Thursday, January 22, 2015

My first post on Buzzfeed

My newest aspiration in life is to write for BuzzFeed, so I have decided to begin publishing community posts on the website in the hopes that I will get better and better at mastering the laid back- best friend- conversation style that the site uses. I am sure I will get better at this with time.
I decided to write a short post on some famous recluses, since that type of lifestyle has always appealed to me. 
What is more romantic than being a writer who lives on her own in a cozy wooden cabin in a snow-covered forest? 
Some of these writers and artists became reclusive in order to focus on their creative endeavors, while others took to solitude only after their works had become popular. 

Check it out and let me know what you think:

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

15 Bucket List Items for the Class of 2015

These four years have gone by even faster than I could have ever imagined. I have tried to cherish every moment and learn from both the good times and the bad times. I have been able to make lasting friends and some great memories during my undergraduate career and the fact that it will soon be coming to an end is both exciting and unsettling.
Although we may not want to admit it, a whole lot of things are going to change after we move out after finals. 
We have to face the fact that we will never see most of our peers and acquaintances again and, like we experienced after high school, we will only keep in touch with a select few of our friends. We will also probably be moving to cities where we will not know almost all the people on our hall and where we will not be best friends with our roommates. 
There is a lot that we will be leaving behind as graduates... so it is time to make the best of our last few months as undergrads.
Here is a list of 15 things I want to do before I walk across the stage at the end of the semester:
  1. Take a group photo with my friends at by our university's sign

Thursday, January 8, 2015

10 teeny tiny ways to save money

     I am very close to beginning my final semester at college, and am halfway between ecstatic and terrified to enter the real world after graduation... There is a possibility that I will be seeking employment in a big, exciting, expensive city after graduation, which has led me to focus on saving the meager amount of money that I have. Moving to a new city means that I will have to spend some of my savings on buying an apartment, as well as weekly groceries, and transportation fees (luckily, I do not expect to be needing a car).
     Anyways, here are a few simple ways that I plan on saving money throughout this semester:
  1. Bring your lunch instead of buying- Although you and your friends/co-workers frequent Chipotle during breaks, it is very easy to spend around $9 on a meal there... If you bring your lunch, you save some money, use up the groceries you already purchase, and waste less time standing in that perpetual line out the door. 
  2. Limit yourself when you do go out to eat- My general rule is to spend less than $10 total, especially if we are just casually dining... I usually eat a sandwich and drink water, depending on where we go. 
  3. Take advantage of free food events- Even though my college is small, I can usually count on not having to make dinner at least one night per week due to a club/organization event or promotion that has food provided... granted, when food is provided, it is pizza 88% of the time, or donuts, or cereal... but hey, it's free. 
  4. Cut your hair short- Not only does it look more professional (at least on me, anyway) less hair means using less product... I have very thick and curly hair that I kept long throughout my college career. I decided to cut it above my shoulders over this past summer, and it surprised me just how little shampoo, conditioner, and product I had to use to style it. Now, it takes me about half the time to go through these hair products! 
  5. Grocery shop wisely- Do some research, learn the intricate art of couponing, pay attention to special deals. Give yourself ample time to shop at the supermarket, so that you can properly compare prices and whatnot without being rushed.
  6. Learn to live without Starbucks- This is a hard one, especially if you are an avid coffee drinker... I have been able to combat the need to refuel at coffeeshops by investing in my own reusable travel mug and preparing my coffee before I leave my apartment. Make stops at Starbucks special treats, instead of daily rituals. 
  7. Take advantage of your student discount- Being a student can help you out at several different retail stores, as well as some museums and restaurants. 
  8. Be sure to buy only what you need- This takes a whole lot of self-discipline, but if you stay true to the idea of "what I need" vs. "what I want," you are more likely to avoid impulse buys. 
  9. Beware of the bars- It is super easy to overspend at the bar... Opt for nights in or if you are set on going out, bring a set amount of cash and make a point of sticking to your budget for the night.
  10. Go on cheap dates- Hey, nobody said you had to spend a ton of money to have a good time! Go for a walk, take part in an activity on campus, have a movie night... etc. 
     As you can see, these are relatively easy ways to save a buck here and there. As long as I keep these rules in mind during my daily life, I will be able to save a relatively substantial amount for my future self when I am living on my own... well, hopefully. 
     What are some other ways that you save money? 

Saturday, January 3, 2015

The Venezuelan Hallaca Process

     Something that has greatly impacted my life is my Venezuelan heritage. I have been incredibly lucky to grow up in a multi-cultural atmosphere and be able to take part in my culture. My father was born and raised in the US, just like me, and my mother is from Venezuela. She was able to come to the US to teach at university and she still teaches there today. 
     My family and I used to visit Venezuela during the holidays every year and we would stay with relatives to celebrate Christmas and New Years. Although we have not been able to go back for the past few years, we have kept the holiday traditions alive in the US. 
     I was able to spend Christmas in Washington DC with family, and we decided to make traditional Venezuelan Hallacas, which is the common holiday meal. 
     Hallacas originated from the indigenous population in Venezuela, since they were given the scraps of meat from the tables of the Europeans. They would use cornmeal dough to supplement the meat and wrap the hallacas in banana leaves to cook them. 
     Like the Venezuelans that came before us, we wrap our hallacas in banana leaves, which can be found at Latin or Asian markets. We cut the leaves into smaller pieces and save the tiny scraps just in case we need more. 
     We use Achiote to dye the cornmeal dough, or masa. When the dried cornmeal comes out of the bag, it is white, but it becomes a corn-yellow color after the achiote is mixed in. This seed also gives the dough some flavor. 
     When the masa is the proper consistency, it must be rolled into balls, placed on an oiled banana leaf (we used the leftover achiote oil) and flattened. Next, the spiced and cooked meat mixture goes in the middle, as well as some onion, pepper, olives, and raisins. 
     The hallacas are then folded up in the banana leaves. They are tied with string so that they do not fall apart. 
     They are then cooked for about an hour, as seen above. 
     When they come out, they look like the photo above. My family and I made a little less than 100 hallacas this year and we ate them between Christmas and New Years. To accompany the traditional Venezuelan holiday meal, we ate ensalada de gallina and pan de jamon.
     I had a really great holiday with my family, and I hope you did as well!
     What kinds of meals do you cook for the holidays?