March 28

My goodness, this has been quite a busy past few weeks, but I am back, and I am ready to start my last quarter of undergraduate education! (Who’s freaking out? Not me…)

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, so I’ll update you on life as it happened for me this last half of the month of March. And I’ll do so in my favorite way—as a list:

  • I took two in-class finals and wrote two research papers, both of which stressed me out more in thought than in action.
  • I ended up with an A- in my history seminar, which is a big deal if you’re at all familiar with the way grades work at Northwestern! And my sociology and geography classes weren’t awful either.
  • I read and finished reading a book! It was Hell Bent, by Benjamin Lorr. I am weird and like to read about yoga, guys.
  • I had my annual pre-spring break screening of (500) Days of Summer. A bit of background: After knowing the soundtrack very well for months in advance, I finally got around to watching this movie on the Friday before going home for spring break at the end of winter quarter my freshman year. My roommate was gone, I was lonely, my room was hot, and I was still reeling from a breakup that had taken place about two months before, and this movie made me cry so good, and it is what got me over the hump of my breakup and back into the world again. I have lots of feels for this movie and still like to watch it annually before spring break.
  • I cooked an awful brown rice and edamame dish with puréed scallion sauce that gave me 36-hour onion breath and subsequently got tossed out (which is a big deal for me, because I always eat my leftovers).
  • I completed Pure Barre’s 20 classes in 30 days challenge, even despite being out of town for a week!
  • I got my third set of highlights in my hair, and it looks awesome and even more blonde than before.
  • I (re-)watched all of season 1 of Portlandia and read the cookbook that goes along with the show.
  • I also watched Forks Over Knives, which, like many things I have watched and read these past couple of years, affirms my skepticism for eating meat as often as I used to.
  • I resurrected my semi-dormant food blog and posted a recipe for a green smoothie! (Let’s see how well I can handle running two sites at once, lol.)
  • In light of her 21st birthday, one of my lovely friends took me and a bunch of my sorority sisters out for all you can eat tacos at DS Tequila Company in Lakeview in Chicago, and I drank delicious margaritas and ate too many tacos, then I found out that her mom was footing the bill. I will return this generosity when I can! So thankful.
  • I had an amazing unofficial St. Patrick’s Day celebration in Chicago with a few of my closest friends that involved lots of Guinness, macaroni and cheese, jello shots, inebriated Mario Kart, pinball at Headquarters Beercade, free Jameson shots at Mad River nearby, truffle fries at DMK Burger Bar, karaoke and green beer at Trader Todd’s, more singing and drinks at Lincoln Karaoke (at a friend’s birthday party, where I ran into an ex of my current male interest!), beer at Half Acre Beer Company, and surprisingly no hangover the next day! (Days like these spent roaming the city with my friends are what make me love Chicago to the core.)
  • And last but not least, I spent a week in beautiful, sunny Key West with my best friend and her incredibly wonderful mom and mom’s friend. I had a blast. I will blog about the trip and share photos tomorrow so that the experiences I had there can get their share of the glory.

I have to admit that, reading over this post right now before hitting publish, I myself am astounded at what I’ve done in my life since I’ve last blogged on here. I have been busy busy busy, but now I’m back and ready to make even more memories in this final quarter of college. It’s great to be back! 🙂

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Cooking is My Meditation

These past couple of years, I’ve done yoga on and off. When things have gotten stressful, I’ve taken some yoga classes, and then I would go a few months and take more when the stress came back.

While the poses in yoga are fun, my favorite part is the meditation aspect. Being told to sit there with a quiet mind is so freeing, and I can definitely say I feel the yoga bliss after some meditation practice in class.

Being a college student, I can’t afford (time or money-wise) to go to yoga classes regularly. I know it’s very doable to start a home practice, but I guess I’m just that kind of person who responds well to instruction instead of my own willpower. I’ve tried meditation on my own too, and it’s hard to decide to sit there for even 5 minutes without thoughts racing through my mind when I know there’s so much other stuff I can do at that time.

Analyzing my stress patterns has shown me one interesting thing, however. While I turn to yoga mostly when I get stressed, I also cook more when I am feeling that pressure. There’s something about being in the kitchen that calms my nerves and alleviates any worries I have about the future, because in that moment, I am chopping my carrots or whisking my dressing. There’s no place in the kitchen for job application stress or relationship drama, just the promise of delicious food in my immediate future.

This week is the start of reading week for winter quarter at my university. That means I have two research papers and a final exam to complete in the next week or so, and just that thought alone can burden my waking hours as well as my nightmares.

That’s why, instead of taking this evening to study or do anything school-related, I cooked a mega-recipe from my newest cookbook, Thug Kitchen, using three different recipes and sets of ingredients. I spent a couple of hours total in the kitchen, between chopping my vegetables, boiling the noodles, and cleaning all the dishes, but those were two hours of me being present, and isn’t that what meditation is about?

Sometimes I can get down on myself for failing to follow through with my latest promises like, “This week, you’re going to meditate for real.” But I have to remember that we all have our ways of checking out and tuning in, and I guess that’s what cooking does for me.

Besides give me a week’s worth of delicious veggie noodle salad.

If I Were A Sim

I used to play Sims 2 back in middle school, before the days of intense homework, essays, college applications, and clubs. Even though it felt like the most mindless activity out there at the time, I sometimes think about the game to this day, especially in terms of the whole aspirations thing.

Quick Sims lesson for anyone out there reading this who hasn’t ever played: When you have an adult Sim, you get to choose a life aspiration for him or her. Aspirations can be family, fortune, knowledge, popularity, romance, and so on, and they govern the Sim’s wants and fears in the game.

Sure, the Sims is just a video game I liked to play (as in build houses and people, play for a night, and start over again the next time I start the game), but its aspirations feature comes back to me sometimes, especially on weekends like this.

At the time I was playing it, I was very focused on my schoolwork, so you could say my aspiration was knowledge. I brought a lot of energy to all the essays I wrote for class, all the geometry problem sets I completed, and even all the posterboard presentations I created throughout the years. But after going off to college, strangely enough, my aspirations shifted. In the beginning of my freshman year, I ended up somewhere in the popularity sector. My new friends were numerous and spanned a range of clubs and activities, and I reveled in the time we would all just hang out and do nothing.

Now that I’m in my last few months of college, I think my aspiration has shifted again. While many people in my position might be aiming for fortune or something along the lines of power (a hidden aspiration on Sims 2), I think I am drifting more into romance.

In the interest of sparing you all the details, I have a very close friend I met almost three years ago when he also attended my university. He is two years older than me, so even though we have talked almost every day since we started hanging out, we’ve spent most of that time in different states. We aren’t in a relationship because we don’t want to start something long-distance, but it’s still there.

He visited this weekend, and we had a great time.

And it tore me apart in an embarrassing way when we said our goodbyes, which obviously happen every time we get to visit, because I have this unfounded fear that this will be the last time we see each other. If I were a Sim with a romantic aspiration, my fear of abandonment or moving on would be very real. At least real enough that I’m pretty sure it is exactly what I experienced today when I was curled up on my couch sobbing about silly things that ultimately shouldn’t affect my life so much.

It’s really interesting to look back on my priorities through the years. I still put an extremely high amount of time into my work and efforts at finding a job after graduation, but it seems my heart lies in other matters.

To Those About To Dance, I Salute You

Here at Northwestern, one of the biggest weekends of the year is Dance Marathon weekend, when undergraduates crowd an enormous tent at our student center and dance for 30 hours straight, raising money for a certain beneficiary.

I am a senior, and I was all in line for my place in the 120 hour club (when you dance each year—30*4, you do the math), but earlier this week, I decided it would be best to not participate physically this year.

Dance Marathon is an amazing weekend full of camaraderie, philanthropy, and love all around, but 30 hours on your feet is obviously very tough on your feet and knees and will leave you hobbling around for at least a couple of days after. Not to mention the fact that being awake so long is not exactly what you need when you’re as stressed out as I have been (luckily this is getting better at least, woo!). Although Dance Marathon ends at 1 a.m. on a Sunday and you can sleep 16 hours and wake up and it’s still Sunday, it’s a bit hard to get back on a normal sleep schedule.

I have amazing memories of dancing with my sorority sisters, laughing at each other’s zombie-like dance moves as the hours pass, storming the stage during Fatboy Slim’s “Rockafeller Skank”, and singing verbatim my two biggest pump-up jams, “Semi Charmed Life” and “(I Will Walk) 500 Miles”, and because I am so satisfied with these amazing memories, I choose to dwell on those this weekend instead of thinking too much about the fact that I’m taking my fourth and heralded year off from the dance floor.

In the meantime, though, I am sending all my good vibes to my friends who are dancing this year and making even more great memories! I can’t wait to see the photos later.

Bill McKibben on Campus

I’m going to one of the best research universities in the country, yet I can admit that I rarely make it out to speaker events unless I am coerced by a friend to go. It’s not that I don’t like these things, but sometimes I also like staying home and reading too.

Last night, however, I went to an event like this without being coerced in any way. Northwestern’s Students for Ecological and Environmental Development (SEED) brought Bill McKibben, famed journalist and founder of 350.org, a climate activist site, to Northwestern to talk about climate change. I’m not particularly knowledgeable about the environment, but it is something I would love to read and learn more about, so I figured this event would be a great place to start. And it was.

I have always known climate change is an immediate and important topic we should all probably educate ourselves better on, but I never knew it was as big as it is. Bill spoke about how the Earth is only about a couple degrees warmer than its normal temperature, due to all the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, but there is the potential, with bad environmental decisions, to up the temperature even farther in the immediate future, an effect that would further acidify the oceans and disrupt weather patterns.

I realize Bill is very biased, obviously, in his views on the environment, but even if he is, the information he shared with us last night really got me thinking about what one person like me could do to help protect the environment. Yeah, I sometimes take long showers, and I sometimes forget to turn lights off when I leave the room, so I know there’s definitely room for improvement. I would love to read more about the subject, but for now, I’m glad these are ideas at the forefront of my mind.

One part of Bill’s presentation that particularly struck me was his photo slideshow related to his organization’s International Day of Climate Action and the more-than 180 countries around the world whose citizens demonstrated on behalf of environmental protection. It’s really easy to think about environmentalism and imagine the Al Gores and the hippies of the world as the face of the movement, but seeing Bill’s photos of all kinds of people in countries I have barely heard of before was really touching and memorable for me. It assures me that this is a topic that people around the world are sincerely passionate about and that can bring people together like many other huge political talking points never will.

I am a little bit reluctant to admit that it has taken me until my senior year to voluntarily attend these kinds of events, but better late than never, right? I think so.

That Acne Life

I have been dealing with acne literally as long as I remember. Back in third grade, I was the only 9-year-old in class with a couple of pimples, and by middle school, I had begun to rely on slathering my face in foundation in order to get the nerve to even leave my house. I took Accutane for 4 months in my early high school years, and even to this day, I deal with flare-ups on a pretty regular basis.

I wish I had advice to give anyone reading my blog who deals with the same kind of persistent acne as I do, but unfortunately if I had that advice, I wouldn’t be sitting here with several acne face products I use on a regular basis.

I’m very interested in the effects of diet on overall health outside of the obvious body weight, and I have done a little bit of reading on diet’s effects on acne. With my latest flare-up, I’ve become more desperate than ever to pinpoint the cause (besides the probable hormone stuff), and I think a lot of my problems with acne may stem from what I eat.

I know I could try harder to eat less inflammatory foods. Chocolate is a mainstay, and more and more lately, I have been finding myself consuming a ton of dairy, from yogurt to cream to cheese.

I want to try a little experiment, if it’s possible for me to even stick with it. I want to cut out dairy for a bit and see what it does to my skin. I’ve done it before for a while when I experimented with veganism, and the funny thing is that I tended to crave meat over cheese, which is the opposite of most people who try that.

For now, I’m going to keep the meat but try and cut back on the dairy. I also bought zinc picolinate supplements because those are apparently beneficial for adult acne sufferers like myself, and I have been trying to consume apple cider vinegar daily.

I feel like these past 10 years of my life, I have been so intent on trying to deal with my acne, but it’s always from the outside, with expensive creams and gels, or it’s with pharmaceuticals that may, as is the case with Accutane, be extremely detrimental to my health.

Time to try this the old fashioned way, all on my own.

My Chance Encounter with Fred Armisen

I have had a fabulous past few days, but nothing can top what happened last night.

Natasha Lyonne, of Orange is the New Black and American Pie fame, came to Northwestern for a speaking event, and while I watch very, VERY little television, I tagged along because my best friend loves OITNB and because I managed to snag a free ticket. As luck would have it, she also happened to win a meet and greet with Natasha—which is amazing because no one I know ever wins these kinds of contests when student groups put them on, let alone my best friend. Naturally, I became her plus one because she is the best.

Shortly before the show, my friend peered toward the front of the auditorium and nudged me. “Is that Fred Armisen?” she asked.

I couldn’t see who she was referring to at first, but then I saw a man with dark hair and black-rimmed glasses after a few seconds. “This is Northwestern, Caroline. Everyone has dark hair and hipster glasses.”

“No, I think it might be him,” she said. “But it couldn’t be.”

We both stared at the man in the front seats for a few more seconds until he turned and we saw his profile. “Oh my god, I think it is him,” she said at the same time I was thinking that.

So basically instead of listening to a lot of what Natasha was talking about at the event, I was fidgeting in my seat and freaking out about the fact that one of my favorite comedians was in the room with me. Like I said, my TV watching habits are pretty nonexistent when I’m not at home and don’t have access to cable or time for binge watching popular shows, no matter how good they are (for instance, Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones are both on my list), but when I was in New York this past fall, I did actually manage to binge watch Portlandia because it is weird and brilliant, and so is Fred Armisen.

I was desperately hoping Fred would be at the meet and greet, even though he kept a super low profile in the audience at Natasha’s event. As soon as it was over, I saw security guards escort him out the side door first thing, and I knew he must have been headed there.

And soon enough, at the meet and greet just after the show, both he and Natasha were there. I geeked out a lot and got anxious that they wouldn’t want me to take photos with them or that time would run out while I was waiting in line amid the other 25 students who were there, but sure enough, I got to meet both of them, and they were lovely people.

I can’t believe what kind of crazy stuff can happen when you tag along on friends’ random contest-won events. I will forever be in debt to my best friend. In honor of her and the fact that she is trying so hard to persuade me to binge watch Broad City with her, here’s Fred Armisen in Broad City, in a clip I am very fortunate to have seen AFTER I met him. Ha.