You, Too, Can Fake Calligraphy

Recently, I got hooked on watching calligraphy and hand-lettering videos by the likes of seblester, jeremytow_lcsc, and melanemagdalena. So, much like what I did with bullet journaling, I bought myself a brush pen, a fountain pen, some ink cartridges, and threw myself right into it.

Obviously, calligraphy is something that takes quite a lot of practice and patience to get right. As easy as these people make it look, their videos are often sped up to keep it within Instagram’s 30-second limit. So, as much as I wanted to progress rapidly through the steps, I simply did not have the amount of free time I needed to devote to practice writing letters over and over again.

Luckily, I found a method of faux calligraphy that would do just fine to tide me over until I could become more practiced with my brush pen and ink. Basically, you just write in your normal cursive (any kind of connected letters will do, really). Pay attention to where your pen goes up (this is called the upstroke) and where it goes down (this is called—yup, you guessed it—the downstroke). You want to artificially thicken your downstrokes in order to contrast against your (thin!) upstrokes. I’ve shown this process in the photos below:

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  1. Write out your word or phrase in your best cursive. You do want to leave some space between your letters, because they will get thicker. However, it is definitely totally fine if it’s not perfect, especially if this is just your first run. Besides, I personally hadn’t written in cursive since third grade.
      • a brief aside: Remember when your teachers told you that middle school and high school assignments were going to be completely in cursive? Remember when you got to middle school and found out that they all lied to you? Me too, man. Me too.

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  2. Draw in the lines for your thickened downstrokes. I’ve demonstrated this on the word “calligraphy” in the above photo. Alternatively, you can just go straight ahead and thicken the lines of the downstrokes until you’re happy with them, as I’ve done for the word “misanthrope” and the sentence “this is my handwriting”.
  3. You can get more advanced. Draw guidelines and do your cursive outside the lines on purpose to get a more “fun”, spontaneous look.

All you have left to do now is practice! The next step after mastering the art of fake calligraphy, of course, is to move on to the more advanced stuff. There are plenty of sites out there that offer free resources for people interested in self-teaching calligraphy. I’ve taken the liberty of compiling a few sites for you to reference:

I’ve actually taken to doodling words and phrases in class rather than my customary plants and animals. It’s calming and extremely rewarding when you do a particularly good bit of letter-work. Besides, now is the perfect time to take advantage of the advent of hand-lettering and the handwritten “look” being so in style these days.

Have fun and happy lettering!

Skate Night Fundraiser!

LIVE DJ • $6 ADMISSION • $4 RENTALS • $1 BAKED GOODS

As you may or may not know, the Rutgers Women’s Ice Hockey team will be having its second annual public skate night this weekend! We are proud to be hosting this event in conjunction with Eta Kappa Nu, the official international honors society for Electrical and Computer Engineers here at Rutgers.

Come out and skate in support of the team! All proceeds from admission, as well as the baked goods sale, will go towards our rink, travel, and team expenses. Cookies, brownies, and milk will be $1 each unless you buy two or a baked good + milk combo, after which you start getting a discounted price! We will be accepting both Venmo and cash.

ProSkate is located in Monmouth Junction, on Rt 1 South. A shuttle will be leaving from the Rutgers Student Center on College Ave at 8:45PM for those who do not have a ride. If you need a ride, please fill out this Google Form.

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All My Posts Are About Adulting

My apartmentmates and I have settled into life at school. We cook. We clean (usually). We divvy up fridge space and share utensils and pots and pans and a single bathroom. We may live off-campus, but we are still deeply involved with activities on-campus. At the same time, we’ve all got packed schedules: one of the girls I live with is a biomedical engineer on the pre-med track, and the rest of us are pursuing multiple majors and minors.

Personally, I’m balancing my off-campus life with a 19-credit semester, running a sports club, and maintaining membership in my other extracurriculars. But I’d be lying if I said I were organized. This year marks the first time I’ve ever used a planner in my life, and to be honest–I have no idea why I ever insisted on keeping everything in my head. Writing everything down makes it so easy to remember what I have to do next.

I recently got into bullet journaling, which is a fancy way of saying that I bought a notebook and started drawing lines in it. It seems weird, doesn’t it? We live in the digital age; everything is in the cloud and on Google and it all syncs beautifully with your phone and your laptop, but here I am telling you that I left all of that for plain ol’ pen and paper. Why?

Well, for starters, bullet journaling has an insanely easy structure that makes it an absolute piece of cake to build from. There are basic pages that serve as the backbone of your journal:

  • Index: makes it so nothing has to be written consecutively. Every page of your journal is numbered, and everything gets recorded on your index pages (people typically use two). For example, I have my September spending log on page 7, but I made my future log (see below) after I started September, so that’s on pages 12-15.

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    My monthly log

  • Monthly Log: at the start of every month, you write the days of the month down the side and use that to keep your monthly events/due dates/tasks at-a-glance.
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Future Log

  • Future Log: since the bullet journal focuses on one month at a time, it’s hard to plan for things that are several months down the road (such as my exams and hockey games). That’s where the future log comes in! You can make it mind-numbingly simple and just write a box, the date, and the event, or you can get a little fancier and section your future log into months so you can put each event under its respective month.
  • Daily Log: the meat and bones of your journal! You write your day here. I approach it in a purely task-driven manner, and I’ll write in events that I have to do as the week goes on, but I leave room for notes & reflections on my day as well.

Of course, bullet journaling seems weird and a little boring until you actually start and realize you can customize your journal for your own needs. Plus, you don’t figure this out until you really get into it, but I’m gonna spoil it for you: writing things down forces you to only write the things that are important to you for the sake of saving time and space. I was able to cut down on so much clutter in my online calendar by making myself fit everything I needed to do into a third of a notebook page. I definitely got intimidated by all the beautiful journals people were doing, with fancy calligraphy and layouts and colour-coding and fancy folding habit trackers. So I did what any sane human would do: I stopped looking at #bulletjournal on Instagram, bought myself a Moleskine (on sale!), and threw myself into the deep end.

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People on Instagram. Is this even real???

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My first attempt at bullet journaling

As you can see, my bullet journaling attempts were incredibly basic and bare-bones (the pen colors didn’t even match!). However, as the weeks went by, I found myself spending more time caring about how my journal looked. I still freehand everything, but now I take the time to make my lines neat and tidy, because when things looked pretty I actually gained satisfaction from writing in a journal that surrounded me with the aesthetic pleasure of it all.

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Final Attempt

I can honestly say that writing everything down has made me way more careful and much less forgetful. You may find a different use for it–everyone does bullet journaling differently–but give it a try! You might be surprised (:

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This entire post came about because I had no idea what to write, and instead scrolled through my emoji keyboard tapping on whatever stood out to me.

I found myself struck by the unexpected art of it. There were moments of complementation created by my chosen emojis that would not be present, had I typed the words out. Placing a purple heart next to a purple-tinged galaxy made perfect sense. A line of spherical emoji globes culminating in a spherical emoji moon gave the line a kind of sharp visual contrast not found in the English language. There was something in this crazy combination of pictographs and punctuation that reminded me of an experimental foray several months ago—a period in my life (read: a single day last year) when I texted some of my friends and family exclusively in emoji, just to see if I could do it.

My friends understood me with relative ease. My parents, who speak English as a second language (and are distantly familiar with emoji at best), often needed me to translate my pictorial messages. My younger brother understood the easy things, such as references to dinner and school, but it was practically impossible to answer his questions about topics in his chemistry class. I highly doubt he would’ve been able to understand the intricacies of electron orbital diagrams through emoji-speak. There are certain things—like the proper illustration of a covalent bond—that cannot be sufficiently explained in cheery little emoticons.

The advent of emojis is extremely reminiscent of logographic languages, several of which are long gone. Hieroglyphics, cuneiform, Japanese kanji and Chinese characters have already “been there, done that” in terms of communicating in pictures. In fact, the word emoji itself isn’t even a reference to the word “emotion”; rather, it’s a portmanteau of two Japanese words: “e” (picture) and “moji” (character). It’s pretty cool that emoji, as a modern extension of the English language, has created this kind of circular timeline. I am continually impressed by how universal emojis are—not everyone speaks the same language, but everyone understands a smiling face as being representative of happiness.

Sometimes, I feel like meaning is lost when too many words get in the way. I have this bad habit of over-explaining things, so much so that it becomes necessary for me to repeat the points I was trying to make. I also tend to digress rather horribly because something I say will trigger a thought that leads me down an entirely different mental path, thus resulting in me talking way too much for way too long. Of course, sometimes the exact opposite happens and I find myself at a complete loss for words, unable to express myself or describe what I’m feeling, and I just wish that the other person could see what I see in my head. In-person, we aren’t restricted to just words or just pictures: the beauty of interpersonal interactions is that they are rife with gestures, body language, expressions, and tone (all elements that are conspicuously absent from texting). However, I feel like the popularity of emojis has exponentially advanced our ability to be understood in writing (@Rutgers let me write an essay in emojis please) and I’m excited to see where the evolution of textual language goes next.

Cooking like a Real Adult™

These days, I constantly smell of cooking oil and dish soap. It’s a distinctive trait that comes with the dubious honor of being self-sufficient and independent of dorm life.  I walk into class horribly aware of the fact that my clothes smell like I work in a restaurant all day, and that my hands are permanently chafed by the rough side of the sponge.

I no longer have a meal plan, so I spend my weekends cooking and prepping meals for the rest of the week. I have to budget money to pay rent, utilities, and groceries—and make sure that I use those groceries before they go bad. I’m a huge fan of food, but I don’t have enough time to cook every day, so it became completely necessary for me to learn how to fake my way to success at the stove, and fast. I’ve compiled some of my best tips for eating good food (and impressing your friends?):

  • Eggs are your best friend. I cannot stress this enough. Not only are eggs crazy nutritious, but they can be cooked in approximately a billion different ways. Use them in frittatas, put them in stir-fry, stick ’em in a sandwich. Make an omelette and mix in whatever you want. Eggs are easy.
    • The key to cooking eggs perfectly is heat control. Once you’ve cracked your egg into a nice hot oiled pan you can turn it down to medium/medium-high heat. Leave the egg on for as long or as short as you want, so long as the whites are cooked all the way through. I like my egg yolk solid at the edges but runny in the middle, so once the white cooks, I add salt & pepper (I’ll also add cheese if I’m feeling frisky) and flip the egg over to finish cooking. Then I lightly poke the edges of the yolk to check for consistency before I take it off.
  • You can bake a bunch of grilled cheese sandwiches at once in an oven. Preheat to 450, then make your sandwiches (don’t forget the butter) and line them up on a baking tray or cookie sheet. Flip them after 6-8 minutes, then bake for another 6-8 minutes. Magic! Grilled cheeses for days.
  • I’m a huge, huge, HUGE fan of Greek yogurt with honey and cereal. It’s quick, plus it’s more filling and glamorous (in my opinion) than cereal with milk. It’s also got a great crunch to it.
  • If you have a bunch of ramen, you can grate some cheese and add a bit of milk to it to make some bootleg mac & cheese.
  • Toast your garlic before you add anything to it! Seriously, it makes such a difference. Use either butter or oil; add your garlic and cook until it smells like you want it in your mouth. Then add your meat/veggies/sauce/whatever. Thank me later.
    • Bonus 3-ingredient pasta recipe: garlic and mushroom (or any other veggie) and olive oil pasta. Toast your garlic, then add mushrooms and cook through (you’ll know when you see a bit of mushroom juice). Mix in your pasta. Optional: chop up an herb or two and mix those in afterwards.
  • You can sauté some aromatics (garlic, onions, celery, mushrooms, etc) and add them to store-bought sauce (I like to do this with pasta sauce).
  • Cook your grains in chicken broth (or vegetable broth) so they’ll have flavor on their own.
  • Delicious sauce for stir-fry is 3 ingredients away: mix soy sauce, Sriracha, and sesame oil in a bowl. Pour into your pan and enjoy.
  • If you’re making a sandwich with salad greens, squeeze a bit of lime or lemon juice over the greens before you serve that sucker up. It’s a subtle little thing that brings the sandwich just above the “broke college student” level.

I cook 2 or 3 times a week and stagger them so I always have food. Cooked food keeps well–grains will last 3-5 days in an airtight container. Poultry, meat, and vegetables last for about 3-4 days but will keep for a couple of months if you freeze them.

Happy cooking!

Dear August,

Here it is: the final stretch before my third year of college. I’m sitting on my bedroom floor, surrounded by all the stuff I’m bringing to school; I’m taking a break from my furious packing to reflect on the sheer number of clothes I own, yet never seem to wear. In fact, I’m missing a good number of the clothes I wanted to bring to school, which makes sense, as they’re the only clothes I took or wore anywhere this summer.

I spent most of my summer packing and unpacking. That’s what happens when you accidentally end up splitting your time between two internships in two states and then your mom decides to whisk your family away to Taiwan for a month. I can’t tell you how many stupid pairs of earbuds I’ve lost–not because I can’t remember, but because it’s horribly embarrassing how incapable I am of keeping track of those things. They could be in my house, underneath the sprawl of things waiting to be U-Hauled away. They could be in the room I’ve been crashing in down in New Brunswick, or in my boss’s office up in New York City. They could be in someone’s car, or on a bus, or on the floor of a restaurant somewhere. They could literally be across the globe right now.

I’ve come to see it as a metaphor for my life, whether appropriate or not. I’m everywhere at once, but I’m never in a place long enough to make an impact. Are you a dancer? I’d love to go to a workshop with you! And I love writing; sign me up to be a blogger! Why don’t you take me to ice hockey practice while you’re at it, and yes, of course I’ll take pottery with you! My city internship involved stocks; my lab in New Brunswick focused on plant biology. If you look at the classes I’ve taken up till now, you’ll see that I don’t specialize in anything because I have a healthy interest in everything. My ‘why not’ mentality and hunger to try whatever comes my way has afforded me some of the best friends, decisions, and experiences of my life, but it’s time to settle down, if only for the sake of my sanity. Having two years left may sound like a long time, but the first half of college has already come and gone and, oops, now I’ve got two majors that need finishing.

So here we are, August, in the middle of this mess I’ve made. As much as I hate sounding like a bad Chinese fortune cookie, focus is necessary for progress to be made, and I refuse to be stagnant. I don’t regret anything I’ve done (except maybe losing a billion pairs of earbuds), but I know I have to ask myself what I want, set a goal, and work towards it. It’s a daunting prospect, having to think about something beyond deciding what to eat for lunch or choosing tomorrow’s outfit, especially when that’s something I already struggle with. But I’m ready, I’m willing, and I’m definitely able.

P.S. if anyone’s seen a pair of red-and-black HTC earbuds, let me know.