Blogmas: Top Five Christmas Television Episodes

Welcome to another installment of Blogmas, brought to you by my favorite Christmas time television episodes.

Peep Show (“Seasonal Beatings“): Without a doubt, my favorite Christmas T.V. episode. Quintessential British humor from a first person perspective makes the awkward moments feel like they’re happening to you… and there are plenty when Mark struggles to put together a Christmas of clashing traditions for his new girlfriend, his family and his spirited flatmate Jeremy.

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (“A Very Sunny Christmas“): After years of being mistreated by Frank during the holiday season when he buys gifts for himself, Dennis and Dee decide to teach him a lesson… A Christmas Carol style. Mac and Charlie reflect on their childhood Christmases, which were not as joyous and wonderful as they remembered in retrospect.

The Office (“Christmas Party“): I’m not a huge fan of The Office, but with nine seasons, there is some good material. The staff hosts a secret Santa but selfish boss Michael turns it into a “Yankee Swap,” when he’s not satisfied with his gift throwing everyone, especially Jim who was going to use his gift to tell Pam how he feels, for a loop.


Black Mirror (“White Christmas“): Not strictly Christmas-themed, but hey, if Die Hard is a Christmas movie, this is a Christmas episode. Two men who work together in a remote shed spend their Christmas revealing dark secrets about themselves with a Black Mirror twist you have to see to believe.

Friends (“The One With Ross’s Step Forward“): Ross’s new girlfriend Mona wants to send out a couple’s holiday card despite only being together for a few months. The resist to confrontation and awkwardness of that talk is something any young adult can relate to.

Photo by: Rodion Kutsaev

Blogmas: The Christmas Tag

Blog tags: where you answer questions and compare to fellow bloggers! Let’s get seasonal with the Christmas Tag:

What is your favorite Christmas movie(s)?

My all-time favorite is Christmas Vacation, but I made a list of honorable mentions in this post!

Where do you usually spend your holiday?

At home with my family. This is the first time I’ll be away from home on Christmas Day!

What would be your dream place to visit for the holiday season?

I would love to visiting New York city on New Year’s Eve… but I don’t mess with the cold, so I’m going to Egypt this year!

Do you open your presents on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning?

Christmas morning from family, whenever we can meet up from friends and special friends.

Do you have a favorite Christmas memory?

All the Christmas mornings spent with my family, watching Christmas movies in my pajamas while my brothers spread out all their new Lego sets.

Be honest: do you like giving gifts or receiving gifts better?

Giving gifts! I know it’s not a competition, but if it were, I’d win.

Favorite festive food?

Not particularly “festive,” but I loved the sassy sausage dip and magic cookies bars we used to make for our Christmas Eve party.

Favorite Christmas gift?

I remember being over the moon when I got a Nintendo D.S. Lite from my grandpa when I was younger! That little machine was awesome.

Favorite Christmas scent?

The smell of a real tree!

Do you have any Christmas Eve traditions?

Open house party, sing happy birthday to Jesus, eat my body weight in appetizers and cookies and retreat to my room at 8PM. You can read more about my Christmas traditions in my previous Blogmas post.

What tops your tree?

A star on our real tree and an angel on our fake tree.

Have you ever had a White Christmas?

No! Hopefully one day. I will be very shocked if I have one this year in the middle of the Red Sea…

What is your favorite Christmas song?

O Holy Night, Emmanuel and of course, Dick In a Box (sorry for the shoddy quality, SNL are anal about not having their sketches on YouTube)

Is your Christmas tree fake or real?

One real, one fake.

Are you a professional present wrapper or do you fail miserably? 

I can only wrap things that are perfectly rectangular, otherwise it goes in a bag with stuffing tissue. I make the wrapping work for me.

What makes the holidays special for you?

Spending time with my family and friends doing awesome activities we normally wouldn’t do in the spirit of the season. I also love finding the perfect gift for all my loved ones!

Photo by: Rodion Kutsaev

Blogmas: Christmas Traditions

Christmas is a wonderful time in the [redacted] household in Tucson, Arizona! Here are some staple holiday traditions and seasonal family idiosyncrasies I loved (or hated) growing up:

Gaslight Theater: One of my favorites! To begin the holiday season, we go to the Gaslight Theater for a cheesy holiday special. There is usually a big group of us (~25 family and friends) at the show and those of all ages have a blast. First, they open the show with a Christmas sing-along. During the show, they serve food and drinks (cheese sticks and a Shirley Temple, please) and all the popcorn you can eat (and throw). After the show, they do a sort of stand-up routine with goofy songs and puns. There’s always a medley where a beautiful female star serenades men in the audience, so naturally, my brothers and dad, who hate being in the spotlight, fight for the least accessible seat to shield themselves. To finish the show, Santa comes out and passes around candy canes. It’s such a fun time.

Block party: During the holiday season, we used to throw a Christmas block party for the neighborhood complete with a gift exchange.

Looking at lights: We would drive around for a bit once a week or so leading up to Christmas looking at display lights. It’s especially cozy when we get Starbucks hot chocolate.

A tale of two trees: For a while now, we put up two trees in our house. One fake tree and one real tree. The real tree has become a pain in the ass because the needles fall off every time my spatially unaware dog Bailey walks by it or wags his tail to knock ornaments off the tree.

Hanging ornaments: I would always hang the ornaments with my brothers’ names in the back of the tree and they would do the same to mine (but up high where I can’t reach to move it) and each others just for laughs. Also, we make sure the Michael Jackson ornament we got as a gag gift is right in the front at eye level for the world to see.

Christmas Eve service: During the day, we would take time out from preparing for our Christmas Eve party to attend the service at our church. However in recent years, I’ve begun to loathe it and it was only until last year my parents stopped forcing me to go (it only took 22 years).

Continue reading “Blogmas: Christmas Traditions”

Blogmas: Top Five Christmas Films

This year, I’m going to participate in a (very selective) Blogmas: a challenge to try to post as many Christmas-related blog posts throughout the month. I don’t have a lot of down time to participate, but I will post as much as I can!

Without further ado, here are my favorite Christmas films:

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation: Without a doubt my all-time favorite! I don’t know why this hasn’t made it to any of the other lists I’ve read. A slapstick comedy about how everything goes wrong at Christmas in the Griswold household during a big family holiday. I even have a shirt that says: “Kiss my ass, kiss his ass, kiss your ass, Happy Hanukkah.”

Elf: A modern classic everyone loves where a man raised as an elf ventures to New York to find his family.

A Christmas Story: A classic classic about the woes of Christmas as an adolescent. (“You’ll shoot your eye out!”). Fun fact: Ralphie has a small role in Elf as Ming Ming, a worker elf!

It’s a Wonderful Life: Need I say more? A beautiful story about the value of one life everyone can appreciate.

Home Alone: Both the original and the sequel are equally funny, chaotic and heart-warming. Plus, who doesn’t love Tim Curry? (“Merry Christmas, ya filthy animal”)

Photo by: Rodion Kutsaev

Five Ways To Take A Break

Whether you’re in university or working full-time, the stress of preparing for the holidays on top of, well, life can be excruciating. I’m guilty of either overworking myself or not being productive enough with no middle ground. However, it’s been proven that the best way to be productive is to work for 20-30 minutes and then take a short break to let the information “stew” before going back to work.

Here are my five favorite ways to take a ten minute break that aren’t checking social media (seriously, don’t do it):

  • Clean. Tidy your work space, clean your room or start a load of laundry.
  • Walk or other wise exercise. Get some oxygen flowing back to your brain!
  • Eat. Have a nutritious snack (my favorites are granola bars and oranges) and a cup of tea or tall glass of water.
  • Check e-mail. Take this time to rely to time-sensitive academic e-mails and unsubscribe to junk e-mails.
  • Chat. Complain to your roommates about your course, send a message to your parents or tell a friend you’re thinking about them during this stressful time… but don’t get caught up in the conversation.

Bonus: if you have a pet, spend time with them. Oh, how I miss my dog, his goofy face and how he surrenders his belly for scratches which is probably just as good for me as it is for him. If you don’t have a pet, a lot of university have therapy dog sessions around exam time.

Finally, my best tip working is start early and take breaks often! You can check out more university exam tips here.

Good luck!

Photo by: J. Kelly Brito.

November In Review

Another month come and gone, can you believe it?

Monday was my last proper university lecture for the term, but I have to crunch down on a literature review, essay and practice grant proposal by the middle of next month.

November was a big month for gigs. First, I saw Rise Against in London. I originally wasn’t planning on going, but couldn’t resist hen my friend Michael offered me his spare ticket! It was an amazing time and so good to see Michael again. You can read more about it here (at the bottom of the post).

Later in the month, I went to two dates of Enter Shikari’s tour for their new album The Spark. First up was Brighton with my roommate Diego and my friend Anthony. We had a few drinks (okay, maybe a bit more than a few) at the pub I work at before walking to the venue by the seafront. I was really satisfied with the size of the venue: not too big, but not too small. We all had a good time jumping around, singing along and sweating out our body weight in alcohol. A few days later I want to Alexandra Palace in London (Diego was meant to go but a combination of eating expired salmon and drinking made him fall ill) and met up with a few friends there. It was such a different atmosphere from Brighton with a crowd twice as large, but it was still fun! It was great to meet people I’ve been talking to online for the better part of a year at the show of a band that brought us together.

Last month, I started a cleaning job on campus that was every weekday from 4AM-8AM. Predictably, that didn’t last long. I’m most productive for university in the mornings (my perfect day starts at 7:30AM and I’m starting university work by 9AM) and working threw a wrench in that, so I quit. Fortunately a week later, I got a new job at a pub called The Queens Head close to the Brighton train station (about a half hour commute from my house). We don’t serve food and nobody really orders cocktails, so I just pretty much pour beer and make mixed drinks all night. Additionally, we have a cleaning crew on hire to do the deeper cleaning overnight, so our cleaning is minimal. The pub is quite small so there’s only less than ten of us employed there, with no more than three working at a time. All my coworkers are great and welcoming and I fit right in!

Next month, I’ll be crunching down on coursework before heading to Egypt for ten days!

What I’m listening to: No Control by Bad Religion, The Process of Belief by Bad Religion, For Blood and Empire by Anti-Flag, Dua Lipa by Dua Lipa, Good Girl Gone Bad by Rihanna

What I’m watching: The Departed, Now You See Me, Now You See Me 2, Brooklyn Nine-Nine (seasons 4-5)

What I’m reading: How Bad Are Bananas?: The Carbon Footprint of Everything by Mike Berners-Lee, Bad Feminist by Roxanne Gay

Music Monday: Travelling for Concerts

Over my six odd years of going to concerts regularly, I’ve had the amazing opportunity to see some of my favorite bands in other states and countries! For simplicity sake, I’ve excluded my regular trips from Tucson to Phoenix (or vice versa) (100 miles one way) and from Brighton to London (50 miles one way).

As you will be able to tell, for some of these, the band happened to be playing when I was in the area, but I still counted it!

My experiences are all well and good, but  if you’re reading this and travel long distances for concerts regularly, please consider carpooling, taking the train or coach, paying to offset the carbon emissions of flying or make a week of your time in a foreign land. Traveling by air, even short distances, is one of the single most environmentally devastating things you can do.

Rise Against | 08/04/11 | Tucson, Arizona → San Diego, California

  • Why?: My 16th birthday present with my best friend, Sydney!
  • Transport: My parents drove…
  • Distance travelled: 820 miles
  • Accommodation: We stayed with my aunt and uncle ten minutes from the venue
  • Gig summary: It was so amazing! I don’t remember terrible much as it was so long ago, but I racked my brain for memories in this post.

Foo Fighters and Royal Blood | 09/07/15 | London, Ontario → Toronto, Ontario

  • Why?: My (now ex) boyfriend’s birthday present.
  • Transport: His parents drove…
  • Distance travelled: 120 miles
  • Accommodation: I was dropped off at the airport after the concert for a flight early the next morning, so the airport I guess?
  • Gig summary: It was epic. Dave Grohl is a prophet. Even though he broke his leg earlier on the tour, he carried on playing the tour while sitting in a throne. They played a long set, we had great views and they still remained humble and relatable even though they’re one of the greatest rock bands of the last 20 years and everyone knows it. You can read more about it here.

Brand New | 16/08/15 | Yonkers, New York → Cooperstown, New York

Rise Against | 30/09/15 | Brighton, United Kingdom → Milan, Italy

  • Why?: Just because.
  • Transport: easyJet flight.
  • Distance travelled: 1160 miles
  • Accommodation: One of the best hostels I’ve stayed in, Ostello Bello.
  • Gig summary: So amazing! It was great to meet international fans, meet the band and experience it all with my good friend, Ben! You can read more about it in this post.

Continue reading “Music Monday: Travelling for Concerts”

My Ten Favorite Posts

Wow, I can’t believe I’ve had this blog for a bit over two years! Anyway, for those who are (relatively) new, here are some of my personal favorite posts I’ve written:

Travel and study abroad

  • Top 250 Global Attractions (from 03/2017): Although I’ve been a few places since (particularly in Washington, D.C.), this quiz is really fun and a great way to survey how much of the world you have seen and prioritize things you’d like to see on your next trip!
  • Study Abroad Masterpost (from 08/2017):  Okay, so this may be cheating putting a favorite post as a compile of posts, but I couldn’t resist! I’m very proud of compliing all this useful information for current and future study abroad students. If I had to pick one, my favorite post from this lot would have to be United States vs. United Kingdom: University (from 01/2016).
  • 15 Travel Questions (from 11/2017): I posted this recently and I’m really proud of it! A short post that encompasses travel highlights from the last five and a half years!
  • Camino de Santiago: Portuguese Coastal Way (from 09/2017): From my most recent travels, I’m really proud of the way I kept track of highlights, lowlights and finally got over my anxiety of posting pictures on posts!


  • 20 Facts About Me (from 08/2017): While people who don’t know me well just see a university student and traveler, there’s a bit more to me than that like my pet peeves, family, the fact that I can ride my bike with no handlebars and more! I might add on to this post soon!
  • Music Monday: Ten Covers by Rock Bands (from 08/2017): I enjoy writing a music post every month, but this one was especially fun! It was nostalgic as most of these bands I listened to in my early teen years and it was also awesome to hear bands I like cover other bands I enjoy (for example, the Architect’s cover of “Of Dust and Nations” by Thrice).
  • Don’t Tell Me to Relax (from 07/2016): This was my first real post about anxiety, when my summer job last year was extremely frustrating and my boss would tell me “just relax.” It doesn’t work like that.
  • Five Years of Vegetarianism (from 11/2016): Reading this now, I realize this week is my six year veggie-versary, wow! This post is about why I went vegetarian (and now mostly vegan) and reasons you should consider cutting back on your consumption of animal products, too.
  • Last Day of Work (from 05/2017): During my entire undergraduate degree, I worked at a professional musical theater and it was incredible! This posts reminisces on how awesome my job was and how much I’ll miss my coworkers.
  • New Job (from 06/2017): Over summer, I got an internship with the Arizona Game and Fish Department, dabbling in all sorts of things such as field work, education and outreach, surveys and so much more. This post talks about my training and first week on the job, which turned out also to be typical week throughout the whole summer.


My Degree: Conservation Biology (Present)

In my previous post, I talked about my childhood, high school, undergraduate degree and first “big girl” job that got me to where I am today in my academic and professional career.

Graduate degree

Now, I’m a few months into my year-long graduate degree program. My official degree is Master of Research in Conservation Biology.

I’ve been interested in getting a Master’s degree for a while, it was just a question of when. I loved Brighton and the University of Sussex so much, I decided to return here for my degree. I hope that this degree will help further my qualifications as a worker in the United Kingdom so I can stay here even longer.

Similar degrees at my university are Master of Research in Animal Behavior and Master of Science in Global Biodiversity Conservation. I considered all of these and was really torn between conservation and animal behavior, but the deciding factor was that I thought conservation was more broad scope and I’ve only taken one animal behavior course before. As much as I enjoyed it, I wasn’t confident it was something I wanted to specialize in.

Although I studied at Sussex for a year in my undergraduate degree, I’m getting used to the different teaching methods and expectations all over again. Here has what my experience brought me so far:

Dissertation: I came into my degree with no clue what they expect of a dissertation. Luckily, in the first week of lectures, it was made abundantly clear. We were given a list of about 50 projects and we had to choose our top three. Although we were allowed to make our own project, there was almost no time to do so unless you already came into the program with a very detailed idea of what you want to do and an adviser who would be willing to take you on. With that, my top three choices for projects were: collaboration with inshore fisheries and conservation authority, green infrastructure and quantifying terrestrial wild animal harvesting in that order. Once we made our top choices, we were interviewed by the advisers for each project. It wasn’t so much as an interview as it was a conversation because they want someone to do this work with them as much as you want to do it. After the interview process was over, we were asked to produce an updated list of our project choices as advisers were asked to produce a list of top candidates and dissertations were assigned likewise.

Continue reading “My Degree: Conservation Biology (Present)”

My View: Animals in Captivity

Following my posts about trophy hunting and recreational hunting, I’ve decided to continue the conversation about conservation by talking about my view of animals in captivity.

Like most of these issues, I can talk until the cows come home about this topic, so I’ll narrow my scope to megafauna land mammals in zoos.

The general debate of animals in zoos is a hot one, with well thought out points on both sides. General arguments for zoos are that they provide funding for conservation (or even conservation programs and research in the zoos themselves) and they educate the public about animals they wouldn’t otherwise see. Main arguments against zoos include the concern of the well-being of the animals (especially the megafauna mammals), that the zoos are too patron-oriented in terms of both profit and experience and that perceived educational benefits  are relative. Since the release of the documentary Blackfish in 2013 that revealed the woes of orca whales in captivity, people are beginning to think twice about other megafauna mammals in captivity.

I wrote a short paper last year that explored: under what conditions is it acceptable to place animals in captivity based on biology, natural environment, and conservation status, particularly concerning the polar bear.

Continue reading “My View: Animals in Captivity”