Little Lessons from Apartment Living

I am well into a week of living a life where I’ve upgraded my twin bed to a queen, and my dorm room view of a dumpster to downtown. Hannah Montana once said “this is the life, hold on tight,” and that basically sums up everything thus far. I have absolutely loved my new transition, and knowing that I am fully responsible for keeping myself alive at this point. I expected some road blocks such as cooking gone wrong, the dryer eating my socks, or even another hairdryer on fire to make that number four; but none of that has happened at all…yet. There are just some things you don’t even know you will encounter until you dive into a new lifestyle, and this post is for all the little things I have come to realize are either helpful or hurtful.


Non-stick skillets are a lie

I am a very trusting person. I always trust what people say and give others the benefit of the doubt even when it comes back to bite me in the butt. This also applies to cookware. I was so excited to get my first set of non-stick skillets from my aunt who has otherwise been known as “The Kentucky egg lady.” With those credentials, and her past of omelette demonstrations all around Kentucky, I had full faith in these new pans of mine that they truly were non-stick. Since I moved out, I’ve become more adventurous, leading to making pancakes for the first time in my life, and by that, I mean the first time since 6th grade FACS class where I truly don’t remember what the ingredients were or if my group mates let me be around the stove (smart cookies, they were). I had a Gordon Ramsay vibe going as I mixed up my gourmet batter of Kodiak Protein Pancake mix and water, and spooned my first helping onto my non-stick skillet. I soon found out the marketing tactics got me, and my sad pancake was stuck to the pan like my thighs stick to a leather seat on a hot day. I eventually scraped it off into a taco looking thing and tried to redeem myself by doing an airborne pancake flip like they do in the movies to make sure the other side was cooked to the point of no return, too. The tacocake stuck the perfect 10 landing smack dab on the floor. Did I eat it? Yeah I did. I put way too much effort into that to literally throw it away. I see cooking spray and a spatula in my brunching future.

Flying food hazard

I’m going to start by saying this happened on a Terrible Tuesday (for those of you who have not been following me- since 6th grade something odd or weird has happened to me every Tuesday without fail). I meal planned for a nice and easy frozen black bean burger for dinner to enjoy out on my balcony. All was going well until I tried to shut the balcony door, causing my plate to tilt a little bit, which created the perfect trajectory of launch ramp for my veggie patty that was slippery from my cooking spray (learned my lesson from the pancakes) to slide right off my plate and off my 6th floor balcony. A few seconds later I heard a crisp splat, then a very loud scream. I peeked my eyeballs over the railing to find my veggie patty about a foot away from a little old lady from the senior living place next door. After yelling a very awkward sorry, I played the scene over and over in my head (go ahead and try it), and I don’t think I have laughed so hard in a long time over the thought of a hazardous vegan veggie patty falling from the sky. Whoever said walking under ladders is bad luck was all wrong.

Keep yourself busy

One thought I had this week is that living on my own now is so much different from living on my own in college. The difference is that now, I truly could sit in bed all day and no one would even know. I could drive to Florida and back and no one would know. I can cook anything I want with as much dairy and gluten as my heart desires and no one but my poor insides would know. I could decide to go rollerblading and run into a mailbox and no one would know. I can do literally anything I want and have so many choices! But of course, psychology says, the paradox of choice is having too many choices can lead to anxiety, and more stress (did you really think I was going to go a blog post without any psych?) Many of you know that I love to stay busy, so having to wait until work starts in September has been extremely hard for me because I am terrible at relaxing and sitting still for more than an hour. With that, all the tasks that most people hate doing such as laundry, grocery shopping, going to the bank, cleaning my windows, vacuuming, doctors appointments etc..have been rewarding for me! It’s a good feeling to make a to do list and check things off as they get done. I like the sense of responsibility since I’ve never really had it before at Gustavus. Surprisingly, my not busy summer stays pretty busy between spreading out my tasks, meal planning and prepping, and reaching out to old friends that I haven’t seen in a while! Initiative is a beautiful thing.

Meal planning is a must

I didn’t know how important this point was until it hit me that even thought I cooked myself something one night, I have to do it all over again the next day, and the next day. I first thought I would make something in bulk and eat the same thing all week long, and I never thought the day would come where I was tired of taco salad, but it came. Feeding myself is not something I am used to: my mom cooked for me growing up while I was at practice, and our family loves to go to restaurants. Gustavus had a 4 year meal plan that I took full advantage of. Needless to say, this was probably the biggest adjustment. What makes things harder is I am absolutely terrible at deciding what I want to eat- so the meal plan has been super helpful as I don’t need to decide because I already spent a solid hour trying to decide for my future self a few days before as I scroll through my Pinterest recipes trying to predict what I’ll want 5 days from now (following me?). I’ve been trying to cut the amount of time trying to decide what I want for the week by making designating Meatless Monday, Try something new Tuesday, Breakfast for dinner Wednesay, Leftovers Thursday, Frozen Meal Friday, Free space Saturday, and Salad Sunday. This is what the inside of a perfectionist’s brain looks like in case you were wondering.

Enjoy the little things

I know, I say this a lot, but this became so true all over again once I moved out. My mornings here are so peaceful; I have a great view of the Minneapolis skyline as the sun rises every morning, which makes morning workouts a lot less painful. Being able to wake up with the rest of the city, cup of coffee in my unicorn mug and daily gratitude and goal setting, has been the best way to start my day and is like a calm before the storm. It makes makes me remember why I am a morning person. I fully realize this will probably be the only time in my life I will live in a place like this with no job to rush off to everyday in which my mornings won’t look like this anymore. Or where I can watch the skyline light up at night and try to guess what color the skyscraper will turn next. It will probably be the only time I can people watch for hours while some weirdos do odd things because they don’t realize I’m out here such as the man flexing in is reflection in the window for a solid 5-7 minutes after a yoga session. I was told to truly embrace life as a twenty something year old, and now I finally realize what they mean.

See someone, say something

Instagram and Snap stories have been working in my favor ever since I moved. It’s so cool to see how many people from college already live around me, making it so much easier to continue old friendships and traditions like acting out the dock scene in Mama Mia with my best friend like we have since we were kids (we’ve got it down solid), but even start some new friendships. It’s also been so fun living by my brother again and getting close to him like we were when we were inseparable as kids. I never thought I would be reaching out to him to get a dose of coffee and lake walk some mornings after being used to being apart for 4+ years. Inviting myself over has now turned into a permanent invite to his friend “family dinners.” Recently I had the rare motivation to go run Lake Harriet instead of another HIIT workout in my apartment so I didn’t upset the people that live below me, my b I have to do my daily burpees! To my surprise I saw a very familiar pair of aviators that I recognized belonged to the face of a former Gustie. Have I ever met them? No. Have I ever talked to them? No. Have I come to “know” them because I follow them and their aviators on Instagram? Affirmative. Since then I have been able to say I befriended them through our Gustie connection and can add another friend to my list of people that live by me to hang out with. Reaching out to people never was my strong suit in college, but now, it’s opened up a lot more doors and has made a lot more weekends not free!

Take a paper grocery list to the store

No, not because I am forgetful (even though I am). Something about having an actual list in my hand is comforting and makes me feel like an experienced shopper or a soccer mom that drives a mini van even though the workers watch me do circles around the same area looking for feta cheese the past ten minutes. It also works as a great tool for when you don’t want to make eye contact with someone as you scoot by them, just look down and pretend you’re avidly shopping for your broccoli. My first grocery trip, I used a list on my phone, and I realized that I in fact looked like a teenager who couldn’t spend 5 minutes without going on Instagram and fell victim to texting and carting. I also ran into the issue of the cashier asking where my mom was so she could pay for my groceries, later revealing he thought I was 14 after I told him I just graduated from college. Since resorting to a paper list, I have not been mistaken as a teenager, and while good ol’ paper grocery lists may not correlate with looking like an adult, I’m just going with it.

Showers are not one size fits all…or are they?

I always have known my limits being short; high cabinets, top shelves, anything at Sam’s Club, you know, typical stuff. But showers? That is a new one. I never thought I would be short enough to the point where I have to stand on my tip toes every night to get all of my shampoo out of my hair. To make matters worse, because I am not tall enough to play monkey in the middle with the shower head and the wall, the water ricochets all over the floor to basically make my bathroom into a second bath tub. I had the maintenance men come take a look at it (also to fix my toilet seat because to my surprise one anchor was out and I slid right off onto the floor like my veggie patty did off my balcony), but they said they could not fix the shower head because it was made for tall people. At that point I didn’t know whether to apologize for my shortness, or for the future water damage it will be causing if I don’t figure it out, so of course the only thing I knew to do was call my dad. He showed up prepared to install a new swivel shower head, but within a second of looking at the old one, moved it to suit my shortness….turns out I just don’t know the anatomy of a shower head and which parts move. I bet that instilled a lot of confidence in my parents for letting me live on my own now. Gotta learn these little things somehow!

Go on a walking tour

Something I have come to enjoy this past week is my nightly walks to figure out where the heck I live. Moving here, I had no clue that I lived by a giant waterpark, a big walking trail, Excelsior & Grand, way too many geese, my beloved Starbucks, and all these places I had heard about but had no clue where they were. Every Wednesday, I have been lacing up the walking shoes and testing out some new routes and sidewalks that lead to a new place I want to try or go into. I never understood what the appeal of St. Louis Park was to young folks, but now I get it the more I decide to drive the long way home or go walk a new sidewalk. I still have yet to enter into my first ever Trader Joe’s, but that definitely is at the top of my list (it’s a legit list, I like lists) of places to go. I never thought would like anywhere other than Eagan, oh how the tables have turned.

Routine is everything

There is a difference between staying busy, and having a routine. This may reveal my perfectionism/Type A personality just a little bit, but I need a routine for my days, and my weeks, in order to feel like I am not lost or off track. In the past, when I have strayed from routine, I thought I was lost like I am when I try to figure out what way is north. Productivity and routine are interchangeable for me- and I feel my best when I am productive. Similarly to my meal plan designations, I do the same thing for the days of the week. Bachelor Monday, Towel and sheet cleaning Tuesday, Walk after dinner Wednesday, Laundry Thursday, Fancy coffee Friday, Sprint Saturday, and Shop for groceries Sunday. It’s like a giant to-do list that each day I can check off. My mornings all start the same: my cup of coffee and alone time. That is the base of my day and that structure is so comforting when things around me may not be. I always try to start and end my days like a sandwich; morning routine and night routine about as easy and bland as a slice of bread- but each day filled with something different in between. The reason I do this is because some days may taste like a peanut butter/mustard/*insert more bad combos here* sandwich, but ending the day with something familiar and easy leads to a fresh slice of bread the next morning without any peanut butter and mustard residue left over to ruin your awesome peanut butter and jelly kind of day. To sum it up: make your life a sandwich. Cheesy analogy? Yeah. Effective? I’d say so.

I know these may seem childish or silly, but honestly, it’s the weird and totally vague things that no one talks about! At this age, it can be hard to establish a life all while making a fool of yourself, and that is okay- in fact, I don’t mind it. Don’t get me wrong, I know life is going to get harder once I start my 9-5 life and my biggest problem will be a lot greater than watching my pancake hit the floor. I fully predict I am going to be making another one of these posts in a few months documenting all the barriers I knew I would encounter as a working woman, but talking about the scenarios I can’t even make up in my head right now. As much as I have said I love planning- honestly I am excited for the uncertainty of what the next step of adult life, because I am the one who got me here, and every hardship I encounter next stems from the fact that I reached my goals that I set for myself in college. It’s time for me to set some new goals; making the perfect pancake, refraining from patty target practice, finding the feta faster, go on a date at one of the restaurants I’ve found, be a sandwich, figure out the skyscraper light pattern, stay busy, shower without leftover suds, and of course, land my first project at work!

I hope some of my failures brought a few laughs- I know I’ve still been laughing at the image of a flying veggie burger for a week now.

~Lauren

My Top 10 Favorite Easy Recipes: Gluten free, dairy free, and better-for-you

I’m going to start off by saying I do not cook or bake a lot of things. For those of you that have been following my blogs for a while, you know just how badly my history of cooking is, aka, submitting a recipe on how to make a Spongebob edition Pop Tart in our Kindergarten class cookbook. I did in fact describe how to open the box, put it in the toaster, and then go eat it in front of the TV- illustrations included. People ask me “why can’t you cook? Shouldn’t you know by now?” Valid question, and yes I should, but I have a valid answer. When you grow up flipping for four hours everyday after school coupled with hours of AP and CIS homework to follow, cooking is no where on the agenda or in mind. The food fairy otherwise known as my mom made meals magically appear for me every night after practice. Additionally, when you go to a college where you remain on the meal plan all four years, it’s hard to cook a gourmet meal in the toaster and microwave (this is where my kindergarten recipe came in handy). I’ve dabbled a bit in the kitchen during J-terms and the stay at home order, and I gotta say, I think I did pretty well, well enough to share with you the recipes I’ve concocted! With that, here’s a few easy (and by easy, I mean EASY because I’m still at the beginner level) to whip up- no toaster needed!


1. Ground Turkey Stuffed Peppers

This is the first dish I ever made other than the extra credit enchiladas I made for Spanish class, and by I made, I mean my mom made. It is a great meal for a family dinner, or to meal prep for the week. These peppers are a healthier and more creative take on a Chipotle football burrito, and are for sure to leave you full from all that fiber!

Ingredients:

  • 4-6 red bell peppers
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 diced onion
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 pound of ground turkey
  • 2 cans of black beans
  • 1 can of corn
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  • Cut off the tops of the peppers and scoop out seeds/insides. Keep the tops for later!
  • In a pan, add the coconut oil. Add the onions, salt, pepper, cumin, oregano, paprika, and mix together.
  • Add the garlic and turkey. Cook until the turkey is browned.
  • Add beans, corn, and tomatoes. Mix together fully.
  • Spoon the mix into the peppers and put the top back on. Place in a baking dish.
  • Cook for 30 minutes. Note: there will be some of the mixture left over- add to a taco salad, top nachos, feed to the dog, throw out the window, it is up to you!

2. Three Ingredient No Bake Cheerio Bars

While these may sound like nothing special, these have become a family favorite with raving reviews of “these are addicting”, “why have you not made these before?”, “can you make another batch so I don’t have to share with my roommates?”, and “only three ingredients can make something so good?” These are a great, good for you, dessert or quick energy bite because they are made of natural sugars, contain some protein, and of course, as Cheerios always says: heart healthy! In other words, you need to eat these or you will die.

Ingredients

  • 3 cup of Cheerios
  • 1/2 cup of creamy peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup of honey

Instructions

  • In a small pan, add peanut butter and honey before placing on the heat (unless you fancy burnt flakes in your food).
  • Place on the stove and bring up from room temp to medium heat until the mixture is a runny consistency.
  • In a large mixing bowl, add the liquid mixture to the Cheerios and fold in until they are coated and cohesive.
  • In a 9×9 dish, pour mixture into pan and flatten evenly with a spatula.
  • Place in the fridge for at least an hour. Try not to eat all at once.
  • Store in the fridge!

3. Green Goddess Taco Salad

Taco salads normally get a bad rep in the nutrition department due to the heaps of cheese, sour cream, rice, beans, and giant fried flour tortilla shell it houses itself in. I love taco salad, but as someone who can’t tolerate much dairy, it definitely does not feel like a fiesta in my stomach. This take on a taco salad is better for you because it swaps in some lower calorie, high volume foods, and has a good twist on it by adding the green goddess dressing.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound of ground turkey
  • 1/4 cup taco seasoning
  • 1 can of black beans
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes (or 1 diced Roma tomato)
  • 1 bag of shredded lettuce
  • 1 can of corn
  • Green Goddess dressing (Sub Taco sauce for DF option)
  • Corn Tortilla chips or Doritos (or both)
  • Fixings of choice (avocado, salsa, bell peppers etc)

Instructions

  • In a pan, cook turkey until brown. Drain the pan, add the taco seasoning along with 3/4 cup of water. Mix in seasoning until meat is covered.
  • Open and drain cans of black beans, corn, and tomatoes
  • In a large bowl, combine lettuce, meat, beans, corn, tomatoes and chips. Stir in dressing to taste.
  • Note: To save for leftovers, add dressing separately rather than combining in the bowl (the chips and lettuce get soggy – gross). Ingredients can also be served separately to make it “build your own.”

4. Peanut Butter Chocolate No Bake Cookies

While they may look like stepped on dog poop in your yard, I assure you, they don’t taste like it. These are a great gluten and dairy free recipe that I have made these for many sorority events, parties, and for friends. Starting out, I did not realize cocoa powder was not the same as the chocolatey powder in brownie mixes, so I was in for an unpleasant surprise when I ate a heaping spoonful of it only to realize that I made a huge mistake. While the recipe calls for quite a bit of sugar, I usually half the amount and they taste the same, and swap regular milk for almond milk.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup sugar (I do 1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 cup milk of choice
  • 1/2 stick butter or plant butter (Country Crock sticks are fantastic dairy free sticks)
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 3 cups of quick oats
  • 1 cup of creamy peanut butter
  • 1 tbsp vanilla (optional)

Instructions

  • In a small pan; add sugar, cocoa powder, milk, and butter. Stir until melted completely and looks like chocolate sauce.
  • Bring mixture to a boil; let it boil for 45 seconds before taking off the burner.
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine oats, peanut butter, and vanilla.
  • Add chocolate sauce and stir until it is fully coated.
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and use a spoon to scoop out mixture. Form into round cookies.
  • Place in fridge until they are not the consistency of fresh doggie doo doo in the yard. You all know exactly what I mean.

5. Sweet Potato Black Bean Burgers

These are an awesome recipe a friend crafted for me while I was gluten, dairy, soy, and egg free. Before you stop reading this because food without everything that makes it taste good seems questionable, these will throw you for a loop. My family has said that they taste better than regular burgers! These can be frozen which make them great for meal prep, and since they are vegan, gluten free, and dairy free, these are an ideal option when hosting a dinner party that can adhere to all dietary needs unless you’re on the carnivore diet, then you’re out of luck.

Ingredients

  • 1 large sweet potato (1 cup mashed) 
  • 1/2 cup black beans 
  • 1/2 cup instant brown rice
  • 1/4 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  • Cook rice according to package directions 
  • Cook the sweet potato in the microwave, make sure to pierce with a fork.
  • Mash the sweet potato, black beans, oats, and everything else in a bowl. Mix in cooked rice until everything is combined. Mixture should be moldable. 
  • Line the baking tray with tin foil and spray with cooking spray. Place 4 inch diameter patties on sheet
  • Place tray in oven and bake 30-40 minutes flipping halfway through
  • Store in fridge for up to 5 days or freezer for 3 months.

6. Banana Oat Cookies

Need to use your brown bananas but are sick of banana bread? These are an easy and fast dessert or breakfast cookie to make, as well as a great tricep workout due to mashing them naners. Don’t expect the regular texture of a cookie because you aren’t going to get it.

Ingredients

  • 2 mashed bananas
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 cup of rolled oats
  • Chocolate chips- the more the merrier is my motto – Check out Enjoy Life foods for DF chips

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Mash the bananas and mix with oats, cinnamon, and chocolate chips
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Use a spoon to scoop and form into balls. Flatten with spoon on baking sheet.
  • Bake for 18-20 minutes

7. Mashed Cauliflower Shepherds Pie

A lighter take on shepherd’s pie, and I personally think it tastes better! This is a better-for-you version that swaps ground beef for ground turkey, and mashed taters for mashed cauli. For those with an Instant Pot, go ahead and use it for the mashed cauliflower. For those who don’t have one like me because the steam spout scares the living daylight out of me, the old fashioned way or store bought mashed cauli works just fine. My family likes to add in a can of corn and green beans for some extra color but also because shredded zucchini tastes like nothing. Comfort food that doesn’t make you unbutton your pants afterwards-it does exist.

Ingredients

  • Mashed cauliflower or 1 large head of cauliflower cored and cut to florets
  • Β½ tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp minced garlic 
  • 2.5 tsp sea salt 
  • 1 tbsp olive or coconut oil
  • 1 diced onion
  • Shredded carrot 
  • 1 medium zucchini, shredded
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tbsp low sodium Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • Optional- 1 can of green beans
  • Optional- 1 can of corn

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350
  • Without instant pot- cook mashed cauliflower according to package, or boil in water until soft and mash.
  • In skillet, add oil, and onion. Saute until onion is translucent (5 min). Add turkey, carrot, zucchini, minced garlic, sauce, and spices.
  • With instant pot- Add 1 cup water to pressure cooker, place trivet inside. Put cauliflower on trivet. Using display panel, select MANUAL, select 3 minutes with + buttons. When it beeps switch pressure knob from sealing to venting and release steam. Open cooker and remove, drain, and place in bowl. Add garlic powder and 1 tsp salt. Blend until smooth.
  • Bake 25-30 minutes

8. “Buttons”

Ok so these aren’t dairy or gluten free at all, but for all of my fellow allergen sensitive people out there, we all know that we have some foods that are worth the pain. For me? This is one of those foods. These are a family tradition that are fun to make for different holidays, especially Valentine’s Day M&Ms, because they taste better than regular ones even though they’re exactly the same. I’ve been making these since elementary school, and to this day still give them to friends, and professors (brownie points for when I’m at a 92.5% and they round me up). Side note: Hershey hugs melt a lot easier than Hershey kisses, and are a lot more aesthetic.

Ingredients

  • Snyders grid pretzels
  • Hershey Hugs
  • M&Ms

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 200 degrees
  • Line pretzels on parchment paper covered baking sheets
  • Place unwrapped Hershey Hugs in center of pretzels
  • Put in oven for 5 minutes until melty
  • Place M side down of M&M on tip of Hershey Hug and press lightly
  • Put in fridge to set.

9. Freezer Friendly Egg White Muffins

On the go breakfast! These are a perfect meal prep recipe for those who struggle with getting in a nutritious breakfast unlike Spongebob Edition Pop Tarts. One serving is two egg cups! Freeze the rest for later.

Ingredients

  • 2.5 cups of egg whites
  • 1 cup chopped spinach
  • 1/2 cup quartered cherry tomatoes or diced Roma tomato
  • 1/2 cup diced mushrooms

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease muffin pan.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together egg whites, spinach, tomatoes and mushrooms. Add Β½ tsp salt and ΒΌ tsp pepper. Divide mixture evenly among muffin pan.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes or until egg whites are cooked.

10. Shortbread Thumbprint Cookies

I happened to come across these on Pinterest one day when I was looking for an excuse to use the rest of my almond flour and procrastinate homework. I always loved those little flower cookies with the red raspberry centers when I was little, so I thought I’d give these gluten free versions a go! As I mentioned before, I am new to the kitchen, so when I read that the recipe called for confectioners sugar, I had no clue what that was without the help of Google. Why not just call it powdered sugar, people? The nice part about this recipe is that my indecisiveness is accepted and encouraged. I used all five flavors of jams we had in the fridge. For those of you who aren’t the fruity type; sub honey, maple syrup, or caramel sauce for the center.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of almond flour
  • 3 tablespoons of butter of choice-softened
  • 3 tablespoons of powdered sugar
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • Jam of choice

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350Β°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Mix all of the ingredients in a small bowl until a cohesive dough forms.
  • Scoop 1″ balls of dough onto the prepared baking sheet; a teaspoon cookie scoop works well here. Arrange the balls of dough about 1 1/2″ to 2″ apart.
  • Use a fork to flatten each cookie to about 1/4″ thick, use your thumb to press an indentation into the center of each ball of dough. Fill the hole with about 1/4 teaspoon jam.
  • Bake the cookies for 8 to 10 minutes, until they start to turn light golden brown on top.

While these may not look like anything on the Food Network or anything Instagram worthy, sometimes the simple and quick, yet still good for you options are the best! For those who read this looking to clean up their diet, but don’t want to give up foods you love: look for ingredients you can swap out or do without (ex: ground turkey, Caulipower brand pizza, portioning, natural peanut butter, cocoa powder, natural sugars vs added). Similarly, those looking for allergen friendly recipes, look for where you can use alternatives! Most of these recipes weren’t allergen friendly when I found them. For those looking for new recipes or are new to cooking/baking, a lot of these ingredients are probably already in your house so you can #stayathome! And for those who read this out of disbelief that I actually cooked something without burning it- let this be proof that people can change.

Let me know if you make any of these! I am curious to see if they actually taste good or if it’s just due to the bias of “I made it therefore it tastes better” πŸ™‚

~Lauren

Coping with Self-Compassion during Covid: How and why it works

We are well past a month of staying at home. Not going to lie, at first I saw this new lifestyle as an exciting challenge where my introverted-ness could thrive. I got competitive with myself to see all the productive tasks I could get done, and do all the activities that I never had time to do. But now, all the books have been read, the basement has been cleaned, senior capstone paper written, and everything I can think of to sell has been sold. I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to do something other than what I have been doing yesterday, and the day before that, and the day before that… It’s daunting knowing this could be what life is like for who knows how long. 4th of July festivities are already getting canceled, new job training moved online, favorite restaurants put the for sale sign in the window (RIP Old Chicago), alternate plans for the fall are already being talked about, and to put the scary cherry on top of all this, Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the U of M Center for Infectious diseases said that this won’t be over by summer and 60-70% of us are going to get the virus despite our efforts all these months of being locked inside.

This isn’t meant to scare you even though you’re probably feeling worse than you were before deciding to sit down to read a blog that you thought would make you feel better, hold on, I’ll get there. If a simple paragraph can make you feel anxious, think about how bad the media is for our sanity when we wake up every single day being bombarded with more bad news accompanied by staying locked up all day. People are starting to turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms, which in turn is going to put us in a worse place when this is all said and done. There is a better way to get through this than stuffing yourself with snacks, giving up, or impulse buying puppies.

Self-compassion is our secret weapon that no one is utilizing! Positive Psychology is a relatively new field that basically says “why does psychology have to be about fixing people when they have problems? Let’s take perfectly average baseline people and make their lives go from good to great.” Self-compassion falls in this field, and also is being utilized to fix mental health problems. Research has been conducted and shows that it eases depression, anxiety, eating disorders, negative body image, sleep problems, and enhances both physical/mental health. These are all problems that we are possibly dealing with during Covid. Self-compassion consists of three components; self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness (Neff, 2003), and it takes all three to work! Join me on a magical journey as I further explain just how these “fluffy” sounding concepts that seem like they’d never work, actually work. As cheesy as it sounds, self-compassion is one of those “if you believe it, you can achieve it” concepts.

1. Self-Kindness

Raise your hand if you have said anything along these lines during all this:

“I look terrible today and am a lazy human being.”

“I look so old now that I can’t get my gray covered up.”

“There’s no point in working out or taking care of myself right now.”

“I suck at online classes, I am a failure and shouldn’t even try anymore.”

“I am going to get fired from my job because I am not as valuable as others.”

“I shouldn’t have eaten that and am probably going to gain the Covid-19 lbs and everyone is going to think I am ugly once we can go out in public again.”

“I am never going to find a girlfriend/boyfriend and I am going to end up alone living in my parents house just like this for the rest of my life.”

“I have no purpose anymore”

It is so easy to let those thoughts come into our heads, and for some twisted reason, we believe criticizing ourselves is more motivating than being kind. I don’t know about you, but telling myself that I suck and am ugly doesn’t make me want to go on a run, or outside for that matter. Current research tells us that self-kindness is the most important component that has a positive correlation for reducing negative behaviors and thoughts. Being kind to ourselves is so crucial during this time. Our best is not going to be the same everyday during this; some days you may get a ton done, other days your best may just be getting out of bed. Both are OKAY. Self-kindness is being your own cheerleader for the things that you DID get done. Change out of your pjs? Go you! Get one thing done on your to-do list but not all? One is better than none! Eat 2 cookies instead of 3? Progress! Only cried in the shower 4 times this week instead of everyday? Look at you! Self-kindness is learning to forgive yourself, even for those who have a black belt in beating themselves up. Maybe you feel guilty for not working out- that’s just fine, you are not training for a marathon since they’re all canceled. Maybe you accidentally turned off mute on a zoom call while you were using the bathroom – as that one children book teaches us “Everyone Poops,” so don’t rip yourself to shreds about it days later because we all make mistakes. It’s so easy to feel shame for eating badly – don’t worry, that is human. Self-kindness is not easy, because self-criticism is easy! Bottom line, talk to yourself as you would a family member, and I don’t think you’d tell your grandma that she has no purpose and is a worthless, ugly, lazy human being… if you would say that to her you may need more help than I can provide.

2. Common Humanity

This one may seem like “common” sense (pun intended), but part of self-compassion is recognizing that you are not alone in your feelings and other people feel this way, too. When we are suffering it is common (and not logical at all) for us to think we are the only person on planet earth experiencing that exact situation and feeling that exact feeling at that moment. Everyone else around you seems happy but you. Hate to break it to you, but you aren’t that special, feelings are shared! To humans, suffering together feels better than suffering alone, which is why this component works for Covid. Fun fact- the same goes for hazing!

Covid presents us with unprecedented situations leaving us confused, alone, on a kick to sell everything we own (it can’t be just me I hope), depressed, lost, many other feelings, and behaviors- some positive of course so don’t feel bad for feeling happy when you think you should feel bad! Personally, some days I have woken up during all this with absolutely no motivation at all, and it makes me feel better knowing that I am not the only one who has no motivation to change out of sweatpants or try to look presentable. It’s kind of motivating to know others have no motivation either!

Many people suffer with depression, and this situation makes it ten times worse, but they aren’t the only person with those feelings, as others are acting the same, or even are in worse shape. The news has broadcasted eating disorder relapses (the urgency to broadcast about at-home workouts does not help this problem) showing that it is a national problem and those who struggle with them aren’t the only ones thrown for a loop. We aren’t alone in feeling like we are lazy and will look worse after all this is done hence why there are so many jokes about the quarantine 15 and not needing to get a bikini body since pools are closed. We aren’t alone in being scared about all this, and while it may seem like there are some people who aren’t phased by this at all, chances are more people are feeling the same way you do. Just because you see everyone outside on a nice day when you don’t feel like it, doesn’t mean you’re the only one, so don’t feel bad or FOMO (fear of missing out). Yes, it can be hard to make yourself feel better by telling yourself a stranger has the same feelings you do, but that is where self-kindness comes to play and buffers against negative thoughts. Your subconscious benefits from knowing that you truly aren’t alone in the world. Lastly, I’m sure you aren’t the only one who is sick of cooking.

3. Mindfulness

This is usually the component where people dip out and are like “nah I am not doing this voodoo type thing.” That’s exactly what I said when I first started my mindfulness training as part of my Neurofeedback therapy prior to Covid. Let’s get this straight: mindfulness is not just about sitting with your eyes closed and picturing trees or colors while listening to calming music. This is the “fluffy” part I was talking about where people’s pride gets to them before they try it. Mindfulness is all about being mindful of your thoughts- allowing them to happen but not judging them. It’s like fishing: you catch a thought and release it back into the water until the next thought comes. It’s all about being objective and in the present. For example, you may think I have no clue how I am going to find a job and I am probably going to end up living with my parents for the rest of my life which will result and never finding love and I will die alone with 17 cats. Mindfulness would allow you to observe that thought objectively, responding with something like well, I just had that thought, it’s all good, that may or may not happen, but right now I can’t predict the future so how bout you just chill. Thinking about the future is downright terrifying right now, and thinking about the past and how everything used to be is depressing, so let’s just not think about those things, eh?

This is why this component is important; being in the present benefits how we talk to ourselves and think. Take each hour at a time and make the most of them; each good moment builds momentum to have a good day which leads to having a good week, and before you know it, a month has passed. A lot of people think negative thoughts and stuff them away until they build up inside and cause deeper issues. Mindfulness is different in which it allows for those thoughts to happen, but learning to observe them rather than believing them. Psychology shows that mindfulness can be trained, and can improve. I can attest to this, as my mindfulness stats have improved since I started. Not only how you think about things improves, but it goes down to a neurological level where your brain starts to react to stressful situations differently-more objectively. There are thousands of mindfulness podcasts, and youtube videos, so try them out! The only thing you have to lose by giving it a go is anxiety and negative feelings!


You may be asking why you haven’t seen more about self-compassion during all this- that’s because a lot of people don’t believe in solving mood problems or mental health issues without medications (let’s be real, you aren’t asking yourself that, but I’m going to talk about it anyways). A little mindfulness and self-kindness seems insane in treating a complex issue like depression or eating disorders. Heck, even therapists aren’t on board with it yet. Self-compassion is not all about rainbows, sunshine, and unicorns. It’s not a “fluffy” concept. It’s not just for women. It’s not just for times of trial. These are all common misconceptions I have come across. Use these “uncertain times” as all commercials are saying way too much to practice your self-compassion skills. Start small; don’t attack yourself for eating a donut, try to catch and dismiss a negative thought, and remember that your neighbor feels just as stir crazy as you do. Self-compassion goes far beyond Covid, so might as well start now so you can apply it to doubts about starting a new job, guilt or shame in relationship problems, newness of life changes, failure regarding diet changes, or even trying to fix the sink sans plumber without swearing at yourself.

Have a self-compassionate weekend, friends! Stay healthy πŸ™‚

~Lauren

COVID-19 Realizations

I don’t think I need to inform you that our world’s have been tipped upside down and shaken a couple times like trying get the last bit of ketchup out of the bottle. Target has no TP, stocks are plummeting, social distancing has become a hashtag, the health club is closed, and restaurants that have served us for years have closed their doors. Nothing about this is normal, but as terrible as this all may be, many of you know I like to find blessings in disguise. In this case, being stuck inside has been one. While I am still trying to find the hidden blessing in having to end my senior year of college at home, online, and am missing out on all the big things spring of senior year brings, I know someday I will have my answer. This post is to highlight everything I have realized since I’ve been stuck in the Casey quarters, as well as to voice my thoughts on the matter that I am sure many of my fellow seniors share.


You don’t know what you have until it is gone

As deep as this may sound, that’s not where I am going with this. First, toilet paper. I never would guess this is where peoples’ minds would go in a crisis, and while it seems like there are more important products to focus on, think about the last time you went and reached for TP but it wasn’t there – your stomach dropped and you panicked, don’t deny it. Second, food items. The phrase “where’s the beef?” has turned into an actual question. America also seemed to throw the low carb Keto diet out the window. Bread and cereal are disappearing, and this is the first time my family has gotten white bread in years instead of our fancy flax fiber bread (maybe with less fiber we won’t need as much TP). Whether people believe cereal will keep them alive, or if they’ve just rediscovered their Lucky Charms addiction because they were out of Raisin Bran and had to make up for all the years they missed out on it by buying out the store? I don’t know. Third, the gym. I have found that making my own workouts or the thought of going for a run is so daunting when I’m used to hopping on an elliptical everyday while watching Netflix. Third, independence. While I love my family and can easily go hide in my room all day, there really is no true independence when forced to be in the same place for days at a time, and honestly I feel bad for my parents having to deal with me when I’m in a mood! I love the company and not being alone through this, but I am starting to get flashbacks to my middle school/high school days and slowly am forgetting I am a 21 year old senior in college! Lastly, college. The thought that I can’t go back and do over the events and celebrations I am missing makes my heart break.

I am a homebody…to an extent

This situation is so ironic because I was always one to come home from Gustavus on the weekends because I missed the comfort of my room, and a shower bigger than a MRI machine tube. Now, I can’t wait for the day I can go inside a building other than my house. Heck, even going inside the DMV sounds fun at this point. I am getting tired of the bubblegum pink walls in my room the more I’m encased in them, and it is never something I have felt before! I love my home, but when you are forced to stay in it, everything looks different.

Wants vs. needs

Maslow’s heirarchy of needs has never been so true; because I don’t see getting my hair done, going to yoga class, needing new clothes, buying a certain brand of bread, or going to the movies anywhere on that pyramid. During this time, I have been rocking sweatpants and no makeup every day – because mascara won’t keep me any more alive than I already am (although it makes me look more alive am I right ladies?). I have eaten leftovers multiple times this week (12 lbs of ground turkey for a now canceled sorority event coming in clutch) -because where I eat doesn’t matter as much as what I eat. I have let my roots grow out, revealing that I am not a true bright blonde anymore- because my hair color won’t kill me. My days have become so simple, and I actually enjoy it. Relying on what I truly need vs want has left more time for important things such as family and self growth. At the end of the day, your acrylic fingernail job won’t get you very far if you are feeling alone and need a hug from family to get you through all this.

Take things one day at a time

For someone who likes to be in control of everything in my life, more specifically the future, this has been a test for me. Hearing that I had to finish school online which includes writing my senior capstone research paper, my stress levels hit the roof (they’d go higher but I’m stuck inside). My dad always told me to take things one day at a time, and that’s all I can do right now so I don’t freak myself out thinking about how I’m going to figure out how to present my final research to my class online, how much strength I’m losing without the gym (soup cans can only take you so far), or if I need to keep planning things that were supposed to happen in May. Honestly, I don’t even know what day it is today because everyday is so different that I can’t keep track! It’s amazing how much more calm I feel when I am not trying to figure out answers to questions that only God knows.

True community

I never thought I’d see so many people coming together to help each other, and it is heartwarming and screams Mark 12:31! It’s also been refreshing hearing officials on the news come together to fight this rather than fight each other. All the small businesses offering free delivery, curbside service, and the community rallying to support them has been eye opening. Strangers offering resources and time to those who need it most is incredible. There certainly are no shortage of babysitters, food donations, positive hashtags, and time for one another. It makes me wonder what more we could do if we all had more time in our lives. I have enjoyed seeing more people out walking in my neighborhood, the hanging of Christmas lights to unify neighborhoods and knowing a big snowstorm probably won’t accompany them as usual, and knowing that we all share the same struggle right now. Psychology shows that tough times make humans feel a closer bond, and I can definitely see that happening!

How great technology is

This is not a humble plug due to the fact that I’m going to be an IT consultant soon…or is it. I can’t even imagine what life would be like during this time if technology were not a thing. I wouldn’t finish class, attend a church service, wouldn’t get to Facetime my best friend in quarantine, make and watch Tik Toks to pass time (maybe that’s why it’s called Tik Tok), snapchat ugly pictures to people in order to make them feel better, record my at home work outs to post for my fit fam, write this blog, or call my grandparents to see if they are ok and continue to answer the same questions about my love life. If we had none of this, we would have to do something insane like actually read a book or even worse, have nothing to do for more than five minutes at a time.

I’m extremely grateful

Seeing how everything has unfolded, it has made me so grateful for where I am in life right now. I am grateful to have accepted a job offer last fall, and I can’t even imagine what my peers are going through right now trying to get hired during a hiring freeze. I am grateful for the resources I have. Food on the table, a bubblegum pink room to sleep in, a car to act as a safe haven bubble when I need to get away, and plenty of toilet paper as well as other paper products I could possibly wipe with (I bet those XL dinner napkins work great) are available to me and a for sure thing during this unsure time. Lastly, I am grateful for my health, and that I started my new treatment when I did. It has given me the privilege to feel less anxious than those who may have other conditions, and know that my brain can handle this situation a lot better than it would have a couple months ago. As weird as it sounds, I am grateful to have FND rather than asthma like my brother. This time of trouble has shown me just how many people aren’t sure if their kid will get lunch that day, or even a meal a day. Not everyone can zoom off to the store or get away when they want to. Not everyone has a family they love being around, and not everyone can even be with their family during this time.

Nature is neat

Due to the fact my gym is closed, it means I had to swap out the treadmill with the “outdoor walk” scene, for the actual outdoors. The past weeks I have gone on very long walks and runs through town, and even though I take the same route each time, I still have yet to be bored. Spring is one of my favorite times; it reminds me that all the cold and ugliness of winter is literally melting away as the sun shines longer and brighter each day. I’ve felt closer to God this week out on my walks, because something about being out in nature brings more clarity to me. I can only hope that God will let the cold and ugliness of this pandemic melt away and bring more warmth to the world soon. The one thing that’s not so neat about nature? Getting chased by a goose down the road during a run, 100% would not recommend this experience!

A new level of productivity

Upon arriving back home, I realized I had two weeks of break, and nothing to do. I have never wished away a spring break until now. At first doing nothing sounded great; Netflix, sleeping in, and absolutely no sense of responsibility except to make sure I feed myself. That becomes very boring after about a day, and usually I don’t use the word boring in my vocabulary. This week the most fun parts of my day were researching my senior capstone for three hours, cleaning out and organizing 20 years of stuff in the basement, photoshooting all 40 of my Webkinz to post on Facebook Marketplace, and counting in my head all the change I have accumulated from when I was little consisting in $39 in quarters, $20 in dimes, $16 in nickels, and $14.62 in pennies…yes I did in fact willingly spend my time counting 1,462 pennies. Everyday chores such as laundry, clearing out the dishwasher, and vacuuming are now fun for me. What else are you supposed to do so much time on your hands?

New definition for exercise

When I found out Lifetime closed down, I immediately had two thoughts: 1. The irony of a health club closing to keep people healthy and 2. How am I supposed to get my exercise without the gym? I have a weird belief that exercise doesn’t work as well if it isn’t in the gym, but logically that isn’t true, and this experienced has forced me to challenge that belief and heal my weird relationship with exercise. Muscles don’t know the difference between a dumbbell and a soup can, or running on the treadmill versus running outside! I’ve gotten creative with my workouts including using therapeutic corn bags for weights, using a cardboard box full of textbooks for sled pushes, squatting my portable gymnastics bar with bags full of piano books hanging off the ends, coming up with weird new exercises because squats get boring after a while, dancing for cardio and realizing I go a lot harder while dancing to Shake it Off by T Swift than I do on #SprintSaturdays, and seeing what random items I can deadlift. Lastly, walking is so underrated; try walking at a 4 mph pace for 4 miles straight..not like a walk in the park at all!

Little things mean a lot

This experience has made me appreciate the little things in life a lot more. It is normal for me to go spend my afternoon in Starbucks blogging away with my cold brew, and meeting up with my family later at our favorite restaurant spots. Church and brunch every Sunday is a tradition I never thought would be interrupted, especially since I’ve never seen church “close” for anything. The lack of normalcy led me to sitting in the Starbucks parking lot, cold brew in hand, trying to feel that normalcy again, and it felt so nice! Changing up dinner has also been a little thing that makes a huge difference (can’t have taco meat every night, gross), and having my favorite restaurant in take out form has been a luxury! Being able to stream my church service is a small source of courage even though it’s not the same, and cooking up brunch at home led to my brother joining us at the table which hasn’t been a scene in the Casey house since he moved out- something I forgot I enjoyed so much. I always say it is the little things that count; even if that’s sitting in a parking lot jamming out, watching your pastor make a joke even though no one laughs because no one is there, driving through your favorite place to eat, getting outside for a walk around the block, an outing to Target, or talking to a friend over Facetime; they make a huge difference.

I’m ready to adult

When I was back at school, I was apprehensive about graduating because I wasn’t sure how well I would do on my own. I can’t cook nor did I have a kitchen at school, trying to understand anything finance related is a lost cause, and I wasn’t sure I was ready to break off from my parents quite yet. Being home, I have caught senioritis and have realized that I can do all the things I was nervous about, and I actually want to! Like I mentioned, I love my parents, but it is so weird coming back from school where I am used to being independent, then switching to having my mom do my laundry for me again. It feels like a step backwards, and I am at the point where I am ready to move forward and take matters in my own hands, even if that means making some mistakes at first. Although I must say, I am still scared to cook for myself out of sincere concern for my own health.

Being alone doesn’t have to be a bad thing

With all this time on my hands, I have renewed my love for writing, reading for fun, and psychology. None of it feels like a chore, or forced relaxation anymore. It’s amazing how having time to spend improves mindset and perspective. All my life I have been an introvert, and I feel like this experience has been the ultimate test of that. I enjoy being alone, except for when I am alone with negative feelings in which I am a pro for avoiding by staying busy. This ordeal has taught me to actually feel out my sadness from not seeing my friends, stress from uncertainty, and anger from seeing my senior year gone like the TP supply. I’ve learned so much about myself by having that time to figure myself out and become at peace with the wrong kind of March madness.

I’m actually not okay

I thought I was ready to be done with school, but having it end with no closure or warning isn’t what I meant. As I mentioned, I stuff my feelings like my uncle stuffs himself at Thanksgiving. I avoid letting others know I am feeling anything other than great, but this has felt like trying to hold a beach ball under water, so yeah, I did have a meltdown one night at dinner like I did during my terrible twos. Usually when I say I am fine, I truly am fine, but this time the cliche “when a girl says she’s fine she’s not” applies to me. Saying so long to Gustavus on my own terms, my class that I loved going to each week, being able to say bye to my friends who live across the country, my final Honors Day Ceremony, my last formal for sorority, my last term as Psi Chi honor society co-president and receiving my cords, senior week, spring recruitment, potentially commencement… all vanished in the same second. It feels like accidentally letting go of a balloon and watching it fly away, slowly with each confirmed case of COVID-19, my chance of getting my senior year back is farther out of reach and I’m just sitting here watching it go away. It really hit me as I was peeling the pictures off my wall in my dorm, tears rolling down my face in disbelief, and disassembling the place I called home. Many of you know my last three years of college have not been the most enjoyable due to all the adversity I faced, and I was looking forward to the memorable events and ceremonies that would make every hardship I dragged myself through worth it to say that I finally made it to the other side. To be able to say this semester was adversity free. This spring has always been my light at the end of the tunnel, and it hurts knowing that end of the tunnel closed up as I won’t be ending it the way I envisioned it to be as a freshman. I have no other way to put all of this into words except that this situation absolutely positively sucks and feels like a gaping hole is inside me that hasn’t been patched up.

But it is ok to feel this way

Living in the middle of history, while it will always be memorable, these aren’t the memories I wanted to have. I don’t like to feel like I am complaining, which is why I kept these feelings to myself in the first place. I’ve got great things ahead of me; a job and a new apartment, so why should I stay stuck on the death of a few events and recognitions while people are dying? As my parents helped me realize, I am allowed to be angry and sad, but I didn’t expect to feel grief and extreme loss like this. While I know I need to move on eventually, it is ok for me to be jealous of everyone who had their senior year go as planned. While I know Gustavus will do their best to give the seniors the ceremony they deserve, it feels a lot to me like trying to make a crumpled piece of paper back to its original state-it will never be or feel the same. Some of my worst Terrible Tuesdays happened at Gustavus, those who have been following me for a while have heard about the shower curtain situation many times. I can’t help but feel a weird sense of comfort that all of this news hit me on a Tuesday, confirming that my theory of Terrible Tuesday is real, and I now can dump all the blame on the fact that it was a Tuesday rather than someone or something. I know God has a plan for everything and a silver lining will come out of this such as my senior class coming together like never before, but man, what a twisted way to do that. Years from now I’ll look back on this and see how it strengthened me and taught me so many things that I needed to learn before I started the new chapter in my life. Hopefully someday I will look back and laugh at how upset I am that I won’t get one more caf dinner.

It can be hard to find light and be the light in such a serious time, but once we are on the other side of this, nothing will be the same, and I truly believe we will be better than we were. Sometimes it takes something drastic to have a reality check – I know I’ve personally had one and I feel like a new person despite the confusion I am still feeling. I challenge you to find loopholes or new hobbies this week: Facetime a friend over dinner, have a “quarantini” with your girl gang over Zoom, go have a nice lake walk date 6 feet apart (maybe this is the Lord’s universal way of saying save room for Jesus on dates), have lunch at your favorite spot in the parking lot, start a new book, make up a fun workout with the can of beans you know you’ll never actually eat, journal your experience to you have it years from now, get chased by a goose like I did if you’re up for that challenge, or sit and just feel everything you’ve denied. God knows what he is doing, He knows all the answers that we don’t have, and He will guide us down this unknown path. Philippians 4:13, y’all!

Stay inside, and stay sane!

~Lauren

Networking Works – 10 tips to land an internship or job

Spring usually signifies the start of the search to find an internship for the summer or job upon graduation. It is an extremely stressful process in which most have little control over, and while we can’t control what employers decide, what we can control is how we interact, and making connections to stand out. I was blessed to have been offered a job this November at a company I love simply through networking, and when I was least expecting it. I initially expected to land something in the spring through applying on Indeed or LinkedIn, but I was fortunate to have an internship this fall that tasked me with networking with 15 people at 15 different companies. The value of networking is so high, which is why I want to share the 10 tips I learned through networking this fall to hopefully ease some stress and make the process more enjoyable!


1. Don’t be afraid of it

Talking to strangers or to someone on the phone in this generation may as well be compared to a giant tarantula on your head- terrifying. I can still remember the day my boss sat me down in her office and said she was going to change my internship from the typical office clerical tasks, to networking. At first I was confused, because my definition of networking at that time was connecting on LinkedIn and ending it there. When she slid across the table a sheet with 50+ names I didn’t know, my stomach took a nose dive and I just thought I have to go drive to somewhere I don’t know and talk with someone I don’t know? Sending my first email felt exactly like when I texted my crush in 7th grade that I liked him -fear of rejection. I have noticed in myself and others that we are afraid to reach out to mentors and professionals because we think we are “less than,” and aren’t worth their time. I soon found out that business professionals love to talk to bright eyed college students about what they do because they are passionate about it, or simply because it breaks up their day a little bit. After my third or fourth networking interview, I was actually excited to go to a new company and meet someone to hear about their experiences and advice. If it weren’t for networking, I would not have found out that some companies let you bring your dog to work, have a fully stocked fridge of Bubbly, or a complete bar of every cereal with milk. Overall, networking is nothing to be afraid of, but driving downtown during rush hour? That’s a different story.

2. Use all mediums

Don’t be like the naive Lauren that thought networking was only done on LinkedIn. But don’t also be naive in thinking networking is done only in person. Networking can be done through any medium, heck, even Bumble has a networking feature! Do phone networking interviews, use the internet, creep on people’s bios on Instagram to find out where they work then slide into their DM’s (don’t judge me), talk in person at job fairs, go to a professor’s office who knows people and get their contact information, email someone, text them if it is allowed (I texted the VP of HR at Target, she didn’t reply back), facetime them, snapchat a friend who had an internship at a company you like. You get the idea; there are NO RULES for networking, just keep in mind professionalism and who you are talking to aka don’t use Quick Add on Snapchat and snap a VP at a company if someone gave you their phone number.

3. Use LinkedIn filters

I have been happy to help out a couple friends with their great internship search over the years, and every single time I use the phrase “LinkedIn filters” they look at me like I just told them I’m moving to Guam aka very confused. LinkedIn is meant to make your life easier, and without the filters, trying to find someone that works at Life Time Fitness Corporate, was a psychology major, in the field of HR, and graduated a certain year is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. These filters let you do that exactly, and that is how I found all my connections. I thought I was one of the only people who was a psychology major going into business, specifically HR, but to my surprise I found a Gustavus grad who was a psych major going into HR and also worked as a stylist at Maurice’s during high school just like I did. LinkedIn makes the world pretty small if you want it to be! The alumni network at Gustavus has been crucial to my search, and is actually how I landed my job at Boom Lab. D3 school alumni networks are pretty close knit, and while I don’t know how it is at bigger schools, I’m going to infer that a fellow gopher would be willing to help another gopher because #skiumah – it runs deep.

4. Ask meaningful questions

While this one sounds like a very obvious tip, starting out, I asked questions that were quick and easy so I could get out of there and back to my introvert lifestyle. After a couple interviews, I realized my questions weren’t helping me figure out what I was interested in at all. So with that, take time to sit down and think about what you truly want to know. No question is a bad question which is why I started asking them what the worst part of their job was, what their biggest regret was, and most importantly, advice that they wish they knew when they were in college. These were the questions that helped me the most rather than “what is the mission of your company?” which in reality they didn’t actually know off the top of their heads and I could have looked it up on the Internet. The questions you should be asking are the ones that you can’t look up, the worries you have about the future and the potential field. Once it becomes a conversation rather than an interview, that’s when it becomes valuable.

5. Give them a business card

The day my parents told me I should get business cards freshman year, I thought they were insane. Why would I need a business card if I didn’t work anywhere? Once I began to give them out, I soon realized that a lot of college students must have had that same thought as me because every employer, or professional I gave one to said that I was the only student they’ve received one from and that they were impressed (insert smirk of pride here). Sure, your card may have the same exact information on it as the resume they are currently holding, but it isn’t the information on the card that is valuable to them, it is the fact that you have a card. That shows professionalism, a trait that employers look for in college students. It shows that you are one step ahead and are looking for opportunities to put yourself out there. That business card sitting on their desk while they are paging through all their interview notes may just be the reason you stand out as the best candidate for the position. If all else fails, use the leftover business cards for those contests at restaurants such as Culvers where you can drop in a business card to win free Butterburgers for a month.

6. Go the extra mile

When I say go the extra mile, I mean this literally. When I set up these networking interviews (yes I did meet with my dad and brother – never overlook the value of family members!), I was driving twice a week from Gustavus to the cities just to make it more convenient for who I was meeting with, and because I wanted to see the company. Employers appreciate the gesture that you are willing to come their way, and it shows that you are truly interested. There were a couple meetings I had where they offered to meet me somewhere in the middle at a coffee shop, but I told them I would rather come to their place so I could see what their culture was like. Not only does that give them a good impression that you are willing to put in the work, but it also helps you because you get to see what kind of company culture you like. It was so cool going around to the different cultures and seeing these people in their element. Yeah, I may have had to drive downtown several times and pay $36 for parking all while getting lost in the skyways – but if it weren’t for that, I wouldn’t have learned that I love the culture of Boom Lab the best and can see myself there, and I wouldn’t have gotten the job. Go the extra mile, even if it is all the way in the boonies…and give them a business card at the end πŸ™‚

7. Follow up with them

This is not the kind of follow up where someone hasn’t replied back to you in several days so you “follow up” with them which us more of a polite way to say spam or give them a nudge. Have you ever had someone ask you for help with something and wonder how it all turned out in the end? This goes for networking too, especially if it’s alumni from your college. I have stayed in contact with my mentor at Gustavus and have updated her with where her advice has taken me in my career. I can’t confirm that she enjoys that I do that; but based on the fact that she emails me back with exclamation points, smiley faces, and “thanks for the update” I’m going to assume it was appreciated. After I completed my networking report, I sent it to a few of the people I interviewed because they were truly interested in what I was doing. It isn’t quite common for a college student to spend a semester traveling around the cities meeting with VPs of companies or going to two fortune 500 companies in the same week. In addition, giving the people you met with updates on where you end up just keeps the connection alive, and they may remember you for future opportunities. It’s part of the full life cycle of networking, and acknowledges them for their help in your journey to success.

8. Contact list

Keep a list of everyone you have met with, their contact information, and company they are at. You never know when you may need to contact them, contact someone at a certain company, or ask them for a contact. A lot of people forget that whoever you know, you basically now know who they know (let that sink in). A well known phrase is “it’s not about what you know, but who you know.” A great example of this, is that I knew my boss here on campus, and she seems to know everyone, which is why I now have her list of 100+ contacts that she shared with for these networking interviews. Knowing a guy who knows a guy is your key to finding an “in.” My personal list was not long at all before I started this process, but even if it is one person on your list from a business card you received, your list is a lot longer than you think due to all the people that one person knows. Based off this concept, I know an executive for the MN Twins, Cargill, Health Partners, the VP of HR at the Minneapolis Heart Institute and many more places that could be a huge connection to have down the road. Technically, since you all know me, you know them too πŸ™‚ Favors and references in the business world are everything.

9. Get personal

As creepy as it may sound, it makes the experience so much more comfortable, but it also makes them remember you. I remember the day I was going to meet with the VP of HR at the Minneapolis Heart Institute, I was nervous as heck because I was just an aspiring HR student, whereas she was taking part of her busy day as an executive for me, and I wanted to make it worth her time. This meeting ended up being one of my favorites because we connected over the fact that her daughter was also a gymnast who had to retire from a back injury just like me, and she used to work at the company my dad did. It’s the little things and stories that people remember about you, not your GPA. Being able to talk about things other than work is important because it makes it more of a conversation rather than an interview trying to get some type of benefit out of it. In some of my meetings we talked about their recent wedding, their dogs, what they enjoyed about college, and even their favorite cereal (this was at Post, I’m not that random). Getting personal makes you stand out because I bet you that there are 100 something candidates with the same experiences in college and GPA as you, but what probably isn’t the same, is being able to connect with them through something only you have in common with them.

10. Write a thank you

Writing HANDWRITTEN thank you notes is advised for after internship and job interviews, so it may seem silly to write one just for a networking meeting, but it isn’t. The person you met with didn’t have to agree to take time out of their day, they didn’t have to reply to your email, they didn’t have to buy your coffee, and they didn’t have to answer your questions they probably get asked all the time. Not only is it common courtesy, but it also is just one of those things that people never do which in return will make them remember you. The content of the note is equally as important. Remember one thing from your conversation that you found helpful and tell them that you thought it was helpful, and then mention something personal. For example: one meeting I had, she ordered a pumpkin spice drink for the first time and said she hoped it wasn’t too sweet. At the end of my note I did a little P.S. and wrote that I hoped her drink wasn’t too sweet. Yeah, that may be cheesy, but it shows that you paid attention to the little details and you cared enough to remember something about them. That goes a long way, and so does sending a thank you note in the first place that YOU wrote, not the keys on the keyboard. Even if you have the worst handwriting in the world and they can’t read it at all, they will still appreciate it, because you took your time to acknowledge the time they took.

I never knew the value of networking until I did it, I don’t want to sound like an infomercial here, but networking changed my life. What I was doing before (sitting behind my computer screen applying for so many jobs) would be the black and white part of the infomercial with the big red x over it. Boom Lab didn’t have any applications out, didn’t recruit at my college, and had no advertisements on Indeed; so when I say I would not have gotten this job without networking, that is the total truth. It is a lot more fun getting out there and seeing where you could be instead of sitting behind a screen, and seriously, college students don’t just “go network.” That being said, GO NETWORK.

I’d love to know if any of these worked for you! Inbox is always open πŸ™‚

~Lauren

Unwritten Rules of the Gym

We all know that the beginning of the new year brings the resolution to join a gym or dust off the membership card, and for those who are familiar with a gym setting, it may seem like no big deal. In reality, stepping foot into a gym the first time may as well feel like stepping into a foreign country where no one speaks your language. I’ve had some people tell me they are afraid to go to the gym because they don’t know what to do and what not to do, and that is a valid fear. This post is for those wanting to learn the ropes, but also for regular gym goers because it is all too relatable. While some of these may seem like common sense, and maybe a bit lighthearted, the gym is definitely a different world filled with all ages, and stages!


One space rule

Just like there is an unwritten rule for regarding bathroom stalls and not using the one right next to someone unless it is absolutely necessary, the same goes for cardio machines. One must not go on the treadmill or elliptical right next to someone else if there are other ones open. I can guarantee you that if there are a billion other treadmills open in the gym, and you pick the one next to the guy wearing a Turkey Trot shirt, he will be a little bit upset. Why is this a “thing?” I have no clue, but for me, I know I don’t want the person next to me hearing my rapid breathing that sounds like I have never exercised in my life. I also don’t want them leaning over and watching “Say Yes to the Dress” with me while I walk (true story). All in all, remember the one space rule.

Wipe it down

I gotta say, sometimes people watching is more entertaining than watching my shows because you literally see and hear everything! The stair master is a great perch for this because it sits higher than everything else so you can scan the room quite nicely. It’s amazing what people do during cardio sessions: dancercise, fix their hair, pick their ears and nose, tweeze their eyebrows, eat a jar of peanut butter (not kidding), and do their nails (I found a fingernail on my machine this week). There’s also those that replicate my Elmo sprinkler I had as a kid as a constant stream of sweat flings everywhere. In addition, people will talk about anything and everything; including a detailed description of their batch of stomach flu they had the night before. Think about it, hundreds of people who have been who knows where touching who knows what all come back to that one machine that you use, and they might not wipe it down after they pick their nose, cough all over it, or change a poopy diaper…just let that sink in. If you’re too lazy to wipe down your machine, you better not be too lazy to make a trip to the doctor.

No texting and lifting

I firmly believe that since there is a no texting and driving rule, there should be a no texting and using weight machines rule. But instead it should be a no texting, Instagram scrolling, snapchatting, tweeting, pinning, Tik Tok, shopping, VSCO, or calling Jimmy Johns rule ( I have seen and heard them all). Every time I go to use a machine in my circuit, there has not been one time where the machine is actually in use, but rather, someone sitting on their phone and taking snap stories that they are “getting gains” as the machine doesn’t move at all. Usually this is on the leg extension machine because it is the perfect comfy leaned back chair to sit in and take selfies in front of the mirror. Now, I completely understand using your phone to change the song because doing leg extensions to any country love song just doesn’t do it for me, but in every other case you have two options; go take your Instagram stalking somewhere else, or put that phone away and do the work!

Keep bodily noises and dropping weights to a minimum

If you ever walk into a Planet Fitness, they have something called the “Lunk Alarm” which is specifically for those who grunt, or drop their weights. This would not exist if it weren’t a problem. I have been in the gym when people sound like they are dying, giving birth, just ran a marathon, and even singing along out loud the song on their headphones. While there is nothing wrong with that, sometimes you gotta do whatever you gotta do to make it through a workout, I can’t deny that it makes people around that certain person feel extremely uncomfortable and irritable. I’m guilty for wanting to throw my phone at the person who cleared his throat very loudly every 30 seconds, or ellipticalled like a maniac making it sound like he was going to break off the machine and fly away. Additionally, dropping your ten pound weights after five bicep curls is absolutely uncalled for and scares the daylights out of anyone not expecting it. I can’t help but recall the time a guy dropped a giant barbell which made it feel like there was an earthquake in the gym. Finishing a set does not require a “mic drop” finish at end. Don’t be a lunk!

Get off the squeaky machine

This relates to my previous point about making people irritable. There are many times where I have been on a machine next to someone and it sounds like a dying animal, yet they aren’t phased at all by the high pitch screetch every stride. I understand that the new Air Pods cancel out all outside noise, but if you have the whole cardio section turning around to stare at you, chances are it isn’t because they’re noticing that new workout top you have on or that you have been doing more squats lately because your booty is popping. Please, for everyone’s ears and sanity, go use the identical machine right next to you that doesn’t sound like a seagull.

Don’t mind the mirror selfies

This rule is for both the picture taker, and the observer. Honestly, this “rule” isn’t weird at all. I think mirror pictures are great for those tracking progress over a couple months or feeling really confident in their skin that day, so let those people have their moments without making them feel embarrassed! Yes, I have been caught taking post workout mirror pictures for my fitness Instagram page, and yes, it was very awkward when someone noticed what I was doing, which is why it is best to pretend you saw absolutely nothing just like you would when someone trips in public or accidentally drops their towel while changing in the locker room. I’ve witnessed a guy taking mirror pics for a good five minute (he wasn’t on a weight machine so it’s ok) and everyone just walked on by him like he wasn’t checking out how big his biceps were. It’s also not uncommon to see people filming themselves, me included. As weird as it looks, I always appreciate when people don’t notice that I’m filming some burpee variations because it ultimately benefits others! Don’t knock it now, because I bet you that you will take a gym picture at LEAST once in your future.

Do not correct someone’s form unless they ask

There is a distinct difference between the cardio and weight section. People like to talk to each other while casually ellipticalling, or catch up with friends in the cardio zone. When it comes to weights, everyone is in the zone by watching form, counting reps, trying not to drop a very heavy object on their head, and probably listening to hardcore rap or metal (unless you listen to the occasional Jo Bros and Hannah Montanta like me). The last thing someone wants is to be told they are doing something wrong, especially when they are holding a heavy object in their hand that could take your head off. The gym is a place where people can build muscle, and confidence, and when a stranger comments that your butt isn’t back far enough on your deadlift, that totally contradicts that and makes them feel intimidated. I’ve had people ask me in HIIT classes what they can do to better their form, and of course I tell them, but only if they want me to. When it comes to the weight section, leave it to Personal Trainers to correct form because their clients are truly seeking the advice and don’t want to be corrected about their bicep curls from someone with toothpick arms!

Use a towel

I relate personally to this one because as I have stated in my previous posts, I become a sweaty tomato when I get my heart rate up, and drip like an icecream cone on a hot day. It is so gross getting on a machine where someone’s sweat puddles remain from their literal sweat session. I can’t go a workout without a towel because if I did, I would have streaks of my so called “waterproof” mascara running down my cheeks. There have been a handful of times I have gotten on a stairmaster with someone else’s sweat all over the handles. As much as I tell myself it is probably their water bottle that dripped, I know deep down that just isn’t the case. Just like you would wipe up a spill on your counter, please please please wipe up the spills coming from your forehead and everywhere else.

Keep chatting and PDA away from high traffic areas

One of the things I enjoy most about the gym is the sense of community, and befriending people you probably never would have without it. That being said, it is so easy to find your friends and start venting about life right in front of the squat racks, by the wipe dispenser, or at the entrance of the locker room. This isn’t a huge problem, but there are some people that seem to be on a mission, and losing two seconds in a workout due to having to go an alternate way can really get their muscle tanks in a twist. If anything, this gives you and your friends an excuse to go down to the Life Cafe or out to lunch to catch up without a frustrated sweaty person in sight. PDA may seem like a strange place for the gym, but there are so many couples there working out that it happens more than you think. Don’t get me wrong, I think it is goals when couples spot each other, or hit a new personal record and share a quick smooch, but when you are making out right in front of the water fountain, that’s when PDA becomes a problem. Lastly, I have been stuck behind a couple that held hands walking from machine to machine and it is very hard to get around a literal bond like that!

Sharing is caring

Just like our parents taught us to share our toys and put them back after we were done, weights are the adult version of toys. Imagine this: you have one hour to get a workout in and planned it the night before. When you go to the weight rack, ready to crush this weight session, you only see one 20 pound weight when you need two. You compromise and go for the 22.5 pounders or 17.5 pounders instead, but notice there is only one of each. You then look over at the person on the bench next to you and they have a weight rainbow, one of everything, hoarding all the weights when only using the tiny pink ones. You wait patiently for them to put the 20 pound weight back with its match, but instead, they just get up and walk away, leaving the weights scattered all over the floor like a toddler with Legos. If you pull that move, people will remember you as “that guy” for the rest of your days. Channel your inner child and put your weights back after using the sets you need because tripping over weights is almost as painful as stepping on a Lego.

Keep sips short

Staying hydrated during a workout is super important for muscle repair and keeping energy up, but hydration does not require a leisurely happy hour at the water fountain, or large gulps like you’ve been stuck in the desert for years. A common theme throughout this post is time – people like to get in and out of the gym, and they don’t like to wait for anything. I’ve personally experienced what it feels like when you’re holding up the line. One time I was filling up my water bottle, and a couple of intimidating guys with giant muscles were waiting behind me. This may not seem like a huge deal, but when the water is streaming out at the speed of molasses and my water bottle is only 1/4 full, it gets really uncomfortable as you feel their stares on your back. It’s an equivalent feeling to when you are trying to put your change back in your wallet after checking out and the person behind you is waiting for you to get out of the way- pressure is on! I now make sure my water bottle is full before I go to the gym so I don’t delay anyone’s #gainz.

Respect marked territory

It is crazy how territorial people can get in the gym, and even I am. People know which elliptical is “mine” (under the air vent) and they won’t go on it if I show up. In return I know which one is “theirs.” In group exercise classes, placing a mat on the ground is basically the same thing as making a reservation at a restaurant. The same goes for the weight section. If there is a towel, free weights, or a phone on a bench, it is taken, so don’t move it. There could be no one in the gym but if there is something on that bench, it is taken, no questions asked. Communication in the gym is so different because everyone walks around with their earbuds in – which leaves it all to body language and non verbals. I have been working out before and someone will come up to me and just point at a bench with their eyebrows raised which I’ve learned translates to “is this bench taken?” Learn the language of the gym and your life will become so much easier. If you move someone’s stuff on a bench, they won’t tell you it’s theirs, instead they will most likely stare you down in the mirror while you carry on with your workout as if they have just been evicted. Stay in your lane, stay in your territory, and you will be golden.

You are what you wear

People will remember you based on what you show up in, which is why I will forever be the “matching bun girl” because I wear my gymnast bun and scrunchie that matches my outfit every single day. This is proven by the fact that someone at the gym saw me at a restaurant and approached me saying “you’re the bun girl!” That being said, wear what you want to be remembered as. I have to admit that I can’t help but laugh when I see some questionable choices worn to the gym. I am thoroughly impressed by the people who work out in jeans or khakis, those things have no flex at all, so props to you. Some honorable mentions are the groutfits, cowboy boots, moon bounce shoes, a puffer vest with no shirt on under it, galaxy cat leggings guy, all green guy, wind suit guy, shirtless hairy guy, guy with giant quads but tiny shorts, the Lululemon wearing grandma (you go girl), the short shorts guy, knee high socks lady, and the “Sloth Running Club” shirt guy. When it comes to gym fashion, it’s all over the place.

Know where to look in the locker room

I don’t know if this is the same in the guy’s locker room, but it is very strong in the ladies locker room. There are people that are very confident in their skin and have no problem walking around butt naked (which I still can’t get used to not going to lie), but on the other hand there are some people just starting their fitness journey and may not even feel comfortable changing. Because of this, it is important to be conscious of one another and respect their privacy even though there is none at all. Maybe someone looks fantastic and you are admiring their abs, but they can’t read your mind, so they may think you’re staring at them for a different reason. I still remember my first time walking into the Lifetime locker room as a 12 year old and immediately looking at an older woman who was sporting her birthday suit. As terrible as it sounds, I didn’t know what to do because I had never seen that, or granny panties, before. I was just frozen staring at her until she realized I was either mesmerized or scarred. I can imagine this was very similar to the feeling the custodian had my sophomore year when I flashed him (for those of you that have been loyal readers, you know I had to drop that in here somewhere). I think we can agree that we wouldn’t want strangers looking at what God gave us no matter how many squats or chest presses you’ve been doing, so save the awkwardness and mind your business! Lastly, when holding a conversation with someone stripping down at the same time, keep steady eye contact and do not look down πŸ™‚

Build others up

I love the gym for several reasons, but the biggest one is that it is a great place to learn. I have not always been into fitness – I was used to bars, chalk, springboards, and beams for 16 years of my life. I never went into a weight room until college. The day I retired from gymnastics and entered the actual gym, I was completely intimidated. It took me about three years after I joined the gym to feel comfortable in the weight section. I used to avoid anything I didn’t know how to do because I was afraid of looking like an idiot, but the reason I am so confident in what I do now is because I had the ability to push the pull machine without any judgement or finger pointing. Mistakes were accepted and not shunned. I will go ahead and say that you do see some pretty interesting things in the gym (there are Instagram accounts dedicated to people doing weird things on weight machines), but what you will notice is that no one is making them feel inferior. We learn through watching others, and that is how I eventually learned that the push machine was in fact a pull machine. If you feel lost in the gym, chances are, no one actually notices because everyone is doing their own thing. Don’t take three years to go try something new like I did, because there is no shame in doing it wrong the first time!

As intimidating as the gym may seem, if you break it down, it’s a place to pick up things and put them down again, pull things, push things, run in place for a while, climb some stairs, etc. Everyone can do that, which means you aren’t out of place at all! It’s funny to see what unwritten rules are made in different environments, and as weird as they may sound at face value, you soon come to realize that you start to do them too! Next time you hit the gym, look for these unwritten rules, because they definitely are there!

Happy 2020, everyone! I hope those resolutions aren’t putting the “dead” in deadlift πŸ˜‰

~Lauren