Lessons Learned Living Abroad

My latest TNGG post, as originally posted here.

Over 80,000 American college co-eds study abroad each academic year, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Each year, more and more college students are participating in study abroad programs at their college or university — some study abroad for a semester, or even a year, and others have internships overseas. Below are some important life lessons that can be learned while living outside the good ol’ U. S. of A.

Lesson #1 — not all of Europe drives on the “wrong” side of the road
During a study abroad pre-departure meeting at Bentley College, the study abroad advisor asked 10 eager students excited to head to Ireland “which way to look before crossing the road?” Confused, they asked “left, then right, then left again?” or “both ways?” While this question sounded silly at first, the advisor was trying to make a point — even though traffic may drive on the opposite side of the road in Dublin, you still need to look both ways before crossing the street. Being well aware of this difference in Ireland, which like the UK, Japan, Australia, India, Southeast Asia, parts of Africa and other areas, drive on the left side of the road, it still came as a shock to be on a bus in Italy driving down the right side of the road. (And don’t forget, if they do drive on the left, it means the passenger door is where the driver’s door is in America). Seriously though, you learn more important things than this, but you need to remember to keep using your common sense, assuming you have it to begin with.

Lesson #2 — not everyone likes Americans
A business professor at University College Dublin asked her students to break into groups to work on a semester long project, the only requirement was that each member of the group be from a different country, with an exception that you could have two Irish students in the group if needed. Her logic behind this was that in the past she had seen Americans be broken into their own groups, partially of their own doing, but also because no one else wanted to work with them — they saw the Americans as lazy. Erasmus students tend to take a semester abroad somewhat more seriously than American college students. Erasumus students, while in a foreign country, are usually from somewhere within Europe and are more well-travelled then their American counterparts. American’s see studying abroad as more of a travel vacation and adventure than a time to be studying seriously. (Myself included — according to Facebook, I studied drinking pints and sightseeing while at UCD.) Not only are American’s seen as lazy, but we are also seen as arrogant and a whole list of other terms we tend to cringe at.

Lesson #3 — Take a breath, and slow down
There’s a reason a “New York minute” is not called a “Sydney minute”. American’s are driven and pushed to accomplish things quickly and now. Many other cultures are more laid back and people take time to enjoy what is around them. Obviously, you try to pack in as much as you can into your trip abroad, but don’t jam things in just to say you did them; allow yourself to truly experience everything around you. Experience the culture around you. Go to a local bar and listen to some live traditional music instead of hitting up the discotech or local bar with American music. And don’t forget to take pictures and videos to remember these amazing moments.

Lesson # 4 — English is not a worldwide language
While many people around the world speak English, not everyone speaks it, even in countries which have large English speaking populations. Getting lost in the alleys of Venice with no known Italian is not the best situation to be in if you are lost late at night. Even if others do speak English, it does not mean they will let you in on that tidbit when you are looking for directions. If you are going to another country for a semester, study their native language before you head over. Even if you are only going for a weekend adventure, at least try to learn some key words (perhaps “help”, “water”, “bathroom” and “do you speak English?” for starters). While it might not be mandatory to study a foreign language in your school, learning another language can also benefit you later in life.

Lesson #5 –Be open and allow yourself to change
Sticking with the norm is easy, you know it, it’s comfortable. Going abroad automatically changes your norm, so why not change it all? Don’t go abroad and pretend to be someone else, but be open to become who you really are. You will inevitably make new friends (who could become some of your closest confidants when you go home and keep going on in life), allow these friends to know the real you, not the you you think you should be. Don’t be scared to try new things. Try the local culture, experience it all — you might learn that you like these things as much, or more, than your old hobbies (I learned that I love art during my semester abroad, and I used to think museums were boring).

Lesson #6 — Don’t stay home wondering “what if?”
The most important lesson I learned — life at home will go on. Thanks to the internet and cell phones, we can be in contact with our loved ones back home as often (or as little) as we’d like. Let go of your fears and go “balls to the wall”. As I have always believed, it’s better to do something than regret not doing it.

Don’t forget to take the lessons learned abroad and bring them back into your American life when you land at the airport to be reunited with friends and family. What lessons did you learn studying or living abroad?

Photo by SLU Madrid Campus

That’s all for now.
Peace out cub scout.

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Cookin’ in the Kitchen

This weekend I decided to become a chef! Well, really I just decided that I need to expand my horizons in the kitchen and elaborate my knowledge of what I can cook. And yes, this idea was partly driven by the boy’s need to eat different meals, but also because I want to be able to cook delicious and healthy meals, not just Mexican food.

Saturday night I tried homemade pizza. Since I’m lactose intolerant, I made a cheese free pizza (yes, they do exist!) and then I made a veggie pizza too. The cheese free pizza was made with Trader Joe’s pizza dough rolled out with pizza sauce spread on top, baked until the crust is ready. Once the crust was ready, I added fresh arugula and cherry tomatoes (halved) to the top. **I stole this idea from a pizzeria in Manhattan where I went for a work dinner one night, and my co-workers ordered me a similar pizza, though that also had prosciutto on it too — very tasty. My other pizza started with the same base, but also had cheese. On top of the cheese, we piled sliced red bell peppers, sliced red onions, some more halved cherry tomatoes and a sprinkle of basil leaves. This one took longer to cook, but again was ready once the crust was just the right crispness on the bottom.

Homemade pizza wasn’t where I ended. On Sunday night I tackled cooking fish for the first time ever (which also meant buying fish for the first time ever…) I saw a recipe on food.com on Saturday that I wanted to try. It sounded tasty, and healthy. I took the recipe as a good starting point, but like always, I don’t follow directions to a T (unless I’m baking…) So I chopped up almost 2 full pints of grape tomatoes, tossed them in two tablespoons of olive oil, added basil leaves (torn into small pieces) and mixed in plenty of crushed garlic. Once it was nicely mixed, I spread it out in a 9″ x 13″ baking pan and roasted the veggies in the oven for 15 min on 425*F. Then I added in 2″ pieces of Alaskan cod spread throughout the dish, and tucked under the veggies. The pan was then put back in the oven for 12 minutes, until the cod was cooked. The tomatoes and cod were to die for and I think this dish would work with any white fish or white meat.

That’s all for now.
Peace out cub scout.

Not-Christmas-Christmas Songs

Christmas is a time for joy and laughter. For Christians, it is a time to rejoice that our Savior has come. For everyone celebrating, it’s a time to have fun, be merry, eat too much and unwrap our presents from Santa Claus. While the true meaning if Christmas has been overrun by Hallmark, the true meaning of Christmas is still abound and plentiful these days. One thing is for certain though, no matter how many Christmas hymns we sing in Church and songs we hear in the radio, there are more than a couple ‘Christmas’ songs which missed the mark of the true meaning and spirit of the holiday.

All I Want For Christmas Is You by everyone who has sung it
Whether you think Christmas is about Santa, Jesus or family, it’s not Valentine’s Day and I don’t think Santa delivers men (or women) to be waiting for you under the tree.

Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer by Randy Brooks
While it was written as a joke some 30 years ago, it is popular and catchy. But how does grandma getting drunk and maimed by reindeer fit with the joy of the holiday season?

Little Drummer Boy by Justin Bieber with Busta Rhymes
This song originally is a personal fav. It’s a song sung in Church by little kids beating a plastic drum at the end of the Christmas pageant. But turning it into a rap song to celebrate a family holiday? No thanks. And what drum sounds like “pa rum pa pum pum yeeaaaaaaah yeaaaaaah”?

Mistress for Christmas by AC/DC
Maybe it’s just me, but committing a mortal sin doesn’t seem to fall into the Christmas spirit of celebrating our Savior who came to save us from our sins.

You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch originally written by Dr. Suess himself
Everyone who is against the Christmas spirit at this time of year is referred to as a Grinch. Why? because Mr. Grinch is too anti-Christmas and tries to take the fun out of it for others. It’s one thing to be a party pooper, but this is not the time of year to spread your misery.

Yelling At The Christmas Tree by Billy Idol
Christmas might not have always been a happy time in the Idol house when Billy was growing up, but don’t be a Grinch and spread your painful memories with those of us who only want to remeber the good times at the holidays.

That’s all for now.
Peace out cub scout.

The Christmas Story Told Through Hymns

Christmas has become more of a Hallmark holiday than one of the most holiest times for Christians. Holiday music is being pumped out of speakers across the radio in cars and stores, making Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer and I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas stuck in our head for days. But for Christians, Christmas is about much more — Christmas is a joyous time to celebrate the coming of our Saviour, Jesus Christ, who came to save us from sin and die for us. Christmas music has been around since the beginning of hymns in Church. The story of Christmas can be found in the lyrics of some of our favorite hymns.

The Angel Gabriel From Heaven Came
“The angel Gabriel from Heaven came….“All hail to thee, O lowly maiden Mary, most highly favored lady.”….“For know a blessed mother thou shalt be, all generations laud and honor thee”.”

O Come, O Come Emmanuel
“O come, O come, Emmanuel and ransom captive Israel. That mourn in lonely exile here, until the Son of God appear. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.”

O Little Town of Bethlehem
“O morning stars together proclaim the holy birth! And praises sing to God the King, and peace to men on Earth. For Christ is born of Mary and gathered all above, while mortals sleep the Angels keep their watch of wondering love.”

Away in a Manger
“Away in a manger, no crib for His bed, the little Lord Jesus, laid down His sweet head. The stars in the bright sky looked down where He lay, the little Lord Jesus, asleep in the hay.”

What Child is This?
“What child is this, who laid to rest, on Mary’s lap is sleeping? Whom Angels greet with anthems sweet, while shepherds watch are keeping?”

Silent Night, Holy Night
“Silent night! Holy night! All is calm, all is bright, round yon virgin mother and child, Holy infant so tender and mild, sleep in heavenly peace!”

The First Noel
“They looked up and saw a star shining in the East beyond them far and the the Earth it gave great light, and so it continues both day and night. Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel, born is the King of Israel!”

O Come All Ye Faithful
“O come all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant, o come ye, o come ye to Bethlehem. Come and behold Him, born the King of Angels. O come let us adore him, o come let us adore him, o come let us adore him, Christ the Lord.”

Joy to the World
“Joy to the world, the Lord is come! Let Earth receive her King, let every heart prepare Him room, and Heaven and nature sing, and Heaven and nature sing, and Heaven, and Heaven and nature sing.”

We Three Kings of Orient Are
“We three kings of Orient are, bearing gifts we traverse afar, field and fountain, moor and mountain, following yonder star. O star of wonder, star of night, star with royal beauty bright, westward leading, still proceeding, guide us the thy perfect light.”

That’s all for now.
Peace out cub scout.

5 Gift Ideas for Interns

Are you still in need of ideas for a gift for that ever so hard person to shop for? Well, you’re in luck! TNGG has created a whole bunch of idea lists for all sorts of people, and you should check it out here. Plus, you really should check out the list for ideas for your intern (which was originally posted here) since your favorite me wrote it!

;

Before buying a holiday present for your intern, (it should go without say, but…) it is first important to find out whether or not your intern believes in dear ol’ Santa, spins the dreidal or neither of the above. A bad present couldn’t be as bad as buying your intern a present for a holiday they most definitely do not celebrate. If you don’t know (and are too chicken to ask), then get them an end of the year present, don’t assume they are one or the other (because when you assume, you make an @$$ out of u and me). In the office, interns can be just as hard to buy a present for as yourboss. You don’t want to overthink it, you don’t want to offend anyone and you most definitely don’t want to spend loads of money. Whether it’s your intern, or anyone else, the best gift to buy is one that they will use and suits their lifestyle — one that shows you pay them enough attention to pick up on some of the small things.

For the coffee addict

Does your intern show up with a cup o’ Joe in his hand every morning without fail? Does he come back from lunch with another cup in hand? There’s nothing wrong with getting your intern something you know they will use no matter where they go next semester. Grab a gift card to Dunkin’ Donuts or Starbucks (or that little coffee shop on the corner that you know they frequent). Want to snaz up the gift card? Present it in a coffee mug (because no coffee addict can have too many mugs). You can pick the mug up in the store when you get the card, or better yet, give them a company mug from your office so they never forget you.

For the bookworm

Did your intern keep their nose deep in a good book every day during lunch? Did they fill their commute with a new novel every other day? Or even if they are just headed back to college to take classes next semester, get them a Barnes & Noble gift card. This allows them to continue reading the latest best sellers even after the paychecks (if they’re even getting paid) keep coming. And even if it’s just for classes, more than 600 university bookstores are run by Barnes & Noble and they can put the money towards books for class, because we all know that books are becoming all too expensive these days.

For the fashionista

Gift card to their favorite store, or at least one that suits their look. There’s no need to buy the preppy kid a gift card to Quiksilver or to buy the hipster a gift card to Eddie Bauer. Even with stringent dress codes at work, your intern has probably shown a flare of their real dress (especially if you are their Facebook friend or if you have casual Fridays). Everyone needs clothes, and if your intern spends every lunch break shopping in the nearby stores for new threads, why not help put some money towards it.

For the music lover

What music lover doesn’t like live music? If your intern is a music lover, then grab aTicketmaster gift card. Or tickets to their favorite band who just happens to be playing in the new club next week. If tickets are too pricey for your budget, get an iTunes gift card for them. Every music lover (especially those who cannot live without their iPhones) loves free music off iTunes, maybe not free for you, but it’s free for them.

For the one you don’t know what to buy

There is always that intern who keeps to themselves, is quiet and doesn’t let anyone in. Whether they are a natural introvert, or they just don’t seem to have many friends in the office, they still deserve something. If you are out of ideas, you can always get them a nice bottle of wine. (Keep in mind, the legal drinking age in the US is 21, so this only applies to the older interns.) Plenty of us are guilty of giving alcohol as our “fallback” gift when we are lacking ideas, or time to get a better present. Plus who knows, maybe your intern is really a wine coinsurer outside the office.

Don’t forget if their internship is coming to an end as the holidays draw near and the semester closes, you want to leave a lasting impression with your interns. Some sort of company memorabilia could always be thrown in with your holiday gift.

What was the best gift you ever gave to your intern? And what was the best gift you got as in intern?

That’s all for now.
Peace out cub scout.

DIY Halloween Costume Ideas!

My latest for TNGG, as originally posted here.

Halloween is almost here and costume parties have already begun (some are coming just bit TOO early this year…). When we were little, it was always exciting to dress up and go trick-or-treating, but now as we grow up, sometimes Halloween begins to seem more like a chore.

Dressing up for the holiday in a unique way seems to become more and more difficult every year. Whether you are strapped for cash, have no time to go shopping for a costume or simply forgot to get a costume for that party that’s tonight, here are some ideas for costumes you are likely to find in your closet:

80’s Costume:

What you’ll need if you’re a chick:

  • Leggings
  • Leg warmers (or knee highs that you scrunch instead of extending all the way up your thighs)
  • Headband
  • Scrunchie (for your side pony tail)
  • White sneakers
  • Bright colored sports bra
  • Sweatshirt with an extra wide neck line
  • Blueish eye shadow

What you’ll need if you’re a dude:

  • Wig with long hair/mullet
  • Tight pants
  • Fitted tank top in a bright color
  • Lipstick
  • Eyeliner

Bat boy/girl or Baseball Player Costume:

What you’ll need whether you’re a chick or a dude:

  • Team jersey
  • Baseball pants
  • Team hat
  • Knee high socks
  • Cleats or sneakers

Additional accessories to put you over the top:

  • Baseball and glove
  • Batting helmet
  • Cather equipment (if you’re dressing up as a catcher)
  • Baseball bat *IMPORTANT NOTE: check that if you are going to a bar/public place, some of these things will not be allowed in as they could be construed as a weapon

College/University Superfan Costume:

What you’ll need whether you’re a chick or a dude:

  • T-shirt from your college
  • Foam finger
  • School hat
  • Jeans (or any bottoms you have with your school’s name on them — this could be a perfect reason to have sweats on at the party…)

Additional accessories to put you over the top:

  • Face paint
  • Temporary tattoos
  • Ribbons in your hair
  • Anything else you have that matches and shows your school pride

Lifeguard Costume:

What you’ll need if you’re a chick:

  • Red, navy or royal blue bathing suit (can be a one piece or bikini, but no drawstrings allowed — bonus points if it’s an actual lifeguard suit)
  • Lifeguard t-shirt
  • Red or navy shorts
  • Flip flops
  • Whistle

What you’ll need if you’re a dude:

  • Red, navy or royal blue bathing suit (bonus points if it’s an actual lifeguard suit)
  • Lifeguard t-shirt (optional if you are going somewhere that does not require shirts as part of the dress code)
  • Flip flops
  • Whistle

Additional accessories to put you over the top:

  • Rescue tube
  • Funny looking sun hat
  • Sunglasses (remember, b@d@$$e$ wear sunglasses at night)
  • Zinc on your nose (any color will do)

Referee Costume:

What you’ll need whether you’re a chick or a dude:

  • Black shorts or pants (if you want to be a basketball ref) OR white shorts or pants (if you want to be a football ref)
  • Black and white vertically stripped shirt
  • Whistle (should be black if you want to be official)
  • Sneakers (should also be black if you want to be official)

Additional accessories to put you over the top:

  • White or black baseball hat (football only)
  • Red and yellow cards if you are a basketball ref
  • Yellow flag if you’re a football ref
  • Black Under Armor (for layering purposes if you fear being cold)

*Note that all above costumes ideas can be adjusted to your level of sluttiness, if you so desire, though I may recommend you think against that.

If you don’t have any of the above costumes, don’t forget you can always pull out an old costume from a couple years ago that you still have lying around, an old uniform from work (nothing wrong going as a Stop & Shop bagger or cashier) or an outfit from any themed parties (luau, 90’s, etc..) you have been too lately.

That’s all for now.
Peace out cub scout.

A Crucial Catch: Breast Cancer and the NFL

My latest for TNGG — as originally posted here.

Breast Cancer Cupcakes

Whether it is your mom, grandmother, aunt, niece, neighbor, friend, daughter, spouse, or yourself, almost every person knows someone who has been diagnosed with breast cancer. This is not surprising, as statistics tell us that every three minutes a woman is diagnosed and every 13 minutes a woman dies of breast cancer in this country. These alarming rates have caused an increased call for breast cancer awareness — hence slogans like “I Heart Boobies” and “save the ta-tas” popping up all over. The latest catch phrase to inundate us is “A Crucial Catch” — NFL’s slogan for the month.

The month of October is officially National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM) and the NFL is currently in its third season of a partnership with the American Cancer Society. The NFL, teams and players are spreading the word and trying to focus on getting women to know the importance of getting a yearly screening, especially those if you are over 40. Fields have pink ribbons stenciled on them, game balls and coins are turning pink and you can even find pink cleats, towels, gloves and more on the players to spread the message. Not only are they wearing and painting things pink, but all the pink you see is being auctioned off and the proceeds are going to charity.

While the league has been doing this for three years now, some teams, like the Giants, have been supporting the cause for much longer. And they’re not the only ones. Many players in the NFL have been affected by breast cancer and the support comes pouring out from more than just the league. The Redskins’s tight end, Chris Cooley, whose mother is a survivor, works with the team’s community relation department to host the Chris Cooley All-Star Survivors Celebration, an afternoon to give to and support survivors.

But there are still some out there who only see this as a marketing ploy. Our friends over at the Good Men Project think this is purely a way to get more female fans — last year they pointed out that more fans are affected by heart disease than breast cancer. Some females even think this is just a way to show us that we matter. With these skepticisms, I have yet to see an official reason from the NFL to say why they’re doing it. But does it really matter why? They’re doing something great for women (and men) and they are showing us that they haven’t forgotten us. Plus it’s a lot more than we see the NBA, NHL or MLB doing.

What do you think? Whether it’s a marketing ploy or not, does it really matter? Or is the NFL supporting the cause enough that the reason behind it doesn’t matter much?

That’s all for now.
Peace out cub scout.

An Apple a Day Keeps the Doctor Away: Recipes for Fall

My first time putting my hand into the editing world on TNGG….as originally posted here.

Prime apple picking season is upon us. While the Northeast may be facing a pumpkin shortage(yes, I know, sad but true) for the upcoming Halloween season, apples seem plentiful now that they are ready for picking. There’s nothing better than picking an apple from the orchard, cleaning it off on the sleeve of your hoodie, and biting into the crispy, juicy fruit — well, except for family favorite apple recipes.

Our love of apples and apple dishes began as tykes, eating apple sauce and drinking apple juice. Apples are one of the most common fruits seen inside a school cafeteria. Now that we are on our own, we have learned the joys, and frustrations, of baking and cooking. Some of us here at TNGG have gathered our favorite recipes to share to better kitchens around the world with our tasty apple dishes.

Don’t forget when cooking anything with apples, it is important to use apples which are considered baking apples (anything that keeps it shape while baking) — Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Gala, etc. There are also ways to adapt all recipes to be healthier. You could also swap vegetable oil with olive oil — you’ll be surprised at how moist olive oil cakes are. Or, if you want to skip all that sugar and butter for crumble toppings, just top the cake with chopped walnuts or pecans.

Apple Coffee Cake (submitted by Yue Huang)

This recipe yields a sweet, tart, and moist cake, perfect to pair with some dark roast coffee or afternoon tea.

What you’ll need:

  • ¼ cup unsalted butter (for the batter)
  • 2 tbsp of butter (for the crumble)
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp of lemon zest (optional)
  • 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ cup plain low-fat yogurt (I used Greek yogurt; you can use any type so long as it’s not sweetened)
  • 1 heaping cup of baking apples (I chopped two medium-sized Cortland apples)
  • lemon juice (for splashing on the apple to prevent browning)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 6 tbsp of light brown sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350° F.

2. Chop apples and splash some lemon juice on top to prevent browning.

3. In a large bowl, cream ¼ cup butter and vegetable oil with the granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, vanilla and lemon zest.

4. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir into wet mixture. Add yogurt and mix; gently stir in apples. Pour the cake batter into a greased and floured 9-inch round baking pan. (You could also use parchment paper or foil for no mess.)

5. In a small bowl, stir together the brown sugar and cinnamon. Mix with 2 tablespoons of butter. Sprinkle over the top of the batter (don’t worry if it’s not perfectly spread out).

6. Bake for 45 minutes (until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean).

7. Cool for 20 minutes. Cut into portions and enjoy the perfect slice of fall.

Cook’s note: You may want to chop extra apples in case you are like me who, well, likes to “taste” my ingredients while I cook. Also, I chopped them quite small so they don’t fall to the bottom of the batter.

Apple Crisp (submitted by me)

This recipe creates a dish that is great for breakfast or a snack. Best served warm (and extra goodness, when served with a heaping scoop of ice cream).

What you’ll need:

  • 5 or 6 medium apples
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 to ¾ cup brown sugar
  • ¾ cup oatmeal oats (old fashioned style)
  • ¾ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¾ tsp ground nutmeg
  • ½ cup softened butter

1. Preheat oven to 375° F.

2. Peel and core apples. Cut into bite size slices and fill an 8”x8”x2” pan with the slices.

3. In a large mixing bowl, mix together all ingredients to form your topping.

4. Spread topping over apples (somewhat evenly).

5. Sprinkle extra nutmeg and cinnamon to your liking over the top.

6. Bake for 40-45 minutes (until topping is golden brown).

7. Cool for 20 minutes.

Cook’s note: This is a perfect recipe to exaggerate the ingredients, especially if you’re like my boyfriend and want lots of extra topping. To make the topping thicker, add flour, brown sugar and oatmeal as you please. Be sure to use plenty of butter too in order for the topping to somewhat stick together so it isn’t a floury mess.

Baked Cider Donuts (submitted by Melanie Yarbrough)

This recipe will make about nine donuts and about twenty donut holes.

What you’ll need:

  • ½ cup apple cider
  • 2 tbsp softened butter
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 cup diced apples
  • 2 tbsp butter (for toppings)
  • 1 cup powdered sugar (for toppings)
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract (for toppings)
  • ½ cup sugar (for toppings)
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon(for toppings)

1. Preheat your oven to 425° F.

2. Bring apple cider to a boil until reduced by half.

3. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Set aside.

4. In a separate mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar together. Mix in the egg, cider and milk.

5. Mix half of the dry ingredients into the butter and sugar mixture. Fold in the diced apples, then mix in the remaining dry ingredients.

6. Place the dough on a floured surface and add flour to the top of the dough. Press the dough into a ½” disk. Chill for 15 minutes, or until the dough is firm.

7. Cut out your donuts using a cookie cutter (or a pint glass rim). Cut out the donut holes using a shot glass. Use leftover dough to form more donut holes.

8. Transfer donuts and donut holes to a greased baking sheet or parchment paper. Bake for 10 minutes.

9. While the donuts are baking, mix together butter, powdered sugar and vanilla in one bowl. In another bowl, combine ½ cup sugar and 1 tablespoon cinnamon.

Cook’s note: If you want crispier donuts, flash fry them after baking in a ¼ cup of oil until browned. Immediately dust with cinnamon and sugar, or drizzle glaze over the donuts before allowing to cool. Or eat immediately with a cup of leftover cider.

In case our recipes don’t fulfill your appetite, here’s another 50 mouthwatering recipes that I hope can do the trick.

Does your family have a secret apple recipe you love? Have you made any of our above dishes? What’s your favorite apple recipe?

That’s all for now.
Peace out cub scout.

Task Rabbit Hops into Homes

My latest for TNGG, as originally published here, and subsequently on boston.com too!

With websites such as Craigslist andStubHub, we are able to find just about anything we need online. We’ve come up with websites to share our text messages, tell the world about our embarassing moments or just tosay we’re average, so why not a website to get our errands done? That’s just what Leah Busque did.

Three years ago, Busque was headed to dinner with her hubby when she realized that she needed to buy food for her dog, Kobe. Thinking about poor Kobe being hungry, a lightbulb went off in her head and she had a plan. With her every trusty iPhone, Busque registered the domain name RunMyErrand.com. The business model concocted in her head in the back seat of a cab has evolved into a full time job and the next great American start-up as TaskRabbit.com.

Millennials have been using the site to get their errands done in LA, San Francisco, Orange County, Boston and New York City (many more cities are soon to come). It’s not surprising that average users are the 25-35-year-old set, because in three easy and free steps, anyone is able to post an errand and find someone to get it done — and yes, there’s an app for that!

Step One — Post a Task
Since we’re not all mind readers, describe the task, specifying where the “TaskRabbit” will need to go, what they will be doing, if they need to spend any money while doing it (which you will reimburse them for later), and most importantly, how much you are willing to pay someone else to get it done.

Step Two — Mission Complete

A TaskRabbit gets assigned to your task and works with you to get it done. After you post a task, TaskRabbits put in offers to complete your task and state how much they want to be paid, kind of like bidding. TaskRabbit then assigns a Rabbit to your task to get it done for a price that pleases everyone.

Step Three — Time to Pony Up

Once your task is done, you need to pay your TaskRabbit. Instead of paying the person who completed your errand, you pay the company by credit card and then the TaskRabbit gets paid by the site. (And it’s the same way you reimburse them for any expenses during the task.) In addition to paying the person who did your task, TaskRabbit charges a service fee (usually 15% of what you are paying the runner) for their administrative costs.

When I first heard about the site, I was skeptical. Why would I pay a stranger to do my errands for me? I mean, I usually ask my parents to do my errands for me if I can’t get them done while I’m at work (I know, I know…). Plus, the Craigslist rapist popped into mind. But TaskRabbit wants to be sure all of their TaskPosters are safe, so they do a background check (via SSN, name and address) to make sure they have a clean record, plus TaskRabbits need to go through a rigorous application process before they can have any tasks assigned to them.

So far reviews for the site are mixed. Shanza B. of San Fran says that “TaskRabbit is pretty much the best” while Jimmy D. wasn’t thrilled with the whole process and thought it was too confusing. TaskRabbit’s reviews in Boston are equally as mixed; some like having their unwanted jobs done for them, while others seem to have tasks that have gone undone. Reviews aside, even with background checks and all, I’m still creeped out by a stranger doing my errands for me.

What about you? Would you use TaskRabbit? Or have you? Tell us in the comments!

That’s all for now.
Peace out cub scout.

5 Classic Low-Cal Cocktails

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My contribution for TNGG’s Party Week, as originally published here.

Now that summer is coming to an end and wefinally have those six-packs abs we worked so hard to get (read: the six-pack abs we dreamedof getting), we want to keep that bathing suit bod year-round. At least we want to make things easier on us for next summer’s bikini season.

So what’s one thing we can do to stay fit and healthy? Keep our calorie intake down when drinking cocktails!

According to WebMD, one way to keep the calories down in your cocktail is to use an alcohol with less alcohol content. OK, but let’s be real, are you really going to ask the bartender to use less alcohol in your $10-15 drink? There’s always the Skinny Girl Margarita, though I don’t know any guys who will be ordering a ‘skinny girl’ anything at the bar.. (but I could be wrong – dudes weigh in below).

So here are five cocktails that both genders can enjoy that will help keep you in line with your low-cal diet. Enjoy.

Bloody Mary (123 cal) — A great drink to start off Sunday Fundays or for brunch with the parents after a long night out with the team. Plus you get some of those vegetables you are supposed to have daily (or wait, is a tomato a fruit?) And if you’re not a tomato fan, a Bellini will work as well.
1.5 oz of your favorite vodka (recommended: Grey Goose)
.25 oz lemon juice
2 drops Worcestershire sauce
2 drops Tabasco sauce
Add salt & pepper to your liking
Fill with Tomato Juice
Usually garnished with celery

Gin & Diet Tonic (131 cal)– The perfect drink to have in hand when you’re wearing white- it won’t stain your favorite outfit if someone spills your drink on you (why does it always spill on YOU instead of the person who stumbled into you?) Plus using diet tonic instead of regular saves you about 100 calories per cocktail.
2 oz. of your favorite gin (recommended: Tanqueray)
4 oz. diet tonic
Splash of lime juice

Garnish with 1 lime wedge

Mudslide (155 cal) — No, not the frozen drink made with ice cream, or the one made withT.G.I. Friday’s mix – a straight up mudslide. (Also 102 calories less than the similar White Russian)

.5 oz your favorite coffee liquor (recommended: Kahlua)

.5 oz your favorite Irish cream (recommended: Baileys)

.5 oz your favorite vodka (recommended:Smirnoff)

1 oz milk (warning: use of whole milk will raise the calorie count)

Whiskey Sour (158 cal) — For other whiskey drinkers like me, here’s a classic which can be made with artificial sweetener instead of sugar to keep the calories down.

2 oz. your favorite whiskey (recommended: Jameson)

2/3 oz. lemon juice

1 tsp Splenda

Believe it or not, this classic comes in diet form!

Pina Colada Cooler (165 cal) — Another frozen drink favorite variation, and a fun way to stay cool when Mother Nature keeps the heat pumping into the days of October.

1.5 oz your favorite coconut-falvored rum

3 oz. pineapple juice

4 oz. sparkling water

1 tbsp Coco Lopez Cream of Coconut Lite (check the drink mixer section of your local supermarket)

What’s your favorite low-cal cocktail?

Photos by The Culinary Geek, DeaPeaJay, & Urban Bohemian.

That’s all for now.
Peace out cub scout.