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 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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