My year in 50* books

Happy (almost) 2014!

Because I feel like I read nothing this year, I’m going back to an old standby: the “read X books in one year” challenge. I think the last time I did this was in 2010, when I had all the free time in the world to read 100 books. In 2014, I’m shooting for 50 25 books. Since I’ll be a full-time student (and hopefully employed part-time as well!), I feel like this is a demanding, yet reachable goal.

I will have a list of my progress both here on this blog and on Goodreads.

I hope some of you partake as well; we could even share e-books and discuss them together! It’ll be very motivating, at any rate.

Wishing you all a happy and safe new year!

* EDIT 11/1: I’ve changed this to a much more manageable 25 books, because I wanted to maintain some goal-reaching enthusiasm despite the fact that 50 is basically out of reach now.

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End of semester, more baking, and friends

Remember how I said I’d try to post more? And then that totally didn’t happen?

Well, here I am, so quit whining. You can thank my friend Amanda for inspiring me to come back to this blog. I promise I didn’t forget, I just wasn’t inspired to write until I saw her entry from the other day.

I finished my first semester of graduate school a little over a week ago and I am so happy to have the next month or so off from academic obligations. I’ve transitioned well, as I have been binge-watching “30 Rock” since the minute I finished my last final. I also think that the GPA I earned this semester is the best I’ve had since high school, so that’s just wonderful.

Yesterday evening, after finding inspiration from even more friends, I decided to make a Candy Shop Pizza! As this is totally not a baking blog, despite anything that might make one believe otherwise, I’m only going to share one photo this time. Here is the finished, sliced product:

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My friend Megan said it looks like diarrhea — which it totally does — but agreed that its true home is in my mouth. This particular pie-cookie-thing contains a giant chocolate chip cookie, topped with peanut butter chocolate “sauce” and Twix, Reese’s, Snickers, and Crunch bits. It’s a dream.

Speaking of Megan!! I know I haven’t mentioned her here before, but if you’ve been following my posts on Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr, you probably know that I got to meet this amazing lady in person for the first time last week! We met online a few years ago, and despite always living within driving distance of one another, we hadn’t met at all until Thursday night. Obviously, we saw The Hobbit together at midnight. Which was awesome despite straying from the book quite a bit. I’m not a hater.

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Megan! And me! Together!

I’m completely excited for what the next few weeks will bring, but rather than spoiling all that fun now, I’ll leave it up to myself to post updates as it happens!

Also, I am still planning on finishing my 50 things list about proudness and myself by December 31, just as I said I would! I’ll just need some motivation to be able to do so in time…the blank space looks pretty daunting.

I hope everyone is having a wonderful pre-wintertime/summertime (depending on where you live), and I’m so very happy to be back on the blog!

In which Christine takes a massive risk, and succeeds

Today, against my better judgment, I decided to bake.

I’m not the best cook in the world, and I wear this title with pride as I graciously allow my boyfriend to cook for me. But, sometimes, I feel ambitious enough to give these things a try myself.

Here it went. I’ve taken photos for posterity, and to prove I did this. I’m not a food blog or anything (the furthest thing from it, in fact), so enjoy these amateur photos documenting my less-than-amateur baking/cooking/chocolate-melting.

(These are S’mores Fudge Bars, by the way. I highly recommend them.)

I had to make a graham cracker crust, which sounded like the easiest part until I re-read the recipe and noticed that a food processor was recommended to crush up the graham crackers. Because I obviously don’t have one, I decided to crush them by hand. And when that became too difficult, I used a quarter-cup measure to crush them instead.

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CHRIST this is difficult. Wait a minute…
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It’s as if I’m exfoliating my hands with a sort of graham cracker scrub.
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Good enough.

After finishing up the crust, I had to make the fudge. Easy enough — just two ingredients — but then I ran into my second hurdle. My can opener can’t do much of anything but threaten to break upon first touch. Opening the condensed milk and managing to empty the can was fun.

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The worst can opener in the world, in action.
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But adding two cups of chocolate chips can fix pretty much anything.

Once the fudge became something resembling fudge, it was time to add layer #2 to this s’mores-like monstrosity.

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*uncontrollable drooling*

And then, in lieu of making my own marshmallow topping, I emptied a jar of marshmallow creme onto the chocolate (once it had cooled in the refrigerator, of course). Because really, making my own marshmallow topping would have turned out worse than what I did, which was cheating.

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Delicious, delicious cheating.

Another, longer stint in the refrigerator yielded this beauty:

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Which looked like this when cut into pieces:

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Success.

Get a life — but only if it makes you happy

A little while ago, I participated in a discussion on reddit about the topic of “having a life.” But within the few sentences I actually posted on the site, I think there was a lot more I really wanted to say.

I used to think that “having a life” meant being involved in a little bit of everything, a combination of work, school, social engagements, community meetings; all sorts of little things that keep you busy. I’d always compare myself to others, wondering why some people “had a life” and I didn’t, because I was insecure about how little (or even which things) I did.

It’s much more than that, though — at least to me. You can spend 16 hours a day running from place to place, whether it’s because you choose to spend your time this way or because you feel obligated. But if “to have a life” was in the dictionary, I think there would be several definitions.

Every person’s life is different. No matter how many similar activities people do, or how many hours they spend working together, no two people will perceive their life exactly the same way. While some adore the thrill of “the grind,” others live for the scarce leisure in between. Even though two people have the same position at their workplace, they could enjoy it (or not enjoy it) in different manners, depending on the life experiences that led them to this point.

There’s been a single constant throughout my life, though, that I only realized very recently: my happiness.

To me, “having a life” has almost nothing to do with the things I actually spend my time doing. It’s ensuring that at the end of every day, I can be content with the decisions I made. And reaching this point is a lot easier than I thought.

Right now, I spend the bulk of my days working on assignments for school. I also watch a lot of movies, work out, and read. But just because my schoolwork is my top priority doesn’t mean a productive day can’t include ensuring my happiness throughout. If at the end of the day, I can say with absolute certainty that I healthily combined pleasure with necessity, then the day has been a success. As these days add up, my “life” emerges — and I don’t see a way I could look back on my recent days and not say I “had a life.”

None of this excuses the fact that sometimes, I’m not happy. Sometimes I’m bored, sad, angry, anxious, or irritated. It’s not always pretty. As much as it comforts me to maintain some sort of schedule, I know that there are some things that are completely out of my control.

But being happy with your life — or “having a life” — doesn’t mean that these things aren’t allowed to happen. Every emotion you have adds substance to your life, something extra to dwell upon. Our existence would mean nothing without these emotions. They’re healthy, and they’re okay.

My life means the world to me, and it’s taken years for me to get to the point where I can say that and mean it. I can say, “I like where I am right now,” and be able to simultaneously integrate every experience I’ve ever had into this sentence, while acknowledging that it was each singular bout of depression, each fight, each period of seemingly unbearable boredom that got me to the point where I can utter those words.

Don’t be afraid to do things that make you happy, and don’t be discouraged by the things that make you sad. Don’t let single outbursts of anger define you, but don’t ignore them, either. Know that you have the ability to make choices that benefit you. You’re not selfish for wanting to be happy. It’s called “having a life,” and you deserve it.