The theme for this month’s Recipe Redux was “A Spirited Redux,” in which we could use any type of liquor or spirit, ranging from extracts (vanilla, lemon, etc…) to wine. Since I don’t drink alcohol for legal, personal, and religious reasons (I am only 20, but I don’t plan on drinking even when I turn 21), I decided to use lemon extract as my “spirit” of choice. Though it technically contains alcohol, as many extracts do, it is essentially a negligible amount when you use only 1/4 a teaspoon or so. So here is the recipe I created…

Lemon-Maple Almond Butter

2 tablespoons of lemon juice

2 tablespoons of vanilla almond milk

1/4 a teaspoon of lemon extract

1 tablespoon of maple syrup

1/3 a cup of almond butter

Simply combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth and creamy. The maple syrup helps counter the tartness of the lemon juice, making it both sweet and sour.

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I hope you enjoy the rest of your day! Here is the link where you can view other Recipe Redux submissions…


First, let me briefly explain what inspired me to write this post. During ballet class today, my classmates and I were practicing our solo variations for the summer workshop performance, and we decided to film each other doing the variations–which I thought would be an excellent way to let me scrutinize every single minuscule mistake that I made while dancing. As it turned out, there were also a bunch of huge, obvious, and not-minuscule-at-all mistakes, but I digress…Anyway, after class I watched the video of my variation several times, growing more and more frustrated with each viewing. In case it wasn’t obvious, dancers tend to be perfectionists, and I am certainly not an exception to that “rule.” I thought briefly about sharing the video via Facebook in order to get some feedback, but then realized I would probably receive a ton of sugar-coated and insincere compliments, so I decided against it. If there is one thing I absolutely, completely, 100%, totally DESPISE, it is being given false compliments, even if they are given out of compassion or kindness. I’d rather just be told the truth, regardless of how harsh it may sound. Even though I can learn a lot from watching myself dance, it is rather painful and humiliating nevertheless. It also reminds me why I don’t mind when my family members can’t come to see my performances; they certainly aren’t missing much. Well, I suppose they could come to see the other dancers, but not their 20 year old daughter hopping around and making a fool of herself.  Here is a rough draft of the thoughts that usually run through my mind when I watch myself dancing on a video, and I am sure my fellow dancers out there can relate ;)

Dang, it looks even sloppier than I thought it would…

What the &%$#@! are my feet doing??

Point your toes!!

Point your toes!!

POINT YOUR TOES!! 

 

Why on earth are my arms flailing about in such a haphazard manner?? I am supposed to be a dancer, not an orchestra conductor!!

That is probably the worst fifth position I have ever seen in the 12 years I have been dancing…

Is that SUPPOSED to be an assemble battu?? It looks as though I tripped over something and just happened to sort-of-kind-of cross my legs in the jump. 

My jumps would probably be more impressive if I could get more than two inches off the ground. And POINT MY TOES.

You can’t even nail a clean and polished SINGLE pirouette en pointe?? Seriously?? Well, this is an embarrassment.

For the sake of all things holy, PLEASE straighten your knees in those arabesques!! I look like a lame stork trying to fly. 

Your leg in attitude needs to be BEHIND you, not swinging out to the side–I look like that “doggy-on-the-fire-hydrant.” 

Good gracious, my turnout is essentially nonexistent. It’s as though all that time I’ve spent carefully working on my turnout has all gone to waste. 

Why didn’t anyone tell me this was such a dreadful mess??

Well, that was 60 seconds of incredibly cringe-worthy dancing. I hope no one else has to endure such a spectacle in the near future. I’d better get working on all these major technical flaws, or else dozens of people WILL have to do just that. 

OK, time to watch the video again. I’d better brace myself. 

Well, that was rather cathartic to write. I know that critiquing myself may seem like a strange way to relieve stress, but I can honestly say that in regards to dance, it is easier for me to accept criticism than compliments–at least I know that the criticism will be truthful. Enjoy your weekend!


Though I am far from a professional chef, seeing as some of the dishes I create look like piles of vomit or other gag-inducing substances, I have learned some very helpful and amusing cooking/baking tips over the past few years, and I thought I’d share some of them with you in this post. Some of them you may have already heard, some may be new, and some may make you think Well, DUH!! Doesn’t everyone know that already?? I am hoping that at least some of these tips will fall into the second category. To make it even funner (hmmm…I wonder if that is a real word. The spell check doesn’t correct it, yet on the flip side, it seems to insist that “tempeh” is not a real word. Makes no sense to me), I will share some random anecdotes to go along with some of the tips.

1. The key to preventing pasta from becoming a lumpy and gluey mess is to stir it very frequently during the cooking process: Though some people say to put olive oil in the pasta water, I honestly don’t think this is any more effective than simply stirring the pasta to prevent it from sticking together. Plus, the olive oil could possibly prevent the sauce from sticking to the noodles, though that may be a myth. As for the whole “throw pasta on the wall to see if it is finished” ritual? It is almost certainly a myth as well, but I recommend doing it anyway, just because it is extremely fun and amusing, and is one of the only socially acceptable ways to throw food around and not look as though you are mentally regressing to your infant years of eating food in a high chair and smashing peas on your face.

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2. If your oven cooks unevenly like mine does, make sure to rotate trays of cookies or other food about halfway through the cooking time: Unless your oven is absolutely perfect and flawless (if so, then congratulations), then it probably has certain “hot spots” that cook food slightly faster than the other “cooler spots.” Well, they are only “cooler” relatively speaking, since an oven isn’t exactly the iciest of places. Make sure to rotate the trays of whatever you happen to be baking so that you don’t end up with 15 perfectly baked cookies and 15 slightly burnt cookies that no one will eat and will probably end up in the trash can. Or you could just buy a new oven, but that’s no fun…

3. To prevent a nasty case of “onion tears,” try quickly cutting an onion into a few slices, then running away (literally) and waiting 15 minutes or so before continuing the slicing process: I have found that letting a partially sliced onion just sit there and stew in its own juices for a short period of time seems to eliminate (or at least reduce) those lovely burning and tearing eyes that you often get while cutting onions. You could also stick it in the fridge during those 15-ish minutes to help even more. Or you could buy those fancy onion goggles, though regular swimming goggles work just as well. As long as you don’t mind looking slightly ridiculous while in the kitchen. Or maybe you are masochistic and enjoy the pain of burning eyes, in which case feel free to suffer as much as you would like.

4. If you need bananas to ripen quickly, put them in a paper bag, fold the top, seal with a chip clip, and place in a car for at least 24 hours in the blazing heat–preferably above 80 degrees Fahrenheit: OK, so I’ve never actually tried this, but I am sure it would do the trick, or at least begin to ripen those bright green bananas that taste like bland starch. After all, it seems as though whenever I happen to discover a random banana in the car during the summer, it has become very soft and covered in dark brown flecks. If you happen to live in a cooler climate, or if it is not summer time, then you could try putting them next to a heating vent. Just make sure it doesn’t catch on fire. That could be hazardous. And smelly. And messy.

5. To get the best flavor out of sweet potatoes, make sure to bake them instead of steaming or microwaving them: I realize that time can be an issue for many people, but baked sweet potatoes (either whole or chopped) taste far better than steamed or microwaved sweet potatoes. The steady and lengthy heat of the oven caramelizes the sweet potatoes and gives them a richer flavor than if they were prepared in a steamer or microwave. Just make sure not to eat piping-hot sweet potatoes straight out of the oven, because they will burn your tongue and cause your eyes to water.

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6. To convince your tofu-fearing friends that this soy-based product doesn’t have to taste like a mushy sponge, try this method of preparing tofu: Even my younger sister, who is usually leery of “weird vegan food” enjoys this recipe:

Drain one 12 to 14 ounce package of extra-firm tofu and place on a plate. Put another plate on top, then put a heavy can or jar on top of this plate and let sit for at least 30 minutes, pouring off the excess water as needed. Then chop the tofu into small cubes and place into a shallow baking pan. Pour the following marinade on top:

2 tablespoons of tamari or soy sauce

2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)

1 tablespoon of liquid smoke

1 to 2 teaspoons of garlic powder (optional)

Let the tofu sit in the marinade for at least 30 minutes, then put 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a frying pan and heat to medium-high. Fry the tofu cubes for about 10 minutes or so, flipping occasionally with a spatula, until the cubes are browned on the outside. Remove the cubes and let cool, then devour.

7. Never try warming up a plastic jar of Nutella in the microwave to get it softer: Let’s just say, hypothetically speaking, that we had a jar of Nutella that had hardened and become difficult to scoop out. And we decided to experiment and see if warming it up in the microwave would help a bit, despite the knowledge that plastic + microwave=danger. If this happened, there would almost certainly be an explosion of sparks in the microwave and a slight burning smell. This is all entirely hypothetical, of course. OK, maybe 98% hypothetical.

8. To thicken smoothies or shakes, use frozen bananas instead of ice cubes: I know that some recipes call for ice cubes to help smoothies or milkshakes have a thicker consistency, but this can dilute the flavor and make it too watery. Instead, once you have a decent supply of ripe bananas, remember to peel them, put them in a gallon-sized Ziplock bag, and freeze them for future use. Then, when you are ready to use them, simply chop them into smaller pieces so they don’t mangle your blender, and pop them into your favorite smoothie or shake recipe.

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9. If you are sick and tired of plain almond butter or peanut butter, try giving it a little pizzazz with extra flavorings: You can check out my recipe page for more detailed ideas, but here are some of my favorite combinations–just blend the ingredients together in a food processor or blender:

1. 1/3 a cup of almond butter + 1/3 a cup of orange juice + 1/2 a teaspoon of cinnamon

2. 1/3 a cup of almond butter + 1/2 a cup of mashed sweet potato + 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder

3. 1/3 a cup of almond butter + 1/3 a cup of pomegranate juice

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You could also try adding lemonade, vanilla extract, a bit of ground ginger, raspberry jam, pumpkin puree, apple juice, grape juice, chocolate almond milk, iced coffee–let your imagination go wild!

10. Leftovers are your friend–not your foe: Poor leftovers. They get such a bad rap. They are like those presents that are constantly re-gifted because no one really wants to keep them. However, it’s high time their tarnished reputation was brought into a new and more positive light! Leftover stew? Try reheating it, putting it on a bed of rice, and topping it with guacamole or salsa. Stale bread? Try slicing it into cubes and making croutons. Leftover veggie burgers (or regular burgers)? Try chopping them up, putting them on a salad, and adding your favorite toppings and dressings. Leftover pumpkin puree? Try adding it to a smoothie or making pumpkin-flavored almond butter. Leftover spinach dip? Try using it as a pizza “sauce” and putting on extra toppings such as artichoke hearts and spinach. The list could go on and on. Perhaps I am simply biased because I can’t stand seeing people throw out perfectly good food just because they don’t want to eat it anymore, but leftovers can be just as tasty as fresh food.

11. Never trust the stated temperature of your oven: It’s usually a good idea to use an oven thermometer, since your oven often claims that it is preheated to, say, 350 degrees when it is actually only at 320 degrees. Dirty rotten liars, those oven temperature gauges. We did use such a thermometer for a while, until I just got rather lazy and decided to simply cook food for a longer period of time. Or sometimes I simply turn the oven to 375 degrees when it needs to be at 350 degrees, since our oven tends to be at a lower temperature than it states. In conclusion, you don’t need to use an oven thermometer, but remember that when the oven beeps, it probably isn’t actually heated to the proper temperature.

Well, that’s all I can think of for now, but maybe I’ll make a “cooking tips part 2″ post at some point in the future. I hope you enjoy the remainder of the week!

 

 


I initially created this recipe to enter into a Vegetarian Times recipe contest, but since I didn’t win the contest (no surprise there), I decided I ought to share it on my blog –it may not be delicious or creative enough to win a contest, but at least it is tasty and easy to make. Oh, and as a quick disclaimer, I am not 100% sure that the picture below is actually of this particular milkshake, since I made the recipe more than a month ago, snapped a photo, and promptly forgot about it. So I filtered through the photo album on my phone and found a picture that looks as though it is the right one. Still, don’t get confused if your smoothie turns out to look different from the picture. The taste is more important anyway, right?

Vegan Chocolate-Peanut Butter Milkshake

1 cup of vanilla almond milk

2 tablespoons of cocoa powder

1 frozen banana, chopped into small pieces

1/3 a cup of So Delicious Chocolate Peanut Butter Swirl Ice Cream (made with coconut milk)

Simply combine all ingredients in a blender and give it a whirl until smooth and creamy. You could add a tablespoon or so of sugar, maple syrup, agave nectar, etc… if you don’t think it is sweet enough.

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Enjoy the rest of your Sunday!


As you can tell, when I can’t think up a decent title for my posts, I just create a hodgepodge of different events/items that have been a part of my life in the last week or so. After all, I’d rather not spend hours trying to make a catchy title when I could be spending that precious time writing the “meat” of the post instead. It’s all about time management. And laziness. And a lack of creativity at 7:30 in the morning, when I started writing this post. This is also why I prefer not to open my posts with some sugary-sweet and cheery greeting like “Hello friends!! The sun is shining, the birds are singing, and I am just SO freakin’ happy!!” It just seems like a waste of space to me, though in the past I did occasionally write such nausea-inducing greetings. Anyway, here are some random thoughts in no particular order….

1. One thing I adore about summer is the fact that I have more time in which to read for pleasure, as opposed to reading only college-related literature. Here are the titles of three books that I am reading/have finished reading: David Copperfield (by Charles Dickens), Before I Go to Sleep (by S.J. Watson), and The Thing With Feathers (by Noah Strycker). David Copperfield is a charming, humorous, and detailed book, though it can be a bit too wordy in certain parts, seeing as Charles Dickens was paid per word–actually, I think that is a myth according to some websites I looked at. These sites state he was paid per installment as opposed to per word. Either way, Dickens uses a great deal of descriptive words and rambling sentences in his books, something I can definitely relate to. I guess he and I were soul mates in the sense that we can (could, in his case, since he is long-gone from this earth) get carried away while writing…I love Dickens’ sense of humor in David Copperfield; it is the type of dry, sarcastic, and subtle humor that I appreciate so much. Plus, he does a marvelous job of creating complex and lifelike characters. As for the book Before I Go to Sleep, I must first say that I finished this 350-ish page book within the span of approximately two days, mainly because I had to find out what happened in the end. It tells the story of a woman named Christine who has a type of amnesia where every time she wakes up the morning, she will have forgotten everything that happened before the incident that caused her to lose her memory. Basically like the movie 50 First Dates, but in a mystery/thriller format. I won’t say much more about the plot to avoid spoilers, but I will say this: even though it was fast-paced and rather addictive to read (hence my finishing it in two days), the characters all seemed rather flat and one-dimensional, and I struggled to make them come to life in my mind. This book is being made into a movie this year, and I will probably watch it once it comes out on DVD, just to see how it is. Finally, I’ve also been reading The Thing with Feathers, which is a non-fiction book about “the surprising life of birds and what they reveal about being human.” It is a lot more interesting than it may sound, I promise ;) One chapter discussed the incredible homing abilities of pigeons, while another touched upon the ability of vultures to (1) seek out dead prey and (2) digest rotting flesh without being harmed by any bacteria or microbes in the meat. It truly is a fascinating book, and I recommend it to anyone who is interested in learning more about our feathery friends. Hmmm…maybe I should consider writing book reviews for a living.

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2. If you are familiar with ballet, or are a ballet dancer yourself, then you know that pointe shoes have a fairly short lifespan, depending on how often you wear them. Mine usually last about two or three months before breaking down and getting too soft, though sometimes not even that long. I recently had to order a new pair, since my old ones are in the painful dying process–painful for me, that is. You see, when you are dancing en pointe, it normally doesn’t feel as though you are dancing on the tips of your toes, due to the shape of the pointe shoe and the padding that you use. However, when the box of the pointe shoe begins to soften and become more pliable, you start to feel the ground with your toes, which results in a fair amount of pain. Buying new pointe shoes wouldn’t be a big deal for me except for one huge problem: pointe shoes are INCREDIBLY expensive. As in $70-100 expensive, depending on what brand you buy. If you are in a professional company then you don’t have to pay for your shoes; however, since I am not, and probably never will be, I shall have to buy my own every few months. That is why I try to wait as long as possible before getting a new pair, regardless of how much my toes may be throbbing. I just tell myself the pain will make me stronger. Sometimes it actually works.

(image source: http://media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/7e/09/30/7e0930cc9fef3ac0d988306f6af433fb.jpg)

 

3. For the 4th of July, my family and I went to a celebration at a nearby naval base, where they had food, music, jugglers, magicians, carnival rides, and fireworks (of course). I mostly just sat around listening to the bands that were playing and ate the baked sweet potato and rice/vegetable curry that I’d brought along since hot dogs and funnel cake didn’t sound very appealing. I became excited when one of the bands did a “30 songs in 30 minutes” segment that consisted almost entirely of 70′s-80′s rock music, most songs being ones that I knew. So yeah, that made me happy, though I was probably one of the only 20 year old woman there who was familiar with all of those songs. After all, I was born in 1993 and didn’t exactly grow up listening to the music of the previous two decades. The fireworks were quite a spectacle as well, and there was music playing while they were being set off, which made it even more flamboyant. The real fun, however, started as we got in the car and attempted to leave. I say “attempted” because we got stuck in a long line of cars for an entire hour, just sitting there and wondering why we weren’t moving. We were all rather tired and loopy by that point, and started to look up trivia questions on our phones, which turned into a rather hilarious game. We also created imaginary scenarios about what might happen if we couldn’t get out of the park, laughing hysterically and probably making ourselves look like complete idiots. Or maybe not, since there were quite a few people who seemed as though they’d had one drink too many and were also a bit, shall we say, uninhibited. Eventually we started moving again, though, and got home at around 12:45 AM. Needless to say, it was an interesting day.

4. Perhaps it is due to the heavy rain we’ve had lately, but the mosquitoes have been a rather large problem here in Illinois in the past few months. The other night we decided to take our two dogs to the dog park, despite the fact that it had rained the previous day and we knew there would be mosquitoes there. Still, we took precautions and used bug spray–actually, I didn’t put on any because (1) I doubt the effectiveness of many bug spray brands and (2) I despise spraying all those nasty and potentially dangerous chemicals onto my skin. Once we got into the park, though, I began to regret my decision–the mosquitoes weren’t just flying around and occasionally biting us; they were swarming around us, so enthusiastically that I would have several mosquitoes on me at one point, all of them eagerly sucking my blood. I had never been in the midst of such a hard-core mosquito attack, and by the time we left the dog park (which was soon after we arrived), I probably had more than 20 mosquito bits on my legs, arms, shoulders, and face. I couldn’t help but think Every time a mosquito bites me, my chances of getting the West Nile Virus increase by a significant amount. Even so, I found myself apologizing to the mosquitoes as I brushed them off of my skin, saying “Don’t land on me! I don’t want to kill you if I brush you off too hard!!” OK, so maybe I take the whole “don’t kill bugs” pledge a little TOO far at times. Even though my parents and brother had used bug spray, though, they still got bitten as well, so at least my doubts about the bug spray were not entirely unfounded. I woke up this morning looking as though I was the victim of some particularly nasty plague, with red bumps all over my body. If anyone asks me, I probably will tell them (in a dead serious voice) I have some type of deadly plague, just to see if they believe me. Not that they will, but it’s more fun than saying “Well, I was viciously attacked by a swarm of nasty female mosquitoes.” If only there were more male mosquitoes at the park–after all, they don’t drink blood, but flower nectar instead. Still, I know mosquitoes are probably an important part of the food chain, so I find myself unable to hate them regardless of how many times I may be attacked this summer.

5. I recently went to Six Flags Great America with my younger brother and was able to ride the new coaster there called Goliath. Apparently, it is the world’s highest and fastest wooden coaster, though as my brother was quick to point out, it is technically a wood/steel hybrid coaster. My brother and I waited for about two hours in line just to take one ride on this beast, but it was a great deal of fun–both the waiting-in-line part and the ride itself. I must say, my siblings and I really know how to make a long wait seem shorter. I remember when I was highly reluctant to go on even the tamest roller coaster, but now I absolutely love riding them.

(image source: http://purecoaster.files.wordpress.com/2013/10/goliathsfgam1.jpg)

 

Well, that’s all I have for now, and I hope to be back within the next few days with another post. I know I have a delicious vegan chocolate-peanut butter milkshake recipe that I wanted to share, but I need to remember exactly what the ingredients are. I really ought to start writing down recipes when I make them instead of just winging it, thinking Wow, that was delicious! and promptly forgetting to take detailed notes about the measurements. I hope you all enjoy the next few (or several) days! Unless, of course, you don’t want to enjoy them, in which case feel free to be miserable and unhappy.


It’s time for another installment in my “let’s scrutinize the logical flaws of major ballets” series! My last one discussed Sleeping Beauty, and this one will attempt to point out the biggest logical problems with the plot of the classical ballet Swan Lake. No, I don’t hate this ballet–it is a lovely production with beautiful music and incredible choreography. However, from a realistic standpoint, the story line falls flat in many ways. So let’s get started…

Title: Swan Lake

(image source: http://static.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Arts/Arts_/Pictures/2009/3/26/1238081417847/Swan-Lake-by-American-Bal-001.jpg)

The gist of the plot: On the day of his birthday handsome prince (seeing a pattern here in many ballets?? The whole “handsome prince” thing?? One of these days I want the good guy of a ballet to be an ugly ogre or something like that) named Siegfried is told by his mother that he must choose a bride at the royal ball the next evening. Siegfried then becomes all sullen and obstinate because he can’t find his own bride by himself (such a mama’s boy) and goes hunting with his friend. They stumble across a flock of swans and prepare to shoot, when one of them transforms into a beautiful woman named Odette. She tells Siegfried that she and her fellow swan-girls have been victims of a spell cast by the evil sorcerer Von Rothbart. During the day they are swans, while at night they can turn into humans (apparently they keep their clothes on, though, as demonstrated by Odette’s lack of nudity in Act 2). This spell can only be broken if someone swears to love Odette forever (that’s an awfully long time…). During the evening, much dancing and flirting occurs, and Siegfried ends up falling in love with Odette in the course of only one pas de deux (no surprise there). During the 3rd act, Von Rothbart comes with his evil daughter Odile to Siegfried’s party–unfortunately, his daughter is disguised as Odette, and Siegfried dances with her and declares his love for her, completely oblivious to the fact that she is NOT Odette. Odette, meanwhile, flies in front of the window of the palace and tries to catch Siegfried’s attention, which obviously doesn’t work. After finally realizing his mistake when Von Rothbart reveals the truth about his daughter, Siegfriend dashes to the lake and apologizes to Odette. The two of them make up very quickly, but since the curse cannot be broken now, they both leap into the lake, essentially committing suicide. The ending varies depending on which company is performing, though, with some endings being happier than others.

My questions and observations: First of all, why couldn’t the prince just run away and find his own bride if he was so upset about having a woman chosen for him by his mother? It’s not as though he was some helpless weakling, though perhaps his desire to stay with his rich and powerful family was stronger than his desire for true love. Luxury is a strong incentive, I suppose. Or maybe he was just weak-willed and not extremely intelligent. As for his encounter with Odette, I’ll just say that the whole “love at first pas de deux” idea doesn’t sit well with me. I mean, let’s face it–falling in love with someone within a matter of hours is just not realistic, even for a fictional ballet where girls turn into swans. First Siegfried is all sulky because he doesn’t want to choose a bride from a pre-chosen set of women, then he’s all for the idea of marrying someone he doesn’t even know very well. They should have at least gone on a few dates before getting into the whole “I’ll love you forever” thing. Though to be fair, I am not sure what they would have talked about, seeing as Odette is a swan for the entire day and probably spends her days eating bugs, preening her feathers, and leaving neat little piles of swan dung on the bank of the lake (and in the lake). I’m sure the whole animal-to-human transition would have been rough for her, both mentally and physically. Maybe she even enjoyed some aspects of being a swan, such as the ability to fly. That would probably be hard to give up for a life of sitting on a throne, looking beautiful and important, and having servants bathe and dress you. Though maybe the idea of not needing to swim in a lake filled with your own waste products was enough to convince her of the perks of married human life.

As for the 3rd act, why on earth couldn’t Siegfried tell that Odile was NOT Odette? I mean, she has black feathers instead of white, and has a completely different personality!! To be fair, I suppose Von Rothbart or Odile could have put a spell on Siegfried, so maybe it wasn’t entirely his fault. As for Odette waving wildly in front of the window to catch Siegfried’s attention, why didn’t she and her swan buddies just smash the window with a rock or something? Or start screaming outside the castle? That would probably have been more effective than silently gesturing through a window. And then there are all the other princesses (Hungarian, Neapolitan, and Polish)  who spend so much time and energy dancing for Siegfried, only to be coldly rejected because he is completely infatuated with evil swan-girl Odile. It must have been a rough party for those princesses. You know what would have made this act more interesting? If the three princesses became so angry with Siegfried that they pulled out swords and daggers and started dueling with him on the spot. They could be like secret ninja princesses! Maybe they could have even ended up accidentally killing Odile, causing Von Rothbart to be so grief-stricken that he kills himself and inadvertently ends up breaking the swan spell. Perhaps they even kill Siegfried, rescue Odette and her swan posse, and go off to create a band of powerful women warriors who travel the world fighting evil creatures. Now THAT would be an interesting twist, not to mention a point for female empowerment. OK, let me get back on track now and stop creating alternate plot lines for this ballet…

After Siegfried finally realizes that he just pledged his endless love to a wicked (insert foul and vulgar name here), he panics and rushes to the lake, apologizing profusely to Odette and admitting his mistake. Odette, being the forgiving person that she is, accepts both Siegfried’s apology and his pledge of love. Unfortunately, this will not break the spell since Siegfried has already declared his love to Odile, so what do they decide to do? Jump in the lake and kill themselves. You’d think they could have at least put their heads together and tried to cook up another plot before resorting to suicide, but maybe the crazy owl-sorcerer Von Rothbart was simply too powerful. Still, if he was really so strong and evil, why didn’t he just kill Siegfried on the spot at the palace instead of going through the whole “dress up my daughter as the woman you love” prank? Maybe he had some psychopathic tendencies and liked to toy with his victims first. Anyway, once Siegfried and Odette have drowned, the curse is broken, Von Rothbart dies, and the rest of the swans are free to…well, figure out what to do next. There should be a sequel to Swan Lake entitled “Letting Go of my Inner Bird: the Struggles of Adjusting to a Normal Human Life.” Maybe those swan maidens end up going off to form that band of warrior princesses that I mentioned earlier. One can only hope.

So, thus ends my thoughts on the logical flaws of Swan Lake. I think I might do Giselle next, since I have quite a few strong feelings about certain aspects of that ballet…

 


OK, so the facts I am about to share probably aren’t particularly fascinating, flamboyant, or flagrant, but these are some of my favorite F adjectives, which is why I decided to use them anyway. I am linking up with Arman’s Spill It Sundays today in order to share some random facts about a variety of topics, since I was feeling the urge to blog but was lacking the creativity and motivation to come up with an idea of what to write about. It’s been nearly a week since my last post; this whole “write more in the summer” goal hasn’t exactly been going splendidly so far…However, I’ve been busy with dance, babysitting jobs, writing scholarship essays in an attempt to get as much financial aid as possible when I transfer to the University of Oregon this fall, doing household chores (laundry, dishes, etc…) while my mom and brothers were out of town, and watching the World Cup with baited breath and bulging eyes (not really; I never watch sports on TV or in person and honestly couldn’t care less about which team wins. Still, it seems as though a vast number of people DO care, so I just wanted to throw that in for their benefit. I mean, even Google has a special doodle for the World Cup!! Is this world sports-obsessed, or is it just me??). OK, now I’m starting to ramble, so I’d better shut up and actually start focusing on the main topic of this post.

 

The Big Man's World

Five facts about….your family!

1. My dad has been part of the Mafia for about 20 years now and is a huge crime lord in Chicago. I guess that statement might be more believable if it wasn’t for the fact that blabbing about the Mafia could get me murdered or end up with a severed cow’s head in my bed. When we moved to Illinois a few years ago, we would all joke about how Illinois was known for only a few things: the Mafia, corrupt politicians, and corn. Andsports teams in Chicago, of course. In all seriousness about his career, though, my dad was in the Air Force as an air traffic controller (and other positions) for nearly 30 years before retiring a few years ago. Being an air traffic controller is a notoriously stressful and demanding job at times, so I deeply admire him for his focus, determination, organization skills, and planning abilities.

2. When my 18-year old brother and I were much younger (he would probably despise me for sharing this story with the world), we used to play a made-up game called Fantasy Land that involved playing the roles of several creatures such as griffins, unicorns, dragons, and blue swimming squirrels (I made these animals up on my own; they basically look like giant blue squirrels that can swim). I even wrote a book called “Fantasy Land” when I was 9 for a homeschool group book project. Here are a couple pictures from the book; please excuse my dreadful artistic skills.

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3. In order to keep some semblance of organization in our family, we keep a huge calender on our refrigerator upon which we write down important activities/jobs/events and what time they occur at. Some days will have as many as four different activities squeezed onto the small square with three or four different styles of handwriting. To an outsider, reading and interpreting our calender might require quite a bit of analyzing and squinting, but it definitely helps me, my siblings, and my parents keep track of who is where at what time.

4. My siblings, dad, mom (to some extent), and I all share a fondness for sarcastic, dry, and deadpan humor, which leads to many amusing conversations–though we can certainly overdo it at times. My parents love watching satirical news shows such as Jon Stewart and the Colbert Report, and I must say that these shows often capture the hypocrisy and illogical decisions of many government officials better than a “regular” news channel ever does. Still, as much as I adore sarcastic humor, I try not to go overboard on using it 24/7, since I realize that not everyone enjoys sarcasm as much as I do. Plus, it probably makes me sound like a bit of a jerk sometimes, especially when I am upset or stressed out and my sarcasm leans toward the nasty side.

5. Since there are six people living in my house, we do a great deal of laundry on a regular basis, and it isn’t unusual to have either the washer or dryer running at least once a day. Sometimes we even have the washer, dryer, and dishwasher running all at once, and then someone tries to simultaneously take a shower but quickly realizes that hot water is in very short supply. Then it’s either a cold shower or no shower until one of the water-draining machines has finished its cycle. I suspect that my 18-year old brother washes his clothes far more often than I do, which is a bit strange–well, maybe not, since I rarely wash my shirts and shorts unless they have visible stains on them, smell odd, or I can’t remember when I last washed them. Why waste water, right??

Five facts about…your childhood!

1. As I’ve mentioned before, I was born in Klamath Falls, Oregon, and lived there for about 10 years before moving to Virginia and then Illinois. While living on an 8-acre plot of land from about 2000 to 2003, we had a regular menagerie of animals: chickens, lizards, dogs, cats, rats, birds, fish, rabbits, and even a horse that we leased. I was a huge animal lover (and still am), and I absolutely loved to collect eggs from our chickens, cuddle with the baby rabbits, play with our rats, run with our dogs, and do absolutely nothing with the fish, who didn’t live very long at all. Oh well.

2. I kept up with a few semi-regular journals from ages 7 to about 12, which I still have in my room and enjoy looking through from time to time. My earliest entries are barely legible since my handwriting was so dreadful–and to be honest, it hasn’t exactly improved a great deal since then ;) In one of my journals/drawing books, I discovered a poem I wrote about rabbits when I was maybe 9:

Rabbits eat, run, hop, play,

They have fun every day

When they go to sleep at last

They dream of fun and hopping fast

Yeah, I had real poetic talent. Not. How on earth did I know what rabbits dream about?? Heck, they may not even dream at all!! Ah well, such was my youthful enthusiasm.

3. My siblings and I loved to put on plays when we were younger, some of them being Little Red Riding Hood, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, and others that I don’t remember the titles of but usually involved going on an adventure of some kind and dressing up as dogs, cats, cowboys, magicians, or ghosts. We still have video tapes of our Little Red Riding Hood and Goldilocks performances, and they are quite entertaining to watch. I don’t know how my mom managed to keep a straight face while videotaping as we tripped over objects, hissed at each other when we’d forget our lines, and attempt to cover up any mistakes.

4. Before taking up ballet when I was about 8 or 9, I took gymnastic classes for a couple of years with my younger brother. I remember being so excited when I could finally do a back-bend and other stunts on the bars and beams, and also that one of my favorite parts was jumping in the foam pit near the end of class. However, when it came time for some sort of gymnastics performance or competition one day (I can’t remember which one), I got terrible stage fright, broke down in tears, and refused to perform. Needless to say, my parents weren’t exactly thrilled, but they didn’t force me to do it anyway, which I was grateful for.

5. My siblings and I rarely watched TV while growing up, except for the occasional Animal Planet show. No cartoons, Disney channel, or anything like that. We did, however, love watching movies every once in a while, especially those childhood classics such as the Lion King, all the Disney princess movies, Pixar films, and others. Speaking of movies, I remember watching E.T. once and being quite frightened by the scene in which the men dressed in astronaut suits come into the boy’s house. I would also get upset by any movie in which animals were injured or killed, such as Old Yeller.

(image source: http://s9.favim.com/orig/140121/lion-king-quote-Favim.com-1286245.jpg)

Five facts about…you + school!

1. As I’ve mentioned before, I was homeschooled up until college, and it was a great experience. My mom didn’t have a rigid school schedule for us; instead, we focused on subjects that we were particularly interested in, and also did hands-on activities like science experiments in the kitchen, taking frequent trips to the library and checking out stacks of books, going on nature walks and collecting rocks/feathers/dead bugs/etc…to study at home, looking at things under the microscope, writing our own poems, and taking “field trips” to museums and other places. Even though my younger siblings eventually decided to attend public school, I stuck with homeschooling and don’t regret this decision at all. I took online AP courses throughout my high school years to gain some college credit, and enjoyed being able to spend more time at home with my family.

2. I’ve always loved writing (as clearly evidenced by my desire to start a blog) and have been both pleased and slightly embarrassed by the praise that my AP teachers and college professors have given me in regards to my papers. I took AP English Language during my sophomore year of high school, and not only did I adore the class, but I also feel as though my writing skills drastically improved that year. I managed to get a 4 on the AP exam (out of 5), which allowed me to skip the first level of English when I started up at my local community college. Writing has always been a passion of mine ever since I began scribbling my first journal at age 7, creating stories on Storybook Weaver, and writing random poems and reports on other topics.

3. I suppose I’ve always been the “teacher’s pet” type of student in my first two years of college: listening intently during lecture, rarely missing class, remaining respectful and polite toward my professors, studying hard for exams, and being a total overachiever ;) I remember in my spring 2013 biology class we would always have these “biology bowl” jeopardy-style review sessions before exams, and I would end up answering the majority of the questions because no one else seemed able or willing to answer. It is quite possible that they knew the answers but just didn’t want to speak up–who knows? Either way, I didn’t want to appear arrogant or like a know-it-all, but I also didn’t want to let my teammates down by not answering the questions for which I had the answers.

4. I took a statistics course last fall and it was the only college class that I truly disliked. Yes, I learned some helpful things about Microsoft Excel, and also learned a LOT about the value of my scientific calculator, but it was such a tedious class and the exams usually took me 3+ hours to complete. Plus, it was an online course, so my “professor” didn’t exactly do any teaching–he would simply give us the assignments and grade them with minimal feedback. I was glad that I at least got a B in that class, though I was secretly hoping for an A…

(image source: http://www.troll.me/images/conspiracy-keanu/what-if-statistics-was-created-to-make-us-all-feel-stupid.jpg)

5. Before the fall of 2012 when I started college, I had never taken any foreign language classes, so I decided to start with Spanish 1101 and see how it went. Needless to say, I quickly realized that I actually enjoyed learning a different language, and that it wasn’t too late to learn Spanish, as I had previously feared. Though I am certainly not fluent in Spanish yet, I can carry on a decent conversation as long as it doesn’t require too much conjugation of verbs. Tambien, no puedo hablar español muy rapido, y para mi, es más fácil leer español que hablar español. 

Five facts about…you + travel!

1. I’ve never been outside the United States before, though I would love to visit several other countries some day: Peru, Italy, Australia, India, and a few others. At the moment, though, I simply don’t have the money or time to go gallivanting around the world, visiting different countries and going sight-seeing.

2. For a span of about five years starting in 2006, we would go to Myrtle Beach each October to visit with my grandparents and cousins who are from Oregon and Florida, respectively. I would always look forward to those visits and the opportunity to swim in the ocean, collect shells, go for long walks on the beach, spot washed-up jellyfish, build sand castles, and simply enjoy the peaceful and rhythmic sound of the waves. Though it wasn’t exactly sweltering hot in October, the crowds were far smaller than they would have been in the summer, which was a bonus.

3. I have never traveled via boat before, and I don’t really have any desire to do so anytime in the near future. I know some people love going on cruises, but the thought of spending hundreds of dollars to sail on a boat with excessive amounts of food and flashy entertainment has never appealed to me.

4. I actually enjoy flying on airplanes, long lines and security problems aside. It’s always thrilling to look down from the airplane window and see the patchwork quilt squares of land below, or perhaps craggy mountains covered with snow. Or maybe I just haven’t flown enough times for the novelty to wear off. I’m sure people who have to fly frequently for business trips probably despise it at times.

5. When we lived in Virginia, we would often take the Metro bus up to Washington D.C. in order to visit the museums, zoo, and other attractions. We even got to tour the Capital and part of the White House once, and I must say the Capital tour was far more interesting than the White House one–mainly because we got to see more parts of the building and also learned more about the history and design of the Capital. If you ever visit D.C., I will say that the White House tour is somewhat overrated–the Museum of Natural History is far more exciting and educational, at least in my opinion.

Five facts about…your eating style!

1. If I had to label my eating style, which I usually prefer not to do, I would probably call myself “90% vegan.” I never eat the flesh of any animals (including seafood) and whenever I cook my own food at home, I always avoid using eggs and dairy products. That being said, I do consume products made with honey, which is not technically vegan. Also, if I am eating out at a restaurant, I will sometimes order food that contains small amounts of cheese or egg. Still, almost all of the recipes I create are vegan, and I am a firm believer that you can not only survive, but also thrive on a plant-based diet. Don’t worry, though–I won’t judge you if you DO happen to eat animal products.

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2. I usually try to avoid consuming food that contains high amounts of added sugar, preservatives, or food coloring. Though I do occasionally make exceptions for this “rule,” I feel better both mentally and physically when I am not chowing down on food that has an ingredient list packed with chemicals and fillers. Just because a food is labeled “Fat-Free!” “Reduced-Calorie!” “Whole-Grain” or “Guilt-Free” does NOT mean it is beneficial for your body. Many types of packaged and processed foods may be low in fat or calories, but chock-full of nasty ingredients that may even be banned in other countries–but not in the United States.

3. I don’t remember the last time I drank soda, either diet or regular, and I don’t plan on drinking it anytime in the future. My family rarely buys soda anyway, except for the occasional bottle of root beer to make root beer floats. I dislike soda not only because it is loaded with either regular sugar or artificial sweetener, but also because it provides zero nutritional benefits for your body. Yes, it is sweet and highly addictive, but I can’t think of any good reason to drink it other than because it “tastes good.” And that’s not a very valid reason when we are talking about something as nutritionally deprived as soda. I have, however, tried drinking Zevia before (stevia-sweetened soda), and while it is certainly tasty, I try not to consume it on a regular basis, since even a natural sweetener like stevia could possibly be detrimental in large amounts.

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4. I rarely eat out at restaurants–maybe once a month if that. This is mainly for cost purposes, since eating out at restaurants isn’t exactly cheap unless you go to somewhere like McDonald’s (which I don’t recommend!!) Plus, I can cook my own food at home for a cheaper price and sometimes even a better taste. However, I would be willing to splurge on restaurant-prepared Indian food, since this type of cuisine is not only extremely vegetarian-friendly, but also packed with nutritious spices, vegetables, and legumes. I also enjoy eating at Sweet Tomatoes, a buffet-style restaurant that offers a salad bar, soups/stews (with vegan options), bread, baked potatoes, pasta, dessert, fruit, and other food.

5. Not to sound like a stereotypical food blogger, but I do eat either almond or peanut butter on a daily basis–in my oatmeal, on pancakes, or just eaten straight out of the jar. I also have a total of 10 different flavored almond butter recipes on my recipe page. I do like walnut butter, cashew butter, and sunflower seed butter, but these spreads tend to be pricier than the other cheaper types. I rely on almond and peanut butter not only for the delicious taste, but also as a good source of healthy monounsaturated fats and protein.

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Well, thus ends my lengthy essay. I may be laconic while speaking face-to-face with someone, but I am far more prolific with words while writing. I hope you all enjoy the remainder of your weekend!

 


As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, I rarely drink coffee–not because I dislike it, but simply because I don’t feel the need to drink it on a regular basis. However, we recently got a bottle of Califia Farms Double Espresso Iced Coffee made with almond milk, and I was impressed by the delicious flavor. I then began thinking Hmmm…Wouldn’t it be interesting to make coffee-flavored oatmeal? And voila!–this recipe was born.

Spiced Vanilla-Coffee Oatmeal

1/2 a cup of rolled oats

1 teaspoon of cinnamon

1/2 a cup of almond milk iced coffee (or other coffee of your choice)

1/2 a cup of vanilla almond milk (sweetened or unsweetened, depending on your personal preferences)

Combine all ingredients in a small pot and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for about five minutes, stirring frequently, until the desired thickness is reached. Top with almond or peanut butter if desired.

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The oatmeal has a rich coffee taste with more subtle cinnamon and vanilla flavors. I used unsweetened almond milk because I didn’t want it to be too sugary, but you could always adjust the sweetness if desired. I hope you enjoy the recipe if you get a chance to try it!


You see the labels everywhere: “Reduced Calorie!” “Fewer Calories than Brand X!” “Low-Calorie!” “Guilt-free!” “30% Less Calories!” They all seem to insinuate that (A) calories are somehow “bad” and (B) we would all be better off if we simply consumed fewer calories and ate more of these “low-calorie” packaged foods. However, this is very far from the truth. You probably know that a calorie is simply a measure of heat–to be precise, it can be defined as the amount of heat it takes to raise 1 gram of water 1 degree Celsius (http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/263028.php). The word “calorie” seems to have been twisted and warped by food advertisements to have some darker and more dangerous meaning, as though we should avoid excess calories like the plague if we want to stay healthy. I get very upset and angry when I hear people who are already at a healthy weight talking about how they want to go on a low-calorie diet to get in shape or look better. Perhaps this is because I experienced firsthand the dangers of a restricted and low-calorie diet when I was in the midst of my orthorexia. No, I wasn’t restricting my calories to lose weight, since I was simply trying to avoid getting those lifestyle-related illnesses such as heart disease or diabetes, but the end result was the same: an unhealthy obsession with reading those nutrition facts on food labels. Counting calories is often a bad idea for many people, particularly adolescents and people who are very physically active. Yes, I understand that some people may need to reduce their caloric intake if they need to lose weight, but I am focusing more on the “other people” in this post–the ones whose desire to lose weight is fueled not by actual physical reasons but rather by a pressure to look more toned or slim. Still, even for overweight people, it is important to remember that calories are not your enemy, but rather a source of energy that keeps you alive.

The phrase “low-calorie” should never be automatically considered to be synonymous with the word “healthy,” since there are many low-calorie packaged foods and drinks out there that can wreak havoc on your body. On the flip side, there are many high-calorie foods that are loaded with beneficial nutrients. For example, let’s consider diet soda and other foods flavored with artificial sweeteners to reduce their sugar content. At first glimpse, it may seem like a dream come true: “Fewer calories with the same sweet taste?? Bring it on!!” However, even though these artificial sweeteners may have been deemed “safe” by the FDA, this doesn’t mean they can’t have any detrimental effects on the body. One problem is that artificial sweeteners can make you crave (and eat) more and more low-sugar foods without feeling satisfied because your body does not receive the calories that it so desperately wants (http://www.bostonglobe.com/lifestyle/health-wellness/2014/01/27/are-calorie-sweeteners-safe/B56kqUuKVJwcEfcWx2PmhO/story.html). Another problem with reduced-calorie foods is that they are often loaded with preservatives, artificial coloring, or other chemicals to make up for their lack of fat or sugar. This just serves to emphasize that the ingredient list of a particular product is often more important to scrutinize than the calorie count. For example, here is an interesting list of ingredients that can be found in many American food products, yet are banned in many other countries. Some of these foods include food coloring agents and olestra (a calorie-free fat substitute that can cause gastrointestinal issues). Sure, maybe some people can consume these products without any negative side effects whatsoever. Still, the idea of eating fat-free potato chips loaded with olestra makes me feel a bit queasy…

It is also important to remember that there are many high-calorie foods that are far more nutritious than low-calorie processed foods. Take avocados, for example. Yes, they are high in fat and calories, but they also contain a great deal of fiber, monounsaturated fats (AKA the healthier type of fat), vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Plus, they come straight from a tree without being tampered with in a laboratory, and I think most people would agree that such foods tend to be healthier than processed foods. Unless you are eating some completely natural poisonous plant, of course, but I don’t think we are all going to rush out and chow down on poison hemlock. Anyway, I digress. Getting back on topic, what about walnuts? They may be high-calorie, but they also provide a hefty dose of omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, protein, vitamin E, and antioxidants. I’m not saying you should eat heaps of walnuts every day, but it would be unwise to judge a food based solely on its calorie content. Calorie-dense foods like avocados, nuts, coconut products, olives, and others should not be avoided simply because they have more calories than a Splenda-sweetened soda or a Lean Cuisine meal.

There are certain guidelines that tell you approximately how many calories you “should” be eating on a daily basis, depending on your age, gender, and activity level. However, I think that sometimes these guidelines can serve to enforce restrictive habits or make people feel as though they “can’t” eat more than X number of calories each day for fear of gaining weight. Technically speaking, you are constantly burning calories just to stay alive and perform all of those complex tasks that are occurring in your cells 24/7. Add that to your exercising habits, the fact that simply digesting food also burns calories, and the often inaccurate calorie counts on food labels, and you get a very complex formula that can be tough for most people to figure out. Therefore, I think it often does more harm than good to obsess over the exact number of calories that you eat every day. Trust me when I say that painstakingly calculating the calories in every.single.bite of food that you eat is not worth the false sense of security it may seem to provide. You don’t want to waste time and energy determining whether or not that granola bar or handful of trail mix will “fit” into your daily calorie allowance. I learned this lesson the hard way, which is why I get so touchy and anxious when I see other people falling into the same trap as I did–albeit for different reasons.

Sometimes it seems to me as though people are waging a war against calories–a war in which our duty is to subdue the calories and make sure they don’t creep up on us unnoticed and turn us into waddling and pudgy balloons. OK, that’s probably not the best analogy, but I hope you get the general idea…Why are we turning our body’s fuel source into some sort of enemy that we have to do battle with? I am not trying to say that we should adopt a devil-may-care attitude about the food that we eat, but it’s not necessarily the calories themselves that are the “bad guys.” Instead, it’s the type of food from which we get our calories. If you get the majority of your calories from sugar-loaded soda, preservative-filled crackers, and fast-food hamburgers, then your health will probably suffer. However, if you instead get your calories from fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts, then your body will have a far easier time digesting and breaking down the food (unless you have allergies or food intolerances), not to mention you will get a boatload of nutrients that are scarce or even absent from the aforementioned soda and fast food. As for animal products, you may already know that I am an advocate of a vegetarian/mostly vegan diet, but I didn’t write this post to debate the merits of a plant-based diet vs. an omnivorous one–after all, I don’t want to alienate or insult my non-vegetarian readers ;) Plus, I already wrote a post in May about the benefits of a vegan diet…

OK, so I think I have now exhausted the majority of my thoughts on this issue, though I may have to edit this post later if something else strikes me as crucially important to include. So I shall step off my soapbox now and pass the microphone to all of you readers: what do you think about this issue??

 

 


Well, it seems I have been slacking on the blogging front lately, to my deepest chagrin. However, I do have semi-valid reasons for not being more diligent in my plan to blog more frequently now that I am finished with college classes for the summer. First of all, I started up my summer ballet classes on June 9th, and am dancing five days a week from about 10 to 3:30 each day (though only 10 to 2:30 on Fridays). We aren’t dancing for five and a half hours straight, though, since we have a 30-45 minute break mid-day and also small breaks in between class and rehearsal. Anyway, that has kept me fairly busy, and I’ve also started watching another TV show on Netflix called Angel, which is essentially a spin-off of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Yes, I have already finished all 7 seasons of BTVS, though it has only been a couple of months or so since I started watching it…I am completely hooked on Angel, and it is just as witty, captivating, and engaging–if not more so than–BTVS. I’ve also been picking up some random babysitting jobs, working on scholarship essays, learning to adjust to the suddenly humid and oppressively warm weather, creating new recipes and forgetting to write down exactly how I made them, spending time with my family, and chugging down copious amounts of water due to the copious amount of sweating that occurs during ballet in the aforementioned oppressive heat (wow, talk about an awkwardly long sentence). Anyway, I wanted to briefly share this amusing anecdote  (in the form of a Facebook post) about what happened during a recent babysitting job of mine…

Today I was reminded of the fact that trying to get two young boys who I was babysitting (ages 3 and 5) into baseball uniforms will take a minimum of 10 minutes and will almost inevitably be accompanied by wrestling, giggling, shouting, punching, squirming, and each of the boys wanting to watch the other one go pee before changing into their uniforms. Also, once the uniforms are finally put on, the boys will then run wildly around the house (with more wrestling/punching/sitting on each other’s heads) until one of them will almost certainly start crying due to their dog nipping at them or getting accidentally-on-purpose slapped in the face by the other boy. Hey, at least I can say that my babysitting jobs are rarely boring!! Plus, they allow me to sharpen my negotiation and peace making skills. Also, 90% of the time, the two boys were smiling and laughing in the midst of the punching and kicking, so at least they were enjoying themselves :) Babysitting certainly helps you develop the ability to distinguish between a “I’m just playing” scream and a “I’m in pain” scream…And that’s a vital life skill right there.

As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, I absolutely love babysitting, even though there certainly are times I get annoyed, impatient, or frustrated. I thoroughly enjoy interacting and playing with children, and I can’t understand why some people claim that they “hate kids.” How can you possibly say that you hate all kids?? Hey, we were all children at some point in our lives, unless you are like Miss Trunchbull from the book Matilda and believe that you were NEVER a child at ALL. That’s a fantastic book, by the way, if you haven’t already read it–it was a childhood favorite of mine. Anyway, I’ve had many adventures in my five-ish years of babysitting jobs: playing make-believe games and pretending to be everything from an elf princess to a mother, spending more than an hour trying to get overexcited children into bed, listening to gleeful laughter about potty humor-related jokes, reading Transformers books and getting corrected on my pronunciation of the villain’s name, taking part in impromptu dance parties, sculpting snowmen out of clay, dealing with a seemingly endless amount of scrapes/bumps/bruises/vomiting incidents, and playing the peacemaker when arguments and spats get a bit out of hand. I’ve learned the importance of patience, creativity, imagination, cooperation, and kindness. I’ve been deeply touched when one of the kids tells me I am the “best babysitter” they have ever had, even if their opinions might change on a daily basis. I’ve found that if you take the time to listen to children and not patronize them or constantly talk to them in a coddling tone, then you may be surprised by what they can teach you. I honestly can’t think of a better job to have, and I am extraordinarily grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to care for and interact with so many unique and wonderful children.

I think I’ll wrap up this post now, and perhaps I will be back with another one before the end of this week. I decided to get up at 5:15 this morning and take a 6:00 AM yoga class, which ended up being a fantastic decision–there is nothing like a yoga class to start off my day on the right foot. Sure, I may be slightly exhausted later tonight, but it was 100% worth the early wake-up call to get a yoga class in. I hope you all enjoy your Wednesday!