Thursday, October 28, 2010

Midterm Survival Guide

When everyone tells you that college is going to be the best years of your life they somehow seem to magically forget the soul-crushing, earth-shattering, mind-destroying joy that midterms and finals can bring. One day you're enjoying the beautiful fall weather and the next you're locking your dorm room against common needs including sleep, fun and human relationships all for the sake of trying to FOCUS on studying. Which of course doesn't work because you're too busy being distracted by Facebook and reading the FABULOUS status updates from the friends who were previously knocking down your door. They, of course, are riding roller coasters and baking cakes and magically reviving dinosaurs to go for joyrides while you are stuck alone at your desk. All because of an exam that makes up 97% percent of your grade. Or something like that.

All right. So that might be a bit of an exaggeration.

Any college student can tell you that midterms and finals can be stressful. However, if you follow a few essential tips, you'll make it through your midterms with no problem.

1. Get Comfortable
If at all possible, find one secluded and moderately comfortable spot to study and stay there. I'm not saying to chain yourself to your desk, but make sure that you create or find an area that you are comfortable staying in for long amounts of time. Some people prefer the library for studying, but that scholarly atmosphere has always made me (personally) feel nervous. I prefer to study in my room with the door closed so I can keep distractions (including my roommate) at bay while still being in the comfort of my own home.

2. Find someone to cook for you.
This one IS a joke, but the idea is the same: don't waste time on food preparation. If you're anything like me, you'll start out intending to make easy ramen and somehow wind up finishing up the last touches on a three-course meal four hours later. If you have meal points, make use of them at this point and go buy ready-made food so you can have a quick bite before getting back to studying. Or, just have a friend cook dinner for you. This tip has the Sarah Seal of Approval.

Sarah making something fabulous. Again.

3. Get a study buddy!
Sometimes it can be hard to take in everything that you need to know on your own. If you know someone in your class, get together with them and have a study session! Quiz each other and enjoy some human interaction while you work. Or, have a stuffed animal to squeeze. They're good for letting out the pent-up frustration.

This is Georgie Beardell! He's very intelligent, and his favorite subject is apparently Media Ethics.

Sometimes you just need to stop and vent before you can keep going. If you find yourself getting frustrated or upset, step away from the books and LET IT OUT. Go for a run, play a quick round of Halo or cry into your pillow. Get rid of the bad feelings, or they'll get in the way of your studies.

Or be like me and color in a sad face on a pumpkin.

5. Don't Forget Your Other Responsibilities!
It is true that midterms and finals can be time-consuming and make one forget about any other responsibilities, but don't fall into this trap! Be sure to keep up on homework, attend meetings for the extracurricular activities you participate in, feed your fish and go to class! If you begin to skip classes to study for other classes, you've got a problem. Be sure to try and keep a balanced lifestyle WHILE focusing on that ever important exam.

This is my beta fish, Constable. He enjoys food.

Above all, just remember that this too shall pass. Do the best that you can. After all, that's all you CAN do! Hang in there, keep your focus in the right place and you'll be just fine!

Now I just have to follow my own advice!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Fall Foliage

In celebration of the beautiful foliage in Bloomington this time of year, this post will be dedicated to the foliage around Union Street Center!


I have always loved autumn here at IU. In my mind, there is no better place to enjoy the change of the seasons!


Sadly, most of the trees around the new complex are little guys with only a few leaves on them, but in a few years this courtyard will be aglow with the reds, oranges and yellows that paint a mural over campus.


Autumn always inspires me to cook foods and make drinks that only ever seem appropriate in the fall! This evening's dessert menu? Warm apple cider and pumpkin cheesecake bars! Sound yummy? Here's a recipe to get you started!

Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars

1 (16-ounce) package white pound cake mix
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons butter, melted
4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice, divided
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 (16-ounce) can pumpkin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Preheat oven to 350 F. In a large mixing bowl on low speed, combine cake mix, 1 egg, butter and 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice until crumbly. Press into bottom of 9 x 13 x 2-inch baking pan. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat cream cheese until fluffy. Gradually beat in sweetened condensed milk, remaining 2 eggs, pumpkin, remaining 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice and salt. Mix well. Pour over crust, sprinkle nuts on top.

Bake 30- 35 minutes or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool to room temperature, then chill in refrigerator. Cut into bars. Courtesy of


Enjoy autumn wherever you are! I'm off to play in the leaves before the winter wind blows them all away!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Adventures at the Covered Bridge Festival

This past weekend, I went home to visit my mom and to go explore the culinary wonders of the Covered Bridge Festival in Putnam County. Every year my mom and I go to walk around the festival, spend more money than we should on anything from specialty chip dips to personalized photo frames and eat/buy the amazing kinds of food you can't get anywhere else. It always proves to be a great time.

As usual, the food was FANTASTIC and I was inspired by all of the delicious sights and smells. Everything from Wisconsin sausage, freshly-made donuts (with cinnamon), pumpkin rolls, whoopie pies, funnel cakes and butterfly chips delighted my sense of smell and tempted to empty my wallet. Luckily, my mom was able to keep me moving through the festival.

There were so many delicious foods to choose from!

Of course, there was more than food to choose from. Vendors sold everything from cow slippers to homemade crafts. I admit, I spent a lot of time picking out early Christmas gifts. Unfortunately, these little guys only came in child sizes:

Why don't these come in adult sizes?!

As fun as shopping at the fair was, my TRUE mission was to explore the culinary options and report back to Sarah for future dinner/event ideas. If I wanted to eat this week, I had to bring her back some ingredients and thoughts on new desserts or specialty foods we hadn't yet thought of making to celebrate the fall.

And look what I found! Whoopie pies!

Luckily enough, inspiration struck time and time again. I purchased local honey, Wisconsin sausage and homemade apple butter for Sarah and also brought back a number of ideas for Fall Fun. Pumpkin rolls are a FANTASTIC fall tradition in Indiana, but they can be difficult to make. A simple solution were these adorable Pumpkin Whoopie Pies I found. We're going to modify this pumpkin roll recipe to try and make our own: I bought two boxes of the pies, and we've been delighted by them so far. Hurray for culinary adventures!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Bloomington from a Visitor's View

This past weekend, my boyfriend Brian came up to Bloomington to visit me from Atlanta to celebrate his 23rd birthday (yay!). To celebrate the special occasion, I used my new kitchen in the apartment to make my first ever decorated cake. It was Funfetti Ice Cream cake with Marshmallow Fondant. Remember the Fail Cake I posted about a few weeks ago? This was the same cake, but it was slightly more successful to say the least. It tasted delicious, but I had more fun building the roller coaster on top (in the shape of a 23) than I did eating the cake itself.

23rd Birthday Cake

Anyway, on to the rest of the weekend. Brian had been to Indiana during road trips to Holiday World and Indiana Beach, but he'd never stopped in our college town. I wondered what he, a Georgia Tech student, would think of the differences between the big city and my little slice of Midwest paradise. To make sure he had a good idea of what Bloomington was like, I made sure to pick some of my favorite places in and around town to show him. When you're planning your visit to Bloomington, be sure to check them out if you have time. If you've already been to campus, use this info to impress your friends and family with your B-Town expertise!

1. The Musical Arts Center
As an IU student, I've been lucky to have numerous opportunities to enjoy the arts. The Musical Arts Center (or the MAC) is one of my favorite places on campus because of all of the wonderful productions that take place there. On Friday evening I took Brian to his first opera, "Il Barbiere di Siviglia." We had a fantastic time getting lost in the beautiful sets, the unbelievable voices and the jubilant atmosphere that the cast and crew created. It was an incredible production, Brian was dazzled, and the total cost of our tickets was only $34!

2. The IU Art Museum (Aurora of the Midwest)
There is a beautiful, little known (to non-residents) secret on campus that is absolutely breathtaking. After the opera and dinner, I made Brian close his eyes and led him to campus. When I finally gave him permission to open his eyes, he gaped at the light show that was taking place on the wall of the IU Art Museum. Although I nicknamed the show "the Aurora of the Midwest," it is technically named the Light Totem and it casts color upon the wall of the IU Art Museum with the light of 500 million candles. If you're going to be around campus at night, stop by for a dazzling show.

3. The Sample Gates
The quintessential symbol of Indiana University, the Sample Gates are a common spot for everything from first-day photos to protests. As a student you'll be seeing them a lot, but make the effort to show them to your family anyway. In the fall, the trees behind the Gates are painted with autumn colors. If you're going to be on campus, make sure to stop by and take a photo with your family. It will be one to cherish for a lifetime.

Sample Gates

4. The Old Crescent
Once you walk through the Sample Gates, you'll find yourself in the Old Crescent. One of the most beautiful parts of campus, it is often passed over by potential students. If you go through this area you'll be able to experience first hand the "green" feeling of Indiana University as you walk along the brick path that cuts through the woods, shake hands with Herman B Wells (for luck, Brian did!), and take a break in the Rose-Well House. You can also see the oldest piece of IU, a sundial from the original campus on Seminary Square. If you stop by to see it, look through the flowers for a small plaque to learn the secret of two lovers who will be "together for eternity."

Hello Herman!

5. Holiday World
Although it is a two-and-a-half hour drive from Bloomington, Holiday World is the theme park of choice for IU students looking for a day of thrill ride fun. Luckily for me, Brian is a roller coaster enthusiast, so the decision about whether or not to visit the park was an easy one. Admission is VERY cheap when compared to other theme parks (it only cost us $66 for both tickets), and it is one of the top-rated parks in the U.S. thanks to the family-friendly atmosphere, the fantastic rides and the free soft drinks! If you have the opportunity, visit in the fall. There were no lines for any of the rides, and we rode The Voyage (the featured wooden roller coaster) four times. It was a great time!

Holiday World

Of course, there are a million things to love about Bloomington and the surrounding areas. Brian and I had a great time over the weekend walking around town and even though it was a little quieter than Atlanta I think that he had a really great time. If you'd like any more tips about great places to visit or even restaurants to try out, feel free to leave a comment or shoot me an e-mail!