As I mentioned in a previous post, I got my two upper wisdom teeth removed yesterday afternoon, and as I am not supposed to engage in any physical activity for at least a couple of days, I decided to write this post in an attempt to prevent myself from going stir-crazy. I got my lower wisdom teeth removed almost exactly two years ago, and so far this round is less painful than the previous one, probably because the upper wisdom teeth are generally easier to remove due to their root structure. I took one painkiller yesterday but have decided to avoid taking any more unless I am in excruciating pain, which hasn’t happened yet…I am also taking penicillin to prevent infections, though, and will try to finish out the dose as instructed by the oral surgeon. The whole procedure went smoothly yesterday, and I didn’t say or do anything crazy as a result of the anesthesia–lucky for me, though it probably would have been amusing to my mom, who had to drive me home afterward. I slept for five hours last night, then woke up at 3:30 AM to use the bathroom, which alerted our dog Maya, who decided to whine outside my door to be let outside. After taking her out, I lay awake for more than an hour–not because of the pain, which was fairly mild, but simply because I felt wired and oddly alert for some reason. At around 4:30 I randomly decided to write an entry for the Reader’s Digest 100-Word Story Column, which I edited and sent in this morning. Don’t ask me why I felt compelled to write at 4:30 in the morning; maybe my brain was still a bit frazzled from the anesthesia…Anyway, I have to spend the rest of today laying around and reminding myself that exercising is a BAD idea at this point because it could cause a blood clot to dislodge from my mouth. As a bonus addition to this post, I thought I’d share an 11-page paper that I wrote for my Philosophy class in the spring semester of 2013. It may be dull for some of you, but perhaps it will strike interest in others. The topic is Ethics and Morality, in case it wasn’t obvious ;)

How do we define what is “right” and what is “wrong?” This question has been examined and analyzed by many philosophers over the years. The two sides to the debate on ethics and morality are Utilitarianism and Kantianism. Utilitarianism is a theory that “answers all questions of what to do, what to admire, or how to live, in terms of maximizing utility or happiness” . Proponents of utilitarianism argue that the morality of an action depends solely on its consequences—whether or not it brings about happiness. The two types of Utilitarianism are: (1) Act Utilitarianism, which focuses on the morality of a single act, and (2) Rule Utilitarianism, which states that an action can only be considered moral if, when adopted as a rule, it will always produce the greatest amount of good. Kantianism, on the other hand, holds that “the rightness of an action depends on the principle (the “maxim”) on which the agent acts” . I would defend the position of Kantianism, and argue that the principles upon which people act are more important in deciding the morality of an action than are the mere consequences of an action.

 

One philosopher who defended utilitarianism was Jeremy Bentham. He was an “Act Utilitarianist,” because his theory of morality focuses on the consequences of a single action. In his essay entitled The Principle of Utility, Bentham defines the “principle of utility” as “…that principle which approves or disapproves of every action whatsoever, according to the tendency which it appears to have to augment or diminish the happiness of the party whose interest is in question” In other words, the principle of utility would “approve” of an action if it tended to increase the happiness of the people affected by the action. Bentham also theorized that pain and pleasure are the two crucial things that govern and guide people in everything they do.

 
Bentham believed that you could determine the morality of an action by summing up “all the values of all the pleasures on the one side, and those of all the pains on the other. The balance, if it be on the side of pleasure, will give the good tendency of the act upon the whole, with respect to the interests of that individual person; if on the side of pain, the bad tendency of it upon the whole” . So if a person chose to tell a “white lie” in order to avoid hurting the feelings of a friend, Bentham would consider this action to be morally sound if it created more pleasure than pain in the affected person. But Bentham admits that “It is not to be expected that this process should be strictly pursued previously to every moral judgment, or to every legislative or judicial operation. It may, however, be always kept in view…” After all, it would be difficult to pause before every judgment or action and analyze exactly how much pleasure or pain it would produce in each person affected by the action.

 

Another Utilitarianist was John Stuart Mill, who defended a slightly different type of utilitarianism than did Bentham, and was considered more of a “Rule Utilitarianist.” In his essay Utilitarianism, Mill states “…some kinds of pleasure are more desirable and more valuable than others. It would be absurd that while, in estimating all other things, the estimation of pleasures should be supposed to depend on quantity alone” . So while Bentham focused more on the amount of pleasure or pain, Mill emphasizes that the quality of the pleasure or pain was equally as important—if not more than—as the amount. He states that “a highly endowed being will always feel that any happiness which he can look for, as the world is constituted, is imperfect. But he can learn to bear these imperfections…It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied” Mill believes that it is better for a person to be knowledgeable and intelligent enough to recognize the difference between “insignificant” and “significant” pleasures, even if it means he or she may not be completely happy, than to be a “less endowed” being who is satisfied with “lower” pleasures.

 
In regards to Rule Utilitarianism, Mill explains “To do as you would be done by, and to love your neighbor as yourself, constitute the ideal perfection of utilitarian morality…” . Mill emphasizes that the “interest of the whole” should be considered as important as an individual’s interest, and suggests following a slightly-altered version of the “Golden Rule.” Therefore, he could be considered a Rule Utilitarianist since he focuses on general principles (“love your neighbor as yourself” and “do as you would be done by”) that should be adopted as guidelines to follow when determining the morality of an action.

 
Like Bentham, Mill refers to the objection that “there is not time, previous to action, for calculating and weighing the effects of any line of conduct on the general happiness…” but responds that “The answer to this objection is, that there has been ample time, namely the whole past duration of the human species” So Mill believes that we have had hundreds of years in which to discover what is beneficial for the “interest of the whole.” Mill also points out that “It is not the fault of any creed, but of the complicated nature of human affairs, that rules of conduct cannot be so framed as to require no exceptions…” In other words, no creed can possibly ensure that nobody commits immoral acts—humans have free will, regardless of what creed they may belong to.

 
As for the official sanction of the Principle of Utility, the thing that gives it its “binding force,” Mill believes it is “the same as of all other moral standards—the conscientious feelings of mankind” . So this particular sanction exists only in the mind, and can be ignored by people who do not possess such feelings. Mill theorizes that moral feelings are not innate, must be acquired through careful cultivation, and are not necessarily present in everyone. He admits that the moral faculty “is also susceptible, by a sufficient use of the external sanctions and of the force of early impressions, of being cultivated in almost any direction…” So if a person is raised with the belief that it is morally acceptable (or even encouraged) to hate people of another race, his or her moral faculty is being “cultivated” in a negative direction, as opposed to a positive one. But Mill believes that there is a strong foundation for utilitarian morality, which he describes as “that of the social feelings of mankind; the desire to be in unity with our fellow creatures, which is already a powerful principle in human nature…”

 
As for proving the principle of utility, Mill states that “the only proof capable of being given that an object is visible, is that people actually see it…In like manner, I apprehend, the sole evidence it is possible to produce that anything is desirable, is that people actually do desire it” . In other words, because we desire something, that thing is desirable. Mill emphasizes that (1) the only things that are desirable are those that bring us happiness, (2) that happiness is the main end of our actions, and (3) that virtue, like happiness, should also be desired—but desired for itself, not necessarily because it brings us happiness.

 
But not all philosophers agree with the principle of Utilitarianism. One such philosopher was Immanuel Kant. In Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, Kant proposes that the reasons for performing a specific action are more important in determining its morality than the consequences. He states that “A good will is not good because of what it effects or accomplishes—because of its fitness for attaining some proposed end: it is good through its willing alone—that is, good in itself” While Kant admits that values such as courage and intelligence are important, he believes that without the guidance of a good will—the only thing “good in itself”—such values can be harmful. For example, a person with great intelligence but no good will could use his or her capabilities to create some deadly biological weapon—whereas if he or she possessed a good will, this would not happen. Kant also emphasizes that only actions done from duty, as opposed to some selfish inclination, can be considered genuinely moral.

 
Kant goes on to describe two types of imperatives (commands that necessitate certain actions). The two types are hypothetical and categorical: the difference between the two is that “hypothetical imperatives are consequential; they are obeyed for their consequences. But the categorical imperatives are not obeyed for their consequences, but for their own sake” So if a wealthy woman donated money to a charity in order to gain admiration and attention (the consequence), then she would be acting by a hypothetical imperative. But if she donated money out of a sense of duty, not for any personal gain, then she would be acting by a categorical imperative. There are two parts of Kant’s Categorical Imperative. The first one is “Act as if the maxim of your action were to become through your will a UNIVERSAL LAW OF NATURE” and the second one is “Act in such a way that you always treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of another, never simply as a means, but always at the same time as an end” .

 
An example of the first imperative might be this: You decide to run through a red light because you are in a hurry and the road is almost deserted. But before making this decision, you must ask yourself “Do I want this principle (It is OK to run through red lights when in a hurry) to become a universal law? Do I want everyone else to follow this rule?” The answer will likely be no, since it is clear that if the maxim “It is acceptable to go through red lights when one is in a hurry” is adopted as a universal law, chaos would ensue, and many people would suffer. As for the second imperative, a possible example may be this: You praise, flatter, and become friends with a classmate whose father owns a restaurant that you want to work at, just so that he or she can recommend you to his or her father for the job. In this case, you would have been treating your classmate merely as a means to get the end you desired—the job at the restaurant. Kant emphasizes that we should not do this, but rather treat people as ends in themselves.

 
Kant also mentions the concept of a “kingdom of ends,” a “community” of rational beings under common laws. He states that “In the kingdom of ends everything has either a price or a dignity. If it has a price, something else can be put in its place as an equivalent; if it is exalted above all price and so admits of no equivalent, then it has a dignity” He explains that morality is the only thing that has dignity, because only through morality can a rational being be a “law making member” in this particular kingdom of ends. And in making these laws, a person must ensure that the first categorical imperative is followed: that all these rules could hypothetically become a universal law of nature.

 
The philosopher J. David Velleman also agreed with many of Kant’s theories, though he differed slightly from Kant in some of them. In A Brief Introduction to Kantian Ethics, Velleman explains that “…the requirements of morality, being categorical, leave no room for questions about why we ought to obey them. Kant therefore concluded that moral requirements must not depend for their force on any external source of authority” This is because we can always choose to question an authority figure such as the president—and as Kant claimed that moral duties are inescapable, their force must not depend on a questionable authority figure. Velleman concludes that “The requirement to act for reasons thus seems to come as close as any requirement can to having intrinsic authority, in the sense of being authoritative by virtue of what it requires. This requirement therefore comes as close as any requirement can to being inescapable” He clarifies this by explaining that acting for reasons that are valid for ALL people is the authoritative force behind moral actions. In other words, these reasons must be “good enough” to apply to all people in all situations.

 
Velleman later proposes the following hypothetical situation: You normally wake up early in the mornings in order to swim laps at the pool and stay in shape, but one morning you simply don’t feel like doing this. So you start trying to think of a good reason why you “can’t” go to the pool this morning, because the excuse of “I don’t feel like it” just isn’t good enough. Velleman states that Kant’s explanation for needing a valid excuse was “that acting for reasons is essential to being a person…” So our desire to act for reasons that are valid for all situations is a crucial part of what makes us human. And we have the ability to sense that the excuse of “I just don’t feel like it” cannot be held as a universally valid excuse—what if a policeman just “didn’t feel like” doing his job? Or a security guard? Or a teacher?

 
Velleman does disagree with Kant’s theories in one case: He states that “I think Kant’s mistake was to claim that we must act under the idea of freedom; what he should have said, I think, is that we must act under the idea of autonomy” Both he and Kant agree that “acting for reasons” is what makes us autonomous. But Velleman believes that we can be autonomous without necessarily having complete free will, whereas Kant claimed that we must have free will in order to be autonomous. Velleman believes that Kant was also wrong to claim that reasons can owe their authority to us. Because if we were able to give authority to reasons, then we would also be able to take authority away from them—which would contradict the central idea that the principle “act for reasons” has intrinsic authority and is inescapable.

 
Based upon these different viewpoints, I would support the position of Kantianism, as I do not agree that we can determine the morality of an action simply by its consequences or its tendency to bring about happiness. Bentham’s idea of “summing up” the values of pain and pleasure seems too simplistic and naïve; such abstract concepts cannot be added up like numbers. If the act of a desperately poor man stealing food brings about more pleasure than pain, does that mean it is automatically moral? Of course, such an action would probably not be considered moral under rule utilitarianism, but even this principle of utility is not flawless. And though Mill at least admitted that some pleasures are higher quality than others, his idea that happiness is the only thing desirable seems to be flawed. Don’t people often desire things that do not truly bring them happiness, such as drugs or alcohol? And how exactly can we define “happiness?” What makes one person happy may not bring happiness to everyone.

 
The principles of Kantianism seem more logical and reasonable than those of Utilitarianism. Kant’s emphasis on the necessity of a good will guiding one’s actions holds a great deal of truth to it—though Mill also mentioned the importance of virtues, he failed to mention, as Kant did, that such virtues can tend toward negative consequences if not properly cultivated by a good will. Certainly, it sounds virtuous enough to do as Mill advised and “do as you would be done by.” But, for example, what if you had developed a hatred for humanity, and wanted other people to hate and fear you as well? Does that mean you should continue to despise other people, since that is what you “want for yourself?” Yes, Mill did state that we should desire to obtain virtues. But even a person possessing attributes such as intelligence or determination can perform immoral acts, such as the building of a deadly weapon mentioned earlier. Our virtues must be guided by a good will in order to prevent them from tending toward negative ends.

 
Kant’s categorical imperatives seem like a better way of ensuring moral actions than do Mill’s ideas. Admittedly, it can be difficult to always apply Kant’s first imperative before taking action, and it is not always easy to tell whether a particular maxim should become a “universal law.” But in many situations, keeping this imperative in mind may prevent you from making immoral decisions. As for Kant’s second imperative, I completely agree that we should treat people as “ends” and not “means.” If we were merely focusing on “increasing our happiness,” regardless of the motives behind our actions, we could end up using people as “tools” to get what we desire.
Of course, someone could object to this argument by asking “But aren’t the consequences of an action more important than the motivations behind it? Why should it matter if a person acts from good intentions, as long as the result is good? Couldn’t a person act from a sense of moral duty, but still end up causing a negative event?” This certainly could be true in some cases, but the chances of a person acting from a “good will” constantly causing terrible things to happen are slim. Also, sometimes unhappy things have to happen in order for us to learn and grow. If we were always increasing everyone’s happiness, focusing on the consequences of our actions instead of the motivations behind them, people may prefer not to do or say anything that could possibly induce debate or conflict, sacrificing their moral values in order to make everything run as smoothly as possible. We shouldn’t be completely happy all of the time. It is only through tests and difficulties, combined with a good will and other virtues, that we can work toward world unity and happiness.

 
In conclusion, I would support the position of Kantianism, and argue that the morality of an action should be determined not by its consequences alone, but rather by the guiding principles, motivations, and maxims behind it.

[1] Blackburn, Simon. The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy. Oxford, Great Britain: Oxford University Press, 1994. 388. Print.

[2] Introduction to Philosophy. Ed. John Perry, Michael Bratman, John Martin Fisher. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013. 451. Print.

[3] Bentham, Jeremy. “The Principle of Utility.” Introduction to Philosophy. Ed. John Perry, Michael Bratman, John Martin Fisher. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013. 458. Print.

[4] Bentham, Jeremy. “The Principle of Utility.” Introduction to Philosophy. Ed. John Perry, Michael Bratman, John Martin Fisher. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013. 459. Print.

[5] Bentham, Jeremy. “The Principle of Utility.” Introduction to Philosophy. Ed. John Perry, Michael Bratman, John Martin Fisher. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013. 460. Print.

[6] Mill, John Stuart. “Utilitarianism.” Introduction to Philosophy. Ed. John Perry, Michael Bratman, John Martin Fisher. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013. 462. Print.

[7] Mill, John Stuart. “Utilitarianism.” Introduction to Philosophy. Ed. John Perry, Michael Bratman, John Martin Fisher. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013. 463. Print.

[8] Mill, John Stuart. “Utilitarianism.” Introduction to Philosophy. Ed. John Perry, Michael Bratman, John Martin Fisher. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013. 464. Print.

[9] Mill, John Stuart. “Utilitarianism.” Introduction to Philosophy. Ed. John Perry, Michael Bratman, John Martin Fisher. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013. 467. Print.

[10] Mill, John Stuart. “Utilitarianism.” Introduction to Philosophy. Ed. John Perry, Michael Bratman, John Martin Fisher. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013. 468. Print.

[11] Mill, John Stuart. “Utilitarianism.” Introduction to Philosophy. Ed. John Perry, Michael Bratman, John Martin Fisher. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013. 470. Print.

[12] Mill, John Stuart. “Utilitarianism.” Introduction to Philosophy. Ed. John Perry, Michael Bratman, John Martin Fisher. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013. 471. Print.

[13] Mill, John Stuart. “Utilitarianism.” Introduction to Philosophy. Ed. John Perry, Michael Bratman, John Martin Fisher. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013. 471. Print.

[14] Mill, John Stuart. “Utilitarianism.” Introduction to Philosophy. Ed. John Perry, Michael Bratman, John Martin Fisher. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013. 471. Print.

[15] Kant, Immanuel. “Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals.” Introduction to Philosophy. Ed. John Perry, Michael Bratman, John Martin Fisher. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013. 505. Print.

[16] Seung, T.K. Kant: A Guide for the Perplexed. New York: Continuum International Publishing Group, 2007. Print.

[17] Kant, Immanuel. “Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals.” Introduction to Philosophy. Ed. John Perry, Michael Bratman, John Martin Fisher. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013. 511-513. Print.

[18] Kant, Immanuel. “Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals.” Introduction to Philosophy. Ed. John Perry, Michael Bratman, John Martin Fisher. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013. 516. Print.

[19] Velleman, J. David. “A Brief Introduction to Kantian Ethics.” Introduction to Philosophy. Ed. John Perry, Michael Bratman, John Martin Fisher. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013. 522. Print.

[20] Velleman, J. David. “A Brief Introduction to Kantian Ethics.”  Introduction to Philosophy. Ed. John Perry, Michael Bratman, John Martin Fisher. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013. 523. Print.

[21] Velleman, J. David. “A Brief Introduction to Kantian Ethics.” Introduction to Philosophy. Ed. John Perry, Michael Bratman, John Martin Fisher. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013. 524. Print.

[22] Velleman, J. David. “A Brief Introduction to Kantian Ethics.” Introduction to Philosophy. Ed. John Perry, Michael Bratman, John Martin Fisher. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013. 530. Print.

 


Ever since reading the book Marley and Me, I always make an automatic mental connection between the delicious and juicy mango fruit and the unfortunate laxative effect that it would have on the poor yellow lab Marley. Oddly enough, though, constantly linking mangoes with piles of runny dog feces doesn’t make the fruit any less appealing to me–it’s price tag, however, is another story. Still, we recently bought a huge bag of frozen mango chunks from Costco for a decent price, which inspired me to create the following smoothie recipe. I just hope that the aforementioned anecdote didn’t put a damper on your enthusiasm for eating mangoes–hey, at least you know that mangoes probably aren’t the best fruit to feed your dog! Not unless you enjoy scooping up liquid feces from your yard, anyway…That being said, I suppose mangoes may not have such a detrimental effect on ALL dogs; maybe Marley just had a sensitive digestive system. Anyway, enough discussion on bodily excretions–on to the extraordinarily simple recipe.

Mango-Cinnamon Smoothie

1 teaspoon of cinnamon

1 and 1/2 cups of vanilla almond milk (sweetened or unsweetened)

1 ripe frozen banana, chopped into small chunks

1/2 a cup of frozen mango chunks

Combine all ingredients in a blender (I used our Vitamix) and blend until smooth and creamy, adding more almond milk if your blender stalls and makes a loud grinding noise–speaking from personal experience here. You could always omit the cinnamon if you are not a fan of this spice in your smoothies.

photo (34)

 

I hope you enjoy the rest of your weekend!

The Next Stage in My Life

Posted: August 9, 2014 in Uncategorized

I know it’s been quite a while since I last discussed what has been going on in my life lately–mainly because I don’t want to discuss EVERY single personal detail of my daily activities on a public blog (never a good idea), and also because I have been trying to mentally prepare myself for this next stage in my life. At the end of August, I will be moving to Eugene, Oregon; living with my grandma; and attending the University of Oregon to finish up my Bachelor’s Degree. For those of you who are new to my blog, I have been attending a community college for the past couple of years, and received my Associate’s Degree in Science in May 2014. However, I plan on majoring in dance at the U of O, since I’ve been dancing 5 days a week at my ballet studio for the past few years. I have also considered either (1) double-majoring in dance and psychology or human physiology or (2) majoring in dance and getting a minor in some other field. I still haven’t completely decided, but I hope that I can discuss these ideas with my counselor when I attend orientation in September. Since the U of O doesn’t have a particularly ballet-intense dance program (from what I’ve heard), I hope to also take some classes at the Eugene Ballet Academy, which is affiliated with the Eugene Ballet company. Even though it will be tough to leave behind my parents, siblings, and friends here in Illinois, I am greatly looking forward to living in Eugene, a town filled with some of my favorite things in the world: incredible hiking and biking trails, beautiful mountains and rivers, a plethora of vegan restaurants, several yoga studios, and an environmentally-friendly attitude. Oh, and people generally drive AT the speed limit or even under in Eugene, which is an additional bonus ;) There are some crazy drivers in the Chicago suburbs, let me tell you…Since I was born in Oregon and lived there for 10-ish years, it almost feels as though I am “returning home” in a sense, though I wasn’t born in Eugene. Plus, I will be far closer to several of my family members, most of whom live on the west coast in Washington or Oregon. Still, there are several things that I am anxious about: getting an Oregon’s driver’s license, trying to find a part-time job, establishing a solid academic plan for my next two years of college, and attempting to navigate my way around the huge U of O campus without getting hopelessly lost. It will be an interesting and complex transition, that’s for sure, but I am trying to approach it in a calm and organized manner. Needless to say, that goal isn’t exactly working out very well. I had always assumed that once I was 20 years old and in college, I would have my life all planned out and know exactly what my future would hold, career-wise. Ah, how blissfully naive I was!! Still, I suppose I just have to take it one step at a time, try to breath, and not get too anxious about the whole process.

On a different note, tomorrow is my summer workshop dance performance–one final recital with the group of dancers whom I have come to know and bond with over the past three years. I will definitely miss every single one of them when I leave–from the sweet pre-ballet students who brought me so many smiles when I taught them plies and tendus; to the upper-level dancers with whom I shared the stage in several performances. I am looking forward to the show tomorrow, and I feel immensely grateful for everything I’ve learned from both the teachers and my fellow students over the years. Even though I’ve always been one of the oldest students in class (if not THE oldest for quite a while), they’ve always been incredibly patient and kind toward me, and have never belittled me for being older yet unable to execute some of the steps as cleanly as the younger girls. OK, I will stop my sap-fest here before I start to sound like a particularly cheesy Hallmark card ;) On a slightly less cheery note, I will be getting my final two wisdom teeth pulled about a week before I leave for Oregon–sounds fun, right?? I got my lower wisdom teeth pulled about two years ago, but my top ones hadn’t started to impact until a few months ago. Though the process went smoothly last time, with no dry sockets or completely unbearable pain, I am not exactly looking forward to laying on the couch with gauze in my mouth, drooling and eating only soft food for at least a few days. Plus, I have to take antibiotics to prevent infections, which I am dreading–since antibiotics kill off the good bacteria as well as the bad, they will probably disrupt my immune system and digestion. Still, I suppose it would be rather dangerous to NOT take the antibiotics, since cavernous holes in your gum are the perfect breeding ground for bacteria…A lose-lose situation, that’s for sure. And even though I HATE taking painkillers of any kind, I have a feeling that I may need to cave in and take them anyway if I want to sleep at night, when the pain is particularly bad. I wish I didn’t have to get them removed, but they are coming in crooked and my mouth simply isn’t big enough to fit them in without causing dental issues. Gosh, now I sound completely whiny and self-absorbed, just because I have to get a couple of teeth pulled. I’ll stop complaining now and remind myself that I should be grateful for having the opportunity to get them taken out before they cause problems.

I do apologize for this being such a word-heavy and picture-light post; I simply don’t take pictures of everything I do/eat/read on a regular basis, so I don’t have tons of photos on my iPhone ready to be uploaded. However, I do have (1) a few rather adorable pictures of our two dogs (first two are of Maya and the third is of Kaden) and (2) a couple of my recent Facebook posts that you may find interesting and/or amusing, so I’ll give you those as a finale to this post. A quick note about our dear dog Maya, a vizsla/weimaraner mix: in one of the photos, she is cuddling with her toy squeaky fox, since she has a strong attachment to her squeaky animals. She currently has a fox, a beaver, a skunk, and what used to be a squirrel, as well as 15-20 different bones scattered around the house. Did I mention she is spoiled? Kaden, our 7-year old black lab/border collie mix, never even tries to take her toys–either he is too much of a “gentledog” or he simply isn’t interested.

photo 1 (17)

photo 2 (16)

 

photo (55)

Facebook post #1:

OK, so this new sci-fi movie “Lucy” that is being released later this year looks interesting and action-packed, but it happens to be based on a premise that has proven to be a total myth/urban legend/fallacy: that humans use only 10% of their brains. Numerous scientific studies indicate that we use far more than 10% of our brain’s capabilities–at the very least, it seems as though they could have avoided this specific claim, instead saying something along the lines of “We have not yet tapped into all the powers of the human mind.” When I heard Morgan Freeman state this 10% myth in the trailer, I couldn’t help but think “Really?? Didn’t the producers of this movie think about researching this claim? Or maybe they did and just didn’t care if it would cause an uproar in the science community?” No, I suppose I cannot state with 100% certainty that this myth is 100% false, mainly because it is extremely difficult to calculate how much of our brain we can use in terms of a percentage. However, it irks me slightly that the screenwriters and producers would have fallen back on such a popular and overused urban legend to make their movie more dramatic. After all, the difference between 10% and 100% is a fairly large disparity, which is perhaps why they chose it. Regardless of my scientific rant, though, I’ll probably watch the movie anyway, as soon as it comes out on DVD. I am sure it will be entertaining, if nothing else.

Facebook post #2:

Why, exactly, do some brands of toilet paper have such fancy designs on them?? Flowers, swirls, hearts, etc…I assume it is some type of grand marketing scheme to attract the attention of consumers, but considering what ends up on the toilet paper, I doubt that many people spend time admiring the artistic detail that goes into its production…Sure, I suppose toilet paper is more sanitary and comfortable than leaves or corn cobs, but that doesn’t mean we need to spend extra money on “extra soft” or “quilted” toilet paper. It all ends up in the toilet eventually, covered in waste products. If you search for “novelty toilet paper” under Google Images, you may be surprised by how many options there are–the perfect gift for that special someone!! Over the past several centuries, toilet paper has certainly transformed from a practical necessity to a highly commercialized product with as many options and varieties as a jar of peanut butter. And who knows what will happen in the future? Maybe glow-in-the-dark toilet paper? Oh wait, that already exists. Somehow, I am not surprised.

I hope you enjoy the rest of your weekend!

 


Well, it’s time for my third installment in the “examining ballets from a logical standpoint” series–as promised in my previous post, I am going to tackle Giselle this time around. It is classified as a romantic ballet, and while it has a rather tragic conclusion, some of the more ludicrously illogical parts tend to verge on comedy, at least in my opinion. Enough preliminary talk; let’s get right to it…

Title: Giselle

The gist of the plot: The main character is a blissfully sweet and rather naive peasant woman named–you guessed it–Giselle. At the beginning of the ballet, it is revealed that Giselle (1) has a weak heart (literally speaking) and (2) is in love with Duke Albrecht, a man who is already engaged to the Princess Bathilde–and who has disguised himself as a peasant so that Giselle cannot recognize his true identity. Giselle, of course, has no idea that her lover has already promised to marry a rich and decidedly un-peasant like princess, so when Bathilde comes to the village with a hunting party, the two women get along just fine, completely unaware of what a “player” their beloved Albrecht is. Meanwhile, a peasant man named Hilarion is deeply in love with Giselle, but this love is obviously not reciprocated, since Giselle is in love with Albrecht. However, Hilarion gets brief revenge when he discovers Albrecht’s sword hidden in a house, and realizes that this man is not who he claims to be. He reveals the truth to Giselle, who goes insane with grief and a strong sense of betrayal, dances wildly around, and dies when her heart gives out (again, literally speaking).

Now I need to introduce the Wilis, who are essentially the ghosts of women who have been betrayed by their lovers. After Giselle dies, she becomes a Wili herself, thanks to Albrecht’s immoral behavior. The queen of the Wilis is named Myrtha, a cold and brutal spirit who, along with her gang of Wilis, takes pleasure in forcing men to dance until they die from exhaustion. While Hilarion is visiting Giselle’s grave, the Wilis pay him a visit and, after forcing him to dance for a long period of time, decide to drown him in a lake. Albrecht nearly suffers the same fate, but Giselle’s passionate love saves him somehow (vague, I know), and when daylight comes, the spirits return to their graves, leaving Albrecht grief-stricken and in dire need of some seriously deep counseling sessions. The end!! Wasn’t that cheerful??

My questions and observations: First of all, even though Giselle was a  kind and cheerful young woman, she probably should have paid closer attention to the warnings of both her mother and Hilarion. If BOTH of them were discouraging her from having a relationship with Albrecht, then perhaps they had good reason for doing so. Didn’t it strike her as slightly suspicious that her lover just happened to disappear when Princess Bathilde appeared in the village? I guess love does crazy things to your mind…I have absolutely zero personal experience with romantic love, though, so I am just throwing out a wild guess here. Anyway, Albrecht must have been quite the charming philanderer, seeing as he managed to convince both Giselle and Bathilde that nothing suspicious was going on. He probably wasn’t the brightest duke, though; how long did he think he could pull off this elaborate ruse?? Stop philandering around and just CHOOSE one of the women, for pity’s sake. As for Giselle’s death, I’ll be a little less harsh on the whole dying-from-grief idea since she DID have a physically weak heart. However, I think it would have been a slightly more exciting (and less cliche) story if Giselle had instead become enraged and cooked up an elaborate plot to humiliate Albrecht and strip him of his royal title. Wishful thinking on my part, though, since it IS a romantic ballet, and I suppose Giselle’s death makes it more dramatic…Albrecht was certainly despondent about Giselle’s death, but he should have seen it coming a million miles away–didn’t he realize it was only a matter of time until she discovered his secret?

Also, what’s the deal with these Wilis?? Sure, I understand that they were betrayed by men in their lifetime, but why do they simply wander the forest and kill ANY man they happen to see? Isn’t that rather unfair? I bet people would make more of a fuss if it had been male ghosts wandering around and murdering women. However, this isn’t Gender Studies 101, so I won’t dwell on that problem in this post. On a related note, did Giselle CHOOSE to come back as a Wili, or was it sort of a no-choice-in-the-matter contract? And don’t Myrtha and her misandrist gang of spirits have anything better to do than go around torturing men? Even though Hilarion may have been a jealous and possessive man, I still don’t understand why the Wilis had to kill him and not Albrecht–at least he wasn’t the one who cheated on Giselle, right? However, no one said that spirits always act in a just and fair manner…Apparently, Giselle was only able to save the man who she loved, though perhaps that was because she didn’t rise from the grave before the other Wilis killed Hilarion. I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt for now. Still, now Albrecht has to live with the fact that his previous girlfriend is part of a band of man-killing spirits, which will probably inflict some mental trauma to say the least.

Overall, though, the lovely music and choreography of this ballet help counteract the shakier parts of the plot, so I won’t be too harsh ;) I hope you all enjoy the remainder of your weekend!


Sorry, Shakespeare, for ripping off your famous quote to use in a post about far more trivial topics than those of betrayal, murder, love, etc…But I just had to do it. Besides, I am sure your words have been exploited hundreds of times over the years, more than you can count. Or could count, if you were still alive. May you rest in sonnet-filled peace. Anyway, don’t worry–this isn’t going to be some venomous post bashing the evils of makeup and clamoring for all women to just “show your natural beauty!!” Just because I choose not to wear makeup (except for dance performances) doesn’t mean I would write an entire post on how ridiculous, vain, excessive, and trivial makeup is. I am not about to start ascribing human characteristics to a collection of facial pastes, powders, and creams. Nor will I argue that people who wear makeup are overly concerned with their outward appearance, because the choice of whether or not to wear makeup doesn’t necessarily reflect on your inner characteristics and virtues. Now, I could just stop the post here, say “wearing makeup is a simple personal choice and nothing more,” and sign off for the day. However, if you know my thinking and writing style, I am not one to just drop a topic so easily without first ruminating on it, over-analyzing it, discussing it in great depth, and examining both viewpoints on it. Can you tell why I can be a very indecisive person? Ah, and as a quick note, I realize that many men choose to wear makeup, but I am referring to only”she” in this post because I didn’t want to write male/female, him/her, etc…every few sentences.

The reason I never started wearing makeup was because I had an intense phobia of spreading any type of cream, paste, etc…on my face and couldn’t even apply sunscreen without having a slight panic attack. OK, not really; I just thought that would be more exciting than the truth. In all honesty, I simply never felt the need to wear makeup, and considered it a waste of precious time and money. I could actually be a rather practical adolescent at times. Perhaps it was partly due to the fact that I was homeschooled my entire life until college and never felt any type of peer pressure to improve the physical beauty of my face. However, correlation does not prove causation, so I can’t simply state that homeschoolers are less likely to wear makeup. That, my friends, would be a risky claim that would require a great deal of research to support it. Plus, my older sister wears makeup, and she too was homeschooled until college. So I won’t dwell any more upon that particular hypothesis. Anyway, fast-forward to 2014, and here I am, 20 years old and still never wearing makeup (except for the aforementioned ballet performances). I prefer not to wear it on a daily basis, so I don’t. The majority of my female friends and family members prefer wearing makeup, so they do. It’s as simple as that. Well, maybe not quite so simple, but I’ll touch upon that topic momentarily. Does my face look ugly and unattractive without makeup? Maybe, maybe not. It all depends on who you ask, I suppose. “Beautiful” is such a subjective word. I know some people enjoy putting on makeup because it is a form of artistic expression for them–and there’s nothing wrong with that. For me, it is a tedious and unpleasant task, so I avoid it at all costs.

One thing that DOES irk me is when people construe the act of not wearing makeup into some grandiose “feminist” related action. First of all, according to my sociology professor, a feminist is simply a person who believes that men and women should be treated equally and have equal opportunities. Not all “feminists” support abortion, shun makeup, or hate men. However, you probably know how much I despise such vague labels in general, so I’ll stop ranting about the whole “feminist” title for now. Anyway, not all women choose to abandon makeup because they are trying to “make a point” or prove something to the world–maybe they just don’t enjoy wearing it! Perhaps this is why those popular “makeup-free” challenges have always baffled me slightly, since I don’t think choosing not to wear makeup is truly some incredible or “courageous” act. Maybe that sounds a bit harsh and critical, so let me elaborate a bit. Just because I don’t wear makeup doesn’t mean I am some heroic or revolutionary person, and I certainly don’t want to be admired or praised for such a simple and trivial decision. However, I understand that for some people, especially those who wear makeup on a regular basis, choosing to abandon their daily primping ritual does require a certain degree of determination and maybe even a bit of courage. It’s not my job to categorize acts into “courageous” and “not courageous,” even ones as simple as tossing out your lipstick and blush.

So, the million dollar question is probably this: Why DO we wear makeup? Just like many other questions, there is not one simple answer (is there ever?). If you read any anti-makeup/”you’re beautiful just the way you are” article online or in a magazine, there will almost certainly be comments saying something along the lines of “Hey, why do you assume we wear makeup to attract men (or women)?? Maybe we wear it for ourselves!! Maybe it makes us feel beautiful and confident!!” This could certainly be true for some people, and I don’t doubt the validity of this statement. However, if you were going to be in solitary confinement with no mirrors for an entire day, would you put on makeup? Probably not. Well, maybe you would, though this seems unlikely. I realize this is a rather extreme example, but I doubt that every single female wears makeup “just for herself.” No, they don’t necessarily wear it to attract romantic or sexual attention, but there are probably other reasons that involve not just themselves but the people with whom they interact. Most people on earth (yes, even myself–I am not a perfect angel) DO care, at least slightly, about how they look to other people, so I don’t think wearing makeup is an entirely selfless act done simply for your own pleasure. At least not in most cases. We want to look pretty, handsome, put-together, or at least decent when we go out in public, which is why I don’t walk into the grocery store in my semi-see through camisole top and yoga shorts. Also, I know some women may say they wear makeup because it makes them feel more confident and comfortable in their bodies. While I can’t understand how putting stuff on your face increases one’s confidence, this could certainly be a plausible reason. Just because this reasoning doesn’t make sense to me doesn’t mean it isn’t valid. Maybe some people wear it simply because it is fun and enjoyable. And for some people, as I mentioned earlier, putting on makeup is a form of artistic expression; they enjoy experimenting with different colors, styles, patterns, etc…

I’ve noticed that while wearing makeup is completely “normal” in our culture, there seems to be a fine line between a “normal” amount of makeup and “too much” makeup–at least according to some people. It is somewhat akin to having a tan: nicely bronzed skin is something to be admired and sought out, but you don’t want to be TOO tan, for fear of looking like you’ve been eating too many carrots and squash. These distinctions seem to be rather arbitrary and absurd–are these people trying to say that wearing mascara and lipstick is perfectly fine, but too much eyeshadow classifies you as “weird?” Or that going to a tanning booth is acceptable, as long as you don’t get overly tan? I’ve heard my sister mention that certain people in her school wear “too much” makeup, but how much is “too much?” If you have no problem with people wearing makeup, then why should you judge people who seem to be wearing “excessive” amounts? Not that my sister is always judgmental toward such people, but I know some people may be. Heck, I know I’ve made snap judgments about people based on their makeup, so I am certainly guilty in that respect. The important thing is not to let these judgments affect our long-term behavior toward these people, or prevent us from analyzing these split-second assumptions and thinking Hmmm…maybe I shouldn’t be so judgmental simply because of their physical appearance. 

Makeup has been around for thousands of years, at least back to the time of the ancient Egyptians, and I don’t think it will be going “out of style” anytime soon. Or maybe it will at some point, when either (1) the price of cosmetics shoots up and people can no longer justify spending money on such products, (2) everyone simply loses interest in wearing makeup, or (3) some scientific discovery indicates that wearing makeup will almost certainly give you cancer. However, since none of these scenarios seem particularly realistic, chances are that people will continue applying lipstick, blush, eye-shadow, mascara, and other such products at least for the next several decades or so. I do NOT consider myself to be a “better” person simply because I choose not to wear makeup, put on jewelry, style my hair, or go shopping for clothes on a regular basis ( clothes shopping is one of my least favorite activities in the entire universe). These are simply personal choices that I have made, and do not make me any wiser or less shallow than my friends and family members who do choose to take part in such activities. Yes, I do think it’s ridiculous that certain jobs can require (or at least pressure) women to wear makeup. Yes, I do think that many cosmetic products are unnecessarily expensive (that’s the thrifty college student in me speaking). Yes, I do sometimes find it difficult to understand why some people feel as though they need to wear makeup every day. However, I would never claim that people who wear makeup are shallow or vain, because that would be both a huge generalization and an insult to all those wonderful, kind, and generous makeup-wearing people in the world.

So now that I’ve rambled on longer than excepted, I’ll turn the conversation over to my readers. Do you wear makeup on a regular basis? Why or why not? Do you agree or disagree with my opinions regarding makeup? Feel free to share any thoughts/rants/questions/criticisms! I promise I won’t censor your comments or be offended by your opinions ;)


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.

photo (51)

 

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.

image (40)

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.

image (14)

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.

photo (46)

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

image (5)

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.

photo (41)

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.

photo (47)

 

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.