Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Senior Ball

Senior Ball Gown
James and I ready for Senior Ball

We celebrated Senior Ball last weekend. It's like Smith's version of Prom. (Actually, I think we used to call it that, back in the days when we would ship in boys from Yale.) It blew prom out of the water, though. The dress was the same, but I had a better hairstyle, an appreciation for champagne, and the perfect bow-tie-clad date.

The whole evening was much more fun than I expected, lack of decent music notwithstanding. The food was great; the drinks were reasonably priced. Of course the best part was spending the night with all my favorite Smithies (and James). I love a good night out.

Monday, April 28, 2014

April Flowers and a Sunset

Pink tree blossoms in front of the chapel
Sunset at Smith College
Sunset at Smith College
The Smith crew house at sunset
Paradise Pond at Sunset

The trees here have been in bloom for a week or two now. Flowers are some of my favorite things to photograph (see here for examples) I think I like the sight of flowering trees even more than normal flowers. And since I've been wanting to try photography during the golden hour, I went out with my camera one evening last week, planning to focus on those blooms. The ones I liked best were of the sunset over the pond, though. It was a windy day, and the sky looked so turbulent and beautiful. Spring is a lovely time to be alive.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Styling Hair Chopsticks

Finished style with hair chopsticks
You know how in old movies, a woman can always let down whole waterfalls of hair simply by removing one bobby pin? I have yet to find a style that makes this possible, much to my chagrin, but the one I'm about to demonstrate comes pretty close. If you do it right, the only thing necessary to keep it up are the two chopsticks I taught you how to make here.

I wore this hairstyle back when my relationship with James was a just a serious flirtation. "Nice hair," he said. "I really want to pull one of those chopsticks out, but it probably wouldn't do anything."

My response is inadvisable when dealing with most men, or with most members of the human race, for that matter, but I just came right out and said it: "These chopsticks are load-bearing -- if you pull them out, the whole hairstyle goes with it."

Fortunately, James has always been pretty good about respecting my hair. (He knows that's one of the first rules for dating me.) But he loves this style anyway, because when it's time to let my hair down as it were, I usually let him do the honors. Even if he isn't around, there's something so romantic and fun about letting all that hair fall with a flourish. I also love this style because it's easy, it looks like it took way more time than it did, and it can instantly dress up any look. Here's how to do it:
Chopstick hairstyle step one
Start with hair that is at least a day removed from its last wash. If it's still slippery, I just spritz it with a little hairspray and brush that through -- this usually gives it enough grip to stay where it should.
Chopstick hairstyle step two
Chopstick hairstyle step three
Chopstick hairstyle step three
Gather the hair into a low ponytail and twist it up, as if you were starting a bun or a french twist. My hair is long enough at this point that I basically fold it in half as I twist. Ideally, it should be a rough column from your neck toward the top of your head. Now, grab the first chopstick.
Chopstick hairstyle step four
Chopstick hairstyle step four
Hold the decorated end, and push it into the twist, beginning at the bottom. Keep it away from your scalp -- you want it underneath the top level of hair. Once it pokes through at the top, change direction and push it back down. The end should graze your scalp as you do this, and when it is in place, both ends will be visible. Repeat with the second chopstick.
Chopstick hairstyle step five
Chopstick hairstyle step five
It is possible (though unlikely) that your hair will feel totally comfortable and secure after just one round of this. More likely, though, you'll have some uncomfortable pulling or feel as if it is about to fall out. That's usually what happens to me. Fix this by removing the first chopstick and putting it back in just like you did the first time you installed it.
Chopstick hairstyle step six
Repeat as needed until your hair is comfortable and secure. If you reach that point and aren't quite satisfied with the way it looks, you can pin a few pieces into submission with bobby pins, but I usually prefer to keep it simple. Enjoy and let me know how it goes!
Finished style with hair chopsticks
Finished style with hair chopsticks

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

DIY: Hair Chopsticks

I love the idea of sparkles in my hair, but it is so slippery that barrettes usually fall out, and my head itself is so large that headbands give me a headache after a few hours. In addition, I'm too frugal to think $15 on a piece of bedazzled plastic and metal at Claire's is a good idea, and although I love the thought of elaborate hairstyles, I love the thought of sleeping in more.
Updo with hair chopsticks
Updo with hair chopsticks
I've never gotten the hang of the top knot, but a few years ago I found a style that works no matter how lazy I feel on a particular day: chopsticks. Am I the only girl who used to keep a bun up with a couple of pencils back in school? This is like the grown-up version of that. Today I will show you how to make them, and tomorrow I will do a style tutorial.
DIY hair chopstick supplies

You will need:
2 wooden chopsticks (even ones you've eaten off of, as long as they're clean)
A handful of beads for decorating
A few yards of 24-26 gauge wire
Small wire cutter

Sand paper
Needlenose pliers

DIY hair chopsticks step one
DIY Hair chopsticks step two
DIY Hair chopsticks step three
DIY Chopsticks Finished

--If your sticks are a little rough or splintery, run them over with some sand paper a few times. This isn't necessary, but I've found it can be useful.
--Make a notch in the chopsticks with the wire cutters, between 1.5 and 2 inches from the wide end (depending on how much embellishment you want to use). It just needs to be distinct enough to provide an anchor for the wire.
--Beginning at the notch, wrap your wire around the chopsticks. I find the needle nose pliers are helpful until it is secured with a few coils. Go a little bit below the anchor point, as well as up to the top, just so it is secure.
--Then add in your beads. As you'll see below, there are many ways to do this, but my favorite is to spiral small glass ones in a similar color all the way up the stem of the chopsticks. You'll probably have to tighten the beads down a few times.
--When you reach the top, secure your beads in place by reversing the direction of the wire. You can see this at the top of the sticks in the second to last photo above. Then wrap your wire in that direction down the chopsticks -- the wire should end up spiraling down in between the rows of beads. Do the same anchoring and wrapping back to the top after you get to the bottom.
--When you start to run out of wire, or you feel that the beads are secure, use your needle nose pliers to slide the end of the wire into the coils.

DIY hair chopsticks inspiration
As you can see, the glass beads are popular enough with me to warrant multiple colors, but I also get a lot of mileage out of the pair decorated with the faux pearls. At some point I would also love to experiment with other kinds of embellishment -- ribbons and the bigger glass beads, which could be a great statement on the top of one of these. Check back tomorrow for an explanation of a quick, easy, and romantic style you can create with these beauties.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Life at Smith II: Living

Living at Smith is a little different from living at most other colleges. For starters, we don't live in dorms, we live in houses. I'm typing this from a building with hardwood floors and a ghost, so that's not an exaggeration. For the most part, this means that communities are strong and the places students call home have a degree of character not often found on college campuses. That said, some things apply everywhere! Here is what I have found useful living at Smith (most apply to college/life in general).
Dorm room at Smith College
Every ounce of space is precious. I have used bed risers since first year, which provide me with enough height under the bed for a couple storage bins. They're great for out of season clothes, extras of anything, cleaning supplies, etc. I also I keep my suitcases and anything I typically use when traveling under here. All of this isn't all that pleasing aesthetically, though, so I use a queen-sized comforter rather than a twin, and keep my bed against a wall. The right draping, and no one is the wiser! (I may also keep the college-issued land line underneath my dresser.)
Dorm room at Smith College
In keeping with multiple uses for everything, my bookshelf doubles (quintuples?) as a shoe rack, kitchen cabinet, silverware drawer, and work-out-clothes-holder. I don't have time for pleasure reading when I'm here, so it only makes sense to make my bookshelves take on multiple duties.
Dorm room at Smith College
Dorm room at Smith College
Command hooks are my best friends! I use the nicer, heavier duty metal ones on my door to hang up my coats. When I wasn't happy with the placement of my mirror at the beginning of the year (on the inside of my closet door) I just went to target, bought a smaller one for $5, and hung it up with a couple plastic hooks. Same with my bulletin board. I dry my towel on a command hook. They're the best! Having a few hanging around is never a bad idea.
Dorm room at Smith College
Command hooks aren't the only options, though. My set of over the door hooks are great and have zero chance of causing damage. And at this point, even the doorknobs on my closet are doubling for extra space.
Dorm room at Smith College
Dorm room at Smith College
Chances are, you will want some alternative lighting in your room. The sconces here are far less harsh than fluorescent overheads, but it's still nicer to use the little desk lamp I embellished for myself a couple years ago. I've also found magazine holders to be extremely effective for organizing my day-to-day life.
Dorm room at Smith College
Dorm room at Smith College
And of course, it's most important to add character to your room! I love posters, post cards, maps, and my bulletin board. Nothing all that new there, but it's the little things that make a dorm room feel like some place you actually want to live. What about you? What did you/do you/will you do to make your life at college beautiful? I've only got a month left!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Eat in Northampton

After living here roughly three years, I feel qualified to make some recommendations about Northampton, Massachusetts. It's a picturesque little town with a surprising number of attractions, but no matter how you end up here, you're bound to need some food! Here are my favorite places in town (all feasible on a college budget):

Overall Favorite:

Mosaic Cafe -- Small and a little out of the way, but I have yet to have a bad meal here. They serve Mediterranean food and have an immense menu for the size of the place. If you go during the warmer months, you can sit outside, either on the porch or the back patio. My favorite meal here are the Brochettes with dijon dressing (pictured, though a photo doesn't do it justice). The smoothies are great, too.
Mosaic Cafe in Northampton, Massachusetts
Mosaic Cafe in Northampton, Massachusetts


Packard's -- great for affordable drinks (try the Pink N Fun) and general Americana. Their spicy fries are great. Trivia on Tuesday nights is usually pretty fun, too.
Tunnel Bar -- No website and no sign out front, so this speakeasy-type joint can be difficult to find. The drinks are a little pricey, too, but great quality, and served in a fantastic atmosphere. I recommend going early for a cocktail hour, as the space is somewhat small and gets crowded later at night. Located at 124A on Pleasant Street.

For Carnivores:

Local Burger -- Noho's answer to the burger trend, they have high-quality ingredients and lots of ways to combine them into fantastic burgers. Their milkshakes are great, too.
Local Burger in Northampton, Massachusetts

For Vegetarians:

The Green Bean -- Serving all day breakfast with great ingredients and almost no meat on the menu. I'm not a vegetarian, but I will always get behind a place that will serve me a breakfast burrito whenever I want one.
The Green Bean in Northampton, Massachusetts
The Green Bean in Northampton, Massachusetts

For Dessert:

Herrell's -- Not that it needs repeating. Herrell's serves some of the best ice cream I have ever had the pleasure of eating, and they are open year-round. Homemade chocolate sprinkles are always a freebie, so make sure you take advantage of them!
Herrell's in Northampton, Massachusetts

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Life at Smith: Traditions

I can only lay claim to the title of College Student for the next month or so, and I'm taking advantage of it with a new miniseries: Life at Smith! I hope it will give some insight for anyone interested in what happens here, and even people who will never end up affiliated with Smith at all might find something useful or interesting. Today I'm going to address some of my favorite Smith traditions.

We start off every year with a Convocation, like many schools. Ours, however, is a little more rambunctious than the others. For starters, it's clothing optional and the drunk outnumber the sober. Each house chooses a theme, for which their residents create outlandish (often skimpy) costumes. Seniors signal their new status by wearing hats. It's a lot of fun, and a great way to let off some steam before the semester begins.

Convocation at Smith College

I love all Smith traditions, but like most Smithies, Mountain Day is pretty high up on the list. Fortunately this one isn't Smith-specific, so we aren't the only ones who get to enjoy it! Basically, our president picks a beautiful fall day and surprises us by cancelling classes. We pack lunches and head off to enjoy classic autumn experiences in New England. This year, my Mountain Day was perfect -- I took a couple of friends and hiked Mount Tom. It was warm enough to bask in the sun on some rocks while we ate our lunch. When we got back, we did a late-night diner run with a few other friends to enjoy waffle fries and milkshakes. Best Mountain Day yet.

Mountain Day at Smith College
Mountain Day at Smith College
Mountain Day at Smith College
Mountain Day at Smith College
Mountain Day at Smith College
Mountain Day at Smith College

Vespers isn't necessarily a tradition everyone at Smith would identify with, but as a member of the choir, I don't think Smith would be Smith without it. Every year the ceremony gets me in the mood for Christmas and helps raise money for homeless shelters in the area. It's one of my favorite concerts, and I'm not the only one who feels that way -- we now stream it live on Smith's website.

Vespers at Smith College

Finally, we start off spring semester right every year with Rally Day. This time our day off is scheduled, and the convocation isn't quite as rowdy because it's February. Rally Day was initially created to celebrate George Washington's birthday; now we use it as an opportunity to award the year's Smith Medals and announce secrets about commencement. Seniors still wear hats, but this time we pair them with the robes we will wear a few months later for graduation. Here's mine -- it belonged to my grandmother!

Selfie at Rally Day

Soon it will be time for me to wear those graduation robes for real, though, and that will involve taking part in a whole bunch of traditions I haven't experienced yet. I can't wait!