Saturday, August 21, 2010

Cinnamon Spice Muffins - Yum!

During my lazy Saturday morning/afternoon, I came across a recipe for Cinnamon Spice Muffins on GetRichSlowly.Com. Always open for a new baking adventure, I dug through the pantry for the ingredients, and was off and running.

The recipe is really easy, and you are likely to have all of the ingredients on hand. Plus, as the web site focuses on frugality, they're cheap! Certainly more affordable than buying one of the mixes from the grocery store.

Just be prepared - they are a little messy. After you make the muffins, you will brush them in melted butter and roll them in a cinnamon/sugar mixture. It took me a little while to get the hang of this, especially because I am used to baking using the paper muffin cups, and with this recipe you bake them right in the pan. I had a few that stuck and ended up being separate muffin tops and bottoms....still delicious though.

I'm excited to eat them for breakfast for the rest of the week!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Embracing the Podcast

I can do technology. I'm still young enough to be willing to explore stuff like Twitter, Foursquare, smart phones, etc. New to me: the podcast.

For those even less tech-savvy like me, a podcast is either an audio or video digital media file that can be downloaded or listened to over the Internet. Although they've been around for awhile, I'd never really checked them out. While I was bee bopping around on iTunes the other day, I decided to explore the realm of free podcasts.

A few caught my eye:

HowStuffWorks.Com has a large collection of podcasts including Stuff You Missed in History Class (history...obv), Stuff You Should Know (miscellaneous topics), and Stuff Mom Never Told You (all about men and women). I downloaded a few of each and have been listening on my way to work. Trivia buffs - check these out immediately. The hosts cover a wide variety of topics from "What's So Special about Route 66" to "How Grow Houses Work" (both available from Stuff You Should Know). I did have to turn that one off as I walked into work. I am currently listening to "Five Stars of the Wild West."

This American Life is considered one of the most popular podcast in the country. A show hosted on Chicago Public Radio, it follows a variety of stories, mostly of everyday people, centered around a different theme each week. I was actually looking around on the web site's archives and found a previous show on "The #1 Party School." I will definitely have to listen to that one.

Grammar Girl: Quick and Dirty Tips offers short tips to assist people in becoming better writers. Perhaps a good resource for some of the students with whom I work, who seem to struggle with the grammar. Yikes!

Coffee Break Spanish, produced by the Radio Lingua Network offers conversational Spanish lessons in short, ten to thirty minute segments. As someone who hasn't taken a foreign language class in eight years, I'd love to brush up again.

There are a variety of other free podcasts. If you have some free time, give them a listen.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Movie to See: Eat Pray Love

Eat Pray Love is one of my favorite books, and so I was so excited when I heard that they were making it into a movie. And with Julia Roberts portraying Liz Gilbert, I knew it had to be good.

I talked a friend into going with me on Saturday night, and I was not disappointed. The movie stayed true to Gilbert's experiences that she shared in the book as she journeyed through Italy, India and Bali, hoping to find herself again although the way. The supporting characters were equally superb.

Liz Gilbert's story is definitely inspiring. Go see the movie if you have the chance!

Book #9: Total Money Makeover

Okay, this may have thrown you off, especially after I said that I wasn't going to have time to read anymore. When I took my books back to the library, it just so happened that I had a hold waiting for me - Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover. Looking for a little financial advice, I dove right in and finished it in a day.

I wrote about it on my other blog. Read more here.

I've also been listening to his podcasts. Totally motivating to make some changes in my spending and saving practices.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Book #8: House Rules

Yes, another Jodi Picoult book. This time, her most recent release, House Rules.

The cast of characters in House Rules include a teenage boy with Asperger's, his mother and younger brother. Jacob's fixation on crime scene investigations eventually finds him as a suspect in one, bringing his young lawyer and a police detective into the story as well as everyone tries to piece together what exactly happened.

I found this story really interesting, especially after taking a course on students with disabilities earlier this summer. Picoult's characters provide great insight into what it's like to have or live with someone who has Asperger's, a disorder on the autism spectrum that is not very well known. 

At a few points in the story, eighteen year-old Jacob talks about wanting to go to college and his dreams of a future career. It made me think about what it might be like for a student with Asperger's in the college setting, a place where I work every day. With the accommodations that are available today, I know that there is more access for students with Asperger's to attend college and have careers. 

I've been a Jodi Picoult kick lately, and this book certainly didn't disappoint. 

I'm recognizing that my time for leisure reading is coming to an end. I'll be turning my attention to reading for class and work very soon, which is likely to cut down on my library trips until next summer. It has been a good one.  

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Bucky Shot of the Week

Bucky enjoys life without cable.

It gives him a new quiet place to sit. 

The End is Near

Summer is officially over.  When August 1 hits, there is a total shift in mindset, as we scramble to get everything done before the students return. They'll be back Wednesday. Yikes. This is my last weekend without any work commitments for a really long time.

So what to do with my last free weekend?

Well, there is the part of me that wants to do nothing - to lay by the pool one last time while finishing the last of my library books. To go see Eat Pray Love before I don't have time for fun things. To just sleep.

And then there is the part of me that freaks out about all of the errands and other things that I won't have time to do. That I should be scrambling to get the laundry done, so that I have at least a month's worth of clothes. And vacuuming and cleaning every inch of the apartment that I basically won't live in other than to sleep for a few short hours here and there. To get things to where it looks like I have it all together before the storm hits.

Or should I be doing work? Getting ahead on work projects so that I'm less crazed next week. I do always bring the bag of it home, although it doesn't often get touched.

Perhaps I should be doing a little of everything.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

A PostSecret Adventure!

Back in graduate school, one of my good friends introduced me to an amazing blog: PostSecret.

The site was created by Frank Warren, who wanted to create a community art project, and passed out postcards, leaving them in public places for others to find. One side was blank, while the other side had the following instructions:

"You are invited to anonymously contribute a secret to a group art project. Your secret can be a regret, fear, betrayal, desire, confession, or childhood humiliation. Reveal anything - as long as it is true and you have never shared it with anyone before. Be brief. Be legible. Be creative." 

Both the number and the content of the postcards that Frank received back were overwhelming. He then began to post them on his web site which attracted significant attention, and became a community of sorts, also adopting an important message of suicide prevention. One of the best parts of the site is the dialogue that happens between those who look at the postcards and react. Frank shares some of the responses in an ongoing conversation on the site.

Frank receives hundreds of postcards each day, mailed to his home address in Maryland, which also appears on the front cover of his first book (there are four total). Each Sunday, he posts new secrets on the site, choosing just twenty-some to share with the world. Some are funny, some are really weird, some are sad and painful, some are inspiring. Here's one of my favorites from the secrets posted today:

I so agree with this one!

I love the creative ways that people share their secrets. And that sometimes the the smudges and damages done to the postcard in transit add something to the site.

Frank also speaks all across the country about the project, and I had the privilege to help bring him to Iowa State while I was in graduate school. See:

Frank is just this totally awesome person. It was really interesting to see how many people truly trust him because of this project - so many walked right up and whispered their secrets to him that they had never told anyone before. In his book, he's referred to as "The Most Trusted Stranger in America."

As part of our experience while at Iowa State, we also created our own project, where members of the Iowa State community could share their secrets. My coworker and I were the lucky ones that got to collect and read all of the secrets first, before posting them (I do have a few on the board).

And...this weekend I got to see some of the PostSecret postcards in person! I was in Indianapolis, and the current exhibit at the Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art was the postcards used in the most recent book: PostSecret: Confessions on Life, Death, and God. The exhibit was awesome, and free! I didn't take any pics (not usually kosher in museums), but I will tell you that it was really fascinating to see the postcards up close, especially because some I had seen in the other two books that I own, including one that really jumps out at me: "I don't know what to say to God anymore." They all tied into themes of faith: loss of faith, spirituality, a search for meaning, disbelief, religious experiences, many different secrets expressed in so many ways.

If you haven't visited the site, do so right away. And do it weekly! There aren't any archives, so you need to become a regular. Perhaps you might even decide to send one in.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Bucky Shot of the Week

Imagine his disappointment when I moved my bed away from the wall. 

Let's Learn a Little!

So I have a new favorite site to share when you want to learn a little something.

TED Talks shares videos of talks from the Technology Entertainment and Design (TED) Conferences, held across the world. TED's focus is "ideas worth spreading," and so all of the videos are free online. The speakers come from all disciplines, and their lectures cover a variety of topics. The talks are grouped into a variety of different themes. You can hear from Bono, Bill Clinton, JJ Abrams, or John Wooden, or any number of amazing other people.

The first TED talk that I watched was from Aimee Mullins about her 12 pairs of legs. She offers a really fascinating look at prosthetic legs as art and beauty.

If you have the chance, definitely check it out.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Book #7: The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner

Yes, I am a Twilight fan. I saw Eclipse this summer, and put my name on the waiting list at the library for The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner, an Eclipse novella by Stephanie Meyer.

Yes, it's definitely geared towards the teens and the tweens. But the short (175 pages) novella was an interesting story, which added to the Eclipse experience. It's set from the perspective of Bree Tanner, a newborn vampire who was created with the purpose of attacking the Cullens and Bella, although she is not in on the plan. In the short time of her vampire life, she befriends a fellow vampire, Diego. Their relationship is cute and sweet, although short lived (as the title gives away). 

For Twilight fans, it keeps the story going and is a good, easy summer read. I finished it in just three nights. On to the next one!  
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