My new favorite funny website: FONY

Monday, March 30, 2015

As you hopefully have picked up by now with your incredible deductive reasoning skills, I love my cat, Tywin. Since adopting him with my boyfriend in October, I've grown increasingly obsessed with him.

Now, I'll refrain from launching into a diatribe on why cats > dogs (Umm....#1 you have to take dogs OUTSIDE? It's like negative 19 degrees out there, you guys! I'm not going out there unless the apartment building catches fire, and even then I'll probably savor the warmth and only relocate when a muscular* fireman carries me out.)

*From a practical standpoint, he'd have to be muscular. 
I'm many things, but "dainty" isn't one of them.

But, I actually believe being a dog person and being a cat person is NOT mutually exclusive. Same goes for being an elephant person or a donkey person...why can't we all get along?*

*you may notice I'm a bit of an idealist. :)

Regardless of where you stand on the polarizing cat/dog issue, I'm hoping we can agree on this: My new favorite website, Felines of New York, is hilarious. An example post:

The Humans of New York posts have consistently been my favorite thing on my facebook newsfeed and now there's a new contender with FONY! FONY also has a facebook page & instagram.

Follow along, since everyone needs a laugh, cat person or not.

But, fair warning, if you spend too much time looking at cat pics online, your cat might get all emo and jealous:

p.s. Another funny tumblr, just for kicks.

Qualities that can't be measured

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

I'm a sucker for quotes. I must admit, however, that I'm kind of elitist when it comes to inspirational quotes.* "Live. Laugh. Love." feels so cliché at this point and I'm not sure why but "Dance like no one's watching" kind of makes me want to throw up. Sorry if those quotes keep your spirit alive, they just do nothing for mine. (Seems like the ideal moment to use a variation of Joanna's lovely mantra - "Good for you! Not for me.")

*I'm not at all a beer/wine/food snob though, so there's that.

Platitudes aside, my boyfriend texted me this quote the other day and it really resonated with me:
I've written about it before, but I fear we live in a society obsessed with metrics. I have a little sister who's job searching and I'm cleaning up my resumé a bit too, and I'm struck by all the things that can't be listed effectively. Thus, the below list was born! (Note that I do not think I personally encapsulate all of the qualities below (I've complained a time or two ;) I just think if you're trying to depict a person  with a bulleted list on a piece of paper then immeasurable qualities are bound to be lost in translation.) 

Positive Qualities that Can't Be Measured, and are 
Nearly Impossible to Include in a Resumé:

A sense of humor



An adept listener


Ability to empathize with others 

Intrinsic motivation

Someone who never complains*

Ability to see the forest through the trees



A healthy (non-addictive) relationship with phones/electronics

Both honesty + tactfulness




Attention to detail

Compatibility with others

*I've known a few people in who never complain, 
and I'm blown away by how refreshing this trait is.

Don't you think humans are so much more than GPA's and years of work experience? I only wish we weren't forced to distill our lives down to a single sheet of paper. The next time you're getting down about your life's "metrics" focus on this list. Few of us encompass all of the above characteristics, but all of us encompass some of them! :) Any other qualities you would add to the list?

Wizarding World of Harry Potter: A Recap

Thursday, March 19, 2015

About 17 years ago, my youngest sister, Janice, turned four. We celebrated in Walt Disney World with a character breakfast. We spent most of our time in the park anxiously waiting in line to get autographs from the characters in our autograph books. That was the last time my family went to Florida together. This past weekend, we returned in all of our glory. Not for Disney this time, but for Universal, to specifically explore the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. It did not disappoint:

Quick facts: There are 2 parks. Universal Islands of Adventures, which contains Hogsmeade (and Hogwarts), the original HP World, and Universal Studios, which contains Diagon Alley (and Gringotts), which just opened in summer of 2014. They are connected via, you guessed it, the Hogwarts Express. This means you need tickets to two parks to see it all. We got two-day two-park tickets (so we could go back and forth each day) and I really think this was the way to go. I fear we would have felt rushed if we only got one day tickets, but two days gave us ample time to see all of the Wizarding World, and the rest of the parks too! Including riding the Hulk multiple times and the Spider Man ride. (Which were favorites I remember from the time the Hopewell High marching band went to Universal when I was in 9th grade.) (I played the coolest instrument ever. I'll leave it at that.)

The details in the park are astounding! Waiting in line becomes an adventure in and of itself as you see the tri-wizard cup, the talking sorting hat, and the most realistic depictions of goblins ever while waiting in line! But, I do have one pro tip for skipping lines, especially if you've already seen all the decorations and you're re-riding: Find the Single Riders Line! As long as you're over like 4 feet tall (aka me since birth) and willing to split up from your party for the ride, this line moves SO much faster. It's often sort of hidden and you have to look for it and it takes a weird secret path but we saved so much time "cutting" lines through the single riders method. Do it!

The Hogsmeade rooftops are covered in fake snow* which is a cute touch since it seems so many magical scenes in the book take place in winter. Also, I've never seen "snow" next to palm trees before, but I could get used to it:

*my favorite type of snow

And, of course, we couldn't forget to indulge in butter beer. (Since people have asked, I think you could get alcoholic butter beer somewhere (maybe), but we went to the 3 Broomsticks in Hogsmeade and The Leaky Cauldron in Diagon Alley, and alcoholic Butter Beer wasn't really on those menus. But they did have frozen & non frozen. It was delicious!)

Have you been to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter? Would you go? It's safe to say it's the nicest amusement park I've seen, so I highly recommend spending a couple days checking it out. It also makes me want to re-read all the Harry Potter books, of course! 

Mom's Meals: Banana Bread

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Wanted to share a quick recipe on here before heading to Orlando. Banana bread is the perfect thing to make for a post-dinner snack that then doubles as a nice change-up for breakfast for the next week! It's also the thing to do when you have a couple rotten bananas lying around. You can freeze said rotten bananas after they've turned brown/black while you gather your other necessary ingredients - which of course took me a few days ;)  (I heard a pro tip is to take the peels of prior to freezing them, but I learned that tip right after making this!)

What you need:

 1 3/4 c flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 t salt

1/2 c packed brown sugar

2 T white sugar

2 eggs, beaten

1/3 c oil

2 ripe bananas, mashed

1 c chopped walnuts

What you do:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour one bread loaf pan.

Mix dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, brown sugar, white sugar) in large bowl.

Beat two eggs in small bowl with wire whisk.

Peel two ripe bananas, put on plate, mash with a fork, then put the bananas in the small bowl with the eggs.

Add the oil to the bananas and eggs, stir together, then add to the dry ingredients in larger bowl. Mix by hand until smooth.

Stir in chopped walnuts. Pour into already greased and floured loaf pan.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 55 minutes (until toothpick inserted comes out clean).

Cool 10 minutes in pan, then remove from pan and cool further on wire rack before slicing.

Wrap in plastic wrap and store in refrigerator.

I will say, I think my loaf was a little over-baked so I might recommend checking after ~50 mins of baking to see if it's already done. Maybe my oven worked better than I thought it did! If I used it more I'm sure I would know :)

I recommend serving with good old butter. Enjoy!

Orlando Recommendations?

Monday, March 9, 2015

Right when the weather in Madison gets tolerable, I have a trip to Florida planned! But, I'm not complaining -- running outside the past three days was glorious. There's nothing like a bitter Wisconsin winter to make you fully appreciate temperatures above 30. Kind of like how good days can only be truly valued if you've had bad ones to compare them to, right? But things are about to heat up even more on Wednesday, as I'm flying down south (Milwaukee > Orlando) to spend a few days with the whole family!

The first thing on our agenda, as anyone who has ever met my family can immediately guess, is Harry Potter World! We plan on spending two days in the parks. Yes, "parks" because the Wizarding World of HP is strategically split between Universal Studios (contains Diagon Alley) and Universal Islands of Adventures (contains Hogsmeade). I can't really be mad at what can only be considered a good business decision -- and both parts of HP world are connected by the Hogwarts express, so that's fun! Plus, butter beer awaits. Anyone been? Any can't-miss parts of the park? Any spells I should practice beforehand? ;)

Aside from channeling our inner wizard, we don't have a ton of plans. (Other than, of course, bask in the warmth!) I'd love if any Floridians (or Florida vacationers) could weigh in with any must-see spots in the sunshine state near Orlando. Or must-eat pizza places/delicious ice cream shops. As a vacation isn't a vacation without excessive ice cream and pizza. Places I'm most likely to find Flo Rida are also of interest. I hope your weather, like Madison's, is taking a turn for the better. :) Thanks for any Floridian recommendations in advance! xx

p.s. My recommendations for a lovely California trip.

Weekly Favorites: Happy MARCH Weekend.

Friday, March 6, 2015

In case you guys haven't glanced at a calendar lately, I'm here to inform you: no more February! The next time we have to experience that dreaded month it will be 2016. That's a long ways away! By then I should be successfully relocated to Bora Bora.

As I said on instagram, bustin' out the spring shades & never looking back!
From top, clockwise: 

A few fun links for your 100% March weekend:

Red Pandas frolicking in the snow! (Aka the only good thing that ever happened in snow;)

"Diversity is beauty." Simply stunning.

TED talk of the week: Mental illness, from the inside.

Confessions of a comma queen (I love reading about different career paths & how magazines worked before computers & serial commas.)

11 writers who REALLY loved cats, just like yours truly.

10 of the most colorful places on earth (If I were to make a list of the most uncolorful places on earth, #1 would be Madison, Wisconsin in February.)

Mental health article of the week: "Women’s emotionality is a sign of health, not disease; it is a source of power. But we are under constant pressure to restrain our emotional lives. We have been taught to apologize for our tears, to suppress our anger and to fear being called hysterical. The pharmaceutical industry plays on that fear, targeting women in a barrage of advertising on daytime talk shows and in magazines."

Quotes of the week, from TED talk above:

"Don't take my devils away, because my angels may flee too." — Rainer Maria Rilke

"What those of us who suffer with mental illness want, is what everybody wants: In the words of Sigmund Freud, 'To work, and to love.'" Elyn Saks

Throwback rap song of the week. (They're coming to Madison!)

On happiness & writing fiction.

What a creative, wholesome way to use #TheDress hype.

The funny, strict rules for the coyote and the roadrunner.

Happy weekend, friends! xx

On Meditation: An Awesome App

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

You might remember ages ago when I asked the question: Do you meditate? I had heard of a book and watched a TED talk and the seed was planted. I even added it to my 101 in 1001 list to meditate 10 minutes a day for a month. However, most seeds I plant in my head take a while to bloom. Like strawberries. Did you know you're not even supposed to pick fruit from strawberry plants until year two? The patience exhibited by everyone except me is astounding.

So, the idea seed of "maybe I should meditate" was "watered" by a couple more events before I actually tried mediation. First, as I've mentioned almost to exhaustion, I did a bunch of yoga in January. The mental benefits exceeded the physical ones. It was only while missing the constant yoga in February that I realized I missed the mental, calming aspects the most.

Also in January, I went to a luncheon in Madison where Dr. Richard Davidson spoke. Dr. Davidson is a psychology and psychiatry professor who actually knows the Dali Lama! He is using science and research to prove what eastern cultures have known for centuries: Meditation has huge health benefits. He founded the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds which is doing amazing work in the Madison area towards fostering mindfulness, starting in schools.

So between the yoga and the luncheon (and glancing at my incomplete 101 in list), I decided to start mediating. But how? Fortunately: I found the Headspace Meditation App, founded by Andy Puddicombe (former Buddhist monk, and guy from the TED talk I watched). 

I am currently using their "Take 10" offer -- 10 minutes of meditation for 10 days, for free. After that, there is a membership fee. So far, I am so impressed with the app that I'm really considering getting a membership after my 10 days are up. It has adorable animated videos to introduce you to the goals of meditation. It's like a gym membership for your mind! I'm obviously new to this, but I'm so impressed with the app so far I had to share. 

Have you used it? Would you set aside 10 minutes a day for meditation?

A Book in Review: Still Alice

Monday, March 2, 2015

Many of you were likely watching last weekend as the beautiful Julianne Moore accepted her Oscar for Best Actress. And, although I usually zone out during the long lists of names, for her I was listening closely for one particular name -- and she said it -- Lisa Genova! The amazing author of Still Alice!

I have not seen the movie, but read the book in about three days. I will warn you: it's a tear-jerker. Not exaggerating, I think I cried an average of once per chapter. Sometimes I read books in coffee shops. Not this book!

Still Alice follows Harvard psychology professor (and mother of three) Alice Howland through her devastating diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer's and the progression of the disease. Of course, life doesn't stop as her memory gets worse -- Alice has a Harvard professor husband and three children who are also greatly impacted by her shocking diagnosis. Her oldest daughter is married and thinking of having children, and now has the potential of a genetic disease to consider before reproducing, her youngest daughter is rebellious, refusing to go to go college despite her mother's wishes. Alice also has a fascinating, tragic backstory that you learn bits and pieces of throughout the novel.

 Genova depicts Alzheimer's in such a relatable way; it feels like you are experiencing it along with Alice and her family. (Of course, hopefully none of us have ever actually have to experience the disease first hand.)

Genova weaves in intriguing facts about Alzheimer's (neurons! synapses! genetic mutations! dominant genes! etc!) And, although I was never particularly allured by neuroscience, I now feel much more educated about how the brain works, and how this disease takes its toll.

The heart-wrenching story of Alice did more than educate, it inspired. This compelling book made me thankful for every day I have as a highly-functioning 26 year-old. It made me grateful for all that I can do independently. After reading this story, I am determined to seize each moment and not take a day for granted. And because of that, I strongly recommend reading it. Just not in a public place if you're prone to crying.

Have any of you seen the movie? I'm obviously afraid it will be a cry-fest for me, but do want to see it. Watching Kristen Stewart (who plays the rebellious daughter) play something other than Bella is a fun bonus too! And of course, the Oscar winner herself!