Monday, December 23, 2013

Keeping Christmas Green

Christmas is coming! If you're like me, you've bought about 2 gifts so far, and you're getting ready to start the marathon shop-til-you-drop-and-wrap-a-bunch-of-presents challenge. I recently learned that wrapping paper, ribbon, and shopping bags account for about 4 billion tons of trash each year in the U.S. 4 billion tons! Here's my idea on how to keep Christmas green:

I wrapped these gifts in vintage scarves. The bonus here is not only do you have a pretty, uniquely wrapped gift, but it's a 2-fer for another present! This idea is great for any friend who drives a Prius or carries a reusable shopping bag to Whole Foods.
...Or anybody who likes scarves. So, basically everyone.

Each of these presents are books (gasp! I'm sure you never could have guessed that.) Scarves are good shapes for wrapping books or other small items. If you're wrapping an item that's larger than a scarf (like a Swiffer or something), you could reuse anything (e.g., yesterday's newspaper) for a recyclable gift-wrap. Other ideas include: leftover tinfoil or saran wrap.

Okay, just kidding about those last two. Happy gifting!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Kalee's Bridal Shower

My dearest friend Kalee is getting married (ahh!) in just a few short weeks, and my mom and I had the pleasure of hosting her bridal shower. Kalee and her fiancé, Sfen, have been rockin' it as a couple since 2009, so this wedding has been a long time in the making!

Here's what I learned: love is precious, and chocolate melts better when you put vegetable oil in it. Who knew?

 All credit to Pinterest for recipe ideas above and below. Yum.

Kalee opening gifts

Alex and Kristina. Kristina flew in all the way from Pennsylvania for the weekend!

Things got a little weird, but it was cool. Here are the bridesmaids minus Alison.


Thursday, November 28, 2013

Baker's Dozen Thanksgiving Playlist

I've been very disappointed with the lack of Thanksgiving songs in the universe. I can think of about a billion Christmas songs off the top of my head, but not one Thanksgiving song! Songwriters of America, please remedy this. Preferably by next year, so I can sing new holiday songs as I'm stuffing myself with stuffing (and turkey, and cheesy potatoes, and corn, and green bean casserole, and pumpki... Ok, I'll stop.)

Here's my not-so-Thanksgiving playlist for this year:

Yes, starting the set with Gobbledigook was intentional. Hilarious? I thought so, too. Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Learning To Be Thankful

Thanksgiving is a happy time of year. Have you ever thought about why? Sure, food is awesome and turkey boosts your brain's feel-good sensors, but that's not the only reason this time of year induces warm fuzzies. I think it's because we, as Americans, typically tend to spend more time in November focusing on the things we're thankful for. And that makes us happy.

It's easy to get bogged down by the one little thing that isn't going right when we have so much to be thankful for. It's because humans have this thing called a negativity bias. The negative parts of our lives tend to stand out to us; they're generally more memorable to us than positive experiences. (Some psychologists say we, as humans, need to have as many as 5 positive interactions for every 1 negative interaction.) They consume more of our attention, and we spend more time and mental energy focusing on the negatives rather than the things we have to be grateful for.

Here's the good news: with a little mental energy, this can be remedied. Psychologists have found that consciously practicing gratitude can increase happiness levels by around 25%. If you're bummin' about that one little thing, or if you feel like you don't have much to be thankful for, reevaluate. Start small. Say thanks. Be happy.

Above is a small list of things I'm thankful for, in no particular order. I intentionally left my friends off this list because I wouldn't have enough space on the internet to list all the friendships I'm blessed by. And my mom. Love you, Mom!

1. Ink on paper
2. Travel
3. Home
4. Sunsets
5. Music
6. Fitz
7. Saturdays
8. Family
9. Blue Skies

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Truth About Fortune Cookies

The city I live in is on the map for about three reasons, one of which being the invention of cashew chicken. Springfieldians are pretty serious about their cashew. Like, if you publicly admit in the city of Springfield, MO that you do not enjoy the taste of cashew chicken, you may be tarred and feathered. I think that's written somewhere in the city bylaws.

Anyway, this post isn't about cashew chicken. It's about fortune cookies. As you know, fortune cookies are commonly served in Chinese restaurants. (By the way, Springfield has at least 72 of these. Holy fried rice, that is a lot.) This is what I learned about fortune cookies: They aren't even Chinese!

There is lots of hot debate on the origin of the fortune cookie, but the most common belief is that it originated in San Francisco in the early 1900's. Ironically enough, a Japanese-American is credited with the invention of the fortune cookie. At least that's what the Court of Historical Review ruled in San Francisco in 1983. (See, I told you it was a big deal.) That being said, fortune cookies are considered by the Chinese and the Japanese to be an American delicacy, like Twinkies or McDonald's apple pies. Who would have thought?!

Historically, fortune cookies were stuffed with proverbs or general statements; sayings by Confucius were often used. Since then, fortune cookie-makers have expanded their database of quotes. You never know what "fate" you're going to receive. In fact, this guy--Josh Madison--has kept a record of all the fortunes he's received in cookies since 2008. He certainly eats more Chinese food than I do. 

When I was in middle school, one of my friends told me there are three levels of fortune cookies.

Level 1: A general statement (e.g. "The weather is wonderful.")
Level 2: A general, yet predictive statement (e.g. "If your desires are not extravagant, they will be granted.")
The "you" in level 2 cookies is a general "you," not specific to the cookie consumer.
Level 3: A personal, predictive statement (e.g. "You have an active mind and a keen imagination.")
A statement that would not necessarily be true to any reader.

I haven't found any evidence for "levels of fortune cookies" to be true, but it seems right, so I'll believe it anyway. Plus, when you get a level 3 fortune cookie and classify it as such, it feels like you just beat a Chinese-food video game or something awesome like that.

Monday, November 11, 2013

TiK ToK: Circadian Rhythm and Winter Time

So, Daylight Savings Time happened a week ago, and I'm still trying to get used to it. Read: I totally understand why bears hibernate during the winter because when it's dark all the time, I want to sleep all the time. I already learned that increased exposure to sunlight can affect happiness, so whyyyy are we turnin' off the sky lights so early?!

It turns out, Daylight Savings Time usually creates more problems in the spring, when we lose an hour of sleep. However, changing the clocks in either season can significantly affect your circadian rhythm, and it can take some people up to 3 weeks to fully adjust to the measly 1-hour time change! Here's what I learned about circadian rhythm:

In humans, circadian rhythm is basically a natural biological process where the body repeats behavior on a daily basis. These natural processes (the sleep cycle, for example) can be adjusted to different zeitgebers. "Zeitgeber" is an angry-sounding German word for environmental cues that affect your biological clock. The most common and influential example is daylight, but temperature, exercise, and eating patterns can also be zeitgebers, too. 

Thus, it makes sense that people naturally are more sleepy in the winter at 5 pm when it becomes dark outside. The zeitgeber is pretty much telling your body "it's nighttime, so you should cuddle up in some cozy socks and fall asleep." However, indoor lighting does affect circadian rhythm. Good news! We can (somewhat) control it. So this winter, we'll all just have to leave the bright lights on so we don't spend our evenings snoozing off

But maybe I'll just close my eyes for 5 minutes... Zzz...

Monday, November 4, 2013

Illustrator Wendy Macnaughton

Recently, I stumbled upon the work of Wendy Macnaughton, an illustrator and graphic journalist based in San Francisco. She has an interesting body of work--some of her pieces make you laugh, some make you think. A few make you laugh first and think later, and a couple make you think first and laugh later.

Hierarchy of Needs, New York Times

Office Hours, Dell Tech Page One

Should I Check Email, Dell & Forbes

Things Happen, 20x200

Her illustrations have appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Time magazine, "and stuff like that."

Check out her website and her tumblr to see more of her work.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Hippie Halloween: DIY Floral Crown

I don't know about you, but I am a little lazy when it comes to Halloween. Okay, really lazy. As a child, I was a ladybug for 3-4 years until I grew out of the costume my grandma made for me, and then I was a "sleepy person" for several years. A "sleepy person" costume consisted of me wearing my pajamas to go Trick-or-Treating. Somehow, people still gave me candy.

This year wasn't any different, and when it came time for me to choose a costume, I wanted to find a way to accessorize my normal clothes into something Halloween-appropriate. Enter the floral crown.

There are lots of different ways to make floral crowns, and I learned to make mine from this post. They're super easy to make, which is good if you're in a rush to get a costume together quickly! First, you need some pretty faux flowers.

Supplies Needed: Wire flowers, Scissors, Floral wire.
Time It'll Take: About half an episode of How I Met Your Mother on Netflix.
Cut the wire flowers off of their stems.

Bend the floral stems into a crown shape, sizing it to fit your head. Attach each stem to the next by coiling the wire around where the two pieces meet. The wire is pretty unnoticeable, but it helps if you can hide the it behind a flower or leaf. And there you have it! Easy as pie. I wore a vintage maxi skirt, a lace top, and a denim shirt, but lots of clothes would work well to give off the hippie vibe. 

 Hippie Halloween! Peace, y'all. 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Healthy(ish) Halloween

Trick or Treat? Halloween will be here soon, and the whole country will be hyped up on sugar. It sounds great, doesn't it? When I was a kid, there was a man on my street who handed out apples for Halloween. He also made you do a trick before he gave you a treat, so all the kids did a little song-and-dance to then be tricked into getting an apple. No kid wants an apple for Halloween. Kids want Reese's, and Hershey's, and Twix. Thinking about this, I was curious to know which Halloween treats are really bad for you vs. the ones that are just kinda bad. Here's what I found out: 

Smarties and Starburst are the healthiest options for Halloween candy. One roll of Smarties contains about 25 calories and 0g fat. Starburst contain a little more calories, but they taste better, so it's a fair trade.

The main reason Pixie Stix are bad for kids is because they contain less than 2% artificial and natural flavors. Also, kids tend to want to snort Pixie Stix, which is never a good idea. Something interesting I learned about Pixie Stix is that they are the same basic recipe as SweeTarts. Parents didn't like the powdery mess that came with Pixie Stix, so they requested a hard candy-version of the same sweet. 

3 Musketeers, Snickers, Twix. Basically, if the wrapper is brown and/or shiny, it's code for "this is bad for you." A fun-sized Twix bar contains 10% of an average person's daily value in saturated fat. Wowzers. So, if you eat 10 fun-sized Twix (and let's face it, that's totally possible), you've eaten your full day's allowance of saturated fat. 

Your dentist probably hates candy corn. Besides the simple fact that it tastes gross (yes, that is a fact), 19 pieces of candy corn contain 28g of sugar (cavities!) and 140 calories. 

So, Smarties are the best-for-you treat and Twix are the worst-for-you chocolate. Interestingly enough, Twix taste the best. Given the choice between Smarties and Twix, I would choose Twix every time. I just won't eat 10 of them… In one sitting.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Keep Calm and Yarn Bomb

So, the Springfield Art Museum got bombed… By yarn!

Yarn bombing is apparently a thing, who knew? I didn't, so I learned about it. Here's some fun facts about yarn bombing: 

It is also referred to as guerrilla knitting or graffiti knitting, and in some jurisdictions, it is illegal. The sculpture in front of the art museum was yarn bombed by the IdeaXFactory in Springfield. They were invited to do this installation, so no need to scan the mugshots for these knitters.

Trees are commonly bombed. Often, yarn bombers will create materials in a studio or home and then transport them to the location of the installation. 

Yarn bombing is thought to have been originated in Texas in 2005. 

However, Americans aren't the only ones who enjoy guerrilla knitting. On June 11, 2011, a Canadian woman founded International Yarn Bombing Day. 

The installation had lots of fun little sections, and it would make for a good game of "I Spy." This bacon and eggs part was my favorite. 

My friend Lindsay came with me to check out the sculpture post-yarn-explosion. She's inspecting the installation in this photo.

While I was viewing the installation, I ran into a woman who worked on it, and she said that over 20 people had helped put it together. They put a lot of hard work into creating something to make people smile, and I think they did a good job! Go ahead and Google Image search yarn bombing. You'll be glad you did.