Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Newbie Gardener

I decided this winter that I wanted to have a small vegetable garden in my back yard for the spring and summer. I was dead set on having gardening be my new hobby. I figured it could held me de-stress from hectic work days, could give me something to do, something to take care of, and I also just think it's a great skill to be able to grow your own food! So in the beginning of April, I embarked on my first real try at gardening (planting beans in 4th grade doesn't count for me). 

Since I'm not sure how this is going to go and I don't have great soil in my yard, I decided I would plant my veggies in pots this year and if it goes well, I will invest in or make my own box planter next year. So I set off to buy my supplies. 

I figured that gardening would save me loads of money when my veggies started to sprout, but I guess I didn't initially factor in the start-up costs. I spent over $60 on pots alone from Big Lots. The seeds were pretty cheap, at $1.00 or so per seed pack. I picked up a few varieties of tomatoes, cilantro, basil and summer squash to begin. I bought seedling cups to begin the seeds in. I bought a decorative garden gnome to guard my veggies (I could not resist). 

I had tried to do research beforehand but I think I got carried away too quickly and wound up buying too much of the wrong soil. I bought a bag of potting mix, decided I could forego the seed starter potting mix and bought 2 bags of gardening soil. I know, I should have done more research. 
Tomato seedlings
Photo from tomatoheadquarters.com

It was going great for the first 2 weeks. We had so much sunshine, I could leave the plants near our sliding glass door and they soaked up the sun and the heat. They were sprouting within 5-7 days. I was congratulating myself on being "a gardener." I was imagining my harvest. And then we got almost 2 weeks of clouds and rain and my baby seedlings didn't see the sun for close to 14 days. They started to die off. The basil that had been flourishing wilted. After doing some more research, and making a Pinterest board dedicated to my efforts, I realized that despite my best efforts, my seedlings were "damping off." There was a whole new lingo to go with this hobby, as I should have expected. My plants came up from the soil and then after a few days of looking healthy, they began to wilt and fall over. I was so frustrated and disappointed.

This morning, I decided that I would try again. It's a little late in the season to start from seedlings, but I am going to give it one more effort before I wasted all that time and money. So I bought seed starting potting soil, I bought an LED light for my plants to help them grow indoors, I bought new seeds, I bought new cups, I got a fan to help circulate the air. I researched more thoroughly best practices for sowing seeds, I took care of the soil that I was using and I went at it. 

I have a whole new tray of seedlings, plus about 5 seedlings from my first attempt that looked healthy enough to try to salvage. If this doesn't work, I guess I'll just go to the Garden Center and buy the small vegetable plants and transplant those into my garden. I will be a gardener this summer, if it's the last thing I do. 

Monday, March 28, 2016

Flight Cancellation Woes

Anyone who knows me knows that I have THE WORST LUCK when it comes to travel plans and flying. My woes began back when I studied abroad and it seemed that I could never get home when I planned on it because of delays, city transportation shutting down or other minor disasters. My travel issues didn't end when I returned to America, though. I recently began traveling a lot and it's become the joke among my friends and family and I that I can't ever get where I'm going, or at least not on time. 

Last Sunday, I planned to come home from a week in Tennessee and fly into the local airport on Long Island. Southwest had other plans for me. 

I found out early Sunday morning that my afternoon flight was cancelled due to "severe weather." Let me tell you, there was nothing severe about the flurries that happened IN MARCH. Either way, my flight was cancelled and there were no flights from Southwest that would get me into Islip, LaGuardia or Newark on Sunday. The earliest they were offering me was Monday afternoon, which was plainly unacceptable, especially since I had family in New York that was telling me it was sunny and 45 where my plane was supposed to land.


I had to get home. Because Southwest was super UNHELPFUL, I decided my best plan was to take the first leg of my flight to Baltimore, which was not cancelled and then from there drive the 4 hours home (in the "snow storm"). While I did encounter some pretty kind Southwest customer service reps, the consensus was that no one knew why the flight was cancelled, since there was a projected 1" of snow... And it didn't even wind up snowing even that much. 

I did wind up driving a snazzy burnt orange Hyundai home to Long Island. I got home at 1:00 a.m. and had to be awake at 7 a.m. but I made it. And it didn't even wind up snowing until 2 hours AFTER my flight would have landed. I was seething the entire drive home. And I'm still waiting to hear from Southwest about why on Earth their pilots can't figure out how to fly in a few flurries. 

In other news, this is my third time going to Nashville and this is the third time my flight home from Nashville was cancelled. Maybe I'm just supposed to stay???!!! Hmmm...

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

For the Love of Coffee

I recently embarked on a weekend trip to Nashville with 5 of my best friends from high school. If you've never visited this city, I suggest you book a trip now. If you're at all interested in an incredibly fun time, some of the best musicians in the country playing live music at all hours of the day, and food and drinks to die for, then Nashville is for you. 

When I arrived on Saturday morning, I had less than 4 hours of sleep the previous night and wound up staying up for 24 hours straight. I spent those 24 hours sightseeing and dancing the night away on Broadway, Nashville's downtown main street. This feat would not be possible without the help of coffee. At 8:00 p.m. on Saturday my group headed back to the AirBnB we rented and I almost started crying out of exhaustion; with exhaustion comes complete loss of the ability to control my own emotions, apparently. After a quick cup, I was a whole new person. I was rallying my friends to get out the door and get downtown. They couldn't believe that 20 minutes prior I had been basically cuddling with the coffee maker waiting for it to brew.

I personally think that coffee contains magical properties. Coffee is a friend. Coffee gives me life.

Because of coffee, I was able to go to the Tin Roof, The Stage and Rippy's and listen to some pretty amazing bands until the wee hours of the morning. Because of coffee I was able to take picture after picture with my friends - and those pictures document me being initially pumped up to be in Nashville and show the progress of my exhaustion and coffee-infused comeback. Because of coffee I will have stories to tell for years to come. But I could not have done it without coffee. 

I think you get it. I don't drink coffee every day (though most days I have at least one cup) and it's my goal NOT to become a caffeine addict. But coffee is pretty important to me and I love it wholeheartedly. 

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Best Friend Brunches

If there's one thing I love in this world, it's food. And if there's two things I love in this world it's food and friends. A love a bunch of other things also, but those two are pretty key to my happiness. When I can get food and friends at the same time, it's a damned good day. This morning, one of my best friends, Christine, and I headed to Massapequa Park to have a delicious brunch at Jam

I'm a french toast girl at heart. Sometimes I'll try to make a "healthy" choice and have an omelette at breakfast, but I always want french toast - if it's stuffed french toast, all the better. Christine is a pancake gal, which is wonderful because we each get our own favorites and can have a bite (just one single bite, though, because we're both hungry ladies) and taste the other's dish. 

Jam was a teeny tiny little restaurant in Massapequa Park and we were lucky we were only a party of 2; big groups were waiting 45 minutes to be seated, though we only had to wait 5. The coffee was served in what could have been confused as large bowls... they were quite big, which was a pleasant surprise because coffee cups are usually pretty teeny tiny. I only needed 1 refill all of breakfast, and if anyone knows about my coffee consumption, they'll know those had to be some big cups.

My cinnamon bun french toast was even better than it sounds. There was a scrumptious glaze that was sweet enough that I did not need syrup. Those two (unfortunately only 2) pieces were absolutely perfect just as they came. I finished them off too quickly and honestly debated ordering more. Fortunately for my wallet and my waist line, I decided against seconds, or elevensies, or whatever, and paid the bill before I could ask for more. Christine ordered the cookie dough pancakes. As you can see, we each have a HUGE sweet tooth. 

Christine and I are on a quest to try all of the best brunch spots on Long Island, and maybe we'll even venture into New York City to switch up the scenery sometime. But for now, we've got plenty of territory to cover for Sunday brunch on Long Island. 

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Getting Crafty

Since I began nannying a 3 year old in August, I've definitely had to increase the use of the right side of my brain. Besides running after Colin, pretending I'm a Star Wars Jedi knight who has to fight Darth Vader (always played by Colin) and preventing serious injury, I have become very active on Pinterest. 

These are my basic supplies and I
do my best with what I've got.
I'm always looking for crafting ideas that could occupy Colin for more than 10 minutes. He's totally into art and he loves Star Wars crafts and holiday decorations. There are some amazing Pinterest boards for toddler crafts, but I also have some roadblocks. Usually the only crafting supplies available to me are construction paper, glue and scissors - even the glue isn't always guaranteed. Since Colin isn't my child and I'm at someone else's home, I don't have control over what supplies are in the craft drawer. But I always make sure the house is stocked with construction paper. The stuff is obviously so versatile and, if nothing else, we can cute out shapes and he can color them. 

One of the other obstacles is that I can't print out templates for crafts... I have to hand cut every piece of the craft. My drawing skills, which I have not honed since senior year art class, have significantly improved. I have impressed myself a few times. 

From paper stockings at Christmas to pots of gold for St. Patrick's Day, craft time with Colin has become one of the biggest challenges of my week because I constantly have to come up with crafts and adapt it to whatever supplies are available to use that morning. But it's also been one of the most fun times of my week. What a blessing it is to hear him giggle while making a leprechaun's beard or gluing cotton balls for the Easter lamb's wool. It's pretty fun to sit down with a 3 year old, tell him to design an Easter eg
This bunny was super easy and
it occupied him for 15 minutes!
g and see what he comes up with. Plus, I think it's healthy for adults to break out the crafts every once in a while. I can't lie, sometimes it's not just Colin making a craft. This Pinterest board has become one of my most visited and added to; without it, I would not be sane.

My perfect craft drawer would (ideally) always be stocked with:
-Construction paper
-Safety scissors (for toddler use)
-Glue sticks and liquid glue, as they each have independent, useful purposes
-Googly eyes (A toddler favorite)
-Cotton balls of many colors and sizes
-Popsicle sticks
-Pipe cleaners of all different colors
-Sequins and sparkles (though when I use them, I regret it because they get everywhere)
-Paper plates
-Washable paint (VERY important that it's washable)
-Paint brushes (for when he doesn't feel like finger painting, which isn't often)
-Giant paper
-Wood clothespins

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Cycle Away from Everything

This morning I sent an S.O.S. text to some of my best friends. "I'm so tired, I wish I could run away from school and interning and work and life." Of course, I've never actually been one to run away from anything and would never dream of missing my responsibilities. But this week I've racked up over 60 hours in school, interning or working, and that's not even counting the 5+ hours I spend commuting to those places.

Image: Underground
Health Reporter
When I woke up this morning to write a paper and then go work, I felt overwhelmed and like I needed a break. Thankfully, I have one coming in 3 short weeks! But until then, I know I need to take care of myself. During this 60 hour week from hell, I'd basically completely neglected going to the gym; previously, I have been going 3 to 5 times a week. I could feel myself becoming a monster without that exercise release and without those endorphins pumping through my body. After moping around my house for a few hours and procrastinating, I finally got my 'overwhelmed' butt to the gym and rode on a spin bike for 25 miles. 

I have always been amazed at the human body and exercise psychology is downright fascinating. I was in SUCH a crummy mood this morning, and then I sat myself on a stationary bike for 1 hour and 7 minutes and it's as if I've never felt stressed. 

Image: Men's Health... but the benefits are the
same for women :) 
This attitude transformation is especially interesting to me because I have to present a research article for my Crisis Intervention class called "Strategies for Reducing Secondary or Vicarious Trauma: Do They Work?" There's been a  lot of talk about how important it is for social workers, crisis workers, psychologists and nurses who work with trauma victims to take care of themselves, by seeing a therapist, utilizing supervision, using coping skills, etc so that they don't 'take on' their clients trauma. The research found that most of these interventions are pretty useless and that secondary trauma was no less prevalent among workers who did use these strategies versus workers who did not take time for themselves. The article did not mention exercise specifically, though it did mention leisure activities and activities for personal well-being. Somehow, with all I know about the benefits of exercise, part of me thinks the article must be bogus. But who really knows. Maybe there should be a follow-up research project that strictly looks at the effect of exercise on trauma workers. 

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

House Filling

I am a born shopper, much to my detriment. I love walking around stores, I love buying new things, I love wearing new clothes or finding a place in my room for a new item. I may or may not be a shopaholic. BUT I'm a student so I don't get to buy too often; this weekend I went wild. 

My boyfriend recently moved into his new house outside of Nashville and he moved with basically nothing for a home. He had a bowl, 4 cups, a tv and his clothing. When I visited this past weekend, I was responsible for helping him fill those empty rooms. Oh, boy, did I enjoy it! We went to furniture stores, Bed, Bath and Beyond and went wild at Target, one of my all-time favorite stores. The best part was that I could bring the items into Travis' new house and I didn't pay for anything. I got the thrill of purchasing and having new things (though not for my home) and I didn't have to break out my wallet.

Things got interesting when I was ready to put a bathmat in Travis' cart and he stopped me. He was adamant that he did NOT need a bathmat. He's never used one and never will, or so he said. Spoiler alert: I bought the bathmat and put it in his bathroom (fine, I did pay for a few things). He used it. Liz: 1, Travis: 2 - because he's the real winner in this situation, let's be honest. There are simply things that women wouldn't hesitate to buy for a new home (hand soap, a shower curtain) that men are reluctant to buy and see as frivolous. I spent much of the weekend trying to explain the necessity of an oven mitt, and trying to persuade him to buy sheets that fit his bed. At the end of the weekend, I walked away thinking, You win some, you lose some. I'm pretty certain that the coconut ginger hand soap won't be there next time I visit. $0.87 wasted, but a noble effort, I think! 

When I walked into the home on Friday night, it was honestly empty. By the time I left on Monday afternoon, it was much more filled up and felt like a home- there were even pictures hanging up and decor will be delivered this week. I'm so happy for Travis and his new home and I can't wait to visit next. When I left, though, I felt sadness. I'm 22 and I'm a graduate student living at home. I am totally jealous of Travis' freedom and his own space and I cannot wait to move out and have a home of my own - hopefully sooner rather than later. 

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Big Plans

I'm incredibly lucky to have been able to live in London for 4 months and travel a lot of Europe while doing my undergrad, and further lucky enough to have parents that made sure I saw some of this country's wildest national parks. I was raised seeing new places and experiencing exciting parts of the world, so I have to admit it: I have the travel bug. And the travel bug has been ITCHING lately. I spend hours at a time searching for hostels in Galway, flights to the Domincan Republic and trains to every part of the USA. Finally, I spent my day putting my credit card to use and booking a few vacations for myself.

Being in a long-distance relationship, Southwest and I have built up quite a relationship over the past 9 months. I had enough Rapid Rewards points that I could get one of the flights for just the $5 government service fee - SCORE! On another one of my flights, I was able to use a $150 travel credit from one of my many flight delays... I never said my relationship with Southwest was a 100% good one, but that flight delay has paid off! For the other 2 flights, I flew early in the morning for the cheapest deal of the day, and the other one was not too bad, considering how much money I had saved already. 

For both trips, I will be going to Tennessee. For the first trip, I'll be spending Valentine's Day with my boyfriend in Clarksville where he will be a new home renter. We'll probably spend the weekend buying furniture or something wonderfully exciting. Seriously, that excites me, I love shopping. On the second trip, I'll be heading down to Nashville over Spring Break for a weekend with some of my best friends from high school. To say I'm pumped would be an understatement. 

After a grueling new semester and some chilly temperatures (fine, it hasn't really been that bad, aside from the 2 feet of snow we got), I will be very happy to leave the Northeast and depart for the south... where it still won't be that warm, but it will be better than being on Long Island. 

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Dealing with Airline Delays

I originally wrote this post for my best friend's blog, The 22nd Year... And I decided to post it on my own as well because today I had another delay (of course). 

If you have as crummy luck as I do when flying, first of all, I am so sorry. I feel your pain. Because of my luck, I spend an abundance of time in airports with not a whole lot to do. But it’s also given me a lot of insight on how to handle a flight delay, cancellation and any other troubles that inevitably come my way. My bad luck started the first time I flew without my parents on Delta Airlines and now that I’m flying almost monthly, my airline luck has not improved… at all. Here are a few things I’ve learned from my travel woes:
1. Know Your Enemy – While it’s easy to attack the customer service representative when you find out your flight is delayed or cancelled, relax. That person has virtually no control over anything to do with flight operations and they are not responsible for the flight problems. They do work for the airline that is at fault, but they are still people and don’t deserve to be belittled and screamed at, as I’ve seen people do. They are required to paste a smile on their face while irrational people scream at them. Yikes.
Flying Southwest over Long Island offers
pretty spectacular views (and delays).

2. Demand the Truth – Basically the one thing this customer service representative can control is the information they tell you. I’ve asked an employee why the plane is delayed and they gave me a different answer than they gave the next customer in line. Knowing the real reason for the delay doesn’t make the delay any shorter but, as a customer who paid hundreds of dollars for this service, I want the truth. Being lied to sucks and makes me never want to fly that airline again. Just tell me the truth, or else I do have a serious bone to pick with you.

3. Milk It – At the end of the day, you paid a lot of money for a service that was not completed as expected. If you’re delayed or cancelled, you can and should ask for a travel voucher or discounts on future flights. I have gotten $150 in travel credit for a 4 hour delayed flight. Sometimes they’ll give them to people right as they’re waiting at the airport and other times you’ll have to email the airline. Don’t feel bad about asking, because they did not technically do their job correctly.

4. Explore the Airport – When I have a few hours to kill, the worst thing to do is to sit and seethe. It’s easy to just sit with a scowl on and feel bad for yourself (and I’m totally guilty of this) but I think it’s healthier if you take a walk, check out the stores and maybe grab some food to distract you. This is mostly just a tip to maintain your own sanity. I can basically walk the entirety of Baltimore and Islip airports with my eyes closed and I’m  too familiar with  Atlanta and Tampa Airports in my opinion. Still, walking is always better than planting myself in the terminal and thinking about how much life sucks in that moment.

5. Make Friends – Again, maintaining your sanity is very important in this stressful and frustrating situation. Maybe the only good thing that comes from a delay is that all of the passengers have something in common. It’s easy to strike up conversation with the person sitting next to you when you’re both grumbling about the delay. Maybe you could even steer the conversation away from complaints and towards something more fun, like where you’re from and why you’re flying. I’ve met a lot of really interesting people while on delays; hearing bits of someone else’s life story is more fun than seething by yourself.

When you just want to get started on your vacation or get to your event, delays can put a traveler in a seriously foul mood. Like most things in this world, there's rarely much we can do to change the overall situation (like getting a flight crew to my plane) but I do have control over my mood, and I try to remind myself that this is not the end of the world. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Pray for Paris, Peace & Love

Last weekend, a horrific scene unfolded in Paris, France and ISIS was responsible for the loss of over 120 innocent lives. My Facebook page was immediately filled with people who were showing their allegiance to America's oldest ally by sharing photos, changing their profile pictures and posting messages about their loyalty to the country. It was beautiful and tragic and sad and lovely, all at the same time. 
11/13/15 will be etched into the hearts of the
French in the same way that 9/11/01 remains
in the hearts of Americans.

On one hand, I am heartbroken for the 129 people who lost their lives and the thousands of their family and friends who will never be the same and the millions of people whose country was terrorized. On the other hand (I say this with a heavy heart), disaster does bring out the best in humanity - admittedly, in response to the worst. There was an incredible outpouring of love to the men and women whose lives were altered on November 13 in Paris. There was support and random acts of kindness. 

Those things remind me that no matter how much bad happens, there is good, too. There will always be good people doing good things. Even in the midst of the attacks, there were people -heroes, really- sacrificing themselves so that others may live. I choose to keep my main focus on them. Otherwise, I'm afraid I will get sucked into believing that the world is filled with inhumane, hateful terrorists, when I know that truly the world is filled with lovers and heroes. I do believe that we must take control of the escalating situation with ISIS, but I also want to keep reminding myself that there are good people everywhere. 

While there is an outpouring of love and support for those in Paris, I hope the same love and acceptance reaches the Muslim community that is aching for Paris, as well. There are men and women on this planet who have bastardized a religion for their own agenda. These types of people exist in every single religion. I hope the Muslim extremists, if we can even call them religious people anymore, do not continue to taint all Muslims around the world. Of the 1.5 billion Muslims, most are peaceful people. I hope the peaceful Muslims can know peace and tolerance and stop being portrayed by ignorant people as extremist, ISIS sympathizers. Most of the Muslim world has condemned ISIS, just as the western world has. I hope we can extend acceptance and support and love towards our Muslim counterparts so that they do not face discrimination based on the acts of a few terrible, terrible people.

My heart goes out to the victims of the Paris attacks. I can still remember September 11 vividly and I remember the fear. I know the fear won't go away for many of the survivors, but I hope they know that most of the world is supporting them and standing strong with them. When the world experiences hatred and violence, let us answer with love to Paris - and give ISIS hell.