Category: Personal

hellooo-oh, canada!

sam finds a giant thimble in toronto's fashion district. the trip has been made worthwhile.

Two weekends ago, a number of events occurred. Brad had just received his passport, and it was anxiously awaiting use. I was feeling antsy, since I hadn’t been on a trip in awhile. Brad read about Poutine, a Canadian dish involving french fries, cheese curds, and gravy. And Mike got a new campus job.

So I said, “hey, we should go to Canada.”

And then, we did. A week of planning, lots of international hotel calls (yay google voice – free to canada!), some scurrying and homework-finishing, a five-hour drive, and then – we were over the border.

brad, mike, and carrie on the way home from big smoke burger's poutine

Friday night, we arrived at our Toronto hotel and headed to our first stop: Big Smoke Burger, allegedly home to the best burgers in Toronto and some fantastic poutine. I say allegedly because I have not tried any other burgers in Toronto – but I don’t doubt that theirs are close to the best. And poutine, as weird as it sounds, was incredibly delicious.

st. lawrence market in toronto - what amazing cabbages!

The next morning, we got up early and ate a box of Tim Horton’s Timbits, like true Canadians. Then we acquired our day-long subway passes and began exploring. We started at the St. Lawrence Market, and were amazed at the selection of produce – where does Canada grow all these things?

We bought Kinder Surprise eggs, which are apparently considered contraband in the U.S. But we ate them all (except the surprises!) before crossing the border again.

the historic roundhouse that houses the steamwhistle brewery, toronto

After further meandering, we headed toward the harbor for a tour of Toronto’s Steamwhistle Brewery. The small brewery is located on the historical grounds of an old roundhouse – you know, the place where the trains go on the circle and get spun into their different garages? I had never seen one in real life, so my 8-year-old Brio-loving self was thrilled to see a roundhouse in real life. It was so cool!

steamwhistle brewery in toronto: the bottling line, in brilliant green

The best part of this brewery tour was the brilliant green that Steamwhistle uses for their packaging. It was everywhere!

pizza pizza - a toronto chain with cute trashcans.

After the tour, we headed toward Chinatown for an afternoon lunch. We dashed into an art store, where I bought 13 sheets of the most adorable paper of all time. Then we all had the classic Sam Janis foreign country experience: finding a new fabric store.

king's textiles, toronto

Toronto’s King’s Textiles was located near Chinatown, in what is called the Fashion District. The location is a little bit run down, with lots of (awesome) graffiti. But the fabric store was just my type, with a filled-up warehouse feel and creaky floors that you can’t hear because all the sounds are so well-damped by the cloth.

king's textiles, toronto: filled to the brim with fabric

It was large, but not enormous – however, due to the towers of fabric and the eerie stillness of the air, it would be easy to get lost forever. Mike loved that he and Carrie could stand on opposite ends of the aisle pictured, nearly shouting, unable to hear each other.

The only downside of this store was the pricing – fabrics were more than I like to spend. But I was on vacation, and we were in a big city, so what could I expect? I bought a cute turquoise knit and plan to make a henley of some kind.

While in the Fashion District, we happened upon the giant thimble at the top of this post. That discovery and its photographic proof justify my trip entirely.

The Fashion District isn’t like the Garment Districts in Paris or New York – the area was mostly dedicated to clothing stores, although I did find a few stores selling buttons. And with two boys in tow, my shopping freedom was limited.

colorful graffiti

brad and mike on the toronto subway, excited about the accordion walls and moving floor

Everything in Toronto closes early, presumably because it’s so cold. So we took the long way home, stopped at some stores and ate more poutine, then took the subway back to the hotel. The subway was one long, continuous car with accordion joints and moving floors to accomodate twists in the track: Brad and Mike insisted on riding where the floor moved.

We got in the car and drove to our Saturday night hotel near Niagara Falls, and ate grilled cheeses at a strange diner that looked like a spaceship.

niagara falls

After Church Sunday morning, another Tim Horton’s breakfast, and an exploration of Canadian Wal-Mart to find milk that comes in bags, we headed out to look at Niagara Falls. I have decided two things: 1. It is a large waterfall and 2. It is a very cold place to be in early February.

We were hoping for something louder, more menacing perhaps – but the rushing water was, instead, almost of the peaceful sort. Near the falls, the mist was falling down on us as snow flurries, which was way cool – but a further reminder that February is not the best time for a visit.

the obligatory group picture: four adventurers at niagara falls

We froze, I took lots of pictures, Mike ate yet more Tim Horton’s, and then we headed back to school. Our work was waiting where we left it, but we felt good – especially me. Who picks up and goes to another country for the weekend? I like the idea of being that person – again.

a weekend filled with gratitude

pink boots

Last weekend was the first weekend: the weekend after the first week of classes. And rather than relax and unwind whilst simultaneously winding (up for the new semester), I sacrificed my weekend for a retreat.

This retreat was different because I wasn’t a standard participant. It’s a First Year retreat, for freshmen to develop their roots as college Catholics. My First Year retreat was a vivid and transforming experience for me, so I felt the need to give back. That need called me to organize the food for the first years. Of course, I also signed up two months before the retreat’s scheduled date, believing it would be a piece of cake when the time finally came.

little snow rocks

Only as I was making my Costco list did I realize what I was in for. I had to plan and purchase food (reimbursed of course) for 20 people?! For a weekend?!

Estimating quantities was so stressful that I wanted to give up, to throw my list at anyone else and say, “You do this. I want my first weekend to myself, not around stupid freshmen.”

My wonderful friends came with me to Costco, and the five of us dominated the self-checkout like pros, scanning and stacking and boxing. And my miracle station wagon managed to hold all the food along with a full load of passengers. Even though Brad now cringes at the word Costco, we made it out alive.

door lock & yellow screw

And I made it out to a wonderful world of snow, light, and space.

I spent a lot of time in the kitchen, yes, but I also spent a lot of time retreating. Bonding with the freshmen over our shared faith, sharing stories and experiences and beliefs. I cooked and served them lovingly, and they all helped me and nobody complained when food was a few minutes late.


What struck me was that, even with a 3-year age gap, our retreat conversations were so relevant. When we were all speaking from our hearts, the feelings were universal.

Then breaktime would ensue, and the bond was broken as talk turned to dining hall food and freshmen classes. But I still remember those magical moments.

how retreaty is this?

So maybe I did need a retreat. Mine was a retreat of service and reflection, and so much gratitude. Grateful that I had gone on the retreat as a freshman; grateful that I had signed up for kitchen duty on a whim. I lost a weekend, but I gained perspective: that’s enough.

(and i served my “secret recipe”, ultimate overnight french toast, so everyone was happy.)

2011: a year of planes

little plane, taking flight at sunsetThere’s a song that I love, “The New Year” by Death Cab for Cutie, that is obviously very fitting for today. Or at least, one would think so. It begins with some musical clangs that mimic bells, and then the first line:

so this is the new year… (clang clang)
… and i don’t feel any different.

Last year, I wholeheartedly agreed with this sentiment. I wrote it in my little moleskine of little thoughts as a sort of mantra, and although my new year’s post was optimistic and goal-focused, I felt 100% the same. I didn’t feel any different.

It was partly due to stubbornness. Sometimes, I think the whole concept of a new year is silly. We’re not supposed to wake up and feel different. But now I realize – we need it. We need this day, this chance for reflection, rebirth, and rejuvenation.

Today I’m looking back on myself a year ago – and I’m way different. I’ve done a heck of a lot of new things in one year, I’ve learned a ton, and I’ve generally matured as an individual. So if you’d care to join me, I’m going to go on a short little retrospective journey.

st. peter's dome at the vatican italian cappuccino

In February, I got to take a wonderful mini-trip to Rome to visit one of my very best friends, Katie. It was, of course, amazing to visit the Vatican, eat gelato, and stare at that blue, blue sky. But it was also a great opportunity for Katie and I to catch up and go back to being the friends we were in high school, the friends who saw each other daily. Rome trip? Awesome. Rome trip + reconnecting with an old friend? Perfect.

sam the pilotIn May, I learned the basics of piloting a small aircraft. It was difficult, and a little bit scary to be behind the wheel, but now I’m itching to get back up there. This was a pretty cool addition to the list of things I’ve done in my life.

delphi ez-pro deluxe kiln (15-6)Speaking of cool things to add to my life list, in June I bought a glass kiln. I’m still researching, learning, and collecting supplies, but in December I fired my first glass project. Photos will come soon! This is a big one on the 2012 list: I hope to get a lot more firings done in the coming year.

the roanoke starFourth of July weekend was spent in Roanoke, and my mama and I had wonderful girl time visiting with my cousins and aunt. We went thrifting, drove around the mountains, made good food and ate good ice cream. Another good bonding trip for the year.

dingle bay, irelandIn mid-July, my family spent the week following my mom’s birthday in Ireland. It was probably the best vacation we’ve ever had – great food, great beer, lots of snacks (or snooks, as we called them) and lots of laughs together. We drove through the emerald hills and stepped into the frigid ocean, gazing toward our distant home. I also saw HP 7 Part 2 in Dublin, and my life was forever changed. I’ll always be a Harry Potter book nerd, but that movie was unbelievable.

giraffe and girl with balloons at the cleveland chalk festival 2011

In September, Brad and I made the chalk masterpiece of all chalk masterpieces at the Cleveland Museum of Art Chalk Festival. I will forever be unreasonably proud of this piece of temporary art.

married molly!Molly, another of my best friends from high school, got married over Labor Day weekend. I was so glad that Brad and I could make it to her wedding, it was so pretty and so much fun. She’s the first of my close friends to get married, but certainly not the last… a lot of my friends have been getting engaged lately. I am happy for all of them, but I, personally, would like a few more years of unmarried life. I’m only 22!

22.Which brings to to my birthday. In October, I turned 22. For me, 22 feels like a major turning point. Age 21 is considered to be “adulthood”… but 22 means you’ve made it in. I’m trying to take this ’22 feeling’ and make it a focus on maturity and responsibility. Hopefully this feeling will guide me toward the adult I want to become.

ginos east, chicago deep dish pizzaIn October, I got to represent my school at a conference called thinkChicago, which was a 2-day event focused on innovation in entrepreneurship and technology. Definitely something I’m interested in! We attended panels with Google, Groupon, and the mayor; and I got to tour the Threadless warehouse! I also had my first taste of real Chicago-style deep dish… and now just looking at that photo makes me feel forlorn and very, very hungry. I also crossed a visit to the iconic Vogue Fabrics off my list- it wasn’t monumental, but it was certainly my kind of fabric store.

I shipped out 14 narwhals for the holiday season – less than half of last year’s tally, but I was grateful because I had lots more schoolwork than last year. I also made a couple awesome custom projects, and I’ll be showing those to you very soon!

2011, a year of planes, was a year of great change for me, and I’m sure I owe a great deal of that change to those planes.
How many planes, you ask? Let’s count the trips…
5 trips from home to Cleveland (3 visits, 1 wedding, 1 fall break)
1 trip to Cincinnati (skiing with Brad!)
1 trip to Italy
1 trip co-piloting the small plane
1 trip to Ireland (+1 for connection through London)
1 trip to Chicago

Planes: 10 + 2 + 2 + 2 + 4 + 2 = 22 flights, 22 planes.

22 planes for my 22nd year. I’m okay with that.