Friday, January 9, 2015

Day 14: A Day in the Life

So I’ve kind of been stuck on this “day” of the 30 Day Challenge for a while now. I couldn’t quite figure out how to condense what I do into one single day. My daily schedule is so different based on my class and work schedule for the day, and no day is really alike. So instead of trying to sum it all up in one day, I’m just going to give you an idea of what a typical Monday looks like for me (since it’s usually one of my busier days).

A Typical Grad Student Monday:
  • Crawl out of bed around 7:15-7:30 - I am not a morning person at all, so anything before 9am is considered "super early" in my book.
  • Head to the university around 7:45-8:00 where I then fight the crowds for a parking spot. - Seriously, how hard is it to have enough parking spaces for the people that buy parking passes?!?!?
  • Biochemistry 2 Class @ 8:30 - AKA "Crazy Professor, Part 2”
  • Work in the lab from 9:30 to noon - I basically just squeeze work in whenever  I can since my class schedule is so varied.
  • Grad Student Lunch @ 12 - Most Mondays, the university hosts a guest speaker who visits with different faculty throughout the day, eats lunch with the grad students while we discuss our research with them, and then they give a presentation of their research later in the day.
  • Work in the lab from 1 to 4
  • Guest Speaker Seminar @ 4
  • Head home from work sometime between 5 and 7 - It all depends on how much work I’ve gotten done that day and whether or not I’m stuck in the middle of an experiment that can’t wait until the next day.
  • Eat dinner whenever I get home (usually leftovers or I pick something up on the way home).
  • RELAX - Watch Hulu or Netflix, check up on Pinterest and Facebook, work on a few projects here and there. Study a little biochem. Get in a workout if I have the time and energy (getting off work at 7 doesn’t leave much time for anything else at night…).
  • Freshen up the kitchen (I hate going to bed with dishes in the sink!) and pack my lunch for the next day.
  • Crawl into bed around 11-1, depending on how much studying I needed to do that night.
  • Repeat, but again, my schedule is slightly different each day.

Other things that get thrown in randomly:
  • My biochem class is M/W/F 8:30-9:20
  • My DNA transactions class is T/TH 11:40-12:30
  • I am in a grad student journal club that meets once a week, usually Wednesdays at noon.
  • My lab is in a discussion group that meets the first Tuesday afternoon of every month to discuss any problems we’re having in our research and see if anyone has any suggestions.
  • I am also in a professor-led journal club that meets every other Friday at 4.
  • My lab has our own meeting every Wednesday at 3 to discuss our current research data or a journal article related to our research.
  • I am a member of the Biology Grad Student Association, and we meet the first Friday of the month to discuss future group events.
  • I have Bible Study at my church every Wednesday night.
  • I work the occasional Saturday, based on how much I was able to get done during the week (pretty infrequent, though). Most of the time, Saturday is my catch-up day for doing stuff around my apartment since I usually don't have the time or energy during the week.
  • Church and choir practice on Sunday.
  • Write a new blog post whenever I can!

And for those who are curious as to what my lab looks like, here you go! These were taken my first week here, so I have a ton more stuff on my desk and workbench now, but you get the gist. There's also a whole lot more lab that's not pictured, but these areas are all mine!

So that’s pretty much my life right now. I love every single second of it (ok, maybe not biochem…) but it really does take up all of my time. All I have to say is at least I’m not teaching yet. Cause I really don’t know how I’d fit it all in. It’s making me tired just thinking about it!

First day of classes is Monday! I've had an entire week of just working in the lab every day (usually 10-5ish) to kind of get back into the swing of things before classes hit. It's been nice to just focus on my research, but I also enjoy my classes and am actually looking forward to all of the things I have planned for this semester. Well, wish me luck! I'll post whenever I can!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

How to Keep Your New Year's Resolutions + A Free Printable!

In my last post, I described my process for making goals that will stick. This really is the key to keeping your New Year’s resolutions - they have to be good ones! Good goals are SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-Bound). Start by analyzing each of your current goals against that criteria - do you need to change anything to make the goal SMARTer? Having SMART goals will get you started off on the right foot to actually reaching those goals.

Next, you need to use the Goal Pyramid method (or similar process) to break down each goal into SMART mini-goals. I like to divide mine into monthly, weekly, and daily steps that need to be accomplished in order for me to reach that goal. Once I had made the pyramids, I made a big list of everything that needed to be accomplished at each time point for all of my goals and printed it off so I would have something visual to see every day. It makes setting and reaching goals so much easier when you don’t have to worry about the “big picture” but instead focusing on “What do I need to do right now to make this goal happen in the long run?”.

Take each day one step at a time, and you will reach your goals. There will be setbacks, there will be days when you just want to give up, but there will also be rewarding times when you realize how far you’ve come. Just focus on the end goal: that huge sense of accomplishment when you make it to the end of the year and realize that you actually did it! Let this be the year that we actually keep our New Year’s Resolutions!

Now that you’ve set your SMART goals and divided them into manageable steps, here are my best tips & tricks for keeping on track every day:

1. Make a weekly goal list.

In case you haven’t noticed, I’m a To-Do List person. I have a To-Do list for everything. I have multiple on my phone, one on my desk, and one at work. And yet I still can’t seem to get it all done. So here’s my solution: one goal list for the entire week. Sit down on Sunday and plan out everything you want or need to get done that week. Keep it reasonable, and be sure to include the steps you planned out for reaching your goals. I created a printable that has 8 checklist boxes, one for each goal category + a few extra to accommodate my normal to-do list items. Find it here, along with all my other printables.

Here’s how I have my boxes labelled:
1. Health
2. Spiritual
3. Finances
4. Attitude
5. Home
6. School/Work
7. To Do
8. Menu

Now my entire week is planned out in one place, and it allows me to keep an eye on my goals. I basically took the “Weekly” goal pyramid steps and added them into each of the boxes so that when I get to the end of the week, I can easily see where I did great and what needs some improvement next week. And if it’s on a checklist that I look at multiple times a day, I am way more likely to do it than if I just see a reminder every once in a while about those goals I set way back in January.

2. Place your goals where you can see them.

I printed out the list of my 5 goals for this year and pinned it up on the wall behind my desk. Now I look at them every day, and it’s just one more reminder of where I want to be this time next year. If you forget about your goals, then it is impossible to reach them.

3. Change your password(s).

I know this may not be for everyone, but I personally am on my computer, phone, and various websites multiple times throughout the day. I won’t tell you which passwords I’ve changed (cause that would just be too insecure), but I have changed one or more of my passwords to include my word of the year. Now every time I go to that website or log onto that device, I am reminded of my overall goal for this year.

4. Create a motivation board.

This one is primarily for my “Health” and “Attitude” goals. I have started putting up sticky notes full of inspirational and motivational quotes on the walls surrounding my desk. If I’m ever feeling down or just plain lazy, I can look at those quotes and be reminded of my goals. It really does help, I promise! I even made a sticky note weight loss counter so I can have the joy of tearing off a sticky note each time I lose a pound! It’s the little things that make me happy. And if those little things add up to help me reach and maintain my goals for this year, then it’s all worth it.

5. If necessary, purchase the things you need to help you reach your goals.

Part of one of my goals this year is to get my receipt mess under control. And what do you know, I found the perfect glass jar for corralling receipts in the $1 section at Target! And while I was there, I stopped and picked up a few weights, a jump rope, and a kettlebell, all for under $15 (have I mentioned how much I love the Target $1 section?!?!?) Now I have a home gym to help me get in those workouts even when I can’t make it to the gym or it’s dreary outside and I just want to lay around the house. I got a free mini calendar from my grandparents that’s going to help me see how many days I was on track this month and where I tend to fall short (and I’ll take any excuse I can get to use cute stickers, even if it is to measure my progress on a calendar!). Sure, we may not really “need” any of the things we’re buying, but you have to remember what those things are helping you do. That makes them worth it.

Here’s to a great, successful, healthy, and happy 2015! Now go out and rock those New Year’s Resolutions!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year, Everybody!!!

Major apologies for being absent from the blogosphere for so long. Since my last post, Thanksgiving, Finals, and Christmas vacation have all been wreaking havoc (mostly a good havoc!) on my normal schedule. I apologize profusely, and aim to do better in the new year!

As a recap, here’s what’s been going on with me since the beginning of November (again, really sorry!).

  • Had a great Thanksgiving break (a nice long week with family and friends, and of course, good food!)
Great Mexican food with family over Thanksgiving break.
  • Studied for an entire week straight for my Biochem final (so glad to have that done and over with!) - see my post on my crazy professor for an idea of the difficulty of this class...
  • Finished my first semester of grad school with one A and one B (and 2 Passes in P/F classes)! Wooohooooo!!!!! And the B was in Biochem! I was so shocked!
  • Frantically finished making Christmas presents (literally up until Christmas Eve) - mental note to start making presents far in advance of finals week next year...
  • Just got back from an amazing 2 whole weeks with my family (I hadn’t seen my parents or brother since August!).

Mini Vacation to Florida and Clearwater Beach!

A Lesson in Biochem by Julie (@Macaroni Grill)

My very first Christmas tree! (Excluding the 2-foot-tall one I had in college.)

We visited a bakery/cafe called the Baking Grounds. Great food, awesome cookies, and cool-looking wedding cakes!

Now life can get back to normal (or at least work/school normal…). I head back into work tomorrow morning and am working the weekend to get a jump start on some research projects for next week. Then the Spring semester starts on Jan. 12th, so back to the craziness I go!

As I’m sure most everyone is right now, I’ve been working a lot on my 2015 Goals lately. I have this horrible tendency to set a ton of goals (thanks to my perfectionist side) and then completely forget about them after about a week (thanks to my procrastinator side). But this year is going to be different, and here’s why.

I’m focusing on one word for the entire year. Yes, you read that right. Only one word. Granted, I still do have goals for the year, but I narrowed them down to a chosen 5 (rather than 20…) and they each fit into 5 unique categories that I am aiming to improve on this year. Those categories are:

1. Health
2. Spiritual
3. Finances
4. Attitude
5. Home

My one word for the year is BETTER. I decided on that word after I read a quote that really stuck with me and seemed to fit best with what I was aiming to accomplish this year.

Since I have a perfectionist side, I tend to have the mentality that if I can’t do it perfectly, then it’s just not going to get done. I’m hoping that focusing on just doing “better” will help overcome this challenge and allow me to accomplish more this year. No one is perfect, but we can all aim to be a little bit better.

The other thing I’m doing this year to help my 2015 Goals stick is creating a goal pyramid for each one of my 5 goals. A goal pyramid breaks down a long-term goal into manageable monthly, weekly, and daily steps. It’s always easier to chew a big, juicy steak when it’s cut down into bite-size pieces. It’s the same way with long-term goals. Here’s an idea of what a goal pyramid should look like:

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be posting a few printables and helpful quotes and ideas to help each of us reach our goals this year. Here’s to a happy, healthy, and BETTER 2015!!!!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

School Craziness + A Free Organizing Printable!

It has been absolute craziness around here! Midterms + lots of work to do in the lab + being sick for 3 weeks = no fun at all. I came down with a cold on the first day of Fall Break (back in October!) and I still can’t get rid of this horrible cough. Forget diamonds, cough drops are my new best friends! Thankfully, I’m starting to get some of my energy back, but I still get winded if I try to do too much at once.

The good news is, while I’ve been crazy busy and sick to boot, I did have time to put together a great free printable for you! I’ve only been using it for a few days now, but I’m loving it already! Click here to download it.

This printable is a great way to organize and prioritize your day. It includes a To-Do list, a Schedule for your appointments and events, a Shopping List, a Menu Plan, a Cleaning Checklist, and places to keep track of your daily health goals, water consumption, and fitness plans for the day. There’s also a section for notes in case you need to jot down anything to remember later. And best of all, there’s a spot right at the top to list your priority task for the day. I can’t be the only one that climbs into bed, remembers something that must be done the next day, and then promptly forgets about it after one night’s sleep. This is the solution!

This daily organizer would be made even better if you laminated it. That way you can just use a dry erase marker, erase it at the end of the day, and keep from wasting a bunch of paper every week. Pair it with my weekly meal plan/grocery list, and you’ll be all set! And I just love all of the bright colors! It actually makes me want to stay organized when I get to look at something so fun and colorful as I plan out my day.

Well, I’m off to study for yet another exam (I’m pretty sure they never end!). The semester is almost over, Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and then it’s Christmas time, people! And do you know what that means??? I get to see my family!!!!!!!!! So, so, so excited!!!! Now to start making all those DIY Christmas gifts I’ve been pinning for the last few months... 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Fabulous Finds

Welcome to the third post in the series Fabulous Finds! If you didn’t catch the last two, check them out here and here.

This post is centered around fabulous finds related to my favorite style: Mid Century Modern. I would put every single one of these in my own apartment, granted I had unlimited funds, of course. Enjoy! :-)

1. Inspirational Retro Poster by yumalum on Etsy

This print reminds me of great subway-style art with its bold print and stark black and white coloring. This would work great as part of a gallery wall, or as an inspiring art piece in your bedroom. How cool would it be to wake up and see this every morning - it would definitely be inspiring!

2. Clover Coffee Table by West Elm

I’ve been eyeing this coffee table for a while. Even though I already have a coffee table… I just love its cool shape and unique choice of paint. And if you have a West Elm budget (unfortunately, I don’t), then you’ll be glad to hear it’s actually on sale!

3. Painted Wood Wall Art by Salvage Love

This is one painstakingly tedious, but awesomely designed piece of wall art. I love her choice of colors and unique eye for design. Who would’ve thought painting a bunch of sticks and hanging them on your wall would make such a great statement piece?!?

4. Home Sweet (Mid Century Modern) Home Print by handz on Etsy

Another great art print for your gallery wall! I am personally in love with the quote they chose and just the overall cuteness of this print. Going on my “to buy next” list for sure!

5. Ranchero Speaker by Urban Outfitters

It’s retro but modern. I love it! And the price isn’t half bad for a radio/iPod/iPhone speaker at only $99. You can’t beat that!

*I am not affiliated with any of the above entities. Just linking up to show you where you can find all of these fabulous items for yourself.*

Saturday, October 25, 2014

My First USC Football Game!

I got to go to my very first USC football game last week! I had a wonderful time with friends, watched some great football, and to top it all off, we won! Here’s a photo recap for you:

Other than the awesome win, I think my favorite part was getting to hear our marching band play in a real halftime show. I actually get to hear them practice just about every day as I'm walking back to my car from work. Their practice field is right next to my usual parking lot, so I love to just stop and watch them practice. The sound is 10X better when you're not trying to hear it from the upper grandstands, but watching them perform in uniform was still just as cool.

Here's a video I took of them practicing on my walk home from work: I call it "My Personal Half-Time Show" :-)

Friday, October 17, 2014

Crockpot Chicken and Dumplings

Who’s ready for some warm, home cooked meals this Fall?!? And who doesn’t want to have to be the one to cook them?!? Me, Me, Me!!!

I really do love the idea of cooking. I can plan meals until the cows come home, but actually cooking those meals is another story entirely. Somewhere between leaving my lab, walking the half an hour to my car, and then driving 20 minutes through traffic, I lose the desire to do anything else for the rest of the day. Which usually includes cooking dinner. If I do cook, it’s usually only once a week and then I eat on the leftovers for the rest of the week. And I pack my lunches most days, so having leftovers to take makes that a whole lot easier.

My crockpot has become my salvation. Even if I don’t feel like cooking at the end of the day, I can still eat a nice home cooked meal if I’ve prepared ahead and put a meal in the crockpot. And I didn’t have to do any of the cooking!!! Can I get an amen?!?

This meal is one that I discovered during my senior year of college. It’s super cheap, super easy, and super delicious! It’s just plain super! We’ve also made this and taken it to a potluck before, and it was a great hit, even with the kids. I mean, who doesn’t love dumplings?

Crockpot Chicken and Dumplings

  • 4-6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (mine were still frozen when I put them in, and it still turned out great!)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cans cream of chicken soup
  • 1 can chicken broth
  • 1/2 diced onion (I omitted this this time, but have had it both ways and couldn’t tell a difference)
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • refrigerated biscuits (4 if using larger biscuits like grands flaky, or I used original buttermilk so I needed 6)

1. Put everything except the biscuits in the crockpot and cook on high 4-6 hours (or on low like I did for about 8).
2. Shred the chicken (if you’re a lucky duck and have a KitchenAid stand mixer, this will be easy peasy for you; the rest of us unfortunate people have to shred chicken the old fashioned way).
3. Cut each biscuit into quarters (I prefer large biscuits, so if you want them smaller, then just cut each biscuit into more pieces), roll each into a ball, and plop into the crockpot.
4. Cook for another hour (it does take a full hour if you have larger dumplings like this; I tried 45 minutes once and they were still a little undercooked) and then enjoy!

Original recipe here.