Sunday, March 10, 2013

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day!

I know a lot of people who are bitter about Valentine's Day. Personally, I see no reason to be bitter or unhappy. Even if you don't have a sweetheart, a bouquet of roses, or a night on the town, you must realize that love doesn't just come from a significant other. There are dozens, perhaps hundreds, of people who love you and think about you on a daily basis. Why expect them to go out of their way to please you on a single day?

Instead of bitterness, regret, and self-pity, try thinking about your parents, siblings, cousins, pets, friends, teachers, mentors, and all the other people in your life who have had an effect on your life. My life is filled with the love of family, friends, and of my God. I choose to make Valentine's Day a celebration of all my relationships, and I encourage others to do the same. Broaden your outlook and you'll find that love is all around you!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Carb Free/Low Carb Creations

My parents are currently working through a diet which limits the intake of carbohydrates. Bread, pasta, rice, barley, oatmeal, corn, potatoes, sugars, alcohol, and all fruits are now off the menu. This has been somewhat of a challenge for we are a a sturdy, German-American family, and we like our starchy foods. But really, the diet is an attempt to reform the way one approaches food. Protein-rich foods like eggs, meats, poultry, and legumes should be staples of the diet, instead of highly processed flours and sugars. Needless to say, we have been eating a lot of lean meats and fresh vegetables. It's been a challenge to come up with carbohydrate-free meals that are enough to satisfy, but I think I'm getting better and better at it. Here is a sampling of dishes from this past week:

Sauteed Brussels Sprouts
1) Soak 1/4 c sprouts in salted water for 30 minutes. Simmer on stove top until bright green. Drain.
2) Heat olive oil in cast iron pan. Cut sprouts into halves or quarters and add to pan. Cover.
3) Let cook until sprouts are caramelized. They should be tender with a light brown coat.
4) Serve HOT. Cold brussels sprouts are not at all appetizing.

Stuffed Peppers
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and grease a 9x9 casserole dish with olive oil.
2) Slice 2 large green peppers lengthwise, removing core, and washing out seeds. Place hollow side up in dish.
3) Heat olive oil in cast iron pan. Roughly chop 1 medium white onion, 1/4 head of broccoli, and a few raw almonds. Add both to pan. Cover and cook until onions are tender and light brown. Remove from heat.
4) Crumble fresh feta cheese into pan, tossing with onions and almonds. Heap spoonfuls of mixture into peppers, sprinkle with ground black pepper. Bake for approximately 30 minutes, then serve hot.

Curried Summer Squash
1) Slice 2-4 small squash lengthwise. Place slices in casserole dish and drizzle generous amounts of olive oil over them.
2) Sprinkle sea salt and curry powder in copious amounts over squash. Coat slices well, and let marinate in fridge for a few hours.
3) These are best grilled, but can be baked in a 400 degree oven for 30 minutes or so.

White Bean & Parmesan Salad
1) Drain 1 can each white butter beans and garbanzo beans. Rinse well and combine in large bowl.
2) Thinly slice 2 small summer squash or zucchini. Add to beans.
3) Grate 1/2 c fresh parmesan cheese. Add to bean & squash mixture.
4) Drizzle beans, squash, and parmesan with olive oil and juice from 1/2 of a lemon, sprinkle (sparingly) with sea salt and black pepper, and toss until well coated.

In our family there are always hits and misses with veggie dishes, but I think I'm getting to the point of compromise for everybody!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Year in Review

 1. What was the single best thing that happened this past year?
Completing my senior Honors thesis in history and graduating Magna Cum Laude from my alma mater!

2. What was the single most challenging thing that happened?
Continuing to overcome disappointment in myself after a difficult breakup. I've found that the period after the end of a relationship is much like a period of mourning for me. I am filled with grief at losing someone I loved and respected, disappointment in my thoughts and actions, insecurity about myself, anger at the situation, and resentment that I entered into the relationship to begin with. It takes a long time for me to heal-- a year, give or take-- but I always learn and grow from the experience.

3. What was an unexpected joy this past year?
Gaining admission to the graduate program of my dreams! My GRE scores, a number of professors, and even some family members told me not to get my hopes up, but I just knew when I opened that email that I had been blessed! I am one of 13 students admitted to the class of 2013.

4. What was an unexpected obstacle?
Finding out just a few months before graduation that I would not be allowed to graduate with University Honors. I had struggled for nearly four years to complete requirements for the Honors Program, and after some misinformation in my final semester, I decided that the program was not worth the stress. I still graduated with multiple honors, because I was able to use the energy I had once spent on fighting the Honors Program to finish my senior year with a bang.

5. Pick three words to describe 2012.
Challenging, rewarding, revitalizing.

6. Pick three words your best friend would use to describe you in 2012.
 Silly, adorable, busy.

7. Pick three words your best friend would use to describe their 2012.
Stressful, fun, educational.

8. What were the best books you read this year?
Well, as I was cleaning out our attic over the summer, I found my grandmother's Bible in an old box. She passed away when my dad was in college, so I never got to meet her, but it's been a neat experience to hold something that was once dear to her. In my continued effort to read the Bible from cover to cover, I began reading this precious edition and found surprises inside! In the book of Zechariah, I found a bookmark with a prayer on it, and pressed between the pages of Matthew, a four-leaf clover has been preserved for almost 40 years!

In other news, I read (and re-read) some excellent literature, such as Pride and Prejudice, Dances with Wolves, Little Dorritt, and Game of Thrones.

9. With whom were your most valuable relationships?
My friends from school were wonderful this year. I valued each relationship differently because they each contributed something unique to my life. My friend Kelsey always makes me laugh, and is the best person to play boardgames and watch movies with. My friend Annie gives the most comforting hugs, and was always there to talk me through a tough time. Brittney is an inspiration to me-- the way she juggles graduate school, a full-time job, and a social life is amazing. Lily and Katie provide me with a lovely vacation home when I need to escape for a few days, and it's always a blast to venture to the big city with them. Grace listens to me and prays for me when I most need it, and is always ready for a lively debate about history. Alexa, Jillian, Zeb, Victoria, Leslie, Will, Brett, and all the rest of my Hubbardians kept me motivated to be the best student and role model I could be.

10. What was your biggest personal change from January to December of this past year?
Moving home from Hubbard after graduation was one of the biggest adjustments I've ever had to make. From the moment I moved in to my residence hall as a freshman, I was in love with the community. Hubbard is full of hard-working, sensible, motivated, and caring individuals, and I loved every moment of my time as there. Leaving it all behind in May was bittersweet. I knew that even though I would no longer be involved in the Hubbard community, the residents that I loved would continue to make it the best dorm on campus.

11. In what way(s) did you grow emotionally?
In early fall, I was feeling sorry for myself because all my friends had gone back to school or were living far away from me. I kept thinking how isolated my little town was, and how desperate I was for company.Then I realized that in just a few months, I would be embarking on the adventure of a lifetime. Since that realization, I have been cheerful, excited, and ambitious. My future awaits and I plan to make the best of it!

12. In what way(s) did you grow spiritually?
Around the same time as my emotional epiphany, I heard a song on the radio that I had not heard before. It was "Forgiveness," by Matthew West, and it spoke to my heart in a way that prayer, scripture, and worship had not done in a long time. I suddenly was reminded that God forgave my sins through His Son, and that in my quest to live like Jesus, I must also forgive those who have hurt me. After a night of many tears and prayers, I finally let go of the painful and shaming memories that had burdened me for a year or more.

13. In what way(s) did you grow physically?
I started running again over the summer, and in the past few months I have found a real desire to spend time outdoors. Of course, it is difficult to make it a daily occurrence in rural New Hampshire, with the unpredictable New England weather, but I do my best! I also read a book called The Yoga Body Diet, which helped me to profile my eating and exercise tendencies. It isn't a "diet" in the strict, depriving sense of the word, but rather a change in the way you eat and digest.

14. In what way(s) did you grow in your relationships with others?
I think that in some ways I became more effective at communicating my emotions. I tend to conceal my sadness or anger so as not to seem abrasive. But too many times I have waited for someone to comfort me, only to result in the frustration of both parties. Numerous times in 2012 I found myself in a difficult situation, and by acting on the emotional charge of the moment I was able to find a productive outlet that could be more easily communicated to others.

15. What was the most enjoyable part of your work (both professionally and at home)?
Working with children is an amazing experience, because it requires me to live what I teach. In 2012, I had so many opportunities to be a role model for the children in my community! I was a summer camp director, substitute teacher, and playgroup assistant. Each position varied in depth and duration, but I like to think that my involvement in the daily lives of the kids I work with has made a positive impression.

16. What was the most challenging part of your work (both professionally and at home)?
Being the bad guy. I don't like to be "the mean counselor" or "the strict teacher". It is tough to say "no" and stick with it. But I have high expectations for others, and I think that setting boundaries in school, camp, or playgroup, is the best way to ensure safety and respect for everyone.

17. What was your single biggest time waster in your life this past year?
Pinterest. Hands down. I don't necessarily think it is a waste of time, but when I consider all the mending or extra cleaning that I could have accomplished in the 15 minutes before dinner, it is definitely a time sucker.

18. What was the best way you used your time this past year?
Hehehe. I discovered that ironing and sewing while catching up on BBC dramas is not only an effective use of time, but it is a motivator for me to finish projects! If I have something really juicy to watch, like Little Dorritt or Sense and Sensibility, I am more likely to set aside the time to sew.

19. What was biggest thing you learned this past year?
I learned that sometimes the most coveted treasure is not worth the price. Sometimes, the thing you think you want most, is the thing that you cannot have. And while bemoaning your bad luck, you'll find unexpected blessings in the least obvious places.

20. Create a phrase or statement that describes 2012 for you.
"Keep going. Even on the foggiest day, you must believe in your own ability to navigate the road ahead."