I had such a moving experience this morning, I thought it was worth sharing:

On my way to the café this morning I walked by the same homeless man that I always see in Dinkytown. He smiles at me every morning on my way to class and usually asks if I can spare a sandwich or some change. I have always said no, because I’m in a hurry or don’t have cash, and he just smiles and tells me it’s okay and to have a great day. Today, after our usual interaction ending with me saying “I’m sorry, but good luck!” I felt guilty…I wasn’t in a hurry this morning. So I changed my mind, went into the café and bought a blueberry muffin to go. When I went outside, he was gone. I walked a block down and found him on the next corner, but when I approached him to give him the bag, he looked up at me, shook his head, and closed his eyes. I reached out to hand it to him, telling him that I picked him up some breakfast, and he started to cry. He put his hands in his pockets and wouldn’t accept it. I set the bag on the ground at his feet and told him that I’d already eaten breakfast, so I hoped he’d take it, and I turned around and walked the opposite way.

Halfway down the block I turned back and the bag and the man were gone.

It turns out, to him that muffin meant a lot more than just breakfast.

Sometimes it takes an experience like this to remember to notice people, to not make assumptions, and to take a minute of your day to do something small that will make a big difference for someone else.

Reach out to someone today!


Valentine or no Valentine…they’re still fun to make! I spent the majority of my Saturday night making sure at least 12 people in my life would feel special tomorrow…

A good craft session with a good friend (not to mention a really delicious dinner) might just make up for my lack of “Valentine” this year. Friends > valentines, anyway.


This is my grandma – one of the most remarkable women I know. Today is her 70th birthday, and although I’ve only known her for 20 of those 70 years, she has taught me at least 70 years worth of wisdom!

I love you, Grandma. HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

It’s funny how a dreary day – drizzly, damp, and grey – can actually put you in the best mood. Today it is giving me a clear mind. It’s washing away all of the stress and chaos that sometimes comes with a busy day on campus. and allowing me to embrace my favorite grey sweater, largest coffee mug, and un-worn rainboots.

It’s an excuse to curl up on the couch and just relax. Sometimes I find it hard to justify when all I can think about is my mile-high stack of textbooks waiting patiently for me on my desk. But today, I don’t feel guilty. Today is a quiet day with no distractions, and a good day for relaxing, thinking, and writing.

The lesson of the day today is to make the best of things, to see the beauty in small deeds, and to find the hidden opportunities each day brings, even the grey ones.

Apples Baked with Cinnamon and Brown Sugar served on Yogurt

This morning I woke up early determined to make a special breakfast. I had decided last night that I wanted to make something seasonal, and I thought of cinnamon and apples. I also love to bake, so whenever I see recipes that combine breakfast with baking, I am temped to try them out. As I browsed through my extensive virtual recipe collection, I stopped and hovered my cursor over two different recipes: Baked Peanut Butter and Apple Oatmeal, and Baked Apples on Greek Yogurt. I finally decided on Greek yogurt over oatmeal, and pulled out my little pad of paper to make a grocery list. I made sure to add Greek Gods honey flavored yogurt, and I also tacked on some other items – steel-cut oats, canned pumpkin, dark brown sugar…you know, ingredients for all of those other baked breakfasts/desserts I still have to try out 🙂

So I got up at 7:30 this morning, recipe in hand, and got to work in the kitchen. I prepared the apple mixture in a baking pan and got it in the oven right away so I would have time to run off to the grocery store after they were done (and before my 10 am haircut appointment). The apples filled the house with a sweet, cinnamon smell and were done right on schedule, so I covered the pan in tinfoil and made a quick trip to the grocery store. I even made it back in time to photograph my finished product and sit down to eat with my family!

Everyone loved the Greek yogurt, and we topped our half-full bowls of yogurt with the hot, baked apples. Then we added a handful of granola and a drizzle of honey. It was even better than I expected – definitely a recipe to remember!

I also still have baked apples left over, so I want to find a creative use for them…or just heat them up and eat them with a scoop of vanilla ice cream like apple crisp…yummm.

I originally found this idea on Foodgawker, but I ended up modifying the recipe a bit. Here is the original and my own modified version.


Original recipe:

4-6 apples, peeled and cut into cubes

1 cinnamon stick
1/2 vanilla bean
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 tablespoon brown sugar

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Combine all ingredients in an oven-safe pan. Roast apples for about 50-60 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes until apples are golden brown around the edges. Serve with vanilla ice cream, oatmeal or yogurt and granola.

Total time: 60-70 minutes 
Yield: 2 cups


My modified recipe:

6 Honeycrisp apples, peeled and cut into cubes

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons melted butter
2 tablespoons brown sugar

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Combine all ingredients in an oven-safe pan. Roast apples for about 50-60 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes or so until apples are golden brown around the edges. Serve with Greek yogurt and granola.

Total time: 60-70 minutes 
Yield: 2 cups

My very favorite Greek yogurt is Greek Gods Honey flavored yogurt – I like it so much that I drove  over to Kowalski’s to buy it after doing all of my other grocery shopping at Cub (Cub doesn’t carry the Greek Gods brand).

I also have a favorite granola (a new favorite, thanks to my grandma!) It is Great Harvest‘s granola that is cooked without oil. As you can see from the label, the only ingredients are rolled oats, almonds, sunflower seeds, raisins, honey, molasses, and cinnamon. They sell it in big 2 lb bags, which are very affordable (around $5.00) and last a long time.


I hope you all enjoyed this recipe, there will be more to come. Until next time!

The perfect oatmeal.

Cooked oats with a small handful of homemade baked granola (flax seeds, oats, cinnamon, and chopped pecans), dried cranberries, golden raisins, walnuts, a splash of unsweetened soymilk, and a drizzle of honey.

The only thing that would have made it better is steel-cut oats instead of the quick-cook kind, but unfortunately that’s all I had. Oatmeal is the perfect winter breakfast. It’s nutritious, warms you up on cold mornings, and keeps you full!

Some variations that I like are adding pumpkin spice (or even canned pumpkin if you’re baking your oatmeal) and baked apples. I’m going to give a new recipe a try tomorrow morning so stay tuned 🙂

I’m getting excited to move into my new apartment!

(from left) Jessi, Jenna, Steph, me, and Anne.

I will be living with Jessi, Jenna, and Steph, because Anne is going abroad to France. It worked out perfectly because we were able to switch places (she lived there while I was abroad in Venezuela). The apartment is adorable and is right in the heart of Dinky Town. I’ve never lived in Dinky Town before, but I think I’m going to love it. Not to mention that all of my classes are huddled closer to University this semester and my job is only a few blocks from my new apartment. Anyways, I’m hoping to start moving my things in right after Christmas and add my touch to my new home! I can’t wait to live with these girls, they are all so much fun. It looks like I have a promising semester ahead, and a whole month and a half left of break to enjoy before that! Life is looking good.

I had girl’s night at Aurora’s apartment last night, which is decked out in Christmas decorations, and now I am sitting on her couch with a cup of coffee because I slept over last night. We are off to Target (my second trip since being home…) and then I have more friends to see and catch up with: today I am going to see Gretchen’s house. That’s all for now…more updates on my Christmas break adventures to come.

Today I really got in the Christmas spirit!

I spent most of the day with my grandma listening to Christmas music, drinking hot tea and eating date cookies, window shopping, and admiring Christmas lights. We also stopped at Sebastian Joe’s because after my long semester abroad, I was desperately craving good ice cream.

When I saw Candy Cane, Apple Crisp, Pumpkin, and Eggnog flavored ice cream, I knew I was really back in Minnesota! I chose a scoop of Eggnog and ate it on the closed-in patio with the fireplace.

This Eggnog ice cream is almost as good as the ever-famous Raspberry Chocolate Chip…and I really mean that! I don’t remember the last time I walked into Sebastian Joe’s and got something besides Raspberry Chocolate Chip, but I can honestly say I’m glad I did this time. I didn’t walk out of Sebastian Joe’s without having a taste of my all-time favorite Raspberry Chocolate Chip though – my grandma and I share our love for the flavor, so although she tasted the Grand Marnier ice cream, she went with the good old classic. It was just as good as I remember it!

After our day out, we headed back to her house to sip one more mug of hot tea and admire the Christmas tree while listening to Pandora Christmas radio.

And when I started to get too cozy on the couch, I decided it was time to stop by my future apartment for a date with my friends Jenna and Jessi who I’ll be living with starting in January. When I walked in, this is what I was greeted with:

Now you can see why I’m in the Christmas spirit! The apartment was beautifully decorated and I was met at the door with smothering hugs and smiling faces. I LOVE my friends. I finally tore myself away to let them finish their homework and drove home in the bitter cold. I had completely forgotten about scraping ice off of windshields, waiting for the car to warm up, slippery roads, and snow emergencies, so today was a little rough for me car-wise. I’ll get used to it though, even if it takes me a little while…80 degrees, sun, and palm trees to 20 degrees, ice, and snow is a big adjustment!

I made it home and headed up to my bedroom in search of a warm sweatshirt, where I found this.

Which one doesn’t belong?

She loves to sleep there, but sometimes I don’t notice her right away because she blends right in. This is exactly where I am as I’m typing this, sitting on my bed next to my adorable Christmas kitty, enjoying the smell of a burning candle on my bedside table, listening to Christmas music, and drinking a steaming cup of green tea. Life is good, and the Christmas spirit is here with me to stay!

I can’t believe it…

My study abroad trip is ending today. This is my last day in Mérida and I will miss it with all my heart!

Things that I will especially miss:

1. waking up to the sun rising over the mountains

2. eating arepas for breakfast and drinking café con leche

3. receiving surprise letters in the mail from my grandmas

4. my silly 8-year-old host brother asking to play with my E-POP (he means ipod 🙂 )

5. the crazy buses blasting Bob Marley

6. speaking spanish and drinking 30 cent beers with my Venezuelan friends

7. spontaneous adventures up into the mountains

Things that I will not miss quite so much:

1. the random power outages

2. the ants

3. the taxis with horns that “whistle”

…and that’s about it.

There are a million more things that I will miss, but I have them all documented on my blog, and most of them are memories I will never forget anyway.

Thank you Venezuela, for an AMAZING ADVENTURE!

And Chao for now, until we meet again someday 🙂

“Kindness is more than deeds. It is an attitude, an expression, a look, a touch. It is anything that lifts another person”

As I was filling up my water bottle the other day during my break from class, a girl ran up to me and told me that she wanted to give me a gift. She was a bit younger than me, a Venezuelan student studying english at my school, and she reminded me that the week before, I’d helped her answer a question on her homework.

She smiled up at me and handed me a small truffle – a macadamia nut covered in chocolate.

When I say that I want to leave this country with me some of the qualities of the people here, this is exactly what I mean: the selflessness and the willingness and enthusiasm to go the extra mile to make someone’s day, to leave a good impression or to make a friend. It’s amazing…and it’s just a part of life here.

I have been challenging myself to adopt and internalize these qualities from my first week here in Venezuela, and I can honestly say that I notice myself reaching out more to people who I wouldn’t have necessarily thought to talk to before. Their responses always makes me smile.

The other day I was leaving the little in-home laundry mat in our neighborhood. On my way out the door, the owner of the laundry mat (a thin woman with pigtails and braces in her early 30s) waved at me saying “¡Chao mi cielo!” which means “goodbye my heaven” – a common term of affection used here. Then, as I was halfway down the block, her two adorable children yelled at me from the balcony, “¡Chao linda!”, meaning “goodbye pretty girl!” These “palabras de cariño” or terms of affection are the norm, even among perfect strangers. Oh, I almost forgot to  mention the kiss on the cheek I received when I walked in the door to drop off my laundry 🙂

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