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Dana Michelle. 23 years old. Penn State alumna. fan of everything artsy. vegetable lover. adventure enthusiast.

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19 July 14

You can only experience growth if you step out of your comfort zone. I do believe I have grown. 

This summer I had the incredible opportunity to attend the Brandeis Collegiate Institute (BCI) in Simi Valley, California. BCI is a 26-day program for young Jewish adults ages 18-26. 

During my 26 days I sang, danced, learned, explored my artistic side, met amazing people, gardened, and really took some quality “me time”. It was so great to be a camper again!

Every day we began with a spiritual practice of choice such as meditation, yoga, walking, learning, or praying. After that we had breakfast as a community then split up for service work. I spent most of my time working in the organic garden, a territory that felt very familiar to me. After our morning work we would join together again for Torah study and learning. The education staff led us in interesting conversation and occasionally a guest speaker would come to study with us. After study we would join together for lunch before heading to our arts workshops.

Every participant chooses an art workshop for the summer. This year some amazing artists offered: music/song-writing, exploratory dance, film, 2-D art, theater, and my workshop of choice, photography. We were each encouraged to choose a workshop that was outside of our comfort zone. I have dabbled in most of the performing arts and expressing myself in a “loud” way comes easily, so I challenged myself by trying a “quiet” visual art. 

Following our arts workshops was some free time, singing and Israeli folk dancing, dinner, and an evening program. Evening programs were different every night and included things like a drum circle, a musical performed by recovering addicts, and community discussions.

Following Havdallah every week there was a unique opportunity to get involved with a collaborative performance piece. I used this opportunity to perform a couple of short monologues while others brought it to life with movement. I also enjoyed our day out when we collaborated with the 2-D art workshop at the UCLA sculpture garden. 

We really formed a community, shared our stories with each other every day, created art we are proud of, and took some time to reflect and re-center before being returned to the many places we come from. I am so grateful for the time I had at BCI and the people I had the pleasure of spending that time with. I miss it already but am excited to bring what I learned back to my community at AHA.

27 April 14
Yesterday I decided on a whim to go to a Nickel Creek concert in Charlottesville, VA with my friends Abby and Neal. After three hours of listening to bluegrass and admiring the fresh spring landscape, we arrived in downtown Charlottesville. We started our day with some amazing breakfast at a street-side creperie called The Flat. We also stopped at Java Java Cafe for some much needed iced coffee and took a stroll around the Downtown Charlottesville Mall.
We then met up with some of Neal’s friends from College Park and hopped on a free shuttle to the UVA campus. The weather was incredible all day and campus could not have looked any more beautiful. We wandered around the grounds and then stopped for drinks at a local favorite, Boylan Heights. 
After soaking up some sun around campus, we took the shuttle back downtown where we had dinner at Citizen Burger Bar, a great recommendation from the crepe chefs. We spent the rest of the night enjoying the lively performances by Nickel Creek and openers, The Secret Sisters. 
I am looking forward to relaxing a little bit today, having brunch with friends, and planning our next trip, perhaps to Boone, NC.

Yesterday I decided on a whim to go to a Nickel Creek concert in Charlottesville, VA with my friends Abby and Neal. After three hours of listening to bluegrass and admiring the fresh spring landscape, we arrived in downtown Charlottesville. We started our day with some amazing breakfast at a street-side creperie called The Flat. We also stopped at Java Java Cafe for some much needed iced coffee and took a stroll around the Downtown Charlottesville Mall.

We then met up with some of Neal’s friends from College Park and hopped on a free shuttle to the UVA campus. The weather was incredible all day and campus could not have looked any more beautiful. We wandered around the grounds and then stopped for drinks at a local favorite, Boylan Heights

After soaking up some sun around campus, we took the shuttle back downtown where we had dinner at Citizen Burger Bar, a great recommendation from the crepe chefs. We spent the rest of the night enjoying the lively performances by Nickel Creek and openers, The Secret Sisters

I am looking forward to relaxing a little bit today, having brunch with friends, and planning our next trip, perhaps to Boone, NC.

16 March 14

the ketchup.

Hag Purim Sameach!

The weather here is on an upswing so I tried to get outside as much as possible. On Thursday night we went to one of our favorite spots, El Camino Real, for dinner and watermelon margaritas. On Friday the seniors and the fellows each presented a Purim shpiel to the school. Our fellow Shpiel parodied Fiddler on the Roof (this year’s winter musical) with a twist of the Purim story and some AHA humor. Hopefully I will have a link to the video to share soon.

Saturday was an eventful day. I woke up with a ton of energy so I convinced Nathan to go on a walk off-campus. We did a four-mile loop and stopped in the middle to grab a quick breakfast at Panera. After our walk we headed over to Country Park to see the reenactment of the Battle of Guilford Courthouse fought on March 15, 1781. It was so interesting to watch as they reenacted this pivotal battle on the anniversary of it’s occurrence. 

After the battle we picked up some smoothies and walked through the Bog Garden and the Bicentennial Garden for the remainder of the afternoon. We got back to campus just in time for dinner, a little down time, and then our community megillah reading and Purim costume contest. I am looking forward to having brunch with some of my students and to getting some work done today for my Gardens of Israel class.

9 March 14

A Weekend in Asheville

This weekend I had a chance to get away and explore another part of North Carolina with some of my good friends. We left on Friday afternoon with an ambitious itinerary and we waved goodbye to the ice storm we were leaving behind. 

On our way into Asheville, we stopped in a town called Black Mountain. The quaint town was a perfect spot to stop and take in our first beautiful mountain views. We wandered into Dobra Tea and had a very unique and interesting experience with a tea master named Jen. I got an incredible iced Oolong tea named the Staroborshov and my friend Neal got a pu-er tea that came with an elaborate demonstration from the tea master. 

While planning our trip we collected recommendations from the AHA community and everyone pointed us towards Tupelo Honey Cafe. This popular spot was great for Friday night dinner. They specialize in updated southern food and make delicious local honey. After dinner we went downtown to the Thirsty Monk and the Asheville Yacht Club, both great places to investigate the micro-brews that give Asheville the title of “Beer City USA”. 

On Saturday we started out with brunch at Biscuit Head where I got a biscuit with fried green tomatoes, poached eggs, and brie. Yum! We had great weather so we decided to explore the Blue Ridge Parkway. We went to the Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center to get some information about fun spots to hit (definitely the most impressive visitor center I have ever been to). We also visited the Folk Art Center and took a 3 mile hike to a beautiful look-out spot.

One of our favorite parts of the trip was our afternoon in the River Arts District. This area of Asheville is an eclectic collection of bars and art studios along the French Broad River. We got to stroll in and out of the art studios and watch glass blowing, wood working, painting, and other demonstrations while we chatted with the local artists. The studios and businesses are located in old industrial warehouses from the 1880’s. We went to The Wedge, a funky brewery with corn hole boards, food trucks, and a railroad right in the yard. Neal and I were both excited to watch some trains pass by.

We also went to The Bywater, a favorite local hang out where you can meet great people and sit by the river, and get the feeling of a neighborhood party every day. We grabbed a quick and light dinner at the White Duck Taco Shop before heading back downtown to watch the UNC-Duke game at the Wicked Weed. We made one last stop at the French Broad Chocolate Lounge for a treat before calling it a night.

On Sunday we had breakfast at the Sunny Point Cafe, another local recommendation. Sydney and Ben headed back home while Neal, Nathan, Abby, and I spent the rest of the day exploring the Biltmore. While we were not exactly there in peak season, the Biltmore Estate was fascinating and enjoyable. We took a tour of the house, so increadible! We also toured the gardens, the conservatory, and the winery. We used the audio tour while we explored the house and got to hear many great stories about the Vanderbilt family and the history of the estate. 

I have completely fallen in love with Asheville and the rich, eclectic culture found there. I can’t wait to go back!

15 February 14
Our Roaring 20’s/Gatsby themed winter ball was so much fun!

Our Roaring 20’s/Gatsby themed winter ball was so much fun!

Tags: winterball
12 February 14

the ketchup.

This weekend was Family Weekend at AHA. We had over 200 family members join us on campus for a very busy, but fun, weekend. Family Weekend kicked off on Thursday night with our annual Strikes for Scholarships bowling fundraiser. I spent most of my day on Friday putting together 50 center pieces for our Shabbat dinner. 

Saturday was another busy day but we ended the night by going to see the school’s production of Fiddler on the Roof which was actually very well done. Sunday morning started off slow with brunch and a silent auction as we wrapped up Family Weekend. Sunday night, a large group of AHA fellows decided to go to the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus that was in town at the Greensboro Coliseum. It was quite a show, though it definitely sparked some conversation about the treatment of captive animals. 

Last night we had the pleasure of joining two of our faculty members at their home for beer, brownies, and board games. It’s always nice to be invited to spend time off campus with some of our community members and we had a lot of fun!

The snow storm just started to hit a couple of hours ago and school has already been canceled for tomorrow. Luckily, my good friend Sydney made me a beautiful green, knit cowl to keep me warm and she finished it just in time for this round of winter weather. After school ended early today we did some Zumba on campus and started to plan some fun activities for tomorrow. I am going to be hosting a knitting and crochet club in my apartment while we try to stay warm and cozy inside.

2 February 14

A Weekend In Charlotte

This weekend I was able to escape from Greensboro with some friends and explore a new city. We stayed at a hotel right in the center of Uptown Charlotte so we were able to get around the city by foot which was especially great for our Shabbat-observant friends.

On Friday we explored what was around us and grabbed dinner at the BlackFinn Saloon. After some downtime at the hotel we headed over to the Epicenter, a sort of hub for cafes, restaurants, and nightlife. We started our night of at Howl at the Moon, a kitschy, dueling piano bar. We had a lot of fun singing along with the performers who were playing some classics along with audience requests. We also decided to check out Whisky River which had a great dance floor and a mechanical bull that my friend Abby was brave enough to try. 

Saturday morning a few more friends met us and we walked over to the art museum district. We walked through the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art which currently has a great exhibit of sketches, photographs, and models featuring the work of architect Mario Botta. For lunch we went to my new favorite restaurant, Cowfish. I admit, I went with my sister to the Raleigh location just last week but I had to share this gem with all of my friends. Cowfish is a restaurant that combines burgers and sushi to make really creative and delicious dishes. You can get sushi that has burger components in it, burgers that have sushi components, or my favorite the bento box which lets you try a little of everything. I got a bento box with the firecracker roll, a vegetarian slider, edamame, pickle chips, and sweet potato fries.

After lunch we were all so stuffed that we went for a walk in a park near our hotel and then took a long nap. For a light dinner we went to the Crispy Crepe which was an adorable little spot for a savory crepe and some coffee to wake us up before returning to the Epicenter for another fun night. On Sunday we grabbed a quick brunch at the Toast Cafe and then got on the road to head back to Greensboro. 

I am looking forward to having a week without snow days and to watching the Super Bowl with the AHA community tonight.

19 January 14

the ketchup.

Things have been very busy at the Academy since we returned from winter break. Last weekend I took all of the girls in my house to see the movie Frozen which we all loved! This past week I led a Tu B’Shevat Seder and spent much of my time preparing for MLK Day of Service on Monday. We are offering 16 different tikkun olam projects to our students so we have been busy coordinating with all of the different organizations. This weekend was pleasantly dull. I had the weekend off but most of my friends were on duty so I stuck around campus and spent a lot of time at the gym.

I am looking forward to tomorrow’s community service work and to spending next weekend with my sister in Raleigh!

14 December 13

As winter break approaches, we are all experiencing the restlessness that ensues when we face unpleasant weather and long days with little sunlight. Since I have the weekend off I knew I had to get off campus.

I started out my day with a trip to a new bagel place in town that promised real New York style bagels. They did not disappoint! Abby and I both enjoyed our breakfast and then did a little candle shopping at Bath & Body Works.

Nathan and I spent the afternoon at the High Point Museum where they were having a candle dipping workshop. We sat, huddled around the fireplace in a log cabin with women in costume, while the rain poured down outside. It took some patience but we were able to make some hand-dipped candles. We then took a walk through the museum which had some interesting exhibits including some High Point history, furniture heritage, a model school bus, and some miniatures! I always enjoy looking at the carefully crafted miniature rooms from different time periods. 

After leaving the museum we stopped at the library on the way home to pick up some books. I re-joined the AHA community for Havdalah and dinner before settling in for the night with a new documentary.

I am looking forward to finishing teaching my unit on waste production and disposal this week in AP Environmental Science and then heading home for winter break!

8 December 13

A Lovely AHAnukkah

I spent the first four nights of Hanukkah at home with my family. The last four nights were very busy here at AHA. Our first night back, the fifth night of Hanukkah, we made our own sufganiyot in the hadar ochel. I am now a master of the deep fryer which beforehand I was terrified of. A couple of our teachers here at the Academy serenaded us with a Gershwin concert while we filled, fried, and enjoyed our sufganiyot.

On the sixth night of Hanukkah, we had a room full of tikkun olam projects. Students and staff gathered to wrap presents for a toy drive, make lasagnas for a women’s shelter, and make blankets for Project Linus, and organization that donates home made security blankets to children in need. It was so nice to see that this was our most popular Hanukkah celebration by far. 

Our seventh night at the Academy was spent with our individual houses. My house, Beit Yonim, spent the evening in our house parent’s living room enjoying some french fries from Sheetz while they watched Rugrats Chanukah. 

Our eighth night of Hanukkah was spent playing games in the Student Union. Every night we lit the Hanukkah candles as a community. There is something so special about filling a room with the light of 20 menorot and with our students who shine even brighter then the candles. 

With only two more weeks until winter break I am focusing on my AP Environmental Science class and the unit I am teaching on waste generation and disposal. Right now my students are literally carrying their waste on their backs as they have collection bags tied to their backpacks to investigate what kind of impact they have on the waste stream. 

I am looking forward to a little rest on this rainy Sunday and possibly a night out with my coworkers tonight. Shavua tov!

28 November 13
#Thanksgivukkah

#Thanksgivukkah

24 November 13
One week might not be enough time with this nugget #puppylove

One week might not be enough time with this nugget #puppylove

Tags: puppylove
Themed by Hunson. Originally by Josh