Blogs I Read and Articles to Get You Started

Right now I only really read two blogs and frequent one website (beyond pinterest, school sites, netflix, and instagram). Each one gives me advice in one form or another on how to best live my life. I like that. The first is the website and it’s mostly interior design/decorating and gardening. It’s a good launching point for other things around the web as well. The second is a simple living blog that I try to read every day because it makes me happy and feel like i’m doing the right thing by living simply. The last is a more minimalist approach to the simple living movement. It’s refreshing. For all three,I gave you a jumping off point so you don’t get stuck on the homepage (or the About Me) section. They are:
Apartment Therapy
So I can drool over the best homes (and pin for future reference). But also so I can learn to take care of my rental space and decorate it. Hit and miss on the advice but the pictures are always beautiful. Instead of one article, since it is a website and not a blog, I’ll start you off with a useful section for those in college or living in a small space.
Slow Your Home
The author is a ‘mum’ and from another country Australia ( uses kilometers and other foreign measurements). But her advice is across the board applicable to most people’s lives. A good post to start with is a part of a series on living simple A-Z (living simple blog): Let’s start with Y.

Zen Habits

Exactly what it sounds like, with a minimalist style. Just one post on each page, I like to read this blog, take in the one article, and move on with my day. Great with your morning coffee (if you’re into that sort of thing). How to Breathe.

Living Off the Farmer’s Market

This post was originally written as a work sample for a job at the Vanguard, Portland State University’s weekly school newspaper. Also note that the photo below is not mine and none of the photos I use are mine, unless I state otherwise. 

produceIt’s a cold Saturday morning but the sun is shining. As you make your way over to the Park Blocks you hear a guitar and something that could pass for a folk song. You arrive to see the walkways flooded with early risers and a pinch of irregular students, studying at the library. Food stands flank the paths but you make a beeline for C’est Si Bon for a pork, caramelized onion, apple butter crepe.

This is what my Saturday morning feels like when I visit the Portland Farmers Market at PSU. If I am up early, I might make it there by 10:00am. The market, however, is up and running at 9:00am during the winter and runs until 2:00pm. I usually arrive later than I plan.

During the summer, the market is in full swing with well over a hundred vendors running a stand of one sort or another. The produce beats Safeway by a mile but you can also find meat, dairy, baked goods, and lots of specialty shops selling things like gourmet pasta sauce. Even in winter the Portland Farmers Market has a lot to offer. You can still find perfect pears, apples, root vegetables, kale and squash galore, among other things. I do recommend getting there early for the best selection.

For a student budget, you can find a lot of good food. Your best best will be in produce, dairy, and bread or bakery items. Meat will always be pricey as will specialty items. I like to take advantage of the token program in place. I get Food Stamp money every month and I take my EBT card to the market. At the information booth they can exchange a token for every dollar for EBT as well as credit/debit cards. Every stand has to take these tokens (not all take cards) and you can use them to barter down prices to the full dollar (e.g. $2.35 becomes $2.00 and you save $0.35). If the barter doesn’t work in your favor monetarily, and you end up paying $4.00 for something that cost $3.75, most vendors will throw in an extra vegetable or extra free samples. Also, the tokens are refundable at any time and never expire.

So you can get great food (including hot food), meet vendors who actually know the farmers, and maybe save a little money along the way. Going to the Portland Farmers Market is an experience that is healthy, entertaining, eco-friendly, and full of food. This includes free food, and how can you say no to that?

Removing Facebook: An Experiment in Socializing

Let me start by saying I don’t get out much and when I do, it’s often with my boyfriend which can create a bubble between me us and the outside world. When I walk to school, I don’t talk to anyone: 15-20 minutes of silence. That’s crazy. I could be spending that time chatting with a friend, if I had a friend to walk with. I wrote before about my dying social skills and my goals for the rest of college (new college). I also updated you on some progress I made. Now I’m ready to take things a step further: I’m getting off Facebook.

The experiment: I will stay off Facebook for a full month to see if/how it affects my social life. I am allowed to use FB Messenger (a few of my friends prefer it’s free services to texting). I also wrote a post of my departure: today is my last day. (The experiment will last from January 25th to February 25th, unless otherwise noted in the future.)

But WHY?! Part of that explanation is in my first post on this subject. In short, I want friends. I want more friends, closer friends, study buddies, and local friends. Recently, I tried to simply stay off the FB app on my phone. I was inspired by a post on FB by a friend who was vowing to uninstall the app and only use the messenger. So I took the app off my home screen. In the beginning I definitely kept off FB more than before, considering most of my use of the site is on my phone. But I was not dedicated and it didn’t work long-term. The app is still off my home screen, but I find myself opening it all the time from the apps menu. It’s ridiculous. I have now spent more of my free time scrolling and re-scrolling through my FB feed than I have reading or working on homework on most days. So it’s a time waster and way to procrastinate. However, my bigger issue is my friends. I know what you’re thinking, “How can your friends be the issue if you want more/closer friends?” Well, I am from Washington (state) but currently live in Portland (<3). The majority of my friends live in Washington and if we were just beginning to get close when I lived there, they are now loose ties. If we were best friends before, now they are just friends. No one visits, and I only see a handful when I visit home my parents. My local friends are few, and on FB most of them are people I met at a party but haven’t seen since. How can I make more local friends? Leave the Washingtonians behind! Get outside and explore the people physically around me! This is my plan.

This week I took some time to reflect on a year in my life when I was really happy and content. I was more outgoing, relatively healthy, and felt like I was on top of the world . So I asked myself: “What contributed to that?” Well I was still in K-12 so let’s start with everything right with school. In 6ish hours a day, I figure I managed to spend around 3 of those talking with my friends. I had a range of creative hobbies I got to practice through elective classes (and after school). I played sports and bonded with more people through them. I did spend a good amount of time on the internet or watching movies when I got home. That’s okay. I still spent 3+ hours a day socializing, face-to-face with real people. I had parties at my house a couple times a year (small,intimate ones) and I was doing a lot of stuff. That is something I want to recreate in college.

Now this not a scientific experiment. And I’m not suggesting this will work for anyone else (if it works). This is specific to my situation. Also I will not simply get off FB and sit around the house. I will couple it with consciously pushing myself to get outside and explore things around town (something I already wish I did more of). I may or may not strike up conversations with people. I am hoping by removing FB from my daily activities, and getting outside, I will become more comfortable around people and they will approach me or I will be more outgoing. I am pretty much broke, so anything I do out of the house will be cheap or free. Not everything will be “social” activities, e.g. job hunting. But I am excited to see the results, if any, and keep you updated through this blog.

Has anyone else done this? Did you go all out and *gasp* DELETE your Facebook account? Does anyone think this is crazy? Share your opinions below!

Making Friends at College: Week One Progress!

Recently, I talked about my struggles with making friends (in general) and my goal to make new friends in college and do it right this time. Well it’s been a week and I’ve actually made progress without much effort! I attribute this phenomenon to Portland being the friendliest city I’ve ever been to (another post, another time). The following are my experiences from the past week that seem like progress (names have been changed):

I was in my second history class, setting up my notes on my laptop per usual, when a girl (do I say woman now??) came in late and sat next to me. This particular classroom is a small lecture hall with those terrible test-taking desks that are only big enough to fit a piece of paper (barely) and then some asshole decided it was a good idea to connect that to a chair, all of this at an angle. So she, let’s call her Sarah, sits down next to me in close quarters and sets her coffee down on the desk (I decided to overlook the fact that it was Starbucks, all sins can be forgiven). The cup, because of the angle of the desk, starts sliding towards her and I laugh. She notices me laugh (YES!). Later, during our break, she asks me if I was in class on Monday and if I would be willing to email her my notes! And I’m like, “Sure, no problem,” but in my head “YES, OF COURSE! WILL YOU BE MY NEW BFF?!?!” (We did have a fuller conversation than that, but you get the general idea). At the end of class she even said bye. I got her email and name (which I took note to actually remember, which is a task for me). I sent her the email and can’t wait to see her in class again, maybe she will sit next to me and we will talk. Yay for Sarah!

Next instance: I sat next to someone in my OTHER history class (yes I’m taking two history classes, back to back. No, I’m not a history major). I forced myself to get up and move closer to an actual human instead of isolating myself. I asked her if she did all the reading and she said, “No, “ and we went on to have a conversation about how we will have to wing it because neither of us did all the reading. I did not get her name, and the conversation seemed to be a one-time thing. BUT it got me out of my comfort zone. Maybe if I talk to someone every day, in at least one of my classes, I will somehow make a friend of one of them.

Super friendly Portlanders:  The other story I have is about making friends with a passerby while walking in Portland. This is not uncommon. But she was friendlier than I expected. Chelsea wanted to know where the library was (we were on campus) and I pointed but said I was going there too (the truth). We then got into a full-fledged conversation about what we were studying, why we were there, our names, our boyfriends going to school, and our dreams for future occupations. She started it! But when we got to the library, we split up (she was there to see her boyfriend, who is a student. Chelsea goes to another school). Here’s the kicker: I went upstairs to my usual spot and I’m 90% sure she was right behind me (within earshot) talking to her boyfriend! I did not turn around or engage them. Doing so would of proven my eavesdropping and could of been potentially awkward if she didn’t plan on talking to me again. So I listened to their weekend plans instead (which sounded awesome, BTW) and read my book.

Required group discussions: In my Communications class, the teacher requires us to group up into triads and discuss questions off of a PowerPoint every Tuesday. I happened to sit down at a table with two guys so nobody moved and we started on the questions. I got their names from the paper we had our assignment on (required to get points for attendance). I will call them Jake and Jerry. Luckily, they weren’t complete idiots and we did alright. Later that week I sat next to Jake again but we didn’t talk. Both of them had the looks of more serious introverts: they would talk in a graded group discussion, but otherwise kept to themselves. This is probably why I make friends with extroverts, sometimes of the extreme edition.

     So this week there was much more interaction than anticipated. Which is great! Baby steps! But I still have a long way to go before making solid friends, or lasting friends. Hell, at this point, I’d settle for a study buddy. Has anyone else made progress this week? Any tips? If not, try to make progress this next week. Step outside your comfort zone. Or, if you’re an extrovert, try talking to an introvert. They might surprise you.

Tips for Healthy Baking

4ab1f7175d877f1ace06da2090d9b3fbI’m not going to tell you to skip butter. This article is not about being gluten-free or vegan or even low calorie! I just wanted to write about saving yourself from eating a whole cake right after you’ve baked it. I want to talk about being a good baker while saving yourself a few calories (and a few pounds, even, overtime). So, without further ado, I present you my tips for healthy baking:

  1. Have a Snack
    I highly recommend eating something before you start baking. Something filling and maybe even healthy. Today I baked a chocolate cake. I had lunch but I was still a little hungry so I had almond butter on toast as a snack. This keeps me from eating all the batter. Also, later, when I eat the cake/whatever baked good it is i’m making, I’ll know that I’m enjoying it for how good it is, not just because I’m hungry.
  2. Drink Water
    Stay hydrated. You know what they say about people confusing dehydration and hunger? Well, I don’t know how much truth is in that, but I can at least attest to keeping myself full of water to stop eating. If i’m hydrated, i’m more focused and more happy. I also am not adding calories to the process by drinking milk or cocoa or something like that. You can have tea or coffee, but personally I add sugar to mine and sugar=calories. Which is what we are trying to avoid, right?
  3. Lick the Spoon
    But not the bowl. I am huge advocate of testing your recipe before it goes in the oven. Raw egg? I’ll risk it (always have). I taste my cakes, cookies, bread, all of them, to get a good idea if I’m on the right track. Bread dough and cornbread batter is not that appetizing (unless you’re hungry) but I do it for the sake of the end result. The times I’ve skipped this step I have regretted it. The key is to test your batter, maybe multiple times as you tweak it, but don’t lick the bowl. Once you are done with a bowl, put it in the sink and add water. Or give it to the kids roommates to attack. Same thing goes for the beaters.
  4. Do the Dishes. Right Away.
    I do the dishes right away for two reasons: 1. It gets them out of the way and done so they are not looming later (I was raised that way), and 2. It prevents me from licking the bowl and burns calories (yes, I count that as one).
  5. Pretend you’re a Professional
    Why? Why would I do that if I don’t care how it looks as long as it tastes good and I’m the only one eating it? Because everything will be cleaner and you will sneak less. I pretend I have to follow the health code (mostly, taste testing not included). This means keeping the counters clean, no five-second rule, no licking the bowl, and keeping my hands very clean (no licking fingers). It’s small, but it helps.
  6. Eat
    As soon as your cake or cookies or whatever you are making is cooled and totally done (frosting, assembling, etc) eat it. But don’t eat it all in one sitting (unless you made a one-man crepe or something). Do make a big deal about it. The longer I spend making something, the bigger a deal I make about eating it (e.g. Thanksgiving). So when I bake, I get all ceremonial. I make coffee or another fun drink to go with it (champagne, hot cocoa, even tea), arrange it beautifully on a plate, and take my time to savor it. Sometimes I go for 2nds, and that’s OK. It’s when you go for the the 2nds every time, or the 3rd or 4ths, or lie to yourself about what one serving is, that is when you get into dangerous territory. Enjoy your hard (or maybe easy) work. Savor it and praise yourself.

I can only guarantee that these steps will save you calories if you usually get a little too intimate with your batter or dough. I have no proof, or weight loss results. This is simply what I do to save myself from gaining weight with my favorite hobby. Bonus tip: Share your goodies (queue song). More for them=less for you (and that can be a good thing).

The Hunt for New Friends in College

Millar_Library_(Portland_State_University)

It begins again. A new quarter means new prey. I’m a terrible hunter, constantly stalking and aiming, but never getting close enough to fire. It gets worse. The times I do fire, I miss, or make only a wounding shot, one that only lasts the quarter. And then I’m off to hunt again, always on the lookout for new friends.

Okay, so maybe hunting is a bad analogy. I try to make friends. Or at least, I try to try. As the years go on, I realize more and more just how introverted I am. I’m the type of introvert that is shy and reclusive until you talk to me. Introduce me. Say, “Hi,”. Ask me about anything, and I’ll go off like an alarm. I’m very chatty and sociable, once you get me to start. I’m a good listener too! It’s just people who never talk to me and have no idea. I even know how to make you happy in a conversation. How to get you to talk about what you love most, while making me look like the best person friend ever.

I’m great once you get me started, but I’m not very good at self-starting. I have to force myself to sit next to people, to say, “Hi,” to take the risk. I have made friends in the past at college, don’t get me wrong, but they never seem to last past that class. I have the same issues outside of the campus but, due to the sheer amount of people (and things we might have in common), I have made a special goal to make friends at college. Lasting friends. The kind of friends you have and enjoy, if only for the length of your college career (it IS a job). Even better, would be to find friends that last beyond that. The kind that last when you move away. But i’m keeping my goal more realistic for now.

Any tips for me? I also work two jobs (so clubs aren’t much of an option, though maybe?). Does anyone else have this problem? How do you start friendships? And coming later: comparing the search for friends and the search for lovers, and how to keep them separate.