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Can anyone explain to me how this is supposed to be relaxing? The lines and spaces are so tiny!
My brother got me this adult colouring book of postcards, a pack of colour pencils, and a pack of markers, for Christmas. He was hoping that it would help me with all the stress and anxiety I have right now. I have a tonne of friends who swear by these damn books, saying they’ve never felt so relaxed before.
Well for me, this damn this is stressful as hell!
I can’t stay within the lines. I can’t plan the colours out so they look nice together. And my pictures look nothing at all like the ones I’ve seen online, with the shading and gradients. Honestly, this damn book makes me feel like a failure.
Seems pretty stupid, doesn’t it?
And that’s ok.
As I’ve said before, not everything will work the same for everyone. Adult colouring books don’t help me at all. They help tonnes of people, but not me. What does help me? Cryptogram and logic puzzles. I know, who the hell is relaxed by those?
Just because everyone swears by it doesn’t mean it works for you. I have my long walks in the cold, loud metal music, rich red wine, and puzzles. Most of these things don’t work for anyone else I know (except the walks. My roommate is on a nice cold walk right now).
So you just make sure you’re doing what works best for you. Don’t try to force something just because everyone is talking about it. And that goes for most things in life.
So relax, my Sunshines.  And relax how ever works best for you.

Roommates from Hell: The People Upstairs

When I first moved into my dirty old apartment, we didn’t have the two students living above us. For a short time, while the building manager was ill, a property management company came in and helped fill the vacant apartments. This company is well known in this city for not properly vetting their clients, and renting to some pretty shady characters. So, the apartment above mine was rented out by them.

At first, the people there seemed nice, from what I was told. It was supposedly a young mother with her baby son, and her boyfriend would be staying there on and off. They seemed nice enough, and the apartment was rented out to them.

Turns out, that wasn’t who would be living there, really. Yes, she had a baby son living with her, but she also had a daughter there too. And her boyfriend moved in full time. And so did his brother. And their two friends. And two cats and a few Dobermans. Then the Rottweiler. Did I mention these small, two bedroom apartments had a “no pets” clause in the lease?

People started moving in slowly. When the property manager would stop by, the girl would say that her friend was helping her with her kids that day, or that there were so many guys there because they were going to have a guys night and play poker.

What they were really all doing there was growing marijuana.

It turns out, they were growing, drying, and then selling marijuana from the apartment. They also were NOT cleaning, or paying bills, or taking care of the kids living there.

When I went to first look at the apartment, before we rented, the building manager told us that the tenants upstairs were being evicted and would be out before we moved in.

Well that didn’t happen.

They were served with an eviction notice, and ignored it. They had their power shut off, which inadvertently shut down the power to my apartment as well. Didn’t bother them, they brought in noisy, stinky generators. They got served with ANOTHER eviction notice, and ignored it. Finally, the building manager said that he was going to get the police involved, which apparently scared the people with the illegal grow-op in their apartment. They started making arrangements to move.

Until then, they raised hell.

We couldn’t sleep at night because they would be up all night, stomping and screaming and yelling. We still had no power, because when the power company came around to turn it on, they scared them away. The stink from their apartment was starting to waft through the hallways and down the staircases. They started throwing things out their apartment windows, without taking out the screens first: they just ripped them open.

One day, the threw their cats out the second floor windows. One landed and ran away. The other hobbled around, and you could see that it was sick. Some mechanics from the shop across the street took it in, and had a veterinarian friend of their come take a look at it. That vet said he had never seen a more abused, diseased cat before. Its bones had been broken, it was sick with almost a dozen different things, and its eyes were so infected that they crusted shut. They put the poor thing in a shoe box to make it comfortable, and it passed away a few hours later.

Once the poor cat was gone, a group of very large, very angry mechanics showed up on the doorstep upstairs, looking for whomever had hurt that poor thing. I don’t know what was said, but those people moved out a few days later.

The building manager and two of the tenants who had been in the building more than 25 years decided to do a walk-through of the apartment together, to see the damage. I don’t think they were quite expecting what they saw.

The carpeting in the bedrooms was ripped up, and they had let their dogs poop under it. There were garbage bags full of old diapers, rotten food, and cat litter all over the apartment. They had stopped using the toilet once they were told the police would be called on them, and started peeing on the floor, covering the puddles up with the kids’ clothes. In some areas, they had even punched holes in the walls and had shoved garbage in there.

The building manager said it would take at least a week to clean, and that the chemical smell would be pretty bad. Also, we wouldn’t be getting our power turned on until this was cleaned up, because they had to do both apartments at once for some reason, and there was feces shoved in the electrical outlets. Luckily, summer exams had just ended and my parents lived just across town. The roommate and I both packed our bags and bunked out in my old bedroom at my parents’ house.

In the end, they had to replace a few walls, rip out all the carpeting, and use industrial strength cleaners to get that apartment clean again. One of the other tenants who was helping cut his hand while cleaning up the cat litter, and his hand got so infected he wound up in the hospital for almost a week, getting his hand drained and his body pumped full of antibiotics. The doctors had never seen an infection that bad from touching cat poop, and said that the cat that came from as too sick to exist.

That was quite the experience, having to deal with all that. And that is why you check out the neighbours before you move into a new place, sunshine!

Resume Basics

So it’s not secret: you need a resume to apply for jobs. Back when I was in high school, you just went to the computer lab, plugged a bit of info into a resume template, and you were good to go.

Oh, if only life was still that simple.

In today’s economy, there may be hundreds or thousands of people apply to one position, meaning there is no way for hiring managers or HR personnel to read every single resume they receive. Some places use computer software to look for certain words or phrases. Some places take a quick browse through a group of resumes, pick the best ones, and toss the rest (so you’re competing against a group instead of everyone, which can really suck depending on whose resumes yours is between). Some quickly browse through all the resumes, looking for certain things to eliminate candidates, and certain things for picking the best potentials.

So how do you compete?

For starters, you need a damn good resume! You need to create something that will catch a prospective employer’s eye. You need something that not only emphasizes your best attributes in the working world, but shows how you would be a perfect fit for that specific company.

So, you know, no pressure or anything.

It sounds like a daunting task, but once you learn how to create a resume, it’s easy to make one that you can proudly hand out.

Don’t Use A Template

I know, it’s so much easier to just plug in your information in a bunch of pre-chosen spaces, in a nicely formatted template. Don’t though! If you make one tiny little change in your resume that doesn’t follow perfectly with the template (add an extra previous employer, or a bunch of volunteer work, or a second contact phone number), you could screw up the formatting of the entire document. Suddenly, that nice and pretty one page resume of yours is three pages long, with dates not lining up with experience, and contact info all over the place.

Also, if you’re applying for a job that requires you to use Microsoft Word, using a template could very well be one of the things that eliminates you from the running for that job. There is a little button in Word that looks like a wonky backwards P. That button shows all the “non-printing characters”. In other words, it shows your key strokes. So if you try to say that you are quite proficient in Word, and then they see that you can’t even format a resume without using a template (because they pushed that button while looking at the resume you emailed them), your resume gets tossed right in the recycling.

Also, templates don’t always translate well to PDF format. Now, while you shouldn’t be creating and formatting your resume in PDF anyway, some companies require you to send it in that format. If you create it in Word and then create a PDF file of it, some templates will throw the document’s formatting all out of whack.

Don’t Use an Objective

Everyone already knows what your object is: to find a damn job! Putting in an objective just takes up valuable space that you could be using to brag about how awesome you would be in the position you’re applying for. Also, if you’re applying for multiple jobs at a time, then personalizing your objective to each and every one of them is just way too time consuming to deal with.

Use Words From the Job Description

Remember that computer software I mentioned that looks for key words? Well, a lot of those words come from the job description! Sometimes there are very important things that a company is looking for in a potential new hire, and if you have those things, your resume needs to show that. If they need a bilingual employee who also has Advanced Microsoft Certification and 4 years of Human Resources experience, and you have all of that, then it damn well better be in your resume! They are not going to know that you’re the perfect candidate for the job if you don’t tell them.

It’s not just requirements that you need to look at though. Look at the language and wording they use. You should try to mimic that. If you say you are an exceptional customer service rep, and they say they want an dynamic customer service rep, then you’re not on the same page. Mirroring their language shows that you would already fit right in with the company.

Use Bullets, Not Paragraphs

Again, they could be getting hundreds of resumes for one job. No one is going to sit down and read what looks like a short story with some contact info on the top. You need to be direct and to the point with your skills and qualifications, and bullet points are the way to do this.

Don’t Lie

If you’re not bilingual, don’t say that you are. If it took you 6 years to get your degree and you were maybe an average student, don’t say that it took you 4 years and you were on the Dean’s Honour Roll every year. If you’ve never worked a day of your life in customer service, don’t say that you have. When you’re writing your resume, you should be like Shakira’s hips: don’t lie. Don’t even try to stretch the truth. If you’re not qualified for a job, then don’t pretend that you are. If you want that job so badly, talk to someone in the company and ask what you need to do to get that job. It may mean taking classes, volunteering, or getting expensive certification, but it’s a hell of a lot better than lying about already having these things. Remember, people who lie on their resumes, even if they do get hired, get caught eventually.

Proofread

I like to read things like Failbook, and Monday Thru Friday, and pretty much anything else that’s part of the whole Cheezeburger network of funny sites. I can remember seeing a post on there more than a year ago, where a guy posted a picture of part of his resume online. He had passed it out to a bunch of companies already, after asking a friend to proofread it. His friend assumed he would read through it again before sending it out, and as a joke added “excessive masturbation” to his “Skills” section. Well he didn’t proofread it, and it was sent out to a bunch of companies with that in it. And no, he didn’t get any interviews from them.

As funny as that is, not proofreading your resume is one of the worst things you can do. Spelling and grammar mistakes are one of the things companies look for to eliminate resumes from their pile. If they have 500 resumes for a receptionist position, they’re not going to call back anyone who claims they would be a “grate resepshionist”. It’s not just obvious mistakes you should be looking for, either. Look for any little thing that could be wrong. Even an extra space or a missed period could be fatal to your job prospects. Remember, it’s ridiculously competitive out there. Don’t let a stupid mistake kill your chances.

Don’t Try to Be Cute

Repeat after me: I am not Elle Woods. I will not print my resume on coloured paper. I will not spray my resume with perfume. I will not put doodles, clip art, or my picture in my resume.

Your resume is a formal document. If you’re applying for a job in a creative field, then create an entirely separate document to show off your creativity. Send in work samples, or a link to your website. Some web sites out there recommend showing off your creative side in your resume. But there are so many businesses out there that will not take you seriously if you do that. It’s better to play on the safe side, send your creativity separate from your work experience, and leave your resume as professional as possible.

 

So, now you know what NOT to do with your resume. But what exactly do you actually DO want in it? Well the fine folks at Owl Purdue have a resume workshop up on their website that shows you what basic info you need on your resume. While I would trust them with my life when it comes to formatting documents in MLA vs. APA formatting, I’m a little wary of their resume advice. For starters, they recommend using an objective. Aside from that, they do have some great advice if you’re really stuck.

Another suggestion is to LOOK at resume templates, just don’t use them. A lot of templates have great titles and sections, and show you what you need to fill in for them. You can use these as a guide, to help you get all the basics in.

Also, Google is your new best friend. Try “resume tips” or “resume help”. There are thousands of sites out there with advice on how to format your resume.

As for the basics, there are some things you should get together before starting. They are:

  • Name, address, contact info. If you don’t have a Gmail account, get one. And make sure your email (and your voicemail message) is professional sounding.
  • Your prior work experience. Write down you past employers, your job titles, the dates you worked for them, and all of your responsibilities. You may not need all of this info for your basic resume, but having it all together makes personalizing your resume for different jobs a hell of a lot easier.
  • Do the same thing for your volunteer experience.
  • Education. Write down where you went to school, or where you are going to school, the dates you went there or your expected graduation date.
  • Contact information. You generally don’t put that on your resume, but while you’re going through your work and volunteer experience, it’s easy to pick out who to contact from each place.

So that is the very basics you will need to get started. Good luck with the writing, and good luck with the job hunt, sunshine!

Time to Buy Your Textbooks!

Beginning of every semester, the dreaded textbook list comes out. No matter how interesting the class, how interesting the textbook, how interesting the knowledge is, no one wants to shell out hundreds of dollars on books they will barely ever use. I love books. I collect books. I have a big collection of Stephen King and William Gibson books taking up a whole shelf on one of my bookcases. And I have bought textbooks that cost more than what I spent on that entire shelf.

You don’t have to spend hundreds (or into the thousands, for some people) on textbooks every semester. I didn’t know most of this until my final semester of University, but there are a tonne of ways to save money! Here’s some to help you out.

Check Your Library

At my school, the professor always had one copy of the textbook saved at the library. We weren’t allowed to check it out and take it home, but we could use it in the library. I saved so much money once I figured that out! There will always be those textbooks marked “recommended” on the syllabus that you really don’t want to buy, but often times do. I just went to the library, spent a few hours reading and taking notes, and saved myself $180 on two books we barely used. Check with your professors to see if they do this to. From what I’ve been told, many schools do this.

Thrift Books 

I found this site while looking for a cheap place to buy novels online. I found this place to be usually cheaper than Amazon, and they have a tonne of textbooks! While helping a friend look for a cheaper alternative to her $200 Forensics textbook, I found it on here for $35. That’s a savings of $165!

Textbook Revolution

Now this site is doesn’t have a whole tonne of books on it. But the textbooks on there are free, somewhat. Each textbook link takes you to an outside site to download from. Some are free. Some you have to pay a fee for. While I didn’t find any textbooks that I have used in the past, I did just find a bunch of books on presentations, statistics, and conflict resolution that all linked to the same site. That site has a 30 day free trial if you link to them through this site, which means you can just download everything you need without paying the $3.99 monthly subscription fee.

WikiBooks

Be careful with what you find on here. WikiBooks, while a great resource, is just like Wikipedia: anyone can create an account and edit its content. There also isn’t a whole tonne of content on here. That being said, this is a great site for those times you don’t understand a concept, and just need extra clarification

BookBoon

This site is almost completely lacking in Arts & Social Science books, but they still have a tonne of great textbooks. Everything in their “Textbook” section is free, thanks to their sponsors. And everything in their “Business” section has a small cost. From what I saw while poking around, they have a monthly fee you can pay to get all the business books you need for less than $5. That might be worth it for some people out there.

Free Book Spot

Now, I’m addicted to this site even though I’m not in school any more. The amount of textbooks they have on topics I had wanted to study in school but couldn’t find a class for is just huge! Just clicking on the “Sociology” section brought up three or four books on serial crimes (a major topic of research for) that I couldn’t find in the libraries in my city! This site is fantastic, and is definitely worth looking through if you want to find textbooks online.

Project Gutenberg

Project Gutenberg has an online catalogue of more than 50,000 books. Most of them are not textbooks, but this is still a fantastic resource. I used this my final semester when looking for literature in a few English classes. Just bare careful, this site tends to be a huge time suck, trapping you in its clutches for hours while you look through lists of related books. Browse at your own risk!

eBookee

I find this site bizarre and can’t seem to close the tab it’s in right now. It has a real old-school look and feel to it. I haven’t found any useful textbooks on it yet, but I did find a whole bunch of books that I’ve heard of and possibly wanted to read at some point. This site may take a while to get used to before I can figure out just how useful it is.

Renting Your Textbooks

Now this is one thing I could never bring myself to do. I tended to be quite hard on my textbooks sometimes, and some sites have strict policies on damages and penalties. This is great is you don’t transport your books to class much, can keep them safe, and don’t mind not being able to write or highlight in your books.

  • Textbook Rentals has a huge selection, and categories that make it easier to find what you’re looking for. This is the first site I’ve seen with an easy to find Criminology section, which also had textbooks that I actually used.
  • Cheapest Textbooks is very easy to navigate if you have the book list in front of you. It also has options to buy or sell your books, and FAQ pages to help you figure out if renting or buying is the best option for you.
  • Book Renter seems to have a pretty big selection too, and has the same navigation options as Cheapest Textbooks, letting you search for books my name, author, or ISBN. The browsable categories at the bottom were really weird to move through, and didn’t have all the options I needed.

Second Hand/Used Textbooks

If you don’t want to give out credit card information online, or don’t have a credit card to purchase or rent your books with, then there are other ways you can still buy second hand textbooks.

  • Many schools have a used book store, or certain days when they have used book sales. Just make sure you are getting an edition of your textbook that you can use. Many people get rid of old textbooks after the professor has announced they are switching to a newer edition.
  • Facebook groups are awesome once you find the ones you’re looking for. I found three groups for people looking to buy and sell their textbooks. A lot of times, they even threw in their old notes, or had advice about the class or professor.
  • Online buy and sell sites like Kijiji often have people on them looking to sell their books. For some reason, I’ve always found that the books on there are more expensive than the other Used Textbook options.
  • Check with friends and classmates to see if they’re willing to part with their old books. Again, if they took the class before you, they may have some advice on how to get through it best. And it helps to know who you can go to when you need help understanding something, too.

Well, that’s all I can think of for now. Does anyone else have a great resource for saving money on textbooks? I love hearing from you all, sunshine!

Meatballs, Part 2

Once again, I’m hung up on meatballs. Ever since my last post on them, I’ve wanted nothing more than a giant meatball sub, dripping in sauce and cheese. Unfortunately, the only place to get one around my house is at Subway. For some reason, their meatballs have never agreed with me, which is odd because I LOVE Subway. I could eat their roast beef with BBQ sauce, or a pizza sub with extra extra extra peppers and olives, every single day. Their meatballs, though? My body just won’t accept them as food.

So, I’ve been looking at more meatball recipes. I’m hoping that, in the coming weeks, I’ll be able to make a big batch of meatballs and proceed to devour them. I’m talking meatballs on rice, spaghetti and meatballs, meatball subs, and even meatballs on those tiny little cocktail swords my grandma never let us play with on New Years as kids.

So anyway, here is a great recipe I intend on trying from AllRecipes. This is just a basic meatball and tomato sauce, which gives you room for lots of creativity.

Ingredients

8 h 20 m

Directions

  • Prep 20 m

  • Cook 8 h

  • Ready In 8 h 20 m

  1. In a bowl, mix the ground beef, bread crumbs, parsley, garlic, onion, and egg. Shape the mixture into 16 meatballs.
  2. In a slow cooker, mix the pasta sauce, crushed tomatoes, and tomato puree. Place the meatballs into the sauce mixture. Cook on Low for 6 to 8 hours.

Again, this is just a basic recipe that’s easy yet delicious. This time, instead of baking the meatballs so they get that crispiness to them on the outside, these are just cooked entirely in the slow cooker. That makes these meatballs great for things like sandwiches, but not so great for poking with small swords.

Now, you don’t have to use the Classico sauce used above. There are about 30 different flavours of tomato sauce available in any large grocery store. And you can always make your own, too. I like to get large bottles of tomato puree, or plain sauce. This way, I can season it with whatever I like. I like to add oregano and rosemary for an Italian sauce, or some Sriracha sauce and cayenne pepper for a bit of a kick. Or, you can just add all of that together for a spicy Italian tomato sauce. This is great for spicy subs!

You can also add more to this recipe if you want, too. As you know, I like to pretend to be healthy, so I add veggies to pretty much everything I cook. Sliced or canned mushrooms and diced green peppers are a fantastic addition to any tomato sauce. Get creative, throw you favourite veggies in, or a spice you really love. Half the fun of basic recipe is making it your own, sunshine.

Slow Cooker Three Cheese Macaroni and Cheese

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It’s beautiful, isn’t it? Something as simple as macaroni and cheese can be so basic, and so fancy. Some days, when you can’t even muster up the strength or will to make yourself a whole meal, that box of store brand macaroni and cheese that costs a whole fifty cents just screams out to you. When you’re out for dinner with your friends, the mac’n’cheese screams to you from the menu (it sure is a noisy pasta). You know it’s not the boxed stuff you make at home, and a part of you wants to try it. Maybe sometimes, when you’re feeling fancy, you throw you mac’n’cheese in the oven with some bread crumbs on top, to make it look like the restaurant version.

No matter how or when you eat it, macaroni and cheese is one of the ultimate comfort foods. It’s just one of those things that people crave when it’s cold, or they’re feeling down, or they just really want cheese. So why not make a rich, gooey mac’n’cheese in your crock pot, so it’s ready for you when you get home?

Here’s the recipe I found on Fake Ginger. This site, by the way, has some great slow cooker recipes on it, including one for Crockpot Candy that I am definitely going to have to try!

Ingredients

12 oz dry elbow macaroni
1 cup gruyere cheese, shredded
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
10 slices American cheese, chopped
1 (12 ounce) can evaporated milk
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)

Instructions

  1. Spray the inside of the slow cooker bowl with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. In the bowl of the slow cooker, combine the macaroni, cheeses, evaporated milk and skim milk. Stir until combined and the macaroni is almost completely covered by liquid and cheese. Cover and cook on low for 1½ hours.
  3. After 1½ hours, the cheese should be melted and the macaroni should be cooked. Fold and stir in the dry mustard, salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper. Make sure to stir well to make sure all the macaroni is coated with cheesy goodness.

Now, a few tips for everyone.

  • don’t panic if you can’t find gruyere, or it’s too damn expensive for you. It’s a cheese commonly used in fondues, and can be hard to come by in a lot of stores. Swiss and Monterey Jack are also great fondue cheeses that melt very well, and are much easier to come by. They even sell store brand bricks of it in many larger grocery stores.
  • I don’t know who decided that elbow macaroni is the be-all and end-all of macaronis to eat with cheese. I like to find what’s cheap and cute, and use that. Fusilli is great because the shape holds the cheese well, and it’s name is fun to say. Bowtie pasta is just fun to eat any time, same with wagon wheel. And you can always get a cheap package of spaghetti and use that.
  • I like to add veggies to my meals, just to pretend I’m eating healthy. If you can find it cheap, cauliflower is great in pasta and cheese dishes (it’s damn expensive right now though, so I’m not using that). Broccoli is also great, and you can get big frozen bags of it cheap when it’s on sale. I’ve also used canned corn and peas and the past, and it turned out great.
  • if you use frozen veggies, thaw them completely before throwing them in. For canned veggies, drain ALL the liquid from the can before dumping it in. You don’t want any water in this recipe!
  • play around with meat if you want. I like to add hot dogs to my regular mac’n’cheese, and like to buy the “good” hot dogs when they’re on sale (the all beef, name brand, 5 per pack because they’re huge things ones). Chop or slice them up and throw them in there for a “fancy” mac’n’cheese with hot dogs!

Well, this post is making me hungry now, and there’s a box of dollar store fifty cent mac’n’cheese in the cupboard calling my name. Have fun in the kitchen, sunshine!