I made my own brown sugar.

The caption pretty much says it all.  I was making apple bread today, and I realized after I had measured out the flour that I only had enough brown sugar for one loaf, but I wanted to make two.  Bummer, right?  WRONG!  I had bought molasses yesterday, and I had white sugar…voila!  I cup sugar + 1 tablespoon molasses + lots of mixing with a fork = homemade brown sugar.  It totally worked, and  I felt fancy.  Almost fancy enough to shake off the post-Thanksgiving blues I seem to have every year.

Little things, I tell you.



Today is Thanksgiving, and I love that.  I love that we have a day set aside that is especially for eating lots, spending time with family (and/or people that just feel like family), napping, and taking time to actively think about the blessings in our lives.  Anyway, in the spirit of today…I am thankful for:

A loving/supportive/hilarious family
Loving/supportive/hilarious friends (near and far)
A healthy body
A healthy place to live
A church whose people care for each other and for their community
A God whose grace knows no bounds
The opportunity to get an awesome education
Music of all kinds
The stupid things in life that make me happy, like good TV, my two favorite football teams winning today, coffee & bagels on Wednesday mornings this fall with a good friend, jokes that make me laugh til I cry (this morning it happened when my sister explained the basic premise of the last Twilight movie to me), the internet, trips to Dairy Queen, and Zumba.


twenty three

Before you start, I have to warn you: this is going to be more of a “I’m going to write some thoughts and opinions” post than a “this silly thing happened today” post.  Don’t worry though.  I have at least 2 hiLARIOUS posts up my sleeve for later (apparently it’s been a silly week).  But I wanted to take a little bit of time to think (and apparently write publicly) about being 22, since it appears I only have 7 hours and 22 minutes left of being that age.

So, what follows is a “top 10” list of things from this past year that make the 23-year-old me different from the 22-year old me.  Bring it.

10.  A new place to live.  Here I mean my new apartment, because my new city was part of my 22nd year.  I am so thankful for this place, even though it’s smaller and more expensive than my old place, because living here has shown me how much of a difference having a healthy living space can make.

9. Attitude.  I realized the other day that in order to survive my first year of grad school, I had to change the way I thought about myself.  Confidence has never come easily to me.  I apologize too much and I have this weird fear of “bothering people” and I’m overly self-conscious.  And you know how people always throw around stupid platitudes like “believe in yourself?” Turns out that one isn’t so stupid after all, since I’m pretty sure that’s how I made it to this year of grad school.  Because the thing is, grad school (at least my grad school) is really freakin hard.  Some of the time, it involved week after week of problem sets that you aren’t really expected to be able to complete by yourself, exams that you aren’t expected to know all the answers to, lectures and seminars that go over your head more often than not , and having nobody to turn to when you get stuck on your work.  And it leaves you with no spare time, no free weekends, very little energy, not enough sleep, and an overwhelming sense of “I CAN’T.”  And the last one is the worst.  But the solution I found was to just tell myself that I CAN.  Sometimes I used…Ke$ha lyrics (“you know we’re superstars” “wake up in the mornin’ feelin’ like P. Diddy”) or analogies we learned at church (if a kitten looks into the mirror and sees a lion, and acts like a lion…then for all intents and purposes, he IS a lion).  I used to thrive on other people having faith in me — teachers, parents, even God — but to finish up the schoolwork for this past year, I NEEDED to have faith in myself.  And these other people, and God — they still had faith in me, but I was the one being asked to do this work…and it only got done because I somehow convinced myself that I could.

8.  Questions of humility.  This has to directly follow the I CAN rant.  I sometimes feel like a lot of my life is made up of tensions.   I’m from Minnesota, but I live here.  I’m a scientist, and I’m a Christian.  I have to constantly have faith in myself, but as a Christian I surrender “myself” to God.  So what does it mean to be humble, but also to believe in yourself?  Because (biblically) God shows faith in humans — e.g., he gives them the strength they need to do what he asks of them — so who are we to say we can’t?  But then, we are broken, “only-human” people, so who are we to say we can???  Ahh!  Perhaps my “twenty four” post will show some insight into this…

7.  Food.  Last year I started reading a baking blog (joythebaker — google it.  This girl is hilarious and has great recipes.  Seriously).  Finding good recipes and making them and sharing them with people is one of the things that brings me the most joy.  One of my favorite nights this year was ordering pizza in and sitting at the table eating and talking for FOUR HOURS.  It was perfect.  And one of the things that taught me the most about the city I live in and the reality of life was getting to make bag dinners for the homeless, and then actually go out and interact with the people we provided the meals for.  Food is also one of those mundane comforts that puts the stress of the life of a graduate student into perspective.  And there’s always everything I’ve learned about sustainable eating and healthy eating in the past year…so let’s just put it this way: food made me think this year, made me relax this year, and brought me joy this year.  Excellent.

6.  Games. I played a lot of board games last year.  Now I’m SUPER GREAT at Bang, Pandemic, Dominion, Settlers of Catan…and MANY more.  (Ha ha ha).  But seriously, I’m glad I learned these…they make life more fun.

5. Living alone. My roommates were gone for about 2 months this summer, and I had the apartment to myself for that time.  It was fun for about 2 weeks.  This was the first time in my whole life that I’ve ever lived alone, and I’m *really* hoping it’s the last.  Now I know the answer to a question I spent MONTHS considering during spring semester of senior year of college: no, I DON’T want to live alone!

4. TV. Last year I had a TV.  This year I don’t.  This makes the 23-year-old me different, right?  (I mean…it is different.  I’ve missed ALL of the Packers’ amazing season.  I feel a little bit disconnected from the world.  But I also feel kind of cool…it does turn heads to say “I don’t have a TV.”).

3. Going over to the dark side.  True confessions: I got a Mac a couple of weeks ago.  I had been an avid PC user up until then.  Do I regret the switch? Not even a little bit.

2. Family.  The idea of family has taken on a hugely different role in this year of my life than in past years.  I still miss my parents and my sister a lot.  But we’re different now than we were a year ago.  We’re sort of used to being apart from each other, which I actually think is a good thing.  First, because that’s the way it is.  But also,  because then when we all get together, like we did in August when my parents came to visit me for the weekend, or at Thanksgiving or Christmas, those get-togethers are really special because I think we’re better at forgetting the petty stuff and remembering to enjoy the time we have together.  I’m so blessed to have such a great family.  (I mean, they put up with a freaked-out-about-an-exam/migraine-headached Alyssa for a weekend and we still managed to have a good time…)  I miss them.

1. Friends.  I think this is where things are really different now than they were a year ago.  My friends in this city have become my family-away-from-my-family.  Most of them have seen the good, bad, and ugly of me by now (last year at this time, it was mostly still the getting-to-know-you, I-don’t-quite-think-you’re-crazy-yet stage) and they’re still my friends, and for that I am unbelievably grateful.  They are the main reason I’ve arrived at this birthday as a happy person.  My friends have all seen me cry and helped me with stuff I’ve gotten stuck on and hung out with me (even if they’re tired) and been understanding when I’m crazy overwhelmed with life and have put up with my endless I’ll-never-ever-find-a-man whining and have basically made me a better human being.  And I’m also happy to say that my college friends are still, well, my friends — and that’s amazing.  It’s been a year and a half since graduation and it has been AMAZING each and every time I’ve gotten to see a friend from there.  And all those reasons are why “friends” takes the number 1 spot: because without you, I’d be nowhere near as excited for year twenty four.

Okay.  End self-reflective post.  Humorous pictures coming soon.