Updates Galore

I am currently dictating this entry via the microphone on my iPhone 5s, so forgive me if there are some mistakes. Even though I have not updated my blog for like five months I have been doing very well on all of my goals. Well, almost all of my goals. I definitely need to work on forming the habit of wearing my mouthguard at night and also flossing my teeth. I work one overnight shift per week at my job and, during that, I am able to go through my list of 80 different things that I want to work on this year of being 24 years old. This has been a really great way of keeping me on track and reminding me of all this things that I want to accomplish this year.

I want to review some of the things that I have accomplished so far. I went shooting at the shooting range twice and I shot guns! This was a very nerve-racking but also adrenaline filled experience. I am proud to say that I am now not as frightened of gunshots as I had been previously, so I called this a big victory. I also had the pleasure of going downhill skiing for my very first time and it was extremely exciting. With the help of my boyfriend, I was actually able to progress over the eight hours that we skied to the black diamond slopes. I am still slightly in off of that fact and that I had so much courage to try something new and scary. I have also been working toward a lot of different fitness goals. For example, I joined a gym and I have been regularly working out with my running, biking, and swimming to prepare for a triathlon in August. I also completed a swimming class at the local YMCA and I progressed so much during my class. My times were so much faster at the end were so much faster than at the beginning. I have also been working really hard on forming healthy eating habits. For example, I stopped eating cheese and pizza entirely during the Lent season. Even though I’m going to start eating cheese again in about a week, I learned that I had previously depended on cheese to get protein in my diet and that’s not healthy at all. I have found a lot of healthy alternative foods and I feel really great. I have a lot of energy! Obviously, one of the items on my list was to purchase a smart phone and to figure out how to use it in a way that would enhance my life. So, I decided to buy an iPhone 5s and, wow. I have not looked back! I am still discovering new features daily. I am particularly excited about this phone’s ability to dictate what I say. It’s amazing! Maybe I was previously just completely behind the times in technology, but I seriously cannot believe that this phone has not made a single mistake in the entire time that I have been dictating this entry.

There are a few items on my list that are going to be more difficult than the others for me to cross off. For example, I do not know when I am going to be able to go bungee jumping or skydiving or air ballooning. Those things kind of terrify me and they are also very expensive and kind of dangerous. They will take a lot of strength for me to accomplish, but at least I have only required myself to try one of those things. I will also have to be proactive about registering for 5K and 10K races with my running progress. With my training so far, I usually run about 1 mile before stopping. I have been really successful in shaving down my 1 mile time to eight minutes and 55 seconds. However, a 5K and 10K are obviously a lot longer. So, I will begin to focus more on how far I am able to run instead of how long. There are also four different trips that still need to happen by my birthday. One of them is to visit my brother in college. Another one is to visit my little sister in college and I am almost positive she will be going to college in Boston in the fall. Another trip is to visit my paternal grandmother’s grave, which is in Arkansas. Finally, my last trip is to go to either Alaska, Canada, or Northern California. My job situation is uncertain, so I do not know how all of those trips are going to happen if I have very limited days off. Finally, perhaps the most difficult of all, is that I want to find a job where my skills are utilized, I make more money than I do now, and my physical safety is not at risk like it is at my current job. Really, I want to be in the education field. So, I will have to work a lot on figuring out how to make that happen.

Wow, so this has been my fairly long entry with me talking, so sorry if it sounds quite informal. There are a ton of items on my bucket list for age 24 that I did not mention in this entry, but I have been working hard on almost all of the items. Take care, everyone!

Comfort Zone!

One of my constant goals is to do things outside of my comfort zone (as long as I don’t compromise my morals and beliefs). The past few months I have made small, yet significant strides, in this respect. I baked new recipes for people for the first time without testing them myself first. I had conversations with strangers I happened to come across in public. Heck, I even accepted a job outside my comfort zone (I don’t think I’m ever going to be 100% comfortable that I could be physically attacked by mentally ill adolescent boys any day).

Last night, I went to the holiday music program at my old high school where my little sister sang in the choir. During her four years at the school (our time there never overlapped), I went to many holiday programs. For the last song, White Christmas, the choral director always asks for any alumni in the audience to come join the choir on the rafters to sing along. Every year, I slink down in my seat and hide behind a camera lens because I feel somehow silly or self-conscious walking up there by myself without any other young alumni. This time, I did the usual. I heard the announcement for alums to come to the stage, I slunk down into my chair, and I took a picture. But then, I realized that this would probably be my last high school holiday concert because my little sister graduates in June. So…why not? Why not go up? I am 100% positive that my joining the high school choir students had absolutely no significance to anyone except me. Well, and maybe the handful of students who recognized me as their substitute teacher. 😉

In any case, it felt great to let go of a silly anxiety. I look forward to this being the first of many times I suck in my self-consciousness and just…do things. Without thinking about them so much. Without thinking about other people. After all, I think that self-consciousness is somewhat egocentric and that it is a feeling that does not do any good for anybody. Out of anything on my list of goals, this may be the hardest and also the most important for me to overcome.

comfort zone magic

24 Bucket List

Reality hit me today that I turn 24 in six days! Even though the journey to turning 24 has been important, I am all the more dedicated to making 24 an absolutely incredible year. While sleep-deprived at 6:15 AM during my last overnight shift, I drafted a bucket list to be completed before I turn 25.

I’m not going to include the whole thing on here right now because it hasn’t been finalized yet, but I thought I would offer a taste of what is on it:

  • Either complete a triathlon or at least be registered for one in 2015.
  • Go to at least one live concert of a band/artist you love. Preferably more!
  • Finish watching every single AFI movie on both 1998 and 2007 lists.
  • Run a 10K or a half marathon if I get really into running.
  • Make a time capsule and bury it somewhere that won’t be disturbed for many years.
  • Visit Yosemite National Park, Alaska, or Alberta, Canada. Backpack.
  • Make London study abroad scrapbook.
  • Visit both siblings at college.
  • Visit bff at grad school.
  • Learn how to comfortably parallel park.

I want 24 to be awesome because a) It’s the last year that I’m closer to 20 than 30, b) It’s my favorite number!, c) I love having an excuse to push myself in the sake of self-improvement. When I’m 25, I will have my specific goals. The same goes for when I’m 26 or 46 or 56. For now, I’m focusing on the now: enjoying the last few days of being 23 and looking forward to everything a new year and a new age will bring. 🙂

My Favorite Sandwich

Do you ever feel like you experience true happiness from a certain food? I thought I would share with you all a food that gives me great joy the moment I take my first bite. My all-time favorite sandwich is the #9 veggie classic from Nhu Lan Bakery on Lawrence in Chicago. It’s a game-changer. A life-changer! Here is a picture of me enjoying my favorite sandwich and possibly my favorite food ever (no other banh mi can compare):


NaNoWriMo ’13

How can it already be November 3rd? Although I’m not sure I will be able to reach the 50,000 word minimum to write an entire novel in one month, I have decided that I am going to try. I have tried with very little success to write a “novel” for National Novel Writing Month every single year since my senior year of high school. I figure that the year before turning 24 will put me on track to my ideal self, so I’m going to finally take a crack at it. 

And I know exactly what my topic will be. I’m not going to give up much about it here until I have actually gotten some writing done, but I’m sure I’ll have an update post or two about my progress. I have taken three creative non-fiction writing classes and I will be drawing from what I learned along the way in my latest writing venture, which will be non-fiction.

Good luck to everyone participating! Feel free to follow me. We can support each other!

How I Self-Care

In my line of work, people talk a lot about self-care to ensure that you do not forget to take care of yourself while being so wrapped up in taking care of others. Now that I have worked at my job for over a month, I have started to notice changes in my self-care routine. My nightly journal entries are often rushed. Sometimes there are long lazy lines my pen made as I started to doze off mid-sentence. If I exercise twice in one week, then it’s considered a good week. I eat unhealthy food late at night. My body struggles to recover from staying up all night for work. I find that I spend most of my days off inside, behind a computer screen. It has been weeks since I have done something for fun with friends. My job is going great, but my self-care is not. 

All of the self-improvement goals I thought were firmly implemented into my life have been thrown off balance by my new employment. There are a little more than three months until I turn 24 and, by then, I want to be on the right track in terms of my mental and physical health, my social life, and my rate of creative output. Hence, I think it is fitting that I update my goals to reflect my self-care goals. I want to be able to work full-time and also really focus on my own well-being.

The following are preliminary ideas I have for a quality self-care routine:

1. Pack healthy food to bring for work. With my current schedule, there are five meals I have to eat at work per week (one lunch, three dinners, and one breakfast). The breakfast is pretty easy to skip or to get away with just eating a piece of fruit, so it’s really those three dinners and one lunch about which I’m concerned.
a. Bring a healthy entree, but also bring healthy snacks in case there isn’t time for a full-            blown meal.
b. Make a salad from the salad bar and eat a vegetable side dish to satisfy your appetite               long enough before you get a break.
c. If the dessert looks like it’ll be really worth it, then eat a few bites or half of it.

2. Make plans with people for your days off. Find the people in your social network who may be free at any time during your free days and make a plan. See a movie. Get coffee. Get lunch. Go bowling. See a play. Something.
a. If no one is free, plan out your day doing something that is productive. Clean your                    room. Go to the bank. Go to the doctor. Complete a task that has been looming over                your head.
b. Additionally, make plans to do something that just makes you feel good. This can be              watching a TV show or lying outside or going for a bike ride. You name it. There are                  ways to be absolutely happy and content that are not dependent upon others.

3. Exercise as often as you can. Something I have discovered about myself is that I feel so good after a workout. It gives my whole day a brand new, shiny outlook. Based on my current schedule, my exercise schedule should be Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday before lunch, and then Saturday during my break at work.
a. Sign up for a fitness class on your day off or before 1:30 on weekdays to meet new                   people and peer pressure yourself into the workout.

4. Leave work at work. In other words, be completely present in work while at work, but leave it behind during my days off. Beyond a few sentences on how my day at work was, it should be out of my mind so I can relax.
a. Check work email once a day, but not before bed! This should reduce the frequency                of work-related dreams.

5. Use overnights for creative output. I’ve already started a few experimental writing projects during my two overnights so far. I would love to continue this, as the overnight is a time when I’m not supposed to be doing anything else. I can’t exercise or go outside. It’s the perfect time to sit behind a screen and write something!

6. Use those 66 hours well. Sometimes, it feels like I’m working ALL the time, but it’s not true. I did some quick math and discovered that I have 66 awake hours per week that I can use in whatever way I want!

How to Do An Overnight Shift

Part of my new job’s work schedule includes at least one overnight shift per week (I say at least because we have to sign up for “on call” overnight shifts, as well). So far, I have completed two overnight shifts and I’m proud to say I’ve learned a thing or two about getting through them in the healthiest way possible. I’m not saying that what I do will work for everyone (for example, I’m not required to complete any tasks but staying up during the night), but here is what has worked for me:

1. Sleep in the morning of the overnight. I start preparing the night before the overnight by staying up until between 1 AM and 3 AM. This allows me to sleep in as late as I possibly can the day before my overnight shift.

2. Don’t eat carbs and processed sugars during the day. I keep my diet very clean the day before the overnight.

3. Relax during the day. I don’t expend too much energy that day. I don’t exercise more than going on a walk.

4. Rest in bed. Even if you can’t fall asleep, spend at least an hour before dinner lying in bed with your eyes closed.

5. Shower after dinner. Before leaving for the overnight, I find that a shower helps trick my body into thinking that it’s time to wake up.

6. Keep yourself entertained at night. I always bring a bunch of different entertainment options with me, including a laptop, TV shows, movies, books, and review books (to study). Text people for as late as anyone else stays awake. Make to-do lists.

7. Walk around if you catch yourself falling asleep. I like to take a quick walk around the room, then sit down.

8. Drink a lot of water and eat food that is high in protein and low in carbs. I usually stick to walnuts, plain non-fat Greek yogurt, an apple, and peanut butter. Don’t eat too much, though. Being full will make you sleepier. I only drink coffee watered down with almond milk as a last resort.

9. When you get home, sleep for a maximum of four hours. If you sleep all day after the overnight, then it’s going to be very difficult to fall asleep the following night!

10. Go to bed before midnight and hug your pillow. You made it! Now, it’s time to go on with your life with a regular sleep schedule like the rest of the world.

Cauliflower Pizza Crust

Yesterday, after texting my boyfriend that I was going to make cauliflower pizza, he was skeptical. “I tried cauliflower on a pizza once,” he said. “It wasn’t very good.” It wasn’t until I sent a picture to him later of the finished product that I realized I hadn’t been clear about my newest experimental baking endeavor. I did not put cauliflower on top of my pizza; rather, the cauliflower kind of was my pizza. In other words, I used the cauliflower as the base for my crust as a low carb gluten-free alternative to pizza. Pretty cool, huh? Thanks to Pinterest, trying this recipe out has been on my to-do list for at least a year. I finally got the opportunity to take a swing at it when there was a huge head of cauliflower in the fridge on the verge of going bad.

The recipe is sinfully simple, although it may be a bit time intensive. I highly recommend you give this a shot, though; you won’t be disappointed!


1.25 cup grated mozzarella cheese
2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
2.5 cups grated cauliflower
1 large egg
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 red onion, chopped
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 cup tomato sauce
Nonstick cooking spray
Salt and pepper (to taste)
Basil leaves (to taste)


1. Grate your cauliflower. I used a regular old box grater (the same I use to grate mozzarella cheese) and it worked like a charm.
2. Chop your onion and grate your mozz cheese. I shouldn’t have to tell you this in a step, but what the heck.
3. Place the cauliflower crumbles into a bowl and microwave for 6-7 minutes or until warm and pliable.
4. Add a whipped up large egg and 1 cup of mozzarella cheese to the bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste.
5. Spray the oven tray, then place the mixture onto it. Form the crust (it should be about 10″). Be sure not to make it too thick because then it’s more likely for the middle to be softer when its done. The crispier the better!
6. Place in oven at 425 degrees for 10-15 minutes. Wait until the crust is browned on top.
7. Remove the crust, spread the sauce, add the garlic and red pepper flakes, then sprinkle cheese and onions on top.
8. Put it back into the oven for ten more minutes.
9. If you feel so inclined, sprinkle basil leaves on top.

It’s not actually burnt! The crusts should look like that–nice and crispy. 

During Picture #1

I just finished level one of the Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred and I have mixed feelings. So far, my weight and measurements are the same as when I started. Additionally, I have not noticed too much difference in my muscles. I can still only do about five push-ups. The only small changes I’ve seen so far are slightly more defined muscles in my calves and my right bicep finally starting to show (for some reason, my right bicep is historically much smaller than my left even though I’m right-handed).

For all you visual people out there, here is my “during” picture, which you can compare with my starting picture here. I do not see any difference and I actually may even think I look better in the first set of pictures! Of course, I’m going to keep pushing through the DVD because I know I’m only one third of the way there. Jillian is very inspiring and keeps me pushing myself, so I’m enjoying the workouts and they really make me sweat, too!

Carolyn 30 DS level2