Sunday, December 29, 2013

My Secrets to Adulthood

I'm reading "The Happiness Project" by Gretchen Rubin right now, and am about half way through. At the beginning of the book she has Twelve Commandments and Secrets of Adulthood. I don't know if I will venture as far as to write up twelve commandments for myself as I would rather stick to the 10 Commandments in the Bible, but I thought about secrets of adulthood that I've learned in my 24.5 years of life. I remember once for a creative writing class having to write "10 Things I Learned From____" (I chose my mother…I might have to dig that up…)

Anyways, here are a few tidbits of wisdom I've gleaned from living in CA, TN, AL (and 5 weeks of living in GA):
*Note, these are not ranked in any particular order.

1.  If you know you will be out and about for a while, bring an apple with you from home before leaving the house. It will keep you from being tempted, when hungry, to run to Starbucks and get coffee AND a sweet that will likely push you over your daily calorie allowance and daily budget at the same time.

2. Always go to the bathroom before you leave. One time I was about to leave my internship and head to my weekly chiropractic appointment on a very rare, snowy day (in TN). I had to use the restroom, but decided to wait until I got to my chiropractor's office because I like the smell of the hand soap in his bathroom. By the time I drove the 5 minutes it took to reach his office, it had really started snowing, and sticking! I reached his office and found it locked. I checked my cell phone, and sure enough, had a voicemail from his office saying he was closing up for the day because of the snow. So, I still needed to use the restroom, but thought I would just wait until I got home (a 30 minute drive) to use my own bathroom instead of pulling over at a gas station. People don't know how to drive in snow in The South. You would have thought it was snowmageddon! It took me over 2 hours to get home because of all the snow-induced traffic. By the time I arrived, my worried roommate tried to hug me, but I just pushed her off and made a bee-line for the bathroom. Lesson learned: use the restroom before you leave.

3. Check your email account at least one a day. These days the "I didn't check my email so your message sat there for three days before I even saw it" excuse (…whether it is an excuse or is reality) is just unacceptable. If you have secondary email accounts, check them at least every 7-10 days. You never know when someone from your past may have shot you a fairly important message, and your old email account is the only way they have to contact you. Bonus: if you check your email daily you will most likely avoid the dreaded inbox pile up.

4. I agree with Gretchen Rubin: always bring a sweater. My mom instilled this in me at a very young age as she was always freezing (…in San Diego the AC is on year round in most restaurants/ stores). She thought we, her daughters, would be freezing and then she would have to give up her sweater that she sensibly thought to bring along to one of her poor, freezing children. If you are one of those "always warm" people, God bless you; I'm jealous.

5. Write thank you notes for all gifts you receive. If you are one of those people who "don't know what to say besides 'thank you'" look in an etiquette book--seriously. I'm always a little surprised when I give someone a present and they don't write a thank you note in return. Don't send a "thank you email" or write them a message on Facebook--just, send a card the old fashion way.

6. When in doubt, write it down, store it away for three days, and then come back to it and see if you still want to send it. I once remember my rhetoric professor saying that anything that went on the internet was "instantly achievable and instantly changeable" meaning that as soon as your post something on Facebook, someone could read it, copy and paste it, and therefore it is instantly archived. It is also instantly changeable in that you can normally go back and edit anything you've previously posted online. I've learned the hard way--even if you are ranting and just letting off steam, word will probably get back to someone and then you will be embarrassed. I've learned that if I write it down, store it in my desk drawer, and come back to it after three days and still want to post it online, then it's probably pretty important. Most times I look at what I've written and think "Phew! Glad I had enough sense to put that aside and not post it on the internet."

7. Learn the art of persuasion. My father is in the real estate business, and he's also an entrepreneur. We used to play this game with a deck of cards called "Salesmen". I'm not sure where he learned it along the way, but the whole point of the game was to practice persuading others. A good salesman can think on his feet, and can twist a person's words to get them to buy whatever it is he is selling. Now, mind you, I'm not saying "con everyone you can." I'm saying learn the art of persuasion. There may come a time and place when your idea really is the best one out there, but you can't get anyone to accept it. In those instances, you will be glad you know how to do a little persuading.

8. If you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all. It's just really good advice.

9. If you ever find yourself in a position to be invited over to dinner at your boss's house (or your husband's boss's house), come prepared with some possible conversation starters. My great aunt always used to read 2-3 pages of the newspaper before leaving for a dinner party. That way, if there was a lull in the conversation, she could very easily bring up something she read about in the newspaper. It seems a little corny, but what's worse than those terribly awkward seven-seconds of silence? Not much, in my opinion. Warning: steer clear of overly-political or religious subjects. Graphic retellings of murders or rapes that you read about in the headline are also not welcome conversations among a crowd of polite company.

10. When someone else talks, try to really listen to what they are saying, especially if it someone whom you are meeting for the first time. There's nothing worse (except for those terribly awkward seven-seconds of silence at a dinner party) than seeing someone whom you've met a few days/weeks earlier and then having nothing to talk to them about because you can't remember their name, or what it was they said they did for a living.

So there is just a short list of ten of my "secrets to adulthood". As you can tell, most of them have to do with social situations. I am a very social creature, and was brought up in a very social, very polite society. I believe good manners will get you very far in life, but I believe that being a good conversationalist will get your even farther.

What are some of your secrets to adulthood?

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

My Journey to Weight Loss

My Journey to Weight Loss

So over the past 5 calendar years (throughout 6 different school “years”) I’ve lost 46 pounds! It certainly is something to celebrate. My family members (some of whom I see only once or twice a year) have told me “You look great, Kate!” and “Wow, here comes Skinny!”, which I have loved. They have offered a lot of support and have given me tips, recipes, websites, and articles that promote healthy living and weight loss. Once I hit the 40 pound mark, a lot of people started asking me “How’ve you done it?” Here’s my story:
            It really started back 5th grade. I remember going to the doctor and getting on the scale and seeing the numbers flash “120”. I knew I was overweight, but I didn’t know I weighed that much. I don’t think my doctor or my mom made a big deal about it, but I remember crying about it coming home from the doctor’s office. I felt stuck; like I was an overweight person and others around me weren’t; the me vs. them mentality.
Throughout my years I remember my mom saying “Not so many noodles!” because that was my serious downfall. My mom was always on the quest to loose that extra 10 pounds; she never needed to, but she always was insistent that she was going to “be good this week” and stick to a strict diet. I think it was her way of encouraging me and trying to model healthy living. My mom was the one who encouraged me to join Weight Watchers. It was near the end of my 5th grade school year and we were planning to move from San Diego to Seattle for 7 weeks for my dad’s business. We continued doing Weight Watchers and went to meetings in Seattle too. I’m pretty sure I was “starving” everyday that summer and feasted on the “0 point” WW vegetable soup until it came out my ears. I did loose 8-10 pounds while we were away. That was the first time I ever tried to loose weight. My mom had tried to get me on several different diets such as the “Sugar Buster’s diet” and this awful 4 day cabbage soup diet (I didn’t eat cooked cabbage again until college) but I never thought they would work, nor never thought they would do me any good.
Once we returned to San Diego we discontinued going to the WW meetings, but we had a great jump start on how to eat well. I remember feeling educated about food and was excited to have knowledge about calories and fats and healthy choices at my fingertips. Middle school dawned and I was 5’8” and probably 150 in seventh grade—head and shoulders above everyone else at my church’s youth group (I was homeschooled so the youth group was my only real dosage of “tweenage culture” at the time). There was one woman who interned for the junior high department, named Dominique (Dom) who was probably 5’10” or 5’11”. She was beautiful and I always tried to get a seat next to her at church. At my church we stood up for the music in the service, and then sat for the remaining time. When we stood for music kids would always look at me because I was so tall. My two best friends (who still are my BFFs) were both petite—one was half Mexican and one was a blend of European ancestry (I’m still not sure why she didn’t get the 6-feet-tall-classic-Dutch-women syndrome...) Needless to say, I was always more than happy to sit next to Dom because she was so tall and I was so tall and we could both stand and sing and be tall together.
I soon realized that being tall and being overweight were kind of a nice combination. Many people assumed I was “athletic”. After a few months in junior high of constantly getting asked “Do you play basketball?” (to which I would always reply “No, do you play miniature golf? You’re miniature sized, so I thought you might”) I told my mom I wanted to play basketball. See, my mom was raised in a family who loved The Arts, not sports. Her love for The Arts has thankfully been passed down to me, however, I do like (not love) sports, especially basketball! Once I found out there was a sport that praised tall people, I was all over that! In seventh and eight grades I joined homeschool basketball teams (yes they exist...and yes they suck and we always lost...but that’s beside the point!). When I decided to go to a Christian school for high school (something I’d wanted since sixth grade) I immediately began looking for schools that had girls basketball programs. I found a wonderful school with the most beautiful campus imaginable and actually was able to go there. Enter center stage: Linfield Christian School.
I had to have an interview and pass several entrance exams to get into Linfield (I had to retake the basic math test twice, and never did pass it, but they were so impressed with my English Language Arts skills that they let me accepted me into the school anyways, thank goodness). During the interview I remember telling the principal that I wanted to go to Linfield because I wanted to play basketball. The interview finished and by the time we arrived back at home the girls basketball coach had called and left a message on our home phone (pre-cell phone days, kids). He asked if I wanted to come to Linfield the next day and start playing “summer ball”. This was before I was even accepted into the school, and I thought it might be a good way for me to get my foot in the door if they could see my amazing athleticism (obvious sarcasm here). The next day I showed up for basketball practice with my new gym bag (read: duffle suitcase that my mom and I picked out at Walmart right before practice that we thought looked like a gym bag). When I walked in the gym, everyone looked at me and kind of held their breath for a minute. I was nearly 5’11” at this time, and probably 165 pounds and 14 years old. I picked up the nickname “The Jolly Green Giant” shortly thereafter from my basketball pals, as well as “Zookie Monster”. I was big. And everyone liked that I was big. I distinctly remember Coach Liveasay telling my mom that first day “She’s got great potential if she’s not even a freshman now! We’ll keep her!” As much as I would like to say that I went on to win scholarships and awards for high school basketball, I really never became that good. I wasn’t in shape, was still overweight, and didn’t have much motivation to be anything other than one of “The Bigs” as my 10th grade coach called me (she was a 6’2” former-college volleyball player, so I relished in the fact that I got the same nickname she had while playing ball).
Throughout my years of high school I played basketball nearly year round. I played summer ball, would do the preseason workouts, launch into the season for several months, and then joined a YMCA league during the spring until summer ball started back up again. You would think I would be slamming layups left and right with how much I practiced, but I averaged my two points a game and was alright with that. I wanted to be good, but I didn’t want to loose the weight. I wasn’t ready at that point in time to do whatever necessary to shed the pounds. No thanks to some of my thin teammates poor eating choices, we would go out to eat after the games and I consumed extra calories from what I had “burned off” for the 10 minutes or so during the game that I actually played.
By the time I got my drivers license in October of 2007 I was still nearly 5’11” but weighed 190 pounds. I was pretty unhappy with my weight, but like I said, wasn’t ready to change it. In 2007 my school changed policies and we were required to wear school uniforms. One year later by the time I started my senior year I had gained so much weight that I barely fit into my pants and skirts from just one year before. I was very unhappy and ready for a change. I knew what to do. I knew how to eat and what to eat and I knew that I wasn’t doing it. When the scale tipped over 200 pounds at the doctor’s office, I nearly panicked. I decided to join Weight Watchers again, this time incredibly motivated to loose a lot of weight and to really slim down for 18th birthday, my high school graduation, and most of all, some new clothes for my graduation extravaganza overseas to Europe with two great friends.
 I joined WW March of 2008 with a start weight of 208 pounds, the heaviest I’ve ever been, and stuck with it for two months (until the end of the school year). I lost 12 pounds in those two months and was very, very happy to know that I was the only person who could change me. I was extremely motivated to keep going on my weight loss journey. Unfortunately school finished for the year, I graduated, and the WW I went to was now a 45 minute drive out of my way. I quit going to the meetings, but my mom and I kept going with the food journals. I would help her construct grocery lists and would ask her for certain WW meals. She bought a WW cookbook and used their website to help plan our family meals. The biggest thing that I did to change my diet during that time was “no more seconds”; my mom and I refused to serve second helpings for dinner.
Scene change: Freshman year of college, California Baptist University. I was extremely lucky to go to CBU for my freshman year of college. Not only did I develop so much emotionally and spiritually, but I also learned about myself and who I was and how I ticked. I worked through several months of therapy and counseling and came out with a better grip on life. I knew in order to continue to like myself even more I still needed to shed some weight. Thankfully, my freshman roommate, Alanna, liked to workout and was an encouraging “workout buddy”. I began to search for other workout buddies and found four girls who wanted to shape up for summer. We made it our goal to run all the way around the city block that our campus sat on. I know that myself and one other girl, Anna, reached this goal before the end of the school year. I knew what exercise was from my basketball days, and I knew from WW that I needed to get moving and eat less in order to shed some weight.
I didn’t actually loose any weight my freshman year of college, but I did keep off those 12 pounds I had lost while doing WW. What’s better, I had gained the opportunity to observe the eating habits of “skinny people” and “overweight people” (which is how everyone was categorized in my mind for years and years and years). I started to recognize patterns that all skinny people chose: take the stairs and not the elevator to the second or third floor of the building, don’t obsess about getting a parking space as close to the front of the store as possible so you don’t have to walk farther, eat salads on a regular basis, don’t skip breakfast, schedule time in your day for your food, treat “gym time” as “me time” and not as “exercise/ torture time”, and so on. I started to pick up on these habits and tried them out for myself. See, my mindset about healthy living started to change. In my WW program I saw women who were not pretty to me, they were extremely overweight, so unhappy with themselves, and had really poor health. I did not want to be one of those people. I wanted to change the way I viewed myself. I wanted to grow old and still feel sexy about myself, not be dependent on a cane because at age 45 or 50 or 60 I could barely support my own body weight.  So, little by little my mindset changed during my freshman year of college. I didn’t actually loose any weight, but I lost my apathetic spirit and gained some responsibility for taking care of myself.
Scene change: Sophomore year of college, Palomar Community College. For a mired of academic reasons, after my freshman year I transferred to Palomar College and went back to living at my parents house. During that time I joined an awesome college group at my church (yes, with the same people who were so short in junior high, and had now finally grown... a little...). I started to look around at my friends and realized that I was still overweight. I decided I wanted to aggressively loose weight. I signed up for a self-paced fitness class at my college where all you had to do to receive credit was go to the school’s fitness center 3 hours a week. I really liked going to the gym, mostly because they had a great music line-up that had all the radio-edited versions of songs that get your heart going. Also, many of my friends from my college group at church went to Palomar and would workout at the gym. Exercise became a social activity for me to catch up with friends in between busy college classes. My sister asked me and my mom and our other sister to run a Halloween 5k; I said yes. I worked out in the mornings at the gym and went from being able to run for 10 minutes (the length of time it took to get around the CBU city block) to running for 18 minutes. I ran and walked my first 5k in October 2009 in about 38 minutes. I was so proud! During that school year, the pounds slowly but surely began to drop. I probably lost 10 pounds that school year (for a total weight loss of 22 pounds). I was so excited and so encouraged to know that I could take responsibility for becoming a “skinny person”, something I thought completely unobtainable for me. If I would have known how simple it was to actually eat less and therefore loose weight, I would have done it years earlier. However, I wasn’t ready. I had to come to that point in my life where I wanted weight loss more than I wanted nearly everything. I feel like my goal of “loosing weight” shaped much of my sophomore year.
Unfortunately, at the end of that school year I woke up one day (the week before final exams, actually) with horrible, horrible back pain like I had never experienced before. I normally had a rough time with my periods and would get really excruciating back cramps, but I knew that this time it was something different. For months and months I was in pain. I didn’t go to the doctor because we didn’t have good medical insurance, and I had no idea how grave the situation was. Eventually, about 4 months later, my pain subsided. My time in California had also subsided as I moved to Tennessee for the remainder of my college career.
Scene change: junior year of college, Knoxville, TN. Good Ole Rocky Top is where I transferred to next. I was thrilled by the fact that I was starting with a blank slate; I didn’t know a soul in Knoxville when I first moved there, seriously—no one. I also knew nothing about the culture, including the food. For you Californians who may think that TN is in the South, but not the Deep South, you’re right. However, they might as well be in terms of their food. I had never tasted Southern food and for all I knew it consisted of all the foods I grew up with, plus fried chicken and something called “Memphis BBQ” (but I didn’t know what that was at the time).
For my junior and senior years of college I lived on campus and ate in the cafeteria. Some of you might be thinking “Ut-oh! She ate a lot of fried foods and gained back her weight!” Well, no that’s not what happened. I didn’t like Southern food when I first moved to TN. My dislike of it (and my longings for all foods Mexican, Thai, Ethiopian, or any other ethnicity you’ll find in Southern California) helped push me towards some creative food options. There was a great salad bar, with homemade soups, available at every lunch and dinner. Because there really wasn’t anything I wanted to eat besides the soups and salads, I stuck with them. When there were things I wanted to eat, they were pretty good, but not good enough to tempt me to have seconds. The weight came tumbling off and I lost another 18 pounds my junior year. I knew I was going to be working at an outdoors horse camp that following summer and I wanted to have as little baggage on me to schlep around those steep mountain hills. I also wanted to be noticed by the boys, which did eventually happen mid- junior year. I also knew that the lighter I became the less issues I would have with my back (or so my theory went).
Senior year started without much fanfare, other than the fact that my back pain had returned a little bit over the summer. By Valentines Day, I had an episode that nearly crippled me for three days. I couldn’t stand up straight. I couldn’t sleep. My heart rate was way up for those three days. My roommate told me I needed to go to the doctor because her mom had a slipped disc and experienced many of the same symptoms and pains I was having. I went (once again) expecting the student health center to send me home with some more physical therapy exercises and say “We don’t know what’s wrong so we can’t do anything for you”. However, this time was different. I got sent to the sports medicine doctor who took one look at me and said “You have a herniated disc!” She was right. We took some x-rays and she started me on an aggressive medical treatment. By the time summer came I was looking at surgery that would have cost nearly $5,000 out of pocket. After taking an MRI we found out that I had not one herniated disc, but two! The doctor said she could not believe that I had lived with such bad pain for almost two years at that point in time from when my first disc herniated back during my sophomore year.
June came, a few weeks before my surgery date, and I felt so much better. I cancelled my surgery and decided to tough it out. Two days after my scheduled surgery date, I heard on the radio that there was an outbreak in Nashville, TN (three hours away from where I was to have my surgery done). This outbreak was deadly and killed 12 people for the very surgery I was supposed to have done two days before! God’s hand of protection was all over that situation, as who knows whether or not I would have gotten one of the lethal dosages of steroids in my surgery. I never had the surgery, and continued to heal, or so I thought. In November of 2012, one day while in the middle of student-teaching for my master’s degree internship I felt what I thought to be another disc herniate. I immediately rushed back to my sports medicine doctor and begged me to give me “that big steroid shot” she had given me in February that nearly instantly took away the pain. She did, and thus began the medical treatments once more.
One day, I had a Groupon send to my email inbox one day for chiropractic care. I didn’t know how much snapping my spin into place would help with my discs being herniated, but I thought it was worth a try. I will tell you now that that chiropractic care changed my life. Without going too much in-depth, the chiropractor confirmed the gravity of my situation and told me that I have a condition that may cause other discs to herniate. I cannot run or do a lot of strenuous exercising anymore and I have to ice my back everyday, and stretch everyday as well. I have to be really careful with my back and neck.
So, how does a dysfunctional back tie into weight loss? Well, I have learned many lessons from having to nurse my back. One of them is that you have to stand up for yourself and say “I’m sorry, but I cannot sit on the floor” or “I can’t drive with you to Florida for the weekend without stopping every 2 hours to stretch.” It has caused me to be assertive. With my weight loss, I have had to be assertive with myself and with others. I’ve had to change my mentality of things that I can and cannot do. For example, with weight loss, I tell myself that I cannot eat out more than three times a week. Being a college student, where any food that is cheap and easy to come by is as good as good, that posed a very difficult task. However, I’ve learned to be assertive and tell people that as much as I’d like to go out with them, I’ll take a raincheck if I’ve already been out three times.
All this to say: if you are going to try to loose weight, you need to first be sure that you want to take care of yourself. It is going to require a change of mind. It is going to require a change of perspective. It is going to require a change of the way you think and feel about food.
This summer I got married, and before, during, and after the wedding I gained about 10 pounds. I was not okay with that, so decided to take action and put myself on Weight Watchers again. I’m not actually paying for the WW program, but since I’ve done it before and know the gist of the program I found enough materials online to help me be successful. It’s taken a long time to get used to. It takes a lot of self-control. I’m in the middle of my sixth week on WW now and I’ve lost 1.6 pounds. The first three weeks I actually gained weight! I don't know how that’s possible, but I’ve lost what I gained, plus am 1.6 lbs lighter than my start weight. I hope I am on my way to more and more losing!
I will be posting health tips, recipes, and various things I’ve found to be successful over the next few months. Good luck on your weight loss adventure!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Apple Cider Pancakes with Caramel Syrup

So, last week I stumbled upon this recipe for making pumpkin fritters. I only made about 4 fritter balls because I used most of the batter to coat round rings of apple slices. They were like my own apple-pumpkin fritters! So delicious. 

This weekend I read here about how to reduce apple cider and make it into a syrup on one of my all time favourite blogs, Reading My Tea Leaves. 
Yesterday I found a recipe here for making apple cider pancakes with reduced apple cider. I still had leftovers of the caramel sauce from my apple-pumpkin fritters and thought it would pair extremely nicely with the pancakes. So, here is my version of two recipes, plus one technique guide, put together to bring you:
Apple Cider Pancakes with Caramel Syrup
Pancake Batter
1 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

2 TBS white sugar
2 large eggs

1 cup buttermilk
2/3 cup reduced apple cider (start with 4 cups of apple cider)

1/2 cup applesauce (cinnamon, or unsweetened, or sweetened)**
3 TBS sugar

1 ½  TBS ground cinnamon

extra reduced apple cider to serve with the pancakes
Note*: I didn't have buttermilk on hand, so I poured 1-2 TBS of white vinegar in a measuring cup, then added milk until it was at the 1 cup mark. The original recipe called for ½ buttermilk and ½ cup milk, but I did 1 full cup of my homemade buttermilk and it was perfectly fine.
Note**: The original recipe called for 4 TBS butter, melted. If you like you can use melted butter instead of applesauce if you don't have any applesauce on hand.
Caramel Syrup
3/4 cup sugar

1 cup cream
 (I used half and half)
2 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 TBS butter
1/4 cup water
4 TBS brown sugar

1 teaspoon sea salt flakes
1/4 cup reduced apple cider
Do the night before: reduce the apple cider. I followed Erin Boyle’s method, and left it simmering for several hours.

“1. Pour 1 1/2 gallon apple cider into a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Bring the cider to boil, stirring occasionally.

2. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook uncovered for 2-3 hours or until it has reduced to about 1 cup. Don't fear: it will take a long time for the cider to turn syrupy. I was convinced mine would just disappear rather than thicken, until finally, thicken it did. Persevere!

3. Once cider has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon, pour through a sieve to strain any solid bits. (The original recipe didn't mention this step, but I had lots of little floating bits in mine and wanted them out)! Transfer syrup to a sterilized jar. Syrup is ready to use right away and will store indefinitely if refrigerated.”
If you are pressed for time, here’s another method from
Place the apple cider (spiced or not spiced, but cider is better than apple juice) in a medium saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil and let it boil until reduced to a quarter of the original volume. This will take at least 15 minutes or more depending on your stove and other factors affecting evaporative processes in your kitchen. Remove from heat and let cool. Measure out 2/3 cup of reduced cider for the batter. Reserve the rest for serving.”
Make the pancakes:
         Using a KitchenAid (or other electric mixer) with whisk attachment, whisk the whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl. In a separate medium bowl, whisk, by hand, the eggs to break them up. To the eggs, add the buttermilk. Pour the wet egg-milk mixture into the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Add the cooled reduced apple cider to the batter and stir it in taking care not to overmix (overmixing makes the batter flat, dense, and tough). I used my KitchenAid and just gave it a few stirs with the whisk attachment. Stir in the applesauce.
Heat a cast iron pan, or skillet, over medium-low heat. Spray with cooking spray (Pam, etc.) and wait until it is good and hot. While waiting, mix cinnamon and sugar together in a small bowl. When the pan is hot, pour the batter on the pan. While waiting for bubbles to appear on the surface of the pancake (~ 2 minutes), make caramel syrup (simply add all ingredients to a saucepan and boil gently for 10 minutes). Sprinkle pancakes with cinnamon-sugar mixture before flipping over. Cook until golden (an additional 30-60 seconds). Remove from heat, sprinkle with more cinnamon-sugar, and repeat until all of your pancakes are done.
Serve the pancakes:
Add a pat of butter if desired. Serve with caramel syrup, or, if that’s too sweet for you, serve with reduced apple cider. I also sliced up some apples to serve with my pancakes, along side a glass of cold milk. Makes approximately 13 pancakes.

Happy breakfasting! 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

5 Small Tips for Improved Health

All throughout college I've tried to live a healthier life. As a result, I've lost 45 lbs (and counting!) Each month or so I try to think how I can improve my general health. Normally it involves trying a new vegetable I see in the grocery store, or taking an extra walk a day, but it's the little things that add up. Here are a few of my tips for improving your health.

1. Floss your teeth at least once a day. It's so silly, but hardly anyone flosses. I started flossing because two cavities in one year was too much for me! Since then (about three years ago) I havent had a cavity at all. This tip will help improve your health, as well as your savings account!

2. Wash your hands the second you get home. Any nurse will tell you that washing your hands with soap and water is the best way to keep the flu at bay. Try to get into the habit. It's pretty easy for me since I've been doing it for years. Live in the dorms? Or a shared bathroom? Even more reason to wash your hands when you get back to your room (or use hand sanitizer if you don't have a sink in your dorm room).

3. Take some "me time." For good mental health I definitely am someone who needs a lot of "me time." My freshman year of college I didn't have a bathtub because I lived in the dorms with community bathrooms. I thought I was going to die knowing I would have to wait until I visited my parents to get the luxury of a bath again (you can bet it increased my visits home) :) I realized that the little things really add up, and many times you don't even realize something is a luxury until you are without it. Once I had a bathtub (finally!) my senior year of college and during grad school, I would take a bath for about 30 minutes each night. It was my time to be "unplugged and unavailable" to the world. Try it. It's really nice. Some people use their exercise time a their "me time"...whatever it is you find enjoyable, do it in small doses, and really enjoy it.

4. Get moving! I mean like "I like to move it move it (move it!)" and exercise daily. My bad back has taught me that you are never too young to have a health failure. If you just go for a small 20 minute walk after dinner each night it will totally help keep your body well-oiled and functioning well. Also, your body releases natural endorphins when you exercise. I remember reading many articles in my educational psychology class about how girls found group exercise classes (like Zumba, yoga, spin classes, etc.) psychologically more uplifting, and made them feel good about themselves. They enjoyed the group fitness classes better than working out alone, or even with a buddy. Males preferred individual workouts as compared to group workouts. If you are a female, maybe join that barre class you've had your eye on Groupon for for the past few weeks. If you're a male, hit the trails with a run, or--classic--pump some iron in your garage with a buddy.

5. Drink lots of water! I drink three 24 oz water bottles full of water each day (plus about 12 oz per meal). I'm on Weight Watchers right now and in order to loose weight you have to drink lots of water. However, even if you are not trying to loose weight, your body will feel so much better if you stay hydrated. I saw a post on Instagram yesterday that said "Happy CHUGtober Fest!" and had a picture of a gallon of water with various time markings by which to drink the water during the day. Whatever works for you. I never leave the house without my water bottle. Seriously.
     Another thing--not sure if this is true for most people, but it seemed to help me-- during high school and college while my friends were breaking out with acne I had amazingly clear skin. I love my skin; it loves me. I think we have such a good relationship because I give my body so much water daily.

What are some small things you do to improve your health?

Sunday, April 7, 2013

A Snapshot of My Professional Life

Here's a look at a weekly log I wrote for one of my internship professors. I am currently working for Blount County Schools as a traveling (aka "itinerant") teacher for deaf and hard of hearing students. I have 8 students at 7 different schools spread out all throughout the county. It really is a fantastic job for someone who loves books on tape :)

Overall, this week went very smoothly, I learned a lot, and again enjoyed the flexibility that this internship brings. I have gotten down a schedule and am learning how to get from school to school by heart. I have a lot of fun with my students, and overall really enjoy this style of teaching!
            I think one of the reasons this job is so much less stressful, compared to my last two internships, is because I am the one who keeps myself accountable for my own actions. In a sense, it really is a blessing to not have a mentor because I can make decisions for myself. While I learned so much from both of my mentors in my past two internships, and am extremely grateful for them, it is nice to have a little bit more flexibility to make last-minute decisions and not feel guilty for changing the lesson plan. This internship has definitely given me a taste of freedom, even just two weeks in, and I am glad to have it during my third and final placement.
            I continue to learn each and everyday on the job. One of the main lessons I’ve learned these past two weeks is what you are taught in university about how a classroom functions, and what happens behind the scenes, and how administrators are big, bad wolves is very different from what I have perceived to happen in “the real world”. For example, I didn’t learn in the university setting how to deal with a child who grabs your face when he’s excited. I didn’t learn that deaf high schoolers like to work one-on-one with teachers and other professionals because it gives them a time to easily communicate with someone who understands their first language. I didn’t learn that classroom teachers of CDC students will sometimes have a child have a toilet-related accident while the teacher is holding the child. I didn’t learn that if you have a question about something, there probably is a specialist who can answer your question in her sleep because she knows the answer so well. Each day is a learning experience; I learn not only about my position as an itinerant teacher, but I learn about my students as well. I find myself really engaging and connecting with my students during our 30 or 45 minutes we share together.
            Lastly, I really enjoy the flexibility this internship brings! One day, I finished with my students a little earlier than usual, and didn’t have very much paperwork to do back at Central Office, so I decided to use my time wisely and go gather materials. I went to the Knox County Public Library and began to peruse the shelves for a book about the Civil War, and architecture, and turkeys; all for my students. I asked the children’s librarian if they had any books for kids that had pictures of signers in the books. She showed me a section, and then asked if she could help with anything else. I ended up picking her brain and getting materials and books from her for about thirty minutes! For the remainder of the week I was very excited to teach my students because I had useful and valuable resources that were connected to 1) their interests and 2) what they were learning in the classroom. Had I been a classroom teacher, I really don’t think I would have had time in my day to go to the library and talk with the librarian, and in turn find some great materials for my students. It is this type of “unusual” activities that I really enjoy about this internship/job.
I feel like this hearing specialist position is something that resonates with me. I feel like I am able to use some of my passion for books and English and apply it to almost anything my students are learning. I also feel like I can apply my personal educational background of being homeschooled with this internship because I am able to do many hands-on things with my students. Most of all, I love the flexibility to educate these students—most of whom has severe deficits in reading, writing, and language/communication—in a way that supports my personal philosophy of education. I feel much more comfortable working with students one-on-one because I believe each student is an individual who learns in his/her own way. I was really overwhelmed at MHS trying to educate 18-24 individual students per class period. I was taught in a one-on-one setting from my mom, and of course you teach how you were taught, so it makes sense that I am more comfortable, and happier, to teach my students one-on-one. I am seriously considering a future career as a hearing specialist, as opposed to a classroom teacher, which I had pretty much scratched off my list of possible future jobs.