Day 12: Wherein I discover the best remedy for stress is to punch something…

And that something is bread dough.

I love food. And food is my outlet for stress-relief. Not that I’m a stress eater!

No, I find comfort in the idea of food, the process of mixing multiple things together to create something delicious. I love playing with flavors, colors, textures, and smells. I love the fact that what can be seemingly unrelated ingredients and mesh together to become a culinary masterpiece. Creating order from chaos. That’s what I enjoy about cooking.

Cooking allows me to be creative. After a stressful day filled with logic and decision making, sometimes messing around in the kitchen is the best outlet because it lets me throw caution to the wind and try new things (as long as I don’t burn the house down….)

Take this bread for instance. I’ve recently been on a separate, kitchen-related quest to bake the perfect loaf of bread. My friends and family are the lucky ones, because they usually get to share in the end product. After multiple successful (and sometimes incredibly not so) attempts, I decided to try an egg bread instead of the white bread or French breads I had been trying. This recipe called for milk instead of water to mix into the dough, which honestly weirded me out. Why? I have no idea. I’m not a bread expert by any means…but I just never thought of milk going into a bread dough.

After about two hours, what resulted was THE BEST DAMN BREAD I’VE EVER MADE, shown above.

So the lesson learned today is: The best way to relieve stress is to do what you love. Okay, so it’s not exactly life-changing, but it seems that sometimes people get so caught up in the fact that they are stressed that they fail to realize one of the easiest  and most fundamental ways to relieve it is to enjoy yourself! I will admit that I have been guilty recently of complaining about stress, and given recent events, I should consider myself lucky that I even have something to stress about! It was time for me to take a step back, take a deep breath, and realize that everything is going to be ok. And if I had to bake a loaf of bread to realize that even the most chaotic, crazy, stressful times can turn out beautiful and wonderful and good in the end, then so be it. Because I had a damn delicious night, then.

And we are ALL going to have a damn delicious future :) It will all be alright, kids. Our suns are shining brightly on new beginnings.

Oh. And if you want the recipe for the bread, you can find it below. Thank you to Victoria Marler and allrecipes.com! It was delicious!

Zopf (Swiss Sunday Bread)
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast (or 1 packet)
1 1/3 cup warm milk
1 egg yolk
2 tbl butter, softened
3 1/2 cups bread flour
1 tbl water
1 egg white

1.  In a large bowl, dissolve yeast into warm milk. Let sit for 10 minutes until creamy.
2. Add egg yolk, butter, and 2 cups of flour. Stir well to combine. Stir in remaining flour 1/2 cup at a time until fully incorporated (at this point, I added a little bit extra milk because the dough was a little bit dry).
3. When dough has puleld together, turn out onto floured surface and knead for about 8 minutes until smooth and elastic (it should snap back to its shape when pulled).
4. Divide dough into three pieces. Roll each piece into a long cylinder. Braid the three pieces together.
5. Put dough on a lightly-oiled baking sheet and cover. Set in a dark place for an hour until dough has risen. Preheat oven to 425°F.
6.Beat together water and egg white. Brush on to dough. Bake in oven for 20-25 minutes, until golden and perfect :)

The beauty is in what you make it, so get up on your feet. — Jimmy Eat World

Days 4-6: Wherein I learn the true meaning of friendship

It’s been an interesting week, to say the least. I’m not sure what is to come from certain events, but I do know one thing:

I have learned what friendship is.

It’s letting someone cry on your shoulder, or you crying on theirs. It’s being an ear to listen with, or a mouth to speak with. It’s humoring wild ideas, and politely (or not) declining the incredibly stupid ones. It’s laughing at someone’s jokes, but never laughing at the person. It’s giving someone an extra box of french fries when the people at Chik-Fil-A mess up your order, or it’s raiding a freezer for ice cream with someone else. It’s having dinner with your mom every night, and having your own secret language. It’s being there for someone in their hour of need or finishing a jigsaw puzzle with them, regardless of the number of missing pieces.

Ultimately, I have learned that friendship is acceptance in it’s purest form.

No matter who you are, what you are, what you do, who you love, how you love, where you go, why you go, what you say, what you think, what you need, friendship endures because everyone is unique, and because we accept each other as we come.

John Mayer says in his song “The Heart of Life” (above) a few things that I think are incredibly true. He says “Bad news never had good timing. But then, the circle of your friends will defend the silver lining.” I think one of the ultimate tests of friendships is to be able to stick by someone through the “bad times” and help them see the good and the beauty in life. I thank God for my mom, who is my best friend and the rest of my family, who are there to support me and love me unconditionally, everyday. Not many people can say that about their own families. And I also thank God for the friends who have stood by me through the rough times in my life, regardless of our current relationships. I have learned what true friendship is and I thank those of you who have shown it to me and have helped me show it in return.

Friends and family, you are the heart of my life.

Pain throws your heart to the ground.
Love turns the whole thing around.
No,  it won’t all go the way it should,
But I know the heart of life is good. — John Mayer

Day 3: Wherein the world teaches me a lesson I won’t soon forget.

Never did I think the world will deal me such a powerful lesson only 3 days into this “quest.”

The following will need no explanation. In fact, what is about to follow should be explained not by me, but by you, reader. I ask that you share today’s lesson with whoever it is that you feel needs to hear it.

Here goes:

Life, by definition, is not kind. Everyday, we are faced with situations that try us, test us, pull us in every direction. Lord knows I have had my share of trials in this life, and I would be a fool if I did not expect there to be more in my future.

We think with our hearts, not our heads. Such is our lot as humans, I suppose. Maybe we aren’t meant to make rational decisions all the time, because I have found that sometimes, the right decisions  are not the rational ones at all. Some people see thinking with the heart as “weak,” but I see it as the essence of what we are meant to do. We are meant to think with love. We dream about “true love” every day, immortalize the concept in music and art, and are constantly looking for that sense of belonging, that sense of friendship, that sense of validation even, that can only come from love. Sometimes, however, it may seem hard to find, which brings me to today’s lesson:

Even when it seems like the world is out to get you, know this: you are loved.

That’s all I’ve got for today, folks, but somehow, I think it’s just enough.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. — 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Day 2: Wherein I (don’t) work for the weekend.

Today was an incredible, wonderful, fantastic day. Why?

Because I didn’t do anything.

That’s strange, you might say. But think about it for a second. All week long, we go to work, go to class, run errands, and do all sorts of things we are required to do to be a functioning member of society. Then, we go home, make dinner, do homework, study, and fall asleep (read: pass out) before we’re up again to do it all over. The amount of stress we, in today’s world, are under during the workweek is enough to make us go crazy, and, according to my Management of Human Resources professor, is one of the things that most contributes to us getting sick. In fact, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) states that a quarter of Americans say their job is the number one stressor in their lives (article link here, very interesting actually), and the Mayo Clinic says that too much stress can cause a weakened immune system, nausea, chest pains, sleep disorders, and even depression (view more symptoms here).

Even our weekends have become filled with work. We have lawns to mow, damn it! And plants to plant! And marathons to run! And community service projects to….perform service at! Where have our weekends gone?!

I have to admit that I am guilty of partaking in work-filled weekends. Where else am I going to find the time to do all the stuff that I should have done during the week? Today was a glorious exception. After waking up later than normal, picking some dirty laundry up off my floor and running to Publix to buy random vegetables, I came home, sat down, and just chilled out.

To be honest, at first I didn’t know what to do with this free time that was all mine! So, I started making work for myself. After an hour of trying to find chores that didn’t exist, I finally gave in and realized: I have nothing important to do. Which is sad, to be true, but fantastic at the same time, because that means I could do all the unimportant things that I wanted: play video games, eat, read a book, cook, eat some more….the possibilities were endless! The chance to just relax and do what ever I wanted, combined with this weekend’s perfect weather, could not have made me more relaxed; a perfect start to what is going to be one of my busiest weeks this semester.

And so I realized today’s lesson: Find time in the weekend to do whatever the hell you want. It is inevitable that we will have some sort of work to do over the weekend, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t find time to just relax. The workweek is so full of stress, that’s why we have Saturday and Sunday to put an END to the stress we felt during the week. Let’s take our weekends back, readers! Let’s finally reclaim the chance to relax, recoup, rejuvenate, and rejoice in the two days specifically set aside for us to do all of those things! Our weekends will be ours again, and with that, so will our sanity and our health!

Fight on, my weekend warriors.

Calvin: I’ve been thinking, Hobbes…
Hobbes: On a weekend?
Calvin: Well, it wasn’t on purpose!

Day 1: Wherein I plant a garden…and wait.

My New GardenYou know that feeling you get when you psych yourself up for something, and then that thing doesn’t happen?

I felt like that for a while tonight, because honestly, if you asked me an hour ago what the first new thing I learned on my journey to learn a new “meaningful” thing every day was, I wouldn’t have been able to answer. I didn’t have any crazy life experiences today. What I did do was spend $70 at a local nursery and buy a bunch of flowers to plant for my mom. Why? Because working outside is actually bearable when you don’t sweat after walking 20 feet from your parking spot to the door of your apartment.

I feel like I’ve waited forever for the weather to change. I was spoiled by the brief periods of coolness during the time I spent in Chicago this summer. And the waiting was totally worth it. Today’s weather was absolutely gorgeous, and I got to spend it walking around one of my favorite outdoor shops, surrounded by bright colors, breathing in the perfumed air and listening to the giant wind chimes and watching husbands’ spend all their wives’ money on some grand landscaping scheme that would put even Martha Stewart’s best garden to shame. By the end of the morning, I was able to create what you see above, and I’m pretty damn proud. My mom had to give up the “gardens” we had at our old house, and I was finally able to bring one back to her. It’s not much, but it’s the first chance I’ve had to play in the dirt since moving out of the house I grew up in last December. And when it finally grows, and the seeds that I planted start to shoot up out of the ground, and when the flowers that are there start to grow bigger and bloom even more, it will really be something to see!

So now we wait..

For what? For the pot on the left to grow basil and rosemary; for the empty patch on the right to grow peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, and peas; for the deer to come and eat those tomatoes, as they inevitably will; for new life to be brought to what was a patch of stones in my backyard. And I’ll wait for cooler weather to come back tomorrow, and I’ll wait for even more time I can spend outdoors, and for more opportunities to create something new for the people I care about.

I guess I did learn a lesson today: waiting isn’t always a bad thing. In fact, maybe it’s the waiting for something that makes that thing so much better in the end.

So, here’s to a first lesson learned! I can’t wait to see what tomorrow will bring (I couldn’t resist…)!

Rome was not built in a day — Anon.

Day 0: Fact: I Know Nothing…Sort Of….

Me

Well, this is embarrasing.

Here I sit, in my room on a Friday night, and I have come to the most disturbing of conclusions:

I know nothing.

Alright, that’s a little harsh. The truth is, I know A LOT of things. If you asked me, I could give you what the first capital of Texas was (when it was a Republic!). If you gave me a math equation, I could solve it relatively quickly, given my calculator had a fresh set of batteries in it (let’s be honest, I haven’t touched that thing since high school).

But is this real “knowledge”? What is there to be gained from knowing that the first capital of the Republic of Texas was Washington-on-the-Brazos? And how is useful is it to know that if x^2+23=48, x=5? Sure, I might score big on Jeopardy (one day, Trebek!), but am I really getting any use from all these random facts?

No, I want real knowledge. I want to be moved by the new things I learn. My quest this year is to find truth. I want to know what distinguishes living from existing. And to do that, I have a seemingly simple, yet terrifying task ahead of me:

I need to learn one new thing a day, and not just a basic fact, but something more profound. Sometimes, it may be difficult, but I am determined to turn even the smallest ounce of new knowledge into a lesson I can use  to uncover the mysteries and truths of this world. My hopes are that this “quest” will open my eyes to the world we live in, so that I can have a better understanding and appreciation for living.

I am excited for everything the next 366 days (it’s a leap year!) have to offer. Starting tomorrow, I will no longer know nothing. I will know SOMETHING…..I just don’t know what that is yet! ;)

As for me, all I know is that I know nothing. — Socrates

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