Spring Fever

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The warmer the weather gets, and the closer I get to graduation, the worse my homework looks! I’m not sure there’s really any cure for Spring Fever, so instead I try to rely on the idea that all of my professors are suffering as well and aren’t actually grading my papers seriously. One can hope, right? I’ve been amping up my workout routine with more bike riding and running, but quickly realized that it’s not looking like I’m going to be able to run regularly… 

My shin splints first started in October, after three months of running pretty regularly. The persisted despite my breaks until about January, when I decided to actually consult with a doctor. They told me to take off for a solid ten weeks, then try again but never exceed ten miles per week. This week was my second run, only reaching 2.5 miles, and now my shins are a mess. Ugh. Well, it looks like I’ll be sticking with the bike! Today was one of those days where I had absolutely no desire to get myself out there and biking. I woke up somewhat sore (not enough to signal the need for a day off), sleepy, and just generally not feeling it. My partner was smart enough to remind me that this is when it counts the most. Everyone has those days, and its a matter of working through the hard days to keep yourself on track! But trust me, I definitely know what it feels like to be totally not feeling your workout, and considering staying in bed for an extra hour instead.

A method that I’ve been trying lately is this 12 Tip Guide to Staying Inspired (to do schoolwork… not garden and read by the lake). There’s a few that I feel pretty good about, but there’s also these ones that I tend to struggle with.
Tip 1: Drink a glass of water to start off the day. I tend to struggle with this one, since I drink a glass of coffee and a smoothie at the beginning of the day, so fitting in another liquid gets a little complicated while sitting in an hour and a half long class!
Tip 2: Move and sweat. Even on the hard days, this will get that blood flow in your brain, burn away the stress your feeling when you open up you emails for the first time, and get yourself on a solid foundation to face the world.
Tip 5: Work on an important task for 50 minutes, then take a break. I struggle with this one because A) there is so much to do in a day! Seriously! And B) once I’m on a roll, it’s hard for me to let anything in my way. 
Tip 9: Brainstorm. I tend to convince myself that I’m not particularly creative, but the thing is I always jump at new opportunities to become creative. So I’m really not sure if its just my mentality playing tricks on me or what, but I tend to avoid creative tasks that involve me thinking on my own about creative solutions. 
Tip 10: Express gratitude. Now here is something we all struggle with! There is never enough time in the day to tell the ones you love and those throughout your daily life how much you appreciate them. I remember that one of the things that shocked me most when I first moved to Minneapolis was that everyone said thank you to the bus driver. Everyone. Always. The first few times I forgot I felt so terrible! Coming from Philly made that an entirely new concept. Not that the East Coast isn’t nice (although we all know that Minnesota is the only place that is Minnesota Nice), but we just have a different way of expressing it… like you know, not expressing it.

Anyways, I suppose my goal in this was to not just pin the interesting things on Pinterest, but actually try and practice them. Life is definitely a gem, and you can’t spend time waiting to appreciate it! 

Other fun finds this week:

Reasons to get in shape that aren’t  so you can look good in a bikini! It’s not about the looks, it’s not about attention, it’s about you.
This ab workout. I haven’t tried it yet, but it looks terrifying and intriguing, which is basically my qualification for a good workout.
Southwestern salsa! Although I’m going to add some things to make it an actual meal rather than a salsa… what I’m adding is still up for debate. Chicken maybe?
A good message to remind yourself of every day.

 

Spring!

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So, needless to say I’m kind of bad at regularly posting updates. But it’s the effort that counts, right?

Since my last post, the weather has made a turn for the better. We had to have winter parking restrictions here in Minneapolis, which basically means that the snow piles alongside the roads have gotten so out of hand that we can only park on one side to conserve space. How insane! However, I do love living in a city where the second the temperature hits 40, everyone is outside hanging out and playing around. I made it home to Pennsylvania for a long weekend, spending some much needed time with friends. Since returning, I’ve gotten back into the groove of classes and turning 24! My birthday consisted of hockey, dining, and going out with friends. Aka, it was absolutely perfect.

My herbs are… well some of them are doing well! Basil, cilantro, and oregano all popped up like it was nothing. Mint, thyme and parsley don’t seem to be so concerned with germinating. I’ve tried planting new seeds again, so if they don’t pop up after this round I’ll probably just go to Whole Foods and cheat with some that are already grown for me. 

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I keep them all in fish bowls because I have a ton of them thanks to having fish all of my college career. 

Today I went on an awesome cooking binge. I spent way too much money at the grocery store on produce and healthy foods, but I suppose you gotta invest the money if you want the results! Started off making a sort of panzanella-style dish. Chopped up cucumbers, onions, tomatoes, and a little mozzarella (because life is always better with mozzarella) and added some balsamic vinaigrette! 

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Afterwards, I went to town making pan-seared brussel sprouts with cranberries, pecans, and a maple/balsamic glaze! It 

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It was shockingly easy. Cut the sprouts in half, cook for 10 minutes with olive oil, and a tablespoon of syrup and balsamic, stir in your desired amount of cranberries, Gorgonzola, pecans, and then top it all off with a cup of barley! My favorite type of cooking is the “toss this in a pan, then toss this in a pan, then stir” style with little thought and a whole lot of taste.

My partner and I have also been gearing up for our trip to Italy in a month and a half! Our parents helped us out in order to send us there for our graduations, and we’re both absolutely ecstatic. So if you have tips about Italy, travelling, or any of the related topics please feel free to share! I’ve been lucky enough to have quite a few experiences in Europe, but there’s always room for improvement. 

Anyways, here’s some good recipes, exercises, and thoughts I’ve come across lately. I hope everyone is off to a great spring!

Made these stuffed red peppers earlier this week. The stuffing was a bit bland, so I definitely recommend adding in a few more spices to the mix!

The recipe for the brussel sprouts I made! I improvised on a few ingredients and tossed in more of the extras than the recipe calls for to make it more of a meal than a side.

How I’m getting my triceps ready for those summer dresses!

A 9-minute mile playlist! I always love music tips to keep me on pace.

My workout for a rainy day

The Happiness Effect 

Pictures of Underwater Dogs. Because everyone needs that in their life.

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My goal for this winter was to get out and enjoy some of the winter fun Minnesota has to offer, and I think I just may have accomplished it! So far I’ve gone to more pond hockey games than I could have ever dreamed of, went cross country skiing and only fell three times, did snow-shoeing in Eagle River, WI, watched a dog sled race on a frozen lake, and this weekend I just returned from a trip to see the Ice Caves in Bayfield, WI! All of it has been pretty remarkable, and served to help me survive the Fourth Worst Winter in Minnesota. Okay, that link shows that they decided we had more cold days than normal, and I’m making the jump from more cold days = worst, but you all get my drift.

When I first moved out here I knew I wanted to do everything that Midwestern Life would have to offer me. Being from the East Coast means lots of cities, less solitude, and a whole lot of attitude. After moving, I quickly found myself loving an environment of regular park goers, friendly faces, and an overall more relaxed pace. It helps to remind you what types of things are actually important in life, which is so easy to lose sight of.

One of the things I constantly see in graduate school is students dismissing their mental and physical health in the name of good grades. The closer I get to graduation and the more I speak to potential employers, the less I ever hear anyone mention grades. Ever. The more and more I try to communicate that to my peers, the less people seem to hear. Throughout school I was able to get really involved in student groups, meet tons of professionals and young people interested in furthering the social good, and hear some incredible talks. Honestly I wouldn’t give up a single second of that for a higher grade, and I can’t think of a time where I was sitting at a conference that I thought “Man, I could get way more out of doing all of my readings this week.” This is all certainly not to say that we should just throw all of our responsibilities into the wind and live as we want – there are definitely things you have to take care of and you can learn some incredibly valuable insights while doing them. However, you have to be able to keep yourself on your game, do things that interest and intrigue you, and constantly explore. If you don’t, you become so wrapped up in tasks that you forget about learning (and now that I’m saddled with a large chunk of college debt and finally exiting after six years, I can say that learning is pretty cool).

My school recently made a major initiative to focus on student mental health due to a tragedy in the beginning of the year. It has helped us adjust the frame in which we see students and our interaction with education, which has unfortunately created a culture of acceptance around mental health issues (really great article to learn more). It can really be a struggle, but I find that the more I become bogged down in my responsibilities, the more I have to lift my head out of my text books and remind myself of the bigger picture. I certainly always dedicate myself to the end-product and try my best, but I try and apply that same mentality to my general health and ability to learn outside the classroom

Here’s some fun links to things I like (I tried to come up with a better title… but that’s basically what they all have in common!)

Summer Bucket List

A Guide to Paleo Foods (so I’m not actually Paleo because I thoroughly believe in the power of cheese, but I’ve been trying to guide my diet by this list and have felt myself feeling more energetic, clean, and happy).

The Happiness Effect 

And last but certainly far from least, here’s some pictures of Dogs Underwater.

Oh, and here’s some pictures from the Ice Caves this weekend – 

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The beauty in the ugly

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The end of February always seems the dreariest. I’m not sure if its the final stormy feelings that approach when you’re just ready to be done with winter, or simply a gathering of unfortunate events always around this time of year. We all know that February can notoriously be the worst, with all of that snow and a more difficult time getting outside and seeing your friends, it just really isn’t conducive to staying happy.

However, the other night I was discussing these feelings and events with my partner, as well as some of the hardest times that I’ve been through and what got me through them. They quickly pointed out that these tough times also seemed to be some of the happiest memories.

For instance, in my last two weeks of college I found myself dumped and terrified about moving halfway across the country and away from the life and friends I had come to love. The piling of feelings quickly took a toll on me, leaving me in quite the mopey state where all I wanted to do was linger in between being awake and asleep while watching repeated episodes of terrible television. My friends, being the most incredible group of people I can imagine, simply joined me. No questions asked, no hassling about getting showered and becoming a human being, they all simply got out their blankets and pillows and joined me in my living room wallowing. It turned in to be the longest slumber party and one of my fondest memories of my entire college career. Sometimes when your heart is at its heaviest you find waking up to be the hardest part of it all because everything comes whirling back so quickly, but instead each morning I awoke to all of the people I loved, and who loved me, surrounding me ready to be there for whatever I need.

Obviously my current winter blues aren’t anything of comparison to that time in my life, and now most of my friends live all across the world, but I think it is a good reminder that even your darkest moments can turn into the brightest of lights when you look back.

In other news, I decided to start an herb garden! It came out of a combination of studying agro-ecology and, lets be honest, spending too much time on pinterest but I’ve done it! Creating new, green life seemed like a perfect way to brighten up this winter, especially since Minneapolis currently finds itself under quite the ridiculous amount of snow! 

I will be sure to keep you all updated on the progress of my new found hobby! So far I have planted oregano, parsley, cilantro, mint, basil and thyme (aka I bought the “Italian” packet at Home Depot and added in some green smoothie ingredients). All in all it was only about $20, and really brightened my day!

My little seedlings so far – 

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If gardening isn’t your thing, check out these other 50 ways to take a break. Some days all you need is that 15 minute brain break in order to get yourself back on track!

Eating and Happiness

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What more needs to be said, right?

In August of last year I decided I was going to become a runner, and I was going to complete a half marathon in May the weekend before graduating with my masters degree. I started off doing interval training, walking and running about four miles every other day. Within a month I got up to running all four miles, and eating absolutely anything I wanted. When you’re burning that much on a daily basis,  you really can. And to be quite honest, that was one of my top motivations for running. I. Love. Eating.

Then within two months I had shin splints, and I’ve been battling them on and off ever since. Due to being extremely flat footed, it’s not looking like I’ll ever be the half-marathon-runner I had hoped to be (doctors were consulted, I promise I’m not just giving up easily), but I will be able to consistently go between 8 – 12 miles a week… in six weeks. Until then, no running.

The worst part of this story is I still love eating! I’ve never been one that can diet, I usually stick to a strict plan for two weeks before having a mental breakdown bag full of cookies and calling it quits. So obviously I can’t be eating everything in sight, but I also can’t diet, which leads me to playing around with a lot of different ideas and recipes that I wouldn’t have considered before.

Like, did you know you could put greens in your smoothie and have it still taste like fruit? Okay, you’re right, you can still kinda taste the greens (I trusted everyone who told me you didn’t taste it at all… they lied.), but you mostly taste the fruit! And I find that the more I dabble in fun new recipes while mixing in my old favorites, the more fun I have, and thus I still enjoy eating even though it’s green!

When it comes down to it, your health and how you feel about yourself is so closely tied to your happiness. We often times “just don’t have time” to eat healthy, and in doing that we are only cheating ourselves. You have enough time in the day to please all of those around you, you just have to start telling yourself that making yourself happy is just as valuable. Ending the day knowing you got a solid workout and ate like a champion nutritionist adds such a bonus, and if you’re anything like me you just need to consistently mix things up to keep yourself interested! And when I say health I don’t mean just working out and eating healthy, I mean putting down your cell phone and the remote, opening up a good book, and calling up a great friend that you haven’t spoken to in a while. Technology is an incredible thing, but you absolutely cannot let it rule (and ruin) your life.

Here’s some things that I’ve tried this week (workouts and recipes) that I found to be fun, useful, and successful in my daily routine. You can also find all of these on my pinterest account.

Your Health by the Numbers 

Meals to Boost Your Mood

Leg Strengthening Workout

Fun Abs and Butt Workout

Total Body, I Don’t-Really-Have-Time-But-Crap-I-Should-Workout Workout

Paleo Food Guide (I’m still trying out the Paleo thing… but I’m liking it!)

Creating a Green Smoothie

Happy Monday!

Setting the Scene

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Hello mom to my latest platform for connection, ideas sharing, and (most importantly) fun.

Over the past few months I’ve been considering starting a blog, trying to pin down exactly why. Am I just searching for a new way to connect with others? Do I miss having a blog, which I used to update on a daily basis throughout my high school years? Do I just think I have a whole lot of great ideas and for some reason, people might want to hear them (that question was more to keep myself in check)? So I did what most people do, and I googled it. What was the reason behind this new craving of mine?

The answers that came up were numerous, but many struck a chord with me. When it comes down to it, I’m about as extroverted as they come. I build energy off of meeting new people, exchanging fun ideas, and engaging in insightful conversation. I love hearing about what others think, and building who I am based on the encounters I have. So, I suppose that is where this leads me. Not only to navigating a new blog, but to Navigating Living.

So here’s the scene – 

My name is Kayla, and I’m a student at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, studying International Development and Evaluation. Besides those two obvious passions, I also foster pets through an organization named Pet Project Rescue, go for runs around the lake I live near, and explore as well as practice new trends in living a healthy lifestyle. The last passion is where I’m hoping this blog goes, or at least the goal I’m slowly stumbling (sometimes gracefully) towards. 

While going through basic schooling I constantly felt myself thriving for more. As I got to college, I was able to find my career passions and begin building on those, travelling extensively and engaging in sectors such as International Law, Human Rights, and Conflict Resolution. Quickly I found International Development, and knew I hit my ultimate passion. My life was quickly uprooted from central Pennsylvania, off to the tundra beautiful city of Minneapolis, Minnesota.

And here is where I have truly learned the most about life and living.

All of the studying, dedication, and hard work to get me here has been wonderful, and it has all brought me to a fantastic life with infinite reasons to be happy. But as I began to really become a part of the Minneapolis culture, I started learning about the reasons that coincide to make this city the healthiest in the US, and the importance of valuing your physical and mental health on the same level that you do for your work and your relationships. I believe that the three of these are incredibly related, but that we commonly toss one above the other, forgetting that they cannot be pulled apart as separate entities. It’s the success of one that leads to the success of the others.

So after finding my passions, exploring different countries, and building my life, I believe that now is the time to really explore the little things that make me happy, and value those in the same way that I have been valuing the other sectors of my life for so long now. This blog will become a collection of the things I find that seem like they can brighten my day, and help to point me in a healthy direction, and will also be a great opportunity to share and bounce ideas off of one another as well.

I hope that you’ll join me in my new journey, and help me build the chapters!

Kayla