Take Care of a Plant!

Thanks to http://www.walterandersen.com/ for this lovely picture of one of the world's easiest-to-grow plants: the spider plant.

Remember when you were a kid and you had to take care of something in your garden? Were you ever told that you had to keep a certain plant or shrub alive before you could get your shot at a puppy? Well, now's your chance to re-test your green thumb!

Step 1: Get a spider plant. Spider plants are easy to grow, undemanding, and are known to clear up your indoor air really well. So get a spider plant, or better yet, find someone who has one and ask for some outgrowths. Spider plants are easy to plant, too, so you don't need to buy one.

Step 2: Give your plant a name. No kidding.

Step 3: Keep your plant alive. Talk to it. Water it. Tell it stories. Teach it statistics and give it quizzes. Again, no kidding.

Step 4: When you have plantlets and outgrowths, plant them again and name your team of spider plants! They could be the kids from The Sound of Music, the members of your favorite football squad, or just your dream names for your kids.

Step 5: Give away plantlets when you can to anyone who needs some sanity.


Microwave that Cheesecake!


Yes, yes, it sounds strange. Raw eggs, sour cream, all blended together and put smack into the microwave. But it tastes like pretty good pudding, it isn't too fattening if you use light sour cream and light cream cheese, and it can make for a relaxing culinary getaway, too!

An additional tip: if you want extra exercise, make the graham cracker crust yourself! Grind up graham crackers, add sugar, and add melted butter - then mold it away in your favorite microwavable pie dish. The effort of grinding up crackers will allow you to let go of your tension - and if you're angry or frustrated with someone or something...well, you know what to do.

And one more tip: Whip it! Beat it! You'll have to beat your eggs together with your sugar, and into your cream cheese. Again, if you want to take your anger out on something, better eggs than anything else!

Oh, and one last thing: use brown sugar for your cheesecake!


Sketch a Constellation

It's time to draw in your journal. All you need are dots!

Remember how the ancients saw figures in the heavens and named the constellations? It's time for you to draw your own starry sky. If you want to make big, small, medium-sized, and pinprick stars, go ahead. If you want to stick to dots, that's good, too. All you need to do is to make a starry night of your life - and you need to label the constellations.

If your life were a sky, what would its constellations be? Use a page to show the constellations (you an connect the dots, too, if you like) and another page to describe them. You can go super duper technical and even name individual stars, or you can stay simple and tell the world about your constellations and why they're important to you.

There is only one rule: you can have EIGHT constellations, NO MORE, NO LESS. You need only 8 things that are important to squish (or spread) into your starry sky. This means you need to pick 8 things, whether they are people, events, words, names, or objects. What are the 8 things that are most important to you, the 8 things that you hold most dear in life - the 8 things that just pop up wherever you look simply because you keep on thinking of them?

If you don't want to use your notebook, put your journal entry on a sheet of paper, or use a graphics design program and print it out.

Keep this journal entry handy. It will remind you of what's important to you. These important things might be shallow, and you may want to keep on reminding yourself to look at the less shallow things in life - or they may be extremely important and deep, and you'll need them to remind you of what you are working for.


Recommended for Ages 3 and Up...

The "Up" in that recommendation means that anyone from 3 years to 103 years can put that Spongebob Squarepants Puzzle together, even if it's just 12 pieces of wooden blocks that lock together and make babies go, "Ooh!"

It's your turn to go "Ooh!" and it's your turn to put your own puzzles together.

Get yourself a box of puzzles. Buy one. Dust off the box of a thousand pieces in your attic or on the top shelf of your closet. Borrow. Don't steal.

Now, get your friends together on a Saturday night and have a puzzle party. Have some beer, wine, pop, soda, water, or whatever you'd like to drink. The bigger and more intricate the puzzle, the better.

Better yet, have a puzzle day at your office! Clean out a room (broom closet, unused conference room, someone's work cubicle) and leave the puzzle pieces there. Assign co-workers to come in every half an hour or quarter of an hour and add ONE PIECE to the puzzle. Now, isn't that a great team building exercise?

Do puzzles on your own and keep your brain running. Do puzzles with your kids for some bonding time. Jigsaw puzzles can help keep you sane, no matter where you are on the "3 and up" continuum.

* thanks to http://www.mainepuzzles.com for the photo


Your Own Dip!

Take some cilantro. Now, take some white onion. Get a big tomato or two.

Throw everything into a blender. Blend to your heart's content.

You have fresh dip for your chips! It's green, spiced up, and filled with lycopene, too! No need to run to the grocery store. This dip is great for tortilla chips, and for those long nights you need to spend studying writing your papers, finishing your reports, studying, or simply staring off into space.


Journal Keeping Time: Try a Tag!

All right. All you need is your notebook and a tag from this site: http://tagtillyoudrop.blogspot.com. It's the easiest way for you to get ideas on what to write about for your journal - all you need is to get a tag and start writing away.

Now, be truthful, and don't scrimp on the details. The key is to get a lot of tension out of your system by writing about things that you would normally blog about - but things that you might not want to talk about online.

Have fun!


So How Different is Pepsi from Coke?

You and your friends need to get together and do something that would make marketing execs proud. Well, you don't even need to contact marketing execs. All you need are a few cans of soda of different brands, some plastic cups, and maybe a blindfold, if you want things to be a little more accurate.

Now, you need to do some taste tests. If you're doing this on the weekend - which you probably should, as the office is not the best place for you to blindfold your co-worker and hand a plastic cup over for some drinking-and-scrutinizing-your-drink games - then you may need to have a to-do list, just so you don't get lost. Yes, office work can mess with your brain.

1. Set out a table with some chairs on your lawn, or somewhere in your house where you won't be disturbed or suspected of illegal dealings.

2. Set out some cups on the table, and divide the table into the appropriate number of sections. Say, if you are testing Coke vs. Pepsi, divide the table into 2; Coke vs. Pepsi and Dr. Pepper vs. Cherry Coke, divide the table into 4; and so on.

3. Do not pour out the soda into the cups until all your friends arrive and you are ready for some soda expertise work.

4. When your friends do arrive, choose one person to blindfold. Blindfold said victim. Ehem. Person.

5. Pour a glass of each sample drink for the blindfolded person, but never reveal the identity of said drink. Ask your blindfolded person to talk on:

* How the drink tastes (what does it remind you of? can you guess what the drink is? is it sweet, salty, bitter, sour, or tangy? what taste stands out?)

* What the drink smells like

* What food would go best with it

* Which of all the drinks tastes the best

* Which drink you'd rather feed your dog

6. Assign a secretary to write your findings down.

7. Keep those findings for future use (e.g. parties, parties, parties, etc.)

8. FINALLY: Answer the question - how different is Pepsi from Coke?


Feel Like a Kid - and a Designer - with...

Yes, with Barbie and Ken! (Thanks to www.teen-beauty-tips.com for this photo!)

All right, this may sound lame - and stupid and silly - but why not design your own clothes for Barbie and Ken? There may be dolls still lying around the house, waiting to be dressed and used for artistic inspiration.

You can even have your own fashion show and have a gown design contest amongst your friends! Think of it as friendly, kiddie competition.

You can even have someone exercise their wits with the fashion show voice over. Barbie is wearing a skirt made from the pieces of fabric that were cut out of last year's curtains, while Ken is wearing a pair of khaki shorts that were, in all likelihood, designed for Barbie.

You can be as creative as you please - or you can play with dolls on your own, too. Think of it: a quiet afternoon spent dressing up Barbie and pretending that she's off to a meeting of top scientists who want to discuss the latest in cold fusion. Now, how would she dress up for that?

Or, think about Ken the Progressive Farmer, who has his own farm and his own cooperative, and works closely with scientists in producing better crops.

Ken the Barista? Barbie the CEO? There are many ways for you to dress up Ken and Barbie - and maybe, just maybe, they could actually help you stay sane (even if, you know, physically, they couldn't actually be human).


Here's how to Have some Bannoffee!

Check out this blog! - The guys here have some really great ideas on how you can have a great foodie time!

Times are going to get really rough during your study and work and exam periods, and you need some picker-upper, something nice and delectable and delicious.

Presenting, the Bannoffee pie! Topped with bananas, served with cream, and a whole bag of potassium plus sugar rolled into one!

It's a dorm room pie, too, so all you need is a microwave and some free time to watch the condensed milk.

And then, it's eating time!

Darn, I just love this picture to bits...


Start Weaving Your Dreams in Your Journal

You'll need to put your writing mind aside for today. You need to awaken the artist in you and ask for a few minutes of drawing and sketching time.

In today's journal entry, you will have to draw your greatest dream. We're not talking something intangible or nebulous, like "I want to get a lot of money," or "I want to have my first million before I'm 30." We're talking something you can do, something concrete, something you want to do with the money that you have.

Draw this dream. Sketch it. Attach stuff to your journal if you have to. The key is to be concrete and creative - and to remember what your dream is.

If you can give life to it, then YOU CAN MAKE IT COME TRUE.

When you're done, look at your work and give yourself a pat on the back. This is your first step to making your dream happen.

Does this sound crazy?

Well, yes, maybe it does. But hey, it takes a few crazy people to make the world a better place - and it may take your crazy, childlike mind to get your dream going once again.



Remember those days as a kid when you played hide-and-seek all afternoon?

Here's a challenge: play hide-and-seek again.

No, don't use your office. And no, don't ask your boss to play along. Reserve one weekend afternoon at your house or a friend's house, and if you like, play with the kids! It's a great way to relive your childhood memories, not to mention get some exercise while spending time with your children. Well - what do you know! THREE birds with one stone!

Now get out there and start playing! Just be sure you nail down the rules, unless you want to end up beating each other up over who's saved and who's "it."

And have fun! Think of this as an exercise in keeping your summer - and childhood - alive in you.


Be a Kid: Play on the Playground!

How many times have you gone past your local playground and stared longingly at the swings? How many times have you imagined yourself sliding down the slide and playing on the jungle gym? And how many times have you told yourself: that playground is for kids - I can't use it or I'll wreck it!

Guess what: although most playgrounds today are made of easily wreck-able hard plastic, you can find local playgrounds that still use iron for their bars and tires for their swings. And guess what? YOU CAN USE THE PLAYGROUND!

Forget about the sneers and laughter, or about the kids playing on the playground. Get on that swing. Try that slide. Go on the jungle gym.

If a kid comes up to you and asks why you're still playing, say, "We never stop playing."

If an adult looks at you suspiciously, do your best to reassure them that you're not the local neighborhood psychopath/sociopath/pedophile/rapist/idiot, and show them this blog entry. You may need to print it out or take your laptop with you as evidence.

As soon as you've convinced everyone that you're living a life of healthy craziness, you can start going back to the swing and playing. Who knows? You might be able to bond with the neighborhood kids, and teach the next generation to keep the wisdom of childhood.


It's Not Really a Snack...

...and it might not sound insane. But it's worth a try instead of you vegging out on chocolates and chips.

A glass of red wine a day. Antioxidants. Great taste. A touch of class.

Now, study how to taste wine. Go for the basics: see the wine's legs, smell the bouquet, taste it on your palate, and savor its many flavors. Now, do this alone.

1) Sit in a corner. Pretend to face a camera or a live TV audience.

2) Hold a glass of wine in one hand and use your free hand to gesture, but calmly.

3) Now, talk about your dreams. What kind of house do you want to have? What kind of car do you want to drive? What are your goals in life? What are your ambitions?

If you have a fireplace, have a warm fire going and pretend to have a fireside talk of sorts with your imaginary audience. Take a sip of wine every now and then, but don't refill your glass. You're on a snack mission with some imagination thrown in.


More Journal Keeping Tips: Give Yourself Questions!

Have you ever played Jeopardy? For those of you living under a rock, the main idea of the game is to provide the appropriate question for a given answer. "The capital of Brazil." What is Brasilia?; "A mineral made up purely of carbon, and perhaps the strongest mineral on the planet." What is diamond?

You can also play Jeopardy with your journal. All you need are a few answers. This works especially well for the times when you can't give a straight answer to certain questions, which may also occur due to the fact that you don't want to give an answer. A secret? A little skeleton hidden in a closet? Let's let it out.

Question these answers in your journal.

1. The most embarrassing moment in my life, when I really wanted the earth to swallow me up.

2. The person that I most regret hurting.

3. The person whom I would give all my riches, money, and investments to see again and say "I love you" to

4. The person whom I would give all my riches, money, and investments to see again so that I can punch his/her face in.

5. The one place on the planet that I would never want to be in.

6. The happiest day of my life, the one that I would want to relive again and again.

7. The person that I regret knowing.

8. The sentence that I most regret having said.

9. The song that truly describes my love life right now.

10. The question that I always ask myself.


If Ye Like Hiking...

Then you may want to try this out on your friends. The next time you all decide to go hiking, give up any chance of seeing any deer. Why? Because you'll be singing.

Now before the wildlife experts out there start crying foul, you'll have to wait a heigh-ho minute. There are a few rules that you have to follow. First, you need to sing low: not a whisper, not an all-out-at-the-top-of-your-lungs voice. But sing as though you were talking.

Second, no scaring away of wildlife.

Third, don't be too engrossed in your singing that you'll miss the warning signs that you're: 1) being eaten alive by mosquitoes, 2) crawling with chiggers, and 3) serving as the flesh fest for a family of ticks.

Fourth, you all need to learn some songs so you can sing them together. Now the choice of song will depend on your chosen theme. Would you all like to sing heartbreaking love songs? Or would you all like to sing Disney songs? Pick a theme. Each person has to select a song for that theme, and then send everyone the lyrics. No need for rehearsals: let's all be honorable and show up prepared.

The next time you hike, make sure you sing together. It's a good bonding experience, and it can take the boredom out of an unremarkable hike, especially if you're on a trail that you already know and you're just there for exercise. The singing, moreover, will train you to breathe properly.

Now, breathe deeply, and start practicing...

Heigh ho...heigh ho...we're nuts but we're not slow...


Open Up to Yourself: Another Journal Entry Suggestion

A journal should be your way of expressing yourself, of speaking out even when no one listens - and sometimes, you do precisely that. You speak out because you know no one will hear you.

Today's journal entry is a free form essay. This means that all you have to do is write down your answer to the question without thinking of grammar, syntax, usage, spelling - in other words, go nuts with your writing!

Today's Question is:

"There's something that I've been aching to tell . This is what I've been wanting to tell him/her for the longest time...."

Be as happy, as angry, as mushy, as gushy, and as nonsensical as you like. After all, you're the only one seeing this entry. For all you know, the writing process could give you the courage to speak up and say it all out loud!


Connecting Them Dots Makes You a Good Kid!

All right, maybe not.

But still, you can keep your insanity down by being a little insane yourself, kids style. All you need is an activity book with connect-the-dots - the more complicated, the better. Now, take up that pencil or pen, and start working.

Remember, keep your lines straight

. . . . .

Have fun! Remember, you need something to make you think that you're within bounds and in a sheltered, cocooned, controlled place where things aren't going haywire. Let them dots make you a good patient in this Mental Hospital we call Life.

Staying Awake During the Day - Survival in the Real World

(thanks to www.poetryfoundation.org)

Did you know that an apple can substitute for coffee in the morning?

Instead of drinking one big cup of coffee in the morning, drink smaller cups throughout the day. This way, you're alert, and you're not getting the jitters.

Avoid coffee at least six (6) hours before you sleep. Even if you do fall asleep, you might wake up because of the coffee hitting you.

(thanks to www.coffeelab.com)

For every cup of coffee you drink, drink two cups of water. Coffee is a diuretic: it pushes water out of your body, and you could end up damaging your cells if you don't have enough water to keep your body healthy. And yes, coffee does have antioxidants, but don't overdo your drinking.

Now add some craziness: amuse yourself at work by pretending to be a coffee expert. Gather your friends round, and together, critique the office coffee. Talk about texture, taste (or lack thereof), and what the flavor reminds you of. And be crazy about it. We aren't talking rough or smooth, bold or robust, or woody or chocolate-y.

We are talking about comparing your coffee to weird things, like mud, grass, or asphalt. Be as nice or as wicked as you want.

But drink water and keep the coffee to a minimum, too. Be crazy about this, and you're all set.


Board Games Keep the "Bored" Out of Parties

Monopoly, Rigamarole, Mastermind, Clue...a board game can keep you and your friends occupied for hours. So why not have a game night?

Instead of pulling out the PlayStation or the Wii, or polishing those chips for poker, why don't you organize a game night and get some Pictionary or Trivial Pursuit going? A board game really can bring you and your friends closer, and it can encourage team play, not to mention participation by every single person. So instead of taking turns with the electronic games, and instead of betting real money, why not have a board game for a night?

Here's a recommendation: try not to cringe at the prices, but Killer Bunnies and the Quest for the Magic Carrot is a great game to try out. The more, the merrier.

The key to enjoying this is to be insane. Board games can be as insane as you make them: feel free to take risks with Clue, and to gamble your play money in Monopoly. Killer Bunnies is great for letting out the lunatic in you. As long as everyone's enjoying and joining in, boredom won't be a problem.


Let's Be Ridiculous - A Journal Adventure

This is part 1 of a possible journal adventure for you, and here's your first entry involving it. All you need to do is to copy the following questions onto your journal and then answer them. You don't need to explain anything, or even feel guilty about your answers. You just need to answer the questions and laugh your journaling session away.

Today's Questions Involve PEOPLE

1) Who would you most want to be stuck in handcuffs with?

2) Who would you NOT want to be stuck on a desert island with?

3) Someone gives you a surprise kiss on the cheek. You turn around to see who did it. Who would you like to see?

4) Who would you like to sit next to in an Advanced Calculus class?

5) Who would you want to hand over to be sacrificed to the gods?

6) Who deserves the honor of Best Person, Like, Ever?

7) Who should NEVER get a hold of your journal?

8) Who do you want to dance the Macarena with?

9) Who do you want to watch a cheesy B-movie with?

10) Who do you never want to say goodbye to?


Color Your World Again (And You Can Do it Outside the Lines This Time)

Remember those days when you worked on your coloring books, and had to keep within the lines? Ever felt stressed as a child just making sure you didn't go beyond those dark lines with your crayons? Now, you don't have to be stressed - and in fact, you can have a lot of fun with coloring books!

Coloring books are actually therapeutic: they allow you to play again, to be a kid again, to be young and relax. All you need are as many crayons as you want, and the coloring book of your choice. Pick a nice spot where you can color comfortably without people passing by and wondering if you have your head on straight.

Now, color - and don't be afraid to use weird colors or go past the lines. Just color and don't think. Oh, and breathe deeply - take this chance to stay sane by going a bit insane.


Have a Healthy Snack!

I used to wrinkle my nose at yogurt, unless it had lots of fruits in it. But when I went to Greece, I was introduced to something so simple and elegant, and so yogurt-y, I haven't stopped making it. You may be aware of it, and you might have been making this snack for ages. In any case, I am posting it here.

A typical yogurt, honey, and nut mix, from GlutenFreeKathy

As many roasted/toasted nuts as you want, preferably almonds or pecans
As much honey as you like
Unsweetened yogurt, preferably low fat

Mix and enjoy

Of course, if you have problems with honey or nuts, then you shouldn't be following these instructions. For the rest of you who want to stay sane, think about it: isn't it crazy that we all go for a burger or a bag of chips when we want a snack? Let's be crazier than the rest: let's get a bit healthier. Have some low fat yogurt with honey and nuts. With no cream, and with some nuts, you have yourself a dessert and a snack - even breakfast - that you don't have to worry too much over.

Unless you eat too much of it, that is...


I Am...

You might think that adding a word to the blank after "I am" - but once you get started, you'll find that putting your name in isn't enough. You'll start talking about your favorites: I am a soccer fan, I am a food fanatic, I am a sucker for sappy love stories. Then you'll start writing your autobiography: I am a city girl, and I have been so since childhood; I am a Sesame Street-raised child, I am the daughter of two very crazy parents. Then you'll start rambling on about your feelings: I am happy now, I am uncertain about the future, I am a stranger even to myself.

Here's what you should do for your journal entry today: make a list of the things that you believe yourself to be. Start every single sentence with "I am." The list can be as long (or as short) as you want it to be. For extra difficulty, try making all your lines rhyme.

If you can, do this "I am..." exercise every day. It can be refreshing to find out that you're still yourself, stress and all.

Hopscotch it!

Here's something that you and your friends can do together. The next time you think of hanging out and straining the couch while watching TV, think again! Grab some chalk, get some nice pebbles, and play hopscotch!

Some hopscotch grids, courtesy of kidsregen.org

Hopscotch has long been played in many different countries, and children all over the world should re-learn it instead of gluing their fingers to their PlayStation consoles. Adults are no exception to hopscotch fun: you can get good exercise, re-test your balance, and even team up to get the most points.

Here's a good site for you to start honing your hopscotch skills: http://www.wikihow.com/Play-Hopscotch

Rachel Everdene will not be held responsible for injuries sustained due to hopscotch and over-excitement or frustration related to said game.



Clay Can Make Everything Controllable

Did you ever get the feeling that you wanted to squish something to a thousandth of its size - but had nothing remotely squishable in sight? True, you can crumple paper and choke some trees, or invest in stress balls and choke your wallet. But when those crumpled sheets have gone and your stress balls are stressed out, you still have an option that will last far longer: clay.

Whether it's an expensive can of Play-Doh or your neighborhood store-made clay, you can squish, mold, squeeze, and in general, divest all your energy on your favorite mound of clay. That's it: let your anger out! Take a big ball of clay out, pound on it, roll it, squish it, squeeze it, throw it against the wall (or somewhere harmless), shape it so that it resembles your boss - do what you want with clay!

Set aside about an hour of your time each day for your clay adventures. You don't have to create a masterpiece or shape the next great decoration for the Louvre. You simply have to use the clay to your advantage and take the stress out - who knows, you might get ideas for the next great sculpture by simply idly playing with clay!

Get colorful clay like this through Amazon - and squish your way to sanity!

And when you're ready for the big leagues, look for ways to hone your clay creativity!


Oh, the Songs that Played!

Here's something nice to share with your friends when you get together for dinner: talk about the songs that you liked. And no, you can't pretend to not like that one song by that one boy-band; and no, you can't pretend that you did not actually like the Spice Girls.


Own up to actually liking a few songs that are no longer in your playlist (or are buried deep in the recesses of your operating system, where no one can find them and thereby blackmail you). Be honest about the bands that you wanted to follow around and stalk. Don't hold back: hey, these are your friends! What's the worst that could happen?

Well, actually, there really IS blackmail, but who cares?

You can start your conversation along any of the following lines:

1) Which of the Spice Girls did you really like? What Spice Girls song did you dance to in your room or sing to in the bathroom? (Guys, you are NOT exempt from this question!)

2) Pick: New Kids on the Block, N*SYNC, Boyz 2Men, Backstreet Boys, 5ive, Westlife - pick any boy band. Now, OWN UP. What song did you really like? Come on now, don't be shy!

3) Which rock band did you want to be a groupie for?

4) What was the first concert that you ever went to?

5) What was the first CD or tape that you ever bought for yourself?

You can think up thousands of questions along these lines, but the point is to be honest and to be brave about your inner - ehem - groupie. Or Boy Band Fan. Or Girl Group Fan.

And then you all can start singing choruses. Sing it with me now! "Ice ice baby...dum dum dum du du dum dum...all right stop, collaborate and listen..."

You know you want to.


Even Textbooks Can Bring Back Memories

...yes, not necessarily good ones, but still....

Here's something to write about in your journal. Remember those days you spent in the classroom poring over your textbook and trying to stay awake? Remember those long nights at the dorm where you had to balance work, study, parties, grades, family, and friends? Remember those heavy textbooks you had to buy with your lunch money (make that lunch money enough to buy you lunch for three weeks)? Remember those darn textbooks?

Now, it's time to make a textbook open your mind.

You have two options: You either have a textbook lying around the house, or you dont.

1) If you have a textbook lying around the house, get the first one that you can find. Now, write about it. No, you are not writing a summary of the textbook or a textbook review. You are writing about how that textbook made you feel back then, and how it makes you feel now.

Did you feel at a loss to explain stoichiometry way back when? How do you feel now, years and years later, when you either don't need it, or aren't at a loss to explain it any longer? Did you feel that you couldn't memorize history dates no matter how hard you tried? How do you feel now, years and years later, when you either can call up those same dates, or find that you don't need every detail of history to see you through your day?

2) If you don't have a textbook lying around the house, then try to recall what textbooks you once used. The first textbook that comes to mind should be the most memorable one, so use it. Now, remember how it made you feel. Ask yourself these questions:

a) What did I really love about that textbook? Would I recommend it to people studying the subject it tackled?

b) What did I really not like about that textbook? What would I tell people if they asked me about it?

You can write an essay, a poem, or even a story. But keep it to a minimum of two pages. You want to save the pages of your journal for more entries.


Unblock with Lego Blocks!

No, Lego did not pay me to make this post.

When I was young, I had the usual Barbies and dolls with pretty dresses, the make believe pots and pans and stoves, and the fairy-tale books that told me about the lives of princesses pre-reality. Nobody told me that there were no real Barbies unless a plastic surgeon managed to stretch a girl six feet tall and give her enough boobs to break her back. Nobody told me that cooking was more than pushing a piece of meat from one end of the skillet to the other. And nobody told me that fairy-tales came true only in the movies.

Cynicism aside, I still believe that one of my favorite toys can bring me back to that time of childhood when I had fun playing and pretending. Lego was one of my absolute favorites.

I could spend entire afternoons designing my dream house, and then peopling it with men (I didn't have any Lego women). I even stayed up way past my bedtime to build impossibly high blue, red, and yellow buildings with glassless windows that had green shutters on them. I defied the laws of physics by balancing window frames on make-believe verandas for lack of an arbor. I followed directions on making a gasoline station out of a few blocks, and ended up making a drive-through restaurant complete with a giant chicken (which came from my play-cooking set, and which, if actually drawn to scale, could feed legions of Lego men armies for days).

Now, it's your turn.

If you've never played with Lego blocks, it's never too late. You can buy them from your nearest toy store. Start with basic blocks, or kits; you might want to steer clear of the special editions first until you've gotten used to the basic red, blue, and yellow ones. This way, you can be creative without a leaflet of directions telling you that the dinosaur head should go on the long block, or the turrets should go atop the tower lest it go smashing into the battlements.

If you've played with Lego blocks before, and if you still have them, then lucky you! Take the box out! If you're lucky enough, take the boxes out! Start building! You don't have to make a mansion or a sophisticated airport. You can simply make a cube, a little house, a cottage, a make-believe airplane, a submarine (with glassless windows and green shutters, no less!). From your humble beginnings, you can go on to make subdivisions, government offices, school houses, and a university. Talk about graduation!

You don't have to spend hours and hours designing your Lego buildings, and neither do you have to spend thousands of bucks to get the best Lego builders' kits. All you need is to work with a little, start small, and let your imagination go. Don't think that anyone is grading you or paying you to make the next big Lego miracle.

Just sit down with your Lego blocks.

Don't think too much.

After all, this is what this exercise is for: letting your brain rest.

More tips for getting the most out of your Lego experience:

1) Have a Lego day at the office! Suggest a team building lunch, where teams build their perfect office using just Lego blocks.

2) Have a Lego afternoon with your kids, or with your kid brothers and sisters, nephews and nieces, or cousins. Don't compete with the kids - just unwind.

3) Have a Lego block set instead of a little sand box on your desk at the office.

Studies show that people who play with Lego blocks tend to be more creative. Just kidding.

Whether there really are any studies on Lego blocks shouldn't matter to you. All you need is to build, and even have a few Lego men to talk to when the stress gets too tough.

When they start talking back, however...


New Tips Group - Snacks!

You don't have to rely on a cheeseburger for that afternoon energy fix, or a bag of chips for a midnight snack. You have choices out there, from healthy things to not-so-healthy things; and you can have fun things to do while you're having snacks. Part of the fun of enjoying your food is getting to share the experience (not necessarily the food) with somebody else.

Now, then, get some savings together, because you will have to treat yourself some time. Watch this site for more snack ideas - not to mention mini get-together ideas so that you don't end up obsessed with work and study. Work hard, play hard - eat smart.


New Tips Group - Be a Kid

The difference between being childish and being childlike is not at all subtle.

CHILDISH - throw a tantrum, blame others for your faults, play stupid and harmful tricks on people, turn people into playthings (in so many different ways, both decent and indecent)

CHILDLIKE - want to learn new things (not new things about people to the point that you end up gossiping), be happy with the smallest things, TRUST

The last is not something that you can learn from this blog, and neither is it something that you can learn in a day or two. It's something that you will have to learn on your own, and it can take years to work out.

As for this blog, it's just meant to help you find ways to feel like a kid again.

And with that, I welcome you to a new category! The Feel Like a Kid Again tips are meant to re-introduce you to your childhood favorites, from Play-Doh to Lego. Ever wonder why kids can spend an entire afternoon just sitting down and playing with clay, while you're seething at your computer and hoping to escape?

Let's not go psychological over this. You probably get the picture by now.

So hey, don't be afraid to be a kid! Watch this blog for more posts on how you can have fun for a few hours as you relive your childhood days with your old friends, furry or mechanical.

Peanut Butter Tastes Better When Microwaved

Now you know what I do in my spare time. *evil cackle*

No, I don't stuff my microwave with anything in sight and hit the START button. But I do speculate on what happens to edible stuff in the microwave - edible microwaveable stuff, mind you. Not dried out stuff that would most likely turn my dorm into a lightning show gone wrong.

Hence, the peanut butter.

Now don't go nuts (no pun intended) and start navigating your pointer toward that X in the corner. Hear me out: try warm peanut butter and see how it tastes. All you need are bread, a microwave oven, a microwave oven-safe dish, and as much peanut butter as you want (or as is humanly possible to eat in one sitting without getting a heart attack).

Step 1: Place peanut butter in microwave oven-safe dish.

Step 2: If you want your bread to go all moist and smooshy, put it on the side of the peanut butter.

Step 3: Place microwave oven-safe dish with bread and peanut butter into microwave oven. Shut the door.

Step 4: Microwave for a minute.

Step 4.5: Step away from the microwave as microwave process occurs.

Step 5: Carefully take the dish out. Note the consistency of the peanut butter. Smooth, innit? Now, dip the bread in the melted peanut butter, and eat slowly (not to mention carefully, as bread and peanut butter will be hot).

This recipe works for smooth and creamy peanut butter, so I don't know how the chunky ones will fare. I've tried this with two slices of bread separating my dollop of peanut butter from my spoonful of grape jam. The grape jam melted into juice, but, mixed in with the melted peanut butter, it was pretty darn good.

CAUTION: If you do not know how to use a microwave oven, please ask a grown-up to help you out.

Journal Keeping, TIP #1

I know, I know, this sounds like one of those Oprah things where you have to stare off into space and ruminate on the world while chewing on the cud of your troubles.

It's slightly like that, except that you don't have to stare off into space, and you can actually chew on something edible and nice while journalling.

I am now filing a whole host of journal keeping tips and ideas, so stay tuned!

Your first tip, grad student, chained office worker, person generally alienated from the world, is to discard all your negative notions about journal keeping. If you can, read this list aloud to yourself.

First, journal keeping is not about being weepy and telling your notebook how unlucky you are, and what a martyred mortal you are for being in such a quagmire/rut/mess.

Second, you don't have to write every single day. You don't even have to KNOW how to write well. Who's checking, anyhow?

Third, you set your time for writing in your journal. You don't have to do it when you get up in the morning, or while your experiment is running, or before you go to bed. Write when you want to.

Fourth, you don't need to just write; you can put in memorabilia from your walks or your travels, like those dried autumn leaves, that nice piece of squirrel tail, or that ballpen you stole from your crush in class. Ok, maybe not the squirrel tail.

Fifth, if you run out of ideas, you can always check back here. No kidding. I have verbal diarrhea when it comes to giving writing advice.

So - watch out for more journaling tips!

Hot Chocolate can be HOT!

If you like minty hot chocolate, then start stocking up on dark hot chocolate and those candy canes that you never got to dig into last Christmas.

Here's a tip for a little breather on those early mornings if you're studying; or on those cold mornings when you get up and feel like you have to drag yourself out the door.

Step 1. Take a sachet of your favorite hot chocolate. I personally recommend Swiss Miss Dark Chocolate, or Swiss Miss Rich Chocolate.

Step 2. Follow steps on packet. So, either empty your hot chocolate into a mug and pour hot water in; or boil some water in the microwave for two minutes and stir the hot chocolate in.

Step 3: Break away a bit of peppermint candy cane and drop it into the hot chocolate. Crumble it if you want to have bits and pieces still floating about; or just drop the entire thing and stir the hot chocolate until the candy cane is gone.

Step 4: Drink. Slowly.

The tendency of most people is to drink hot chocolate down and slurp it in like there's no tomorrow, and simply because they "have more important things to do." Hey, look, there are very few things that you can truly enjoy in life, so set this up properly. Take that hot chocolate with you and do one (or more) with the following, depending on how big your mug is.

Scene 1: Sit by your window and watch the world go by, sipping hot chocolate every few minutes and feeling the mint mixing in with the dark chocolate.

Scene 2: On that note, pretend you're a hot chocolate connoisseur and comment ALOUD on how the mint contrasts with the bitterness of chocolate. Taste the drink on all parts of your tongue and talk about it like Robin Leach would if he were introducing minty hot chocolate to his Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous audience. Feel free to try out his accent.

*CAUTION: Do not attempt this if you are in the company of other people, unless you all agree to be connoisseurs for the day (or hour, depending on how big your mugs are)

Scene 3: Just sit back, stay away from your work, and drink hot chocolate slowly while imagining yourself elsewhere.

Let your imagination take you places! Your hot chocolate can be HOT!

Here's to Insanity - the Only Way Back to Not Being Crazy

Dear World,

I am a graduate student. I have the workload of a workhorse. And I have the sanity of -

I do not have any sanity.

However, I have not lost hope. There are a few things in life that come free for those looking for a quick fix-my-head-up fix. There are ways to stay sane, and sometimes, all you need is a little know-how.

So this blog goes out to all of you, who are chained to your office desks, to your study desks, to your houses, to your jobs and your work and your books and your studies. This blog goes out to everyone who wants to be sane by being insane once in a while.

Let's get our sanity back!

NOTE: Do link back to me, and do post comments! If you have questions and suggestions on little ways that people can keep their sanity and stay happy, do post your comments! Welcome to the blog!


New Tips Group - Share it With Friends

Share anything with your friends whenever you can: recipes, love stories, heartbreak stories, this blog...

I have a new tips group, this time devoted to stuff that you and your friends can do when you are hanging out. And no, this will not involve body shots, binge drinking, drag racing, or taking drugs. My techniques are wholesome, thank you very much; they're ridiculous, too, so you're welcome.

My first tip: don't be afraid to be ridiculous.

I don't mean wrapping your heads in stockings and hanging out at the local cafe while constantly checking your briefcases, or suddenly jumping onto your table at the restaurant and reciting to all and sundry the Declaration of Independence - backwards.

I mean conversations, topics, subjects of discussion, and new schools of thought (or castles in the sky) that you can build while you sip your coffee or chew on your burgers.

Don't be afraid to laugh. In a world like ours, we need smiles and happiness. Badly.