on smartphone
Photo by ready made on Pexels.com

(a phone with a recycle sign, which is what you should do with your batteries if possible 😉 )

Throwing Away Single-Use Batteries

If you cannot recycle single-use batteries, you can dispose of them in the garbage (excluding Californians) if you take precautionary measures first. Dead batteries are not entirely dead and they are still a fire hazard. To prevent issues with disposal, tape over the ends of 9-volt batteries and place batteries in a plastic or cardboard box to avoid sparking.

Conclusion

Batteries are very common in our everyday lives and the proper disposal of them is an issue nearly no one understands. My family has jars of dead batteries sitting around waiting for the day when one of us knows what to do with them. I figure there’s no time like the present! Hopefully with this information on battery disposal we can rid ourselves of dead batteries together while being environmentally conscious.

by Lia Weinseiss

Are you looking for something to do while you’re baking, cleaning, working out, or laying around? Is learning from Zoom University not doing enough for you? Try a podcast! With this list ranging from news podcasts to celebrity interviews to everything in between, you’re sure to find something great for the next time you need to bake some banana bread. 

 1. Harry Potter at Home: Readings – Harry Potter the Philosopher’s/Sorcerer’s Stone

If you read Harry Potter as a child, you’re reading it right now, or you have never read it, this podcast is for you. You can feel nostalgic while listening to the first Harry Potter book being read by notable names in the Harry Potter world such as Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter in the Harry Potter series), Noma Dumezweni (Hermione Granger in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child), and many more.

2. Secret Leaders by Dan Murray-Serter, Rich Martell

Learn about famous, successful people from the UK and US and their careers. This podcast gives listeners an inside look on just what it takes to make a successful entrepreneur. After listening, you’ll be able to take your banana bread hobby and turn it into your next business venture.  My personal favorite episode? Slack: How to Work Remotely and Stay Productive with Cal Henderson. 

3. Ologies with Alie Ward

Learn about different “ologies” from philematology (the science of kissing) to quantum ontology (the science of what is real) from special guests in this podcast. Hear Alie Ward ask scientists questions about topics you never knew you needed to know about. My recent favorite is Nasology (Taxidermy) with Allis Markham.

4. Let’s Talk About Myths, Baby! A Greek & Roman Mythology Podcast By Liv, Greek Mythology Geek

If you read Percy Jackson as a kid, or didn’t and are regretting it now, this podcast will inform you on everything myths—casually. Fuel your inner historian by listening to a contemporary take on Greek and Roman myths.

5. The Espresso Series By Honor Crean and Grace Volante

This is a podcast with everything you need from two students at the University of Edinburgh: original music recommendations, special guests with interesting untold stories to tell, news pieces and more.

6. Armchair Expert with Dax Shepard

Dax Shepard interviews different famous names in pop culture, food, politics and more about their lives, with a personal twist that is innately human.

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(Source: Pexel)

7. Don’t Blame Me! By Meghan Rienks 

Youtuber and influencer Meghan Rienks takes calls and gives people advice. Listen to anything from dating advice to advice on navigating friendship from the perspective of someone who feels like a big sister.

8. My Favorite Murder with Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark

If you haven’t heard of this podcast, now is the perfect time. Feel like you’re talking to friends while you hear about true crime stories you may not have heard of from two women who approach each story with a serious yet sarcastic twist.

TRIGGER WARNING: Deals with graphic stories of homicide and violence.

9. I Weigh with Jameela Jamil

Jameela Jamil challenges society’s opinions of weight by speaking to influential people about their value—beyond what the scale says. Listen to interviews with people like Reese Witherspoon and Beanie Feldstein and hear about what they weigh.

10. The Daily by The New York Times

A daily podcast about important news stories of our time. Stay informed about both national and global news with a 20-50-minute clip including information from amazing journalists.

11. Pod Save America by Crooked Media

This podcast comes from President Obama’s former aides and features many journalists who give you an inside scoop of the news, tell you exactly what you need to know, and how to do something about it.

12. Dirty John by LA Times

Hosted by a Pulitzer Prize-nominated journalist, Dirty John is a true crime podcast from 2017 about John Meehan’s marriage to Debra Newell and the abuse and manipulation which came from their relationship.

TRIGGER WARNING: Graphic depictions of abuse, homicide, and violence.

by Eleanor Kelman

When I was younger, I was what adults would call a “voracious reader.” Not a day went by that I wasn’t buried in a novel. If I finished an assignment early, it was lunchtime or I simply had a free minute, I would pull my book of the week out of my backpack, flip to where one of my handmade bookmarks was slotted in between pages, and continue on in a little fantasy world by myself. I requested only Barnes & Noble gift cards from my family for Christmas and had a devoted bag just for my weekly library trips, which I would overfill with everything from manga to gossip rags to classic literature. I read anything and everything without discretion; I just wanted to read.

And one day, I didn’t.

I guess the decline was slow in hindsight, but by the time I was deep into high school it was evident: I just didn’t read anymore. I read what was required for class, but the passion wasn’t there and I had no motivation to pick up a book for pleasure at all. By the time I was in college, the only times I read a book outside of coursework were on long plane flights during which there were no real distractions. This brought the grand total of full novels I read for fun in about a seven-year stretch to something to the order of three. That’s how many I could have finished in a typical month as a child.

Every single new year brought forth that resolution to “read more” and each summer gave me a theoretical new wind to pick up and finish even just one book. And, of course, not a single declaration of “this is the day I become a reader again” actually came to fruition. It didn’t take long for me to become jaded despite still hoping I would one day be able to find my passion for reading again.

I was not shocked that I once again found an opportunity to read when I was kicked off of my college campus and quarantined within my home. But even that dream was quickly squashed when I found out that all local libraries were closed for the foreseeable future. I do have plenty of books at home, but my most prized ones I had already read (two of the novels I’ve read four times each) or hadn’t considered starting because they just didn’t pique my interest that much. While I did pick up a science fiction novel from my shelf, it only took about a chapter for me to realize I was not interested in the bland setting and unrelated storylines of multiple characters (I’ve always disliked that writing style). I relegated myself to yet another half-hearted attempt at becoming a reader that went nowhere.

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[A snippet of my personal bookshelf, er, bookfloor]

The thing was, I still really, really wanted to read. I mean, it wasn’t like I had much else to keep me busy! My hectic schedule, from classes to multiple clubs to constantly seeing friends up on campus had come to a screeching halt; I had exponentially more downtime now than I had had in years. Fumbling around on the internet eventually led me to a way to access e-books through the library cards I already had (one for my local library at home and another for the one closest to my university), and once I downloaded that app I only had one final excuse left to not start reading. I still could just forget to get around to it, no?

Once the semester ended and I was officially done with classes, the website I had used for the past four years of college to track homework assignments had lost its purpose. This actually disheartened me a surprisingly good amount, as I had become weirdly attached to it after it practically single-handedly saved me from failing every class I took. I was so fond of this website that I decided against unceremoniously giving it up, and swapped the course subjects for categories of things I’d need to do that summer and didn’t include class periods. One such thing I added was a way to track my reading, something I’d previously used it for to track the chapters professors had assigned weekly. Now that I had nullified that excuse, I had to read.

Okay, I’m not going to pretend I dove headfirst into hundreds of novels and can now say that I’ve polished off half of the Library of Congress. However, I did actually start successfully reading for fun, which is a much less lofty and much more vague goal but a goal I finally achieved nonetheless. I finally have flipped the final page of Thomas Cullinan’s The Beguiled, which wasn’t my favorite in the end, but what it represented was so much more than just a mediocre Civil War-era thriller novel. I’ve moved my e-book endeavors on to two books at once: John Carreyrou’s Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup, a book that has been on my radar since I became engrossed in a podcast about the white collar crimes of Elizabeth Holmes and her company Theranos, as well as Henry James’s novella The Turn of the Screw, which has a forthcoming adaptation in the second season of The Haunting of Hill House on Netflix.

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[The porch has quickly become my favorite place to engross myself in a book]

It’s not even about the quality of these books per se but rather about how they show me how I’m maturing. I feel better when I’m reading, sort of like one of those “self care queens” on YouTube. They give me a jolt of “wellness,” and some feel-good nostalgia. Reading brings me back to a simpler, less chaotic time when I didn’t have any adult fears and anxieties looming over my head. They remind me of a childhood when I did something for no reason other than truly enjoying the escape. And when I finished one book, the only worry on my mind was to pick which one to read next.