DIY Project: Canvas Map Art

*PHEW* I am on that DIY rampage. But this one is very special and close to my heart.


Believe it or not, I have been waiting to do this project for months. This is actually an original project of mine inspired by the 3 cities I have been traveling between for family and school for the past 5 years in college. The idea came to me back in March when I initially graduated while I was brainstorming for decorations for my then-hypothetical new apartment.

Concept & Sketch

As most of my projects, the idea was set into motion with a sketch. I knew I wanted to make 3 pieces of artwork on canvases for each of the following cities: New York City, Philadelphia, and Washington DC. I also knew that I had subway maps from each city that I usually hung on my walls like posters. However, I wanted to incorporated these maps into the the art. What I decided was to make each canvas display the nickname of each city using their respective maps.

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Figure 1. It all started with a sketch.

Here are the nicknames if you cannot read them on the sketch. The word in quotations is represented by the map in the shape of an image.

  • Philadelphia aka City of Brotherly “LOVE”
  • New York City aka The Big “Apple”
  • Washington, DC aka The Capital of the “World”


  • Maps of Philly, NYC, and DC
  • Ruler
  • Scissors
  • Pencil
  • Acrylic paints
  • Sponge brushes
  • Mod podge
  • 8 x 10 flat canvases
  • Sticker stencils (for the words)

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Figure 2. My materials all ready to be used.

Methods & Procedures

For each canvas, I painted the background two tones for a distressed look. After stenciling the words onto the canvases, I Googled silhouettes of each picture I wanted to trace out and cut from each of the maps.


Figure 3. This is the image I used for the NYC canvas art.

I used Mod Podge to attach the cut outs of the maps and seal the entire canvas for a slight gloss.

Final Results


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[Click the thumbnails for close ups of each piece of art!]

I think my favorite one is Philadelphia, though I am pretty happy with all three of them as a whole!  Sidenote: I stained some newspaper with water and acrylic blue paint for a texturized ocean! Also, I splotched on some silver paint so that it looks like it has stars.

They now happily hang in my living room where I look at them every day and think about these three very important cities and the people who I love that live in them!

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Hope this serves as inspiration for others to do their own map art! 😀


My Love Letter to Philadelphia

Note: This love letter was inspired by my Criminal Justice class about Cities and Crime. While that doesn’t sound like a positive inspiration, it’s really insightful about what defines a city and what makes one work well and be enjoyable for its public.

Dear Philadelphia,

To my darling ‘illy Philly, “Filthadelphia,” named ironically the “City of Brotherly Love.” We have been together for about 5 years now, and wow what a journey it has been. When I left the big and glamorous New York City after high school, I thought I was down-grading to a smaller sized, wanna-be NYC, nothing super spectacular Philadelphia. But I was wrong to judge you. I was wrong to underestimate how amazing the setting you would paint for me to have my college years in. In you, I grew from a naive and cocky teenager to a humbled adult with a more open mind to possibilities. You have truly shown me what it means to look beyond the tip of the iceberg.

Tip of the Iceberg

Firstly, you made me appreciate my beloved New York City. NYC will always have a great place in my heart because it is my home. It is the place that I grew up, immersed in a plethora of cultures. Here I gained a certain confidence that only NYers can carry just right. However, I never truly appreciated how great NY was until I left it. For then, I became a tourist in my own home city. I shared my bustling world of intricate subway systems, glorious museums, and street foods and fairs with people from the outside world. I realized that the mentality I have: fast and furious, efficient,and intolerant of bullshit was a NYer thang. Being a New Yorker is one of the many flavors that makes up who I am, and Philly if it wasn’t for you I would have never fully realized what that meant.


But you Philly, you give me true balls. When I moved to you, I learned that NYC may be the greatest city in the world, but it is not the only place to live. There is greatness beyond the Big Apple, even if people refuse to believe it. Philly you taught me to slow down (just a tad bit), enough to not be caught up the in craziness of things constantly happening. I get to choose city events to go to, not feel forced to go because that’s what everyone else is doing. Because of this I learned to cook, clean, bake, sew, truly explore these beloved hobbies of mine to another level. I was able to find opportunities to find new hobbies, volunteer at places, like a city hospital or natural museum, that would have been impossible or too competitive to get in NY.

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Photo from my phone of a 76ers vs. Celts game!

And for the times I did want to go out, as a broke-ass college student I had options. Watching professional NBA games can cause just $20 instead of $80 for nose bleed seats.It’s never too crowded to watch a tree lighting ceremony in between classes. The city is so small, it doesn’t take very long (or much money) to get from Penn’s Landing by the water all the way to my old apartment at the edge of West Philly. Cost of living wasn’t so bad that I didn’t have to work more than a 2 jobs at a time 😉

And the people. Oh dear God the people. The range of people is huge in NY, but in Philly it’s a whole different type of range. Though there are a many shady characters and questionable lurkers of Philly (mostly yelling at odd hours of the night for no reason as I studied in my room), I have also had to chance to engage with some amazing and brilliant people. There is also a never ending spring of future talent in this city that never ceases to amaze me as I meet younger students. Most importantly Philly, you gave me the chance to meet some of the greatest friends I could have ever had. I don’t even think I could have possibly dreamed of better friends who love me more.

Philly you gave me the inspiration to take risks. To walk in the streets with a certain walk, kind of like that gangster walk Jax does from the show “Sons of Anarchy.”

sons of anarchy

No matter how tiny I am, I refuse to look intimated in any situation.  I truly grew street smart in since events like muggings, robberies, and gunshots are very real here (as evident by my own almost-mugged situation). I used to dismiss and dislike the rap and the hip hop cultures, but how can you not give it a chance when you hear it blasting in the streets, young kids dancing around in the parks and hanging out to it. The list goes on how you changed me, how you made me realize see that I was truly unaware of even my own close-mindedness.

So Philly, I guess I’m saying thank you. Thank you for everything you have provided me. Thank you for changing and impacting the way I view things in my life. I will  never forget coming back from a 76ers game and seeing a tee-shirt saying “Yea, Philly stinks! It’s because we are the shit!” It’s true blue Philly fashion right there. You are the absolute shit in your own cool way Philadelphia, don’t ever let other cities bully you into thinking otherwise.

And to you specifically University City, Philadelphia where Drexel campus sits: I know that when I leave and come back one day you will be virtually unrecognizable. But I am glad I was here during such a progressive time where the campus is being reconstructed for a better campus life in the future (though man is it annoying to walk around to get to classes). Although this new sleek, shiny, modern design of glass and towering buildings will probably dominate the area after I leave, I hope you continue to inspire your students to go beyond the barriers of comfort.


I wish I never had to go elsewhere some days, Christal

Visiting the Museum of Mathematics, NYC

In June 2011, I mentioned that  Manhattan will be opening up a Museum of Mathematics (MoMath). On December 15, 2012, the museum opened it’s doors to the public for the first time to allow visitors to experience the 2 floor facility, filled with 30+ completely interactive exhibits. Located downtown on 26th street, the museum is pretty accessible by the subway, including the R train.

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Figure 1. The adorable and colorful entrance for MoMath .The handles are a “pi” symbol, but when you separate the doors one of the signs turns into a “tao” symbol (as pointed out by Kirsten).

Being a museum lover, I couldn’t pass the opportunity of seeing this museum before leaving NY for winter break. I had the pleasure of going with Scott and Kirsten (who absolutely adores math and its many forms), and I had tons of fun.

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Figure 2. Kirsten & Scott posing cutely in front of the String Theory exhibit piece by the stairs

Although geared for young children, the exhibits did a good job of having many interesting features that entertained me even though I am well above the age of a child, and math isn’t one of my favorite subjects.

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Figure 3. MoMath’s window display of their gift shop.

I want to go through some highlights of what we saw, however, I don’t want to ruin all the exhibits for you. Please go to the MoMath website for more information.

Museum Exhibit Highlights:

1) The Hyperhyperboloid

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Figure 4. The hyperboloid chair! You can spin it around and change the conformation of the strings.

This is one of the first things you see when you walk in and badge up into MoMath. I really love the way it looks!

2) The Square Wheeled Tricycle

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Figure 5. Scott on the tricycle going around a circular path!

This thing was so cool! Both Scott and Kirsten gave it a whirl! I wanted to try, but ended up chickening out because I have a fear of driving vehicles it seems. Interesting fact that Kirsten told me is that this thing is has one wheel is smaller making it impossible to fly off the track.

3) The Math Square

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Figure 6a., 6b. Information panel about Math Square and actual Math Square game in action.

The Math Square is a floor computer screen which projects different interactive games. At one point, the Math Square formed a giant dot under anyone standing on it and connected the dots with a line. In the image seen above, the Math Square provides a puzzle game where you have to move the red square to the target green square by standing behind it.

4) Musical Piece

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Figure 7a., 7b. A musical exhibit piece. When you touch 1 ball, you change the color of that ball and it plays a tune. This subsequently changes the colors and chords of the surrounding balls connected to it.

I cannot remember for the life of me the name of this piece, but it was definitely one of the more colorful and lively pieces. I could definitely see kids smacking this all day and having a great time.

5) 3D Tetris

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Figure 8. Scott and Kirsten trying to make a perfect cube with the 3D pillow pieces.

A simple concept, but really cute and comfy. I kind of want a set for my next apartment.

6) Enigma Cafe

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Figure 9. A small section of the downstairs floor is dedicated to workstations and puzzles for solving. The computer screens provide instructions, hints, and solutions if you get frustrated.

7) Tree of Life

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Figure 10a., 10b. Scott and Kirsten in tree form!

This had to be our most favorite part of the museum: THE TREE OF LIFE! Essentially, a camera captures a video image of you and creates factorials of yourself aka tiny versions of you branching out. There was a combine option, but it got too crowded to take a pic 😦

8) Tesseracts Magnet Wall

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Figure 11a., 11b., 11c. Scott and Kirsten playing around with tesseract magnets. Some were more traditional polygonal shapes, but there were also monkey, rabbit, and dino ones!

Arguably my favorite museum exhibit. I wanted to buy the magnets so badly! but 1) they didn’t have the dinosaur ones for sale (I can’t believe I don’t have a photo) 2) a set of monkeys is $35! Far too much for post holiday student budget. Plus its no fun to buy 1 magnet only because the fun in tesseracts is fitting them all together!


I’m really glad I went! Most museums I attend are science and history ones, so it was nice to see a math museum for a change. I definitely learned a lot, and special thanks to Kirsten for helping me understand the concept behind many exhibits! Thanks to Scott to for the company! And thanks to both for rewarding my day full of math with a lil bit of science.

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Figure 12. A white blood cell and nerve cell to add to my Giant Microbes collection!

Hope you enjoyed this museum review! Please visit MoMath if you so happen to be in downtown NYC! It is the only math museum in the USA to date, so don’t miss out on this exclusive! Also, if you are interested in math or education, this is a great museum to volunteer at because it is completely interactive! This opens up great opportunity to talk with visitors and inform the masses!

[Note: I also want to mention, working at the Academy of Natural Sciences before, I know that interactive exhibits commonly are not fully working during the first couple of weeks of premiering. When we went on January 3rd, there were many features at MoMath that were being fixed due to maintenance  troubleshooting, or missing due to arrival delays. While upsetting that the museum is not “complete” yet, don’t let that be a negative reflection on MoMath since it happens to all interactive, children’s museums. Just take it as a sign to spend more time to appreciate each and every exhibit available at the time.]

Spellbound Dance Troupe

As I may have mentioned before, I am currently taking Jazz Technique I as an elective. One of the requirements is to attend a dance performance and write a review on it. I was going to go into the mechanics of dance and balance, but I figure I might as well write mention the review here first.


On Friday, November 16, Naomi and I attended the evening show at the Annenberg Center on UPenn’s campus. As part Center’s Dance Celebration, this weekend an Italian dance troupe, “Spellbound” came to perform at the theater. As a first time viewer of a live, professional contemporary dance troupe performance, I really had no idea what to expect. The venue was larger than I expected; very grand looking with a dramatic curtain and a big, open stage. The troupe performed 3 dance pieces in the following order: Lost for Words Part I, Downshifting, and Lost for Words Part II.

The performance as a whole is very abstract and deep, not exactly a happy or light-hearted performance. After trying to keep an open mind, I surprisingly loved it nonetheless! Here is a clip of one of my favorite segments, though I highly recommend seeing it live to really get the full experience.


Review of Performance

The scenery and costumes were minimalistic, which really emphasized how athletically capable these dancers are. The lighting created shadows that emphasized the musculature of the dancers and the incredible amount of control they had over their bodies. The atmosphere of the stage changes between each piece, transitioning from dark confusion to complex, eclectic harmony, and finally resolution at the end.

The audience is guided through a series of emotions through the reaction to the dancers. In the beginning, the quick, intense, and raw movements of the dancers were jarring, abrupt, and distorted though blended with movements that showed such great flexibility, adding tension and drama to the stage. In contrast, the second segment had a different energy to it; although the dancers moved in different ways but all at the same time, it seemed almost harmonious. It was like watching cogs spin inside a clock: very complex, many components, but all necessary for the dance.

My most favorite part was at the very end of the performance in Lost for Word Part II, when one woman acts like an interpreter to the rest of the troupe who are acting like puppets. She guides them in how to move/communicate and although they all have their own ways of showing what they feel, they all come to the same conclusion without realizing it, ending the performance in a positive, tension-relieved atmosphere.

Audience Reaction

I know that a small section of the audience (namely people behind me talking) felt disgusted and creeped out by the performance. However, I think that the majority of the audience felt amazed and in awe of the complexity and uniqueness of the dances we were watching, as evident by the strong applause and yelling at the end of each segment.

Overall Experience

I was so impressed with the dancers, however! With nothing but their bodies and faces, they were able to instill feelings in me without having an obvious linear story or painting a theme for me. Instead, their movements inspired me to create my own feelings and reactions, which made me feel like I was participating during the performance. Overall, a very wonderful experience that makes me want to attend more performances like this.

Naomi and I even stayed after to listen to the Q&A with the dancers and the director because we were so intrigued. It was also nice to see the performers break character and smile and laugh like normal people. Though their ages range from 17-32, they are all gorgeous, talented, and amazing at what they do. Such a steal considering it was only $10 with student ID for front row tickets!

How Do Hurricanes Form?

Since Hurricane Sandy’s presence did me a kindness and extended studying time for my Neuro midterm, I thought it appropriate to blog about this topic.

According to a NASA website, one thing that defines the difference between tropical storms and tropical cycolones is the wind speed they achieve. Hurricane Sandy is considered a Category 1 tropical cyclone, meaning it will  have winds rotating at 74-95 mph. The title “hurricane” is given to cyclones that are specifically developed over the Atlantic Ocean or eastern Pacific Ocean.

Hurricanes need a source of water and warm, moist air to form. This air rises when it is warmed by the water and sinks when it is cooled so that it can be warmed again. This creates low air pressure. Surrounding areas that have higher air pressures will go towards the low air pressure and become a part of the warming-cooling cycle. This makes the air spin and also creates clouds around it. And viola, a hurricane!

The hurricane will continue to grow larger as long as it is being fed by the ocean’s heat. This is why when hurricanes hit land, away from their water source, they tend to become weaker very rapidly (most of the time anyway).

Here’s another short and informative video showing how hurricanes form.

Tips for Hurricane “Survival”:

So everyone stay safe!

  1. Keep bottled or filtered water
  2. Stock on non-perishable foods
  3. Keep electronics charged
  4. Keep a flashlight handy
  5. Make sure to close your storm windows if you got them
  6. Don’t go outside for a while!


Start of Senior Year & Fogo de Chao

I like to procrastinate. Every time I come back from coop, I always think I will come back to school with new found rigor for a strict study regime. Alas, it is not so. I like my breaks too much.

So, I’m in my Senior year, and let me tell you, the weeks are rolling by quite quickly.

My classes are going pretty smoothly, considering I’m taking a super light term (finally after 4 years of non-stop, packed classes). Jazz Technique I is by far the hardest class I have ever taken. I knew I was rhythmically challenged, but wow. I’m having fun, however, with the degree of challenge and movement. Other than that, I am taking Psych 101 with a bunch of freshmen for one of my electives, Principles of Toxicology I online for another elective, and Bio of Neuron Structure & Function for funsies. There is also a Senior bio project due before graduation, but considering I just met my other group members and haven’t really started research on anything, not much to report there. I’m excited that we have the chance to create a novel paper in our field (hypothetical paper, of course. It won’t be published, but should model how published papers are).

I’m still hobbling back and forth between Philly and Camden to work at the Plasma lab as a work study. Sadly, my time sheets are still not working, so I can barely afford to pay for the transportation haha. Good thing we have shuttles running to main at the end of the day. My experiments for a research poster I’m working on with my lab partner from UMaryland are at a bit of a standstill until I find the right power equipment and supplies. In the meantime, I’m looking up aquarium stuff…more on that later.

As for post-graduation plans, the ball has already been set in motion! I’ve attended the Fall career fair. I think I had a really positive turn out this time around as compared to when I went in the Spring fair looking for internships. Full-time seeking companies are much more receptive, surprisingly. I got a phone interview some time this month with one company, which I’m really excited about. I wonder where that will take me. Of course, I’m also still reaching out to previous employers and such.

My roomies are in their own stressful times. One is done with her break after her  bachelors graduation and in  a path to medical school program until May. The other is done with her bachelors, too, and is taking the GREs in the upcoming weeks during her mini-break and working part time. It’s weird because the three of us are no longer all worried about just classes and jobs. It’s now stuff that is gearing us up for the real world, and it’s kinda scary. At least good company helps dissipate difficult times.

So how has my term been going so far besides that? Well I got a lovely visit from John and his Egan 2 weeks ago. I’ve really missed John since he’s gone and graduated away from Philly, so it was good to see him again.

Also, Aniket’s 23rd birthday passed! I never have the heart to post the cards I make for him, but rest assured my creative prowess really hit the jackpot this year with a Michael Jordan/Chicago Bulls theme. Although, I think what made him happiest was dinner.

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Since it was Restaurant Week here in Philly, all fancy food places reduced lunches to $20 per person and dinners to $35 per person. Fogo de Chao is an all you can eat Brazilian steak house. It’s usually about $52 per head for dinner, so we decided to into Center City during Restaurant Week to try it out. I’ve been wanting to go since Freshman year, but I had no occasion or a person interested to go with until now.

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Fogo de Chao is definitely a top quality eating establishment. There is a “salad bar” also all you can eat with a great selection of veggies, cheeses, and breads. I was so happy they had artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes, and prosciutto! The meal also comes with cheese biscuits, plantains, and cheesy mash potatoes on the side that are delivered straight form the kitchen to the table.

More importantly, the main dish meats were AMAZING. Truly some of the best meat I have ever eaten. While the chicken and pork pieces were good, all the steaks were perfection. Here are some of the types of food they had, such as bacon wrapped filet mignon and Parmesan crusted pork.

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The way the restaurant works is that you get a card. One side is green, which means that you want to be approached by a chef. Each chef carries a different cut of meat on a skewer that has either medium rare, medium, or well done. The chef will ask if you want a piece, and will slice it to your serving plate.

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You can continue this process for as long as your card is green. When you are satisfied and do not want any more meat deliver  simply turn your card to the red side. This will alert the chefs not to approach you. Of course you are still hungry, feel free to flip over to the green again.

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And if that’s not enough, you also have a choice of dessert! Since it was Aniket’s birthday, I asked if they could write something on his plate. All in all, for $35 per person, this entire feast was a steal. If you have a Restaurant or discount for Fogo de Chao, definitely go for it! Though, as a college student, this is the last time I will be going for a long while.

Btw, I’m sorry I didn’t take any photos of the food myself. I was so overwhelmed by everything! But here is a photo of Aniket at least. You might not be able to tell, but he’s full and happy.

Actually, lucky for him, I also made his birthday Oreo Toblerone Caramel Ferrero Rocher Cheesecake again this year.

All in all, I hope it’s a good start to this school year.

“How To Train Your Dragon” Live Spectacular!

As it may or may not surprise you, I can be a child at  heart. I love all things Disney, fairy tales, fables, and stories galore. Lucky for me, I have found friends who share this same love. So when my roomie Megan almost fell out of her seat telling me that a live action show of DreamWorks “How to Train Your Dragon” was coming to Philadelphia, I knew we had to get tickets.

If you are unfamiliar with the movie and/or book series, the premise of the story is that the main character, Hiccup, is from a Viking tribe that defends their village from daily attacks from dragons. While trying to prove himself to his village, Hiccup captures and maims one of the most fearsome dragons in the land, eventually gaining its friendship and trust. Of course this causes a whole lot of conflict.

The live action version pretty much follows the same storyline as the original, including some of the beautiful music pieces. However, I was so amazed how a few lights, props, and great athletic actors and actresses can make an empty stage come to life. Here is a picture before the show started. It  shows the DreamWorks logo and a starry background.

I can’t even explain how wonderfully the lights and projections created amazing scenery and as sense of movement for the audience. Even as an adult, I couldn’t help but say “whoa!” sometimes!

Of course I don’t want to ruin the entire show, so I won’t post any more photos. However, the main highlight of the show was the dragons of course! They were too large for life! No picture (well at least not from an Ipod or without flash) could capture the crazy details of the dragons. The makers of the show were also from the “Walking with Dinosaurs” series, which I am now convinced I must see one day with my future nieces and nephews. As you would imagine, the mechanics behind the movement of these dragons, both walking flying, were fascinating.

So if there are any special kiddies in your life, or would like to treat someone who is also young at heart, I highly recommend this adventurous show if its coming to an area near you!