In 2011, I…

31 Dec

…had my first multimedia projects published.

…helped the UF chapter of Get Carded win the first-ever Jaime Montoya Memorial Challenge.

… organized and ran the Catholic Gators’ first-ever Student Lenten Initiative fundraiser.

….graduated from the University of Florida, saying good-bye to a beautiful community of friends and mentors.

…witnessed the first of my friends to get married and was a bridesmaid for the first time.

…started a short-lived freelance journalist/videographer career.

…worked with children and even enjoyed it – most of the time 😉

…moved to Washington D.C. to live outside of Florida for the first time.

…started a year of service as a volunteer with a Catholic non-profit, Franciscan Mission Service.

…made new friends and enjoyed the company of old ones.

…spent my first holiday away from my family.

…cut down a Christmas tree for the first time.

… met several famous journalists.

…experienced many trials and frustrations.

…was blessed beyond measure.

Thanks for being a part of a great year! Stick with me to see what 2012 brings. Have a Happy, Healthy and Holy New Year!


Vandaveer and Ben Sollee in concert

20 Nov

Vandaveer joins Ben Sollee for a special number (cell phone pic)

You’ve never heard of Vandaveer or Ben Sollee?!

Well, I hadn’t either until my roommates invited me to their concert. You have to check them out.

Roomies Rachel and Susie (cell phone pic). Thanks for inviting me!

Vandaveer is my roommate Susie’s favorite band right now. They’re a folksy duo lead by a songwriter from Kentucky. Their set included several ballads, one of a ghost and one of a murdered girl. But not all their songs were so dark.

Ben Sollee is also from Kentucky. My roommate Rachel loves him for his signature instrument, the cello. He was classically trained but now plays a genre-bending mix of rock, folk. If I closed my eyes, I could imagine I was standing in front of Paul Simon. As if the cello and Simoneque sound weren’t wonderful enough, many of his songs had great meaning behind them. He’s definitely now one of my favorite artists.

I haven’t been to many concerts, and I found the experience of live music to be simply amazing. Our early arrival at the small venue meant we were only a few feet away from the musicians. (Side note: The Red Palace on H-street is a bar that Robert Ripley would appreciate for its mummies and oddities. I don’t know how he would feel about the cat Al that walks up and down the bar to his cardboard box.)

Before a song, the artists would talk about it, why the wrote it, what it means to them. That’s something you don’t really get from a CD or MP3 recording and I really enjoyed that personal sharing.

Watching Ben and his percussionist Jordan Ellis play together was like watching a jam session or a playoff as the musicians went back and forth, feeding off of each other’s energy. That passion and fun get lost in the translation of music to recording too sometimes.

Ben Sollee signs Rachel's ticket (cell phone pic)

After the concert, Rachel got her ticket signed by the performers. After she got Ben’s autograph, he stepped up to Susie and I, “Hello, friends.”  While Susie was a bit starstruck, I was at a loss for words. What do you say to a  musician you didn’t know but heard for the first time  right there from the front row? I didn’t want to look ignorant. We settled on “Your music is so inspirational.”


Fall at the monestary

13 Nov

I’m fortunate enough to have Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in America right in my neighborhood.  After Mass at the the Memorial Church of the Holy Sepulchre (modeled after the Hagia Sophia), this morning I enjoyed walking through its famous gardens and taking photos.

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The fall foliage was a beautiful backdrop for the replicas of alters in the Holy Land and mosaics. I also strolled through the Rosary Portcio to see some of the 15 chapels with their murals and 200 plaques depicting the “Hail Mary” prayer in ancient and modern languages.

Going to the zoo, zoo, zoo

12 Nov

I finally made it to the National Zoo!

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It was a beautiful fall day and my friend Kathy and I meandered through the animal exhibits, fighting our way through children and families to see the pandas and the big cats. It was a great way to catch up and enjoy the weather.

As Kathy and I walked through the small mammal house, we noticed several enclosures for Golden Lion Tamarins. Apparently the zoo has been part of a conservation program since the 1970s.


If you’re planning a trip to the zoo, keep in mind that there is LOTS of walking — or should I say climbing because there are LOTS of hills. Also, even though the Metro stop is called “Woodley Park-Zoo,” it’s still a good hike away from the zoo’s entrance. But the best part about the zoo? It’s free!

Oh, rats!

9 Nov

Rachel and Cathleen (reenactment)

So this is how I found my housemates Monday night — screaming their lungs out on top of a chair.

We thought we had a mouse – it had woken me up at night with its scratching, it had spooked us before, it was driving us crazy. But the thing we spotted tonight was most certainly not a mouse.

Rachel and Cathleen were watching TV when out of the corner her eye, Cathleen saw something dart across  the floor. She thought/was hoping it was just the moth that Rachel wanted her to kill. But then it moved again and she knew: not a moth.

Cathleen starting screeching and pointing, and sprang to her feet on top of the chair. Rachel also thought it might have been a moth, but when she realized and in a single bound, leaped to join Cathleen.  They decided that if they kept screaming, someone could up to check up on them.

That someone was me. I was stirring the chowder for dinner when I heard the sound. At first I thought it was someone outside, but then I realized it was coming from upstairs and I knew exactly what caused it.

Cathleen exclaimed, “It was the biggest mouse I’d ever seen!” Rachel stopped her, “Now, no need to exaggerate, was it [gestures] this big? , or [gestures] this big? ” “This big,” Cathleen cried.

After the girls climbed off the chair, we started checking the room for our furry intruder. Rachel climbed onto the safety of the armchair and I watched from afar as Cathleen moved the couch. Nothing. As we sent to send her to check the blue chair, I used my foot to wiggle the red chair in the middle. Out shot a huge, gray blob  –  and it darted right between Cathleen’s legs on its way to the guest room.

Rachel screamed. Cathleen screamed and launched onto a rolling office chair. I screamed and started bouncing up and down, the readied camera forgotten and photo opportunity lost. Judging from the hindquarters that I saw, I estimate that the creature was the size of a guinea pig, not a mouse.  Yesterday one of our housemates saw it and said was the size of a hotdog bun.

Anyway, we regrouped and started to move in on the rat again. “Wait!” I said. “What are we doing? We’re not going to do anything if we find it other than scream. We just keep scaring ourselves.” From beyond the door way, I shone my flashlight into the room and peered into the darkness. No fuzzy pelt, fleshy tail or beady eyes stared back.

Over dinner, the housemates named the rat “Wormtail” after the rat in the Harry Potter series (although I wanted”Lucifer”).

At 11 p.m., Rachel kept me company as a I boarded up the huge hole in my closet that was probably Wormtail’s welcome gate to my room.

The next morning, while I was at work, the rat found an abandoned bagel in a Target bag and tried to drag it under my bedroom door for breakfast. I almost cried when my housemate Matt told me. Our hallways and door jams are now full of scarves, towels, boxes and cardboard to block the rat’s path.

This morning, however, the humans had a victory. I heard Wormtail’s scratchy pitter patter shortly after I turned off my alarm. What a way to start the day, I thought.  But when I walked into the kitchen, Matt told me the rat had been wounded. There was a smear of blood and a broken mousetrap in front of the dishwasher. So close!

Now that our landlord has agreed to pay for an exterminator, the rodent’s days are numbered. Though, I’m afraid, the rest of us might suffer from PTSD. At a prayer session at the office Tuesday night, Rachel and I heard a noise and immediately gasped and glanced at each other, silently exchanging the same thought – “rat.” Our housemate Kelly (of the hotdog bun comparison) saw a little piece of paper move at work and jumped.

Every little sound, every small movement is cause for suspicion and alarm. Even if the rat is gone or dead within a few days, it’ll take us much longer to recover.

Community Clam Chowder

8 Nov
clam chowder

The first meal I prepared for my community

Here in DC, I live in an intentional community with other Catholic volunteers. We live simply and take turns doing chores and cooking dinner — and tonight it was my turn.

When my parents moved me up last week, it was ridiculously cold so my mom scribbled down her clam chowder recipe for me.  It was my first time making it, but it turned out alright. Yesterday I peeled and cubed the potatoes, cried my way through cutting the onions and simmered it all together before letting it sit in the fridge over night. After work I took it out of the fridge and slowly warmed it up while I prepared a salad and cut up our donate bread.

Here’s my mom’s recipe, should you want to make something to warm yourself up.


2 bottles of clam juice

2 cans of whole baby clams

1 can evaporated milk

3 cups of milk

1 medium onion (chopped)

3 to 4 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed

3 heaping tablespoons of cornstarch

butter – just enough to brown onion

optional: celery


Brown onion in butter. When soft and lightly brown. Add clam juice from bottles and drain from canned clams. Add potatoes. Cook on medium heat until potatoes are soft. Add clams. In a separate bowl, add the milk and cornstarch, stir well to mix/dissolve before adding to pot. Add can of evaporated milk. Lower heat and simmer for 1-2 hours. Cool before putting in fridge.

Best if made the day or two before. Reheat slowly (stir frequently) so milk does not burn. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Just a note: If you hear your housemates screaming while you’re reheating and stirring, take the pot off the stove and don’t be gone long...even if a rat has two of your friends trapped on top of one chair.

Mass at the Shrine

6 Nov

This morning started with a beautiful Mass at the The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. I snapped this as I hurried on my way from Mass to the metro to meet my friend for lunch (hint: take Michigan Avenue to the station, don’t try to cut through the campus because you might get lost).

The cantor had a beautiful voice, and I had never seen so many priests and alter servers celebrate one Mass. The soaring gilded ceilings and art were so gorgeous that wanted to sit in the back so I could take it all in, but I made myself sit closer to the front as not to be distracted.

What surprised  me most about the basilica is that there was so much writing everywhere. Text of prayers and scripture covered the archways and ceilings — all in English.

I look forward to touring the basilica sometime and learning more about it. Hopefully then I’ll get some photos of the interior.