High Five / 17

Hi friends!

Long time, no see! How are you? How are things? Though my semester has been off to a wonderful start, I’m nevertheless grateful to be home until Wednesday for the long weekend. I’m even more thankful that this break allows me some time to blog. I’ve missed sharing here on Ciao Bella, but what better way to ease back into blogging than a new High Five?!

Before I share the highlights of my week, however, a moment: it would be remiss not to mention the devastating school shooting in Parkland, Florida. I’m grieving for the students, educators, and families impacted by the incident, I’m angry that this is no longer a shock to those in the U.S., and I’m frustrated, if inspired, that teens are able to take more action than those in the government (I’ve also been thinking a lot about how I consume news, how I react to news, and how privilege is intertwined in both, but that’s a conversation for another day).  If you, like me, are looking for tangible ways to help, I found this link to be useful. Change can only happen if we act now.

High Five 17[1] To start, can we chat about my latest television obsession, Netflix’s American Vandal? A hilarious play on true-crime breakouts like Serial and Making a Murderer, the eight-episode series follows aspiring documentarian and high school sophomore Peter as he investigates the innocence of classmate – and class clown – Dylan Maxwell. The crime in question? Vandalizing the cars of twenty-seven teachers with phallic images as a supposed prank. I was skeptical at first (what should one expect from a show with the tagline, “Who drew the dicks?”), but its sharp storytelling and authentic portrayal of high school life quickly won me over. The profanity is aplenty, but if you’re in need of an engrossing and humorous example of satire, I can think of no better show to try (and then you’ll be ready for Season Two, due out later this year!). Have you watched American Vandal or any other Netflix series as of late?

[2] As I mentioned in my last post, I study and work best when I have music playing in the background. With the semester fully underway, you can thus imagine how much my Spotify account has been put to use. One of the albums I’ve enjoyed most was actually just released: folk group I’m With Her’s See You Around, which came out on Friday. I’ve been eagerly counting down the days since I stumbled upon their music in the summer, but the wait was entirely worth it – I can’t get enough of all twelve tracks! Like The Staves, another musical trio I adore, artists Sara Watkins, Sarah Jarosz, and Aoife O’Donovan share impeccable harmonies and warm voices (you would never believe they’ve only been singing together since 2014). My favorite songs are “Game to Lose” and “Ryland (Under the Apple Tree),” but listen to any of their music and I know they’ll make you a fan.

[3] February has been moving so quickly that Valentine’s Day snuck right up on me! While I recognize that much of the holiday is based on the commercial sales of cards and chocolates, I still love that there’s a day devoted to expressing appreciation to the people who matter to you most. I suppose it’s then fitting that my current read is Rookie on Love, which I received from my mom as a sweet Valentine’s Day present. Any longtime reader of Ciao Bella knows how much I admire Tavi Gevinson and her work – all four Rookie yearbooks hold a coveted spot on my bookshelf – so it’s little surprise that I’m digging this anthology, a love-themed, love-centered collection of poems, essays, and stories from a diverse set of authors. YA fans, in particular, would do well to check it out. (On a similar note, this recent interview with Tavi is also a fun read).

[4] When I wasn’t shopping classes or catching up with friends over these past few weeks, chances are you’d find me in rehearsal for Julius Caesar: Femmes, Romans, Countrymen, an all-femme rendition of Shakespeare’s play. Working on this show was my first opportunity to stage manage in college, and I couldn’t be happier to have been a member of the technical team; it was one of the most thoughtful, loving, and creative productions I’ve had the pleasure of working on. We had a bittersweet close to the process on Monday, but the entire cast and crew is committed to staying in touch, even as our schedules part in separate ways. Fortunately, on my end, Brown theatre keeps me busy – I’ve already started work as the general manager for a production of Heathers in April! If you’d like a taste of the show, a Facebook live stream is available HERE. Have you seen or been a part of any productions recently?

[5] Finally, I was fortunate to snag tickets to a presentation by Tarana Burke, the #MeToo founder and activist, last week. She gave a wonderful, thought-provoking talk and was so engrossing in conversation with Brown professor Emily Owens. I appreciate her sharing her experiences, as I left the presentation even more determined to do my part in the ever-growing movement. To that end, it felt fitting to attend after reading the accounts of sexual assault in the kidlit community collected by author Anne Ursu. How and when the change in publishing will occur, I’m not certain, but I do know, as Burke said herself, we “have to be drivers of this conversation.”

And with that, I wish you the most wonderful Sunday.


High Five / 16

Hi friends!

High Five 16How are you? I’m writing this after a few snowy days at home, but you’ll hear no complaints from me. Whether it’s a result of the cold New England weather or the start of the new year, I can’t say, but I feel like I ended the week on such a productive note! I’m not sure what’s in store for the weekend, but I’ll be sure to save time for a reading session (my pile of library books is growing bigger by the day) and recipe experiments (I have numerous dishes bookmarked in Deb’s most recent cookbook).

I also wanted to share a new High Five, particularly because I feel like I’ve been reading, watching, and creating galore as of late. With that said, here are a few highlights – books, movies, articles, and the like – from my winter break. How was your week?

[1] To start, the last show I saw in 2017 was also among my very favorites. Sense and Sensibility is currently playing at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge and like the Jane Austen novel it’s based after, it’s all at once witty and heartfelt and thoughtful. I was so lucky to see it twice – first with two close friends, next with my mom and sister – and I was blown away by the minimalist set, the sharp dialogue (and complementary sound design!), and the ease at which the actors moved through the roles each time. I think there’s nothing more to say except kudos to the entire cast and crew. It’s playing until January 14th, so if you’re in the Boston area, I’d encourage you to check it out for yourself. If you can’t make it, join me instead in reading Sense and Sensibility at some point this spring. You can’t go wrong with an afternoon or two of Jane Austen.

[2] Speaking of Jane Austen, have you ever seen The Lizzie Bennet Diaries? It’s one of my favorite web series, and I bring it up only because there seems to be another channel that I like just as much. Shipwrecked Comedy is, as they write on their website, dedicated to “[creating] comedic historical literary content.” It’s a goal I think they’ve well accomplished with such projects as Kissing in the Rain, Poe Party, and their latest, a noir short film titled The Case of the Gilded Lily. I loved how the script and set paid homage to classic Hollywood mysteries, and I couldn’t get enough of the stellar cast and the roles they took on. It’s not long either; at only forty minutes, you could even fit in a viewing this afternoon! (All credit to my sister, Lulu, for the introduction).

[3] If a movie night is in your weekend plans, let me offer a suggestion: Their Finest, a 2016 release about the British Ministry of Information’s film-making attempts during World War II. I’m not one to turn down a British historical drama, and so when Lulu and I both had a free night, we jumped at the opportunity to finally rent it. I’m so glad we did. The film has a number of strong elements, including an intriguing storyline, a surprisingly sweet romance, and an engaging cast, led by actress Gemma Arterton. One critic writes that it “is a charming and thoughtful movie, about people making a charming and thoughtful movie.” You can’t sum it up any better than that. (Looking for music, not movies? I’ve found the soundtrack to be equally wonderful and certainly worth a listen.)

[4] It seems that mysteries are the theme of the week! Continuing the podcast kick I’ve been on, I started the ten-episode murder mystery series, “Deadly Manners,” on Tuesday; I’m only on the fourth chapter, but I already know I’ll be listening to the end. Taking inspiration from Clue, the podcast chronicles a dinner party at the home of the wealthy Billings family – a party that quickly takes a turn when one of the guests is found dead on the floor. With LeVar Burton narrating and Kristen Bell voicing Mrs. Billings (alongside several other stars), the line-up couldn’t be better, nor could their exaggerated, animated portrayals. I’m excited to see how the mystery wraps up – I have my predictions – but in the meantime, I’ll encourage you to listen to Episode One.

[5] January always ushers in a number of blog posts about resolutions and fresh starts. I love to read them, but I myself tend not to make long lists of goals. Rather, I choose a word that I hope will define the year ahead, and for 2018, I’ve decided on “aware.” That in mind, here’s a random assortment of links and pieces that have resonated with me as we kick off the new year:

  • I’ve long been a fan of Hannah’s writing; she captures small moments with such grace, and even her tweets read like poetry. You can then imagine how quick I was to sign up for her newsletter.
  • I’m in the process of clearing out my social media feeds, and it feels so good. It’s likely a cue I’ve taken from one of my new favorite sites, Reading My Tea Leaves. Erin’s dedication to clearing clutter and living simply is contagious.
  • Just after finishing The Hate U Give, Aneeqah’s thoughts ring truer than ever. As the YA community continues to advocate for diverse literature and representation, I think we’d do well to keep her thread in mind.
  • The theme for Rookie’s January issue is Utopia, introduced by Tavi in her monthly editor’s letter. It’s a powerful piece of writing, hitting on all of the right notes.
  • And finally, I’ve fallen into the archives of the blog 600 Acres, but I have no regrets. Like the best comfort dishes, Posie’s writing and recipes remind me of the shared power of cooking and baking.

And on that note, have a terrific Saturday.

Psst. I’m a fan of snow days as much as the next person (and I clearly love to write about them!), but these extreme temperatures can be dangerous. We need to discuss climate change at all levels, but in the meantime, please consider donating coats and other cold-weather clothing to your local shelters.

High Five / 15


High Five 15Happy Friday, friends! How are things? I myself have had a quiet week at home, and, save for a day trip with friends tomorrow, my Christmas weekend is shaping up to be the same. It’s no secret how much I love this time of year, so I’m looking forward to celebrating the day with my family (and wrapping up my current reads, Girls in the Moon and A Family Christmas, by the Christmas tree).

In the meantime, I’ve been itching to write something other than an academic paper after wrapping up my finals last week. With that in mind, I hope you’ll indulge me with a new High Five – I know it’s been quite a while! What’s new on your end?

[1] To start, I saw Lady Bird a few weeks ago with friends, but I’m still thinking about it: the story, the characters, the cinematography, even the soundtrack! Inspired by the director Greta Gerwig’s own adolescence, the film focuses on Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson throughout her senior year of high school in Sacramento. It’s been called one of the “best coming-of-age films in years,” and I would agree: the acting, particularly of stars Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf, is top-notch, the design is the perfect blend of nostalgia and youth, and the script feels, for lack of a better word, so real. Additionally, as someone who is constantly pushing for more womxn in the entertainment industry, I’m hoping director Greta Gerwig gets the credit she deserves this awards season. I believe it’s being phased out of theaters at this point – I’m several weeks late to the party, I know – but do see it this winter vacation if you get the chance.

[2] Since coming home for the holidays, I’ve been baking up a storm. I’m not complaining: making cookies is one of my favorite Christmas traditions, and after the mad dash that marks the end of the semester, I’ll take any opportunity to spend the day away in the kitchen with music blasting and ingredients everywhere. My family typically packages and passes out boxes of our favorites (think gingerbread men, shortbread cookies, and toffee bars), but we also like to sneak in one or two new recipes. This year’s choice was Gingerbread Brownies from A Farmgirl’s Dabbles. They’re such a fun twist on a holiday classic, and the dusting of confectioner’s sugar reminds me of early season snowfalls; in other words, they’re as festive of a treat as they come. Make them for a post-Christmas dinner dessert, of course, but also to fill your house with the scent of cinnamon and other spices. What fun.

[3] I mentioned in my last post the podcast “Hurry Slowly,” but I love it so much, it deserves a greater shout-out! Jocelyn K. Geil, who has dedicated years to the intersection between creativity and work, explores the same topic in her weekly episodes, interviewing everyone from marathon swimmer Kim Chambers to sleep scientist Sigrid Veasey. I discovered it earlier in the semester and have since found myself all the more aware of what distracts me, when I’m most productive, and what gets my creative juices flowing. Listen to it if you’re looking to be more mindful in the new year, wanting to structure your working time more efficiently, or simply in need of a good podcast. I’m a fan. (And since I’m always on the hunt for new ones to listen to: do you have any podcasts to recommend?).

[4] The recent snowfalls with which New England has been hit, though brief, have me wanting to curl up with a blanket and hot chocolate and binge a show. My recommendation for those feeling the same? The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, the newest project by Gilmore Girls creator and producer Amy Sherman-Palladino. Following a Jewish housewife as she breaks into the 1950s stand-up comedy scene, the first season is all at once witty, charming, and empowering. Actress Rachel Brosnahan is incredible in the leading role, supported by the stellar comedic timing of the entire cast and the writers’ rapid-fire dialogue. Even better may be the costume and production design, which transports viewers to the Upper West Side of New York City. Unfortunately, the show is only available through Amazon Prime, a result of modern-day streaming services, but the pilot is free to watch and Prime offers a thirty-day free trial – plenty of time to finish the first eight episodes! Have you been watching any shows lately?

[5] Finally, I know Christmas is only a few days away, but can I add a few more songs to your holiday music playlist? My sister Lulu recommended Ingrid Michaelson’s wintery EP, Snowfall, and, as I should have expected, her suggestion was spot-on. Ingrid’s voice lends itself beautifully to classics like “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and “Winter Song,” but I’m partial to her original song “When the Leaves.” I’ve had all five tracks playing as I wrap presents for family and friends, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I continue to listen to them into January (I suppose it’s also no surprise that I’ve enjoyed fellow Great Comet co-star Brittain Ashford’s holiday album, Auld Lang Syne, too, should you want more carols for weekend listening).

Have the most wonderful Friday!

Psst. You may notice that Ciao Bella looks a little different – I’ve been playing around with a more minimal design! Please bear with me through any technical difficulties as I continue to polish pages and posts :)