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Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Bucketlist

So currently I work 6 days a week. That is about 27 days a month and only 53days off a year. By the end of the year I have worked a total of 2 months more than most people and had virtually no glorious days 'sleeping in'.  It is exhausting and I am exhausted just calculating the facts. I have been working at this charming establishment since March so it is taking its toll on my vigorous excitement for life and my intense go-getting attitude. Now although I enjoy my job and am still very much hopeful of it's potential I am becoming a bit despondent. Anywho, to keep me going and keep me motivated I have decided to include an ever-growing bucketlist on my blog. Once I can check off something, I'll add a picture as proof and maybe, if I'm feeling especially motivated, I'll write a small blog post. Some of my bucketlist goals will be postdated because I've been working on this list, like most of us, for all of my life and those will jazz up the list with some already inspiring wishes granted to keep me going. Rest assured that my ever-growing wanderlust is strongly evident on this list. Let's get started and if I'm missing anything add a comment below.

Take a TEFL course
Wander in Italy X
Ride in a gondola X
Wander in Spain 
Graduate high school
Graduate university
Get your masters
Wander in Asia
Get a flat tummy ~ ABS
Wander in Cambodia
Wander in India
Climb the Leaning Tower of Pisa X

Pilgrimage: Walk where Jesus walked
Fall in love X
Get married
Adopt a child
Travel with family
Wander in the castles in Germany (with Dad)
Work at a Zoo X
Go scuba diving
Swim with dolphins
Linedance in Texas: cowboy boots, daisy dukes and hat a must!
See the Grand Canyon
Make a pinch camera
Post a letter to the walls of Juliet's house in Verona, Italy
Wander in Latin America
Ride a Vespa
Teach English abroad (part 1) X
Take a vacationa ALONE
Kissed by an Elephant X
 Set foot on all seven continents
Finish a Jigsaw puzzle

Monday, July 15, 2013

Sunday Lunch | Fig, Strawberry and Almond Tart

Sunday lunch is a tradition in my boyfriend’s family and I try to add some color by testing out new deserts on them. I was inspired by a recipe I saw on Laura Vitale’s YouTube channel and 'kicked it up a notch' with my flavor combination. You’ll love the taste of this fig and strawberry tart with a crunchy bite of almonds sprinkled throughout. The tart was a crowd pleaser this weekend and vanished from the table within minutes.

Tart Base
2 ½ cups of All Purpose Flour
¼ cup of Granulated Sugar
1 ½ tsp of Orange Zest
¼ tsp of Salt
1 tsp Vanilla extract
¾ cup of Unsalted Butter, cold and cut into bite size pieces
¼ cup of Vegetable Shortening, cold and cut into bite size pieces
3 Egg Yolks
A Few Tablespoons of Ice Water

1 cup Fig jam
2 cups sliced Strawberries
¼ cut coarsely chopped Almonds

Egg Wash, 1 egg beaten with a tablespoon of water or milk
1.    In the bowl of food processor, add the flour, vanilla extract, orange zest, salt and sugar and mix briefly until combined well.
2.    Add the cold butter and shortening and mix until the butter and shortening are well distributed throughout the dry ingredients. You’ll see bits of them throughout mixture.
3.    Add the 3 egg yolks and mix until the dough starts to come together.
4.    With the mixer running, add in one tablespoon of ice water at a time until the dough starts coming together well.
5.    Take 1/3 of the dough and form a small disk. Take the remaining dough and form a larger disk. Wrap them both with plastic wrap and cool them in the fridge for an hour. You want this dough to stay cool so butter and shortening do not melt.
6.    Preheat the oven to 375 °F or if you’re working with the metric system, 190 °C.
7.    Take the dough out for about 10 minutes before you start rolling it. Grease a 9” tart pan with a removable bottom or one of those cool silicon baking pans as I used.
8.    On a lightly floured surface, roll out the bigger piece of dough into a 12 inch circle and place it in the tart pan (make sure the sides are over hanging a bit).
9.    With a fork, poke holes in the dough so it can breath and will not puff up when baking
10. Line the tart shell with aluminum foil and fill with either dried beans or rice. Bake the tart shell for 15 minutes.
11. Remove from the oven and remove the aluminum foil with the beans, allow to cool slightly.
12. Fill the tart shell with the jam making sure to smear it evenly. Microwave jam for a few seconds so that it is easier to spread.
13. Line the jam covered tart with your strawberries and sprinkle in your chopped almonds.
14. Roll out the smaller disk into a 10 inch circle on a floured surface and cut 1 inch strips out of it with a pastry cutter.
15. Lay the slices over the fillings in a crisscross pattern diagonally. Pinch the strips with the over the overhanging dough and then using the palm of your hand, push down on the edge of the pan to cut off excess dough.
16. Brush the top with the egg wash and place the tart in the oven to bake for about 20 minutes or until the top is lightly golden.

Allow to cool completely before serving and serve with your favorite French vanilla ice-cream or fresh whipped cream.  

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Unlock the Happiness

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms.”
~Henry David Thoreau, Walden: Or, Life in the Woods

It might have been 1854 but Henry David Thoreau saw into the future of the world when he decided to seclude himself away at Walden Pond. Long ago, Thoreau posed a challenge we are losing today: fight materialism and live a simpler yet more fulfilled life. As people of today’s globally consumerist culture, we equate happiness and fulfillment in life with money in the bank, a car in the driveway and expensive possessions. YouTube is filled with beauty gurus showcasing hauls of their purchased merchandise and we are always on the lookout for the newest and most technologically advanced Smartphone. We live in a world where we constantly want MORE MORE MORE but when is it enough?  

The world is saturated with people looking for happiness, and why shouldn’t we be. We pick up the latest self-help bestsellers from our local bookstores or spend hours and thousands of dollars on therapy sessions that for many, don’t tackle the issue. Last year alone we spent approximately $118 billion on traveling and $200 billion on the latest electronics. Is it difficult to find happiness and fulfillment in life or are we looking in the wrong places? Thoreau was an 18th century hipster that decided to moved into his friend Ralph Waldo Emerson’s cabin in the woods to live more simply. His book, Walden, was part memoir and part spiritual quest as he spent over 2 years stripped away from all superfluous luxuries, living as part of nature and reflecting on life.  He had this basic idea; in life we do not need all the most modern advances but instead believed the more we have, the more we want.

There is something to be said about happiness in Thoreau’s experiment at Walden pound. The World Happiness Report published by The Earth Institute, explains how research shows that wealth does not necessarily equal happiness[i]. This report launched at the United Nations, explains that although the poor who gain wealth do experience an increase in happiness, the high-income communities only gain momentary ‘happiness’ then quickly drift back to their usual level of fulfillment. The citizens of countries lacking resources do gain happiness when they are able to fulfill their basic needs and live above their usual lifestyle but what do we westerners gain from a new salary increase or electronic toy? We were already more than able to put a nutritious meal on the table and have a warm bed to sleep in at night; all our basic necessities in life have long been filled. While the stresses of poverty are gone for us, we now face many other problems brought on by increased wealth.

“Affluence has created its own set of afflictions and addictions. Obesity, adult-onset diabetes, tobacco-related illnesses, eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia, psychosocial disorders, and addictions to shopping, TV, and gambling, are all examples of disorders of development. So too is the loss of community, the decline of social trust, and the rising anxiety levels associated with the vagaries of the modern globalized economy, including the threats of unemployment or episodes of illness not covered by health insurance in the United States”[ii].

We put heavy faith in getting a promotion at work, investing in a new phone or computer, which will make our lives ‘easier’, but research shows it does not increase our happiness over time. An article in TIME magazine references ‘consumptive happiness’. The article, The Happiness of Pursuit, by Jeffrey Kluger explains that today in the US we gain momentary happiness from items we reap but this positive high is not lasting[iii]. This fleeting feeling of happiness has created a community of people looking for happiness in all the wrong places. A possible part of the solution is to understand that happiness may “lie not in a product … but simply in a better understanding of the particular way Americans define happiness in the first place”.

It’s funny that a man in the 1800s realized our dependence on possessions, which has just progressed as an issue in today’s world. Thoreau found that luxuries in life did not give him happiness but distracted from it. Don’t get me wrong; technology has made life much easier. We are able to live and commute in ways Thoreau would not have understood but what he did know is that it would not solve all our problems. In today’s 4G world, we live by instant gratification which is more about reaping than sowing. As novels have become 140 character Tweets, our attention spans have shortened and we demand things to happen instantaneously. A poll by TIME found that 25% of women, 5% of men are taking antidepressants and 48% of women, 44% of men admit to eating as a means to improve their moods. We are harvesting our natural resources and tugging on every bit of them hoping to find the next big thing to fill the void in us. Instead, we should be of putting less responsibility on the ever dwindling natural resources and locking ourselves in our own metaphorical cabins to self-reflect. By realizing how we define happiness we can reflect on what actually brings us lasting fulfillment. Quality time spent with loved ones, rest and hard work towards goals brings us a more lasting feeling of accomplishment and happiness rather than fleeting moments of it.

Looking for happiness in all the wrong places and for instant gratification are key themes in today’s society. We must have faith in our character and let hard work and dedication drive us to our end goal. Enjoying the scenery during the ride is important and where are character is strengthened. See the journey as part of the process and live through it. We can’t live exactly the way Thoreau did in his experiment. We can remind ourselves that when we don’t have the latest phone or when we are stuck taking public transportation there is something to learn from it. Hard work, dedication and proper planning will get us all to achieving our goals and equip us to enjoy them as well. Sometimes we just need to stop and list what we are thankful for instead of what we are missing or what would make us happier.

[i] Sachs, Jeffrey D., John F. Helliwell, and Richard Layard, eds. "First World Happiness Report Launched at the United Nations." The Earth Institute, Columbia University (2012): 1-170. Web.
[ii] Ibid
[iii] Kluger, Jeffery. "The Happiness of Pursuit." TIME 8 July 2013: 66-72. Print.