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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Stuff You Need to Know..

If you’re going to be reading my blog, it might be good to have you know a thing or two about me, just to make it a little more fun. This post was inspired by Marquis’post, over at Simply Clarke (which, by the way, is a sweet, sweet little blog that really brightens my day – you should definitely check it out!).

So without further ado, here’s some super interesting stuff about yours truly:

§  I am obsessed with flossing my teeth. Seriously, it’s like one of my favorite things.
§  Pitch Perfect is probably one of my top three favorite movies of all time. I've seen it way more times than I’d like to admit, and could probably quote the entire thing start to finish if pressed.
§  I am a middle child.
§  I am really interested in a lot of things (psychology, photography, cooking), but still haven’t found a passion.
§ My daddy (in the picture above) is the best person I have ever known. 
§  I keep my toenails short, literally as short as they can be. It totally grosses me out if I can feel my nail on top of my skin at all.
§  I hate working out on purpose, but adore things like long walks with the boyfriend, or dancing in my living room that give me a sneaky workout.
§  Red velvet is one of my favorite flavors. One of these days I’m going to make the perfect red velvet cupcake.
§  I’m a technical idiot. I have no idea how to do a blog design, how to do any kind of website coding, etc., so I’m just trying to figure it all out as I go along.
§  I have lived in four different states since I got my driver’s license, but have only ever gotten a license in two of them. Whoops.
§  My favorite beer is Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy, and I hate that it’s only a seasonal flavor.
§  I was homeschooled my whole entire life up until college.
§  I love being organized. Walking into places like The Container Store or Ikea gives me a huge thrill, just to think of all the possibilities.
§  Barnes and Noble is my happy place. I like small, neighborhood bookstores too, but there’s just something about the smell of B&N that calms my spirit every time.
§  I hate feet, I think they’re gross.
§  I can roll my tongue.
§  Football is my favorite sport to watch and I like the Chicago Bears and the Minnesota Vikings….even though they’re in the same division.
§  I like playing around with fonts.
§  I almost never wear makeup, and when I do, it’s pretty much only on my eyes, and only a little bit.
§  I am almost thirty and I still sleep with a stuff animal – an adorable puppy named Jake.
§  I have no sense of style whatsoever.
§  I love looking back at planners I’ve used and seeing how busy I was, and remembering all the things I did in a day.
§  I spent two months in the Philippines on a missions trip when I was in high school.
§  I love, love, love little babies.
§  Talking on the phone is one of my least favorite things.
§  F.R.I.E.N.D.S is my all-time favorite tv show.
§  I hate any kind of math beyond simple addition/subtraction/division/multiplication.
§  I love wearing hats, but I’m super particular about how my hair is styled underneath them.
§  When I was taking my driver’s test, I turned left when the instructor told me to turn right, because I can never remember which one’s which. I aced the test anyway.
§  I really like being tan, but am always nervous about tanning or laying out in the sun because there is skin cancer in my family, and it tends to be hereditary.
§  I’m a strong supporter of the US military, especially the Marine Corps and the Navy, since I have family and a lot of friends in both branches.
§  I like painting my own nails, but my right hand always ends up looking like a three year old did it, because I’m ridiculously non-ambidextrous.
§  I am really uncoordinated, and manage to scrape/cut/bruise myself all the time without even realizing it until much later.
§  My longest-lasting life dream is to tour Europe.

Now it’s your turn! Write your own post of things your readers should know about you, and then leave a link to it in the comments.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Buffalo Chicken Pasta Dinner

I'm in a bit of a transition/holding period in my life right now, and am staying with my wonderful brother and sister-in-law for the time being. Since they have been so gracious in opening their home to me, I wanted to cook them a nice dinner to thank them. I also just really like to cook, and I am excited to try new recipes and actually have people try them! 

Last night, I made a buffalo chicken pasta dish that I found on the blog What's Cooking in the Burbs. My brother has a pretty strong aversion to ranch, bleu cheese, sour cream, cream cheese...basically any kind of white, creamy food, so I was a little concerned that he wouldn't like the dish. But the buffalo flavor is a lot stronger than the bleu cheese flavor in the dish, so as it turned out, he really liked it! It was really quick and easy to put together, and would be a great all-in-one dinner dish for any busy family. 

Buffalo Chicken Pasta 

3-4 cooked chicken breasts, cut into chunks (I just used plain grilled chicken here)
16 oz pasta of your choice 
3 oz cream cheese
1 Cup Milk
1/2 Cup Shredded Cheddar Cheese (Plus additional 1/4 cup for topping)
2 Tbsp Blue Cheese Dressing (I used a new Buffalo Bleu Cheese dressing that I found....SOOO good!)
1/3 Cup Wing Sauce (I used Frank's Red Hot)
1/2 Cup Panko Bread Crumbs
1 tsp Garlic Powder
1/2 Tsp Salt
1/2 Tsp Pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cook pasta according to directions. In a medium sauce pot, over medium, heat add cream cheese and milk whisk until cream cheese is melted. Add garlic powder, salt, pepper, shredded cheddar, dressing, and wing sauce  Whisk until cheese is melted and ingredients are combined. Mixture will be thick but smooth.

Spray 9x13 dish and add pasta and chicken. Pour wing sauce mixture over it and mix until everything is coated. Top with additional grated cheese and panko. Bake 18 minutes or until cheese is brown and bubbling. Top with green onions or cilantro and additional wing sauce/dressing. Enjoy!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Summer Bucket List

I was reading one of my very favorite blogs a while ago, and was very inspired by Bethany’s commitment to creating a memorable summer.. So inspired, in fact, that I decided to copy her amazing idea and create a summer bucket list of my own. I had hoped to post this a couple of weeks ago, but then life got even more crazy than it already was, and blogging took a back seat. But, hey…better late than never, right??
Summer Bucket List – 2013
1.       Watch The Count of Monte Cristo. Also, finish reading the book if possible, but if not, at least get through the movie.
2.      Write more often – my blog, my personal journal, emails, etc.
3.      Take more pictures of everything. (This will involve finding my camera, which is currently packed somewhere in a storage unit in the desert southwest….. so I guess I’ll just do the best I can with my phone and go from there.)
4.      Visit a state and county fair.
5.      Go to a drive-in movie.
6.      Go to a country musical festival.
7.      Create a “Life Goals” list, with info about where I want to go with my life, and how I plan to get there. Could be published, or not.
8.      Write some poetry.
9.      Take a road trip and visit one of the restaurants featured on Restaurant: Impossible, or Man vs. Food.
10.     Write and submit a book proposal.
11.      Go to a food festival.
12.     Take a walk at least 4x per week.
13. Watch fireworks as often as possible.
There’s a good chance I will add to this list as time goes on, but this is all for now.

What’s on your summer bucket list?

Friday, April 12, 2013

5 Tips for Dealing with Stress

Stress: We all have it, right? Everybody faces difficult situations, whether personally or professionally, that make them tense up, make their heart rate increase, and increase cortisol production. I have been experiencing some extremely high-stress situations in my own life lately, with more stress than I have ever had to deal with at one time before, so Ive been forced to figure out a way to handle it without going stark raving crazy (even though just letting go and letting myself go crazy sounds awfully tempting sometimes). So far, though, I havent given in to the temptation, so I thought Id share some of the things Ive been doing that I have found helpful.

1.     Embrace it!
This sounds crazy, I know. Youre experiencing some really negative emotions, so why in the world would you want to embrace it? But what Ive found is that once you embrace the stress and decide youre going to deal with it, youll be able to hit the ground running in getting over it.

2.     Figure out exactly what youre facing.
This is arguably one of the most important parts of dealing with stress. After all, you cant start dealing with something unless you understand it, right? Take some time to figure out exactly what youre facing, and youll be that much more prepared for the unique frustrations each little part of the situation will bring you. Also, for women check to see where you are in your menstrual cycle, too. Knowing when youre might be more emotional than is normal for you is never a bad idea.

3.     Breathe. On purpose.
This is, hands down, one of the best ways to deal with frustration. Stop whatever youre doing and take ten deep breaths. Close your eyes, inhale through your nose, and feel your stomach and rib cage expand with the breath. It is amazing how much a difference this makes. Trust me.

4.     Get moving.
Try to get some exercise, even if its just a little bit. Go for a walk, do some yoga, do 25 jumping jacks in your living room, whatever. Get your blood moving a little bit, and youll feel better in no time.

5.     Party it out!
Okay, I will confess that I am guilty at times of shutting out those who are close to me when I am feeling stressed, which is basically the dumbest idea ever. Keeping busy, surrounding yourself with people who love and support you, and forcing yourself to take a break from your brain is a great way to help re-energize yourself for whatever youre facing. Youll be able to b*tch out your issue, or distract yourself from it for a while. Either way, its a win-win.

What are your best ideas for how to deal with stress in a healthy way? 


Confession: I am in love with Amazon. I spend a ridiculous flat out embarrassing amount of time on the site, browsing books, movies, clothes, cell phone accessories, Kindle accessories, bedding, and so on. Basically if it's sold on Amazon, there's a pretty strong chance I've wandered past it at some point.

My favorite part about Amazon is how easy it is to find books to read. I can browse off my own ideas, or look through the suggestions Amazon provides based on past purchases or product views. There are a ton of cheap or free books available to download as well either to a Kindle, or if you don't have a Kindle, a kindle app on a phone, or the Kindle cloud reader (which lets you read online). It's quite lovely and very easy to find. Make sure to check out the Top 100 Best Seller lists - they have one for paid, and one for free. Theoretically, one could stalk Amazon all day long, and spend their nights reading voraciously, and never spend a penny. Nifty, huh?

Sunday, April 7, 2013

My Top 5 Favorite iPhone Apps at the moment.

I am constantly on my phone. I use it for emailing, texting, reading, and playing. And since most people are like me, and have a phone glued to their hand for most of the day, I figured I’d share with you all my favorite applications that help me feel like I’m being productive and having fun all at the same time.

1.)     Instagram. I love it because a.) I get to see other people’s lovely photos without having to go through the nonsense that is a Facebook news feed, and b.) I get to post photos of great things and share them with people I love. And not only that, but because the app has all kinds of fun effects for photos, I get to pretend that I’m an awesome photographer. Which I’m totally not.

2.)     Breezy. Holy fantastic productivity, Batman. What is Breezy, you wonder? Well, I’m so glad you asked. Breezy is an application that connects with your home computer and allows you to print wirelessly to your computer at home from anywhere. Let’s say, for instance, that I am at work, and on my lunch break I get a really important email that I know I’ll need to deal with when I get home. Rather than using company resources to print out the email, or wait until I get home and then try to remember it, I can simply print the document from wherever I am using Breezy, and then it will be there waiting for me upon my return. It’s amazing and super easy to install, and basically the best thing ever. BONUS: This fantastic wonderfulness is available for Androids and BlackBerries too. Check it out. And seriously, you’re welcome.

3.)     Pinterest. I know, I know, this is predictable. But whatever dude, I don’t even care. I use Pinterest all the time to find recipes, book suggestions, blog help, clothing ideas, etc. I know anyone out there who has ever been on Pinterest knows exactly what I’m talking about, so I won’t keep going. Suffice to say that it’s basically one of my very favorite things in all of life.

4.)     The Kindle Reader. I am an avid reader. I’m that girl who always has a book in my purse, sometimes more than one, and I pull it out to read when I’m waiting at salons, doctor’s offices, etc. There have even been occasions on which I have pulled out a book to pass the time while waiting in line in the grocery store. Too much? Never. Anyway, the point here is that with the Kindle app, I can easily download all of the ebooks I have on my Kindle (or even purchase more), and all I have to carry around is my cell phone. No more lugging thick books around, no more worrying about losing bookmarks, etc. Now I can just whip out my phone and be transported to another world in two seconds.

5.)     Evernote. When I first started using Evernote, I was not all that impressed. It seemed like just another place to take notes, which I thought was unnecessary, since the iPhone already has a notes app. However, the beauty of Evernote is that the more you use it, the more useful it becomes. You can keep photos, notes, websites, tags, photos, and map pinpoints all in one handy spot. And it syncs your account across any devices you use, so you can use any computer or device to add stuff, and find it on all your other devices. AND you can search all your notes. It also has an option to take a photo of pages, so you can include entire pages in your notes. Handy? I think so.

Best part about all of these apps? They’re free. Heck yes.

What are your favorite apps? Leave me some suggestions! 

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Ramblings of the day...

I came across this article on the Psychology Today blog today. It really takes the topic of making a “to-don’t list” from my post this morning and goes further. The author’s encouragement that people dig into themselves to discover the reasons they do certain things. I think it’s true that when people do more of what they “want”, i.e. doing stuff for themselves and not because they feel like they’re supposed to, in the long run, they really are happier people. But that’s just my own opinion.

Sometimes in life I get ridiculously stressed out, and then I can’t eat or sleep. It’s really frustrating.

I used to get into a lot of different television shows. I would let myself get lost in the story lines, and would become really emotionally involved with the characters. These days, I don’t usually have the energy to do that, plus some of the shows that I used to like got boring to me. One show, however, that has never gotten boring, is Bones. No matter what happens in the episodes, I always end up learning something and walking away feeling smarter. I think that’s way better television than any of the stupid reality shows that exist today, except that I am obsessed with Food Network shows lately. Cupcake WarsChopped, and Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives are my three favorites, although I will generally choose Iron Chef over whatever other silly drivel might be on television when I’m watching, too.

I think psychology is beyond fascinating. I love trying to figure out how the brain works, what makes people tick, what makes people behave a certain way, how trauma early in life affects behavior later on, and so on and so forth. And speaking of psychology, human sexuality is also wildly intriguing to me. I’m planning to finish my bachelor’s in psychology, and I’ll get to take a Psychology of Sexuality course, and I am completely excited about it.

I wish I did more yoga. Obviously, that’s something that I can fix and just haven’t yet, but I like doing it, and I wish I had the time and money to go to classes all the time. I bet my joints would ache less, plus I’d have the added benefit of being a lot more flexible, and who doesn’t want that for themselves, right?!

I need to learn to organize my brain better. I think that would go a long way towards making me feel less stressed as a general rule. 

Making a "to-don't list"

I recently read this post and this response post (by the lovely and talented Bethany Grow – please do yourself a favor and check out Bethany's blog! She’s completely adorable and totally amazing.) and I found that the topic really resonated with me. As a middle child in a large family, I have spent my life comparing myself to others. Within my immediate family alone, there are musical prodigies, academic overachievers, inventors, Marines, philosophers, bakers, etc. I have always struggled with trying to measure up to their levels, completely forgetting the fact that I am a different person, and therefore have different strengths and weaknesses.

This constant comparison to others, while sometimes inspiring and motivating, is more often than not just completely exhausting. And I’m realizing that I’ve spent so much time thinking about all the ways that other people are better than I am that I have lost sight of the ways in which I am amazing in my own right. So after reading the two posts above, I decided I’m going to make my own list of things that I don’t have to do, and I’m going to release myself to be okay with that.

So…*big deep breath*….here’s my “to-don’t list”, at least as it stands right now.

-          I am going to stop feeling bad about being not stylish and cute ALL THE FREAKING TIME. I will accept the fact that sometimes, especially with my life at the moment, just getting out of bed and changing out of pajamas is enough, and I will not beat myself up over the fact that my hair may not won’t be perfect and I may not even have on any makeup.

-          I will not try to make lists of everything in the world, especially to-do lists. I wish I could be a lister, because it is always so calming and centering when I do it, but more often than not, I forget about it, and then even when I do make to-do lists, I end up feeling silly about what I put on it for some reason, which is just ludicrous, but true, all the same. I will still continue to make lists as often as I am able, but I will not force myself to do it just for the sake of doing it, and I will stop feeling silly about things that I put on my lists, since they’re not for anyone but me, anyway.

-          I will stop trying to turn myself into a runner. I hate running. I always have. It hurts every single part of my body, and not just while I’m running, either, but for days afterwards. It’s everything I hate about trying to be fit and healthy. So instead of pressuring myself to become a runner, I will endeavor to simply go on more walks, or swim more often, and call it a day.

-          I will accept the fact that I am not an amazing baker and cake decorator…yet. Every time I bake, I always end up feeling terrible that my cupcakes don’t look like the professional ones on shows like Cupcake Wars or something, and I get all disheartened for a while. I am going to accept that I am a beginner, that I am teaching myself everything, and that it will take time for me to get good. And in the meantime, I’ll just enjoy the taste of the cupcakes, and not worry so much about the look of them.
-          I will stop telling people that I will call them. I hate talking on the phone, and that is okay. I will  instead respond to people via email, since that’s so much more comfortable for me, and I will stop telling myself that I need to just buck up and deal with phone conversations because everyone else is so good at them.

There are a lot more things that I probably should be adding to this list. However, the last thing on the list is that I will accept that I am a work in progress. I will not be able to become immediately good at all the things I would like to do just for myself, just as I will not be able to snap my fingers and immediately be able to let go of everything that has been in my head for the last twenty-five years.  I would encourage anyone to put some serious thought towards making a list like this for themselves, and freeing themselves from unnecessary pressure to be something or someone they are not, just because someone else does it so well. Oscar Wilde said it best – “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.”

What are some things you would put on your “to-don’t list”?

Friday, April 5, 2013

Five ways to get everything done, but still enjoy college (and life in general)

You know how it is… You have a full class schedule, a part-time job, enough homework to make you positive your professors think you live for the sole purpose of doing work outside of their class, a demanding social schedule, and sports practice/yearbook committee/student government meetings to go to. And as if all of those things wouldn't take up thirty-five hours a day just by themselves, somehow you’re also supposed to sleep, call your parents, check Facebook, get in a workout, eat, and take showers. AND you have to pack all of that into a measly not-even-close-to-enough-time twenty-four hours. How in the world do you do that?

Step One: Get Organized
One of my mother’s favorite sayings, and one I heard often while I was growing up, is “Plan your work, and work your plan.” Make a list of all the things you know you need to get done in a given amount of time, like a day, week, or month. I personally prefer to make daily lists, otherwise I forget things (although truth be told, sometimes I forget to make lists, too), but figure out a time frame that makes sense to you and go with that. Not only will it help you remember all the stuff that needs to get done, but you’ll get a great energy boost and sense of accomplishment every time you check off a task. 

Step Two: Schedule Your Life
Looking down the barrel of a really full week can be more than a little bit daunting. A perfect way to manage the stress of that is to schedule your days constructively. Get a planner and write down everything, even the little things. Schedule in a set number of hours each day to spend on homework. Set a reminder in your phone for your workouts, and stick to it. Schedule in time to shower and get ready to leave, to spend time reading for fun or watching TV, or to meet a friend for coffee. Find a routine that works for you to get everything done and keep it up. You’ll find yourself being much more productive than if you spend your time just flying by the seat of your pants.

Step Three: Learn How to Study Effectively
If you don’t know already, figure out what method of studying helps you learn best, whether it’s recording the lectures and listening to them later on your iPod, taking copious notes, reading and re-reading the course materials, etc. Make sure that you keep up to date on homework assignments. Know what’s due, what’s coming up, and how much time you’ll need to spend in a week reading and writing. This blog post has some really excellent ideas for ways to make sure you stay on top of your homework assignments. I took a lot of her suggestions and adapted them for my own use, and it’s been incredibly helpful.

Step Four: Keep Your Eye on the Prize
While you’re busy stressing out about midterms, practices, money, significant others, and life in general, it is easy to get bogged down by the little day-to-day details. Don’t let yourself get so drained by the little things that you forget the bigger picture. I created a poster of my long term career goals to help me keep them in mind when I’m stressed out and ready to quit. It’s nothing special, just the word of my chosen career with off-shoot words of why I’ve chosen it. When I’m feeling exhausted, or frustrated from studying, I pull it out and think through all the reasons why the long-term payoff is worth the short-term frustration. Find something that will help you refocus on your goals, and go back to that whenever you start to feel the burn.

Step Five: Don’t Forget How to Have Fun
In all of the craziness that is college, make sure you take time out every day, or at least a couple of times a week, to just relax and have some fun. That can come in whatever form you want, be it a party, dinner with friends, watching TV by yourself, etc.  In order to keep your sanity, and enough mental energy to focus on classes and everything else you have going on, you need to allow yourself break times. Take the time necessary to relax, regroup, and refocus your brain. You’ll be a lot more productive, and have a lot more fun while you’re doing it.
Making sure that you have a great college experience while still getting a quality education can seem a difficult task, but with a few simple changes to help with scheduling and organization, it becomes a much more manageable proposition.

Do you have any tips or tricks for time management that you use already and know work well?