Ask The Staff: Autumn

Halloween fun, pumpkin spice everything, color-changing leaves, and delicious baked goods – these are just a few of The Weingarten Center’s favorite fall things. Check out this edition of Ask The Staff to find out more about our favorite autumn activities and traditions.

When I think of autumn so many memories come to mind. My all time favorite is going to my grandparent’s house listening to stories of their past and eating Sweetzels Spiced Wafers cookies. – Lauren

I LOVE autumn.  My favorite traditions are around Halloween.  My family and I go all out decorating our home, making our own costumes, watching Halloween movies (Hocus Pocus and Halloweentown are my favorites!).  We always get dressed up to give out candy to the trick or treaters in the neighborhood.  This year, we are going Super Mario themed and Myles will be Yoshi!    Valerie

I am not sure if I have a tradition, but I do send Halloween cards to friends and family. I also like to decorate for the occasion and enjoy strolls through neighborhoods to take in the decorative autumnal touches. My other favorite activity: Shop at Trader Joe’s and find the autumnal themed foods. Pumpkin waffles. pumpkin tortilla chips, maple walnut biscotti–these are only a few treats that await. – Jane

My favs: Apple cobbler and pecan pie! – Rashmi

I didn’t grow up celebrating Halloween but I still have a fondness for fall and love haunted house tours and hayrides.  I love Dutch Apple Pie during the fall and winter months. I know most people prefer homemade, but Mrs. Smith Dutch Apple pie is hands down, the best I’ve had – Alia 

I’m not sure how to answer this one actually! When I was a kid, every fall, we would rake leaves into piles in the yard and jump in, but I don’t really have a yard anymore… lol – Gabe 

This year for the first time I went to Holland Ridge Farms, about an hour away in NJ and it’s totally going to be a fall tradition. They have a ginormous field of you-pick sunflowers plus hayrides, food trucks, and other fun fall things. Even though it was full of people the place was so huge it never felt crowded. If you have the energy there’s even a lovely place next door that does apple picking! – Jen

I love admiring all the creative Halloween decorations in my Queen Village neighborhood.  People really go all out! I also enjoy Halloween-themed movie nights with friends. -Julianne 

Every year, my friends and I make a trip to Johnson’s Corner Farm in New Jersey for pumpkin ice cream and apple cider donuts. We are also big on Halloween – we love to go all out with costumes and decorations. I love dressing for the fall weather, too. Big fan of corduroy. – Jackie

My favorite autumn tradition is watching baseball playoffs then the world series; college & professional football, and of course, the start of basketball season – I love when all the sports run together.  It is also the start of my baking season, cake orders start coming in, me ordering boxes, and  laughing at some of the cakes that are ordered.  I also love seeing the leaves change colors and the nice crisp weather.  I love the change in clothes and wearing my sweaters and boots. I could go on, but I will stop.  I guess you can see, I love fall. – Pat

The return of pumpkin spice lattes! What can I say, they’re my favorite. Also, the return of college football. – Kate

Ask The Staff: Recentering

We’re back! The Weingarten Center staff has returned to the office. While there are comforts of home that are missed, it’s also refreshing to see each other’s faces (the unmasked half, that is!) and to connect with students on campus again. Returning to the office is certainly an adjustment, so we asked about everyone’s favorite ways to decompress and recenters themselves.

Now that we have returned to campus, how do you recenter and decompress during the workday?

A way for me to recenter myself is to listen to music. It helps me to relax so that I focus on the task at hand.  – Lauren

When I’m feeling stressed or overwhelmed at work, I recenter myself by getting out of the office and going for a walk. I highly recommend the Bio Pond (officially known as the James G. Kaskey Memorial Park), The Woodlands cemetery and arboretum, Clark Park, and, for a longer outing with transportation, Bartram’s Garden. – Ryan 

Recentering is a daily experience, for I never know what awaits each day. Will the Septa bus be crowded with passengers? Did I make the right decision to travel to Locust Walk during a non-peak time to avoid the crush of students? How can I display my delight at seeing a colleague while my smile is hidden behind a mask? Reaping the moments and appreciating the small acts of kindness serve as my way of recentering daily. – Jane 

Going to the bio pond and seeing all the plants, turtles, and frogs 🙂 – Amrou

I try to do mindful meditation for at 10 minutes (max of 20) during my lunch hour. It helps to ease anxiety and feel a little more refreshed for the remainder of the day. – Alia

My absolute favorite way to recenter now is to listen to lofi music (Live Youtube Stream)! When I wake up really early, however, my meditation practice is to pray and read the Bible; I want to be more consistent with this, but it’s extremely centering when I do it! – Gabe

Doing crossword puzzles! Also, I love visiting the turtles and toads at the bio pond. It’s a little oasis in the middle of campus. – Jackie

Biking to and from campus has allowed me to get some exercise and fresh air while on my commute. – Jen

One of the things I missed during the remote period was the chance to connect with colleagues informally. Sharing a good talk or a laugh with a colleague while going for a walk around campus or getting lunch helps me recenter. – Julianne

Ask The Staff: Favorite TV Shows

For this installment of Ask The Staff, we’re talking television! From favorite shows watched during quarantine, to favorite shows of all time—check out what the WLRC Staff has been streaming.

What are you watching?

Over quarantine, I got into New Girl and now my roommates and I watch it all the time. When we’re not watching that, we’re watching another household favorite, Sex and the City. My all-time favorite show is Curb Your Enthusiasm—I never get sick of it! A more recent show I am obsessed with is Search Party which is a funny/dark mystery/thriller type of show starring Alia Shawkat from Arrested Development (another favorite of mine!)  – Jackie

TV Shows: The Good Doctor, Pooch Perfect, Home Economics, Station 19, Grey’s Anatomy. Series: The World According to Jeff Goldblum (Disney+), National Geographic Trafficked with Mariana van Zeller (Hulu), Tehran (Apple TV), 90 Day Fiancé (Hulu). – Sabria

During the pandemic, I had some time to watch quite a few shows while being home. My favorite has been the following on Netflix: Bridgerton, Ginny & Georgia, and Lupin. Then on Amazon Prime these shows: The Wilds, Upload, Homecoming, and Modern Love.   – Lauren 

Pandemic watched: Reign, Poldark, and The Crown.  My favorites are Bridgerton and Victoria. – Pat

As an aficionado of British mysteries and dramas (and sometimes comedies), Line of Duty rises to the top of intrigue and suspense with complex characters who create more challenges for themselves by poor decision-making. If you enjoy police dramas and can handle Britishisms, then I highly recommend this series. I made it through 4 seasons with 2 more awaiting me. “Keep calm and carry on” does not fit this heart-racing series.” – Jane 

Gilmore Girls has given me comfort during all of the uncertainty of these times. I especially like the relationship between Lorelei and Rory and all of the quirky small town characters. Fingers crossed for another revival! Also, Rory is a Yale student for a few seasons and she has to manage her busy role with the college newspaper and a challenging course load, reminds me of many Weingarten students! – Jen 

I’m watching the new Marvel shows on Disney+.  I’m loving the inside look and back stories of characters that the movies normally treat as minor.  Both shows that have premiered so far (WandaVision & Captain Falcon and the Winter Soldier) also both had a very different feel than the movies, like the writers are toying with aspects of other genres.  They have both been fun, enjoyable shows so far, and I’m really looking forward to the Loki one! – Valerie 

I have a thing for 90s/early 2000s TV shows so naturally I’ve seen Friends about a million times. Sex and the City is also a favorite of all time and more time spent at home gave me a chance to re-watch some old favorites: The Nanny, Girlfriends, The Game, Will & Grace… I also binged the Handmaid’s Tale last year and I’m excited for the new season to start on the 27th. I highly recommend this show. – Alia 

I love this topic. The quarantine changed everything for me. Typically, I hardly ever watch television. Quarantine changed my television habits (go figure). Currently, my favs are Married at First Sight on Lifetime (I know, I know lol), Rock The Block, and House Hunters (both shows are on HGTV). I also enjoy rewatching old episodes of Martin, Living Single, and Girlfriends. – Sheryl 

My partner and I are currently watching The Handmaid’s Tale. I read the book in college and recently read The Testaments, which is Margaret Atwood’s follow-up and response to the series, but I continue to be amazed by how much further the show has taken the original story. Elizabeth Moss is truly a superhero! Before this, we watched I May Destroy You on HBO, which I also highly recommend. – Ryan

I’m watching Never Have I Ever on Netflix. This is the little blurb associated with the show: “After a traumatic year, an Indian-American teen just wants to spruce up her social status — but friends, family and feelings won’t make it easy on her.” Mindy Kaling is one of the creators! – Traci

Ask The Staff : Book Club

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To celebrate our colleague Gabe Angrand’s recently published book of poetry, “Love, God”, we’re discussing our favorites reads—from favorite book in quarantine, to favorite book of all time, to what we’re currently reading.

If you’re interested in checking out any of these recommended reads, consider supporting some of Philadelphia’s black-owned bookstores including Amalgam, Harriet’s Bookshop, Hakim’s, Uncle Bobbie’s, Black and Nobel, Black Reserve, and Books & Stuff. (Thank you Daris for recommending these here!)

What are you reading?

I really miss swimming and there’s no good digital or virtual substitute. So, next on my reading list the next best thing—a book about swimming. Why We Swim by Bonnie Tsui explores the allure that swimming and water itself holds over devoted swimmers. According to the book jacket, this book “is propelled by stories of Olympic champions, a Baghdad swim club that meets in Saddam Hussein’s palace pool, modern-day Japanese samurai swimmers, and even an Icelandic fisherman who improbably survives a wintery six-hour swim after a shipwreck.” I can’t wait to dive in!  – Julianne 

I’m currently re-reading, for the third time, a seven-book series by Sarah J. Maas called Throne of Glass. If you like fantasy that dances between young adult and adult, these books are so good! Also, anything by Tim O’Brien, Neil Gaiman, or Erik Larson are awesome. Oh, oh! One more—Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor – I read this duology recently and adored it!” – Traci 

By March 17, I will have finished a book called, Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do by Claude Steele. In this piece, Steele, an American social psychologist, tells a story of personal experiences and research experiments that lead to a fascinating explanation for why URM (underrepresented minority) people in most contexts you can think of tend to perform worse than their non-URM counterparts: stereotype threat. The piece ends with some practical advice as well, which include clear communication of high expectations/standards, effective mentorship, and the hard work of developing trust between URM and non-URM groups. I felt like Claude was talking to me most of the time, but I recommend this book to anyone interested in this phenomenon related to URM performance and persistence! – Gabe

What I’m currently reading: A Promised Land, An American Marriage, and Text Me When You Get Home (I can never stick with one!) My favorite book of all time: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. – Kelcey 

Lately, I’ve been reading the Holy Qu’ran. I wouldn’t call myself a religious person, but I would definitely say I’m more spiritually inclined. My mom gave me a copy of the Qu’ran back when I was 14 and I never used it much, but I stopped and looked at the message she had written in it and it said, “I hope that this will be a source of guidance and comfort for you,” and it feels extremely appropriate, given the times we are in. – Alia 

Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement by John Lewis with Michael D’Orso, His Truth is Marching On by John Lewis, and The Power of Hope by John Meacham.  For fun reading, I am reading the Bridgerton series by Julia Quinn” – Pat

I’m reading Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo. The protagonist is a 20-year-old freshman at Yale named Galaxy “Alex” Stern. Alex is able to see ghosts (called “grays” in the book) and was recruited to the university as a member of Lethe House (the 9th house) that monitors the occult and supernatural activities of the eight Houses of the Veil (including the famous Skull and Bones) that use their powers in dark and terrible ways. As you’ve guessed, it’s fiction (I think!). – Ryan 

Currently, I’m reading the Autobiography of Malcolm X. My favorite book of quarantine is The Body Keeps The Score by Bessel van der Kolk, and my favorite book of all time is Cosmos by Carl Sagan.Amrou

Ask The Staff: Favorite Apps & Tech

During the lockdown, we’ve had to adapt to new virtual lifestyle. There are apps and technology that have become more important than ever for work, fitness, and fun! We asked our staff for their favorites.

What app or technology has helped you most during the pandemic?

“Having Microsoft Teams has helped a lot during the pandemic. I’m finding it’s been by far the easiest and quickest way to get help from VPUL Technology Services and a quick way to connect with members of our staff and outside, as opposed to waiting on an email. I’ve taken a social media break and it feels good! I’m trying to get into meditation and finding ways to help with my insomnia, so I recently downloaded the Calm app. I haven’t used it yet but I’m hoping for great things to come.” – Alia 

“Although I used Zoom on a few occasions prior to March 2020, I failed to realize its value. I quickly discovered that Zoom and BlueJeans have allowed me to stay connected with colleagues, friends, and family. Screen fatigue might be a side effect, but I remain grateful to accomplish my work and remain connected with my ‘peeps.’ I might live alone, yet I never feel lonely since I have technological tools to be present in the workplace and with my friends and siblings.” – Jane

“The Nike Training Club app has been my go-to for at-home workouts. They made all of their premium content free back in March, and I mostly use it for yoga and the occasional HIIT (high-intensity interval training) session. The only downside is that some of the workouts recommend dumbbells, which can still be hard to find in our pandemic economy.” – Ryan 

Clubhouse is a new app that is still in beta stage and only for Apple users, but it has been so helpful to me in the past few weeks! As a poet, I’ve been able to connect with others of the same craft, share my work, and be exposed to different styles of writing and performing. In addition to many of the other conversations happening on the app, Clubhouse really has been a space for me to reconnect meaningfully with others!” – Gabe 

“Without the ability to stroll around Penn’s Campus, hit the gym, or take a fitness class with friends, I’m finding my workout app, Beach Body On Demand, has gotten a lot more action during the pandemic. There are some days I don’t even leave the house, but having the option to scroll through hundreds of workouts has helped me get some movement in when I’m feeling a little stir-crazy!” – Traci 

“Microsoft Teams has helped me the most during the pandemic. It gives me the opportunity to be in closer contact with my colleagues remotely. I am able to greet everyone in the morning all at once, and reach out directly to an individual via the chat feature to ask a question and receive a quicker response than I would through an email.” – Sabria 

“I’ve been really into Just Dance on the Nintendo Switch. It motivates me to get up and exercise. It’s basically a Zumba class in the comfort of your home. There’s a huge catalog of songs in a variety of genres and difficulties. My housemates and I have favorite songs that we’re getting really good at. Maybe one day we’ll be able to bust out our choreographed moves at the club.” – Jackie

“For work – my Outlook calendar! For myself – workout apps/websites: The Movement Project website (local & woman owned & operated) for Cardio & Strength, SWEAT/Kayla Itsines App for Strength, and Melissa Wood Health App for Pilates & Meditation.” – Kelcey

“BlueJeans is what I used at first, now I use Zoom. I don’t have a favorite meditation app. I just pray or watch a good relaxing movie: Sleepless in Seattle, an Affair to Remember, or read a book. I usually work out during commercials since they are now so long.” – Patricia

Ask The Staff: Philadelphia Favorites

In January 2021, many students will return to Philadelphia or move here for the first time. In preparation, we asked our staff for their Philly favorites in hopes of inspiring your own adventures.

What’s your favorite thing about Philadelphia?

“When was the last time that you visited The Franklin Institute? This museum brings out the child in the adult. Crawling through the human heart rises to the top of my list as a memorable, favorite experience. It has been a few years since my last “crawl,” but I look forward to snaking through the ventricles.” – Jane

“My favorite thing about Philly is the food. I’ve discovered a new restaurant every week this entire summer for outdoor dining. It’s always a great experience and, even being born and raised here, this was such a surprise for me.” – Alia

“What I love about Philly is the variety available in everything. There is literally something for everyone and every occasion.  Every type of food you can think of, great museums, concerts, athletics, high-end or casual, funky shops, and elegant boutiques. If you want it, you can find it here–it keeps life interesting!”– Valerie

“It is kind of cheesy, but the thing I love most about Philadelphia is that my brothers live here. I have three brothers who live in the area and before I moved back to Philadelphia, I missed them so much! Now I see them all the time. I also love Philadelphia’s Magic Garden on South Street. I always take friends there when they come to visit! “ – Erica

“Philadelphia is a city of neighborhoods. In the city, I love the Arts; they add culture to the city. As for a place on campus, I loved Beijing restaurant – used to be on Spruce street.” – Pat 

“I feel incredibly lucky to have access to the Wissahickon Valley Park, which offers 1800 acres and 50+ miles of trails for hiking and biking all within the city limits. I’m always encouraging Penn students to venture there by riding a bike up the Schuylkill River Trail or catching the 125 bus from Market Street to the Wissahickon Transportation Center.” -Ryan 

“One of my favorite things about Philly is all the great cafés and restaurants. My all-time favorite café is Red Hook Tea & Coffee, which is just down the block from me in my Queen Village neighborhood. Pre-COVID, I enjoyed sitting in their window seats for hours catching up with friends over coffee.  Nowadays, I make a point to get take out from them about once a week to help them stay in business (and indulge my cravings for their delicious sandwiches!).” – Julianne 

“My favorite thing about Philly would have to be the bookstores, especially Black-owned and operated bookstores. There are few Black-owned bookstores around the world, but Philadelphia is a city where there are many to choose from. I love Harriett’s, Hakim‘s, Amalgam, Uncle Bobbie’s, Black and Nobel, Black Reserve, Books & Stuff. I love them all. They are great community spaces with tons of resources and always shining a spotlight on emerging authors.” – Daris

“I love all the concerts and comedy shows that Philadelphia offers. From small black box theaters like Good Good Comedy Theatre in Chinatown, to big arenas like the Wells Fargo Center, I’ve gotten to see so many of my favorite performers. I look forward to live shows being a thing again!” – Jackie

Ask the Staff: End-of-Day Transitions

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Staying connected is more essential than ever. Ask The Staff is a column that will provide glimpses into the diverse lives of our Weingarten Center staff. Get to know us!

How do you transition out of your workday and into “home mode”?

“Soon as 5pm hits, I order ahead to pick up a drink from my local Starbucks. The staff already recognize me, even with my mask on. It’s fattening but it’s a small joy that I look forward to.” – Alia

“Walking is therapeutic for my physical and emotional well-being. My aim is to walk at least 90 minutes daily, so my walk after 5pm is essential in maintaining an equilibrium. Listening to an audiobook while exploring a local neighborhood symbolizes my way of life.” – Jane

“At the end of my workday, I like to take a few moments to reflect. Sometimes this means writing in my journal, doing a guided meditation, or a yoga sequence to help combat the effects of sitting for most of my day. After that, I will start cooking dinner (my new quarantine hobby!) and watch an episode of The Crown or The Great British Baking show to fully unwind.” – Jordi 

I start my workday with a walk in the morning. In the evening, I spend time peeking into the fridge and/or pantry to explore what is there that can be transformed into dinner.” -Rashmi 

“After work, I like to lose myself in the kitchen. Whether I’m braiding challah bread, peeling vegetables, or grilling outdoors, I love the way preparing food to share with my family immerses me in my senses after a long day of Zoom meetings.“ – Aaron 

“I power down and close my laptop, switch off the power strip, and walk away from my desk. I try not to do anything on the computer “after hours” so that even if I don’t have a physical separation of living space and working space, I can still feel like I’m off-duty.”  Julianne

“Transitioning from work to home needs to be a bit more intentional these days because I have no commute. I like to sit in the living room and get away from my phone and other screens. Sometimes I just light a candle or put on some soothing music. I try to remember that whatever happened today, tomorrow is a new day.” – Jen

“It’s not always very easy for me to transition into ‘home mode’ actually. I often have to leave my bedroom (current office) and start cooking or run an errand to detach from my workday. Otherwise, I’ll take a good nap!” – Gabe

“I take my dog, Dewey, to the local dog park. It’s my favorite way to unwind, get fresh air, mingle with neighbors, and pet a bunch of pups. I think sometimes I’m having more fun than him!” – Jackie