A curated list of events, restaurants/bakeries, local attractions, and new things Jiaxin will be trying out in the month of November.Read More
Metaphors provide relatable and simple frames of reference to help me interpret my life. Understanding a metaphor, however, is a completely separate phenomenon from experiencing a metaphor.
For example, my freshman year I joined the ballroom dance team and learned how to tango. And as I became more and more invested in improving my dancing, going from no dance experience to competing at national competitions, I learned many key lessons:
- You cannot ballroom dance by yourself
- You cannot place in a ballroom dance competition by yourself
- You cannot achieve any sort of dancing success solely by yourself
Indeed, as some might say - it takes two to tango, the takeaway being that prioritizing partnership and collaboration is essential to success. It's a wildly simple metaphor, but it didn't really become meaningful until I actually experienced it.
I had this happen again to me this past week. On a sunny Sunday afternoon, my roommate Carlton and I decided that yes, THIS is the day we are going to take up gardening. A few hundred dollars of plants and soil later, we got to work with arranging and potting. It got me thinking about the gardening life metaphor and the act of uprooting ourselves, of picking up everything in our lives and then transplanting and plopping down somewhere else.
With every lily, daphne, cactus, or whatever plant I was working with, I just couldn't help but think how much I could relate to these plants that were being uprooted from their store packaging and transplanted to a new home. I am literally uprooting these plants, gently coaxing them out of their basic greenhouse packaging and into a beautiful ceramic planter. And I'm just holding my breath, hoping my new babies are having a good transition and will ultimately find their new homes comfortable enough to grow and flourish.
I am a flower in the exact same situation! Or tree, or weed, or whatever plant you can relate to.
8 months ago I packed everything up, said see you later to people I love, and posted up in Seattle. I tried to make sure my growing conditions were optimized accordingly: a comfortable bed, a good social group, somewhat balanced meals, and of course prioritizing work life balance to prevent myself from complete corporate madness. And indeed, similar to my plant babies, I'm holding my breath hoping that I'll find my new home comfortable enough to grow and flourish.
In the next couple of weeks, the weather will get warmer and the rain a little milder. A lot of my new plants will bloom, reaching their full beauty as the joyful anticipation of summer wafts through their petals. As the flowers bloom, I hope you and I do too. You, also being a young 20 something in a transitional life stage, unsure of what the worst could be while still hoping for the best. It's an interesting gray space to be in.
John and I have built a lot of memories together in the short span of time we've known each other. Loose associations formed through both being in ballroom at the start of junior year, we started sorta kinda hanging out a little bit at the end of junior year, and then didn't really start being real *friends* until the start of this year. Our adventures have taken us through episodes of Freaks and Geeks, across state lines for ballroom competitions, into basement practice rooms to sing acoustic versions of crude rap songs, and of course up and down the streets of Ann Arbor for whatever the weekend beckons.
I love how John puts himself together everyday, and there's definitely certain pieces in his closet that I repeatedly tell him I love every time he wears them. With a relaxed, individualist, and versatile look (with a little bit of prep mixed in), his wardrobe features great boots like the brown ones above.
Indeed, John has built a really diverse closet ranging from student org shirts to knitted rainbow sweaters, and his current favorite is his Eaux Claires festival t-shirt. There's lots of meaning behind his favorite things too: he wears is grandfather's belt buckle everyday.
Thursday is my favorite day of the workweek: it is almost the weekend yet usually remains productive. Going forth into the weekend, I compiled a few tips for elevating an evening based off of a small birthday party I hosted for a friend. A little bit of planning ahead of time turns the usual gathering with friends into a memorable experience--one that might even become a summer highlight.
My current living quarters are not fancy. As you can see in the picture, there are some rather fratty posters on the wall of an otherwise boring living room. With just a few strands of white Christmas lights and balloons though, the place becomes whimsical and alive with the delicate lighting.
It is often difficult to provide entertainment for everyone, as everyone tends to break off into smaller groups that are more conducive to conversation. But if there is something that gets everyone to get back into a group and participate in an activity together, it is easier to share a commonality and thus the memories of that night. I chose fireworks, but there are an array of other activities (eating cake, watching a video compilation/slideshow, etc) that you can choose.
I am very visual and love pictures. Throughout the mingling and catching up with my friends, I carried my camera around and snapped pictures of the night. The effort was minimal on my end, and my friends all thoroughly enjoyed the high quality DSLR pictures that I took that provided nice contrast with the selfies they already had.
Like most adults, my childhood experiences have directly contributed to my perspective on life. As a result of frequent moving when I was younger, I feel that every stage in my life is temporary and thus long for something permanent (a stable job, my own home, marriage, etc.) more so than my friends. But each time I move forward into a new stage, selective moments of that previous life pile onto an accumulation of memories–making me a fierce nostalgic that often thinks about past. Given my current circumstances in life where I still haven't "settled", I see it more as brainstorming for an ideal future rather than unhealthily living in the past.
Bakeries are always one of those triggers for nostalgia. Anytime a family member had a birthday, my grandparents and I would wander through the Clement street area in search of a new bakery we hadn't gone to before. The joy of then walking into a bakery knowing that we were going to buy one of the beautiful cakes was overwhelming for a younger version of myself, and something that remains with me to this day.
I started my internship at an education technology start up a little under two months ago, and have grown to love not only the start-up culture but also the city I work in. While the city itself is fighting urban blight and slowly picking away at its negative media image, a rich food culture has remained strong and continued to flourish.
I find myself at Hot Taco on a weekly basis, as it is a favorite amongst the team and someone always wants to go there. I am a sucker for their 3 for $6 tacos, especially because they are always made with fresh avocado. Food truly is a uniting factor, and over a Hot Taco meal, I am fortunate to get to know my co-workers better as well as the culture that defines Detroit.
The world of menswear is rapidly changing. While the gaping disparity in the availability of clothing between the two genders still exists, smaller contemporary clothing stores like Today Clothing are growing in popularity all across the nation. Here are some glimpses into the cool menswear they have presented in a beautifully minimalistic space.
Fall is something I never really appreciated until I moved to the midwest. The abundant colors, corn maizes, and apple orchards give the season a certain feel and truly capture this time of year as a special one--and also one that we can't help but find ourselves anticipating every year. This year, I finally had the chance to go to an apple orchard. The sweet Golden Delicious apples, fresh cider, and warm donuts all made this inaugural experience a very special one, especially in the company of good friends. Indeed, experiencing a midwestern fall definitely is something everyone should have on their bucket lists.
Dearborn, the birthplace of Henry Ford, is home of one of America's largest Arabic/Middle Eastern populations. And as a direct result of that, the Arabic food in this area is absolutely superb. My roommate is from the area, and always encourages us to go there to eat. Before meeting her, I already really enjoyed Arabic cuisine because of its wide selection of tasty vegetarian options. Yummy falafel, fresh baba ghanoush, and homemade baklava all burst with flavor--and have made me set much higher standards when it comes to all things hummus.
Everyday is Christmas Day at Bronner's of Frankenmuth. And while my family has never been religious or big on the holiday, being surrounded by copious amounts of Christmas spirit does have a magical effect on you. Going into stores like these do not just get me excited for a specific holiday, but also make me dream of the day where I have my own home. Not a temporary apartment for the year, or a room in a house with other students, but something more like a semi-permanent place of my own with my significant other and maybe a puppy (or two). For someone who constantly feels like she's moving out of one place and into another, the idea of "settling down" just seems so abstract that it almost provides a sort of solace.
I definitely held the wrong mindset about canoeing the first time I went. I would race my family members, pushing the other person in my canoe to paddle faster so we could finish first. I have long since learned that this is the exact opposite of what the activity should be: indeed, canoeing should be a peaceful experience, centered around relaxation and forgetting the hectic schedules we are so accustomed to.
My personal favorite is an 8-mile trip with Skip's Canoe Livery that takes us through some light currents and also past a nice little picnic spot. It takes 3-4 hours: a perfect amount of time to cozy up with a drink and soak up the beautiful scenery around you. [Reggie: a new corgi friend we made.]
Might I suggest a dessert date? Casual yet thoughtful, you can get to know each other without the pressure of table manners--not to mention, at the fraction of the cost too.
Pictured: Cupcake Station's Strawberry Delight and Red Velvet.
While chains like Starbucks and Biggby are quite popular places for students, Ann Arbor offers a vast array of accessible shops and cafes to satisfy any locavore. One of my favorite places to study is Babo, an eclectic market that sells exquisite food and wine and also a casual hang out spot where you can grab a cup of coffee (or sangria) and a salad. In the daytime sunshine, Babo is a vibrant little store, abundant with colors and eye-catching window displays. By night, this sensation is heightened with their whimsical strung lights that light up the outside patio. Regardless of the time, I often can be found on the patio with my Macbook and a bottle of their fresh squeezed juices.
Nothing says summer like outdoor concerts, and the Ann Arbor Summer Festival manifests that sentiment.
I spent my Friday evening at the kickoff of this 3-week long event, in the company of Lady Sunshine and the X Band and some good friends. And for an unexpected yet pleasant surprise, my ballroom dance partner also happened to be there.
The idea of Restaurant Week is to make high end Main Street restaurants accessible to broke college students eating ramen in their dorm rooms. Restaurants condense their menu with their special Restaurant Week choices, and offer lunch entrees for $15 or 2/$15 and dinner for $28 or 2/$28. It's a nice idea. And I did indeed participate. But....
I definitely discovered some things:
1) College students are not actually broke. Somehow I am an exception, but the rest of the student population seems to be faring quite well. I shall continue dreaming about the day where I won't cringe at the "$$$" and above places on Yelp and Urban Spoon.
2) At the higher end places that you manage to find 2/$15 deals for, they will give you less food. Gasp! Granted, a smart person probably would have assumed this, but somehow my belly always speaks before my head.
3) Reservations are a great thing to have.
With that said, my first restaurant week stop was Marnee Thai.
My experience at Cafe Felix was definitely more memorable.
I wanted to try something new, so I ordered their ratatouille. Upon first glance, it was so strikingly similar to my side of tomato bisque that I thought the two would taste pretty similar. However, looks really can be deceiving--the eggplant that was hiding under all the red made my first ratatouille experience delicious.
My friend ordered their margarita pizza:
Hands down, this was the BEST chocolate mousse I had ever had. The consistency and texture was spot on--not runny or chunky or anything else that would raise eyebrows. If I come back, it will solely be for this dessert.
Growing up in an Asian household, I would always hear my parents say how there is nothing more comforting than a warm bowl of 汤面 ("tang mian", noodles in soup). So naturally, I took them to Tomukun for dinner.
I love it when my family comes to visit Ann Arbor and
pick up my dinner tab spend quality time with me. We always have a great time bonding over food, and sharing stories that we've accumulated during our time apart. We discuss how things are going, anticipate future plans, and just enjoy each other's company.
My mom got the kitsune udon:
And my dad got the beef ramen:
And what did I get? A great time.
It is my first peony season at the Nichols Arboretum, and already I am delighted by the beautiful large blossoms.
Clad in my new ankle boots, I took a quick stroll through the grounds and shots some of the vibrant colors. Aside from the "ooh"s and "aah"s I have expressed toward these pretty flowers, I have little else to say--the pictures really just take the words from my mouth.
Any legitimate student here knows what Krazy Jim's Blimpy Burger is, and definitely does not need a Food Network feature to remind them how delicious it is.
Blimpy Burger is more than just a burger joint--but rather, an efficient and streamlined experience yielding a succulent grease-battered work of art.
One does not simply order a generic burger. One orders fresh beef patties on thick Kaiser patties with bacon and fried eggs. Grease on grease on grease on grease? Yes please.
When you finally make it through the assembly line of heart-attack inducing goodness and pay (cash only!), you might have to fight the temptation to start digging into your masterpiece without bothering with politeness and manners and actually sitting down. With something so yummy though, I completely understand.
And uh, oh, did I mention I'm a vegetarian?
With fresh flowers everywhere, the market was more colorful than usual. Vendors offered a plethora of petunias and poppies, and other vibrant annuals.
After the market, we stopped into the shops at Kerrytown for lunch. I had been craving bibimbap since the end of finals, so we propped ourselves down in a booth at Kosmo's. I am a huge fan of the stone bowl bibimbap, but this one was just as good.