Thursday, May 15, 2014

22 Things I've Learned before 22

My 22nd birthday is approaching and I am starting to feel that this last year been quite a learning experience. Last year at this time I was in my last week of college, and senioritis had hit pretty hard. Chris, my boyfriend, and I were rearing and ready to be out in the real world. And I have to say that the past year has really sobered us. Growing up isn't easy, and so here are 22 things worth sharing which I have learned before my 22nd Birthday.

1) Don't settle for a job. Of course you need to pay your bills, but don't belittle yourself by taking a job that is far below your talent level. If you don't practice to your skill level then you will not only feel under appreciated and under utilized but you will begin to lose those skills you worked so hard to gain.

2) Don't underestimate yourself. In particularly with money. Don't let someone tell you that you are worth X dollars an hour if it's way too low. It's not about having a hot head, but knowing what you are worth and not allowing others to discount your expertise.

3) Family is very important. Always make time for your family because when you need help, they are the people who are going to be there.

4) You need a hobby. Once you get out of school and there are no longer any requirements to further your mental capacity you need to have a hobby in order to do it on your own. I suggest books, although there is no deadline, it's good to engage your mind with a good book. Also you can learn a lot from books.

5) You will drift apart from  friends. When you go your separate ways life gets in the way. Sometimes the things that you had in common with those friends could be the class you were taking or the place you were living. Those things change, and people change too. The ones who matter will be there and stay there.

6) Nights out are over rated. Seriously. When you work super hard and so much, more often it's exciting to curl up in your pajamas on the couch rather than use your energy to dress up and go out. Not to mention it's expensive.

7) Sometimes you do deserve it. When you are on a budget, conserving money is very important. But every once in a while you need to tell yourself that you deserve it, whatever it is.

8) Where you live is very important, so make sure you are happy with it. If you are renting an apartment, you are paying money to live there and it is your home. Make sure you are comfortable with your living situation because the worst thing is not feeling safe or happy in a place you are paying for.

9) 8 hours of sleep is very important. Gone are the days of late nights and early class. Now are the days of early work and working late. In order to use your body to its full potential you really need to let it rest for at least 8 hours. For some of you this may sound crazy, but once you start getting a solid night's sleep, you will never go back. Make sleep a priority and you will thank yourself later.

10) Water is essential for your body to function. There are so many other drinks in this world but none are as good for you as water is. Water will flush anything out of your system, whether you are under the weather or have an infection, the more water you drink the faster you will feel better.  Water is good for your skin. It makes it clear and sometimes it even makes it glow if you are lucky. Water helps increase your energy level and also is a natural headache reliever. They say if you notice that you are thirsty you are already dehydrated. Water is very important, 64 ounces is the minimum amount of water you should consume every day. Try to keep track of how much water you drink daily, try and meet the requirement, you will be happy with the results.

11) Become aware of your budget. Keep track of your spendings and your income. Set some limits and then follow them. If you keep to your budget then you should have some extra to splurge-which is important. You need to have fun and spoil yourself sometimes (see #7). You also need to have a nest egg for emergencies. Don't cut the money too close, you never know what could go wrong.

12) Take care of your car. Your car is under appreciated. It takes you everywhere that you need to go and you only give it attention when it fails you. Check your fluids regularly. You will always be paying for things that have to do with your car. Everyone encounters car trouble, if they didn't then car repair shops wouldn't be in business.

13) Get fresh air when you can. When you can't you will complain so when you can, get all the fresh air that you can. Enjoy nature. When it's -20 degrees out you will be so unhappy that you are stuck inside, so put on a raincoat in the spring and the sunscreen in the summer and get in touch with your outdoorsy side. It's good for your health.

14) Bargain food shopping is a must.  There are so many places out there, it's a crime not to shop around. Sure you may want to get your meat at the best grocer in order to ensure freshness but Aldi's or Price Rite are a big benefit for pasta, canned items, bread, and cheese. If you have a farmer's market you should take advantage of it. Not only are the pricers great but you are supporting local farmers and the food is fresh.

15) Only buy clothes that are on sale. I can't even fathom people who buy clothes at full price. The best finds, the clothes you will wear most often, and those that you will be proud of are the best deals. That two dollar pair of pants that you wear twice a week, the dress you found at the Salvation Army that still had the tag on it, the sweater you splurged 12 bucks on at Marshall's and have had for four years. With so many options for resale stores or discount clothing, it can't hurt to look.

16) Breathe.  Life gets overwhelming often. Your brain can overload. The easiest way to remedy this is to focus on your breath. It really brings you back to Earth. Breathing is an involuntary action meaning that you do it without having to think about it. Your body knows what you need: to breathe. Sometimes making this involuntary action voluntary can really calm your whole self.

17) Plan things to look forward to on your calendar. Life gets busy and can also get rough. Plan mini-vacations or day trips in order to give yourself something to look forward to. These will not only make the tough times go faster but will give yourself a reward for being busy and getting through a hard week.

18) Keep up with your laundry. This may seem silly, but it will catch up with you. If you have access to a washer and dryer, do a load every other day so that on your day off you don't have to spend it doing all of the laundry in order to wear clean under ware the next day.

19) Connect with people who are at a similar stage in life as you are. If you have someone to talk to who knows what you are going through and who have similar misfortunes or triumphs as you do then you will be happy to share yours and hear theirs.

20) Come up with a positive out of a negative situation. This is a hard one. Sometimes I like to break this down into days and not label the day as negative but come up with something positive that happened every day. Some of these positives can be small accomplishments or things that made you happy. For instance one day I was so happy because I found the perfect dish soap that left my glasses sparkling. It may be a little triumph, but I allowed that positivity to bring my day to an end on a high note.

21) Be creative in the kitchen. Alright I know this may not be fair because I am a chef, but I know that it makes a huge difference. Try new recipes, experiment with your own recipes, enjoy new ingredients it really makes your life more interesting if you aren't going to have the same rotating schedule every week. That doesn't mean that you can't have pasta every week- but there are a million different ways to make a pasta dish- Macaroni and cheese, red sauce and meatballs, white wine and cheese sauce. One of my favorite ways to spice up pasta is to buy a different shaped noodle. I know it may sound bizarre but it can really change your dining experience. Whoever eats at your house will be happy if you spice it up, you can always fall back on the classics.

22) Be thankful for what you have. Too many times we complain about what we don't have, we need to be thankful for what we do. Sometimes it feels like the worst is happening to us, but it's very humming to realize that that is not true in the least. Your car broke down- there are people who don't have cars and walk 6 miles to work. You hate where you live- at least you have a roof over your head. You are sick with a 24 hour bug- at least you don't have cancer. There are so many things to be grateful for. Don't spend your life being ungrateful, before you know it, it will be over. Life's short, make it sweet.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Out Ramping Around

Today was beautiful. I thought a lot about what photo I should post because I really was just happy for the sunshine. I spent the day outside in a t-shirt. Way to go spring! I went to a nearby park in order to harvest ramps. Ramps are a wild onion that grow in sandy, shady areas on hillsides. Christopher and I went searching for ramps this past Sunday with little luck. We found one patch that had some baby ramps, but nothing to speak of. We probably harvested one portion on Sunday and split the portion between us for dinner. The only way I had, had ramps before was pickled. Not a big fan. Maybe a bad batch, maybe just because I am not a big fan on pickling. But after I consumed my half portion of sautéed ramps in butter, I was eager to venture out for more. So today I strapped on my boots, brought a digging spoon, and hiked into the forrest. I looked up to the top of the mountain and knew that's where I had to be, so I tiptoed on a balancing tree across a small river (or big stream), and made my way up the steep side of the mountain that unfortunately didn't have a path. After huffing and puffing my way to the top I sat on a stump and retrieved my water bottle. I surveyed the area and saw a small patch of green in the distance. I hauled my tired self up and slowly made my way toward the patch, hoping for the best. Hard work does pay off; I was rewarded. The small green patch I had seen from a distance turned out to be a big green patch of ramps! I started digging and filled one whole grocery bag with medium sized ramps. Satisfied, I figured I would just stroll through the woods enjoying the fresh air. I started down the other side of the mountain and realized that the big patch I had just foraged from was not big at all. The whole side of the mountain was covered in delicious ramps and I filled three whole bags. It made me so happy to be able to enjoy the fresh air while harvesting some nourishment. It reminded me of my childhood days when I spent many hours outside in the woods feeling one with nature. I was the only person out there. I took in the smells and the sounds. A scurry from a chipmunk, the buzz of a bee, the rustle of the trees. It was wonderful. 

Very often I get discouraged because of the way things often go wrong for me. Sometimes it seems that nothing will go right. It's almost as if I am expecting the car to break down after I find out I forgot my phone at home. It's not far off. After climbing up a steep slope today, I was rewarded with a valley of happiness. It really gives me hope. Maybe the slope I am climbing right now is just really steep, I can't wait to find out what's on the other side. 

Happy Day

I started this challenge called "100 Happy Days". The requirements are to photograph something that made you happy each day and send it to the people at or tag them in your post via hashtag. It is supposed to help you recognize and be thankful for the things that make us happy on a daily basis. Acknowledging the causes of our happiness should in turn make us happier. I thought that I would use the daily challenge as inspiration for my blog, in order to expand on the photo postings. 

My first happy photo:

My boyfriend Christopher may have a cookbook obsession. I have just recently limited him to one cookbook per month. We don't spend a lot of money, but the majority of the money we do spend is on food, followed closely by cookbooks. I get on Christopher's case about the cookbooks very often. One day he will seek all of the cookbooks to buy me a diamond ring. Yeah Right. But I have to say that I am also a book lover. I have always been a reader and I have had shelves upon shelves filled with books since I was a child. More recently though, with the influence of culinary school and two years with my boyfriend, I am totally into cookbooks. We have a six shelf bookcase in our apartment which is solely for cookbooks. If you have any other books not related to cooking then you need to find room for them elsewhere. As I mentioned I give Chris a lot of grief for having so many cookbooks, but I am actually really proud of our combined collection. I say our collection because when I met Chris he had maybe 25 cookbooks and I probably had 20, and now we have over 200 cookbooks give or take a few. Our bookshelf is completely full, so every time a new book makes it way home we either have to take a less important book and move it to the small shelf that is not located in the living room or display it in a different manner. 

Chris is persistent on buying or making a new bookshelf, but I know that if I allow him to do that, then he will have a growing need to fill it right away. We recently moved, and let me tell you books are heavy! At least half of our boxes were filled with books and it took two people to carry each box. People think that having children forces them to settle down, well I think having too many books can really weigh you down. It's difficult and expensive to move with books! If we picked up and moved to Italy, we would have to store our cookbooks- how could we pick just one box to bring with us? How could we ensure that the books that are in storage will be safe/not deteriorate? What about the slip covers!? They might get damaged!  If you knew Chris, you would understand that I am completely making fun of him right now, but in all honesty I am thankful that I have a partner who shares a similar passion to me. We both enjoy food and reading, so there you go. I may find a new cookbook with a receipt hidden under his bed, but at least it's not a pack of cigarettes. We really do have quite the collection and it makes me really happy to be able to peruse through hundreds of cookbooks. I have only tried a few recipes out of the collection but what we really do is use them for inspiration. And we have to keep feeding that. My name is Tricia and I am addicted to cookbooks.  
I would say this is probably one of our best finds- Used Book Section of Barnes & Noble, signed, totaling $1.94