Recipe: Overnight Oats

I had been wanting to try overnight oats ever since I heard about them a few years back. They look so cute in those trendy mason jars on Pinterest. FINALLY, last night I decided to give it a shot.

This recipe is extremely convenient for busy mornings. You can switch up the ingredients as you please. Variant recipes I have found online include “Tropical Overnight Oats,” “Apple Pie Overnight Oats,” and “Cinnamon Roll Overnight Oats.” I decided to start with something basic.

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Ingredients:

1/2 cup of oats
1/2 cup of greek yogurt
1 tbs chia seeds
Frozen fruit (banana, strawberries, blueberries)
1/2 cup of milk

Step 1: In that exact order, place ingredients in a mason jar. Hold off on pouring in the milk until the very end.

Step 2: Shake it up!

Step 3: Place in fridge for the night (around 8 hours or so).

Step 4: The following morning, simply pull it out of the fridge, take off the cap, and enjoy!


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Final results… Success! It was very tasty with a creamy texture — similar to a fruit parfait. It was extremely filling; I could hardly finish it. In the future I would probably use a flavored yogurt instead of plain. I also hope to try the many different varieties of overnight oats.

Cat Leash Adventure

The other day, Kevin and I took my kitten Venus for a little hike. We feel bad that she is stuck in a small apartment and we wanted her to get some fresh air. Hopefully next year we will be able to have access to a yard or at least more space. However until then, we have to be creative.

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We leashed Venus up, put her in her carrier, and drove her to Fonthill. From there, we carried her to the woods and then safely let her out of her carrier while holding onto the leash. She wore a pink harness to keep her secure.

Venus did much better than we thought. We could easily tell that she loved being outside, surrounded by wildlife and all the different scents for her to smell. At times it was hard to keep her on the trail, but overall she didn’t have any issues. By the end of the walk she was panting. We had waited until evening to walk her but it was still very hot outside.

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Finally, we brought her back home (she hates the car). She gobbled down her dinner and then slept like a rock for the rest of the night!

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Watching TV (aka the fish tank) together.

Marilyn Monroe’s Breakfast

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I recently came across an article revealing one of Marilyn Monroe’s unusual diets. For breakfast, she would drink warm milk mixed with 2 raw eggs. Afterwards, she supplemented her meal with a multivitamin. Then, she skipped lunch and had meat for dinner with five raw carrots, followed by an indulgent hot fudge sundae for dessert.

I’m always fascinated by strange diets. I could never skip lunch, nor do I eat meat, and I don’t even like chocolate. But her breakfast… hmm. It actually sounds quite nutritious. It is unprocessed and probably takes about a minute to make. I did some online research just to double check that raw eggs are safe to drink. It turns out I am not the only one who was interested in trying this weird recipe.

Well, I gave it a shot this morning. I decided to opt for cold milk, because heating food destroys nutrients and if I really wanted to consume heated eggs, I would just have them scrambled on a frying pan.

I drank it very slowly. Obviously, it was rather bland. So I added a teaspoon of honey to make it sweet. It still didn’t taste right. Maybe I really should’ve used warm milk instead. I think most of the eggs sank to the bottom, because as I finished up the glass, the texture became extremely gooey. Eww. So I chucked the rest and now my stomach feels iffy.

Yeah, I should’ve known it was going to be gross, but I really wanted to like it. Nope. Don’t try this.

We got Internet!

Very excited to say that after surviving a month without personal Internet, we finally had our Wi-Fi set up today. This makes things a lot more convenient. We decided to go with Verizon and were able to pick the cheapest option (boo, Comcast!)

The setup took about an hour and poor Venus was locked inside of the bathroom. I didn’t want her messing with anything. She was decently quiet until the last fifteen minutes, when she persistently meowed and clawed at the door.

Somehow, she escaped from the bathroom. Luckily the workers were finishing up — and they were also cat fans. They pet her as she rubbed herself against their legs. She made new friends today.

Book Review: “Antony and Cleopatra” by Adrian Goldsworthy

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The story of Mark Antony and Cleopatra VII is captivating and still fascinates us to this day. It is intense and dramatic. However, the story is filled with myths and loopholes that will make you sincerely question what the truth is.

Once I became interested in the legendary romance of Antony & Cleopatra, I decided to do as much Internet research as I possibly could. I reached the point where I felt like the same few facts (or theories) were being told to me over and over again. At this point, I concluded that if I wanted real, deep information, I would have to purchase a book about it.

Browsing through Amazon.com, I found practically hundreds of books about the love story. It turns out I’m not the only one who is interested. To my dismay, most of these books were filled with fiction in order to piece together missing information and create more drama. These types of books are fun, but I was looking for something different; I wanted facts.

Adrian Goldworthy is not just an author, but also a true historian who knows how to conduct thorough research. “Antony and Cleopatra” certainly satisfied my thirst for knowledge. His style of writing is extremely straightforward, fact-based, and unbiased. This is exactly what I was looking for.

I was remarkably impressed that the story begins even hundreds of years before Antony and Cleopatra’s time. Right away, I knew this book was going to be chuck-full of detail. I did not expect to learn so much about Alexander the Great (who lived around 300 B.C. – meanwhile Cleopatra was not born until 69 B.C.), who actually plays an important role in the story.

The book takes you into the family history of both Antony and Cleopatra, as well as their childhoods. Unfortunately, most of Cleopatra’s childhood is unknown, up until her 18th birthday when she becomes queen.

It was enjoyable to learn about the way Antony was raised, which reveals a lot about how most Roman boys were raised during that time. I was shocked to find so many similarities between the childhoods of ancient Romans verses modern-day Americans. The children went to school and were taught several subjects such as mathematics, history, literature, and P.E. (although I’m sure that Antony’s fitness routines were much more vigorous than your typical high school gym class). History lessons during ancient times focused heavily on family history as apposed to general history. I should also note that in ancient times, only those were fortunate enough to be born into a wealthy/political family received formal education, while the poor were illiterate. Unfortunately, to this day, those living in poverty are still much less educated than those with money.

It is stunning to realize that society has hardly changed in the past couple thousands of years. By the time a Roman man turned about 18-years old, he moved out of his parents’ home and rented an apartment. Sound familiar? Also, it was expected of men around that age to be a little irresponsible and engage in promiscuous activities such as drinking and gambling, however they were expected to grow out of this phase at some point. Even sons of important political figures such as Antony were granted the right to be young and crazy. In fact, Antony collected some serious debt during his 20s.

Antony claimed to be a descendant of Hercules and therefore was incredibly proud of his physique. More specifically, he was proud of his legs. While Caesar started the trend of wearing long togas that reached the floor, Antony rebelled by wearing a tight belt and pulling up his toga to show off his impressively muscular legs.

I was definitely disappointed to miss out on Cleopatra’s childhood. It is suggested that she received extensive formal education, including history of the Ptolemy family tree, and several languages that included Greek and Egyptian. We also know that she traveled alongside her father during her youth while he faced a period of exile. She was around 11-years old during this time.

Although we remember Cleopatra as the queen of Egypt, she was in fact of Macedonian (Greek) descent. Scholars debate her ethnicity because there is no concrete proof over who her mother was. We picture her with dark hair and skin, yet it is entirely possible that she was fair skinned with blonde or red hair. If her mother was indeed Macedonian like her father, then she would undoubtedly have a light complexion. Because of the lack of proof of who her mother was, scholars still debate Cleopatra’s looks. The author makes a point that we should not be so concerned with what she looked like, but rather what she did and who she was.

Cleopatra is famous for her beauty. The author suggests that it was not her looks – but her charm and aura – that made her so attractive. She was an ambitious leader who used her powerful charisma to get what she wanted. Sibling rivalry was not uncommon for royal families. Cleopatra fought with her siblings for power and won. Egypt was perhaps the least sexist ancient society; women had many rights, including the right to own land. Sadly, Cleopatra was still expected to marry her younger brother and be co-rulers. But sexism did not halt her desire for ultimate power; her brother ended up poisoned and killed when once started getting in her way.

Goldsworthy does not leave out the affair between Cleopatra and Julius Caesar. He points out that the affair was far more political than romantic. Most likely the two used each other as pawns to gain more power. There had been controversy over their son, whether or not he was truly related to Caesar. The son had been nicknamed Caezarian (or “Little Caesar”). In my opinion, I believe he is most likely the legitimate son of the pair.

Cleopatra co-ruled Egypt with her son, who was too young to give orders. He would become a great threat to Octavian’s power after the stabbing of Caesar. Following Caesar’s death, Octavian (Caesar’s nephew and adopted son) claimed power over Rome and sought to eventually conquer Egypt.

Finally, about halfway through the book, we read about the union between Antony and Cleopatra. The romance was heavily filled with war and politics, which I mainly skipped over because it bored me. My favorite parts were the little details about their relationship and the silly things they would do together. It’s the kind of stuff you won’t find in a school textbook.

The couple spent the winter of 41-40 B.C. together in Alexandria, Egypt. This time was perhaps the peak of their romance. Antony taught Cleopatra how to go fishing and hunt while horseback riding (quite impressive for a queen). They formed a club with friends called “The Inimitable Livers.” Their feasts were extravagant and they typically ate less than a quarter of the large amounts of food being served to them. The funniest part: the group of friends enjoyed wandering the streets of Alexandria at night, dressed in shabby rugs, pretending to be slaves. Apparently their disguises were unconvincing, but people were happy to “play along” with them. Antony would pick fights with people in the streets and sometimes came home with bruises.

Unfortunately, Antony had to leave Egypt and he would not see Cleopatra for three and a half years. Luckily they ended up reuniting and Cleopatra bore twins: Alexander Helios (“sun”) and Cleopatra Selene (“moon”). Later in time, they would have a third child together as well.

The finale of Antony & Cleopatra’s romance is painfully tragic. In fact, it inspired Shakespeare to write a play about them; it may have also been a source of inspiration for Romeo and Juliet. After hearing the (fake) news that Cleopatra had killed herself once Antony lost a great battle against Octavian, he stabbed himself with a sword. Moments before dying, he found Cleopatra… but by then it had been too late. Afterwards, Cleopatra had a discussion with Octavian, who was not impressed by her charm and therefore did not give her the power she needed from him. Following their talk, Cleopatra joined her lover in the afterlife by committing suicide as well. Goldsworthy points out that her method of death is unknown. The most common myth is that she died of snakebite; however it is much more likely she died from a poison.

The fate of Cleopatra’s offspring remains a mystery. Historical records of Caezarian are vanished after the death of his mother. With Octavian being so threatened of Little Caesar, it is likely that he had him murdered. And if not murdered, then he must have run away. The longest (known) surviving offspring is Cleopatra Selene, who ended up marrying and having children of her own. From there, the Cleopatra/Antony lineage is lost.

I have to agree with the author of Antony and Cleopatra, who argues that this love story is so intense and dramatic that it does not need added fictitious details to entertain an audience. Simply reading the facts is enough of a thrill. (Having said that, there is nothing wrong with using a bit of imagination to build a more solid story.) If you are like me, and hoping to learn more about Antony and Cleopatra, sorting out myth verses fact, then I highly recommend this book. You will most likely skim a few of the chapters, skip a few of the pages, or reread certain lines – there is no right or wrong way to read a nonfiction text. Whether you are drawn to the story because of the politics and the war, or the romance and the drama, this book is for you!

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Overall rating: 5/5 stars

Album Review: “Lust For Life” by Lana Del Rey

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Lana Del Rey released her fourth studio album this summer called, “Lust for Life.” Her new music is classic Lana with a new twist. Overall, I really enjoyed it.

I first discovered Lana Del Rey after purchasing her first studio album (Born to Die) back in 2013. I was instantly hooked, and I was so ecstatic when she released her next album (Ultraviolence) that following year in 2014. I was even happier when she released her third album (Honeymoon) in the summer of 2015. Understandably, she took a bit more time to release the fourth. Just two years later, and Lana has gifted us with even more music. She truly spoils her fans – especially the impatient ones like me.

It is quite difficult to describe the unique style of Lana Del Rey, however I will try my best. Her music is dreamy and hazy; it takes you to another world and another time. She has a gospel voice that takes you back to the 30s, American pride that takes you back to the 50s, a psychedelic vibe that takes you back to the 70s, hip-hop beats and minimalistic electronica that takes you back to the 90s, and a modern way of mixing it all together to keep you grounded in the present day. Along with that, her lyrics are brutally honest and she is completely self-aware of how crazy she is (after all, the greatest artists are always the craziest.) Her lyrics carry the wisdom of an old sage as well as the crude humor of a teenager. Although each album is slightly different, these are the common themes that carry on throughout her music.

“Born to Die” can be best described as hip-hop alternative rock with a nostalgic touch. “Ultraviolence” is dreamier and hazier, as well as more “alternative” than “pop” compared to her earlier work. Both albums have a sense of darkness to them – but not in a depressing way, more like in a romanticizing way. Onto her third album (Honeymoon), there is still a theme of rainy day gloominess, however there is also a strong sense of positivity and hope.

I was curious about her new album – would Lana’s new music slope back into total darkness, or continue growing with light? Prior to the release date, she made a note to her fans on social media about “the dark times” we have been facing these past several months, specifically regarding the U.S. election – which has been a great inspiration for her new music. Well, it seems like these dark times have inspired Lana Del Rey, the queen of darkness, to find greater hope.

This new album, “Lust for Life,” is certainly Lana Del Rey’s most inspiring album. The album artwork shows Lana with a giant, toothy grin on her face. (It should be noted that her past three albums display her with a blank, toothless expression.) Something distinctly different about this album is that it includes featuring artists on several tracks. I was a little disappointed when I first found out she would be collaborating with others – Lana Del Rey is such a strong and unique artist who can sing on her own. However, she made it work, and I’m glad she tried something new.

“Lust for Life” begins with the track “Love,” which sets a theme of hope for the entire album. It emphasizes the power of love over worry & anxiety. It is about embracing the moment as a new beginning and a blank slate, verses fear of what could go wrong in the future. “Doesn’t matter if I’m not enough for the future or the things to come, cause I’m young and in love.”

The next track is titled “Lust for Life,” featuring The Weeknd. The message of the song is straightforward: a lust for life keeps us alive. “We’re the masters of our own fate, we’re the captains of our own souls.” It’s another hopeful track, possibly even more positive than the previous one. As the line “take off, take off…” is repeated, I believe on a deeper level it refers to taking off the invisible masks we wear in life to protect ourselves, which holds us back from experiencing living life to the fullest.

“13 Beaches” is dreamy, catchy, and peaceful. It reminds you of being on the beach… all by yourself. “Cherry” is completely random, but is also another track with an uplifting message about the power of love. “Summer Bummer” and “Groupie Love” both feature rapper A$AP Rocky.

The following tracks (“Coachella – Woodstock in My Mind,” “God Bless America – And All The Beautiful Women In It,” and “When The World Was At War We Kept Dancing” continues with the optimistic and positive vibes. Her lyrics state that the world is constantly crumbling but the human race still goes on with faith.

“Tomorrow Never Came” and “Heroin” are sadder songs that easily fit onto older Lana Del Rey albums. However the album ends by swinging back onto happier feelings with “Change” and “Get Free.”

Lana Del Rey continues to satisfy with her new music. I can’t say that this album beats her previous ones – however it is still spectacular! I am happy to see a greater theme of hope in Lana Del Rey’s music while she still carries on with her romanticized, dreamy despair. She acknowledges that war and conflict is a part of life, and once you accept that, you can begin to make a change.

Overall rating: 4/5 stars

Big Dub Festival 2017

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For our third year in a row, Kevin and I attended Big Dub Festival. The campout music festival is located in… well, basically the middle of nowhere. More specifically it is located in southwestern PA, bordering Maryland and West Virginia. The environment is filled with unfinished dirt roads as well as breathtakingly beautiful mountains.

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Kev & me

The campsite itself takes place on Four Quarter Farm, a pagan interfaith community that celebrates nature with rituals and ceremonies that observe moon phases, changing of the seasons, etc. And during the last weekend of July, people from all over the east coast join together for an epic music festival.

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The festival is full of good music, pretty lights, and friendly faces. There are four stages: stone circle (the main stage, literally surrounded by a circle of gigantic stones), pavilion, north crook (new stage this year), and the pirate ship (my personal favorite!)

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The pirate ship! Dead men tell no lies!

There are three places to camp: Main Camp, New Camp, and Hilltop. Obviously, Main Camp is the main area where the four stages are located. Many people choose to camp here and the location consists of several “theme camps,” including themes of Star Wars, Candyland, and Gnomes (there’s no place like gnome…)

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Kandi bracelets

The first year, we camped at Hilltop. It’s located furthest away from Main Camp. The mile-long walk is strenuous but luckily there is a bus that shuttles campers back and forth. Hilltop is exactly what you think: a giant hill… which makes it hard to camp there during the summer heat with no trees for shade.

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Kikiwawa, the official mascot.

This year and last year, we chose to camp at New Camp. It is much more woodsy and secluded than Hilltop and Main Camp. It’s a great setup because you are very close to Main Camp, but far enough so that you can get some peace and quiet when you need it. The only drawback is that in order to walk to Main Camp, you must cross the river by stepping over rocks. The rocks are slippery so you can’t walk over it too fast, however there is no room for the people behind you to pass, so you still need to walk fast enough. It’s a lot of pressure, in my opinion. They were supposed to build a drawbridge this year, which would have been perfect, but they didn’t…

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Views…

The weather was awful on Friday. It rained pretty hard – all day and all night. By Saturday morning, the rain had ceased and the weather was cool and dry. But sadly, the river between New Camp and Main Camp had flooded, so we were trapped. Luckily they ran a bus that drove us from New Camp to Hilltop, and then from Hilltop we were able to walk or catch a bus to Main Camp. The bus ride from New Camp to Hilltop was actually very fun and the bus driver was hysterical, making lots of jokes with us.

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Driving home

On Saturday night, Liquid Stranger did a spectacular performance at Stone Circle. We had a really great time and met a lot of friendly people. I was a little bummed I missed the performances Friday night, but other than that it was an amazing time. Hopefully we can return to the mountain next year. If so, we may try camping at Main Camp instead. In the future I would like to attend other camping music festivals and see how they compare. Four Quarters Farm hosts two other music festivals (Flower of Life and Mad Tea Party). However I have a strong feeling that nothing compares to Big Dub!