Monday, December 14, 2009

Finals survival guide!

Temperatures have dropped, a special buzz fills the air, eager anticipation is everywhere. This could only mean one thing! No, not the holiday season (believe me, Christmas cheer is a very distant feeling at this time). Rather, for the next few days, my world revolves solely around final exams.

Compared to the vast majority of my classmates, who are now spending more time at the library than at home, I am relatively calm about finals. However, this isn't really saying much. With tests in subjects ranging from microeconomics to paranoia and conspiracies in American history (yes, it really is as interesting as it sounds!), my mind is constantly jumping from one topic to another.

With so much resting on the filling in of a few little bubbles on multiple choice tests, it is easy to become overwhelmed. That is why, this year, I am allowing myself a little space to step back and enjoy a few "indulgences." Here is a little glimpse into what keeps me sane throughout finals:

All around campus, coffee is at an extreme premium. If my economics class has taught me anything, it is that coffee shops could probably get away with charging double at this time: With a skyrocketing demand, some students would be willing to sell their mother's for a cup o' Joe.
Coffee has magical powers in helping me concentrate!

In my attempts to avoid the exotic breed of sleep-deprived, coffee-seeking college students, I have found a haven in "The Scone Lady" coffee shop. Located conveniently close to my house, this shop is populated more by cheery groups of old friends, stealing some time to catch up over a cup of tea, than by frantic students. I am always able to stake out the same space, plug in my computer, and do some serious studying while enjoying a calming cup of coffee (and eavesdropping on the occasional church group gossip!).

My gym: Note the Food Network on the TV!

True fact: a little caffeine buzz can increase performance in a workout by up to 25%... and this isn't only scientific baloney! Some of my best runs have come after a cup of coffee. So then, after a relaxing and productive morning at The Scone Lady, I am ready for a workout. I'm not usually to eager to face the blustery winter weather, but I have the great option of a gym to keep me moving. I get the satisfaction of treading a few miles, while catching up on the latest episodes on the Food Network; I know, kind of crazy, but for some reason, Paula Deen is good motivation!

Wearing my apron gives me a strange sense of invincibility!

Still needing a little relief from hitting the books, and feeling inspired by the Food Network, I often seek out any excuse to put on my apron! This week, in preparation for a month at home, I've been trying to use up the last of of my food reserves. The result: "Monster Cookies!" This delicious (and nutritious!) little goobers start off with an easy batter of oats, whole wheat flour, a single egg, honey, and some sugar. I then add my own personal touch with crasins, crumbled pretzels, walnuts, banana chips, cinnamon chips, shredded coconut, some flax seeds, and a little cinnamon. To take it one step further, I added a little Cayenne pepper to some of the dough (this turned out to be a spicy/delicious success!). Let me know if you want the complete recipe.A warm cup of tea is the next best thing to a nighttime lullaby!

After a long day of studying, there is no better way to calm down and unwind than enjoying a cup of tea. My only connection to the rumored "holidays", I love trying out new seasonal blends, like "sugar cookie sleigh ride," as well as my stand-bys of "cinnamon apple spice" and "orange spice" tea.

So that's basically it. My guide to sanity during finals. It may not be too much, but it is enough to sustain me for a few days of craziness!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Jump start the day!

I am a morning person. I love waking up, enjoying a well-prepared breakfast, and doing something productive all before I "need to" start my day. That way, at the end of the night I am must less rushed and am able to unwind...

However, even with the best of intentions and maximized productivity, there are just some days (or weeks) where the work never seems to stop piling up. Enter the concept of semester finals.

In my attempts to prepare for an all-too-quickly approaching battery of exams, I have been even more dedicated to my "up and at 'em" mentality. There is no time to waste when finals threaten!

For the most part, I am temporarily able to concede my nighttime routine of relaxation in front of the TV or a few chapters from a school unrelated book. I know that a break awaits me as soon as I survive the tests. However, the one thing I am unwilling to compromise on is getting in my exercise. This is the single time of the day where I make myself put away all books, flashcards, and study guide. I know that, no matter how busy or overwhelmed I may feel, if I simply allow myself a some time running on the treadmill or unwinding in yoga, I will be more productive in the long run-- not to mention more pleasant to those around me!

With my days often turning into non-stop sequences of events, I have found that the most reliable time to work out is usually first thing in the morning. That way, throughout the rest of my crazy day, I am able to have a little bit of the sense of calm I derive only from working out.

The only problem with workouts first thing in the morning is the dilemma of what to eat. There is a delicate balance between needing to have something in the stomach, but not going overboard. To find the pre-workout breakfast right for me, I've gone through a series of trial-and-error (tip: just say "no" to a bowl of milk and cereal). My go-to is half a banana. However, this isn't always available, in which case, I turn to my reliable second choice: A segment of a Kashi Go Lean! energy bar. Even just a quarter of the bar is enough to boost my energy and carry me through a workout, without the uncomfortable feelings of being weighed down.

Just a quarter of a "Kashi: Go Lean! Chewy" bar is enough to carry me through a moderate workout.

However, while the energy bar is enough to sustain me throughout a workout, I am always ready for a more satiating breakfast post-workout. Still a bit crunched for time (albeit it feeling relatively calm, thanks to the workout!), I usually seek out an easy-to-assemble option. This is where my pumpkin pancakes, frozen with brilliant foresight, come into play. I dress them up with some thawed blueberries, pumpkin seeds, and just a little sugar-free syrup... good to go!

Pre-made, frozen, and then toasted pumpkin pancakes are just the boost I need during the chaos of finals!
With blueberries and pumpkin seeds... now that sounds like a 4.0 GPA to me!

With a start like that, how could I not dominate finals?!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

First snow!

How is it that whenever it snows-- no matter what the temperature may be-- it just doesn't seem quite so intolerable outside?

My love for snow extends beyond the childlike joy I get by tromping through fresh layers; really, there is no comparison for the wonderland of a snow-covered landscape!

Of all the categories of snow, the best of all is the first snow of the season. For this one magical moment, I am still blissfully forgetful of the downside of the cold stuff: the slushy roads, the poor traffic, the sidewalks I will be made to shovel out...

Snow can make a person do crazy things... like waking up for sunrise yoga!

This morning I was less than enthusiastic about rousing myself for "sunrise yoga." In fact, I had myself thoroughly convinced by the time I feel asleep last night that I was going to be rebellious and skip out on the class. However, when my alarm went off not-yet-bright and early, I had a mysterious energy to get out of bed.

Still dreary eyed, I stumbled towards the window and looked out into the darkness. Quickly I realized it wasn't quite as black as usual; there was a certain reflectivity that could only be caused by... SNOW!

Suddenly jolted to awareness, I dressed in my yoga clothes, pulled on my boots, and made remarkable haste in getting out the door. The crisp morning air didn't phase me, as I took my sweet time in walking to my car. Ignoring the unfortunate side-effect of having to clean off my windshield, I just couldn't shake the sense of bliss I felt from the snow.

Despite the fact that just hours before I had been committed to not attending the class, yoga was truly enjoying; that I was giddy inside seemed to only contribute to an inner-calm!

Naturally, after class I had the perfect excuse to get a hot cup of coffee. The only thing that pairs better with snow than sledding is a nice beverage to warm the body up!

My good start to the day was only contributed to by the new kind of Kashi cereal I had waiting at home! I enjoyed my first bowl of "Honey Sunshine" cereal and some slightly thawed blueberries while cozily wrapped in a blanket and casually reading my "Major British Writers of the 19th and 20th Centuries" homework (which just so happened to be a humorous excerpt from a Monty Python skit!)

Just as the temperature were edging towards the freezing point and the sun was fully exposed, it was time for me to head out for my first class. Having started a morning with so much already accomplished is the best feeling!

Well, that, and the aforementioned sight of the first snow, naturally!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Restructuring: Feedback requested!

Dear devoted follower-

When I first began my escapade into personal blogging, I was relatively green to blogging in general. I was eagerly bookmarking every single blog that caught my eye in any way. While I still do this, my tastes have become a bit more refined. In this process I have come to realize what I like and dislike about blogging styles.

I feel like, to some extent, this blog has been too much a strange hybrid of random recipes and an extension of my health and nutrition column. I have pressured myself to fit into a vision of what I thought a blog "should be": professional, informational, and somewhat authoritative.

Now, though, I realize that isn't really my style. In reflecting, the entries I have most enjoyed writing have been the ones that come to me organically; spur of the moment thoughts and observations, rather than carefully researched reports.

Actually, I feel like I can most effectively address the topics of health and nutrition by commenting on events from my life. This means the struggles, the triumphs, the experiences, and the lessons learned. So, where to go from here...

The blog will be more of a personal look into my daily life: good workouts I have, foods I eat, new recipes I discover, and the lessons I learn along the way!

Basically, I am a college student, who, despite a limited budget and somewhat limited resources, is still trying to make the best of navigating a healthful lifestyle!

All I ask from you is for feedback! I'll probably be playing around with structures for a bit, so I am open to suggestions and eager for reactions!

My goal is simply that, regardless of who you may be, you can still learn a thing or two from my endeavors! If so, then, mission accomplished!