Wednesday, December 31, 2014

On Dreams, Failures, and A Beanstalk

This isn't the type of thing I typically post on here, but it seemed appropriate for the season, so here it is:

It’s year-end (OMG! Already?! Helloooooo, 2015!), so it’s time to evaluate and perhaps, to recalibrate. Sizing up how you’ve done this year can be daunting—I know it is for me. Often, New Years is met with eager anticipation and a tinge of anxiety. Whether you’re comparing yourself to another individual or to your own well-intended goals at the beginning of 2014, it’s time. You’re in the mindset of tallying your own intentions, actions, and results, and coming to a conclusion—a conclusion which will affect your self-esteem. Most likely, whether you end 2014 with a smile or a frown is more related to how optimistic you are on the 364 other days of the year, regardless of the looming December 31 on the calendar, but that’s a different essay for a different day. 

So I digress, to Jack and the beanstalk. Sure you know this story, and sure, you could summarize it pretty easily (as most Americans could). But when was the last time you really thought about Jack? Probably many years ago unless you’ve just seen Into the Woods, and then maybe you’ve recently given him a little more thought. In classic literature, the fairy tale version of Jack is a little less heroic than one might remember. Jack has a slew of failures throughout his story beginning with the sale of his beloved cow, Milky White. Milky White was Jack’s family’s source of food, and by some estimates, Jack’s best friend. Now a boy who would sell his best friend for 5 “magic” beans with no empirical evidence to prove their magic-ism is, by my estimate, not the smartest. His mother seemed to feel the same way, scolding him for his poor decision making, sending poor Jack to bed without supper, and throwing the useless beans into the family’s garden. Meanwhile, the beanstalk begins to grow overnight. The next day, Jack explores the new world that’s developed outside his window, and continues to make mistake after mistake. He steals from the giants, returns home, ascends the beanstalk again to steal again, finally kills the giant (not in the David-and-Goliath beautiful and courageous sense) and time after time proves that he isn’t the hero we’ve all been waiting for. Jack is a thief, yet he remains the protagonist to the story.

Whether or not Jack is a worthy protagonist could be argued, but it would be futile. At the end of the day, are any of us worthy protagonists? If I read a book about a character like myself, I would do a lot of eye-rolling and scoffing. But the part that makes me pause in Jack’s story comes before the beanstalk. It’s when Jack is in bed, alone and crying. For Jack, that moment stood still, feeling like an eternity, while the audience knows the beanstalk is growing just outside the window.

As Jack is crying, feeling hopeless, regretting his decisions (on an empty stomach, no less), that is when the magic happens. Jack’s poverty is dwarfed, quite literally, by a whole new world gleaming of gold. In the night, Jack had absolutely no idea what treasures would come with the new day. He thought his moment of despair was an eternity of despair, yet he was so wrong. 

So now, as I’m ending 2014 and beginning to begin again, I’m thinking of Jack. I think of Jack when I feel a loss. When I feel alone, when I feel like I’ve failed, when I’ve given up my best and gotten nothing in return, even when I’ve made the wrong choices. When you’re feeling down, remember to look up. Because in that moment, you’ll never guess what beanstalk might be growing.

Thanks for sticking with me through 2014, friends! I'm looking forward to next year and the beanstalks we can climb together. :)

P.S. If you're into this type of thing, I've written some more like it on Medium.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Friendsgiving Toll House Pie

I have no idea where the name "Friendsgiving" came from, who came up with the idea, or why we haven't started calling the fourth Thursday in November "Familygiving." 

This whole "Friendsgiving" thing has gotten pretty trendy over the last couple years, and I personally think it's great. Thanksgiving may very well be my favorite holiday, so I'm not mad about having a little extra community over turkey and stuffing. My family has a looooong tradition (over 30 years) of going to a friend's house for Thanksgiving, so I guess you could say my parents were the original Friendsgiving hipsters.

I love our family Thanksgiving traditions. We tell the same stories each year, but they never get old. We usually see a movie (we had some great years when all of the Harry Potter movies came out in late November), and we always have pie. You knew I'd get around to talking about the pie eventually…

So, here it is. Toll House Pie. If you've never heard of it, it's like a chocolate chip cookie pie. If you've never tasted it, it's incredible. 

I'm not sure if this is the original recipe for toll house pie, but this is my mom's recipe, so it's the only one you'll need. 

- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
- 3/4 cup butter, melted & cooled
- 1 cup sumisweet chips
- 1 cup chopped walnuts
- unbaked pie crust


Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. In a large bowl, beat eggs until foamy. Don't do like I did and drop half the egg into the sink on accident, but if you do, use another egg.

The chocolate chips are the best part of this pie, but it's not time to add them yet. After beating the eggs, beat in the flour, sugar, and brown sugar until well blended. Beat in the melted butter. Finally (FINALLY!), stir in the chocolate chips and walnuts. If you don't like walnuts, I suppose you could remove them from the recipe, but I recommend you learn to like walnuts and leave 'em in.

Pour the mixture into pie shell, and set the oven timer for 55 minutes. It's a long time, I know, but it's worth the wait. 

Serve warm to friends or family, with whipped cream on top. 

I hope you all have the loveliest giving season of all!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

California Dreaming

Blog friends! I'm sure you thought I died, or even worse--fell off the blogging bandwagon. I didn't. I simply had a busy few weeks followed by a trip to California! Typically I share projects, DIY's, fun facts, etc. on this little site of mine, but this trip to the Golden State was too good to keep to myself. Of course, I still believe in learning, so I'll share some snapshots and a few facts, too.

We flew in to SFO (aka the San Francisco airport), stopped by Fisherman's Wharf to see what all the fuss was about, and headed up to Napa to spend the night. Thus begins the list:

10 Things I Learned in The Golden State

10. The Napa Valley is one of the oldest and best-known areas for wine production. I learned a lot here, like that the vines have to be about three years old before producing useful grapes, and there are between 500 and 600 grapes in a bottle of wine. 

9. Animals are cute. But I guess we already knew that, huh.

8. Over 250 million people visit California annually, so it is considered the most visited state in the U.S. I figured this photo would illustrate that the best (*cue laughter*).

After we left Napa, we started our drive down the coast. We drove down Highway 1 and stopped in some of the little (and big) towns in between San Francisco and L.A.

Pebble Beach (above) and Big Sur (below) are two of those take-your-breath-away spots along the coast of Highway 1.

7. Big Sur was initially connected to the rest of California through the construction of Route 56 in 1919. The highway was built with the help of unskilled convicts and locals, including John Steinbeck (no wonder he was continuously inspired to write good stuff). The road was incorporated as Highway 1 in 1939.

6. Stuff like this grows along the coast. But I'm not really sure what this is, so… Learning fail.

5. If you take the 5, it's about 380 miles between S.F. and L.A. If you take the scenic route and stop anywhere and everywhere in between, go up to Napa, go down to L.A., go everywhere in between… You'll put about 1,500 miles on your rental car. But don't quote me on that. 

This would also be the part where I talked about how great L.A. was, but I was so busy spending time with friends that I didn't take any photos. I'm only a little mad about it. 

4. Sunsets are even more gorgeous when reflected in the ocean.

3. We saw seals. I may or may not have screamed. According to the E-Seal Newsletter I picked up, males can grow up to 5,000 lbs, and they battle for breeding rights for up to 100 days without food or water. So.. I'm not really sure how they make it up to 5,000 lbs without eating a little In-N-Out

2. The Golden Gate Bridge is considered by some to be one of 7 Wonders of the Modern World, and it is painted International Orange. An estimated 5,000 - 10,000 gallons of paint are used each year to keep the bridge lookin' fresh. While incredible, the bridge is also home to more suicides than any other location in the world. The Bridge Rail Foundation is looking to do something to change this statistic. 

1. Travel is good for the soul.

I had a golden time on this trip. California, hope to see you sooner rather than later. 

Monday, September 29, 2014

But first, Coffee.

National Coffee Day, huh? Most people like coffee, and those who don't are crazy. College students, employees and bosses alike are equally likely to drink coffee—often in different forms and at very opposing times of day. Cream, no cream. 11 a.m., 11 p.m. Hot, cold. No matter how you like it (or if you don't), it's likely that the word "coffee" isn't going to be escaping the English language anytime soon.

So, whether you use four at-home brewing methods like my barista friends, or you like your Folgers Classic Roast watered down a little bit (because the Classic Roast is just too strong), let's ask ourselves the important questions: Why is it National Coffee Day, and where did this stuff come from?

National Coffee Day was first celebrated in the U.S. in 2005, and as is the case with most Hallmark-created holidays, nobody knows where it came from or why it is September 29th. We just do it for the coffee.

The origin of coffee itself is highly debated, but many give preference to the legend of Kaldi. Kaldi was an Ethiopian goat herder who noticed that his goats went crazy when they ate berries from a certain tree. The goats jumped around and wouldn't sleep at night. (Spoiler alert: It was a coffee tree.) According to the legend, Kaldi took the beans to a monk who made a drink using the berries and confirmed that after drinking it, he was easily able to stay alert for his overnight prayer sessions.
If you wanted to go out on a limb here, you could say that drinking coffee is a holy practice. I think that's a logical conclusion from the legend of Kaldi.

According to the LA Times, 1.7 billion cups of coffee are consumed daily, and 35 percent of the world's coffee consumption occurs in the United States. Santa Fe Springs, California, is likely responsible for a good chunk of that statistic, with a whopping 560 Starbucks locations within only 25 miles. Starbucks also claims 87,000 drink combinations. ABC News says that the average American spends $14.40 per week going out to coffee shops, totaling $1,100 each year. That doesn't include the cost of drinking coffee at home, either. The National Coffee Association also tells us (in bold) to "never reheat your coffee." Oops.

Think you might be over-caffeinated? The problem is historical. In the 1730's Johann Sebastian Bach (BACH, guys) wrote a satirical cantata on coffee-obsession. The title is Schweigt stille, plaudert nicht, or "Be still, stop chattering" for you non-German speakers.

Translated from German (I didn't translate it… I haven't learned German yet), a stanza in the cantata reads as follows: No suitor comes in my house/unless he has promised to me himself/and has it also inserted into the marriage contract,/that I shall be permitted/to brew coffee whenever I want." Satire or not, I have to agree with this. I couldn't marry a man who won't let me have my mochas!

So the moral of the story is this: Drink and be merry. But first, make sure he likes coffee.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Caramel Apple Parfait

This post was inspired by wisdom teeth surgery (ow), McDonald's, and all the girls longing for fall.

Spoiler alert: It's still summer until September 22. I know we all want it to be fall, like, yesterday, but I personally really love summer. So, this treat is a summery snack/dessert/breakfast (or dessert for breakfast) option for those of us who are enjoying summer yet longing for the upcoming crunchy leaves and caramel apple season.

So, back to wisdom teeth. I had 'em removed recently, and as you likely know, I wasn't allowed to eat anything afterward. I mean, I could eat ice cream, and soup, and parfaits, but that's about it. I couldn't eat apples, or pretzels, or heaven forbid I try to eat a hamburger. It was a low point in my life.

So one day I'm eating a McDonald's Fruit 'n Yogurt Parfait, and I decided it wasn't half-bad! (Did I just lose all of my "food blogger" internet cred?) I got to thinking about how I could make an at-home version of the snack, but with a twist.


- 1 cup vanilla yogurt
- Apples, chopped (I used Granny Smith and Red Delicious)
- Pretzel crumbs
- Caramel

Little bit of trivia: "Parfait" got it's name from the French word for "perfect," and their origin dates all the way back to 1894. Parfaits are different all around the world, too. Don't order a parfait in the UK unless you want "a very smooth meat paste (or pâté), usually made from liver (chicken or duck) and flavoured with liqueurs." (Ew, right?) But this recipe won't be like that. It'll be good. Promise.

The best thing about parfaits is that they're so easy to make. That's probably why the French deemed them perfect. They're a quick-fix for a sweet tooth. Or if you're like me, a sweet+salty tooth.


Start by drizzling caramel in the bottom of your dish. Next, add a layer of the yogurt on top. Add some of the apples you've chopped, and sprinkle some of the crumbled pretzels on the same layer.

To finish off the parfait, simply add the same layers again! Caramel, yogurt, apples, pretzel. You could repeat these steps indefinitely if you're really hungry and want to eat a punch-bowl-sized serving, but my recipe only required 2 layers of parfait to fill the dish.

Drizzle some more caramel just for kicks, and you're ready to eat up!

I hope you enjoy this treat, friends! Let me know if you try it; I would say it is parfait for this time of year. Happy late-summer-almost-fall!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

What I'm Wearing White Now

Guys. Monday was Labor Day. Yesterday, I wore white jeans. Nobody cared.

I proudly and confidently marched to my closet because I knew what pants I was going to wear (and that never happens), and then I had a small moment of insecurity while I debated how to make the outfit look a little summery and a little fall-y; but mostly, I was feeling like a real rule-breaker. Give me a Harley and a studded collar, folks, 'cause I'm wearing white after Labor Day! But still, nobody cared. Not one person commented on how rebel-without-a-cause I dressed on September 2nd. 

Everybody knows this ancient fashion faux-pas, but then Vogue and Marie Claire and everyone are all "10 Ways to Wear White after Labor Day!" So, how and why did "no white post-Labor Day" become a thing, and then not a thing? Labor Day has been around for a long time, and so has this societal rule. L-Day was declared an official holiday in 1894, but the first two were celebrated on Tuesdays. Can you imagine that? It seems like a bad idea to have a national holiday on a Tuesday because if you don't tack a day off to the end of the weekend, there's just this awkward day in the middle of the week to sit around and eat ice cream or watch The Hills or something. Right? I'm not really sure what they were thinking.

There are several theories on how this whole "no white" thing became a thing. One theory is that back in the day, before Google existed and random girls like me had blogs, the NY-based fashion magazines influenced much of what was worn. Since whites are impractical for a wet fall and winter (nobody wants an accidental 'wet jeans' contest), they were reserved for summer wear only. Another theory involves the snooty society people in the late 1800s and early 1900s: High society was ruled by the mega rich socialites, until more and more people started becoming well-to-do, and started dressing that way. To create a societal divide between old money and new money, the theory is that the "old money" socialites made up a bunch of silly rules to distinguish those who were "in the know" from others who were just dressing the part. I favor this theory because it sounds like Mean Girls, so it's most likely true. 

Now, the "no white" rule is defunct, and maybe that indicates that our society is a little less snooty? I'd like to think so. I think the most important thing to learn from Labor Day is to dress for the season. Pleasepleaseplease don't be the girl who wears Uggs in the summer. Don't wear rain boots if it's going to sprinkle in the morning and then sun for the rest of the day. You can wear white in the dead of winter if you want (winter whites, amirite?) but don't dress like you're about to go yachting (Sperry's and all) in January because you will make everyone jealous and increase their winter-induced depression. You'd probably be cold, too.

So, the moral of the story is this: It's not 1894 anymore, so you can wear white if you want to. White now, even. 

Outfit details: Jeans - F21, Striped top - Urban Outfitters, Sweater - F21, Purse - Longchamp.
Photography by Nick Warnock.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Does Detox Water Work?

Does detox water work? 
Short answer: yes.
Longer answer: read on. 

Much like the coconut oil craze, recipes for detox water have been floating around the internet like they'll solve all your problems and make you lose 20 pounds overnight. But do they really?

According to the Mayo Clinic, putting some fruit in your water or doing a juice cleanse is not scientifically proven to detoxify your body. The body is designed to "detox" itself, so assuming your organs are functioning as they should, you don't necessarily need to add a bunch of fruits and veggies to your water to make it healthier. Normal water is pretty healthy, too, and has many benefits. 

That being said, infused water tastes better than the plain Jane, boring stuff you get at restaurants when you don't want to pay $3.00 for a Dr. Pepper. I have to really make a point to drink my water. My tendency is to drink coffee like it's going out of style, and given the choice, I would rather drink a raspberry mocha than a glass of H20. However, I know how important it is to stay hydrated by drinking water, so I gave this fancy water a shot. 
What's in my water?

Why? Any way that you can get a little more Vitamin C in your life will boost your immune system. 

Why? In addition to other health benefits, lemon water can be great for your skin

Why? Unpeeled cucumbers pack a solid amount of potassium. Potassi-yum is good for your heart, k?! (In case you missed it, that was a hilarious joke because potassium is vitamin k.)

Why? Yum. 

So, will detox water make your organs squeaky-clean and cause you to lose 20 pounds? Maybe not. Is detox water going to cut your cravings for BigMacs? Probably not. But a common misconception of hungry people is that they want food when they are simply dehydrated.

Regularly drinking water can help cut out the dehydration pangs, so you can be sure that your body is actually hungry for food when your stomach starts growling. 

So, does detox water work? If it makes you drink more water, yes. Infused water is a great substitution for soda, and it's easy to sip on throughout the day without feeling guilty or consuming a lot of unnecessary sugars. Unfortunately, this is no substitution (in my opinion) for coffee. Nothing (in my opinion) is a substitution for coffee. 

I've never been able to make myself drink 8 glasses of water a day (how does anyone do that??), but putting fancy fruits in my cup certainly makes me want to get that much closer. Cheers to detoxing-- err, whatever that means!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

How to Give a Compliment

I posted a little bit ago on how to take a compliment, but as many would say, it is better to give than to receive. Here's part two: How to give a compliment.

1. Don't be creepy
Guys: If you're interested in a girl, the best way to compliment her is to say something kind about her personality (i.e., "Hey girl, I think you're smart, humble, witty, brilliant, etc. etc. etc.") I would recommend that you don't just compliment some part of her appearance if you are interested in her beyond a pretty face. Sure, girls like being told their faces are pretty, but we'd rather be affirmed on parts of our personality that are unique to us. If you must compliment her on, say, her eyes, you could use that to transition to how eyes are the window to the soul and she has a beautiful soul… Or something like that.

2. Use humor to your advantage
Sometimes people feel awkward accepting compliments. Sometimes people feel awkward giving compliments. If you want to say something nice, but don't want it to be a huge, awkward deal, you could say something like this: "Hey, I'm going to nominate you for an Academy Award for 'best smile' even though 'best smile' isn't an Academy Award category and you're not an A-list celebrity." That sets you up to follow up with "Why on earth aren't you an A-list celebrity?! You should be because you are very talented and have great memorization skills."
Now, that wasn't awkward, was it??

3. Be sincere
If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all. If you can't honestly say something nice, don't make up kind words just to hear your own voice.

4. Make it a habit
A compliment costs nothing for you to give but could mean everything for someone to receive. Complimenting someone is perhaps the easiest way that you could brighten his or her day. You don't have to fly a girl to Maui, buy her a million pairs of shoes, or give her a puppy. You simply have to open your mouth, and speak life.

5. Let others shine
My roommate recently tweeted this:
When you compliment someone, make sure you are truly putting the focus on them. Don't bring up another's success to remind them of your own. And, whatever you do, be sincere.

Photos of Julie Wilson by Nick Warnock.

Friday, July 25, 2014

She Plants Things: A Cacti Garden

So, if you read my post on succulents, you'll know at this point that a cactus is a type of succulent. Basically what that means is you don't have to water it very often *insert cheering noises here* ! Planting cacti is pretty simple, so if you're a novice gardener like myself--this post is for you. 

The most important thing when choosing a planter for your baby cactus is to remember that it's not healthy for cacti to be over-watered. You won't want your cactus to sit in water, otherwise it might drown! So, the best option is to pick a planter with drainage holes. If you run into a problem (like I did) where you looooooove a certain planter without drainage holes, you can add a layer of larger rocks to the bottom for some DIY drainage. That way, the cactus won't be chilling in the deep-end every time you water it.

Take your plant out of its temporary-living home, and it's ready to move into its forever home. (Or at least where it'll stay for about a year until you find a cuter container for it and decide to re-plant it.) Gently brush away the excess dirt that won't fit into your planter, but be careful that you don't damage the root system. Plants have feelings, too.

Pro-tip when planting a cactus: Be careful. Cactus needles aren't the softest things around. Once you've planted each of your prickly guys, you'll then fill in the empty spaces with soil. On top of the soil, you can add a thin layer of pebbles. This isn't necessary for the plants to grow, but it looks cute, so you should probably do it.

If you want to get really fancy, you can research the type of cactus you bought and look up specific care instructions for it. Cacti are like babies; every one is different, and some tend to be more needy than others. As a general rule, though, baby cacti require less attention than actual babies. 

And there ya have it! Cacti are cool… Well, even though they're technically plants for hot weather, but you get the point.