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A Gift Horse of a Different Color

This week is my sister’s birthday and American Thanksgiving - Hooray! In honor of these holidays, as well as the upcoming winter holiday season, I want to talk about gift giving and how we can improve it.

There’s a book that you’ve probably heard of called ‘The Five Love Languages’ by Gary Chapman. The book outlines five ways that Gary believes people like to show and receive affection for each other: Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Receiving Gifts, Quality Time, and Physical Touch. While I’m sure there are other cases and circumstances outside of these five options, for the most part his theory seems to make a lot of sense. You can take the quiz for yourself if you’d like.

 Presents under a Christmas tree from Wiki Commons

Presents under a Christmas tree from Wiki Commons

The main reason I’m mentioning this book is because as the year winds down and we get closer to a lot of gift-giving holidays, particularly Christmas, I think a lot of people focus only on the “Receiving Gifts” aspect of showing affection, however, most people (including you) probably would love any of the other four options just as much.

Consider that even if everyone was spread out so that one of the five love languages was their top favorite equally, then only 1/5th of people would really prefer “Receiving Gifts” over some of the other options. For instance, my sister prefers Quality Time, so while she still enjoys gifts, spending time with her going a hike is something she loves even more.

By considering other things they might like that aren’t traditional “gifts” - doing yard work for them, going to a festival together, volunteering at a local shelter, creating a booklet of all the reasons you care about them - you really open yourself up to more unique options that they might like even better, while also saving you money. (Pinterest is a great place to find nontraditional gift ideas like these if you want more examples.)

This is especially important since not all of us have enough money to go buy something for all the people we care about that they may or may not like. And not to mention, not everyone we care about will even want gifts. One of my relatives, for example, is really against what they feel is the ‘mandatory gift giving’ that happens every year around Christmas. If they see something nice for someone they will buy it for them any time of the year, but they don’t want to have to buy something just to buy something.

If you are dead set on getting someone a more traditional gift whether it’s because it’s what is expected or you just happen to know that this is really what they want, that’s completely fine. My family still gives gifts every Christmas with a $20 gift limit, but that’s just us. Do what you feel is right for your situation and the people you care about. They will appreciate anything you do for them as long as it comes with your kind thoughts and good intentions.

Hopefully this opens your’s and other’s eyes to different ways of showing someone you care about them, as well as learning something new about yourself.

Had you heard of this book before? What’s your top Love Languages? Are you surprised at what your family members’ are?

Until next time,

Caitlin

My PC Specifics - Part 2.5 of 4 on How to Build a Computer: Advice from a Local Big Sister

If you haven’t already, I’d recommend checking out my last post on Planning and Buying Parts for your pc build where I give more detailed advice on the what, where, when, and why of pc part research.

This is going to be a breakdown/introduction to my computer build as an example for you to use for your build. As an FYI, my budget was $1,000 so the parts you are looking at may be more or less expensive depending on what you are willing to spend. This build was also a combination of a gaming build merged with a graphic design build. I’ll be sure to call out which parts were nicer quality for which build below.

 This is a photo of my computer’s guts

This is a photo of my computer’s guts

So without further ado, it’s time to meet my technological daughter! <3

After all the work, research, and money I’ve put into her, she feels a bit like what I assume Doctor Frankenstein felt when his creation first came to life. And as an added bonus, my computer can’t attack local villagers like his creation did.

I built her with function over form in mind - meaning that I didn’t focus on all the parts being similar colors or getting LEDs to show off the guts. I just focused on getting good quality parts that were within my $1,000 budget. I could definitely see myself getting into the design and coloring of my pc later in life, but for my first build I wasn’t too concerned with that.

Her Specs/Guts

Processor (CPU): Intel 8th Gen Core i5-8400 ($170) -- I opted for a nicer CPU due to graphic design programs tending to be harder on CPUs. If you were going for a straight gaming build with the same budget, you could opt for a cheaper CPU.

Graphics Card (GPU): MSI GeForce GTX 1050 Ti ($200) -- Better quality GPU since I use this computer for gaming. If this were a graphic design only build, a simpler GPU would be fine.

Motherboard: MSI ATX Z370-A Pro ($100)

Memory (Ram): 8GB DDR4 ($87)

Solid State Drive (SSD): Crucial MX300 275GB ($110)

Power Supply (PSU): EVGA 500 B1 ($50)

Case: Fractal Design Focus G ATX Mid Tower ($50)

Fans: Set of Two 120mm Case Fans ($6) -- Two nice fans already came in my case so I only bought two more.

WiFi Adapter: Netgear Wireless AC Adapter ($60) -- I actually forgot to buy this until after I built the whole machine so it technically wasn’t in my budget, but seeing as you’ll probably also use one, I added it to the total cost below.

Monitor: Acer 23.8 inch Monitor ($130) -- I already had this to use with my laptop so I didn’t have to add this into my budget, but I will add it into the total for this exercise.

Keyboard and Mouse: Logitech MK520 Wireless Keyboard and Mouse Combo ($30)

DVD/CD Drive: Asus DVD-RW Drive ($20)

Operating System (OS): Windows 10 ($100)

Total Cost: $1,113 (without monitor, $983)

Remember to add in the cost of your security system, design programs, and anything else you know you will need to get your computer build set up. I didn’t add them here because those will differ from person to person and can vastly change your total cost. And another reminder, I got these parts during Amazon Prime Day 2018 so they were likely cheaper than they are now.

In the next part of this series I’ll go into Building Your PC, such as where parts should go, fan set up, and in depth tutorials that I recommend. That’s coming out on Nov. 26th, around when your purchases will probably be arriving from Amazon and Newegg, so stay tuned!

I hope you enjoyed meeting my computer! What kind of setup are planning to build? Have you giving your computer a name?

Until next time,

Caitlin

Planning & Buying Parts - Part 2 of 4 on How to Build a Computer: Advice from a Local Big Sister

Now that you’ve decided to build to a pc, we can move on to the next step, research.

Although research is the most time intensive parts of building a computer, I’ve compiled most of the resources and information that I used below to save you some time. (As a warning, this post is pretty long, as I’ve tried to give you a full catalogue of information to work with.)

When planning out your computer, the first thing you need to do is:

 Young woman (hopefully) researching computer parts by Rawpixel from Unsplash

Young woman (hopefully) researching computer parts by Rawpixel from Unsplash

Set Your Overall Budget

Before you look at anything you need to know how much you can spend, because that will determine what parts you should get. You can definitely build a decent computer on a budget, or you can plan out to buy pieces one at a time as you can afford them instead of all at once. Either way, it’s important to use your budget as parameters otherwise the vast selection of parts can be a bit overwhelming.

Decide How Your Computer Will Be Used

Gaming? Video editing? Surfing the web? Depending on what you use your computer for, different parts will be more or less important (which affects what percentage of your budget you should spend on them).

For instance, with gaming builds you want a higher quality graphics card so that the games not only play well but also look nice. Meanwhile, a computer built for graphic design will need a better CPU to process the large design programs properly. I’ve linked to some example computer builds (including mine) below if, like me, you’re not sure where to start.

Where & When to Buy

The two best places that I found for buying pc parts were Amazon and Newegg. Newegg tended to have better prices than Amazon, however I have an Amazon Prime account so occasionally the difference was close enough that Amazon’s free shipping made it cheaper.

If you can wait, I would highly recommend buying during a big sale event. I bought most of my parts during Amazon Prime Day, which Newegg competed with by having their own big sale event on the same day. I ended up saving about $200, which meant I was able to get a few slightly nicer parts than originally planned since my budget now had more wiggle room.

With Black Friday and Cyber Monday coming up soon, you likely won’t need to wait long for a big sale event. But if you happen to be reading this after November, Amazon Prime Day (July 16) as well as Amazon and Newegg ‘Daily Deals’ tend to have decent savings. I’d also check Clark Howard’s website for deals you might not know about.

 Close-up of a motherboard taken by Aler Kiv from Unsplash

Close-up of a motherboard taken by Aler Kiv from Unsplash

Basic List of Parts & Info on Each

Processor (CPU) -- The CPU is the brain of the computer and is what your programs will be running through.

Graphics Card (GPU) -- As you decide what you want your computer for, that will determine the size and cost of your GPU. Depending on what you need, your GPU could range from a small card that is included with the motherboard, or a large card that has to be specially attached because it is too heavy to stay hooked in by itself.

Motherboard -- Your motherboard helps all your other parts talk to each other. Therefore you want to make sure they are all compatible (especially your CPU) to your motherboard otherwise they won’t be able to talk.

Memory (Ram) -- Memory, also known as Ram, is comparable to the short-term memory of your pc. When you are actively using a program on your computer, like a web browser or Microsoft Word, it runs through your Ram to temporarily store what you are doing.

Hard Drive (HDD)/Solid State Drive (SSD) -- HDDs and SSDs are like the long-term memory of your computer. That’s where any programs, music, pictures, etc. that you save onto your device will be stored.

Power Supply (PSU) -- The power supply is essentially the battery of your machine (although it consistently has to be plugged into a wall). It makes sure to draw enough power from a wall outlet so that your system can run smoothly.

Case -- What holds all your pieces together! The case also protects the sensitive parts of your set up safe from damage. Most cases are pretty good, just make sure that everything you’re getting will fit. The only cases I’d warn against are Mini Towers since you usually have to buy special small parts to make sure it all fits.

Fans -- Fans keep the inside of the case cool, clean, and at a proper pressure level. (I’ll go into this more once we start building.) Most cases will come with a few fans, but I’d aim to have four unless you have a crazy big set up, then I’d search online for suggestions.

WiFi Adapter -- This allows your computer to link with WiFi in the area. You can also always go old school and use an ethernet cable if you prefer. Ethernet cables tend to be a more consistent connection, although obviously you then are limited how far the computer can be from the WiFi Router. Also, I’d make sure not to skimp on this as a poor quality WiFi Adapter can mean a bad connection to the internet, which most of you will probably be consistently using.

Operating System (OS) -- If you don’t have a preference, I’d suggest Windows 10 as your operating system as it has the widest range of support and compatibility. Almost all games and programs will work on Windows, however there are a select few that only work on Apple or Linux, so be sure to double check that if there is a program you have to use.

Anti-Static Wrist Strap -- Not technically part of the computer, but necessary for building. I’m only mentioning it hear so that you don’t forget to buy one when you get everything else.

 A sleek photo of someone’s pc build taken by Luke Hodde from Unsplash

A sleek photo of someone’s pc build taken by Luke Hodde from Unsplash

Parts You Might Already Have

Monitor -- Some people have monitors lying around from old desktops or because they wanted a bigger screen when on their laptops at home. If it’s either a new TV or a computer monitor, I’d recommend buying the computer monitor and using it as a TV screen when needed because monitors tend to have higher quality graphics. Also, be aware that not all monitors come with built in speakers, so you might need to add in the cost of that as well.

Keyboard and Mouse -- If you are building your pc for gaming you might want to look at keyboards that are recommended for that, but overall, you can just use whatever you have. Just make sure the motherboard you are getting will attach to your mouse and keyboard plugs.

Gaming/Design/Microsoft Suite Programs -- Whatever programs you will need to get your set up to where you need it to be. A lot of these programs have free alternatives so if getting Adobe Photoshop is going to break your budget, maybe try out Krita.

Controllers/Headset/Tablets -- Whatever you need to be successful in your programs.

“Add on” Parts

DVD/CD Drive -- If you are on the fence about getting one, I’d recommend it. It gives you more flexibility when buying games, movies, or music so that you don’t have to always buy the online version.

Security System -- I’d highly recommend a security system for your computer, that way all your time and work won’t be destroyed accidentally. If nothing else, I’d suggest Avast Antivirus’s free version. It’s well ranked and offers a lot of free features to keep your system safe. But again, I’d suggest paying for one on top of that once you are able.

LEDs/Lights -- Not necessary, but some pc builders like to add in lights to add some flair and excitement whenever their system is on.

Resources I Recommend Checking out

Tom’s Hardware -- Tom’s Hardware ranks parts based on several intense criteria pieces and shares all of their findings with readers for free. It’s one of the best resources when you just aren’t certain which piece is the best bang for your buck. Great resources for anything computer related, not just gaming. They also have a catalog of recommended builds based on budget.

PC Gamer -- This site discusses all things related to gaming on your pc, including how to create a budget gaming computer. They also have a nice tutorial that walks you through the actual building process, which is getting a little ahead of ourselves, but I’ve included it here just in case you’re curious.

 One of my favorite streamers, Dexbonus, has her computer specs listed on her website (PressHeartToContinue.com), there is even a discount code that could help you save money.

One of my favorite streamers, Dexbonus, has her computer specs listed on her website (PressHeartToContinue.com), there is even a discount code that could help you save money.

Creative Pro -- The Creative Pro website is mostly about graphic design in general, but they do have some suggestions for building a graphic design heavy computer that I’d recommend if you are building yours for design.

Your favorite gamer, designer, etc. -- Most “internet celebrities” like artists, video editors, and video game streamers will have a section of their site that lists their computer build and parts. They likely will have a much larger budget than you or I, however if you take a look at their parts and can see what pieces they spent the most money on, it will likely give you an idea where to spend your money (assuming you are going for a similar build). If you ask nicely, they might even share the information for one of their first builds!

Clark Howard -- Although technically an advice website on saving money, Clark Howard usually has really good posts on what types of technology are on sale at different stores, especially around Black Friday.

Other Helpful Hints

Make sure everything hooks up to your motherboard. Almost everything will attach to your motherboard, so make sure everything from your keyboard to your CPU are compatible. If you need some help making sure it all fits together, check out this awesome motherboard guide from Tom’s Hardware.

Get a Bronze or better power supply. Bronze PSUs and better have been regarded as better power supply units and tend to work a lot more efficiently, giving you more power for less electricity.

I’d recommend Solid State Drives over Hard Drives. HDDs have a small part in them that spins. This part will eventually break, rendering the HDD unusable. SSDs don’t have this spinning piece so they last a lot longer. However, HDDs are cheaper and won’t break immediately, so they could be a good purchase for now to them replace later.

Definitely buy an anti-static wrist strap. A lot of the parts in your computer will be sensitive to static electricity (so sensitive that wearing socks on carpet can fry them), so having an anti-static wrist strap assures that everything will stay safe and not electrocuted.

This post is already plenty long, so you can check out my personal build in another post as another example to work off of. Part three of this series is going to be about actually building the computer, so stay tuned for that on Nov. 26th.

Is there anything else you’d like to know about building your own computers? Are there any other resources you’ve found helpful while planning your build?

Until next time,

Caitlin

Definitive Ranking of Cherry Flavored Sodas

Ever get a craving for delicious cherry flavored soda, but don't know which one to buy because there are just too many choices?

Me neither, but if that ever did happen, here's what you should know:

 A beautiful pile of cherries, whom we should thank for the delicious drink that is cherry soda, from Wiki Commons

A beautiful pile of cherries, whom we should thank for the delicious drink that is cherry soda, from Wiki Commons

1. Cherry Coke - I'm starting off with the best cherry flavored carbonated beverage, because we don't all have time to scroll through long complex lists. You need that sweet nectar ASAP and boy, did it deliver.

2. Shirley Temple - Just Sprite/Sierra Mist with grenadine added in. Really simple drink that quickly shows everyone you are out to dinner with that you are fancy as hell.

3. Mr. Pibb - Technically called Pibb Xtra now, it sports a "spicy cherry" flavor that is out of this world.

4. Cheerwine - Haling from North Carolina, this is a true cherry soda. Non-alcoholic so you can choose to share with everyone or no one.

5. Cherry Limeade - Not sure if this is a cherry flavored lime drink or a lime flavored cherry drink, but it's delicious none the less. Sonic's is especially good and even has that quality crunchy ice, in case you were wondering.

6. Roy Rogers - Cola soda with grenadine. Basically a DIY Cherry Coke from a time before Cherry Coke existed.

7. Cherry Pepsi - Not terrible but not great. Definitely cherry flavored.

8. Dr. Pepper - It boasts having 23 flavors, one of which is cherry, but honestly, the cherry kind-of got lost in that crowd. Still a solid soda by itself though.

9. Mountain Dew Code Red - Good option for people whom you don't want to waste the good stuff on. Preteens seem to love it.

10. Store Brand Black Cherry Soda - Great way to convince others that cherry soda is disgusting so they will never drink yours. Could be used to wean yourself off of your soda addiction.

 A vintage ad for Cherry Coke from the Coca-Cola company that I fully support

A vintage ad for Cherry Coke from the Coca-Cola company that I fully support

There are other cherry flavored sodas, but I feel like these are the most important ones for you to keep your eyes on.

What's your favorite soda? Are there any cherry sodas you feel should be added? Were you also addicted to Mountain Dew Code Red as a preteen like I was?

Until next time,

Caitlin

Should I Build a PC? - Part 1 of 4 on How to Build a Computer: Advice from a Local Big Sister

Before we get into whether or not you should build a pc, I want to bust some myths that I know I personally hear all the time:

“It’s really difficult to build a computer. You can’t do it unless you have some sort of degree in it.” -- I’d really like to pretend this was true and give myself a pat on the back for being “so smart”, but it’s really not that difficult. Even if you have very little computer knowledge, many websites and kind souls across the internet break down exactly how it all works,goes together, and what to get.

“Building a pc is soooo expensive. You shouldn’t even bother unless you have a lot of money.” -- I’ll talk about this more later, but actually building your own pc will save you a lot of money in the long run, especially if you’re just going to buy a pre-made desktop instead. Plus, if you’re that strapped for cash, you can just buy your parts individually as you save up money instead of one big purchase.

“People only build computers for video games.” -- First of all, video games are great, so there’s no problem if you are building a computer for better gaming. However, that’s not the only reason one might be good for you. I myself use my pc for a lot of graphic design work, and lots of people use them for video editing and other intensive software needs - all of which are fine reasons to build your own pc.

But all that being said, maybe you’re still on the fence as to if you want to build one or not. If so, let me break down some of the pros and cons of building your very own desktop computer.

 I promise you building your own computer is not nearly as difficult as people would have you believe, photo by Umanoide on Unsplash

I promise you building your own computer is not nearly as difficult as people would have you believe, photo by Umanoide on Unsplash

Pros

Easy to Update

In essence, a pc that you build yourself can grow with you. As you save up money or as your needs for a computer change, you can switch out sections of your pc for newer and better pieces while keeping it overall the same. This will also save you money in the long run, because if your CPU dies, you won’t have to go out and buy a whole new computer, just a new CPU. Pre-built computers (laptops especially) tend to have pieces that are soldered together to save space and money, meaning that if one of those pieces dies, you might have to just replace the entire machine.

Better Parts for Less Money

A good chunk of the cost of a pre-made computer goes to the labor of the computer being built for you.That means that when you buy a $1,000 computer, you are actually getting parts that are equivalent to around $600 - versus if you build it yourself you can spend all of that money on the parts, giving you a machine that is actually worth the $1,000.

The Price Is Right

Let’s be honest, computers are expensive, especially your ideal version of one. However, that is true of all computers, not just ones you build yourself. And since a pc you build yourself isn’t pre-assembled, you can work on buying one piece at a time as you are able, instead of putting down the one large lump sum you would have to do for a pre-built one.

Bragging Rights & Technical Skills

This probably isn’t something everyone thinks about, but when you build your own computer you are investing in a new skill that many other people don’t have. While it may not be something you put on your resume, being technically savvy is only a positive in our current “digital” age.

Cons

Difficult to Travel with

Travel-ability is probably the biggest weakness of building your own computer, since laptops are difficult to build yourself and you can probably imagine how awkward it would be to drag a desktop computer into a coffee shop with you. That being said, if you had a laptop already, you could remotely access your desktop computer, in essence, using your fancy computer on a different computer. But unless you have a laptop available to use, it would be difficult to use your computer anywhere outside of your home. If mobility is very important for you, building your own computer might not be the best idea.

“All I Do Is Surf the Web”

If all you use your computer for is occasional web surfing and listening to YouTube playlists, then building a computer probably isn’t necessary for you. You can definitely still build one if you want, but you could probably buy a cheap tablet or laptop and get great use out of that for a lot less money. It all just depends on your computer habits, needs, and interests.


Hopefully this has helped you decide if you should build your own pc or not. Either way, I hope you enjoy the next part of this series on Planning and Buying Parts.

Until next time,

Caitlin

The Summer of the Teal Hair

Not too long ago, I dyed my hair teal for the summer. It was something I had always wanted to do but it never seemed like the right time, so I just decided to make it the right time.

 Hiking through nature with my teal hair

Hiking through nature with my teal hair

I'm not sure what I had expected, but I didn't really feel any different after dyeing it. In fact, since I keep my hair short, I couldn't even really tell it had changed unless I was looking in a mirror.

Everyone else noticed though.

I got a lot of strange reactions. Generally people would just stare at me when they thought I wasn't looking, but I got plenty of comments as well.

"Oh no! Your hair is tarnishing!"

"Hmmm, something's different about you... I think it's your lipstick. Hahaha!"

"That looks really nice. It brings out your eyes!" They then turned to their child and said, "Don't you ever do that."

Mainly though, people would walk up to me and ask me questions (usually about my hair), even when I was clearly not the person to be asking. For instance, while walking with my cousin around a college campus for a tour, we noticed some other visitors were trailing us. They later admitted they had been following us because my bright hair made us an easy marker to follow.

My hair seemed to be a magnet drawing attention to me; making me appear more approachable. People would walk up, start a conversation with me, as if my hair was somehow an invitation to a discussion.

And don't get me wrong, I'm a rather extroverted person, so I enjoy a good conversation while waiting in the check-out line at Food Lion. My main issue was that these conversations tended to have little to do with how I felt about my hair. Instead, they centered on how they felt about my hair. No matter what I said, everyone else would give me their two cents on what having dyed hair meant to them.

 Close-up of my hair color

Close-up of my hair color

My hair being dyed teal had had almost no affect on how I acted, but a large affect on how people acted towards me.

People became either friendlier or more skeptical. They felt so passionate towards my hair that they didn't want me to get rid of it, even if they said they would never dye theirs. My hair became a beacon for them to look at and feel they understood me better. It seems that having teal hair made me easier to stereotype and place in a box than someone with brown hair.

It didn't matter what I did: talk a lot or a little, agree or disagree, etc. people would draw their own conclusions about me based on their assumptions from my hair color.

But the crazy thing is, its just hair.

Its a fuzzy hat that you wear around everyday, like a favorite shirt. It shouldn't have any affect on how people act towards you and yet the difference between a Star Wars graphic tee and a white button down can be the difference between a lot of things. Even if it shouldn't be.

(Again, this was all based on my short, few months of having colorful hair, so there are bound to be some differences between my experience and other peoples'.)

What has been your experience with colored hair? Would you ever color your hair if you haven't?

Until next time,

Caitlin

How to Bake Like a Pro

In high school I owned my own cupcake business along with a friend of mine. We loved baking for fun and figured we might as well get paid for it. Therefore, I'm going to give you some simple advice, coming from my professional experience. Some of these will be obvious, but a simple change can make a big difference.

1. Have a recipe you trust.

The most important thing when making any food, is having a recipe you trust. For instance, Paula Dean is known for her southern fried comfort food, so a recipe from her on kale chips might not be the best idea, while her mac and cheese recipe is probably stellar. This is especially important if you've never made the food before as you'll likely have no idea what anything should look like as you go. A good recipe is your guide through the unmapped wilderness of cooking and baking.

 A delicious pie waiting to be baked, from Wiki Commons

A delicious pie waiting to be baked, from Wiki Commons

2. What are you aiming for?

It's good to know how you want the food to turn out. With cookies, for example, some people like crunchy while others like soft, this won't be as big of a deal with cupcakes, but depending on what you add, your cupcakes/cake could be dry or moist, dense or light, and compacted or crumbly. Recipes will usually give you an idea of how they will turn out and if you are looking online, reviews will also give you a sense of how everything ends up. (This can also be helpful if you know something generally comes out dry, you can then try adding a bit more liquid to the recipe to see if it keeps it more moist.)

3. Use a cake box mix.

If you're baking a cake or cupcakes for a casual event and want to save time, then I would recommend using a box mix, especially on a basic chocolate or vanilla recipe. However, I would also suggest adding in a packet of instant pudding to the mix. (You add it to the dry mix at the beginning and don't need to change anything else in the recipe.) It makes cake mixes richer and more moist, as well as keeping them from tasting exactly like a cake mix. This can also give you more flavor variety, by adding different flavors of instant pudding to different mixes. Some people even make soft cookies with cake mixes.

While I will say baking from scratch is generally preferable, saving time and energy is also important. Let’s work smarter, not harder.

4. Read the recipe before starting anything.

Mix or not, there is nothing worse than getting halfway through a recipe you're excited about and realizing you don't have pumpkin puree or a food processor, and that it's going to take three hours to cook. Make sure you're prepared.

 Delicious cupcakes from Wiki Commons

Delicious cupcakes from Wiki Commons

5. Sample the goods.

Sometimes desserts look perfect but taste horrible because you forgot half the sugar or the inside is under cooked. I always bake a small separate piece, so I can sample without messing up the finished product. You can also usually find a few willing taste testers if needed to help you decide if you’re on the right track. :)

If it didn’t turn out how you wanted, that’s ok! You still tried something new and that’s always a step in the right direction. Even after several years of baking professionally, I still have weird batches of cupcakes every now and then, so don’t ever let that discourage you! Just trust me, it’s better to know if your food needs to be redone in the privacy of your kitchen instead of at the event with everyone there.

6. Make the dessert the same day as the event.

The closer to the event you can bake your dessert, the closer it will be to the desired taste and texture. This isn't always an option, but if you can work it so you're baked goods are done 30 minutes before you have to leave for the event, they will be richer and more moist than if they've waited overnight.

7. Store everything properly.

Whether you had to bake a day ahead or have extras left over, as a general rule of thumb, use plastic containers to keep the food soft and glass to keep them crisp/crunchy.

8. Never skimp on the icing!

While boxed cake mixes are generally fine, canned icing is not. Homemade icing can be as simple as pouring powdered sugar and milk into a mixing bowl until it's the consistency you want but will taste so much better. Making your own icing takes any dessert to the next level.

9. Always make fudgy brownies.

If they wanted cake, they would have eaten cake.

 Family baking together, from Wiki Commons

Family baking together, from Wiki Commons

10. Have fun!

Baking is really just about trying new things and bringing joy. Don't get too upset if it doesn't turn out how you hoped; it's just a part of the process. Worst case you can always buy something to replace the food, but you can't replace the memories and smiles. :)

Until next time,

Caitlin

Which Is Better: Extroverts or Introverts

Neither. The answer is neither.

The same answer applies to these questions: Who reads more? Who exercises more? Who likes more guacamole from Chipotle?

'Extrovert' and 'introvert' are consistently misused in everyday conversations to mean someone who is more outgoing or someone who is shy. However those things are not the same.

Extroverts are not necessarily the outgoing, talkative, life of the party; just as introverts are not necessarily the shy and reserved bookworm at the back of the class.

What these terms mean, is where someone gets their energy from. An extrovert feels energized when they are around others and drained when they are alone for long periods of time, while introverts get energy boosts from alone time and feel more drained the longer they are with others.

 “Conversation” by Camille Pissarro from Wiki Commons

“Conversation” by Camille Pissarro from Wiki Commons

And while they are on opposite ends of a sliding scale, most people lie within the middle and exhibit traits of both in different settings.

For instance, an introvert might not feel drained at all during a weekend camping trip with three of their closest friends, while an extrovert might need a few hours alone after a full workday to refresh.

Most people understand this idea generally, but start to get confused when discussing how being outgoing or shy is a separate part of one's personality from their extroversion/introversion.

An extrovert can be shy and reserved, while an introvert can be talkative and outgoing. They are not mutually exclusive. People just tend to assume that anyone who draws energy from others would be outgoing while anyone more inclined to alone time would be reserved, which is inaccurate.

I for one, used to be very shy as a child and was often mistaken as an introvert. To the point where when I eventually realized I was an extrovert, old friends and teachers didn't believe me. This is because they didn't understand that I still got energy from being around others, even if I wasn't necessarily engaging with them.

However, a lot of extroverts do work hard to be seen as outgoing if they are naturally more shy, like I did. This is because it's hard to meet people and engage with others if you are extremely shy, making it more difficult for you to gain that energy boost you need. Introverts on the other hand don't necessarily feel the need to be as social or outgoing, since they feel drained after long periods with others anyways. If an introvert is shy to begin with, they just may not put as much importance in learning those skills as a shy extrovert would. Meanwhile an outgoing introvert can choose to utilize those skills when they want.

That being said, anyone can be as outgoing or gregarious as they want. Social skills are built, like any other skill, with practice. Someone will always have a natural talent, but by working hard anyone can achieve their goal of being an Antisocial or Social Butterfly.

The path is yours!

Until next time,

Caitlin

31 Movies to Get into the Halloween Spirit

In honor of Halloween, I've listed 31 horror or Halloween themed movies, in no particular order, that I recommend with a short synopsis. (Don't worry, no spoilers!) They range from classics to new arrivals, independent to foreign, and terrifying to family friendly.

The main difference between this film list and other ones is that all these films are my favorites, so they aren't based on how many awards they've won, when they were made, or how many stars people gave them. This is literally just a list of movies I recommend, from me to you.

There is one for every day in October, so feel free to watch them with the ghosts living in your house or snuggled up alone in your coffin. Enjoy!

1. Babadook (2014)
When a single mother's son begins acting out at school, she finds a strange new children's book in his room with a disturbing story inside. An amazingly filmed movie with lots of creepy moments and a sense of dread that follows you for the full two hours.

2. Beetlejuice (1988)
What happens when you're a ghost but people move into your house and won't leave? Get help from a master poltergeist, obviously! A classic ghost story with creepy animations and an interesting story from the other side of most ghost stories. (Not a horror movie, but might be scary for young kids.)

3. Black Death (2010)
Who doesn't love Sean Bean? Especially when he is in bubonic plague infested England, searching to discover the truth behind rumors of a witch that can bring people back to life. The movie has lots of suspense and mystery behind it, so you can't really go wrong.

4. Children of the Corn (1984)
Based off of Stephen King's book by the same name, ‘Children of the Corn’ is about a small rural town where the children have disposed of the adults and have established a new religious order following 'He Who Walks Behind the Rows'. It's definitely creepy at times, but overall this movie is great to watch with new comers to horror because some of it's darker scenes come out quite a bit silly now-a-days.

5. The Descent (2005)
Some gal pals decide to go spelunking in some caves after one of their husbands pass away. What could go wrong, right? With caves already being creepy and mysterious enough, ‘The Descent’ it also full of jump-scares and scenes that involve all other hosts of fears besides the dark, such as heights, claustrophobia, etc. Great.

6. Devil (2010)
A group of random strangers are trapped in an elevator together with the devil himself. Death ensues. This follows classic horror film style with gory deaths and everyone trying desperately to prove their own innocence. May make you feel slight discomfort the next time you ride an elevator.

7. Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (2010)
A remake of the classic film where a family moves into a new house with strange small creatures that live in the basement. Guillermo del Toro was one of the writers for this movie and you can tell by how creepy and amazing it is. This movie, while being truly terrifying to the point where I could not sleep, also shows the amazing bond of familial love.

8. Halloweentown (1998)
One day you're a normal teenager, the next you're a witch from one of the most powerful families around. This is a classic Disney film that is both adorable and reminds kids that everyone can make a difference.

9. The Woman in Black (2012)
Daniel Radcliffe is a lawyer sent to a small town with a rumor that whenever someone sees the spirit of the "Woman in Black", a child in the town will die. Check out for Daniel, stay for the spooks.

10. Hocus Pocus (1993)
Three witches in search of immortality are awakened on Halloween and plan to steal the souls of all the children in Salem. It's another classic movie that is fun for any age. It just isn't Halloween if you don't watch Hocus Pocus.

11. House of Wax (1953 or 2005)
Ever thought wax mannequins were creepy? Well what if they were made of your friends? The classic version of this movie has the King Of Horror, Vincent Price, and the remake has Paris Hilton. You can't really go wrong with either.

12. Housebound (2014)
After trying to rob an ATM, the protagonist is put on house arrest at her old family home with her parents. Meanwhile a ghost seems to be in the house as well. It's a light horror comedy that leaves you wondering if you would be going insane if you had to live with your parents for 8 months too. This is also technically a foreign film since it was made in New Zealand.

13. Ju-on: The Grudge (2002)
An angry spirit hunts and kills anyone who enters its house. This movie was made in Japan and features dark, disturbing scenes that make you double check if you are really alone.

14. 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)
A woman wakes up to find she is in an underground bunker with two men she doesn't know both of which say the US is under nuclear attack. She isn't sure if she believes them and tries to discover the truth of what is happening. Unsettling as hell.

15. The Little Vampire (2000)
A young boy moves to a new country and makes friends with the local vampires. This film is too cute for words and is great to show family members and friends of any age. It reminds you what its like to be a kid and just have fun hanging out with your supernatural best friends.

16. The Mist (2007)
A strange storm covers a small town in mist while creatures they can't see roam through it, killing anyone who goes outside. A group of citizens hold up in a supermarket to try and save themselves. Based on a book by Stephen King, this film is basically a sci-fi version of ‘The Lord of the Flies’ where the viewers get to see what happens when people are scared for their lives.

17. The Orphanage (2007)
After she moves her family into her old house, her son begins talking with an imaginary friend. Made in Spain, this film is one of Guillermo del Toro's best pieces ever. It has ghosts, an orphanage, creepy kids: every thing you could want from a horror film.

18. Poltergeist (1982)
A family's new home turns out to be haunted by a lot of ghosts. This movie is actually rated PG if you can believe it. It's not overtly scary, but gets really creepy at parts. My mom saw this when she was a young adult and still refuses to watch it again.

19. Population 436 (2006)
A census-taker investigates a small town that has had the same number of residents for 100 years. An independent film that I assume most people have never heard of, as I only accidentally found it. A good movie to watch to prove that you have heard of obscure horror films.

20. Psycho (1960)
A young woman trying to escape her problems stops for the night at a small motel on the side of the road. This movie is not just a classic horror film, but also a classic film overall. Alfred Hitchcock's masterpiece easily makes it on any classic movie list. (Definitely watch the original over the remake, or at least watch both.)

21. Scary Movie 3 (2003)
A young reporter begins investigating crop circles and mysterious videotapes to try and save the world. Most of the Scary Movie franchise is ok, but this one is hysterical. My sister and I still quote parts of the film when we are together, and the best part is you don’t have to watch any of the lack luster prequels to understand this one.

22. Scream (1996)
After her mother was murdered, a young girl attempts to cope but is being stalked by a masked killer who seems to want her and her friends dead. This is a great film to show to friends who aren't into horror films because it's much more a teen scream than a slasher. You also then immediately have to follow up with all the sequels to this film, because they are all terrific and give you a good laugh along with a fright.

23. The Shrine (2010)
A reporter decides to investigate strange disappearances in Europe only to discover something far worse than she expected. You won't really get that invested in the characters of this film or their constant stupidity, but the plot makes up for it by giving you an interesting story that is hard to turn away from.

24. The Sixth Sense (1999)
A young boy begins seeing a psychologist because he has found that he can see dead people anywhere he goes. If you've lived your life this long without watching The Sixth Sense, I am both amazed and sad. You need to watch this movie right now! It is a classic film with brilliant acting and one of the best endings I have ever seen.

25. The Skeleton Key (2005)
A hospice nurse working at an old plantation begins to find clues about the past of the house as well as it's owners, not all of which seem pleasant. Personally, I still can't sleep sometimes when I think about it. The ending will leave you wondering what you believe.

26. Sleepy Hollow (1999)
A new take on the classic story of Ichabod Crane. It stars Johnny Depp as Crane, a detective from New York investigating the strange murders in Sleepy Hollow. It mixes magic and science, as well as mystery and horror. A solid choice any time of the year.

27. A Tale of Two Sisters (2003)
This film is from South Korea, although an American version was made, but this one is much better. It focuses on a family who is suffering through some recent tragedies as they try to cope. It is honestly one of the best horror films I have ever seen. If you were to only watch one film from this list, I would hope it would be this one.

28. Tucker and Dale vs. Evil (2010)
Ever wonder why hillbillies get such a bad wrap? Well now you can hear their side of the story in this film where two best friends try to enjoy their vacation but get attacked by some teenagers instead. It's a horror comedy done well that will leave you laughing with joy and fear simultaneously.

29. The Village (2004)
A peaceful village is trapped by disturbing monsters that live in the forest surrounding the town. This movie has a slow build up, but it is definitely worth it. While not one of the best films ever made or one of the scariest, it has an ending that you will never forget.

30. When a Stranger Calls Back (1993)
My sister and I accidentally happened on this sequel to the original When a Stranger Calls, and boy is it scary. Seriously. It takes place a few years after the prequel with the heroine getting another creepy call and attempting to get the police involved. My sister and I actually have an agreement to never mention this movie again because of how creepy it was.

31. Wolf Town (2011)
When some college kids end up trapped at an abandoned town by wolves, they will have to try and figure out a way to out smart the wolves and escape. This is possibly one of the best films on this list, solely because of how terrible it is. The set looks brand new, the acting is pretty bad, and the wolves supposedly understand how cars work. What? You should watch this film just to have a good laugh.

Enjoy the spooks!

Until next time,

Caitlin

Can Telepaths Read Animals' Minds?

A telepath is someone who can communicate with their mind, whether it's projecting their thoughts into another's mind or listening in on someone else's thoughts. They can do all of this without ever needing to make a sound. Some telepaths can even communicate over great distances or control their subjects, like Professor Xavier from X-Men.

Most people with telepathy however, are just shown to have the basic package of reading other's thoughts and projecting their own.

But what are thoughts?

How can you read or hear a thought?

 Professor X using telepathy, image from the X-Men Wiki

Professor X using telepathy, image from the X-Men Wiki

Our thoughts are made up of chemical and electrical signals sent from one part of our brain to another. Together they construct our personality and memories, but when one is thinking, they aren't reading or listening to their thoughts, they are experiencing them.

As babies who couldn't speak, we still had thoughts. We couldn't express them in words, but we still knew when we were hungry or tired or happy, even without these words to communicate.

Almost like a translation guide from Chinese to French, language has allowed us to turn our thoughts into words and complex ideas that others beyond ourselves can then also understand.

But if you concentrate and think about what your thoughts are really like, you'll start to notice that they are almost shapeless. They make no sound and don't look like anything. When thinking of a past experience, one might attribute a voice to specific phrases or have images of places they've been, but generally most thoughts are just simply ideas floating in a void.

So if thoughts are in essence formless, how can one listen in on them?

I honestly don't know.

And since telepathy has yet to be proven, there may just not be an answer. But if someone could listen in on other person's formless thoughts and make sense of all the swirling ideas and feelings, wouldn't they then be able to do the same with animals?

Animals obviously have thoughts, from the most basic being 'I'm hungry' to some animals, like dolphins, having rudimentary languages to communicate with each other. And most of the time you don't even need to be a telepath to tell what an animal is thinking (they tend to have very bad poker faces). This means we as human have the ability to tell what animals are thinking in one setting, so shouldn't it work in the other?

 Aquaman asking whales for help with his mind. Do you think he can talk to babies? Image from the Super Friends Wiki

Aquaman asking whales for help with his mind. Do you think he can talk to babies? Image from the Super Friends Wiki

Basic human thoughts, like when we are babies, would likely resemble animal thoughts a lot, as they would be very rudimentary and based around instinctual, basic needs. Meaning, if a telepath can understand a baby's thoughts they should be able to understand most animals. Heck, it might even be easier to read the mind of babies and animals than an adult person!

Although, I don't think I've ever seen Professor X try to read a baby's mind, so maybe telepath's need the collected, more advanced thoughts of someone who understands language and can use that language to communicate with others. Perhaps the mind read-ee has to give and explain their thoughts to the mind reader?

All I know is that telepathy sure seems like an OP (over powered) ability the more I think about it.

Do you think telepaths can read the thoughts of animals? Have you ever seen a telepath read a baby's mind?

Until next time,

Caitlin