Monthly Archives: January 2013

It’s on my to-do list

Well, that might be how this works now that school has started again. It has been around 2 weeks since I last posted. For the 20 of you who read this blog, I apologize if I have left you lacking something to do/a way to procrastinate. The reason I am writing this right now, at 11:45 PM when I have class in the morning, is because it is on my to-do list, and if I can’t cross it off it will drive me nuts. (I promise all my homework for tomorrow is done.)

I figured since it’s just about the end of the month now, it’s a good time to review how I’m doing on my New Year’s resolutions.

FOOD: Eh. Food has been okay. My food habits haven’t deteriorated, but I could do better. I am refocusing this week. I need to find a way to stop being so hungry at night. I eat dinner between 5 and 7, but I often don’t go to bed until 12 or later. Somewhere in those 5 hours I really want a snack, and I overindulge more often than I should. Suggestions are appreciated!

EXERCISE: I have recommitted to exercise. I’m solid on my cardio; I’m good friends with the new elliptical in my dorm’s workout room, and I’m going to start running on the treadmill again this week. I also walk pretty much everywhere, and I am now living on the third floor of my building- yay stairs! For this week, I will make a better effort to lift weights and work my abs.

BEAUTY: Two days a week, I have classes which require me to wear clothes I can get dirty and/or move around in. On the other three days of the week, I have more formal classes and my job. So I’ve been fairly professional looking on those days. And I’m trying to find outfits that I can wear for the other classes that I can change quickly (i.e., jeans to sweats, take a sweater off, etc.) so I don’t look like a total slob.

WORK BETTER: I haven’t had a lot of work yet, so I’ve been taking it easy- I haven’t been to the library yet, I’ll do stuff with the TV on, I’ll leave Facebook up in the background, and so on. This week, I’m going to try and get into the library, maybe with friends who want library buddies, even if I don’t have a lot of work. I know I will focus better when I am removed from my room. I just haven’t had the motivation to do that yet.

LIFE: I am saying yes more! I have been out and about on the weekends, nothing crazy, but I have been hanging out with new and old groups of people and trying to take advantage of things while I have the time. I’ve been to a hockey game, a free concert, the student film festival, an ice carving, a Chile reunion party, gone to Spanish Mass, attended a current events discussion- it’s keeping me busy! And I’m getting busier. I have various meetings and events every day this week. This is why I took it easy my first couple of weeks. The storm is coming.

I’ve also had to practice a little bit of patience. I did get a little bored during my first week, since I had no work but there wasn’t much else to do during the week. It’s also interesting coming back to old friend groups and not seeing as much of the people you just spent half a year with in a foreign country. I’ve had to remind myself that it’s fine, it’s perfectly normal, it’s nothing personal, not to see everybody and do something every single night.

And then the theme of big life decisions has started to come up again. I’ve been reminded of some things I really love to do, but I just don’t have as much time for anymore- like theater. But I don’t have time for it because I’m making time for other stuff I’m really excited about- like my Chile internship. It’s a really awesome situation to be in, actually, as much as it sometimes bums me out. I am taking a break from one thing to explore something new, something fun, something potentially powerful and life-changing. Something that could actually turn into the rest of my life. Unfortunately, we can’t always do everything we want to. We can only hope that we get to choose between awesome stuff, and that the best option or the “have-to” isn’t something we don’t enjoy.

Oh. I’ve also done a little bit of baking.

Brownie chip cookies! Specially made for the first day of classes and work.

Brownie chip cookies! Specially made for the first day of classes and work.

Carrot cake cake balls! Not pretty. But delicious.

Carrot cake cake balls! Not pretty. But delicious.

I’m hoping to make some banana muffins tomorrow night to bring in to work. I’ve got some dining hall bananas here smelling up my room, just about to perfect muffin/bread ripeness. We’ll see how that goes!

Chile-related thoughts: it’s been freezing here. The early part of last week was brutal. Chileans have no concept of how cold this actually is. I know, the damp cold they have in their winter is hard to shake because there’s no central heating, and it might be the coldest I’ve been in my life. But I never felt like my thighs or nose were going to freeze right off of my body after a 10-minute walk outside.

Also, the fact that it’s summer there and my host family is going on a beach vacation this week while I walk around in cold and slush makes me incredibly jealous. I mean, it’s 86 and sunny there every single day. We swing between the 40’s and -10, and rarely is there sun. Why did I leave? And why am I going back in their WINTER?!

The other day I craved some Chilean-style salad: for example, raw shredded cabbage and carrots, tossed in olive oil and lemon juice and sprinkled (or showered, depending on the mamá) with salt. I also wanted avocado, but that’s not just the other day, that’s like everyday.

I’ve been drinking agua de hierbas (well, Sleepytime tea) most nights. But really, I would just love me some plain agua de menta (mint) or manzanilla (chamomile) right now.

I had a dream the other night that I was leaving for the airport to go back to Santiago in an hour, and I had absolutely nothing packed. I woke up panicked. Goodness.

I will try to write a little more again soon! Please comment and leave me your thoughts. I love hearing from you- whether I know you or not!

With love,

Gaby

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What Keeps Me Going

You might remember from my New Year’s resolutions post that I am trying to improve my writing and continue blogging. One of the ways I’m going to do this is to try using the prompts found on The Daily Post, a great WordPress blog for beginning bloggers, or for anyone who needs to mix up their writing. I’m using a daily prompt from last week for this post.

I’m a smart person. I like knowing things. I don’t like not knowing how things are going to end; it makes me feel unsafe and a little lost. Life, unfortunately, doesn’t work the way I’d like it to. It gets all screwy. You think you’re headed down one path and then you take one pretty fantastic class and all of a sudden all the “plans” you’d had made up in your head don’t look right anymore. Especially when you’re my age, certainly not a kid but not really an adult yet, but so close to making real grown-up decisions, that feeling of confusion makes for some fun anxiety.

And that’s where this quote comes in:

“I beg you…to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which would not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer…”

Rainer Maria Rilke

This quote just says everything. It asks for patience and wants you to live life as it is right now. It pushes me to live in the present and quit worrying so much about doing the “right” things and wanting to know the ending. Because knowing the ending kind of spoils everything, doesn’t it? It’s a lot about letting go of control and keeping faith that it will all work out. Because it does. It will. This applies to so many things: college, careers, relationships, all of it. Trying to live by this quote has helped me a lot. Rolling with the uncertainty, as uncomfortable and anxious as it can be, has led me down an entirely different path, to different countries, to wonderful new people, and I’m more excited about what’s happening now than I was on the last “path” I thought I was on.

The next quote is similar:

“You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.

And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.”

Max Ehrmann, “The Desiderata”

I encourage you to find the whole Desiderata online; it’s a beautiful poem and says a lot of really wonderful things about life. But this quote has always come back to me. As you can see, it’s a lot like the first quote. But it also reminds me that part of the reason everything will work out is that I belong here, and I’m supposed to be here, and I’m here to make a difference and be a beautiful part of this world. I just might not be able to see how that works out right away.

The last one is from the Gospel of Matthew:

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life…Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?…But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you- you of little faith?…So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”

Mt 6:25-34, from the NRSV Catholic Youth Bible

This passage is a great reminder that God takes care of all of us. Look at how wonderful and beautiful the world is! Yes, there are bad things, but I bet if you count every bad thing, you can find five or ten good things. Really. With all of the awesomeness around us, why should we worry? Everything eventually is taken care of, even if we don’t know it.

So these are the things I turn to when I worry or get stressed out. Another thing that helps me manage is exercise. It just gets me out of my head for a while. Since I’ve been home, I’ve been trying to go on morning walks. Here’s what it looks like through Instagram (@gmtnunez):

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I also manage with baking. Here are some brown sugar bacon biscuits I made with my lovely friend E. last week. They blew my mind. Eat them. Love them. Be happy.

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That’s all I’ve got for now, folks! I’m going back to school next week. Wish me luck!

With love,

Gaby

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The 2013 User’s Manual

(You’re getting two posts in one day because I had already written 700 words about cookies and if I had kept writing it would have been too much. This will probably be too much anyways.)

This year, I am calling my New Year’s resolutions my user’s manual or guidebook to 2013. This is because I have four pages of goals, specific actions, and motivation to achieve those goals. Yup. 4 pages.

Well, okay, 2 pages front and back.

Well, okay, 2 pages front and back.

Yeah, I’m a little nuts. I think you would have figured that out by now though.

This is how it works. I can’t just write down, “Lose weight,” or “Exercise more,” or “Eat better.” I need to have specific ways to achieve those resolutions. This year, I have five over-arching “resolutions.” They are:

1. Put good things in your body.

2. Make your body work.

3. Be pretty.

4. Work better.

5. Who are you? Be you.

(And by the way, by saying that I want to eat better and exercise more, this is not a cry for compliments. I’m not saying I hate the way I look. I don’t. I actually look better than I did in high school. But I know I could look even better, and this year, I might just do it.)

Under those five big directions- I like direction more than resolution, I guess- I have various actions that will help make 2013 the fabulously spectacular year that I want it to be.

Here’s a sampling:

Under “Put good things in your body:” I’d like to give Meatless Mondays a go. I want to try and lay off the caffeine, and keep drinking herbal tea at night. I’d like to eat less at night, so I’m going to brush my teeth earlier in the night, so I’m less tempted to grab a snack.

Under “Make your body work:” I’m already a pretty consistent exerciser, but in terms of intensity and variety, I’m missing out. So I’m going to make it hard when it gets easy. I’m going to try something that I think I might not like- like running outside in the winter, for example. I would like to do 10 real push-ups by March.

Under “Be pretty:” I’m going to try and dress nicely all the time, even if I’m just working the library all day. This helps me focus, I swear. I want to paint my nails most weeks. I’m going to play with my hair and try new things.

Under “Work better:” So I don’t get caught procrastinating too much, I’d like to brainstorm ideas for papers and projects when I just have a few minutes. I should try going to office hours. I will only go on Facebook once in the morning and once at night. I’m going to keep my to-do list concise and manageable.

Under “Be you:” I’m going to say yes more. I need to live it up more. No, dear parents and relatives, that does not mean I will be going to the bar every night. But I need to try some new things, whether it be a new exercise, different foods, or another extracurricular activity. Now is the time to do all the stuff I keep saying I’m going to do, all the stuff I think I’ll have time for later. Well, it’s later, and the time is now.

When I think or say something negative about someone, I will try to think or say something positive about them as well. I’m going to journal as much as I can. I want to compile an awesome list.

So those are the actions or things to keep in mind. Then I have actual, tangible goals I’d like to achieve, things that I can cross off and say, “Yes! I did that!”  Among those are: run 5 miles; go to Mass more than 4 times a month (aka, more than just on Sundays); take or post a photo a day; remember all of the birthdays in my family; and take a minimum of two days per month without social networking.

The last part of this is the words to live by. These are just buzzwords I’d like to keep in mind when I find myself falling into old habits and patterns. Among them: Efficiency. Brilliance. Grace. Faith. Stillness. Slowness. Chances. Patience. God. Questions. Learn. Work. Try. Challenge. Beauty.

I know it sounds like a lot, and I guess it is, but for me, this is much easier to handle than general resolutions. It makes things more concrete, and I can visualize what the end result will be. And I really like what I’m visualizing.

I haven’t done much baking since Christmas. I’ve been busy with other things, and my body feels better for it. Here’s a little of what the day-to-day has looked like, via Instagram (@gmtnunez, if you’re on that wagon and would like to follow along):

Cold and beautiful morning.

Cold and beautiful morning.

27 turkeys were in my backyard the other morning.

27 turkeys were in my backyard the other morning. No, I don’t live in the middle of nowhere.

The end of the day. I missed this.

The end of the day. I missed this.

I hope many of you have seen Forrest Gump. If not, please do and we’ll be better friends. In the movie, Forrest celebrates New Year’s in NYC with Lt. Dan and his exotic dancer “friends.” When the clock nears midnight, one of the girls says she loves New Year’s because everyone gets to start over. “Everybody gets a second chance.”

I’m feeling a little bit like that this year. I have a lot of new stuff coming up for which I’m absolutely pumped, but on the other hand, I’m also getting some second chances- with Santiago, with my studies, with some people. I want those chances.

And I’m taking them. I hope you take yours, too.

Please comment, tell me about your resolutions, what you think of mine, whatever! I do love hearing from all of you!

Happy New Year! May 2013 be your best year yet.

With love,

Gaby

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Catching up on cookies

Hello friends!

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas (or other winter holiday) and are kicking off 2013 right. It was pretty busy around here, hence why I haven’t posted since Christmas Eve.

There were still several cookies I didn’t post before Christmas, so here they are:

Lemon raspberry thumbprints. An unexpected hit.

Lemon raspberry thumbprints. An unexpected hit.

I made these last year and remembered that they were kind of a black sheep among all the chocolate goodies and my requisite sugar cookies. But this year, they were pretty popular and almost didn’t make it to Christmas Eve. Recipe is here.

Holiday pretzel treats. A pretzel, a Hershey's Kiss, and an M&M.

Holiday pretzel treats. A pretzel, a Hershey’s Kiss, and an M&M.

These little things look a little bit like reindeer if you look at them from above. They’re really easy; try them out with other kinds of pretzels and colored candies here. If you could find M&M’s in your team’s colors (like, maybe green and gold? I think purple and yellow would be a really ugly combination, actually), I bet you could even make these for NFL gamewatches. Or with red, white, and pink for Valentine’s Day. The possibilities are endless!

Oh, don’t take them out of the oven too early to press the M&M in, or they’ll get that funky lip thing you can see on mine. It happens.

German cinnamon stars. A funky, spicy little standout.

German cinnamon stars. A funky, spicy little standout.

These are actually flourless. The base of these cookies is a meringue mixed with ground almonds and powdered sugar. I believe they are supposed to be pretty crunchy, but since I used all the meringue (instead of saving some for the topping) and didn’t have as much almonds as the recipe said, mine were sticky and chewy. But still delicious! I found the recipe in my Illustrated Step-by-Step Baking cookbook, by Caroline Bretherton.

Sugar cookies, take 2!

Sugar cookies, take 2!

I made sugar cookies twice over this break, once the week before Christmas, and then frantically on Christmas Eve day. But I love these cookies. I use the recipe in our old Betty Crocker cookbook. You can find whatever recipe you’d like.

Oh. And I made Chilean alfajores. All from scratch. Yes, I attempted manjar from scratch. It was less than successful.

The beginnings of manjar.

The beginnings of manjar.

The far and away preferred method of making manjar is to boil an unopened can of sweetened condensed milk for about an hour. I, however, was terrified of the can exploding, having heard horror stories of where people’s ceilings get dented and you have to scrape manjar off of light fixtures. That’s not happening here. So, I found a recipe online that told me to cook whole milk with sugar, vanilla, and baking soda for a while until it all cooks down to a nice, caramel-y texture.

An hour later.

An hour later.

The whole thing was supposed to take around an hour and a half. So when I wasn’t even close to getting the results I wanted, I looked at the recipe reviews. Kids: ALWAYS look at online recipe reviews before you use the recipe! The reviews were, in general, horrible. That the time was off, that it never turns out, that the texture is wrong, you need more sugar, etc. And on top of that, everyone said that it’s just better to go the boiling-can route.

The final product.

The final product.

I basically let it boil the whole time rather than simmer, and eventually it cooked down. The photo above is what I ended up with. Anyone who has had experience with dulce de leche or manjar knows that that is NOT what it is supposed to look like. It should be smoother and darker. This tasted about right, but it was difficult to work with and was just not appealing.

I went ahead and made alfajores anyway.

They're trying so hard to be alfajores...but they're just not.

They’re trying so hard to be alfajores…but they’re just not.

Argh. This was frustrating. These just aren’t what Chilean alfajores are supposed to look like, or even taste like. Don’t get me wrong, they tasted great- the cookie was buttery and sweet, and the manjar tasted good (although the texture was so off). But in my experience, the cookie should be drier, and the manjar smoother but still sticky.

Meh. I can’t get everything right. It happens.

Coming up real soon: New Year’s resolutions and Instagram!

With love,

Gaby

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