Exam Treats

I started a quirky tradition during exam time about three years back. At first, I didn’t do it for me, because I have never had exams in college or university before this term. It was more about cheering up my boyfriend.

The tradition involves a lot of baking – comfort foods and desserts, mainly. I’ve made cookies, brownies, soft pretzels, cupcakes, home-made ice cream: pleasant stuff. Because of all my free time, I had time to bake; for me, it was a celebration of finishing the semester, but for my boyfriend, it was the best way to make sure he actually ate during his intense study sessions.

This year, I made a nice batch of peanut butter brownies, and I’d thought I would share the recipe with you. I inspired it from Chocolate Covered Katie’s recipe; if you’d like the original, follow this link:  http://chocolatecoveredkatie.com/2013/02/27/copycat-little-debbie-cosmic-chocolate-fudge-brownies/

Whether you are studying, working on your next big project, or just relaxing at home, these are a great treat.

Yummy Peanut Butter Bite-Sized Brownies

1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons cocoa butter

1 cup whole-wheat flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons hazelnut-flavoured instant coffee granules

1 cup white sugar

Pinch of salt

6 Tbsp peanut butter

2 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup olive oil

2 tsp milk

Preheat oven to 325 degree and mix your dry ingredients together. Add wet and stir until mixture is smooth. Optional: add 3 extra tablespoons of peanut butter and swirl it into the mix without incorporating it completely for delicious peanut butter bites throughout your brownies! Pour in two small round pans and bake for about 20 minutes. Allow the brownies to cool, then cut them to bite size pieces OR keep the round sections intact, spread peanut butter on top of the first, and add the second on top for a layered brownie cake.

My boyfriend and I found a creative and delicious way to eat these brownies. Paired with ice cream, they are even better! I bought some cookie-dough ice cream before making these: now, I combine two large spoonfuls of ice cream and 3-4 bite-sized brownies and smush it together with a spoon. Delish. You can’t go any better than that.Image

 

 

On another note… I just finished the first draft of Demons Below Us today!

It should take me the summer to edit, re-write, and get some opinions on the first draft. I am so excited to share the first book of the Shark Academy series with everyone!

 

 

Bedbugs, More Rats, and Rough Drafts

I was supposed to write an article last week, but I unfortunately got delayed. My boyfriend and I had to deal with a bed bug problem… sounds like fun, right? Not only did it involve spending 100$ in laundry to wash everything made of cloth that we owned, but we also had to empty out all of our possessions at the center of the apartment. That took up a lot of time, and so did the actual extermination, during which we had to abandon ship for several hours and crash at a friend’s place along with my rat, Pikachu.

Which brings me to a new subject: new rats! I recently went to a shelter and adopted two rescue rats for Pikachu to have as friends. If you don’t like cute and cuddly things to warm up your heart, well feel free to skip past these pictures.

If you’re like me and feel happiness jump into my day at the sight of cute things, then observe.

Image

Image

ImageImageImageImage

 

The new boys, Léon and Ziplock (Léon is the black one), are super cuddly and well socialized rats, and make a great addition to the family. They love sitting on my lap when I am writing, just like now. :)

Shark Academy News

I have two major scenes left to write in the first volume of Shark Academy, and then it will be time for editing. By the time June comes around, the entire rough draft should be complete.

I am having two or three talented relatives edit my manuscript, but would be open to other editors as well. What I’m talking about is a raw, unedited book I have not gone over yet. If you are interested in being the first to read Demons Below Us, seeing what a rough draft looks like, and would be willing to edit (spelling, checking if ideas and continuity makes sense, overall interest), let me know in the comments. 

This is similar to the early access beta-testing of a video game, if you will. :)

Grab Your Dreams

Today I want to talk about dreams; more specifically, I want to talk about how important dreams really are. I don’t mean the dreams you have at night, but rather the dreams you aspire to bring to reality.

I’m at an age where stuff changes at a very fast pace and where new realities often push back old ones. The person I was just two mere years ago has changed so much that it is incredible I still share some traits with her. Deep down, I’m still me, but there are a lot of things I have realized in the process of growing up. Now, it took me more than two years to grow up – we are always growing up, after all – but in those two years (especially recently) I have learned important lessons that may change the course of my life.

I’ve learned that it is of crucial importance to be true to oneself. That seems pretty simple, but most of the time part of you is still lying to yourself about something, even if you don’t realize it. Sometimes you can modify, simplify or hide something you truly want just because it seems less complicated that way. There are plenty of ways for you to justify that for yourself, but that is an act of deceit. And the problem with an act of deceit upon yourself is that no one except you will be able to point it out.

It’s difficult to dream. We all want something that seems impossible – out of reach, unreasonable, too difficult to achieve. But if that dream is all you think about day and night, isn’t that worth the hard work? There are so many ways to convince yourself that it is not worth it. The problem with that is that you will spend your life asking yourself what would have happened if only you had tried.

I mentioned in my last article that my new dream is to make video games. It took me a while to accept that as my new dream. I had been thinking about it but pushing the thought back, telling myself that I don’t know anything about programming and 3D animation. I also told myself that I have already done a year of university, and that starting another field of study would mean this first year would have been wasted. I told myself to just keep going and forget about making video games. 

What I kept forgetting was that I only have this one life. Once this life is over, I don’t get to restart and try making video games this time around. I only have this one shot. This is the best time of my life to experiment; I’m young, without kids or other tie-downs, and I have the time and energy to learn. I have to stop convincing myself that it is too late. This first year of university was not a waste of time; it was an opportunity to widen my horizons and find myself a new passion.

I’ve come to terms with this. I need to make a change and take the steps needed in order to accomplish this dream. I think about it all the time. If I don’t make it a part of my life, I will have to place other things in my head that I don’t really want. Might as well get an education in something I really enjoy and make it a big part of my life. I know it will be hard work to go into this path, but it is worth it.

Ask yourself, deep down, what your dream is. Don’t place any filters. Don’t ask yourself what others would want you to dream about. It’s all about you. Are you focusing your life around this dream? If not, do you have the means to?

If you do have the means, then there is no reason not to go ahead and do that. Remember that you only live once. This isn’t a video game; you don’t get a second or third or fourth try. You only get this one shot. Make the most of it.

Grab those dreams of yours and do all you can to make them come true.

What I’m Up To

I haven’t been keeping up with my blog very much, and I kinda feel bad about it. I want to get back to writing on a weekly basis if I can – that is, if school doesn’t get in the way during finals. School is mostly what has been keeping me busy for the past month, with essays and studying and film shoots and whatnot, but I’ve also been working on a few other things.

What I’ve Been Working On

Aside from writing essays, studying for mid-terms, and organizing two film shoots for class, I’ve been working on lots of non-school related things. The first, of course, involves my writing. You may remember me mentioning the new series I wanted to get started on several months back, Shark Academy. Well, the first draft of the first book, which will be called “Demons Below Us,” is well on its way to being finished. I’ve now put the book on hold until the end of the semester since I’ll need to be focusing on studying for finals, but since November I have been working on it almost on a daily basis (except Fridays and Saturdays). When the final draft is complete, I will edit it myself and then pass it on to my personal editors to ready it for its final appearance. The book should be out by next fall.

The concept of the book itself changed quite drastically. I had been planning to make one book per character, divided into three parts. It was while working on this first part with the character Elyssa that I discovered this first part was complex enough to be a book by itself. The book is still separated into three parts, but all three books will be surrounding this character. At every book, I will be adding a point of view, but Elyssa will always remain as the main protagonist.

I’m super excited for this trilogy. In fact, I have also been working on concepts for all three cover arts. It is the first time that I manage to plan out a trilogy that could actually work, and I really hope it turns out as good as I am hoping it to be.

Other than writing, I have been following tutorials for computer programming. That subject has intrigued me for the past few years, but I have very limited knowledge of computers and often need an actual person to teach me how to deal with things like this. This is why this self-learning is taking up a lot of my energy. I am advancing very slowly, but I am also spending a lot of my time researching for schooling programs related to video game programming. The reason I am trying to learn programming in the first place is to program video games. There are so many stories that I wish to write; there are others that I wish I could turn into games. However, this is hard work, especially for someone with close to no computer knowledge like me, which is why I am dedicating so much time to this practice.

In the end, I know it is worth it, because I have been dreaming of making video games for a while now. My first dream was to publish a book; once this was accomplished, new dreams came in its place.

Introvert or Extrovert? (and why I care)

It goes without saying that I love to write. I also love to read. When I am doing either of these activities, I am submerging myself in another world. In the case of writing, it is even better because this world is in my own head. When I give myself time to do these things, I give myself a gift of sacred intimacy with my own mind.

The truth is that I need these moments in order to stay healthy. If I don’t get enough ‘me’ time, anxiety will begin to acumulate and I will begin to have more trouble dealing with social interactions. On the other hand, I need to be with people. I could never live alone without going crazy. I also need to do social ‘things’ in order to feel good, such as hanging out with friends, going to parties, etc. If I don’t, then I have a crisis and feel like I am not ‘going out’ enough.

You may be familiar with the terms introvert and extrovert. Apparently, two-thirds of people are extroverts, and the other third are introverts. It just determines where you get your energy from. Extroverts basically get their energy from being around others for most of the day. We can associate these people with those social butterflies we all know. They will be the first to ask one of their friends to hang out, whatever it is they are doing.

Introverts will be the friends that almost never ask. They are associated with the socially awkward nerds. An introvert does not always feel the need to have a companion to accomplish their daily tasks, such as doing errands. He or she will be fine alone.

It may not sound important to make the distinction to some people. However, realizing what type of person you are enables you to adjust your lifestyle to whatever makes you happy. If you realize that you are only going to the parties on every Friday night just to please your friend, then it may not be making you happy. If you feel miserable studying for that exam by yourself, get a study buddy. Sometimes making that conscious effort will make your days better.

If you are like me, you might be thinking that you have a little bit of both. Actually, most people have a little bit of both, but everyone belongs to one side or the other. I realized not long ago that despite the image I try to put out of myself, I really am an introvert. I like to come off as the friendly girl who likes to make new friends.

The thing is, I DO like making friends. Except I realized I don’t need a shit-ton of them. I feel much happier when I am spending time with my closest friends than with a bunch of people that I am trying to get to know. Usually, when I am in the latter situation, I will need more time to myself; basically, I leave early. That won’t stop me from spending time with new friends; it just means I spend less time with them.

A good day to me is a day in which I get to see people I love. A good day is also a day where I get several hours to myself, doing the things I like – such as writing or cuddling with my boyfriend/sisters/rats for a movie. I realized that family does not count when I talk about people. I could be with family all day, every day, and not feel anxious. That is probably why I don’t mind spending a lot of time with close friends; after all, they are like family.

So what does that mean for me? That means I don’t have to feel guilty for leaving early at a party. It means I have to recognize these needs in order to stay healthy and remain productive and happy. It means I should strive to spend quality time with loved ones instead of trying to go to ‘cool’ events, unless I’m in the mood to meet new people – in that case, it is a great opportunity to make new friends. It means I have to remember what makes ME happy, and do those things, so that when I do go out there, I can be my best self and make others happy that way.

What does it mean for you? Do you believe the way you are living your life socially speaking is making you happy? If not, ask yourself why you are doing certain things. I am not a selfish person, but in some circumstances, it is okay to think about oneself.

Why Rats Are a Writer’s Best Friend (or just MY best friend)

Ever since I have moved into an apartment with my boyfriend, I have been looking for the perfect apartment pet. I have a linnie bird back home, but unfortunately carrying him from the city to home for school breaks would be too difficult.

This week, I finally decided on getting a rat. Contrary to popular belief, rats are a great pet to have; they are super clean (seriously, mine won’t stop grooming itself), cuddly, low-maintenance, and learn to love you. My little buddy here is still getting used to being around me, and he is already falling asleep in the legs of my pyjama pants as I’m reading a book.

Image

 

So in celebration of Pikachu (yes, that’s what I named him), here is a list of why a pet rat can become a writer’s best friend. Or maybe it’s just me. (Warning: this applies only to writers who are like me, meaning that they love cuddling and giving/receiving affection from pets).

They Are Low Maintenance

Apart from the fact that they do need to be handled often, rats are a very low-maintenance pet. Make sure their cage is clean and that they have good food and water, and you’re all set. They can even be litter trained, which means less cleaning to do. For a writer who is bus with writing and other occupations in his or her life, this is great.

They Are Shoulder Pets

Many rats love to just hang out on your shoulder. This pretty much means that you can do other stuff you need to do while spending time with your beloved pet. Need to wash your dishes? Let it hang out. Typing at your computer? Put him on your shoulder.

They’re Cheap

Rats are not expensive. The food isn’t that expensive, especially if you buy in bulk. The most expensive cost initially will be the cage, but it doesn’t have to be. Websites like Ebay and Kijiji let you find others who will give you good deals for their old cages. I got mine for 80$, and it’s a decent size. So, if you don’t have a lot of money to spend on a pet, a rat might be a good idea. 

They Love to Cuddle

Either while I’m writing, reading, or playing on my DS, all while I’m lying down on the couch, Pikachu is there with me. When he’s tired, he cuddles on me and falls asleep. When he’s not, he explores all around me or licks my arm. Basically, he’s there to give affection even as I do solitary things. I think that is the reason I love him the most. Things that I do as a writer – things that humans, like my boyfriend, can’t participate in with me – are things that a rat can join you for a cuddle any time.

Image

 

Do you like pets? If so, what type do you prefer?

I like everything from cats to dogs and reptiles and rodents, but parrots are my favourite. When I have a car and a bigger apartment, I definitely want a parrot. And a cat. And a dog. And maybe a lizard, along with a bunch of rats.

Get Moving in 2014- Part 3

Welcome back to the last instalment of Get Moving in 2014. This week, I introduce you to my favourite workout routine:

This Week’s Focus: Weightlifting

I know, I know. A lot of you will say that you are not strong enough to do that kind of thing. If you are a girl, you might even say that you are afraid to get big n’ bulky. Here is a great article to prove you wrong.

http://www.stumptuous.com/strength-without-size-how-to-get-stronger-without-getting-bulky

If you were looking to freshen up your routine, try something new, upgrade from circuit training, or just wanted to start moving in the first place, weight lifting could be for you. However, a lot of equipment is necessary to perform most of the moves. A membership to a good gym or an investment in home equipment is necessary for weightlifting.

Here is why you should consider trying it out:

You gain weight, but lose fat. 

The history of my weight goes like this: I used to weight 140 pounds, but I felt mushy and weak and out of breath most of the time. I gained about ten pounds during my first semester of CEGEP. Then, I got down to 135 by doing cardio, circuit training, and calorie cutting. Today, I am around 150 pounds again, but I am toned and strong and as long as I keep my workout routine, I can eat to my hunger’s desire (but not junk food!). I don’t look the same at 150 pounds now than I did at 140 pounds several years ago; I look much healthier, and I feel much better about myself now.

The first picture is me about 4 years ago. The second picture is me weighing about 135 pounds. The last picture is me with my newfound strength and more weight in muscle. I may be skinnier in the second picture, but believe me: I feel much better about the third one.

Image

Image

Image

So don’t be alarmed if you see the scale going up. In fact, forget the scale. You will know if you gain fat when you can’t button your pants anymore. And even then, it might be your glutes growing.

More Food

Lifting weights will necessitate you to eat more food than when you are not lifting. Doing a heavy rep requires a lot of effort from your body. If you do it right, it feels good, too! Just make sure to eat good foods and not indulge in that extra cupcake just because you lifted your weights today. The empty calories will leave you even hungrier twenty minutes later.

It’s Good for You

Weightlifting will not improve your speed or your reflexes, but it does give your heart quite a workout, even though you are not really doing any ‘cardio’. So if you hate the feeling of intense cardio, weightlifting could be for you. You’re still working out your heart, but the breaks between your effort will prevent your pulse from going too fast when it isn’t necessary.

Plus, people tend to lose muscle and bone mass as they get older. Weightlifting is a good preventative measure against this. And it is not because your bones have already started weakening that you cannot start lifting weights; just start lighter! It’s never too late to begin.

 

The Routine

Some people may think that weightlifting involves tons of super complicated moves and that you have to spend 2 hours a day, six days a week at the gym to perform them all. That is simply not the case.

The best weightlifting moves are compound movements that work several muscle groups. It only takes a few moves to target your whole body.

I don’t have a routine for you that I have made up. That is because I swear by the Stronglifts routine. It’s simple, it works, and it’s only half an hour, three times a week. Visit http http://www.stronglifts.com for more information on this routine.

Quick Tip:

If you don’t have access to a squat rack (because yes, the squat is a VERY important move for your entire body), try overhead squats instead. You have to start very light- I’m talking 10 pounds light- or else you could lose your balance. The thing with this move is that your whole body works to stabilize you as you squat down with the bar in your arms- especially your abs. I don’t have a six pack, but underneath there somewhere my abs are stone hard because of this move.

Image

 

Thank you for taking the time to read this series.

And thank yourself if you are trying out one of the options available to you. Remember, anything is already better than nothing. Just make sure to find something you enjoy doing! I wish you good luck in your fitness journey.