Category Archives: Activities

Must-haves for Amateurs in the Kitchen

Cookware Collage

 

(Grill – George Foreman 2 serving Grill, Cookie Sheets – Faberware Nonstick Cookie Sheets, Knives – Ginsu 14 piece knife set, Pots & Pans – Cook N Home 10 piece nonstick cookware set, Cutting Boards – Totally Bamboo 3 piece cutting board set)

 

As a young adult I love eating out at restaurants, ordering late night takeout, or ordering pizza delivery. As a college students, however, I enjoy saving money; and let me be the first to say, that it’s really difficult to save money when you’re spending $20-25 at restaurants. So, mostly out of necessity (and by necessity I really mean thriftiness), I learned how to cook some basic meals at home using the minimal amount of cookware necessary. Since many kitchen appliances can be very expensive, I have tried to make do with what little was available in my apartment kitchen, however there are some basic kitchen materials that I, as an amateur cook and college student, would say are necessary to cook any real meal. Now bear in mind, that I am no expert chef, so when I say “real meal” I’m really talking about some steaks,  grilled chicken and steamed vegetables in portions that serve one or two people, and not full spread, three course dinners for large families. So the items on this week’s list are really more for you bachelors/bachelorettes or hungry college students that are sick of fast food and tired of breaking bank at restaurants.

1. George Foreman Grill. Now this is not like the gas powered portable grill that has been featured in several of my other posts. This one is a smaller electric powered grill that is probably small enough to carry around in a backpack. The beauty of this little appliance is that you don’t need to know how to barbecue or grill something like you would if you were operating a gas powered grill. It is as simple as placing your food in the grill, plugging it in, closing it, and letting your food cook for a few minutes. A simple-to-use and inexpensive alternative to an open flame grill, the George foreman is an amateur cook’s best friend.

2. Cookie Sheets. As the name suggests, you often use these to bake pastries (or cookies). In general, however, I use cookie sheets whenever I need to cook something inside an oven. Since most ovens don’t allow you to place food directly on it’s surface, a cookie sheet is needed to place your food on. And trust me, I use these all the time whenever I attempt to make a baked meal like baked chicken, or baked salmon, or even if I just want to heat up some leftover food. The non-stick surface of the cookie sheets also means that your food will be neat, and you won’t have to scrape it off the bottom of the oven.

3. Kitchen Knife set. This one should be self explanatory. Kitchen knives are essential when attempting to cook something that isn’t a sandwich or burger. Whether you need to chop up vegetables or dice some meats, you will almost always need a good pair of kitchen knives. And don’t bother buying cheap knives! Invest in a durable, high quality knife set that will last a long time and you’ll be sure to feel more like a pro in the kitchen.

4. Pots and Pans. Ramen noodles may be considered a broke college student’s best friend because they are so affordable, but pasta isn’t that much more expensive and it tastes so much better. The only problem is, that unlike ramen, you can’t cook good pasta in under 2 minutes in a microwave. That is where having good quality pots and pans comes into play. If your kitchen is stocked with pots and pans, there really isn’t anything you can’t make. Whether it’s pasta, soup and noodles, fried chicken, or even french fries, a good set of pots and pans will make sure that you never run out of options to cook.

5. A cutting board. This is probably the most underrated kitchen appliance on the list. It’s such a simple thing that some people don’t even bother having one in their kitchen. However, cutting boards are always a necessity when cooking food. They keep your food and your countertops clean while also ensuring that you don’t leave knife marks everywhere. A good cutting board is one that is easy to wash and will endure several years of chopping, slicing, and dicing.

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It’s still nice enough for a Swim, right?

Pool party collage

 

(Grill – Coleman Portable grill, Cooler – Coleman 62qt Cooler, Cups – 18oz Hefty Red Solo Cups, Pool Volleyball – Dunnrite AquaVolly Swimming Pool Volleyball Set, Pool Toy- Waboba Pro Ball, Drink Dispenser – Creativeware 3-Gallon Drink Dispenser)

 

It’s only about half-way through September, but there seems to be a shadow gradually creeping over these sunny days, almost as subtle as a slight change in the weather. Actually, since I’m talking about Winter, it has everything to do with changes in the weather. Yes, that’s right, “Winter is Coming” and it will be here before any of us expect it. Our brothers and sisters living in the northern regions of the world are probably already feeling the first signs of the impending coldness. I, however, am fortunate enough to be living in the American Southwest where I will still be able to enjoy almost-summer type weather. So what does that mean? Well it means for the next few weeks I will be enjoying every last bit of pool party season as I can, before winter snatches it away for several months. So as a last hurrah to pool party season 2014 I decided to make a small list of pool party essentials.

And before I go any further, yes this list features a lot of food and drink related items – Why? Well people spend the pre-summer months getting into shape, and getting a beach-worthy bod to look good at the pool, however, from what I have seen, part of this is because many people like to eat and drink like hippos when at pool parties and by the end of summer have probably put back a some of the pounds they lost a few months earlier.

So, here is my list of ideas for pool party items:

1. The portable grill. This is probably the the third time this item has been included in a list, and it’s not just because I really like barbecuing and food (which I do), but it’s because these grills are just so convenient for almost any situation. From barbecue parties, to pool parties, to just regular parties – any time food and socializing are put together, a portable grill will be there no matter what the venue to save the day and crank out some delicious grilled food.

2. 62qt cooler is just the right size to cool as much food and drink as you want at a pool party. And trust me, you will want fresh food and cool drinks by the pool. After a couple hours in the sun, by the pool you start to get a little hungry and your throat seems a little parched. Well if you ever find yourself in that situation, you’ll be thankful that you decided to bring a cooler, so that you can gulp down a cold drink and snack on a few munchies without having to go anywhere special. And if you have a portable grill like from #1 then you might find that there’s always room for a few frozen steaks or burger patties in the cooler.

3. Red Solo Cups. Do I need to explain? Okay, for the sake of thoroughness I will. Red solo cups are simply the universal american symbol for a party, at least according to Toby Keith. They are an inexpensive alternative to having glass cups and are disposable, which means that you don’t have to wash a few dozen cups when you’re finished. What’s more is that pool parties tend to have pools filled with water and glass has a tendency to break. Broken glass isn’t really a good thing to have at the bottom of a big pool filled with water because you wouldn’t be able to see if you were stepping on it. Luckily, you won’t have that problem with the plastic cups.

4. A drink dispenser is almost essential for any party scene. Simply choose your favorite drink, pour it into the drink dispenser and fill it up with ice, then viola, everyone can enjoy your beverage selection. These large drink dispensers are also great for mixed drinks like lemonade, iced tea, or basically any drink where a small pitcher just won’t do the job.

5. Pool Volleyball. Well any type of sport will do. Pool Volleyball just seems like loads of fun. The important thing is to find a game to play in the pool with your friends, whether it’s pool volleyball, pool football, pool baseball (if your pool’s big enough), pool soccer (if you can manage to figure out how to do that), or even water polo (if you’re a really good swimmer).

6. A Waboba. If you’re reading this thinking “What’s a Waboba?” don’t worry, I didn’t know what it was either until a few weeks ago. A waboba is probably one of the funnest yet simplest pool toys I have ever seen. It’s basically a small ball that can float on water and is soft enough to be thrown around at high speeds without seriously hurting someone. What’s even better is that the waboba can skip on water, similar to throwing a really flat and smooth stone, making it even more fun to play with.

So if you are lucky enough to be able to enjoy a pool for a few more weeks go out and do it!

And if you are someone who is already feeling winter’s chill, don’t worry, at least you’ll have something to look forward to!

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Do you have Dorm Decor?

Decorations n Stuff

 

(Poster – Godfather, Poster – Archer, Painting – Triptych [Three Panel Painting], Banner – NorCal, Fountain – Sculpture, Indoor plants – Juniper Bonsai Tree)

The nice thing about dormitories and apartments is that many come pre furnished and include basic amenities. However, the first thing that you probably notice when walking into your new dorm or apartment is how empty it looks. Sure there may be a few couches, a dining table, chairs and a bed, but for the most part that’s basically it. Even the walls are tend to be blank. Simply put, a new apartment looks cozy, but seems lifeless. In order to make an apartment or dorm your home, you have to give it your own personal touch. So I’ve decided to come up with a list of just a few things that I do to turn a house into a home:

1. Throw up some banners on the walls. A themed banner or flag from your state (or country) is an especially good idea if you are living out of your native state (or country) – don’t be afraid to be proud of where you come from! A large banner can also be hung on a blank wall to add some life to the monotone colored interior. If you’ve got an upper floor window, you could also let the banner fly loose to let the world know what you’re all about.

2. Get some posters to decorate your room. It’s your room so it should reflect your interests. Put up some posters of your favorite movies or t.v. shows. Not only will it make your room feel more decorated but it will also male your room feel more personal and comfortable.

3. Add some paintings in your living room. Your living room is usually the first thing guests will see and often times will be the place that mosts guests will spend time when visiting you. Having a few paintings on the wall will add some class to your apartment and if all else fails while entertaining guests, they can serve as last resort conversation pieces.

4. If there are some empty spaces in your apartment or dorm that the furniture does’t fill you can always add some small sculptures to make your place seem more full. As with paintings, sculptures can add some class to your place and serve as conversation pieces.

5. The last item on the list is to add some indoor plants. Indoor plants literally add life to an apartment. They add color to your humble abode and make your place seem more lively. Apparently taking care of plants is also said to be a cathartic exercise and can relieve stress such as the zen Juniper Bonsai tree.

How do you decorate your place?

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It’s the Simple Pleasures

%22My Favorite Things%22

(Anthology – Disney Movie Collection, Barbecue – Portable grill, Cook Book – Low & Slow, Shirt – Plaid shirt/ T- Shirt, Jeans – Pair of Levis)

If you are lucky enough not to have been exposed to any form of news media in the past few weeks, you’re probably feeling very optimistic about the world. However, since news media somehow makes it’s way into every aspect of everyday life that’s probably not likely. With all the media coverage on the growing violence instigated by ISIS in the Middle East, the riots in Ferguson, and the spread of the ebola virus, it is very easy to get upset about the current state of world affairs. So this week, I’ve decided to take a step back from the rather morose media coverage and focus on the little things in life that can cheer us up when we’re down; things like “raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens” or “brown paper packages tied up with string” (Sound of Music anybody?) that make our day a little brighter without us even realizing it.

Firstly, your favorite shirts or Jeans. Everyone has their favorite shirt that fits just right or their favorite pairs of jeans that are just too comfortable. These are the ones that your not afraid to wear more than once in a week. The ones that you can always rely on if you don’t know what to wear and make you wonder why your wardrobe is unnecessarily big. So appreciate your favorite pair of clothes while they last, they really can make your day a little better.

Second on the list is barbecuing or simply cooking in general. A tasty meal is something everyone can appreciate, but being able to grill, cook, bake, or barbecue is a reward all it’s own. Taking time out of your day to prepare some delicious food can be extremely relaxing and cathartic if done right. The smells of delicious food, the anticipation of a hot meal, and the social interaction that can accompany cooking make it one of the simple pleasures in life that many people underestimate.

Third on the list is Disney movies. Yes you read that right – Disney movies. Let’s be honest, if you enjoyed disney movies as a kid, chances are you’ve watched one or two of them again as an adult. But a little dash of nostalgia can go a long way and re-watching our favorite childhood movies can bring us back to a time when we did have any worries – Hakuna Matata. Plus, no one can watch a kid’s disney movie and feel terribly sad at the end.

These are just a few of the little things that I enjoy and can brighten up my day no matter what mood I’m in.

What are some of your simple pleasures that can make your day just a little better?

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Diving In

Scuba Diving BookDiving Places Book Diving Safety Book  Diving Fins & Gear Diving Wetsuit

 

 

(Diving Gear – Wetsuit, Diving Gear – Snorkel & Fins, Diving Book – Scuba Diving, Diving Book – Places to See, Diving Book – Safety!)

Rollin in the Deep 

I have a few hobbies and favorite past-times and most of them involve winter sports like skating, skiing, or hockey and as far as summertime hobbies go, its mostly just soccer and the occasional trip to the beach. However, the one activity that I wish I could make into a hobby is scuba diving. Its simply one of the funnest experiences I have ever had. The first time I went diving was off the coast of the North Shore beach on the Hawaiian Island of Oahu a few years ago. The crystal clear waters and vibrant sea life were a sight to behold and the thought of being able to get out and explore the underwater locale was exhilarating. I immediately knew I wanted to make this a hobby. Well unfortunately for me, I haven’t had much occasion to make scuba diving a regular thing for me. Keep in mind that going out and diving requires both time and money, and even though I live in the Bay Area time and money aren’t always readily available so most attempts to go out and make this a regular thing have been put off. BUT I’m hoping that will change soon, and so in preparation for diving to be a thing, I decided to write a little about it.

Now if you’re new to the whole concept of Scuba diving actually being a hobby, then you might want to read up on it. This intro book into the scuba diving experience goes into a little detail about the mechanics of diving, safety details, and other interesting information that can get you on-the-level with basic diving techniques. This is probably at the stage I’m at – I know a bit about diving in general and have a very keen interest in pursuing this as a hobby. But of course the question is now, “Where are some some good or interesting diving locations?” Well as it turns out, people have written quite a few books on some of the best diving locations in the world. It provides details about some of the most interesting and beautiful diving locales, and provides glimpses of those dive sites – just enough to peak your interest.

Safety is always an issue when doing any sort of hobby, and as it turns out, diving can actually be pretty dangerous! Running out of oxygen, running into hostile sea life, pressure sickness, and even getting lost are all real possibilities when diving and can be very dangerous if ignored. Fortunately many of these dangers can be avoided with a little preparation. The safety diving book provides information on various diving mishaps and useful advice on how to prepare for a diving trip and tips on how to take preventative measures against accidents.

When you eventually decide to take a diving trip and when you eventually decide to make it a hobby, you would be in a position to invest in some of your own gear. Personally, I haven’t gone diving nearly enough to purchase my own equipment, but like I keep telling myself, eventually I’m going to reach that point, and I might need a few things. A wetsuit of course is an important part of diving gear. It provides the necessary protection against the cold temperatures of deep water. Fins allow you to get around quickly and cover more distance on a tank of oxygen. Goggles are obviously necessary, unless you want to miss the scenery while you’re diving. And finally a snorkel to save on your oxygen tank when swimming in shallow waters.

Like all things, scuba diving requires practice. You have to learn to monitor your air, learn to breathe properly and conserve your tank, and remember your diving routes. Once you build up experiencer though, you can go on more challenging and interesting dives enhancing the experience even more.

So if you want to really beat the summer heat, look into scuba diving. It can be a bit of a challenge, but promise you won’t be disappointed.

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Vacation on the Road

Road Trip collage

 

( Road trip Book – Scenic Drives in a America, Lonely Planet – California, GPS – Garmin, Eye cover – Travel Eye Cover, Neck Pillow – Travel Pillow)

 

So last week I wrote about a bunch of fantastic places in Europe, and named some of the most popular tourist sites in those countries. Well if you are the conscious traveler, then you would have read that article and saw a giant price tag associated with traveling overseas. Well you wouldn’t be wrong. Vacations overseas are expensive and booking flights alone cloud set you back a few thousand dollars. So the question is, where can I go on vacation that won’t break my bank? Well if you own a car and live in America, I have two words for you: ROAD TRIP!

Yes, the good old fashioned road trip. A chance to get out and see what really makes America the land of the free and home of the brave. To experience all of the land of liberty from sea to shining sea. By this point, you are probably thinking “But America is full of great places, where should I go first?” well to help you out with this, you should plan your route, and a Road Trip Book of some of the most scenic routes in America would be a perfect place to begin. Start your trip from your home and plan out where you want to go first. If you live on one of the coasts, try exploring the entire coastline before going cross country. If you live in the Heartland of the country pick a coast and explore it! The point is, of course to have fun and enjoy the experience of the trip, not just to look forward to the destination. But try not to get lost that would definitely put a sour mood on your trip. So to stay on task and get to your destinations bring along a GPS. Sure you could use your Map apps on your phone, but car mounted GPS are designed for road trips and offer great advice on traffic and surprisingly accurate time-of-arrival estimations, meaning if you’re in a rush, you’ll never be late!

This brings me to another point. Make sure to bring along friends and family. While it’s perfectly fine to go on a road trip solo, it may get a little boring and the experience may not be as exhilarating. Plus, if you bring some friends along, you get the added bonus taking turns behind the wheel. And that means less stoping on motels on the highway and less money you have to spend. Instead of having to rest at hotels every few hundred miles, just prop up a pillow throw on an eye cover and take a snooze while your friends make up a few miles.

So what places would I recommend? Well as a Bay Area native, I would have to say that touring California is a must do if you plan a road trip. And since there’s simply so much to do in the best state in the country (totally not biased) read up on some of California’s most popular tourist attractions and see what appeals to you.

Like I said earlier, the point of a road trip is to enjoy both the journey and destination, so don’t get frustrated at some traffic and don’t rush yourself too much to get from one place to another. Just pack your bags, pick a route, and see where the road takes you.

 

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Euro Travel Destinations

Lonely Planet FranceLonely Planet ItalyLonely Planet Germany Lonely Planet EnglandLonely Planet FrenchLnely Planet Italian

(Lonely Planet – France, Lonely Planet – Italy, Lonely Planet – Germany, Lonely Planet – England, Lonely Planet – French, Lonely Planet – Italian)

 

 

For me, Summer vacation is already halfway over and in several weeks I’ll be back to the grind of schoolwork. However I realized that during this summer I haven’t actually had time to go on a proper vacation. This got me thinking, if for some reason I had enough time from between now and until mid-August to go traveling, where would I want to go? The first thing that came to mind was Europe. But Europe is full of different places and cultures so where exactly did I want to go? Well I’ve compiled a list of European countries that I think would be great summer destinations.

First off France. When you think of “vacation to Europe”, France is most likely one of the first countries to come into mind. It is a very popular tourist attraction spot, not just because of the giant iron tower in the middle of Paris, but because of the rich cultural history of France. Whether it’s touring art and architecture in Paris, wine sipping in the south near Marseilles (Marseille) or along the Rhône river, or enjoying the beautiful view of the Alps near Grenoble, you can never get bored in France. However, if you’re not fluent in french, you might want to take along a french phrase book, just in case you find yourself in a room without any English speakers.

Second item on the list is England. For all Anglo-Americans, England is the “Old Country” that place where your ancestors came from on a boat back some four hundred years ago. As far as travel destinations go, England is quite a popular choice, partly because everyone there speaks English. Of course there’s other reasons to visit England: London is a very popular tourist attraction with lots of places to go sightseeing – Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, The London Eye and the River Thames just to name a few. If you want to get away from the big cities you could also tour the English countryside, and maybe stop in to see a few castles along the way. For me personally, I would like to visit the place of my namesake, the Isle of Sheppey, in Kent, mostly just to have a picture of me in front of a sign with my name on it.

Germany is one of my favorite countries, mostly because Germany is itself quite diverse. Visiting cities in the South such as Munich (München), Nuremberg (Nürnberg), and Stuttgart is a very different experience from visiting northern cities such as Berlin, Hamburg, or Hanover (Hannover) mostly because Germany is historically one big melting pot of various Germanic cultures. Cities like Munich tend to be very spread out and seem to retain most of their historical appeal, whereas cities like Berlin have a unique modern quality to them. Even after it’s rough history in the past century with the two wars and a divided country, Germany has rebuilt itself into one of the most modern countries in Europe since it’s reunification in 1990. And if you don’t speak German, don’t worry! Most people in Germany can speak fairly decent English, and even for someone like me – an American who speaks German – most people will hear my Americanized accent and automatically start speaking English. Pretty convenient.

Last on my list, but certainly not least is Italy, the land of pasta, pizza, and that funny looking tower that looks like it’s about to fall over. Italy of course has a history that dates back a couple thousand years to the Roman period and throughout the centuries has been home to some of the greatest artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Michealangelo, Raphael, Sandro Botticelli, and Giovanni Bellini. Italy is also home to some well known cities such as Venice (Venezia), Milan, and Florence (Firenze). Rome of course is one of Italy’s most well known cities and probably one of the most well known cities in Europe. Why? Well besides it’s history as being the seat of the Roman Empire, it is also the location in which the Vatican city is located. As a result, Rome holds some of the old ruins of the Roman Empire, such as the Colosseum as well as some important Catholic sites such as the Vatican and Castel Sant’angelo. And in case you don’t know any Italian, or if you want to start learning, why not bring along a lonely planet Italian phrasebook to help get you by.

If any of these places interest you, check out the lonely planet travel guides to get more information on some of the popular attractions in these countries.

Of course this is not an exhaustive list of countries to visit. There are great places such as the Czech Republic, Austria, Spain, Switzerland, and many more. So the question is, where will your next Euro-Trip be?

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