Posts Tagged With: panda

Happy Callie, Checking In

I haven’t checked this blog in two months.  I know, I’m the worst.  I’m like the person that buys a really awesome potted plant, takes care of it, and then forgets to water it for a while.  (Actually, I’m not like that person– I am that person.  Plants are hard.)  But, here I am, dusting off the leaves and ready for sunshine.  And, to my amazement, my blog has stayed kicking without me, getting a steady stream of views through Google and Pinterest.  The roots are still very much alive.

This has been such an insane semester!  I did end up getting a new job; I was promoted to the lead secretary in the counseling department and I was put in charge of the high school’s College & Career Center.  I know, ironic right?  There I was, fresh out of college, ready to help kids figure out what to do with their lives when I’m still not so sure what to do with mine.  However, over the past few months I’ve found a lot of joy in helping kids discover a path in life that will take them where they want to go.  I’ve had to wipe a lot of tears and say, “Yes, the real world is scary, it’s true.  But it’s also awesome.”

Me at my desk. My office is decorated with college pennants, but the Hardin-Simmons one got prime wall space by my diploma.

One of my biggest projects this semester has been helping the seniors find scholarships.  I’ve spent countless hours scouring the internet for scholarship opportunities and talking to local scholarship donors.  I also organized Senior Awards Night, which was a huge ordeal and was probably about as stressful to plan as my wedding was.  Our seniors received $2.5 million in scholarships this year, partly because of my help!  The best thing this job has helped me realize is how much I love helping people.  Even though the job doesn’t pay much, it’s gratifying enough to make it worth it.

This is one of my projects for my students. I researched a bunch of scholarships and put them on slips of paper with the amount, due date, etc. I would remove them after they were due until they were all gone.

In March, I was finally approved to get breast reduction surgery.  This was something I thought about for a long time and I’m so glad I did it.  My chronic back pain is gone, I can exercise more, my clothes fit better, and I feel so much more confident.  The recovery process was difficult, but I feel back to normal now.  I’ve never been the type to condone plastic surgery, but now that I’ve been through it myself I understand a lot better why someone would want to go through that.  My surgery wasn’t for cosmetic reasons as much as it was to get rid of the back pain that often left me in tears after a long day of work.

Ready for surgery, but scared to pieces! I had never had surgery before.

The results have been more than I could ever have hoped for.  I feel 100% better.  I was out from work for nearly two weeks, and that made a stressful semester even more stressful.  However, I don’t regret it one bit.

Before, December 2012

After, June 2013

I spent my recovery surrounded by pandas…

… and a Panda, so I managed to recover just fine.

In other news, spring came and it brought bluebonnets!  God bless Texas.

My parents gave us this great old dresser.  Hopefully sometime this summer I will have a chance to paint it to match our bedroom.  Stay tuned for that!

My hair got super long…

Sam had a Star Wars themed birthday party, complete with a Darth Vader cake (chocolate cake recipe was Revell’s Food Cake) designed by me.

A bunch of friends came in to visit, and that was so great to see everybody and celebrate Sam’s special day.

A couple of weeks ago, we went to the Renaissance Faire with our friends Autumn and Vincent.

Ian the Korean came to visit!

Also, for the first time ever I got paid for a professional writing assignment!  I’ve been writing for a local magazine called NOW Magazine.  My first article will be published in July or August.  I will definitely post the link for you when it comes out.

Sam officially finished his first year of teaching today!  He cleared out his classroom and turned in his keys this morning.  That means we are moving again sometime this summer.  We don’t know where yet, but we are on the lookout for a Social Studies teaching position somewhere in Texas.  It’s always scary to be so uncertain about the future, but we are searching hard and I have faith something will turn up.  For now, Sam and I are enjoying the adventure.

Now you are all caught up!  I still have work for another three weeks, but after that I’ll be out for the summer and I’ll hopefully have more free time to devote to my little plant.

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Categories: My Life | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Libraries, Cheesecake, and Chandler Bing

Our Christmas Tree. We received our amazing Yoda tree-topper for Christmas, but our tree is only a few feet tall. Next year we might have to upgrade to a bigger tree to better accommodate Master Yoda.

Life has a way of slipping by when my back is turned.  I can’t believe it’s 2013 already.  Sam wrapped up his first semester of teaching a few weeks ago, and he is happy for the break.  His first semester went well, though his coaching duties made it very busy.  I started my new job at the end of November, and I wrapped up the semester on December 21.  It feels like I hardly worked at all before Christmas break, and I haven’t gotten a paycheck yet, so I can’t really tell how work is going so far.  I enjoy my job, but it’s a little underwhelming.  I only work four hours a day and each of those four hours is spent either bending over a copy machine making sure staples don’t snag or migrating back and forth between my desk trying to look busy.  I work very quickly and there simply isn’t enough work to take up my time.  I work with great people and the work isn’t hard, so I’m not trying to complain or anything.  Maybe that’s the problem– the work isn’t challenging.  After slaving away for A+ grades in college, I feel underutilized running a copy machine.  It’s the same work I did in ninth grade working in the principal’s office for P.E. credit.

(Thank goodness they let awkward, nerdy girls like me get P.E. credit working in the office.  They saved me from a year of changing my clothes under my clothes and going to my next class all sweaty.  I did end up having to take a semester of P.E. in 10th grade, and I’m not kidding about this: my friend, Erika, and I would bring athletic pants to school in our backpacks and wear them over our jeans so we wouldn’t have to change for gym class.  Our P.E. teacher would always have some random activity planned, like volleyball or indoor soccer.  She even let us try archery– that lasted about twenty minutes until she realized giving a bunch of high schoolers bows and arrows and letting them go at it might not have been the best idea.  For those that didn’t want to participate in the activities, she let walk laps around the gym.  As long as we were constantly moving during class, we got credit.  That’s how Erika and I spent a semester walking laps around a gym wearing jeans and sweatpants at once.)

Anyway, I actually have an interview scheduled for Monday.  There’s an opening in the high school library for a library aide, and I really want it.  The position is full time and would be much more interesting work.  I’ve always loved libraries; I see them as a haven.  It’s where I always go when I need somewhere very quiet and safe. I don’t know if the job will work out because there are several other applicants who probably have a lot more experience than me, but I’m going to try anyway.  There’s also a full-time secretary position that I applied for, too.  I guess you could say I’m casting my nets far and wide.

Sam and I don’t really know what’s going to happen in the future… We don’t even know where he’ll be teaching next year.  That makes it hard for me to settle down and commit to things like this, but I’m learning to take everything one day at a time.  A few months of experience is better than no experience at all.  I know whatever works out will be the right thing.  I’m still very excited about the idea of trying a new  job soon… We’ll see what happens.

So much else happened last month!  December was very busy for us.  We celebrated our first anniversary on December 18!  Sam bought me a gorgeous necklace from James Avery that matches my wedding ring perfectly.  I was shocked… I didn’t even hint for it!  He picked it out all by himself and I absolutely love it.  He knows me so well.  We enjoyed a dinner at Carino’s Italian (that’s our go-to restaurant; not only is the food delicious, but it’s where we went on our first date, the night we got engaged, and the night we got married).  Then, we went and saw The Hobbit together, which I loved.

December 19 was our chinchilla Rigby’s first birthday.  We got him his favorite toy (a bundle of sticks he enjoys chewing to bits) and spoiled him with treats all day.  We love the little fuzzball.

On December 21, the world was supposed to end.  As a joke, Sam and I invited a bunch of our college friends to an “End of the World Afterparty” to celebrate, and they all showed up!  We ended up having eleven people in our tiny apartment, and most of them stayed the night.  It was a blast!  We ate a ton of food and played party games.

Sam and Ian were a little exhausted the day after the party. (Sam is the Korean on the right, Ian is the Korean on the left.)

The next day, we went antique shopping in downtown Waxahachie.  Then, Sam’s brother and his family arrived from Indiana on their way to Austin for Christmas with Sam’s family.  We joined them the next day and spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in Austin. I did a lot of baking for Christmas!  I made a Christmas Checkerboard Cake using the same technique I used for my original Checkerboard Cake.  I also made my first apple pie!

The family helped celebrate my birthday and my niece Lizzy’s birthday (mine was on the 26 and hers was on the 28) by making us a panda cake!  I was beyond excited when I first saw it.

Lizzy even made me a Hello Kitty panda on the Hello Kitty dress-up app I downloaded onto my iPhone for her.  She accidentally upgraded it to the full version for $1.99 because I was dumb enough to let a kid who can’t read yet play with my phone.  Oh well, at least I got this:

We drove to Abilene to see my extended family.  We ended up playing games and I found time to see Les Miserables, which I also loved.  We made it home in time for Sam’s brother to pass back through on the way back to Indiana.  For New Year’s Eve, our friends Ben, Camille, and Anthony came over to celebrate.  We watched the ball drop online and I made my first cheesecake.  I tried a recipe from Betty Crocker for chocolate covered cherry cheesecake and it turned out delicious!  Everyone liked it.

Our house has finally started to quiet down. It’s a wreck and I have a ton of cleaning to do, but it was worth it to see so many people we love.  Now, I’m relaxing and watching Friends.  I actually saw my first episode of Friends during Thanksgiving when my older sister, Taylor, was watching one of the Thanksgiving episodes as a re-run on TV.  I know, I know– I’m about a decade late to the party, but I absolutely love this show.  I’ve been watching low-quality episodes online, and the box set is definitely going on my Christmas list next year.  The show is just so well written and the acting is great.  I’ve become emotionally invested in the characters.  I cried when Chandler proposed to Monica; it was just so sweet.

That brings me to my final point: Chandler Bing is one of the best men in television history, hands down.  He’s definitely my favorite character on the show.  He has such a kind heart and he’s hilarious.  He’s been through a lot of difficult circumstances, but he manages to laugh about it.  He’s good at making people feel better or calming people down when they’re stressed or scared.  He’s goofy and cute.  He reminds me a lot of Sam, which is probably why I like him so much.

So, happy 2013!  Watch this clip of funny Chandler moments, and let yourself laugh.  :)

Categories: My Life | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

DIY Mail Sorter

Bill.

That word can mean several things.  Some might think of ducks, some might think of a past president or celebrity.

When I see that word, I think of money: dollar bills, and the pieces of paper that come in the mail and take those dollar bills away.

Over the past few months, Sam and I have shed a bit of our newlywed status by becoming more independent and accepting more responsibilities.  That means paying for things we didn’t pay for in college: cell phone service, electricity, water, rent… It’s a lot to keep up with, and it’s exhausting to think that the bills will keep coming for the rest of our lives.

Since Sam is busy with his first semester of teaching, I’ve taken over most of our financial obligations.  I’m still looking for a job, but I’m still running into constant dead ends because I don’t have enough experience.  I only graduated last spring, so I don’t know how I’m supposed to gain experience if no one will hire me.  So, at this point, Sam makes the money and I spend it!  I don’t go on shopping sprees, though; I spend our money through bills, making sure we don’t get kicked out of our apartment for not paying rent, or get left in the dark when our electricity provider shuts us off.  I spend our money on groceries to make sure Sam doesn’t starve.

Keeping up with our mail has been an issue for me because it tends to float all over our apartment.  Sometimes I drop it off on the kitchen island, sometimes it ends up on the desk in our bedroom… It’s easy to lose track of it all.  I’ve been looking for a good mail sorter for a few weeks now.  Our town has several great antique stores, but none of them had exactly what I was looking for: I needed something that would have vertical slots for me to sort our mail so our bills don’t get lost.  I found baskets and other containers that were close to what I needed, but not quite.  I even went to Office Depot and considered buying a $40 stacking tray set, but couldn’t bring myself to spend that much money.

So, what’s a girl to do when what she wants doesn’t exist?  Do it herself!

Here’s how I made my simple mail sorter for my kitchen counter out of three basic magazine holders.  It was an easy and fun project that I completed in less than an hour, but it makes a huge difference in my house.

First, I started with three black magazine holders I found at Target for $4.99 each.  They’re made out of sturdy cardboard.

I removed the metal label holders on the front of them.  They popped off pretty easily.  After that, I stacked them on their sides and decided how I wanted them to fit in the corner on my counter.  Here’s what the corner looked like before:

Clutter!  An ugly, cheap toaster we never use, Sam’s Gatorade powder, some random ribbon, and a stained plastic cutting board.  The only thing I deemed worthy to stay was our adorable desktop panda calendar.  I wanted the mail sorter to fit in the corner where our Darth Vader cookie jar was, so I planned accordingly and glued them together with a hot glue gun.

Looks great, but I wanted to dress it up a bit.  I found these old reading flash cards at a local thrift store and thought they were charming.

I love the classic font and the antique, stained look.  I cut them to size and glued them to the side to give the mail sorter a fun, whimsical feel.

After that, the black top felt too plain.  I pulled out an old paperback copy of The Ponder Heart by Eudora Welty that I used in a previous craft project.  A professor assigned the book in a Southern Literature class in college, and I ordered this copy off Amazon for a penny.  It arrived with the first chapter missing, so I replaced it and use it for crafting now.  It has beautifully yellowed pages because it’s so old.  I used it to decoupage the top of the mail sorter.

Then, I cleared off my counter.  Everything found a new place, including Darth Vader, who now guards the fridge against Rebel forces:

And the mail sorter looks great on the counter!  It adds a lot of character to my kitchen.

This is a great project because it’s completely customizable.  You could use different patterns of scrapbook paper to make any color combination you want.  You could even make cute labels for each of the slots.

What do you think?  Should I have sprung for the stacking trays, or was this a good alternative?

Categories: DIY | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Little Panda Cupcakes

Are these the cutest cupcakes you’ve ever seen or what?!  I am so in love, in more ways than one.

I got the idea from Angie at Bakerella. Last April, she posted these adorable mini panda cupcakes, and I’ve been completely obsessed with them ever since.  I’ve been dying to make them and finally seized the chance today. What’s the occasion, you ask?  Well, this Thursday (October 25) marks exactly three years since Sam asked me to be his girlfriend!  We’ve come a long way since then, and what better way to celebrate my Panda than with these cute panda cupcakes?

If you want to make them yourself, they’re really easy and fun.  You can use any chocolate cake base and any white frosting.  I chose to use my favorite chocolate cake recipe (Revell’s Food Cake) and my favorite cream cheese frosting (I used it when I made my Checkerboard Cake).  I’ve copied the recipes here for easy reference, but if making cake and frosting from scratch scares you, a box mix and a tub of store-bought frosting will work just fine.  You’ll be missing out on this delicious combination, though!

Revell’s Food Cake

2 cups sugar
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup strong black coffee
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 350°F. Set mini cupcake liners into a mini cupcake pan and spray the cups with non-stick cooking spray (preferably butter flavored).
  2. Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a large bowl (the bowl of your mixer works best). Add eggs, buttermilk, coffee (hot), oil, and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes (batter will be thin and slightly bubbly from the hot coffee). Fill the cups 2/3 of the way full.
  3. Bake 12-15 minutes. Test with a toothpick or fork poked into the center. If it comes out clean, they’re done!
  4. Let cool for 30 minutes. Use wire cooling racks if you have them.

NOTEYou’ll probably want to halve this recipe.  It makes 96 mini cupcakes!

Cream Cheese Frosting

3-8 oz. packages of cream cheese, room temperature
3/4 cup of unsalted butter, room temperature
3 cups of powdered sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla extract

  1. Whip together the cream cheese, vanilla, and butter in a mixer until smooth.
  2. Add the powdered sugar one cup at a time until light and fluffy.

Pour your frosting into a pastry bag (or, if you’re cheap like me, use a gallon-sized Ziploc bag).  Snip off a tiny bit of the corner with scissors and frost each cupcake with a swirl of frosting.

Then, one by one, begin decorating.  First, use a spatula or the back of a spoon to smooth the frosting into a flat surface.  Then, use chocolate chips pushed into the frosting upside down to create the ears and eyes.  Insert a chocolate chip sideways to make the nose.  I used Ghiradelli chocolate chips because the original recipe mentioned that they are bigger than normal chocolate chips.  I didn’t notice much of a difference in size, but the taste of these chocolate chips is above and beyond any other chips I’ve used.  I think I’ve ruined myself for the bargain off-brand chocolate chips, which is unfortunate because Ghiradelli chips are much more expensive.

I used chocolate sprinkles to make the mouth.  I put a tiny dot of frosting on the eyes, and used a sprinkle dot pressed in the middle of the dot to complete the eyes.  Here’s the first panda I decorated.  He’s pretty cute, but for the rest I tucked the ears partway under the frosting to make them look more like ears.

Yay!  A plate of pandas!  I have to warn you, these are very time consuming.  They would probably be easier if you were making them with friends and made some sort of assembly line.  They are worth the work, though.  I had so much fun making different facial expressions for them, and they’re just so darn cute I could hardly keep my eyes away.

Like I said, these take awhile.  I wanted to have them done before Sam got home from work so I could surprise him, so I did the next plate with just sprinkle decorations.  I think they turned out cute, too, and look like something you might find in a bakery.

They look cute together and would probably work well mixed together in a display.  I think this idea could also work for other animals.  Think regular bears with chocolate frosting, lions with orange frosting and butterscotch chips, tigers… So many possibilities!  You could make your own cupcake zoo.

When Sam got home, he loved the cupcakes!  They made him smile, even though he had a really hard day at school.  The only bad thing about these cupcakes is that they’re so cute, I had trouble eating them!  They are delicious, though, and after Sam enjoyed his first one I dug right in.  I’m sure these plates will be empty before Thursday!

Categories: Revell Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

My Condolences to Mei Xiang

This morning I woke up and was browsing Facebook in bed when I caught this piece of news from the Smithsonian National Zoo’s Facebook Page:

We are broken-hearted to share that we have lost our little giant panda cub. Panda keepers and volunteers heard Mei Xiang make a distress vocalization at 9:17 a.m. and let the veterinarian staff know immediately. They turned off the panda cam and were able to safely retrieve the cub for an evaluation at 10:22 a.m., which we only do in situations of gravest concern. The veterinarians immediately performed CPR and other life-saving measures, but sadly the cub was unresponsive. We’ll have more updates as we learn more, but right now we know is that the cub weighed just under 100 grams and that there was no outward sign of trauma or infection. We’ll share information with you as we learn more.

My heart is so heavy this morning after hearing about the panda cub.  If you’ll remember, I was so excited in my post last week announcing its birth.  I’ve shed so many tears for this baby panda this morning, and I know that won’t make sense to a lot of you.  After all, it’s only an animal in a zoo 1,300 miles away… but I was so hopeful.  To me, that little baby panda was the epitome of innocence.  It was barely 3 pounds, hairless, completely dependent on its mother.  The fact that something so vulnerable can die is a hard pill to swallow.

Here’s the last video the National Zoo posted of the baby:

It’s unfair that helpless, innocent things in this world have to die.  The only comfort is that God knows what he’s doing, and our world isn’t just spinning chaos.  Still, I’m sad about the loss of Mei Xiang’s baby and I can’t make that sadness go away right now.  When babies (human or not) die, it takes time to ponder life and take hope.

Categories: Noteworthy News | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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