July July July

It’s coming!  July has the potential to be a very depressing month.  I have 4 doctors appointments.  The last time I had a doctor’s appointment that didn’t bear bad news, I was in middle school.  Also, class ends, which mean I’m about to be really unproductive and bored, and when I’m bored, I sleep too much.  So, to abate those worries, I’m going to do 10 super fun things this July!

1.  Dad and I are going to start doing longer rides.  Spending time with him is my fave, if y’all haven’t noticed :]

It’s the tour de France, and we’re hyped!

2.  I’m going to cook a lot.  I’m starting to really not mind being gluten-free, but I might also have to go dairy free. 

3.  I’m going to PRACTICE!  At least an hour a day.  

4. I’m going to lose 3 pounds.  My goal is to have a BMI right in the middle of a healthy weight for my height.  If I lose 3 pounds a month I’ll be there by the time I’m 20. 

5. I’m going to hang out with Nick, Lilly, and Mom.  And play tons of games. 

6. I’m going to find a place to volunteer.  Ideas welcome!

7. I’m finally gonna learn how to swim.  I can float and tread water but I can’t actually go anywhere… 

8. I’m going to go see some drum corps showsmaybe. Done!

9. I’m going to shop and make things for my apartment. I’ need bed stuff and lamps, and I’m making a recipe box, that way I can not eat cereal three meals a day next year. 

10. I’m going to read some good books! I’m starting with Lust for Life, the biography of Vincent Van Gogh by Irving Stone.


Quinoa with Grilled Corn and Cheddar Cheese


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Nick and I are obsessed with quinoa.  We don’t know how to pronounce it but we do know that it’s delicious! Today, we went to the store and bought 5 ears of corn, extra sharp white cheddar cheese, and fresh cilantro to make a recipe for lunch that I found here, on this blog that is way cooler and more interesting than mine. 😛 Somehow, we managed to not burn the house down, as we are both terribly inadequate in the kitchen.

The author of How Sweet It Is recommends that we grill the corn before we use it.  However, we don’t even know how to start a grill. We decided that it was too complicated and would take too long, so instead we wrapped the shucked corn in foil with some olive oil, salt, and pepper, put them in the oven at 400 degrees, and turned 4 times, them every 5 minutes or so.  



While doing that, we also had to figure out if chicken broth can count for chicken stock (it can), what the difference between boiling and simmering is (we decided we don’t care), and what a saucepan actually is.  We had a 5 minute debate over this. We’re new.

so that’s a saucepan! x.x

We had a lot of fun shredding the cheese, trying to figure out how to chop cilantro, and eating the extra ingredients.

We managed not to burn the quinoa, and it looked fluffy like it was supposed to.  We added butter, cheese, and salt and pepper, stirred it up, and then stirred it into the delicious corn…

IT WAS SO GOOD!  Then, I almost ruined it, because I thought we were supposed to stir in the cilantro instead of garnishing, and I literally dumped about half a cup of cilantro in it.  Luckily Nick can read, so we took most of it out.  And it tastes just fine with a little cilantro mixed in.  Next time, we’re going to try it with chicken and walnuts.

I need to work on my photography skills!


Lilly’s birthday


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So I ended up having a pretty successful day yesterday – I made dinner and went biking, and even though I skimmed my reading for class i aced the quiz today.  I also finished my paper …. at 5 am.  So much for sleeping.  But it did turn out quite good so I guess it’s ok.

Today is Lilly’s 11th birthday. Since it’s a Thursday, she and Nick are at camp, I’m in class, and my mom and stepdad are at work, which mean’s Lilly’s special day is actually turning into a 3 day celebration.  Today, she opened presents from relatives and Nick and I took her to Tutti Frutti in Maple Lawn for the first time.  She loved it.  Tomorrow Mom and I are taking Lilly to get her first mani/pedi, and going to Clyde’s for dinner, and Saturday, the family and a few of Lilly’s friends are going to see Pixar’s Brave, then going to Uno’s for lunch.

Lilly is adorable :]

Nick is weird










I actually got a lot done today! I feel pretty happy about it.  Class got out a little early, so I got some work done in the Stamp, then walked a mile on the track and rowed at the gym for a while.  Nick, Lilly, and I are going to watch Mulan tonight.  We’re not biking today because it’s hot and dad didn’t feel well, so I’ll probably go out for another walk after the movie, and then go to bed early since I got a whopping two hours of sleep last night.  Dad and I are going to try for an early bike ride tomorrow, around 8.  He insists on doing at least one early ride a week for whatever reason, and they never go well – my fault.  I always fall behind and basically fall asleep in the seat, and I’m a grump in the morning.  I am such a complete night owl!   It’s so nice getting to hang out with Nick and Lilly so much.  Today, we explored a lot of old music favorites, everything from Hanson to Brad Mehldau.  I love his trio work so much! Here’s Exit Music (for a film), a wonderful Radiohead cover: 

I am the best in the world


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… at procrastinating.  Really, I am.  You don’t believe me?  Well, have you ever waited until the day before a 12 page paper is due to start writing?  Maybe.  Have you ever stayed up all night before a project is due, not to work on it, but to play winterbells, and then started the actual project at 6:30 am when school starts at 7:25?  Probably not.  You’re not THAT dumb or self-deprecating.  But I am.  Why? Because to me, procrastinating is just a challenge.  How fast can I do less (but still better quality) work than my peers and still get an A? Because I do get As – that high school project, a 20 minute powerpoint presentation on habits (ironic?), earned me a 96%.  Little did the teacher know that I had spent less than one REM cycle, less time than Lilly spends in the shower, and less time than I am in her class to complete the project.

When I was in the 9th grade, my computer crashed at 1am the night before my huge, school wide science project was due.  This was my first major instance of procrastination – I had done the experiment, but none of the writing work.  I began at 10pm and 3 hours in lost all of my work.  No matter.  I spent the next six hours furiously writing a 25 page portfolio and creating a trifold presentation board.  I won first prize, as a freshman, out of over 1,000 participants.  I found a new talent.

Right now you are thinking,  “Natalie is an AWFUL PERSON. Who does that?”  It’s true, I am terrible, self-obsessed, and arrogant.  But I have been reinforced in this habit time and again, and it has helped me to acquire a very specific skill set.

1. I work extremely well under pressure, obviously.  In fact, I seem to have lost the ability to work if there isn’t pressure.  Pressure equals about 1 hour per page, or less, till the deadline.

2. I know how to say what people want to hear.  My sentences flow.  Academic writing is so natural for me.  I just don’t have to struggle for it, so I don’t.

3. I am now the laziest person I know.  The procrastination has spilled from my school work to every aspect of my life, from practicing to doing chores to exercising to sleeping.  And it needs to stop!!  This is a habit that I cannot afford to continue to encourage. Why?  Because I don’t do anything anymore.  I don’t care about anything. I don’t practice.  I sleep, eat, bike (when I’m not tired from oversleeping), and go to class (most of the time).  With 24 hours in a day, I could be doing so much more!  I need to break this habit.  I have a step-aunt (is that even real?) who posts on facebook all day about how she doesn’t have the energy or time to get out of bed and do anything for her family.  She doesn’t have a job, and she doesn’t even have an extensive knowledge of movie or TV show trivia.  She’s not even depressed.  She just doesn’t care.   I don’t want to be that person, even though right now it feels like that’s what I’m becoming. It’s terrifying (when I can bring myself to care about what I’m doing with my life).

So, today, there are exactly 5 months until I turn 20.  I want this new decade to be the best yet!  I want to care.  I want to be a productive member of society.  I want to bring happiness to other people.  I want to accomplish numerous things every day.  I want to be responsible.   I want to have real talents, and be good at real things.  I want to love and be loved.  I’m gonna break the habit.

I have 5 months to stop procrastinating and start caring.  (The thing is, I normally tell myself I’m going to do that and then say, I need to wait till school is finished, or next week, or next month.  I’m done with that BS. I’m starting today, even though I have a week of class left.)

So, today, I will:

  1. Finish my research paper.  I will read three articles, write 6 pages about them, then write about 5 more pages about their educational implications.  I will do this from 12:30 to 5 pm.  Then I will edit from 8 to 10 pm. Good thing I already have a kick ass introduction.
  2. Make dinner – gluten-free pasta with tuscana tomato basil sauce for me, Lilly, and Nick from 5 to 6.  I have already made hashbrown potato patties today so I’m off to a great start. x.x
  3. Go biking with my dad.  Always the best part of my day, today from 6:15-8. We’re hitting up the chiropractor before hand… damn you, pinched nerve.
  4. Read for my quiz in class tomorrow. The one I was supposed to take yesterday but I didn’t go.  Oops. Hopefully this will only take an hour and a half or so, let’s say 10 to 11:30 pm.
  5. Get enough sleep!  I will go to bed by 1 am!  Hopefully I’ll be done the previous four items by 11:30, but since it’s me and I’m new at this whole get-stuff-done thing, I’m going to leave an hour and a half at the end in case I don’t get my paper done by 5.

The best quick breakfast. Yum!

Sounds like a fun day, right?  Right.  Here’s to my next 12 hours being the most productive I have ever had… Wish me luck.  This will be a miracle if I can complete all of this.

Stanford Grill


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Saturday night, my family went to the Stanford Grill in Columbia.  My mom, step dad, and Lilly had been before, but Nick and I hadn’t.  The best thing I can say for it was that they had live jazz, which is apparently a nightly occurrence.  The service was good and the food came out quickly, and our waiter, Jesse, was really helpful with explaining specials and helping us decide what to eat.  We had the appetizer special, which was raw tuna, avocado, and pineapple in a light, spicy pineapple seasoning.  It didn’t look very appetizing, kind of like a school cafeteria fruit salad, and this impacted how I felt about the taste – a little too exotic for an appetizer, and too many flavors that didn’t mix very well.  We also ordered their coconut shrimp, which were a little overcooked! However, they were crispy and the sauce that came with them was wonderful.

Jesse was good about answering my gluten-free questions, and I decided on their hickory grilled tenderloin filet, with potatoes and spinach.  The mashed potatoes were excellent, but the tenderloin wasn’t memorable, and Nick actually finished it for me.  Lilly got the pot roast, which was probably the best plate at our table.  It was exactly the right consistency, and came with mashed potatoes and stewed veggies.  Nick got the salmon, which was delicious – perfectly cooked and seasoned; however he said that the butternut spaghetti squash alongside it was a little sad.

Dessert was disappointing for me.  They don’t have a printed dessert menu, so the waiter spouted off about 7 or 8 options, which were hard to remember, and none of which sounded that great.  The only gluten-free option they had was a creme brulee, which was well done, but it would have been nice to have other choices.  Lilly tells me that the pineapple upside down cake was good, although a little rich, and the pistachio ice cream also got a “yes”.

Even though this wasn’t the best experience I’ve had, I would still try the Stanford Grill again.  There were a lot of menu choices that looked great, and the atmosphere was really nice, a little lively, and relaxing.  Lilly wasn’t the only kid there, and there were also a lot of big groups.  It was overall a really nice setting.  There were also some pretty cute waiters, which I will always say yes to.  ;]

Azul 17


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On Thursday, I went to Azul 17 with Lilly and my mom.  I wasn’t feeling too great, but we’d been meaning to go for a while and nobody felt like cooking.  Now, I can kind of be a snob about Mexican food – every Sunday, my dad, Nick and I go to Tampico Grill on Route One on the way home from church, and nobody makes Mexican food like they do.  (Nobody has mastered the shrimp taco like they have, and eating other people’s guacamole and salsa makes me sad.) But I love food and trying new things, so I figured it was worth a shot.

What I didn’t know about Azul 17 is that it is known for its tequila lounge.  Apparently, they have the largest collection of tequila in Howard County.  I didn’t get to try any, but when I turn 21 I am definitely going back there.  My mom was similarly impressed.  Lilly liked the fact that they had novelty Mexican sodas.

We were pretty hungry, so we ordered two platos pequeños (little plates), the Cayo de Hacha al Pipian, which were seared scallops in pumpkin oil with oranges, and their open-faced quesadilla, which had shrimp, crab meat, and tomatoes.  They were delicious!!! The quesadilla wasn’t gluten free, of course, but I don’t think mom and Lilly would have been willing to share anyway, it looked so good. 😛  We also tried some of their traditional guacamole, which was made tableside and was actually pretty good, and also sampled their salsa, which was mild but still nice.  The texture of the salsa was pretty boring for me, but the surprise of the guacamole made up for it.

I ordered the Pollo en Mole Poblano, which was cooked excellently and really flavorful, and Mom ordered Puteria de Mariscos al Chipotle, which was like a seafood casserole in broth.  Lilly ordered the Tarahumara steak – being brave about food clearly runs in the family.  Most of it came home in a box, though, because it was gigantic.  By this time, all of us were very full and sleepy, so we had to skip dessert.

Don’t be deceived by the outside of this restaurant – it’s in a Columbia strip mall, but the inside is unrecognizable.  Lots of white leather, modern art, wall paintings, cool lighting, blue tile… It’s little, but definitely a great place to socialize or go on a casual date! Actually, all the other patrons were couples or groups of 20-somethings.  However, it worked fine for our family as well.

Although Azul 17 is super chic, the service wasn’t that great and it was really hot in the restaurant, probably due to the fact that the building was ancient.  Our waiter took a really long time to get to us and was pretty awkward and not very helpful.  It’s always tricky being a gluten-free diner, and this guy wasn’t really helping at all.  They didn’t have a separate menu for allergies (although after Woodberry Kitchen I’ve been spoiled), and the waiter was like “Uh… Let me go ask our chef” and came back 10 minutes later with an inconclusive answer. Good thing everything on the menu looked delicious, and it was pretty easy to read and figure out the ingredients. I would definitely go there again, because it was so hard to choose what I wanted to eat and there are so many more things that I would like to try!

Only another year and a half….



I originally had big plans for this past weekend, but as ever more frequently happens…. I got sick. And had to cancel most everything.

I was supposed to visit the Walters Art Gallery in Baltimore, see the tall ships at the Sailabration for the War of 1812 bicentenary, and try to find a gluten free bakery that I read about on Friday. Saturday dad I were wanted to go on our longest ride yet, and then I was going to go to historic Ellicott City with my mom (I live in Howard County but I’ve never been), and then Sunday, for fathers day, I was planning to go to church with my dad, go out for lunch, and then just hang out and go for a normal bike ride for the rest of the day.

Hardly any of that happened, because I had a sinus infection that made my existing flareup that much worse. So much for all the progress I had made.  So I spent three miserable days unable to breathe, not eating, achy, feverish, bored out of my mind… blah blah blah.  Y’all know what getting sick feels like.

I’m just getting frustrated because it seems like more and more of my days are like that, and the amount of healthy time that I get is so limited now. Sometimes I think I’ve got it figured out, but then I realize I’m still totally out of my league. It’s really hard on my body to always be sick or trying to recover, and it’s really hard on my family as well.  My mom and dad do such a great job taking care of me, but I can tell how stressed and worried they are about all of this.  It can be hard to appreciate my good days but I need to remember how precious they are and how much my family means to me.

Luckily, I did get to hang out with my dad some today.  I wasn’t well enough to go out for church or lunch, but he liked the pistachio and peach truffles I found him (we share really weird taste in food), and we played bananagrams with my brother, cooked dinner, and went on a 10 minute bike ride (first time out since Thursday). I kind of had a breakdown near the end of the ride, because I was just so exhausted and angry at my body for sucking, and I was mad that I couldn’t do more, but I’m over it now. Tomorrow we’re going to try for 20 minutes, or however much I can do without overdoing it.

Sorry for the rant, guys.  I hope I don’t sound too whiny, but I’m trying not to say any of these things aloud because I don’t want to hurt my family, who cares so much about me.  It feels really good to be able to write/type some of those feelings out.

Here’s to adversity, and not letting UC define me.  UC isn’t me.

Five things to do before I’m 25


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I’m procrastinating, so here are some long term goals of mine.

1. Get accepted to and complete at least one year into graduate school. This is a two part goal.  If I pursue a Masters in music education, then I’ll need real experience first, so first I need to graduate and get a teaching job. If I teach for two years and then do my master’s, I’ll have one year to go by the time I’m 25.  For now, I have my sights set on Peabody.

This staircase…

…and this library are two of my favorite things about Peabody’s campus.










2. Participate in a major athletic event for a cause.  To be completely honest, I don’t really like exercising.  But it’s important if I want to be healthy and necessary to drop a few pounds like my doctor wants.  Also, it’s a great way to raise awareness among my friends and colleagues for something that I really care about. I think I either want to run a half marathon for JDRF or participate in a long distance cycling event for CCFA.  Or both! Who knows. This will also help me feel worthwhile!

I’m in there somewhere… 😛

3. Travel and explore.  I really want to go everywhere, but if I had to narrow it down, some top places are Egypt, Ireland, India, Greece, Italy, Israel, Japan, China, Russia, Australia, Ghana, South Africa, Morocco, Brazil, and Mexico, in no particular order.  My goal is to visit at least two of these countries by the time I’m 25 (I’m thinking maybe right after I graduate). I also want to visit three national parks that I haven’t seen yet – Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, and Yosemite.

4. Get my own place, and thrive in it (AKA be a real adult!). I want real responsibility. I can’t wait to have a real apartment that I can decorate and furnish and take care of.  I can’t wait to host dinner parties and cook real food.  I can’t wait to have all of my stuff in one place.  I can’t wait to check my own mail, and set the thermostat to what I want.  Hopefully, I can bike to work every day.

my apartment will be this cute but not this big.

5. Feel good about myself as a musician. Over the years, I’ve had a lot of confidence issues with my playing (and honestly with everything else).  I want to practice really hard for the rest of my college career, and into my professional career, even if I don’t become a performer, and abolish those fears – make them completely unfounded.  I want to feel comfortable demonstrating my instrument for others or taking a short notice gig.  I don’t want to be that teacher who forgot how to play their own instrument.

There ya go!  I have 5 and a half years to complete these five things.  Wish me luck!

In other news…. I found my favorite shirt.  I haven’t seen it in ages.  I AM SO EXCITED!

My eyes are closed and my crooked smile is showing but this is still the best shirt ever.

Lessons about parenting for future Natalie

Disclaimer:  I am not a parent.  I am a 19-year-old single college student and very much still in late adolescence.  But I am also an oldest child with a significant age gap, a future educator, and a good observational learner.  Also, I’m taking adolescent development, which makes me think about kids a lot more than I normally might.  Honestly, the idea of bringing a child up in this world scares the crap out of me, as I’m sure it does many of you. As a planner (and procrastinator… exam in the morning), I want to make sure I have a strategy for that (hopefully far off) day when I decide to have kids.  So, here is a list of goals for my future self, when I am a mother, based off of observation and my current excessive habit of devouring psychology texts.

1.  I will not give my child a cell phone or an iPad.  It is so easy to make that into a tool of appeasement, and children learn so quickly that throwing a tantrum gets them their way.  No, fake tears and throwing things gets you a time out where I can see you and in a place that doesn’t mean play-with-old-toys-I-found-out-of-boredom-in-my-room.

2. My children will spent at least twice as much time outside as they do watching TV.  I will sign them up for any sports they show interest in, we will play outside as a family, and if it is feasible they will walk or bike to school.  I was “the chubby kid” and I am still fighting the body, stigma, and mentality that comes with it.  Instilling exercise as a habit is something that I wish my parents had done with me, and childhood obesity is such a terrifying epidemic.  They will also eat their fruits and vegetables, and we will not have dessert (or lucky charms) everyday.  Sugar addiction is REAL, people!

3. I will not reason with my young children and try to explain why what they have done is wrong.  They do not understand.  Before the age of 7 of so, they live in the world of black and white and do not have the cognitive processes to understand why little Tommy’s feelings were hurt when he was punched.  They need to know that punching is wrong, and it has immediate consequences.

4. It is important that my children respect their father and me, and once a healthy respect is established then they can grow to like us.  Love is unconditional, but respect is not.

5. I will never say “no, no, no, no, no, no, …. no, yes” when my child begs for something.  This undermines all authority I have as an enforcer.  Similarly, when I dole out a consequence, I will follow through.  Telling a kid no computer time and then letting him use the computer guarantees he will commit his behavior infraction again.

6. I will not lecture in the car.  They won’t listen anyway.  I will not yell about everything.  My mom is a yeller.  It sucks.

7. I will talk to my children about sex, drugs, and alcohol.  Studies show that kids who are well prepared for puberty when it arrives have higher self-esteem and come out on top emotionally, and kids who are well educated about sex, drugs, and alcohol, while they may still partake, are less likely to make really dumb decisions.

8. I will teach my kids about money from an early age.  When they are teenagers, I will help them become financially independent and ready for real life.  They will know how to write a check, bargain for a used car at a dealership, and establish good credit.

9. My children will do chores.  They will learn how to cook, clean, launder, sew, garden and mow the lawn, set the table, fix appliances, change light bulbs, set up computers, put furniture together out of a box, take care of pets, change a tire, fix a bike chain, be polite, write thank you notes, and sell themselves to future employers.  Those last ones may not be chores but they’re still important and a lot of people (me included) move into their first apartment and can’t do half of these things.  I’m all about life skills.

10. I’m not sure if it’s possible to help save my children from the perils of our educational system, but I will help them understand why integrity, creativity, and hard work is important, and help them find the things they are really good at and passionate about.  I will not force them into an identity foreclosure.  They will probably be procrastinators, and I know from my mother’s efforts that there is nothing I can do about that.

When I have kids, this list will go on my refrigerator.  Hopefully I remember it exists. Hopefully I can get a few of these things right, and still have fun with my kids.

This has been midnight-cramming-induced thoughts by Natalie.