Thursday, May 31, 2012

NEXT UP: Read "Girls in White Dresses"

Some celebrate the end of school by swearing off reading. Finally, a chance to toss aside the books.

I'm the opposite. A break from school (an indefinite break, I suppose) means I get a chance to read more books for pleasure - books that I can consume in less than two days while sitting on the back porch or flying home or chilling in a bookstore.

Girls in White Dresses by Jennifer Close is one of those books. I first picked it up at an independent bookstore and spent the next 2 hours reading up to p. 133 right then. Being a frugal fiend, I walked out of the store without purchasing it, vowing to come back the next day. Well, that didn't happen, but my mom was nice enough to pick it up for me when I came home a week later.

The book focuses on a few girl friends who have recently graduated college (like me!) and are pursuing jobs, apartments, and--of course--serious boyfriends. It examines how friendships change post-college, how women are often attracted to the most perfect or most awful men, and how everything seems a little better when you can laugh about it with your girl friends.

What I Liked: Having just graduated college, I could relate to a lot of these issues. Which friends will tie the knot first? Who will end up with the right guy? The wrong guy? How will I survive in a teeny tiny NYC apartment? What tasks will my first job bring? Some of the characters even reminded me of certain friends. It was an easy, enjoyable, light read that I would actually read again for fun.

What I Didn't Like: There are a lot of female characters. I'm not revealing a hidden sexist attitude; I'm revealing that I am bad with names. There were so many girls flitting in and out of story lines that I had a hard time keeping them all straight. That might be partially due to the fact that I took a week-long reading hiatus mid-book, but still.

Should you read it? Yes! Well, if you can relate to it. I'm not sure it's for the men or high school girls out there, but I think college students/grads would get a kick out of it. I finished it in a mere two reading sessions, so it was a quick read.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

NEXT UP: Commencement Address

Three days ago, I graduated from college. 

As they say on Mad Men...isn't that "swell"?

It was a happy, overwhelming occasion, filled with lots of hugs and high fives and only a couple tears. I'm not sure what moments I'll really remember down the line, but I do hope to remember some of the things mentioned by the commencement speaker.

My university had the honor of having Google CEO Eric Schmidt speak at the ceremony. I just want to share some blurbs from his speech that I found particularly interesting. Enjoy!
This generation–your generation–is the first fully connected generation the world has ever known.
What’s the first thing you do when you get up? Right? Check your phone? Your laptop? Read some email, comb through your social networks?
I’m awake, here I am. You are connected, you’re online …
Some of you are probably texting your friends right now. Tweeting this speech. Changing your status. Smile, you’re on camera.
There’s this joke about the college kid getting mugged, who says, “Hold on—let me update my status, letting my friends know I’m getting mugged, then you can have my phone.” That didn’t happen, but it’s also telling — a stark depiction of just how essential technology has become to your generation’s identity and your ability to connect with the world.
Remember to take at least one hour a day and turn that thing off. Do the math, 1/24th. Go dark. Shut it down. Learn where the OFF button is.
Take your eyes off the screen, and look into the eyes of the that person you love.
Have a conversation–a real conversation–with the friends who make you think, with the family who makes you laugh.
Don’t just push a button saying I “Like” something. Actually tell them. What a concept!
Engage with the world around you … feel … and taste … and smell … and hug what’s there, right in front of you–not what’s a click away.
Life is not lived in the glow of a monitor. Life is not a series of status updates. Life is not about your friend count–it’s about the friends you can count on.
Life is about who you love, how you live, it’s about who you travel through the world with. Your family, your collaborators, your friends. Life is a social experience first, and the best aspects of that experience are not lonely ones–they are spent in the company of others.
Find a way to say “Yes” to things.
Say yes to invitations to a new country, say yes to meet new friends, say yes to learning a new language, picking up a new sport .
Yes is how you get your first job, and your next job.
Yes is how you find your spouse, and even your kids.
Even if is a bit edgy, a bit out of your comfort zone, saying yes means that you will do something new, meet someone new, and make a difference in your life–and likely in others’ lives as well.
Yes lets you stand out in a crowd, to be the optimist, to stay positive, to be the one everyone comes to for help, for advice, or just for fun. Yes is what keeps us all young.
Yes is a tiny word that can do big things.
Say it often.
His full speech can be found here.

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Thursday, May 17, 2012

NEXT UP: College Thank You Notes

As my college graduation approaches at a terrifying speed, I would be remiss not to make some public thank you announcements. Of course, the most important thank you goes to my parents and other family members for being incredibly loving and supportive. But here are some thank you letters to those less-often recognized things that helped shape my college career:

Dear Single Serving Mac & Cheese Microwave Bowls and ABJ Sandwiches.
   Thank you Mac & Cheese for always being there freshman and sophomore year fter a late night out. You were easy to prepare in my dorm room, and always a satisfying way to end my night. Thank you Almond Butter & Jelly Sandwiches for becoming my new late-night, quick-fix meal junior and senior year, when my palette obviously became more sophisticated.

Dear Freshman Year Room Location,
   Thank you so much for being located directly across from my floor's common room. It was so easy to hear when people were hanging out there. I stayed up late many nights when a quick glance through my door's peep hole confirmed that I could go hang out with my floormates chilling in the common area. It made for many late nights and procrastination feats, but it also made for great bonding sessions with my now best friends.

Dear Policeman Who Pulled Me Over in the Boondocks of Virginia,
   Thank you for pulling me over when I was driving home from visiting UVA during a break my first semester of college. I was feeling unsure about my decision to go to school in Boston instead of at a Virginia school with my hometown friends. This visit to see my friend was to help me decide if I should transfer to UVA. On the drive home, you pulled me over for staying too long in the passing lane (seriously?) and commented on my BU sticker, saying you were a BU alumni. I don't know how you became a sheriff in VA post-grad, but it sure seemed like a sign at the time.

Dear Housing Committee,
   Thank you for stressing me out about my freshman year housing. Merely two weeks before moving to college, you still had not given me my housing assignment. I pleaded and begged to be put in a certain popular dorm building, and you finally placed me on 8A. I met most of my college best friends on that floor. I'm proud to don "8A" on my graduation cap.

Dear Maluken Karaoke Sushi Restaurant,
   Thank you for always being the perfect go-to restaurant when my friends and I wanted to eat out. I have yet to see karaoke ever occur in your space, but I don't doubt it exists. Thank you for all the cheap miso soups, salads drowning in dressing, and California Rolls. I celebrated friends' birthdays here, ended semesters here, and bonded with roommates here. I don't care what Yelp says, you're a gem.

Dear Mass Ave Bridge,
   Thank you for providing a path for countless runs and contemplative walks in Boston. Thank you for connecting me to MIT, where I was able to ease homesickness by hanging out with my one hometown friend who also came to Boston for school. Thank you for providing breathtaking views of this beautiful city. Oh, and thank you for helping my dad walk to class every day when he went to school up here too.

Dear Hand-Holders, Heart-breakers, Former Friends, and Lifelong Friends,
   Thank you for making me laugh when I was stressed. Thank you for making me cry when I was hurt. Thank you for teaching me who and what makes me be a better person. Thank you for making me think about the kind of friend/daughter/girlfriend I can be. I don't care that some of these points sound bad; they all made me the person I am today, and for that, I am so grateful. Live and learn.

Dear Facebook,
   Thank you for making it easy to stay in touch with friends from home, look up people I met during class/parties/activities, procrastinate on papers, put off studying, and find stupid viral videos. You came along at such a great time. Now time to delete all photos from my college experience off my Facebook Page. (Just kidding!)
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Friday, May 11, 2012

NEXT UP: Pleasing my Palette at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

I frequently take time to enjoy the artwork at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts, but I had never taken a moment to experience the museum's culinary offerings.

That recently changed when I stopped for a bite at the American Cafe. The green tea with mint was perfect, the food hit the spot, but my favorite part? The presentation. Recognize the shape of the plate?

My order was appropriately served on a plate shaped like an artist's palette! Cute, right? I wasn't too hungry, so I opted for a tasting plate of olives, cheese, etc. It came with small bits of dipping sauce and honey as well. I didn't finish the food, so the waiter asked if I wanted to take it to go. I said, "The food or the plate? Because I'll definitely take the plate!" You know me, always a waiter's favorite funny customer. :)

There were several appealing options on the menu. I'm not sure of the next time I'll have a chance to go, so could someone check the other dishes out for me? Excellent. Oh, and bonus points if you can convince the waiter to let you keep the plate.

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NEXT UP: Chocolate & Peanut Butter Chip Cookies

Plans change.

One moment you're planning to make tacos for dinner, the next you realize someone used the rest of your taco mix (poor Hannah).

One moment you're staying in to write a paper, the next you're accepting last minute tickets to go see a movie (not that I did that...).

The same thing happens with baking all the time. Often, I'll go to the grocery store to pick up ingredients for one recipe, then find a neat ingredient that inspires me to make something else. That was the case with these Chocolate & Peanut Butter Chip Cookies.

When sending a care package to my boyfriend, I planned to include Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies. However, while perusing the baking aisle at the store, I spotted a pre-mixed bag of peanut butter and milk chocolate chips. How fun!


I immediately tossed this bag of heavenly goodness into my basket. (The only time I am an impulse shopper is when it comes to baking goods.) I basically followed the Nestle Toll House recipe on the back of the bag to yield a few batches of Chocolate and Peanut Butter Chip Cookies.

At first, I was worried I removed the hot cookies too early. They were very soft and still rather wet in the center. However, they cooled perfectly, ending up as not-too-flat, crispy-edged, gooey-centered chocolate chip cookies with a peanut butter surprise.

I planned to eat just a couple of these and send most of them to my boyfriend.

But like I said....plans change.

Chocolate & Peanut Butter Chip Cookies
Adapted from the Nestle Toll House Recipe
(This is my halved-version of the recipe - I didn't want too many cookies!)

1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1 cup Peanut Butter & Milk Chocolate Morsels

1) Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl.

2) In a separate bowl, beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla extract. Beat egg into the mixture.

3) Gradually stir the flour mixture into the butter mixture.

4) Stir in the morsels.

5) Optional but recommended: Chill dough in the fridge for at least a couple hours.

6) Drop by rounded tablespoons onto a baking sheet. Bake in 375 degree F oven for 9-11 minutes. Remove, cool, and enjoy!

Makes 30 cookies.

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Sunday, May 6, 2012

NEXT UP: Instagrams of my College Hot Spots

I know I'm super late for jumping on the Instagram bandwagon. But I'm on it and loving it!

I decided to take a study break by enjoying a long walk around Boston today, and I figured it was a perfect opportunity to snap photos. I'm leaving college soon, so I want to remember all the places that were special to me these past four years.

Enter Instagram. I went to town snapping edited photos of my beloved city. Man, I'm gonna miss this place. See below for photo descriptions...

From left to right, starting with the first row:
1. Center of campus
2. College of Communication - my school!
3. The T: Gotta love to hate it...mostly hate it
4. The Citgo sign, serving as my GPS since 2008
5. Malukens Sushi, my friends and my go-to dinner place (never was there for karaoke though)
6. Yawkey Way during a Red Sox game
7. Dad's old frat and the go-to place for parties freshman year
8. Dunkin' Donuts: the definition of Boston
9. Brookline Booksmith, the most wonderful bookstore in the world
10. Coolidge Corner
11. Bay State Road in the springtime
12. The walk to class

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Saturday, May 5, 2012

NEXT UP: White Chocolate Mocha Cookies

I am in a total glass case of emotion right now. Usually I'm fairly stressed at the end of the semester. Those last couple weeks are filled with too-long papers, dreaded tests, and time-consuming group projects.

But instead of being worried and counting down the minutes until the semester ends, I have mixed feelings. This is my last finals period as an undergrad. I am looking forward to finishing exams but I do not want to say goodbye to college. While I have a ton to look forward to after I toss my grad cap in the air, the end is bittersweet.

So...let's focus on the sweet part: sweets to enjoy while you're powering through those late night cram sessions. For current and past college students, you know that sleep becomes a distant memory during study time. Therefore, these coffee-infused White Chocolate Mocha Cookies are the perfect fuel for the occasion.

Personally, I'm not a coffee drinker. I enjoy a caramel frap from Starbucks on occasion, but that's about it. While I enjoyed these cookies, I didn't love them. However, my coffee-guzzling roommate gave them two thumbs up. Well, just one. The other thumb was too busy holding another cookie to eat.

White Chocolate Mocha Cookies

1 1/4 cups flour
1 1/2 tablespoons instant coffee granules
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 stick unsalted butter
1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup white chocolate chips

1) Preheat oven to 375°F.

2) In a large bowl, mix the flour, coffee granules, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder. 

3) In a separate bowl, beat the butter until fluffy.

4) Mix the granulated sugar and brown sugar into the butter. 

5) Add egg and beat into the mixture. Stir in the vanilla.

6) Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture. Mix until just incorporated.

7) Gently stir in the semisweet chips and white chocolate chips.

8) Optional but recommended: Chill covered dough in the fridge for at least a few hours.

9) Roll dough into tablespoon-sized balls and place on baking sheet. Bake for 9-10 minutes. 

10) Remove cookies and let cool, then enjoy!

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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

NEXT UP: How to Graduate with a Job

Lately, I've been seeing tons of news clips about students graduating with overwhelming debt. This financial issue has made students feel more pressured than ever to graduate college with a paying job in hand.

I feel incredibly fortunate to have secured my job with a month to go before graduation--especially a job that I am SO excited about. However, it was not handed to me. Besides gaining internship experience and exploring different industries as a student, I owe my success to a ton of hard work. I learned a lot along the way, and I hope I can help others by providing my tips for getting set with the job you want before you even graduate college:

1) Start early. You're graduating in May? Well, news flash: March/April is not the time to start looking. You might protest that many companies only post jobs that require immediate hires. That is not an excuse to procrastinate on your job search. Start reaching out to the company early and you'll be at the top of the list of candidates when a timely job does open up. If you are truly interested in a certain employer, reach out early to familiarize yourself with their work, people, job openings, and application process.


2) Connect, connect, connect! I don't mean simply relying on connections; you have to have solid academic knowledge and work experiences to be a good candidate. But you should also consider if you have any alumni or acquaintances at companies of interest who would be willing to talk about opportunities with you. LinkedIn can help you search. Make the introduction through a kind email. Even if you just contact connections for advice, they usually appreciate the effort and will remember you when a job opening does roll around. Just remember to follow up with a thank you note! At the least, you'll learn about the industry you're hoping to join.

3) Own a Piece of the World Wide Web. Employers are likely to google your name to find out more about you. Don't you want some say in what they see? Create a landing page for your name so you can show your best self in search engines. I used the host to post my bio, resume, internship work, writing samples, design projects, and contact info. I would even recommend spending the few dollars to buy your URL so you can have an easy-to-find, professional-looking page (ie: Include the URL on the top of your resume, on your LinkedIn page, and in your Twitter bio. Speaking of Twitter...


4) Twitter is your new best friend. For all you Twitter skeptics out there, swallow your pride and start tweeting! Twitter is an amazing way to connect with companies, learn about job openings, and make yourself a desirable job candidate. Companies often post job openings or search for people talking about them. A little Tweet can go a long way.


5) Creep, just a little. I'm not talking standing-outside-the-HR-person's-office creeping. I'm talking being aware of a company's latest news in order to have talking points with the employers. My trick: create a Google Alert for the company name. These alerts can be sent to your mailbox or your Google Reader. When you're alerted to something really interesting about the company, you can mention it to your connection, in a cover letter, or in a Tweet.

6) Narrow down your list of companies. If you blindly send a cover letter to dozens of companies, it's unlikely that your approach comes off as sincere and tailored to the employer. Decide which companies you're truly passion about. Focus on a few companies at a time so you can really understand their culture and work. I was exploring job opportunities at 15 companies, went after seven or eight in the end, and was able to create genuine relationships with three or four of them.


7) Spreadsheets are your friends. Spend less time organizing your closet of interview clothes and more time organizing your job prospects. I found it very helpful to create a spreadsheet with the following headings: Company, Position, Application (how to apply, application due date), Status (of my application/interview process/relationship with the company), and Contacts (people I have connected with at the company and when). It will keep you from missing deadlines or losing track of your progress.

One last thing: don't panic. Sure, it feels amazing to know you have post-grad job plans when you are being handed your diploma. However, it's not the end of the world to still be searching after you graduate. As long as you start your search early and follow the above tips, you won't walk out of the classroom feeling lost and hopeless. It works out. Really, it does. Try not to think of it as a terrifying, arduous process, but rather as an exciting step in pursuing your passions.

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