Avalon, New Jersey

Jeanette Kakareka

When I was a child, once a year, my family would drive down to Avalon, New Jersey. We would rent the same charming, little house for one week. As I got older, I could no longer make it because I was required to go to summer intensives and now my company contract sometimes conflicts with our available week. This year, however, the weeks coordinated and I was able to go along with everyone else!

My mom packed me a little basket to welcome me when I arrived!

My mom packed me a little basket to welcome me when I arrived!

Weeks like this are so luxurious to me. No public transportation, no extraneous responsibilities, no need to stay super fit. I can wake up late if I want or get up early. I can video chat my boyfriend. Go down to the beach. Read a book. Take a nap. Go downtown to the shops. Drink coffee all day like water. I rarely get the true luxury of being lazy and “wasting” time however I want to, so I tried to take advantage of the days spent in this way.

I went down the beach, of course, (just a block and a half away,) and jumped in the waves. The water was actually quite warm this year, so we were able to stay out longer than usual. I also had 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami to keep me occupied.

My family introduced me to the cutest coffee shop I’ve seen, second only to the replica of Central Perk in Liverpool. Almond Joy cappuccino, please.

Coffee Talk located on 3rd and 97th.

Coffee Talk located on 3rd and 97th.

I was determined to take a nice sunset photo this week. The day I brought my camera we were downtown near the shops and the sun was quickly setting. Out of desperation, my brothers, one of their girlfriends, and I also walked down to the end of one road not knowing if we would be able to see anything. Luckily, we were not disappointed and sat a while.

A photo of my brother, Charles, and his girlfriend, Ellen Lewis. Taken with my Canon.

A photo of my brother, Charles, and his girlfriend, Ellen Lewis. Taken with my Canon.

It’s so refreshing to feel truly guilt-free about enjoying my down-time! I haven’t been able to feel that way for quite a long time, and I’m grateful to have gotten a whole week of it with my family.

Here is my dad making our fortress impenetrable.

Here is my dad making our fortress impenetrable.

My top 10 movies of 2014

Stephen Jacobsen

I saw sixty of the films released in 2014, and after almost seven months, here is how the films of that year stacked up for me. These are my favorite kinds of films, full of good ideas, and brimming with urgency. These movies are prime examples of art in cinema. While showing us the fault in out patterns, and the flaws in our institutions, they also possess the power and intelligence to possibly move our society forward. In short, these films all taught me something.

1. Starred Up -This is a genius film. A gang movie set in a prison, presented like a thriller, and played out by a father and son who have both committed unforgivable crimes. The movie makes a statement on our problems with violence, incarceration, family, and the destructive patterns that ripple though our society because of them. Tense, smart, and brilliantly acted, a must see for any film buff, or anyone seeking knowledge and change.

Starred Up

Starred Up

2. Nightcrawler - Smart, violent, and utterly engrossing. Focusing on our broken news system, Jake Gyllenhaal gives the best performance of the year.

Nightcrawler

Nightcrawler

3. Whiplash - Possibly the best film ever made on the subject of artistic ambition, it also happens to have the best final act of 2014.

Whiplash

Whiplash

4. Birdman - Wows with the way it was shot, but holds up because it’s funny, smart, and personal. It really is as good as they say, but expect something a little off beat.

Birdman

Birdman

5. The Grand Budapest Hotel - Wes Anderson at his best. Whimsical, layered, funny, sad, and smart. With all the great performances, the familiar yet fictional fantasy world created in this film springs to life, and brims with heart.

The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Grand Budapest Hotel

6. Selma - A great film, that steadily - and terrifyingly - keeps getting more and more relevant. Even within the few months it’s been released.

Selma

Selma

7. Obvious Child - Honest acting and a smart script elevate this important film to become the best romantic comedy in years.

Obvious Child

Obvious Child

8. Paddington - Hilarious details, amazing sets, and a moving fish out of water parable for immigration and adoption. This is the kind of family film that truly is for the whole family, full of wit and love.

Paddington

Paddington

9. Only Lovers Left Alive - I know everyone loves to hate on vampires lately - thanks Twilight for that. But with stories like this and Let the Right One In, the sub-genre has proven to be the perfect setting for smart, thought provoking dramas, splattered with the occasional bloody thrill.  Funny, romantic, and an awesome soundtrack, if you can adapt to it’s methodic pacing,  you’ll be enthralled.

Only Lovers Left Alive

Only Lovers Left Alive

10. Ida - A quiet stunner. This film is so gorgeous to look at, you might miss the sheer amount of depth this deceivingly simple tale from Poland has to offer.

Ida

Ida

Honorable Mentions: - John Wick, The Lego Movie, Guardians of the Galaxy, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Wild, Still Alice, Gone Girl, Edge of Tomorrow, Captain America, Boxtrolls, and The Babadook.

Hawaii

Morgan Quinn

This year I was lucky enough to FINALLY (I say finally because everyone I know has been there) visit Hawaii! All my friends would tell me it's life changing and I thought to myself "yeah, so is a bag of Hot Cheetos" but MAN they weren't lying. As soon as I stepped foot on the tiny, green saturated island of Kauai I knew it was going to be tough to get on my returning flight home. Now, the morning at LAX airport wasn't as glamorous as Hawaii. It started with me leaving my purse in a stall in the bathroom and running through the airport like a maniac trying to find it. The airport gods were on my side, I found it, and off we went!  

| Kalalu Trail |

It was only me and my boyfriend Sam on the trip so deciding on activities and places to eat was pretty easy. We booked a lot of the activities in advance since Hawaii is popular for vacationing. We made the bold decision to knock out all of our activities in the first 3 of 6 days of our stay. I say bold because it was exhausting. Fun but EXHAUSTING. We hiked, zip-lined, snorkeled, kayaked and more in the first three days. So by day four we had sunburns and blisters and cuts galore. All we wanted to do was soak in the jacuzzi like an 80 year old couple. 

My favorite thing we did on our trip was zip-line. I didn't know what to expect and that feeling of just jumping off and flying above the most gorgeous green trees was incredible and I recommend it to anyone and everyone. Other than zip-lining, the food in Hawaii is super healthy and simple.They have foods that aren't so common in LA like a lot of different types of fish, papaya, lychee, coconut and more. My LEAST favorite was losing my luggage back in LA. Not to worry! It was found 24 hours later after some tears and fear of losing my favorite yoga pants.

Here are some photos of my time in Hawaii and I hope you ALL make it there once or again and again.

A Spring Day in the Country

Sasha De Sola

Anyone who knows me well knows that one of my favorite pastimes is visiting gorgeous gardens and estates. One of my favorites is just about forty minutes south of San Francisco in Woodside, California. Nestled on the eastern slope of the Santa Cruz mountains, the Filoli estate and gardens is on the National Register of Historic Places and is open to the public. I spent a lovely afternoon there last weekend and it was such a nice way to unwind and bask in the warmth of the sun. Its all about the simple pleasures, right?!?

 The entry to the home is surrounded by large trees and lush greenery. Chirping birds create quite the atmosphere!

 Built between 1915 and 1917, Filoli still boasts classic elegance and an incredible vintage feel. The kitchen is even armed with a walk-in safe!

 However, my absolute favorite part about Filoli is definitely the gardens that are currently in bloom!

Found: a cool spot in the gentle shade of blooming flowers.  

Found: a cool spot in the gentle shade of blooming flowers.

 

Im so grateful to live in an area where it is so easy to escape the city and find an oasis amongst the trees. Im
 looking forward to my next adventure!

Amazing Food That I Had In China

Jeanette Kakareka

This spring, my company (English National Ballet) went on a 4 week tour to China and Singapore. Sometimes, I forgot how far away from home I was. But usually there were all sorts of communication errors making even take away lunch a real challenge. That being said, most of the food was definitely worth any trouble it was to get.

In our first city, Tianjin, we dove right in and I experienced a few bites of some street food. (Be careful, and it’s advisable to never drink the tap water!)

We also went to a hot pot place called Hai di Lao, which is a chain in China. This is a really nice option for anyone less adventurous--if you didn't know, hot pot is where you get the raw ingredients (veggies, seafood, meat,) and add them into boiling broth at your own table.

TIP: If you order the shoo si la mian noodles, you'll get a fun little dance by one of the waiters to stretch the noodles out for you!

Our next city was Guangzhou, which is a lot further south, and very hot and humid. This was my favourite location. There, we stayed in the most amazing hotel and had daily, buffet-style breakfasts with a gorgeous view.

Photo by Jem Choi

Photo by Jem Choi

Our last week in China was spent in Beijing. With an urban population of around 19 million, it is second in size only to Shanghai. 

TIP: It's a big city, but taxis aren't expensive in China. So, if you're not clear on how to get somewhere on the tube, don't be afraid to be driven there instead.

One day, we taxied to a restaurant that is a top rated restaurant in Beijing, Yin Xiang Xian Guan. Here, we had a very interesting assortment of food that you might not expect. That included (but was not limited to,) glutinous lotus root, cold mashed potatoes with a blueberry sauce, veggie coated tofu, and yellow curry inside of a loaf of bread.

This trip only increased my love of Chinese food, and I cannot wait for my next opportunity to visit in China again.