29 December 2009

Making monkey bread is a tradition in my family on Christmas morning. My sister and I have been making it the past three years. Its a delicious cinnamon sugar bread. YUM!

Here is the recipe we used. Its not exactly the same as moms but its DELICIOUS.

Hello Again!

26 December 2009

I apologize for my short hiatus but I've been away from computers for a fair while now. I've already had two weeks of vacation from college and its incredible how quickly the days fly by! The first week consisted mostly of meeting up with friends from home and packing for my research trip. The second week was the research trip. I came back to my hometown on Wednesday and still had some holiday shopping to do! Of course the next two days were spent celebrating the holidays with family!

I'll certainly put up some more stories and photos from the research trip in Alabama, Christmas Eve, and Christmas but I am currently at my boyfriend's house after the holidays and must be getting back to the little luxuries in life. I just wanted to let you know that I am still alive and well and will be updating you soon!

The Best of Times

15 December 2009

Its always amazing that after learning so much about someone and spending so much time with them that you can still be so fulfilled by their company. It makes sense that you would get close because of that but its always been fun for me to form new relationships. My absolute favorite times though are spent with the people who know me the best and who I can relax in front of and maybe just watch tv. Instead of fighting to find something to do we can just be. Granted, I often finding myself itching to DO something or when I don't know someone very well I tend to "fill the void" in conversations. Yet, having some people in my life who seem to radiate a certain warmth around me (well, as Chandler would say) thats perfection.

Even though I don't particularly enjoy being at my hometown, well, if it's where my friends are then it is home. Similar to someone else's story.... Ok, not nearly so dramatic but I think I would put the same price on my friends. They are what make my home.

Img from: pocandpoch

The best part for me is that I know I'm able to look forward to two years of living with them. Only in college do you get to live with your best friends of all time and have it be completely accepted. After college life moves onto carrers, individuals, families, etc. For now though, I can appreciate the time I have which allows me to feel such a warmth and happiness when I'm surrounded by that love. Its so pure and it touches me in ways that I can't put into words. I am certainly lucky.

I hope everyone gets to spend some time connecting (or reconnecting) with their friends during this holiday season!

Gingerbread Houses

13 December 2009

There are so many things that I wanted to post about today but I decided to go with this one because it reminds me of all my Christmases at home when growing up. Its practically tradition to have a gingerbread house now. I made this one with my boyfriend, his brother, and his brother's girlfriend. Its not exactly like the one on the box....but its works well enough.

Hope everyone is getting in the holiday spirit!


12 December 2009

I'm very glad I went to check the SPCA volunteer list today because there was no one signed up for either cats or dogs for the 2 o'clock shift. I held cats for half an hour although not many....

This guy (Billy Bob) is my favorite!!

He had his "motor" going. He was purring up a storm and he was loud.

Then I switched to Dog Socializing because they really need more room and exercise than cats do so I headed over to their kennels. I took out three dogs.

One was a beagle and he was sweet but kept wanting to go back to places he'd been instead of walking around the shelter.

The second dog was my favorite of the day. Her name is Dutchess and she is Big Old Sweetie.

This is her.

This picture does her no justice. She is beautiful and fun to pet plus she "walks" like a pro. This may be confusing if you're not familiar with walking dogs or have had the same dog for a long time but she will walk beside or slightly in front of you but doesn't get in your way and she'll stop to let you pet her any time you want. I wish I had room for her in my apartment because she is so precious.

The third dog I walked already has an adoption pending which is great although that dog sure gave me a workout! I had my hand through the hole in the leash and then wrapped it around two more times just to make sure he didn't get away. What a fighter! Don't get me wrong, they're all sweethearts but he just has a lot of energy.

As I said, I'm really glad that I got in today because there were so few volunteers there. Without the college students coming in the SPCA lacks some extra help. I strongly recommend asking your local SPCA if they allow volunteers to come in and work with the animals, its more of a stress relief than anything yet it makes a huge difference to the pets!

As always, spay and neuter your pets!

Morning at the Market

I have succeeded in several things so far this weekend I'm happy to say! The above picture was taken while driving to the Farmer's Market downtown, what a stunning blue sky! I had both hands on the wheel, just one finger was up on the shutter release button, promise.

Ok, one hand was on the camera for this picture. Thats the main building on my college campus and as I passed the Quad I decided to try and capture it on film. I count this as success.

The farm market has its own shelter and commences on Saturday mornings. I've been to the location before but never on a Saturday morning (that poses a challenge as a college student). Its a beautiful location and right downtown with all the other quaint shops. As you'll hear later... it is also fortunately close to a bank!

Thats a picture from one end of the farmers market although its impossible to capture on film: smiles on everyone's faces despite the chill, handmade gifts, locally grown foods, and carolers.... What a joyous place to be! I like the idea of "locally grown" as well and items were not overpriced! There were a few things that cost more than in the store (such as cheese) but it has a whole different look and texture to it as well; you're paying for a different product.

You can see the different items I ended up buying here and I noticed a color scheme going on when I took the photo. In the pretty (handmade!) bag is the gift for my sister so I won't go into detail here... There is locally grown and hand-picked tea in the left bag which is peppermint flavored. Yum! On the right is the Apple Cider Cinnamon Jelly which I thought would be a unique new flavor to try. I'll have to take it home and try it on some baguette bread over winter break. Down in front there is a loaf of Vanilla Bean Bread and an Alegria Bar. I was skeptical about the Alegria Bar at first because I thought it was bird seed when I first saw it. Apparently its a treat in South America and the man who was selling at the stand had a box to sample from saying "its similar to popcorn". Sure enough, it is! There is also some honey and lemon mixed in so it makes for a tasty, healthy snack.

Thats a picture of the Vanilla Bean Loaf. The name was so enticing that I had to cut up a slice for myself as soon as I got back to the apartment. The loaf was $4 and I will be buying a loaf every time I go back to the market. It was absolutely delicious. It was so sweet that it reminded me of a sugar cookie! Oh yum! Even now I'm craving some and I'm using all my willpower to keep from temptation.

This coaster set was the last item I bought (I actually had to run to the bank to get some more cash for the Peppermint Tea and this set - good thing all the businesses are so close downtown!). There was a man and his wife at a stand from whom I had already bought an item and they had some wonderful pictures for sale as well all of which were taken on the farm they live on. This coaster set has the same barns on each coaster but at different times of the day and the year. The one on display in this picture is the sunset from this past Monday morning! Beautiful isn't it? I highly doubt that its edited at all because they were very low resolution and the couple seemed to appreciate things for their natural beauty. I set them out in the apartment to remind me of the beauty of the Shenandoah Valley here in Virginia.

All in all I stumbled across some wonderful finds and I wish it wasn't the last Saturday I am here for a month! I will most certainly be heading back to the market in the months to come.

Weekend Plans

11 December 2009

I am going to use this free weekend to my advantage. I'm already making plans for how to stay comfy, cozy, and happy from now through Sunday! Here are some of my plans:

Visit a thrift store and find something unique and fun for under $10.

Pet some puppies and kitties.

Go on a walk and take pictures.

Paint my nails.

Head downtown and explore the shops (this may satisfy the walk/picture goal).

Explore the farmers market and pick out at least two new foods to try this weekend.

Browse a bookstore.

Have a Harry Potter Marathon (consisting of A Very Potter Musical, the Half-Blood Prince movie, and the novels).

Run through old 30 Rock episodes.

Img from: KJ

Treat myself to a drink that will warm me up (perhaps pot of warm tea or a chai latte??)

Work on my Christmas letter.

Lastly...work on a creative journal.

Img from: Written Down

Ok, so maybe I'm not that good at creative journaling but its fun and I love getting my thoughts out. Its hard to be creative while blogging though for me because I love to arrange photos and write different ways. Maybe I'll even try some calligraphy (I've always wanted to).

Its quite a list and I am really looking forward to getting work done on it!

May everyone have a whole lot of fun this weekend!

No Concept

I can't begin to grasp the idea of "no work". The stress from this semester seems to have filled up my body and mind to a point where I can't let it go... Its my first official day of break and its seems like it could potentially be my last day of "freedom" for a while. I have an apartment near my college and I would really love to stay here but as much as I love my college, the people are what make it. Eventually I'll have to head to my hometown because I can't stand to be away from everyone but I'm not looking forward to staying at my dad's house.

"The second topic I won’t belabor but I would ask that everyone be civil to each other for the holidays."

That was in his last joint email to my sister and me. Its not overly crude but I find it disappointing that a father should have to ask such a thing. Plus, I don't believe that my sister and I are rude in the worst sense of the word..... I will admit that we ignore his "family" as we go through the room but its the absolute best I can give. Its only been one Christmas since my mom was with us and he expects me to be ok with another woman (and her mom) to be at my house on Christmas morning? I don't think so.

I guess there's no need to stick with that train of thoughts - it'll be here soon enough and I'll have to deal with it then.

For now, I should try to think about things that will relieve my stress. We'll do this the organized way (which I love!):


I will be going in today to sign up for a shift at the local SPCA. I haven't been able to go for a while because of the massive piles of school work that finals week entails. Fortunately, that madness is over with and I can look forward to better things. I plan on signing up for another cat shift although I love the dogs because cats are so much easier to handle. The animals get out of their cages and the "volunteers" get love and a warm body to hold.

2. Photos and Framing

Recently I went out to the college kid's haven that is Walmart and bought myself some photo paper. I've avoided this for a long while because its somewhat costly but when I have free time over break I really want to work on filling some frames and putting up more around my room. I enjoy editing photos and having the pictures of my friends displayed and break will give me plenty of time to do this. I'll probably ask a few friends to do some photo shoots too just for the practice and enjoyment of it (plus some of them I need a few more pictures of!).

On this strain, I had a really great "photo day" this week. In just one day my sister asked me to come take some photos of her and her boyfriend for their two year anniversary (yay!), then another friend wanted to do a "Top Model Humor" style photo shoot, another couple asked me to take their photos over break up on the mountain, and a guy asked me to email him a high resolution copy of one of my shots for himself. It feels good sometimes to have people who want their pictures taken (because with my guy friends its usually more of a "Aren't you done yet?!" feeling).

3. Friends

This will probably depend on who is where for the holidays so I won't be able to plan this too well without some group effort. I'll probably spend a period of time one day just sitting down and calling friends trying to work out who I can see when. The problem here is that there are some friends I want to see all the time and others that I enjoy the company of but I haven't seen in ages. Its hard to prioritize. For instance, I don't like to go a day without seeing Noah (just another reason to love college) but I don't see how it'd be possible to go all break and see him every day.

4. Reading

I've mentioned this on here rather recently. I. Can't. Wait. Seriously, with the exception of the seventh Harry Potter book, I haven't gotten to indulge in a book since summer. And that was just one HP book!! Plus I have several books from several friends that I'm supposed to read and this will be a great opportunity to finish all that up. (There's even one series that I've been working on for about three years and I haven't finished. I need to for a friend and just so I can say I finished it.).

5. Free Time

Free time is so absolutely luxurious. You find a bit of it every now and then throughout the week but then you always feel guilty about it, as if maybe you should be doing something else. There's never been a period of time since I entered college that I haven't had something to do.

6. Research

I will be starting research over winter break (in one week actually). I'm excited for several reasons here! First of all, I've been looking forward to starting research because I feel like I'm progressing in my field that way even if its not exactly down the same path my career will be. Also, it gives me a perfect excuse to get away from my dad's house for a bit. I'll be in Alabama with my professor and some other research students from Ohio for four or five day in December which sounds really exciting. Another great thing to look forward to? I'll get paid! Very few departments can pay their research students, but I'm in a small field and my professor has a grant for this work which is amazing!

Ok, I'll try to focus on the positives of break and see where I can get with them. Hopefully everyone else is moving forward with their time!

Oh, one last thing. A fellow blogger featured this site and I thought it was cute so I wanted to pass it along. You can even post pictures of your own Found (adopted) animal on here too: Found My Animal.

The End is Near

10 December 2009

Hallelujah, I can finally see the end! I have five more hours of studying/test taking and then I'm actually done!

Its amazing how quickly the days seem to go when you know you have time limits on all of your work. Its strange how much time can fluctuate. Sit in a boring class for an hour and it will feel like three but go hang out with your friends playing games or hiking then time FLIES.


Haha, I thought the picture was appropriate (from Discover magazine). I know the next three hours of studying will seem incredibly slow and fast at the same time. I'll feel like I've been studying forever and will want to quit, yet I'll feel like the time is going way too quickly to accomplish anything...

Well, I guess I really won't accomplish anything if I stay on here. Oops. Hope you make good use of your time today!

Last Update

07 December 2009

You may remember me mentioning Noah Biorkman here.

He passed away in late November at his home and his legacy will live on. Its the kindness in human souls that I won't forget.... It was beautiful to me to see how transforming Noah's story really was. More than one million cards reached him and I can only imagine what that meant to him.

So here's to the boy who said "I'm going to be an angel". Love.

Story here.


Its surprising how many of my friends have sent me invitations to join their photography sites. A lot of my friends enjoy taking photos (which I can fully understand) but now so many people are selling them! I guess I always just enjoyed taking pictures and never thought about selling anything. Most of my pictures are just for keeping personal memories anyways which is what draws me in. Memories fade and its nice to draw upon pictures to help us recall certain events in our lives.... or maybe remember certain faces.

I hope if any of my friends ever want a copy of a photograph they would just ask me. Of course anyone could ask me to email them a copy but eventually I will want to order enough prints online that I could just order an extra couple for some friends to save them the hassle (of course that would mean I couldn't determine precisely when they would get the pictures but still saves them the shipping and handling and such nonsense).

Its cool that people can make something they enjoy into an amateur profesion but as for me.... I think I'll just stick to posting them up on facebook and shutterfly. Besides, my mom(s) always gave me photos for free and I could stand to return the favor.

Snow Days

06 December 2009

Snow days provide a peaceful time for me typically. For some reason, when I see snow I begin to feel somewhat lethargic. Usually I'm content to just stay inside and sleep or read. Unfortunately, I have a ton of studying to get done before finals (and of course I'm using this as my last source of procrastination). Finding a healthy balance of work and relaxation is hard and I wish I could figure out tools to help with that. I always make "to do" lists and they help because I can organize my thoughts and pick one project/goal to work towards....but often once I decide what to focus on I lose my motivation. Planning and organizing has always been easy for me (I get that from my parents) but following through is difficult when its individual work. Group projects I'm brilliant at because people depend on me to do my part. I'm also good at planning events and parties because of the deadline and being able to communicate with others. However, when events and projects are only up to me (signing up to volunteer or final exams) I tend to be less motivated because the results don't affect anyone but me.

I'll bet thats a relatively common reaction to work and due dates. I find it strange though that its so easy to pull through for someone else but that I don't find myself to be that important. I used to be.... For the most part now, I'm only worried about this calculus exam and after that it'll be better. I'm confident in my other courses and this final exam grade for calculus determines a lot. Half of me feels like its impossible.... the other half says I could maybe scratch up the bare minimum passing grade. Its hard to decide when I'm being pessimistic and when I'm being realistic. Realistically, calculus is extremely difficult for me and even when I tried my hardest this semester I could only get a C.... so thinking I may not be able to pass, well, what is that considered?

Anyways, I feel better after writing feelings like this down because I can fully admit them to myself and I can analyze it better. Hopefully by tomorrow at 10:30 (exam time) I'll be in a better mood about this course.

So, this blog is still called "A Thousand Reason to Smile" so I should probably put some out there.

Beyond the Circle K party (a volunteer organization I'm involved in) on Friday, the trombone section at JMU had a party too. Practically all the marching band students and music majors live in my apartment complex which works just fine for me as an ex-bandie. Its typically really quiet here.... and when it isn't, then I'm usually involved anyways. Last night we all watched The Grinch, had cookies, played thieves christmas, and finished up with a snowball war and tackle football (in the fresh snow).

I just wish I had some snow boots and a nice water repellent jacket! Even without the proper equipment, it was nice to get outside after a day of stressing about finals.

Today the snow is still blanketing most of the view from my window but the sky is a light blue which makes the outdoors look like a winter wonderland. Even though winter is my least favorite season it still has some spectacular qualities (and the best holiday). Christmas will be here in less than twenty days. I'm a little worried about getting gifts for everyone, but after finals week... well, I'm just looking forward to being with the friends (and select family) that care about me.

Hope that everyone who got some snow enjoyed it!

First Snow

05 December 2009

The first snow of winter has finally invaded my college town. It was expected here today and sure enough when I woke up and looked outside, snow was everywhere! This was the view from right outside my complex building this morning (below).

This is what my building looks like on a normal, partly cloudy day...

and this is the building next door today with all the snow!

Some have already braved the cold weather but I've been fortunate enough to stay indoors all warm and cozy with my candles and cereal. Its one of my favorite parts about having an apartment - not being forced to leave for any needs! What a difference from on campus living. Granted, its nice to go out sometimes and play in the snow (and maybe, just maybe, the rain) but I do not yet have my winter clothes or boots so I think I'll wait until next time for the snowball fights.

Stay warm and comfy!

Speaking of Reading

03 December 2009

Speaking of Reading, when I was looking for a picture to use in my previous post, I found this. I couldn't help myself so I had to post it. I was going through my poetry book during early summer and I was reading different poems (probably during an uncomfortable spat with my father) and I found this sticky note on one of Robert Frost's poems. There was another sticky note on Carl Sandburg's a few pages later.

In case you can't read it when you enlarge the image, the sticky note says "one of mom's favorites" and it has her signature smiley face. The one on Carl Sandburg's "Fog" said "Sandburg and Frost were my favorites - Mom" with another smiley face.

One of the most precious things to me is that there are some reminders in the house of my mom that my father can never take away. If he doesn't know they exist, he can't erase them.

Then, having the ability, to learn just a few more things about her that we never talked about.... thats priceless. I doubt I ever would have asked her about poetry if I had the opportunity in life but in death, well, the information seems almost vitally important somehow.

Lastly, the smiley faces. I couldn't count how many people have told me what they remember best is her smile. I always filed it away and I can still see her smile perfectly, but it wasn't until Dad told me it was his favorite thing about her, or Michael mentioned it when he spoke at the funeral, that I began taking to heart when people told me they liked my smile. Sometimes it seems like she passed that on to me. There were many wonderful things about her and if I only inherited that one thing I would consider myself lucky.

Lazy Days

As I'm drinking my tea and eating my (cinnamon!) toast, I can't help but look forward to the lazy days that'll be heading my way in a week. My last final is next Thursday. This is good. and...this. is. bad.

Ok, the obvious good part is that, well, anyone can do anything for a week. Really? I could get just five hours of sleep each night for a week and then recover. I can spend all my free time studying and then hang out with friends all winter break. The best part about the week is that its only a week. No matter what happens in seven days I'll be done with it all.

That almost sums up the bad too, practically all the same reasons. Its only a week! How on Earth is that enough time to get everything done? The best part of the week is also the worst part. There are many, many projects, papers, and finals and they're all due within a week. How do you decide what becomes the priority? They all will have huge impacts on my grade! There is nothing that I'm doing over the next week that is worth less than 20% of my grade. It ranges from that 20%-40% depending on the classes.

I never understood that. How can one "final" thing be worth almost half of your efforts the whole rest of the semester? I am a consistent worker (I've never been one to pull an all-nighter and I pray I never have to). People who are capable of not sleeping for three days straight though seem to take an advantage here.

Lets just leave it there for now, its only a week right?

How about we just traverse back over to those lazy days mentioned earlier? Sleeping in REAL late (maybe 10!), not studying, not worrying about not studying, just reading, taking hikes, being with close family (aka friends), and taking life as it comes. Its a shame life has become a busy schedule to keep up with instead of a slow and easy journey to be enjoyed.

What I'm going to use to motivate myself: (Just one week after all and I can do/have all these things!!)

always reading.... how I miss it during the semester. I want to reread some series, check out new books my friends have loaned me, catch up on a series its taken me about two years to read, and just read magazines and newspapers even! I miss being taken to a different world and life once in a while!

simple. I never seem to find "time" for yoga, but its one of my favorite stress releases. Need a way to think about nothing? This is it. You just follow the instructor and realize how good it feels to stretch and move certain parts of your body. Incredibly relaxing.

I know, I have some this morning; I got up early. Sometimes now my morning schedule seems a bit rushed and I don't have time for tea or breakfast (both of which have grown on me immensely in the last year - and that really says something for tea if it had the ability to become even better). Its hard to explain but tea sort of symbolizes the life I hope to create for myself. As I said, I can only really have tea on mornings that I get to relax. I don't drink it the way the coffee-addicted go after caffine. Its a way to sit back take the time to finish the mug and then head out into the world after taking that small time for myself. Thats what it symbolizes: taking a small bit of time out of my morning to just think and relax before jumping onto the fast-paced ride of each day.

Ok, so those are the things that I'm looking forward to in one week. Of course that isn't everything (hanging out with friends is higher than any of those things) but I can actually control these completely. I'll be living in a different city than most all of my friends for at least half of break. So we'll have to wait and figure that one out.

Ok, time to start treading in order to keep my head above water. Wish me luck

SPCA Update

02 December 2009

Just keeping updated.

Bam Bam and Jamie were both adopted from the SPCA! Thats really great. Its a little bittersweet for me (especially with Bam Bam) but I know they're off to happy homes and its good to see animals that need love find it!

Of course new pets are being added in from the quarantined areas. Remember! Spay and Neuter!

Noah and I actually encountered this problem on the day after Thanksgiving. Keeping a randy 6 month old male around a fixed 3 year old female causes much chaos. 3 months - protect your pets!

Nick Vujicic

What an inspiration.

5 Rules for Life

A fellow blogger posted about 5 Rules for Life, a blog that features a different person periodically and asks them "What are the 5 rules you live your life by?".

What a challenging question!

Sometimes I wonder what defines a person (and I don't think you necessarily can define someone in a dictionary-sense). I'm thinking along the lines, if you had to describe so-and-so in one paragraph, what would you say? What would people say about you?

The 5 Rules of Life is something similar. Except, instead of thinking about other people, you answer them about YOURSELF. To me, that is much more difficult (as I've mentioned HERE).

This question is intriguing because I don't think too many of us would define our life by five rules. If you had to, what would you say?

I don't think I can answer this right now (at least not all 5), I may drop some "rules" along the way as I think of them but its a little too deep of a question to answer overly quickly.

Let me know your five rules!

Here are some that I liked:

December Days

01 December 2009

Its hard to believe its December again already. Wow, its amazing how much quicker each years seems to go by. Time really is a perspective in some senses....

December is a really stressful month and a relaxing month all at the same time. The first half of the month for college students means finishing up big projects and taking final exams but the second half symbolizes free time and holidays.

I enjoy Christmas, it may actually be my favorite holiday. I love being with people that you're close to (I'm hoping to be with some close friends over the holiday break), baking cookies, decorating, caroling, sledding, and drinking hot cocoa. Best of all? Gifts! I love giving gifts and finding the perfect item for someone. Of course its rarely that easy but when the occasion does arise that I find the perfect gift (and can package it all cute) then I'm very happy. I think having up Christmas lights brings more cheer to a place, but personally, I like to have Christmas tree nearly toppling over with the gifts underneath. Homemade are even better (too bad grown men don't seem to appreciate that quite as much....). Personalized items are always fun too. Just the look of appreciation on someone's face. Well, thats PRICELESS.

Skimping on the m&ms

30 November 2009

As a treat to myself for procrastinating I decided to go get a McFlurry from the local, friendly McDonalds. Sadly, after receiving aforementioned McFlurry, I was disappointed because there were so few M&Ms.

To be fair, a lot of the m&ms were somehow sunken at the bottom. I think life is like this quite often. We expect a certain outcome from our lives and along the way we don't see the color but sometimes the good stuff is just buried a little deeper.

Now that Thanksgiving break is over this seems more and more the case. I feel like my daily life is somewhat washed out. I'm happy with my lot in general but I can't wait for the next two weeks to be over and done with; I want to add some more color into my life! I'm ready to have some down time and live life the way I want to. Thats part of the reason why college is so brilliant - you have control, especially over the breaks from classes. How often in "real life" do you get a four week break from all your work? Practically never, unless you're clever like me and decide to go into teaching. hah! For now I can look at life and say, "I think I'm going to add a few more M&Ms". Thats the beauty of it even through all this work.

Tis the Season

29 November 2009

I've always enjoyed Christmas decorating which is a result from our ridiculous antics when I was young. During the school break for Thanksgiving we would begin to set up decorations and Christmas light. After our hike, mom, Kelsey, and I would usually set up and decorate the Christmas tree. The last two years thats been Noah and me. Now I have my own tree (although with less decorations).

Speaking of the hike, the below photo was taken on our hike on skyline drive near Fox Hollows Trail.

I wish I had some more decorations here but I'm happier just having a tree lit up at night. Its soothing.

Family Holidays

Ok, I slacked a little bit on my break from school; I'm sorry I wasn't keeping up online.

That said, I'll get on with it. My thanksgiving break certainly lived up to my expectations which is actually a relatively sad thing. I've begun to resent "family holidays" in the traditional sense. So many of my fellow classmates here are always excited to spend the holidays at home and with their families but I always put off the dreaded days for as long as possible.

The holidays just remind me of how our family fell apart after mom died.

Yet, I see light at the end of the tunnel so to speak. I do have friends (who I consider my family now) that take care of me and provide me with a happy, comfortable environment in which to stay during the holidays. I can't say how appreciative I am. These opportunities allow me to look forward to the future when I control more of my life and can choose my own holiday traditions without being obligated to spend it with blood family.

I am grateful for close friends who help me to understand myself (and the world) better and who also provide many opportunities for a good laugh.

I am also thankful that my friends and I went on a hike to skyline drive.

I am thankful for my loving boyfriend who knows me inside and out and who is always there for me.

Lastly, I am simply thankful that I am thankful. Sometimes its hard to appreciate things and for me that is especially so around the holidays. I hope I continue to evaluate how much certain people and relationships mean to me.

I hope everyone found something/someone/somewhere that they are thankful for.

Hating Relating/Bam Bam and Friends

20 November 2009

Its nice for humans to connect but whats one of the ways we do most often? Tragedy. Almost everyone has experienced a heart-wrenching loss at some point or at the very least will in the future.

As I was reading through some blogs today, this poem caught my attention. I wish I could say I didn't understand, but I'd be lying. Its things like this that sometimes scare me about my life direction. At the same time, I think certain people/memories that hurt you terribly need to be let go to make your life healthier.


On a brighter note, I had an amazing time at the SPCA today! I got to handle cats for an hour and a half (which flew by) and I've really missed animals in my life. Plus, my sister and I spent over twenty minutes looking at pictures and talking about dogs. Animals are just on the brain today.

If you'd like to see some of the animals I've been working with you can link to the Rockingham/Harrisonburg Shelter here. Bam Bam was my favorite (I've had a soft spot for black cats since the second grade) and he's the first picture (you can see him below as well). He has the sweetest temperament and just loves to be held!

Hope seeing some of those cuties made your day brighter!

Nearing the End

19 November 2009

Seeing as its Thursday, we're drawing near the end of the stressed school week. So a few last minute line ups about different ways to destress.

Key 6 - Laugh. A lot.

Ok, another cheesy one I know. It is 100% true though. For the first time in a long time I feel like "myself". By "myself" I mean the person(ality) who carries around the traits I hope others think of when they think "allison". I wonder sometimes how different we see ourselves from the way others do.... Thats another conversation though.

Anyways, laughter is extremely relieving. You forget about stress and find only the joy whether through a joke, a song, a friend, or any other humorous event.

Between Oceanography and Philosophy today I listened to nearly the whole "A Very Potter Musical" soundtrack. Its a lighthearted parody of harry potter in musical form. Then, before my paleontology class I sent my sister a text message about a public bus mishap that had me cracking up. I actually had to leave the room for a few minutes before class started to get calmed down.

Those are the best laughs! When you can't even control yourself because something makes you that happy or laugh that hard. That is true joy. Yes, its a start to laugh even lightly at something but to have your stomach tensing and tears coming out your eyes - well you can't help but be in a good mood after that.

Here's to everyone having many laughs to look forward too! Cheers!

For fellow Harry Potter fans, this has been my source of joy and laughter for a nice number of days now. I recently downloaded the soundtrack on my ipod which was the best idea ever. I can now take the humor with me between classes which really helps relieve tension and put me in a lighter mood. The video below is a montage of clips from throughout the first act of "A Very Potter Musical".

Just Because Its Cute

18 November 2009

Ok, this is my own weakness. It was the first time he came to visit my house and Brownie (who was terrified of anyone - especially tall people or males) jumped instantly upon Noah's lap. She stayed there for a good while too. She knew he was the right one before I did!

More Keys

Key 5 - Do What You Enjoy

Days can be really tough sometimes. For instance, when you're gone from home for over twelve hours - that can cause stress. The whole day I was either in class, eating, or studying. That is, until 5:15. What happened at 5:15? I went to the SPCA for my volunteer session. It lasted until a little past eight (about three hours long) and I got trained in the basics of taking care of animals at the SPCA. I miss animals a bunch. My dogs died while I was in my last two years of high school and I've never had pets since. Plus, students living on campus can't have pets so there aren't too many animals wondering around the school. I grew up with dogs though and I can't wait to play with more animals.

Below is a picture of my sister and myself with our dogs in a park. (A little outdated). :)

I must say that in general I'm a dog person, but I signed up for the "Cat Room" for my first shift at the SPCA for three reasons.

1. Most people wanted to walk the dogs and all the animals need love.
2. Cats are much easier to take care of.
3. I'm looking into owning one when I graduate (I probably won't have the time commitment for a dog, but I miss animal companions).

I can sign up to work with dogs at the SPCA whenever I want to and I look forward to this. Volunteering at the SPCA was suggested in my community service organization (Circle K International) so I'll get hours for helping the shelter. The real bright side though? I think being with animals will help me be happier as a person. School can really be stressful (especially nearing break/exams) and I could spare two hours a week to go play with adoptable pets. They need love and of course will give it in return. Who doesn't want to be loved and to give love?

So my stress relief factor is the knowledge that by the end of tomorrow my tests/quiz will be done and that on Friday I will officially begin as a volunteer for the SPCA.


Do What You Enjoy.

If you enjoy being with animals, go out and be with animals.
If you enjoy cooking, be a chef for a few nights during the week.
If you enjoy singing, then sing out.

Lastly, at the risk of sounding like Bob Barker, remember to spay and neuter your pets.

Seriously, think about it. There are so many animals that already exist that don't have homes.... lets take care of them first before bringing more into the world. Find a shelter or vet near you who offers this.

Beyond that, I hope everyone has some time to do what they enjoy this week!

What Appeals to You?

17 November 2009

A fellow blogger (at Tulips and Tea) posted about Bruce Mau and encouraged her followers to look at his list of sayings which he uses for all of his big projects.

His list is HERE and I also encourage you to check it out. Its interesting after reading the list to see how certain sayings seem to mean more to some people.

Some of my favorites are:

Allow events to change you.
You have to be willing to grow. Growth is different from something that happens to you. You produce it. You live it. The prerequisites for growth: the openness to experience events and the willingness to be changed by them.

Allow yourself to wander aimlessly. Explore adjacencies. Lack judgment. Postpone criticism.

Begin anywhere.
John Cage tells us that not knowing where to begin is a common form of paralysis. His advice: begin anywhere.

Everyone is a leader.
Growth happens. Whenever it does, allow it to emerge. Learn to follow when it makes sense. Let anyone lead.

Work the metaphor.
Every object has the capacity to stand for something other than what is apparent. Work on what it stands for.

Take field trips.
The bandwidth of the world is greater than that of your TV set, or the Internet, or even a totally immersive, interactive, dynamically rendered, object-oriented, real-time, computer graphic–simulated environment.

People visiting the studio often comment on how much we laugh. Since I've become aware of this, I use it as a barometer of how comfortably we are expressing ourselves.

Have you ever thought about what defines your life? How do you want to live? What off of the list appeals to you the most?

and more

Key 4 - Outside Help

Ok, this may not just fall into your lap but if you ask around you may find that people are willing to help you out. This particular experience for me is during college so what is causing me stress is all of my professors piling on the workload at the same time. My paleontology class discussed all of our work this week before our professor arrived and we decided to ask him about an extension on the due date. He more than gladly went along with our request. He said he just didn't want us to have to work over break. I'll be here for four more days after break "officially" begins so I could use some work when I don't have class. Sometimes all the help you need can be gained by asking.


16 November 2009

Key 3 - Friends

I can't explain how important it is to have the support of (and down town with) other people. They can talk you through the stress and provide encouragement. Plus, if you have classes with them or ones they've previously taken they can help you study! Beyond just schoolwork though, friends help us all to destress in ways we can't achieve on our own. Sometimes during "free time" I feel like I didn't do anything. As Jake put it "you're not doing work" - thats exactly it. You're not necessarily doing what you want to do all the time because you feel guilty about not doing work so you end up not allowing yourself to go out and have fun yet you keep putting off the workload. When friends are around however, instead of just sitting behind a computer screen all day procrastinating, I can go out to DO things with people. Thats a wonderful break from schoolwork.

Bagels for Breakfast

Whats the best way to start of a day? or a week for that matter? Its a Monday morning and I already feel the stress of the week beginning to pile upon my shoulders. There are five more days of classes until Thanksgiving break which means a lot of professors have work to be turned in during those five days.

I believe key this week will be destressors. I'll see if I can try to keep up throughout the week.

Monday morning?

Key 1 - Have a good breakfast

Now, I didn't follow this even remotely during high school but thats a whole separate story. Currently I am in college and I have my own place so I have the time and the location to cook breakfast. Of course, soon as I say it, I must be honest with you and say I didn't cook breakfast this morning but rather a Panera bagel from Saturday afternoon. Its still delicious albeit maybe not the healthiest breakfast in the world.

Key 2 - Sleep

If only I can actually keep up with this one throughout the week.... I typically wake up at eight or nine depending on what day of classes I'm looking forward to. The trouble is, I got to bed at about the same time each night or (even worse) sometimes I go to bed even later the night before I get up at eight. For these last three weeks of school and finals I need to start hitting the bed a little bit earlier at night. My aim goal for the remaining weeks in this semester? 11 o'clock. We'll see.

Ok, I will be adding up more keys as the days go on and they'll be less obvious than the two of these hopefully. Still, they are important and I have fundamental problems in those two areas already that need to be kinked out fast.

Goodmorning all!


09 November 2009

Ok, so I seem to stumble upon these things a little too late every time. November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and one of my goals for my life is to successfully complete a novel - although not necessarily publish it. Novels must be at least 40,000 words (to make the distinction between novels and novellas). During NaNoWriMo, participants set a goal to have 50,000 words by the end of the month.

I would have to write 2,381 words each day for the rest of November in order to reach that goal. Sadly, this month will probably not see me reach that goal of (eventually) writing a novel. Along with schoolwork and preparing for finals week there really just isn't time to write 2,380 words a day.

Maybe December could provide an opportunity? After all, we do have several weeks of a break there without any schoolwork to focus on. Perhaps.

Noah Biorkman

08 November 2009

Please watch this video from News 4 telling Noah's tale.

Noah Biorkman is a 5 year old boy in South Lyon, MI who is in his last stages of a 2 1/2 year battle with Neuroblastoma cancer.

Noah was diagnosed with Stage IV Neuroblastoma in February 2007. He went into remission in August 2007. In September 2008, Noah relapsed with lesions in his right arm and right leg. After going through six different trials, the cancer continues to spread.

This year, his family is celebrating Christmas early, and Noah loves to receive cards.

Please take some time to send Noah a Christmas card. Please do it as soon as possible and invite all of your Facebook friends to this event so they can do the same.

Noah Biorkman
1141 Fountain View Circle,
South Lyon, MI 48178 USA

Please see Santa's early visit to Noah and Noah's mother's request that you simply put $1.00 in your card that will be used for Neuroblastoma research and the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Check out Snopes if you'd like to confirm this.

Watch Noah meet Santa (here).

Scarves and Delight

07 November 2009

My sister and I went to Old Navy this morning to buy some scarves (I had seen a commercial advertising them for only $1 today). They were in very fun colors and have good length to them!

Afterwards we went to TJ Maxx (I'm taking after Noah's mom!) to look at some shirts and jackets. Unfortunately I do not have enough money to buy everything I want in the world. Sad isn't it? :)

We both did, however, buy Turkish Delight and chocolate cups. The chocolate cups I bought are relatively tea cup shaped and I think I may use them with ice cream or milk shakes when I have friends at my apartment tomorrow. The Turkish Delight was mainly for me (since Noah refused to try any). Its slightly ludicrous, but I feel somewhat foreign when I eat foods like Turkish Delight because its not a common American option.

They are deliciously sweet yet fruity!

Noah and I also ate lunch out today which was a nice change of pace. We went to pizza hut together and I truly enjoyed it. I love when you don't know exactly what you want but you end up finding something truly delicious!

Unfortunately, the rest of my day should be focused around Calculus. I really need to do well on my next exam so I guess this will have to wrap it up for now!

Hope you can all stay warm during these cooling days! Maybe you could find an Old Navy near you?

Hot Chocolate Season

05 November 2009

Image* from here

Yesterday seemed to (truly) begin the cold season. For some reason the weather has been jumping all over the place between the 40s and mid 70s. Makes it impossible to dress in the morning.

I began my morning with hot cocoa instead of my usual tea today because it signals the start of the cold season for me. I'm a fan of crisp fall and welcoming spring weather but sometimes its nice to bundle up in scarves, gloves, and sweaters to traverse around the campus.

Hot Cocoa with marshmallows just seems right for cold nights in November (as well as December and January). Although I cheated and added in two pieces of Hersheys chocolate as well.

Stay warm and keep sipping that warmth!

*Also, the above photo reminds me of the way my sister makes hot chocolate. Sometimes when we lived at home together she would make two and bring me one with whipped cream and cocoa powder on top. Its the best!

Fact of the Day

04 November 2009

"Entire" leaves vs. "Jagged" leaves

Did you know that typically trees with entire leaves (such as the above picture) are usually in warmer climates and that jagged leaves (below picture) are typically in colder areas?

You can remember this by thinking of Canada and the maple leaves (generally a cool climate).

There's your interesting fact of the day!

Monday Night Meals

03 November 2009

Its Tuesday at lunch time and after getting out to vote I'm back here to put up monday's recipes before paleontology.

The first recipe that Noah and I cooked up was a real quick one that I learned from my sister over the weekend. Take feta cheese, one egg, and green onions (I believe I used four) and mix them together. It should be mostly cheese so just mix in enough feta to where you think you'd like the combination. I call them:

K*'s mini quiches

We bought little phyllo dough shells and dropped the mixture (of egg, feta, and onions) into the shells. Bake at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes. Voilá, perfect mini quiches for any gathering. These are really simple and would be great for parties but just be sure to make enough. My sweetie and I ended up finishing these off while we were preparing the rest of the dinner.

Natalie's Salsa Dip

Much earlier in the semester I attended a geology department picnic at the University farm. Students were encouraged to bring food and my lovely TA Natalie brought a delicious dip that was a huge success! I asked her for the recipe later on and this is what she gave me:

16 oz can black beans
guacamole (today i used guac flavored dip b/c food lion sucks)
sour cream
2 tomatoes - diced
shredded cheese
jalepenos - chopped and sliced

so first i put the beans in a pot with a little bit of chopped jalepenos and some salsa. i kinda smushed the beans while they were cooking so some were still whole while others had a more refried bean like texture. once that simmers for a few minutes and cools spread it on the bottom of any kind of dish. i normally use an 8x8 baking dish, but kim used if for brownies so i used that bread thing. then layer the guacamole over the beans, then sour cream, then tomatoes, then cheese. then you can add sliced jalepenos on top for a garnish or use cilantro if you dont like it spicy. obviously this recipe can be fooled around with so you guys can substitute in whatever you like or add or subtract to whats already there. have fun!

You may not know this about me, but I like step by step, explicit directions. This was a bit too vague for me but I went with what I deemed right and it turned out delicious!

In the picture below you can see the salsa, some jalapeños, and black beans simmering. She didn't say to drain the beans but I think it should be recommended, we waited for a very long time to boil some of that liquid out!

Preparing the Salsa/Bean base

The last steps are quite easy, just spreading the different layers. I didn't wait too long for the beans too cool so it was difficult to spread the guacamole on next, but it worked out just fine.

Finished Product

The last thing I have to say about this recipe? It makes a bunch! I'll probably bring one of the dishes I filled to the Circle K meeting tonight to share because I have bunches that I won't be able to finish just sitting around the apartment (however much I might want to). Be prepared to share this dish with friends!

Lastly, we made a recipe that I found on allrecipes.com under Vegetarian Main Dishes > Casseroles.

Spicy Mexican Zucchini Casserole

found HERE


2 tablespoons olive oil
3 pounds zucchini, cubed
1 cup chopped onion
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
1 cup cooked long-grain rice
1 cup cooked pinto beans
2 1/2 cups salsa
1 1/2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add zucchini and onions; cook and stir until tender, about 10 minutes. Season with garlic salt, paprika, oregano and cayenne pepper, and continue cooking and stirring until fragrant. Mix in the rice, beans and salsa and cook just until heated through. Mix in 1 cup of Cheddar cheese until well blended. Transfer to a 9x13 inch baking dish and top with remaining Cheddar cheese. Cover the dish with a lid or aluminum foil.
Bake for 20 minutes in the preheated oven, or until cheese is melted and bubbly.

As seems to be usual for our dishes now, there was a fair bit of chopping and dicing involved. This meal selection took a bit longer to make (but in fairness we were making the above dip at the same time - which was relatively easy on its own).

The cooking and chopping definitely took the longest.

Our final product though ended up pretty tasty and we wrapped it up in quesadillas for a mexican meal.

I would suggest a side with it because its a lot of one type of food. We served the salsa and chips with it.

Final Product of the Casserole

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