Making Adventures

28 February 2011

Yesterday afternoon Noah and I drove up into the mountains and back down into their midst to visit a reservoir. Whenever I head towards West Virginia on the geology field trips (which I've done in at least three different semesters) I see this dam and reservoir. I asked my professors this Saturday about how to get to it and set my eyes on the prize. We would go.

We did.

Fortunately for us, the Sunday showers weren't supposed to happen until around 6pm which left us with ample sunny, warm weather to travel and explore in.

The reservoir had a gravel & dirt road leading down the mountainside towards it but there were no clearly marked paths. In fact, the first turnoff on the left we decided to pass because the road looked to be in even worse condition than the one we were currently on. Eventually we passed the far end of the reservoir and turned around to come back and find out we should have just taken that first turn off.

But all's well that ends well and we made it down to the lakeside. 

It was beautiful and peaceful and a fantastic way to spend one of the luxuriously warm days we've had this February. I'm just itching for summer to get here. Right now my heart is set on camping!

It was incredible to be at a dammed up lake while being surrounding by mountains on all sides. I've never experienced that before and I live in the valley. 

My reasons to smile today? Here they are!

-Beautiful weather
-Noah made stir fry yesterday for lunch
-Being published {ever heard of conodonts?}
-When it rains, cuddling is even better!
-Indian food tomorrow night!
-We might be getting new countertops for the apartment!
-Finding beauty around me

Sunday 101

27 February 2011

{A teaser of tomorrow's post!}

Ashley from The Shine Project put up my I AM poster today! I'm challenging myself to be more adventurous. Far too often I let myself get comfortable when what I really want to do is get out and experience life. When I look back at college and my 20s I want to remember all the opportunities I took advantage of. So, a bigger goal that has no definitive boundaries is "I want to be adventurous". Thought I'd throw that out there since it's Sunday which means it's time for a 101 post!

{Another teaser! The lake's edge.}

I've been thinking about and working on my 101 in 1001 this week!  This weekend has been full of geology and adventures which I can't wait to tell you about!

#9 Read two books a month. I've realized in the past that this is very hard to accomplish during the school year. I still have to finish one book and there's what, one day left in February. Cross your fingers for a lot of reading this evening!

#16 Eat at at least one new place (or try one new food) each week. This week Noah and I tried out a local Indian restaurant that just cropped up. We loved it! It was on my list of Reasons to Smile earlier this week and I've organized for our volunteer organization to go there this coming Tuesday.

#44 Eat at least one fruit a day. I'm not nailing this one yet but I'm making a conscious effort to get some fruit in. I love veggies but fruits are a challenge for me.

#47 Donate old clothes. In progress. I've piled them all up and just need to take a trip to my local Salvation Army or thrift store.

#49 Discover more outdoor locations that are beautiful. My geology field trips help this goal tremendously. On the car ride back yesterday through the mountains I noticed a dam nestled between peaks. Today Noah and I drove the meandering mountain roads to get to this lake and it was gorgeous. More about this lovely adventure tomorrow!

#55 Find at least three new locations in the area that are fun. See above. The dam was beautiful and I'll definitely be taking a trip back there in the summer on a long weekend. It was lovely! Lots of hiking possibilities were there!

#63 Tutor or find a way to get involved in local schools.  I still want to contact the local school systems about possibly tutoring during the summer but this week I began volunteering at a local elementary school. I'm doing a mini-lesson next Wednesday in Science!

How have your goals been going? Are you still sticking with your New Years resolutions? Do you have your own 101 list? 

Are you adventurous? I'd love to hear stories!

And make sure to let me know your Reasons to Smile this week!

Earth & Tea Cafe

26 February 2011

Yesterday evening Noah and I went downtown and grabbed some tea and Spanish lentil soup at a local cafe. It was so nice to get out of the apartment (and not for geology)! We've been here before although this was the first time since it changed hands. 

The atmosphere is amazing. They have paper lanterns hanging all around and the lights are dimmed. There are a plethora of decorations and seating styles. When you walk in you can sit at a booth, table, or on a couch (we're couch people). 

Then you choose from their menu (pretty vegetarian friendly) and their lists of teas. We had a small pot of a vanilla blend to go with our tasty soup. 

Tea or honey can be added to your tea to help adjust to your taste. 

Once in a while it's nice to get out of the house and feel like a gal in her 20s. Often times I'm afraid that I get so wrapped up in work and preparing for the future (career-wise) that I'm missing out on living life now.  It was a very nice time. 

Some things I do like planning for....Noah and I were talking over dinner tonight about where to live when we graduate. It's only a year until I walk with my Masters and then we'll be trying to scrounge around for jobs. We talked about trying to find an apartment in the downtown area of a city (possibly Richmond). We grew up in a town that was lovely but a tad small for what we're looking for. It's nice to daydream about future cafes and homes, but I'm smiling right now for the gifts in my life. 

What are your reasons to smile today?
Do you have any favorite cafes?

Waiting for Superman

25 February 2011

I just got done watching the documentary Waiting for Superman with Noah and it struck a chord with me. The documentary is about America's education system and the problems we are facing as a nation. The movie followed five individual students, and their struggles, across the country. Each was in a low income neighborhood attending schools that had high dropout rates. The kids and their families were trying to win lotteries to get into better, higher rated schools. 

One thing that was said in the documentary that I recognized in my own thoughts was that after coming to college I looked back at my k-12 system to realize how shorted I had been! My school system wasn't terrible, it was likely very average, but at college I talked to people who had so many more opportunities (and stories of better teachers) simply because of where they lived. 

Waiting for Superman wasn't about providing solutions (although they did relate how very important every individual teacher is to this system). Yet they really pushed the viewer to start thinking critically and to be aware of what could be changed in our current system. 

I fully believe that being a teacher is a lot of work and that teaching is a job that is undervalued. Beyond every day stresses teachers are trying to convey important knowledge and concepts across to their students, to help them live fulfilling lives. Part of the problem is learning how to engage students. How do we keep kids interested in learning? That is the teacher's job! How is it that kids can memorize all the lyrics to a song but not memorize where the noble gases are on the periodic table of elements? Why not turn certain pieces of the periodic table into a rap song? Far too often teachers fall into a pattern of worksheets, lectures, and required note-taking. 

We need to rebuild the system from the bottom up. Our current methods of teaching have not been working sufficiently enough. My professor from my Science Methods Class introduced me to a concept last semester that I had never heard of called the 5 E's. He was so against traditional teaching methods that we were forbidden in class to even say the word "Lecture" (aka the L-word). This new 5E concept says that kids should explore an idea or concept before ever hearing about it from their teacher. They will notice things on their own, the teacher expands on their gained knowledge, then they experiment some more. Science should be so fun! Labs every day with explosions, gummy bears, and messes everywhere.   Why lecture at students when you could be exploring with them? There is no reason that learning shouldn't be exciting and invigorating!

I think it will take a long time and a big overhaul but it will be worth it all in the end. Kids deserve more out of education than what they're currently receiving. Teachers need to be qualified and motivated, not at peace to give up on some students that will "never achieve" and rather set high standards for all students and be willing to make personal sacrifices in order to see students achieve. Of course, the system itself needs to change - there are many teachers out there currently trying their darndest to help their students learn and have fun with education. They are to be commended!

I know it won't be easy, but I hope that one day I can make a difference in a kid's life and help them reach goals that they are fully capable of, even if they didn't realize it when they walk into the classroom. 

Did you ever have a really amazing teacher? A really terrible one? What made them good or bad? How do you think we could fix our educational system?

Reasons to Smile

24 February 2011

Today I'm dreaming. It was one of those mornings when you want to stay all warm and cozy under the covers.  Now, entering the evening, I'm ready to do the same. 

This semester has been rather stressful so far with field trips every weekend on top of regular courses during the weekdays. I'm fantasizing about summer. Are you? So, it seems time to focus on all the little things that have made me smile the past couple of days!

Some of the reasons to smile this week:
- Delicious, affordable Indian food on Tuesday night
- I've started volunteering at an after school program in a local K-5 school
- Darren Criss was on Glee
- 8am class on Tuesday was cancelled
- I discovered cinnamon cream cheese for bagels
- Spring break is one week away
- Several fun new blogs have been discovered
- CKI is doing a dinner social at the Indian restaurant this coming Tuesday!

All in all, not too bad! I am beginning to feel a little like I'm going through the motions but hopefully once we get on break and get some warmer weather I'll be back and ready to go! 

PS - Isn't that the cutest photo? I'd love to do a photoshoot like that!

Giveaway Winner

The giveaway winner is Erin from Pugh's News

Hope you enjoy your Shine Necklace Erin!

Email your address to me at allisonmseward{at}gmail{dot}com.

Thank you all for entering! Have a lovely Thursday.

Wedding Wednesday: Invitation Ideas

23 February 2011

I loved this idea from Jenni's blog. Her friend is getting married and for save-the-dates her and her fiance sent out hand-picked vintage post cards to everyone with sweet little stamps on the back!

There's another idea that's super cute and it's taking photobooth images of you and your man holding up the words "Save the Date" and the date of your wedding. I'm a sucker for all things photo related and I love polaroids and photostrips!

There is also a sweet little idea of using tickets to proclaim that your guests should save the date. I think this is a pretty cute way of letting them know that a wedding is coming too!

More ideas can be found on TheKnot website as well as some Q&A about Save the Dates. 

How did you send out Save the Dates and what is the cutest idea you've seen?

PS - Last day for the giveaway!

Stylish Blogger Award

22 February 2011

Cafe Chick nominated me for a Stylish Blogger Award and I'm flattered!  I love reading her blog. She inspired my 101 in 1001 and my favorite posts of hers are when she talks about her ukulele

Now, there are some requirements once you receive this award: 

  1. Thank and link back to the person who awarded you this award.
  2. Share 7 things about yourself.
  3. Award 15 recently discovered great bloggers.
  4. Contact these bloggers and tell them about the award.
So, on with it! 
  1. I'm engaged, but you probably knew that.
  2. I have an addiction to all things pizza and mashed potatoes. Pizza is a standard of any college student so that's probably no surprise but I've loved mashed potatoes since before I can remember. I've been through stages - just salt & pepper on top, mix in peas with the mashed potatoes, and now I'm on my weirdest stage yet - I mix honey in them. I'm sure that sounds weird but I'm telling you, it's delicious!
  3. When I teach, I hope to keep up with technology and my students. Even now, I have professors who flat out refuse to use powerpoints and insist on writing on chalkboards. It's nearly impossible to see when you're in the back of a 40 person classroom. I want to use blogs, websites, powerpoints, ipads, whatever will help my students learn and get engaged!
  4. I read the same books over and over again. I do get new novels in but I get very attached to characters and love to read their stories. This is also why I nearly always read series instead of individual novels - for me that's not enough time for a character to develop.
  5. Proposal stories never fail to make me smile and feel fuzzy inside. I thought this was perhaps only a side effect of wanting to move forward with Noah but nope! I'm still loving them. Do you have a proposal story you'd like to share?
  6. Chocolate chip cookies are a weakness. Salty rarely gets me but if you send me something sweet in the mail I'll be your friend forever!
  7. I love the blogging community. Some days I look at those big blogs and think - man they have a lot of followers! Then I instantly wonder how they get to know any of them! I love you all and appreciate your supportive comments and your wonderful blogs as well. I think you're amazing.
{Image from here. I feel like this would be us if possible!}

Alright, now for the fun part! Although, I'm going to bend the rules a little. Not all of these 15 are newly found blogs but they're certainly some of my favorites!
  1. Rinse and Repeat. Bethany is so cute and sweet! I love everything about her blog and her stories. She does some of the cutest DIY projects and has a real sweet man who's abroad right now.  I've said it before and I'll say it again, her sense of style is amazing!  She has an eye for crafts and decorating that I'll never have and I think her blogs is one of the sweetest I've ever seen. Stop by and show her some love!
  2. Fill Your Well. Kim is awesome. Spunky, adorable, spirited, whimsical.... What words are fitting? Kim's was one of the first blogs I found actually and she inspires me every day. Some days I fantasize about moving to California and meeting her (she'd be looking precious and playing ukulele) and hanging with Dannon, the mister!
  3. Pugh's News. Erin caught my attention with her trip to Britain. Every Friday morning I'm right there with her daydreaming and she is always so supportive!  I love reading her blog every day and she is so positive.
  4. Chronicles of a Country Girl. I'm not sure if Kate's was the very first blog I found, but it was close. I fell in love with her honesty, her country lifestyle (which reminded me of growing up in the backwoods), and her photography. I decided to buy a Nikon instead of a Canon simply because she had one and I loved her photos that much. I feel at peace every time I read her blog. 
  5. After I Do. Krysten is a fun gal and I love checking up on her posts. The title of her blog is what first caught my eye (that whole proposal thing again, I hadn't really thought about a perspective after marriage). We have a similar taste in books and I love reading her reviews! She always is honest in her posts and I love that.
  6. Everyday Musings. If you haven't stopped by Olivia-Rae's blog before, I highly recommend you check her out. She lives in Charleston, NC and she shows the city in it's absolute best light. More than once I've suggested to Noah that we move down to that charming Southern city simply based on the whimsical nature of Olivia's blog. This girl can bake, look cute, and take some amazing photos! 
  7. Life is Sweet. Haley and I are somewhat recent blog friends and I'm so glad we are now! This young lady is so sweet and charming. Her little man, Brooks, is precious and you can tell how much she loves her family in every post. She has some great photos too and her posts always make me smile.
  8. Occasional Scotland. Well, if you know me, you'll know that Linda's blog first pulled me in because she lives in the United Kingdom.  Let me tell you, she delivers! I love looking at her photos of Edinburgh, Scotland and I pretend to live right there with her. She gives insight to Scotland along with some great pictures. Once, I won a giveaway on her blog in which I received a book about a kitten traveling around Edinburgh. So cute!
  9. Puzzle Pieces. Dawn inspires me with her photos and lovely quotations. Her honesty is much appreciated and I find I can often relate to what she is saying. I always leave her blog think a little harder about what I want and the gifts I already have.
  10. Red Boots. This gal does some great series on her blog such as "Make Me Smile January" or "Project 365". Guess what? She lives in Edinburgh too! Her photos are so British I get all giggly over here just looking at them. 
  11. The Shine Project. Ashley is a pro blogger! She has exponentially jumped followers in this past month (way to go Ashley!). Her motto is "Let the world see you shine!". You may recognize this from my current Shine Necklace giveaway. Ashley sets her mind to something and does it and every week she sets a challenge to help better yourself and help the world. She is one cute gal!
  12. The Tales of Two Taylors. Ashley and her husband Josh, with their little baby Joel are so sweet. She blogs about activities they all do together and it inspires me. She is such a sweet mom and I hope one day I can be the exact same way! I am in love with this family and if you stop by her blog I'm sure you will be too.
  13. Yes and Yes. Sarah Von says yes is more fun than no and I sure am inclined to agree with her! Currently she is traveling the globe and I'm glad she is sharing her experience with us all. She raises money for wonderful causes and meets amazing people. Her blog is about living the life that makes you happy and I think that concept is beautiful and that Sarah does a most wonderful job. 
  14. She Waits for Whispers. Tillie is very adventurous and is just herself. I admire her and her ability to go out and experience life and recognize the beauty in people. She is honest about her feelings and I always leave her blog feeling like I can relate to her and still dream a little bit about her New Zealand life. 
  15. Moments. Jordanna is a sweet gal and I enjoy reading her blog posts. Her photos are personal and fun and I can picture the joy that she feels as she lives life. She tends to find the positive in her days which is what I try to do here. 
So here's to the whole of the blogging community. You're all amazing! 

PS - Check out my giveaway!

Adventures Await

21 February 2011

My soul is yearning for warm weather and long, sunny days. I'm ready to get outdoors and start living again. Beyond waking up at 6:40am on a Saturday I'm actually starting to enjoy these geology field trips on the weekends because it means I'm getting outdoors so much more. 

Lately I've been craving some hikes in our local National Park, camping, a canoe trip, and views of my world from the top of a mountain (see picture below). 

{It's even more beautiful in summer & fall - Blue Ridge Mountains}

{From our field trip on Sunday.}

This last picture is actually on my list of hikes that I need to do! It's about half an hour up to Shenandoah National Park from here and another half an hour south on the Blue Ridge Parkway. I'd love to go! 

Spring is just around the corner which means the wild and wonderful outdoor world will open up to us once again. Adventures are only a hike away and I'm counting down to the warm days. You may notice that several of my 101 in 1001 goals are related to the outdoors (camping, canoeing, horseback riding) and I'm ready to make adventures for myself.

All to often I find that I'm looking at other people and saying "I can't believe they've done that!" or "They've been there??".  It's time for me to stop daydreaming about other lives and start creating my own. My favorite quote is "Live the life you love, love the life you live".  Well, I'm ready to start living and creating that life! Join me won't you?

Sunday 101

20 February 2011

Working on my 101 in 1001! I'm excited to review these aspirations each week, it really keeps me aware of how much I aim to do! Are you keeping up with your goals?

#9 Read at least two books a month. This is slowly coming along! I'm trying to finish Halo and Acts of Faith. In January I was kicking butt at this goal but now the semester is in full swing and I remember why it's so difficult to read for pleasure.

#27 Find 100 geocaches. Coming along well! We found another three or so this week while on our day off this Tuesday!

#28 Start each day with some beauty.  This has been marked off yet again (with the exception of the last two days when I couldn't connect to my favorite photography site). I may find another website soon. You can get some daily lovely photographs at my twitter @allisonmseward

This week has been a little slow on the goals but I'm not going to get frustrated because of it. After all, I didn't even have a weekend!  I know once spring break hits I'll be able to get out a little more and accomplish some of my aspirations.

PS - Check out the giveaway!

Geology Day!

19 February 2011

Hello friends. Ok, so I wasn't kidding yesterday when I said I'd mention all the geology today. Today consisted of lots of fresh air and a ton of rocks for me. Honestly, it's probably the best field trip I've gone on to date. We had beautiful weather in the valley between the Blue Ridge Mountains and Massanutten Mountain! It got a little windier in the Shenandoah Valley (between the Alleghenies and Massanutten) but there was sunny weather and clear skies all day. 

We stopped at several rock outcrops along the way, took strike and dip measurements with compasses, ate lunch, and made general geology jokes. It was a good time and a total brain dump! There is a lot of information to review after today!

Do you see the folds in the photo above? How cool is that?! The rocks are folding and we can actually see the hinge. It's pretty sweet from a structural standpoint.

We did notice strange, puffy, white clouds at noon and as the day went on we realized it was smoke! Sure enough, when we got back to town the place was in a smog! Well, at least it was a fun day out in at the outcrops. There were forest fires in the Allegheny mountains today.

I hope you have had a wonderful Saturday so far and make sure to enter the giveaway! Forgive all my geology talk but it's a very rock-filled weekend. 


18 February 2011

Hello all! I'll probably be away for the weekend (teacher-in-training taking geology field trips both Saturday and Sunday here)! Don't worry, I'll make sure to tell you all about the rock formations when I get back. Just kidding! Enjoy your weekends!

{My shine necklace}

However, for the time being, I have a little giveaway for you all! 

Ashley from The Shine Project makes necklaces centered around the word "Shine".  Her motto is 'Let the world see you shine!' and I think that's a great way to describe the blogosphere and our connections here. 

So, I have a Shine Necklace to giveaway! 

{This could be your Shine Necklace!}

To Enter:
  1. Be a follower! (Leave a comment for this!)
For Extra Entries:
  1. Tweet about the giveaway (and leave a link to your twitter!)
  2. Blog about the giveaway (leave a link for this as well!)
Once again, I want to say thank you to you all for being so supportive and positive! This is mostly a thank you, but all new comers are welcome too!

*Giveaway ends on Wednesday, February 23!

Try and Relax

17 February 2011

Let's face it, we all get stressed sometimes. That's a lot of the reason I turn to this blog to be positive and list my reasons to smile. It's also why I love reading your beautiful blogs and finding some inspiration in my day. Thank you.

I'm feeling a little rough around the edges right now due to college. Yes, college in it's entirety. That means it's time for me to step back and take account for what I'm grateful for today.
  • Sunny, warm weather. Can't beat it!
  • Pizza tonight - it's our special treat on Thursdays
  • Some of my favorite shows are on tonight (30 Rock, Outsourced anyone?)
  • Spring Break is only two weeks away
  • My fiance is wonderful
  • I ate cantaloupe today
Ways I'm de-stressing today? I'm blogging, of course. Also I'm trying to really get some work done, eating pizza, and belting country music out. Noah can't stand country music but it's my guilty pleasure. It just screams back-country roads to me with green grass and windows rolled down. I guess it comes from  my k12 days of country music on the big, yellow bus (and I lived in the country). 

To Be Warm Again

16 February 2011

It's a miracle! It's supposed to be nearly 60 degrees today and it will hit 70 here on Friday! Your warm thoughts worked. Thank you so much

I can't explain how good it feels to have sun on your skin when you're walking around. I'm seriously considering busting out a sundress for Friday! Just because. 

I love every season, but winter is probably my least favorite. Throughout all of winter there are incredibly stressful classes and it's freezing outside. Occassionally you get trapped indoors due to snow and while it's pretty it can also be frustrating.

For the first time I can remember in my life - I'm ready to jump straight to summer. Fireflies and green grass, well, head this way!

Veggie Dish: Lasagna & Mini Quiches

15 February 2011


Today I want to share a recipe with you that we made on Sunday for our vegetarian lunch.

The lasagna was pretty simple.

You need:

  • Lasagna noodles
  • Ricotta Cheese
  • Feta Cheese
  • Kale (1 bundle)
  • Tomato Puree (2 cups)
Put some oil on your baking dish (8x8) and then put some tomato sauce on the bottom. Put on some noodles, sauce, kale, cheese, sauce, noodles.... Just keep alternating until you get to your last bits and finish off with some sauce on top and some grated cheese (if you like).

Bake for 40 mins at 400 F. You don't need to cook the noodles beforehand - they absorb enough sauce while baking to be plenty soft! 

Below are the mini quiches I've made before. They never last longer than 15 minutes around here.... So yummy and easy to make!

Just take pre-made phyllo-dough shells and set on baking sheet. Take 1 egg, a couple spoonfuls of feta cheese, and some onion (I used roughly 1/4 an onion) and mix together. Spoon drop into the shells and voila! Bake at 350 F for about 20 mins. Delicious!

Reasons to Smile

14 February 2011

Well, today has been lovely in many ways and it's time to count my blessings!

  • Had lunch with a friend yesterday.
  • Noah took us out for an excellent dinner with drinks last night.
  • Had a Circle K meeting tonight!
  • Found photos I thought had mysteriously disappeared....
  • Valentine's Day parties rule
  • Noah bought me a lovely carnation (see above)
  • I saw my Little today, and I love that.
  • Strawberry cupcakes are delish.
  • My secret-valentine got me a plastic tablecloth....he thought it was giftwrap. 
  • Stylish Blogger Award (more to come soon!)
  • I got my Shine Necklace in!
  • Two free Valentine's from Nimbus Factory
What are your reasons to smile today?

Sunday 101

13 February 2011

#27 Find 100 geocaches. Marked three more off! Currently I've found 59. 41 more to go! This weekend we found all the geocaches in our local park - some in trees and some near tunnels.

#28 Start each morning with some beauty. On twitter @allisonmseward I've been posting pictures that are inspiring to me or are simply beautiful.

#30 Workout at least three times a week. If not for my field trips I wouldn't have been completing these goals each week. I didn't post yesterday because I was out on a ten hour field trip and over two hours of that was an intense uphill up-mountain hike.

#34 Build upon a fashion style. In progress. I'll keep you posted. The haircut was the first step.

#36 Ask 10 friends what their favorite books are and read them. I've been asking friends what their favorite books are and I have a few more to ask. This goal will undoubtedly take a while to complete.

#38 Start a weekly series on the blog. Currently, I'm thinking about bringing back my Monday Night Meals posts.... However, I can no longer do a big dinner on Monday nights. Perhaps Veggie Dish instead?
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