Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Recipe: Pesto Pasta with Sausage (Round 2)

I'm either stubborn or stupid, but I took another shot at the recipe I so miserably ruined last night. It might not look as pretty as it does on Pinterest, but this time it worked! Luckily, I only cooked half the amount of extra ingredients necessary for the pasta last night and stored the leftovers separately. I had only defrosted two links of sausage before I went to work, so I only cooked enough extra ingredients (sausage, garlic and green beans) to go with half the pasta I had made. That turned out to be a blessing in disguise, because that meant after I finished those leftovers at lunch today, I could heat up the remaining pasta and start over again tonight!

I made a few changes to my already modified recipe. I switched the green beans out for mushrooms and forgot about the slivered almonds until I was halfway through my dish, so I guess I'm saving them for another recipe. And I remembered to slice the sausage this time! That really helped. This is the final recipe (amounts adjusted so you can make one big dish at once and not split it up like I did):

Good Eatin' at Standard Diner.

Photo via Standard Diner

Standard Diner "updates traditional diner classics with modern flair" and has been featured on Food Network's Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. I went there with my dad two weekends ago on the recommendation of a family friend who has lived in Santa Fe for several years. After the lovely night we had, I highly recommend it if you're ever passing through Albuquerque!

30-Day Book Challenge: Day 12

Day 12 – A book I used to love but don’t anymore

Hmm, this one is tough. I don't often re-read books, so the only thing I can think of is to pick a book I loved growing up that I probably wouldn't enjoy today. In this case, it's actually a series.

The Baby-sitters Club. (I never noticed that had a hyphen until just now.) My sister and I had a huge bookcase full of these books growing up. We had the regular books, the "Super Specials," the mystery editions.... They were quick, fun reads when I was little, but I'm sure they wouldn't hold the same fascination for me now. I particularly remember how Ann M. Martin would spend pages describing each club member and their interests near the beginning of each book. I thought this was so cool growing up because that was my favorite part of writing - the descriptions. I wanted to write novels full of descriptions without any plotline whatsoever! However, I'm sure today that repetitious information would annoy me to no end.

Did you read The Baby-sitters Club growing up? How about Sweet Valley Twins? That was our other big book collection. My mom thought Sweet Valley High was too racy for me, though. Ha.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Recipe: Pesto Pasta with Sausage

I attempted my first (slightly modified) Pinterest recipe tonight: Pesto Pasta with Chicken Sausage & Roasted Brussels Sprouts Green Beans.

Photo via Gimme Some Oven

I was developing the typical cooking blog post in my head while I was preparing my ingredients: Introduce with lovely photograph of what I'm attempting to make (above), list the ingredients and document each step of the recipe with photos and explanations. Well, if you want a photo, this is the only one you're getting:

Hiking the Dale Ball Trails.

Yesterday, I finally got out of my apartment and went out to the Dale Ball Trails to do some light hiking. The trails are only a few miles outside downtown Santa Fe and right inside the city limits, so they're really convenient for a quick weekend hike. (I know they're in the city limits because I saw the "End of City Limit" sign about half a mile after I missed my turn. Oops.)

I decided to start light with a loop a little over two miles. I knew it would be a good hike when I got this view only three minutes in:

I saw nine other people on the trail during my hike, so it was pleasantly private while providing reasonable assurance that someone would find me if I fell and sprained my ankle trying to hike sections like this:

30-Day Book Challenge: Day 11

Day 11 – A book I hated

Image via Goodreads

Atonement. I'm one of those people who refuses to see any book-turned-movie if I haven't read the book yet (and am planning to do so). However, I broke this rule with Atonement and severely regretted it. I went to see the movie with my mom's book club (who had just finished reading the novel by Ian McEwan). It was very depressing, of course, but I still liked the movie. The book, which I read a few months later, was a completely different story. First of all, I already knew I hated Briony, so it was difficult for me to read pages and pages about her childhood activities, including a particularly long diatribe on her watching her pinky finger bend and examining the knuckle and thinking about how it all worked. (Yawn.) This tedious writing style, coupled with the decent length of the book (480 pages), made Atonement very sluggish reading. But mostly (SPOILER ALERT) I didn't really want to keep reading when I knew everyone would just die unhappily in the end anyway. I did force myself to finish it and I was not rewarded. Ho-hum.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

On My Own: Eat

It's been so long since I've posted in my "On My Own" series that you've probably either forgotten I moved into a new apartment or just don't care anymore. I've been a little distracted by some other blogging projects (mostly about books), but I haven't forgotten my promise to detail my new apartment for you! Today's focus is eat.

1. My "kitchen" is actually a bunch of cabinets and appliances against one wall of my studio. I don't have an oven, but I do have a four-burner cooktop and I bought a slow cooker, so I can still make pretty much anything except baked goods. I hung my study abroad photo contest prize on the wall, one of only two pieces of artwork I've actually hung so far. (The other is a zebra canvas, also from Rwanda.)
2. The mini-fridge makes storing a gallon of milk difficult, but other than that it is perfectly adequate for only one person. The apartment came with all the appliances shown here, including the microwave, toaster oven and coffeemaker (yay!). The only kitchen things I had to buy when I arrived were a kettle and a slow cooker. The cabinets were even fully stocked with dishes!
3. I keep my food organized with a cheap storage unit I got at Target a few summers ago on sale for about $15. The top left cube is for breakfast/beverages, the top right is for snacks, and the bottom cubes are for more substantial food items, including pasta, soup and canned vegetables.
4. I do have a large table that I can eat at, but I prefer to use this adorable little TV table that came with the studio. It folds up easily against the wall when I'm not using it, and it's the perfect size for my meal plus a book, laptop or TV remote. I also got an "energizing" three-wick candle at Bath and Body Works (limited-time only 2 for $20 promotion!) that I've been burning through pretty quickly. Being able to burn candles hasn't lost its novelty yet!

Stay tuned for the final three installments in this series: Sleep, Work and Play.

I found quinoa!

Last week, I posted a couple quinoa recipes that I really wanted to try after I tasted the grain for the first time in Albuquerque. Alas, on my next grocery trip, I couldn't find any. Boo. So today I stopped by Sunflower Farmers Market on a tip from my fellow intern, and I was able to buy a pound! Woo! Look for a post on the success (or failure) of my very first quinoa dish later this week.


Sunflower Market also had surprisingly cheap spices, which I had been avoiding buying because of their ridiculous price tags. I bought cilantro, garlic, olive oil and pesto (which I plan to use for this and this), so I can do some real cooking now! The market is pretty close to where I work, so I think that will be my go-to store from now on when I need to pick up just one or two ingredients for an intriguing recipe. The staff was also really helpful. (I had no idea where to look for the pesto, what it was sold in, etc.)

Note: I apologize for the image quality. These pictures were taken on my phone.

30-Day Book Challenge: Day 10

Day 10 – Favorite classic book

So I'm going to admit here that I'm not sure what necessarily makes a book a "classic." For the purposes of this post, I'm going to say it has to have withstood the test of time (at least 50 years old, I guess?) and something that would conceivably be taught in academia at the high school or college levels.... Actually, I'm just going to say it has to have been published by Penguin Classics at one point or another. (I had so many of those books growing up haha.) Does that sound reasonable? Good. So given those that parameters...

Alas, I did not read the Penguin Classics edition of this particular book.
Instead, I read the Signet Classics edition pictured above.

1984. It's been quite a few years since I read this book, but I remember being fascinated by it. The best part was that George Orwell thought 1984 would be this super-advanced Big-Brother state, and I always thought of it as "old-fashioned" with funny hairdos and Walkman players. Definitely a must-read on any bookworm's list.

Honorable Mentions: The Picture of Dorian Gray, Great Expectations, Little Women.
Classics I Did Not Enjoy: Wuthering Heights, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Grapes of Wrath.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Things that make me go "hmm."

Have I mentioned all the awesome things about my internship yet? No? Well, I can't decide what the best part is, so I'll let you decide. Is it:
A) The fact that "business casual" actually means "jeans,"
B) Having my own office ... with a window!
C) Getting to troll the Internet all day for cool/interesting/weird stuff?
While you ponder that, I'm going to elaborate on option (C) a little bit. My first job every day when I get to work is to find interesting stories for our "News From the Field" column, which consists of four to five briefs every morning linking up to other news stories around the web. (See some examples of the briefs I've written so far here, here and here.) Unfortunately, a lot of the cool stuff I find doesn't really fit in with the theme of Outside magazine. Fortunately, I can still share it with you here, on my blog! From now on, every Saturday will feature a post with my favorite links from around the web. Get excited!

30-Day Book Challenge: Day 9

Day 9 - A book I thought I wouldn't like but ended up loving

There are so many books out there I want to read that I don't waste my time reading books I don't think I will like. :) That being said, I'm sure there has been a book that was assigned to me at school or recommended by a friend that I wasn't too stoked about and ended up being pleasantly surprised by. If I think of one, I'll come back and update this post.

Friday, January 27, 2012

So you want to be a Disney princess?

A Finnish graphic design student recently created life-like portraits of what he imagines 13 Disney princesses would look like in real life. Neat, right? I'm including my favorite images in this post, but you can see the full collection here.

Ariel is my favorite princess, so I had to include her!

This is my favorite of the bunch, artistically. I think it's the most life-like.

I had to include Megara because that was my nickname as a child. :)

Doesn't Rapunzel look strangely like Amanda Seyfried? (And not Cosette?!)

Plus: The biggest change for Disney since pantyhouse became optional for female workers.

30-Day Book Challenge: Day 8

Day 8 - Most overrated book

Image via Goodreads

The Da Vinci Code. I enjoyed it, but I thought Angels and Demons was immensely superior. Considering it was the prequel to The Da Vinci Code, I have to wonder why people jumped on the second one so quickly when there was already such a great Dan Brown book out there.

Have you read any Robert Langdon books? Which did you prefer? Do you think all the religious controversy was warranted? (And btw, I'm planning to read The Lost Symbol soon. I just haven't gotten around to it yet.)

Friday's Fancies: Week 1

Well, I'm finally doing it! I've joined the "Friday's Fancies" blog movement. Let me explain: One of the blogs I read regularly is Long Distance Loving, a sweet blog about long-distance relationships by {av}. (In fact, getting featured on her "Distance Makes the Heart Grow Fonder" series is on my to-do list! See #28.) Relationships aren't the only things {av} blogs about, though, and every Friday she posts a "Friday's Fancies" and invites other bloggers to link up with their own creations. She also has a theme each week, which today is:

This is my first week, so it's a little rough around the edges, but hopefully my creations will get better as I continue with this fun Friday tradition! Enjoy my first attempt below:

 When I think "Winter Wonderland," I think "cozy." So first, I'd want to snuggle up with a cup of coffee or hot cocoa. Second, I'd wear an oversize, snuggly sweater while doing it. And finally, I absolutely love wearing layers on my legs. My office is pretty cold, so I've taken to wearing tights and socks and boots to work. I love these cable knit sweater tights from Urban Outfitters, layered with over-the-knee socks. I also have boots that look very similar to these, but with a flap that folds over below my knees, and I wear them almost every day. Now I think it's time to make some hot chocolate....

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Rad video from WWF.

This is super cool. Just wanted to share.

We are all connected.

Yosemite retweeted me!

Actually, they retweeted me twice ... AND mentioned me in between retweets. See for yourself:

As you can see in the screenshot above, Yosemite retweeted me on January 20. When I saw it, I posted an excited and only half-joking tweet - "Woo!! @YosemiteDNC just retweeted me. #mylifeiscomplete" - to which Yosemite responded with the tweet above.

As if that wasn't exciting enough, Yosemite retweeted me again on January 23! #celebritystatus But really, you should watch the timelapse video I tweeted about. It is beautiful and inspiring!

Thanks for letting me brag/share my giddy excitement with all of you, even if it is a few days late. :)

30-Day Book Challenge: Day 7

Edited to add: The Book Chat prompt over at Sweet Green Tangerine this week is: It's almost summer time! Share your favorite vacation reads. Is there a certain genre or series you stick to when trying to relax and unwind? The best beach books? Road trip audio books? I’m using this old post as my answer because Clive Cussler novels are definitely some of my favorite vacation reads. The books are fun and easy to get through, which means you don’t have to think too hard on vacation, and they have just the right amounts of suspense, mystery and romance to keep you interested.

Day 7 - Most underrated book(s)

Image via Goodreads

Clive Cussler's novels. Many times, the reviews I read online are unfavorable. Readers complain that the plotlines are too predictable, the characters too one-dimensional, and the sex scenes too Harlequin-like. Well, those might all be valid claims, but come on, people! When I read a Clive Cussler novel, I'm not looking for literature! I'm looking for a fun, adventurous read, and that Cussler can provide. (Many of you would probably recognize his name from Sahara, his book that was turned into a movie starring Matthew McConaughey as Dirk Pitt. I always fantasized about who would play Dirk when I read the books as a kid. I guess Matthew is acceptable.) I chose Atlantis Found for the main book in this post because it is probably my favorite Clive Cussler book. It has all the makings of a great vacation read: a group of beautiful, superhuman siblings engineered from Hitler's frozen sperm; Noah's Ark-like ships hidden in the Andes Mountain; and of course a potential environment-related disaster that could end the world as we know it. Classic Cussler.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Sweet vending machine, yo.

I found a list on Conde Nast Traveler earlier this week of the Strangest Vending Machines Around the World. I personally favor the ballet flat machine (slide one, pictured below). How smart is that? Vegas needs some of those. So does every establishment with a dance floor, actually.

Two British companies, Rollasole and After Heels, sell dainty (and comfy) ballet flats to tired clubbers
with anguished feet. | Photo courtesy of Rollasole

Plus: This vending machine operates on the honor system and allows you to donate used items and get something else you want! Cool.

30-Day Book Challenge: Day 6

Day 6 – A book that makes me sad

Image via Google Images

Peony in Love. I read this book at my grandma's lake one summer, and I hated it the whole time yet I couldn't put it down. And by hated it, I just mean it was so hard to read because it was really sad and frustrating, but it is still one of the best books I have ever read. Top ten, for sure. It's a romance set in China, and one of the coolest aspects of the book is all the Chinese tradition and history woven into the story. I would definitely consider this a must-read for any bookworm.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

30-Day Book Challenge: Day 5

Day 5 – A book that makes me happy

Image via Google Images

Sadly, while thinking of all the books I have read and enjoyed, all of them were sad (or at least not categorically "happy"). But then I remembered this little gem: Oh, the Places You'll Go! by Dr. Seuss. I received a copy of this book for my high school graduation, and what a perfect graduation gift it is! The message is timeless, so it could work for a kindergarten graduation all the way through college. When donating the vast majority of my book collection to the local library after I left for college, this is one of the books that made the cut into the box marked, "Books for Megan's Kids," now sitting in storage for one day in the future. If you haven't read it yet - do! It will take you ten minutes, tops, and I promise it's worth it.

Edited to add: I used this post for Jessica's Book Chat link-up on January 10, 2013. Click the button below to see more posts!

Have you ever received this book as a gift? I actually got two copies for graduation, so it must be a popular gift!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Newest discovery: Quinoa

Up until now, my "Newest Discovery" posts have all been centered around websites (Etsy, Polyvore & Goodreads). But today, I want to take a different tack. I discovered a new food item on Friday night, and I absolutely love it. In fact, I've spent the last hour looking for recipes including this item on Pinterest.

If you can read, you already know what this food is: quinoa. According to Epicurious: "Quinoa, whose name means 'mother grain,' is indigenous to Peru and dates from the time of the Inca civilization. Compared with other grains, quinoa is very high in protein and relatively low in carbohydrates." (Apparently, Epicurious likes to personify its food. Who knew?)

How many of you have heard of this delicious grain?
Am I the only one who was in the dark?

Last weekend, my dad was driving through Albuquerque for work, so I made the quick drive south to have dinner with him. We went to the Standard Diner, a quirky little restaurant near the University of New Mexico. I think the restaurant itself warrants its own post, so I'll just continue with the quinoa for now. I had seen this strange word several times over the past week, as I had been reading several environmental blogs and news sites and quinoa is a popular vegetarian dish. I decided to give it a try and ordered the Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash. Boy, was I not disappointed! Yum yum!

30-Day Book Challenge: Day 4

Day 4 – Favorite book of my favorite series
Image via Google Images 

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. I loved the big plotline twist, and Sirius Black was my favorite character in the series. (Which explains why, among other reasons, the Order of the Phoenix was my least favorite book of the series.)

Sunday, January 22, 2012

30-Day Book Challenge: Day 3

Day 3 – My favorite series

Image via Google Images

Not to be a complete Potterhead, but I'll have to go with Harry Potter again. There are plenty of other series that I love (including His Dark Materials, The Hunger Games, etc.), but Harry Potter was just such a big part of my childhood (so cliche, right?) that I have to pick it. There is no other series that I read for nine years of my life, and there is no other series in which I believe the characters and fictional world they live in are so well developed, which allowed me to identify with the books more.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Date a girl who reads.

I found this gem posted on Lovely Undergrad today, and I found it very coincidental that Jessica happened to post this as I am beginning my 30-Day Book Challenge and spending about an hour a day on Goodreads perusing new reading recommendations. I thought it was perfectly lovely (and insightful) and wanted to share it with all of you. Enjoy (after the jump)!

30-Day Book Challenge: Day 2

Day 2 – A book I’ve read more than three times

Image via Google Images

I don't typically re-read books, but there were definitely times I would re-read the Harry Potter books while waiting for the next book or movie to be released. As I've bragged so obnoxiously about before, I was very fortunate to have my mother discover Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone in an airport shortly after its U.S. release in 1998, before all the hype started. (Did you know it took until the fourth book for the U.S. and U.K. release dates to be the same? Those bloody British children....) Therefore, my family bought every subsequent book beginning with the Chamber of Secrets immediately when it was released, and I devoured each one within two or three days. As you can imagine, there was a lot (but not alot) of Hogwarts-lusting time between release dates to fill by re-reading the trio's old adventures, which I happily did.

30-Day Book Challenge: Day 1

Time for Day 1 of the 30-Day Book Challenge, which I introduced earlier today:

Day 1 – Best book I read last year
Source: google.com via Maddy on Pinterest

The Hunger Games. And if I can't count the whole series as "best book," I'd go with Catching Fire. Mockingjay was my least favorite of the trilogy. (Sorry for the cliche answer, but I really didn't read a lot of books last year. I'm definitely going to change that this year!)

Friday, January 20, 2012

30-Day Book Challenge

I found this "30-Day Book Challenge" while poking around the web the other day. I'm sure it's a little outdated now (most of the participants I saw were doing the challenge in mid-2011), but I thought it looked like a fun idea for my blog. (And a way to get me blogging more regularly. I've been bad at that since this internship started.)

Image via educhoices.org

So, starting tonight (or tomorrow, if I don't get around to posting again this evening), I will be telling you all about the following 30 books:

(See full list - with links to each daily post - after the jump. Note: Links will not become active until that day.)

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Productive Thursday.

I had three very important accomplishments today. (Only one was actually important - #1 - but that's beside the point.)

1. My intern coordinator finished training me on the content management system Outside Online uses at work today. This means I can start building content as soon as I get my own login information! :)

2. I finally got a library card at the Santa Fe Public Library. Between that and my Kindle, I should surpass my Goodreads goal of reading 25 books in 2012 in no time at all.

 Photo courtesy of my Samsung Captivate.

3. Gasp! I read everything in my Google Reader! Even with the 18 new feeds I've added to find story ideas since starting my internship. This is crazy. (Remember when I had 411 unread items at one time?)

Maybe tomorrow I'll be even more productive and finally give you another photo update on my apartment! But for now, the Criminal Minds episode I'm watching is tracking a killer less than 30 minutes from my childhood home, so I'm very intrigued. See you later!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

On My Own: Live

Finally, I'm fulfilling my promise to show you some pictures of my new apartment! I've decided to start this series with "live" because I figure it's the least interesting. I could have started with the most interesting to suck you in, but I'd rather start you off with low expectations so you're not disappointed later. (It's a terrible strategy for life, but I think it will work here.)

So, today you get to see the less-glamorous parts of my studio life, including my dresser/closet area and bathroom. Enjoy!

In the top right image above, I wanted to focus on some of the wonderful graduation gifts I received from my friends at Mizzou. The black Mizzou frame in the top left is from my good friend and sorority sister Kiki, and the picture inside is from our Diamond Sister banquet after initiation. (Kiki is also my Diamond Sister, or what some chapters call "pledge mom.") Directly below that frame are two matching picture blocks that say "MIZ" and "ZOU" respectively, created by my beautiful friend Michelle! The MIZ picture is from our freshman year at the Big 12 Championship football game, and the ZOU picture is from my 21st birthday. We've been friends for a while. :) Finally, that wonderful bicycle helmet on the right is from Kaleigh, another good friend who I've been lucky to have in my life since freshman year. She made this helmet for "when things get tough" after graduation. Thanks so much for the gifts, girls! I love them!

Stay tuned for the next installment of the "On My Own" series!

Series title borrowed from Les Mis, naturally.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Recipe: Asparagus Pesto Grilled Cheese

Some people like to cook their way through cookbooks. This year, I want to cook my way through my friend Amanda's Pinterest board titled: "Simple Dinners #postgradlife."

But seriously, her pinned dishes look delicious. Tonight I stumbled upon this particular recipe, which I am dying to try. Unfortunately, I've used up most of my grocery budget for this month (hopefully the food can last two more weeks!), but look out for a review of this dish in February. :)

Recipe below is copied from here:

Sunday, January 15, 2012

On My Own: Overview

Source: weheartit.com via Megan on Pinterest

I promised you photos and more details about my new apartment, and they're coming soon! I've decided to split this up into a series, so stay tuned! (I'll add links to each heading as I write the corresponding posts.)

A tour of my kitchen - woot!
My cozy queen bed and surrounding area.
My desk/dining table. (It is a studio, after all.)
Fun stuff, including television, books, scrapbooking supplies, etc.
The less-exciting stuff, including my bathroom, laundry facilities and (psuedo-)closet!

Date Night(s): Rapid City

Last week, I visited my boyfriend in Rapid City, South Dakota, where he goes to school and stayed to work over the holidays. I think those four days were the longest we've spent together since last winter break! (Long distance can be tough, but I know it could be worse. At least he's not overseas.) During the time we spent together, we went on some pretty amazing dates. So if you're ever in Rapid City, here are some fun things to do (and good places to eat!):

Ice Skating

Rapid City has a fun new square downtown, complete with an ice skating rink! It was pretty cheap, too, at only $15 for both of us to rent skates and get all-day passes. After we were done skating, we went to a '50s-style diner right by the rink (I think you can actually skate up to the order window) to share an Oreo milkshake. And yes, we had two straws for one milkshake. Disgustingly cheesy, right? :)

Sorry for my squint; it was actually really sunny! We were wearing sunglasses, but we felt silly
wearing sunglasses and ice skates, so we took them off for the rink.

Good Food, Good Wine, C'mon, Let's Dine!

For most of our meals, we decided to go out and try some new restaurants. My two favorites were both located on Main Street, right across from the ice skating rink....

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Things for my apartment.

Not my apartment - obviously - but it sure is cute, right?

You might remember my "Things for my apartment" posts (#1 and #2) when I was dreaming about the possibilities of living on my own. Well, that time is finally here, so here's an update on which of those dreams were realized (or not):
  • Bigger bed: Check! I now have a queen-sized bed, and I honestly don't know quite what to do with it. I end up sleeping on one side the whole night anyway, but I use the other half as a place to store my television remotes, Kindle, etc. :)
  • Candles: Check! I already have two candles (a small Glade candle in the bathroom and a decorative candle on my dresser) and am planning to get more soon!
  • Kitchen: Semi-completed. I don't have an oven, but I do have a four-burner stove top and a slow cooker, so my cooking possibilities have vastly improved since living in the sorority house.
  • Art: Semi-completed. I don't want to put too many holes in the wall, especially because I'll only be here for six months, but I have already hung my study abroad photo contest prize above my stove! (In addition to the $100 prize, I also received a framed, enlarged photo! That was almost better than the money.)
  • Coffeemaker: Check! I already purchased some coffee and am experimenting with Coffeemate's White Chocolate Caramel Latte flavor. It's pretty good!
  • Own bathroom: Check! It doesn't have a medicine cabinet, but it does have a nice glass shelving unit that provides more than enough room for my toiletries. And, I'm storing my toothbrush upright in an ADPi cup! Woot!
  • Wine: Check! I bought two bottles on my first grocery shopping expedition: Barefoot's Moscato and Turning Leaf's Sweet Riesling. I've yet to buy a wine stopper, but I'm hoping to get one when I visit the Plaza.
Stay tuned for pictures!

#4: Live alone.

This is the first of (hopefully) many posts in a series about completing items on my bucket list. Today marks my third day as the sole tenant of a studio apartment. As soon as my power drill charges, I'll be able to finish putting together my new shelves and can declare myself officially moved in! Likewise, I can officially say I have lived alone, and will do so for the next six months (give or take).

So glad I didn't get the 9-cube unit. Those screws are tricky!
Photo courtesy of Google Images.

I anticipate writing a longer series about living on my own, including pictures of the apartment, shopping lists and budgetary concerns, but for now, here are my first impressions:
  • Pro: I have my own washer and dryer, no quarters necessary. Such a relief after living in campus/sorority housing for almost four years!
  • Con: My shower doesn't have a tub. Not that I'm used to one (see above), but a bathtub would have been nice.
  • Pro: I have my own coffeemaker! Finally, I can save some money by not visiting Starbucks so frequently.
  • Con: My fridge is mini-sized. I didn't think this would be a big deal because I only have to feed myself, but I had to take out a shelf to make my gallon of milk fit.
  • Pro: I sleep in a queen bed!! No more bunk beds for this girl.
  • Con: Honestly, I'm just coming up with cons to even this list out. There are way more pros!
In conclusion, I am thoroughly enjoying my new place! Stay tuned for more details.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Playlist: Road trip!

Today began my official move to Santa Fe! It's only a 15-hour drive from Columbia, so it's an easy drive over two days. It still gets pretty tiring driving though western Kansas by yourself, though. (I always thought Nevada was the ugliest state in the union, but now I think Kansas is giving it a run for its money! Although Kansas is more boring than actually ugly.)

Over my years of mini-road trips (mostly to and from airports), I've developed a list of songs that help keep me awake in the car. Some are upbeat, some are not, but they are all effective stimulants because I love singing along to them! Here's a sampling of my favorites. Try some of them out on your next road trip! Enjoy.
  • Defying Gravity - Wicked (This is always my first wake-up song when I'm feeling sleepy. Let's just hope there's not a hidden microphone in my car somewhere; that is a sound the world does not need to hear.)
  • I Woke Up in a Car - Something Corporate
  • We Found Love - Rihanna
  • On My Own - Les Miserables
  • All or Nothing - O-Town
  • Your Love is a Song - Switchfoot
  • Send Me on My Way - Rusted Root
  • Pumped Up Kicks - Foster the People
  • It Only Hurts - Default
  • If I Die Young - The Band Perry
  • Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen) - Baz Luhrmann
  • Heavily Broken - The Veronicas
  • Desperately Wanting - Better Than Ezra
  • Crack the Shutters - Snow Patrol
  • That's the Way It Is - Celine Dion
If I decide to pay more attention to the road and not flip through my iPod for specific tracks while driving, I have two tried-and-true solutions:
  1. Set my iPod to play all songs marked as the genre "Soundtrack" (all Broadway and Disney songs).
  2. Hit play on the Love & Basketball soundtrack that's always in my CD player.
I also have an extensive playlist composed completely of '90s alt-rock tunes (titled "Childhood Alternative"), so there are many amazing songs I am not including on this list - including various tracks by Matchbox Twenty, Goo Goo Dolls, Fuel, Counting Crows, etc. - because they have their own special place on my iPod.

Do you ever use music to keep you alert? Which songs do you prefer?

Sunday, January 8, 2012

By the Numbers: 2011

I'm not one for New Year's Resolutions, normally. I figure if I want to do something, I'll set a goal and do it; I don't need it to be January 1st to feel motivated. However, reading all my lovely fellow bloggers New Year's Resolutions posts has gotten me in the mood to set a few goals for myself. Before I do that, though, I think it's important to see what I've accomplished in the past year. So here's a rundown of 2011, by the numbers.

Friday, January 6, 2012

To love another person is to see the face of God.

A few months ago, I accidentally stumbled upon an IMDB listing for a 2012 version of Les Miserables. The only cast members listed at the time were Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean (how amazing is that?!), Russell Crowe as Inspector Javert (once again - amazing!) and Anne Hathaway as Fantine (I like Anne, but I guess I always pictured Fantine as older ... and blonde). This discovery might seem trivial to the average movie-watcher, but I absolutely love Les Miserables.

I literally grew up with the story and soundtrack of Les Miserables. I even got to see the play on stage when I very young; I still vividly remember the scene where Eponine crawls over the barricade to Marius, her chest drenched in the brilliant red of fake blood. The day before my family moved to California, we played "One Day More" on repeat throughout the whole house. This was when I was 7 years old, and I knew (know!) every word. When I was 11, I read the book by Victor Hugo for a class reading assignment. (Man, were those war chapters dense. But I still have my own copy!) Even today, "I Dreamed a Dream," "Who Am I?" and "At the End of the Day" are go-to songs on my iPod when I'm on a long car ride and need to sing something to stay awake. 

After my initial discovery about the new film, I regularly checked IMDB for updates. After all, if this movie really was (is?) coming out in 2012, how could they not have a full cast listing yet? Emma Watson was later listed as "rumored" to play Cosette (which was super exciting for me!) and Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen (rumored) were listed to play the Thenardiers. (Madame Thenardier is kind of the Bellatrix Lestrange of Les Mis for me, so that's just perfect!)

Since then, Emma Watson has (unfortunately) been replaced with Amanda Seyfried for the role of Cosette. What?! I'm very disappointed by this. It's not that I was totally set on Emma playing Cosette (I don't know anything about her voice), but there is just something about Amanda Seyfried that rubs me the wrong way. In the same article where I read Amanda would be playing Cosette, I read Taylor Swift might be playing Eponine. What?!?! On My Own? A Little Fall of Rain? How can Taylor sing these as they deserve to be sung?! Plus, isn't Eponine brunette? I guess Taylor can dye her hair for the role, but we all know what she really looks like.

Sorry for my little venting session. I am definitely still stoked to see the movie (opening night, no doubt), but I'm a little disappointed with some of the casting thus far. After listening to the soundtrack for two decades, I have a certain image in my mind, and this just isn't living up to that.

P.S. - The title of this post has been one of my favorite quotes for as long as I can remember. It's currently listed under my quotes on Facebook, but I also remember having it featured on my MySpace profile. Imagine how long ago that was. The quote is, of course, from one of the many wonderful songs in Les Miserables!

Are you familiar with the story of Les Miserables? What do you think about the casting choices?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Sunrise in Sonoma

I had the luxury of driving up to Sonoma last night to spend my final full day in California in the gorgeous wine country. This morning, I awoke to a brilliant strip of orange sunrise outside my window. I didn't even have to get out of bed to take this picture. Talk about a room with a view!

After taking that picture (from under my sheets!), I went out to the balcony to get a better view. I wish my phone had a better-quality camera, but I think you get the idea.


After this morning, I think I have my first New Year's Resolution: See more sunrises.

Monday, January 2, 2012

The best of: Cup of Jo

Happy New Year! I hope you all had a fun and/or relaxing New Year's Eve, whichever you wanted to have. :) I spent the weekend with one of my best friends from high school at Monterey Bay, and it was so wonderful to walk the wharf with her and catch up.

Of course, one of the first things I did when I got home was catch up on my Google Reader. Not surprisingly, it was full of "Happy New Year" posts, but my favorite was a recap of 2011 from Cup of Jo's Joanna Goddard. If you've been reading my recent posts, you'll know I voted her Best "I-want-her-life" blog and Best for a quick read blog in my best of blogs post. If you were interested in reading Cup of Jo, this post is a great way to get started and see some of her most interesting posts throughout the year. Enjoy!