The End Of An Era

Two years ago, I was a different person. I just turned 17, and it was the summer before my senior year of high school. My biggest worry was if I was going to straighten my hair or not that day. I spent more time at the movies than at home. Besides taking summer classes, I was free all summer. So I started a blog. I cooked a couple of times a week and saw a lot of movies, so I thought I might as well write about it. After years of being deathly afraid of showing people anything I ever wrote, I gained confidence through student journalism to release my stuff on the Internet. For about three months I did this. I’d have someone read through it when I was done; then I’d post it. It wasn’t until I got feedback from people that I learned that the person that was reading it every week was in fact not even opening the file.


It all changed when I started having my best friend Amanda, aka the grammar queen of the Midwest, edit them when I was done with them. Besides making me look good online, it kind of helped her find something that she is thinking about making a career out of.


So for a year, that worked for the two of us. Every week I’d write a post and send it to her. In December of 2016, I bought the domain and started putting more effort into this website.


Last summer, I decided since I was again taking summer classes and Amanda was getting a job that I would reduce to only posting twice a month and release weekly recipes. We were both moving on to college, and we both needed to focus on our studies.


As this year progressed, I’ve gotten more involved on campus. Through my school, I’ve met some really great friends and really got into different clubs at school. All of my close friends go to a different local college, and all have jobs that keep them busy. We still saw each other every week, so it’s not like we never saw each other.


I guess what I’m trying to say is that just like this blog, I’ve changed a lot in the past year. I’m not the same girl I was back then. Right now, I’m just going to focus on me.


I was able to graduate high school with enough college credits to have me enter college as a sophomore. Which means per credit hour, I’m a sophomore in college. (I guess since my last day was on Friday, I’m officially a junior now). I have long-term goals involving my education. I’m hoping if everything works out that in eight years I’ll have a Ph.D. in Anthropology. In the future, I’d like to be teaching at a school or working at a museum. This summer I have an internship at an art museum and got a pretty good job working at another museum.


One of my philosophies is that if I’m not going to give something my all, I shouldn’t do it. I’ve been slacking off on posts in the past months, and I’m not emotionally driven anymore to write. I didn’t plan on doing this forever. While writing these posts, I felt like this was more of a chore than a hobby. A lot of people in my life believe I’m a quitter because I get bored of hobbies very quickly. Maybe I’ve kept up this blog this long to prove to someone that I could be dedicated to something. I have nothing to prove to anyone, except myself. For some like me that jumps from activity to activity, two years is a long time.


I’m not 100% done with writing. From now on my stuff will be more academic based and will be posted in an online journal rather than on a blog. I’m moving back in with my parents this year, and I plan on doing a lot of cooking. I’m trying to get my friends to start a food prep group, but it’s still up in the air.


So that’s it. This website will still be live until the end of the year when my domain is up for renewal. Right now, it’s time for me to be serious about my education and schooling. There isn’t much more to say than thank you to anyone who has read my blog.


If I’m going to say anything else, it would just be to try something new. You might find something you really like. I certainly did.



Gracie Tolley



Sesame Chicken

If you ever want to get on your friends’ good sides, just make them food. When you have to borrow your friend’s craft room for a few hours, you should at least bring them a free meal.

Besides from that, this meal is easy enough to use for meal prep for the week. Plus, it stays good for a few days in the fridge. Normally this is made in a frying pan, but for convenience, I made this in the crock-pot. For easier cleanup, I always use a crock-pot liner before I start.


  • 1 lb Chicken Breast or Thigh
  • 1/2 cup Low Sodium Soy Sauce
  • ¼ cup Honey
  • 2 tablespoon Sriracha or 1 tablespoon Red Pepper Flakes
  • 2 teaspoon Ginger, grated
  • 1 clove Garlic, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons Sesame Seeds
  • 1 Onion, diced
  • 1 teaspoon Water
  • 1 teaspoon Cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 cups Brown Rice


  1. In a clean crock-pot, lay the chicken out evenly on the bottom of the crock-pot.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the soy sauce, honey, sriracha/ red pepper flakes, ginger, garlic, sesame seeds, and diced onion.
  3. Pour the sauce on top of the chicken.
  4. Cover and cook for 6 hours on low or 2 ½ hours on high.
  5. Cut a piece of chicken to see if it’s done. If done, remove from the crock-pot and cut into pieces.
  6. In a small bowl, combine the water and cornstarch, stirring until a paste forms.
  7. Add this paste to the crockpot sauce and stir until it thickens. Add the chicken back into the pot and to recoat it into the sauce.
  8. At this time, prepare two cups of brown rice. Fix according to the package and serve with the chicken.

Things No One Tells You About College

With less than a month left in my first year of college, I can honestly say that I think I got this college thing down to a T. Though I took college courses in high school and online through my local community college, I still wasn’t prepared for my first year of college. I wouldn’t go as far as to say I had a full culture shock experience, but there are unique things I’ve encountered on campus that I have never faced before.



You think after going to school at 8am for 12+ years, I’d be used to going to school at this time. NOPE.


2.) Don’t expect to be BFFs with the people you hang out with during the first weekend

   It’s before classes actually start and everybody is still in summer mode. Just trust me; you will probably never talk to those people again.


3.) Some of the best friends you will make will be in your major’s department

Why? Especially if your department is small, you will be taking most of the same classes for 4+ years and will be suffering through them together.


4.) Have fun with your electives and explore new topics

While you’re still an undergrad, you have to fill a certain amount of credit hours with useless electives. For me, that’s over 30 hours give or take. I take advantage of this by taking fun, yet easy classes that can help boost my GPA.


5.) A lot of colleges follow A +- scale

If your high school didn’t have an A +- grading scale, prepare to encounter the worst thing about college (besides paying for it). If you want a 4.0, that means you have to get 95% or better in all of your classes.


6.) Living in a dorm is the best and worst thing ever

For most, college means living on your own for the first time. Most colleges have some form of student housing. Even though I don’t live too far away, for this first year I decided to live on campus. I love my roommate and living on my own, but they don’t tell you when you sign your housing contract that it’s also the worst thing ever. People will be blaring music and running down the halls at all hours of the night. Plus, there is never enough privacy.


7.) Study sessions with friends never end up being beneficial

If you’re taking a class with a friend, do not study for a test together. You will end up goofing off for hours and get nothing done. I’m not saying not to take classes with your friends, but trust me on this – it can make or break your grades.


8.) Campus squirrels are weird

Campus squirrels are a different breed of animal. Most of them have lived on campus their whole lives because there is always food around and trees for them to hang out with. They are so chill; you could probably just walk up to them and pet them.


9.) Do not get overinvolved

Yes, all students should get involved in something on campus, but don’t sign up for more than you can handle.


10.) Quizlet is your new best friend

Quizlet is the best thing for college students for two reasons. First, it can help you learn stuff and review information for tests easier. Secondly, you can find a lot of homework questions and answers on there.


11.) If you have a dining plan, you will get sick of it fast

For the most part, they will serve the same thing for a week for lunch and dinner. Normally it’s decent, but don’t get the same thing over and over.


12.) You probably should know MLA/ APA by heart

If you don’t know the ins and outs of the two major writing styles, you probably should before writing a paper.


13.) Check your email every morning

Checking both my personal and school emails is the first thing I do when I wake up. This is so I can find out if a class has been canceled or if there is an event going on that day I might need to know about.


14.) Professors do take attendance every day

So just go to class. It’s the easiest way to keep your grade up.


15.) Don’t buy your textbooks at the campus store

Unless you’re under a scholarship that says you have to, don’t get the books at the campus store because they are overpriced. Amazon will be your best friend in college.


16.) Don’t buy your textbooks

Again, unless you have to or you’re going to be a doctor one day, you don’t need your books. If you do buy them, either you can sell them a quarter of the price or they will sit on a shelf for ten years. Just rent them or try to find an online version.


17.) Don’t take night classes

If I’m spending hundreds or thousands of dollars to take a class, I don’t want to be half asleep when I’m learning.


18.) Your grades may be based on two tests

They just are. If you’re lucky you might have weekly participation points or essays to help counteract this.


19.) It is okay to ask for help

For the amount you’re paying for a class, your teacher should give you at least a little bit of help when you need it.


20.) You can question why you’re even going to college or want to switch majors

That’s completely okay, and it will happen a lot.



Meringue is possibly the easiest dessert to make. At its core, it’s just beaten egg whites and sugar. When you can take that to the next level by adding whipped cream, you have a Pavlova. I had this famous New Zealand dessert last summer while in Canada. It wasn’t until I saw photos of it on Instagram until I remembered the name of it.


I can safely say when my three friends and I ate all of this in one sitting that it’s delicious.



  • 5 Egg Whites
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • ½ teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • ½ tablespoon Cornstarch
  • 1 tsp White Vinegar
  • 1 cup Heavy Whipping Cream
  • ¾ Powder Sugar
  • 2 packages Rolos
  • 3 tablespoon Butter
  • ¼ cup Pecans, chopped
  • 2 Bananas
  • ¼ cup Brown Sugar
  • ½ teaspoon Nutmeg


Preheat oven 250°F

Begin by whisking the egg whites with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form. From there, add in the sugar and continue mixing until combined.


Then combine in the vanilla extract, cornstarch, and vinegar.

Cut out a sheet of parchment paper the size of your baking sheet. Take a bowl about the same width of the sheet (about 10 inches) and trace the outline of the bowl onto the paper with a pen. Then flip it over so it’s ink side down and you can see the traced circle.


Pour the pavlova meringue into the circle on the parchment paper. With a spatula, evenly spread out the meringue so that it fills the circle.

Bake for an hour and 20 minutes in the oven. When done, remove and allow to cool for an hour.


In a skillet, melt two tablespoons of butter. Once melted, add the brown sugar. Stir and allow it to combine.


Chop up the bananas into slices. Add the bananas to the sugar syrup into the skillet. Let this cook on medium heat for five minutes. Afterward, remove from heat to let them cool down a bit.

In a bowl, whisk the heavy whipping cream until peaks form, then fold in the powdered sugar.


Melt the remaining tablespoon of butter on medium heat in a small saucepan. Then add in the Rolos and nutmeg. Slowly stir until melted. Next, add in the chopped pecans. When this is completed, lower the heat to low and stir regularly.

Finally, assemble the pavlova. Layer on the whipped cream onto the base cooked meringue. Spread it evenly over it. On top of that, place on the caramelized bananas. Finish it off by spooning on the pecan caramel sauce.


Cajun Sausage Pasta

As winter starts to fade and spring begins to bloom, I’m finishing off the last half of my second semester of college. This upcoming month, I have more deadlines than imaginable and have to prepare a presentation for a conference next week. Over spring break I spent ten days on the big island of Hawaii (pictures to come), and when I came back I was extremely jetlagged and busy with homework I put off. Somehow in my free three days before going back to school, I caught up on work and I cooked for my friends. They are never ones to decline a free meal, so they came over when I made this pasta dish.

What stands out for me in this recipe is the sauce that goes with this. It’s rich, yet not overbearing. Over the years, making pasta sauce has never been my thing. Either it comes out too chunky, or overly bitter when it needs to be savory.

  • 1 packaged Italian Sausage
  • ½ lb Penne Pasta ( half a 16 oz box)
  • 1 tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 1 tablespoon Cajun Seasoning
  • ½ Onion, minced
  • 2 tablespoons Unsalted Butter
  • 3 cloves Garlic, minced
  • 1 cup Heavy Cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon Lemon Zest
  • 1/4 cup Monterey Jack
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, diced


  1. Start by cutting just the sausage into small pieces, and cook it according to the package in a small skillet with water. Once al dente, drain and set aside.

boiled.jpg2.) Now cook the penne pasta in a boiling pot of salted water. Again fix according to the box. I like to add about 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the water so the pasta doesn’t stick together. When it’s cooked through, drain in the sink and set aside.


3.) In the same small skillet as before, add back in the cooked sausage. Add olive oil, cajun seasoning, and minced onion. Bring this to a medium-high heat, and allow this to cook for about five minutes or until the onions are cooked through. Once completed, remove from heat.

cooked4.) In a saucepan, melt some butter. Then add the garlic to that, and cook this on medium heat for two minutes. Stir frequently to make sure the garlic is coated with the butter. To this, whisk in the cream and lemon zest. Again, let this cook for two minutes to allow it to combine the ingredients. To thicken it up, add in some cheese.  

5.) Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add in tomatoes and the sausage.


6.) Then add the sausage and sauce to the pasta, and stir until the pasta is coated.

Hawaii Sandwich

With the countdown to Hawaii now being in the single digits, I wanted to get into the spirit of making something that reminds me of the island. I’ve never been to Hawaii, but I know I like Hawaiian pizza. So I wanted to add those flavors into a sandwich. I wanted to go the extra mile and make bread too, so I made the bread (without nuts and cranberries in it) that I used a while back in my Turkey Apple Cheddar Sandwich recipe.


  • 1 large onion, minced
  • 1/2 cup Butter
  • 3 tablespoons Dijon Mustard
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 teaspoons Poppy Seeds
  • 1 Sourdough Loaf, sliced
  • ½ Mayo
  • 10 slices Swiss cheese
  • 2/3 pound Deli Sliced Ham
  • 1 cup Pineapple, crushed


  1. In a small skillet over low heat, combine the butter and onions.
  2. Once the onions soften after a few minutes, add in the poppy seeds, mustard, and Worcestershire sauce.
  3. After it reaches a simmer, let it set there on the stove for two minutes.
  4. Spread on the mayo on the outside of two pieces of the bread. Then flip them over. On one slice, spread on the mustard that we just made. Then, layer on a piece of swiss cheese. Next, add on the ham, followed by about 1/4 cup of the pineapple. Top that off with the other slice of bread with mayo on top.
  5. In another skillet over medium heat, place the sandwich on the skillet and flip it after three minutes. Allow the other side to cook for an additional three minutes.

Lemon Poppy Seed Bread

I’ve been in a baking mood recently, but I only have access to a kitchen on the weekends. Also, when I’m home I sleep in and skip breakfast most Saturdays. Last weekend, I tried to clear out the pantry and fridge and cook using ingredients I already had on hand. Friday night I made these for breakfast for the weekend so that they were ready for me whenever I decided to get up. Original, I planned on making these into muffins, but we only have some mini bread pans on hand.



  • 1 1/2 cups Flour
  • 1 teaspoon Baking Soda
  • ½ teaspoon Baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon Salt
  • ¼ cup unsalted Butter, melted
  • ¾ cup Sugar
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • Zest of 1 Lemon
  • 1 tablespoon Lemon Juice
  • 1 cup Plain Yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon Poppy Seeds


  1. Preheat oven to 350* F. Grease down a three mini bread pans with cooking spray.
  2. Start by mixing the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.
  3. In another bowl, combine the melted butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla, lemon zest, lemon juice, and yogurt.
  4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Make sure to not over mix in this step.
  5. Then carefully fold in the poppy seeds until incorporated.
  6. Evenly pour the batter into the three bread pans, and bake for 30 minutes.


Things Every College Studnet Needs!

With spring midterms almost over and spring break just days away, I’m already starting to think about fall classes. Even though it’s my first year on campus, I’ve been taking college classes for three years. I think by this time in my life I have college pretty much figured out. This idea of college essentials came to me when I was writing my study tips post a few weeks back. I’ve lived on campus for a year, but in order to save some money, I’m living with my parents next year. My school is for the majority a commuter college, and about 90% of students live off campus or at home. I think most of these items can be useful to both students residing on and off campus.


Filing Folder

During orientation, our group leader asked everyone in our group to ask at least one question that day. By the end of the day, I was the only one left, so I asked her what was the one thing that everyone needed for college. She said a filing folder. When I was back to school shopping in August, I bought a cheap plastic one to keep on my desk. Whenever I get a graded test or essay back from a teacher, I put it in there. So at the end of the semester, if something isn’t right in the grade book, I can prove it. At the beginning of the semester, I print out or ask for an extra copy of the syllabus. I have another on hand in case I lose my other copy, and it’s useful for in the future if I need to get a hold of a teacher for some reason.

Link: &ie=UTF8&qid=1520391513&sr=1-7&keywords=filing+folders


Brita Filter

EVERYONE WHO LIVES IN A DORM NEEDS A BRITA FILTER. I didn’t think I needed one until I moved in and tasted the water. You think since you’re paying thousands of dollars to live there already that the water would be good, but that isn’t the truth.



Ice Tray

I would never think to bring a ice tray to college in a million years. Even though I have my Brita Filter in the fridge, sometimes I don’t have enough time to cool down my drinks. (First world problems, I guess.) I bought this one especially because the ice can easily fit into any size bottle.



Water Bottle

My final water-related product is a reusable water bottle. This is a no-brainer. Bottles of water are bad for the environment and expensive. Every floor of every building I’ve ever been on has a water fountain. I like a bottle that either clips on or one that can be attached to my backpack so that I can free up my hands.

Link: &ie=UTF8&qid=1520392030&sr=1-6&keywords=water+bottle+40+oz


Power Strip

Not all colleges allow students to use power strips because of electrical issues, but I’ve never had a problem using one. If you’re going to spend a lot of time in a study hall or library, you need one of these in your backpack. This might seem silly, but there is never enough plugins on campus.

Link: &ie=UTF8&qid=1520392124&sr=1-2&keywords=usb+power+strip


Amazon Prime

I live off of Amazon Prime. I get free shipping on almost anything (including textbooks), free Prime Video, and Prime Music for the price of one. Luckily, I’m on my parents Amazon account, but if you sign up with a student email, you can get it for free for six months.



Remote Activated Light

This is for all the lazy students like me. When I’m done for the night, I don’t want to get up and turn off the light. Usually, I only use a lamp to light up my room, so I just attached the bulb onto the lamp. BOOM. Remote activated light!



Breakfast Bars

Everyone likes eating at the dining hall at the beginning of the semester. As the year progresses, either students are sick of the food or become too lazy to get it. I love to sleep in, and it’s easier for me to just eat in my dorm. I’m obsessed with ThinkThin bars. Sure, they aren’t the best protein bars out there, but I could do a lot worse. Normally at night I put one on my side table with a piece of fruit for breakfast, so that I don’t even have to get out of bed to eat in the morning. I also like having instant oatmeal on hand.



Small Tool Kit

When you first move in, you are going to need a toolkit. Plus, throughout the year some things just break or certain screws need to be tightened. It’s much easier to have a small tool kit on hand than to track down someone else’s screwdriver. I was gifted this 8 in 1 tool as a gift, and it’s basically any tool you could ever need for college.



Door Stop

If you want to make friends fast in college, all you need is a doorstop. During the first couple weeks of school, just keep your door open. You never know who you are going to meet.

Keychain/ Lanyard

I used to lose my keys all the time. I fixed that by just buying a lanyard for them. It makes them easy to find because they are either on my wrist or in my bag at all times.



Flash Drive

Every student needs to have a flash drive on them at all times. At least at my school, you can’t save files on the computer, and you have to save them on a disk. Plus, sometimes backing up files online doesn’t always work. I have one attached to my keychain, so I always have it on me.

Link: &ie=UTF8&qid=1520393319&sr=1-8&keywords=flash+drive



Schools in general are a noisy place. Investing in a good set of headphones is worth it in college. Personally, I use Beats, but you don’t have to spend a million dollars on a nice pair of headphones.




I’m genuinely surprised that I’m not Grammarly’s spokeswoman by now. I use Grammarly every day to edit essays, emails, and blog posts. On top of that, I use it to double check for plagiarism before I turn in assignments.


February Favorites

I might have started a new semester last month, but now I’m back into the swing of things. This month I started research for a paper I’m writing for an upcoming symposium. So far, so good! Also, I booked a ticket to go to Hawaii over Spring Break. I’ve been hitting it hard at the gym in preparation. Slowly, my plans are coming together for the summer. Between taking classes and a possible volunteer opportunity, the summer of 2018 will be insane (in a good way). Life is good right now.


Annie’s Shells & Cheese Mac & Cheese


As healthy as I try to be, I sometimes let myself indulge in my cravings. At the beginning of the month, I was craving Velveeta’s white cheese mac and cheese. They didn’t have that in the store, so I grabbed this. So glad I did. My roommate showed me a hack to make this in the microwave, but still, it’s best made on the stove top. For something as unhealthy as mac and cheese, I was surprised that it had 10 grams of protein in a serving. It doesn’t have a lot of weird ingredients that normally give it a longer shelf life.


Calvin Klein Hoodie

The second wave of winter just hit Kansas, so it was nice having this hoodie around to put on. You never see this shade of blue on hoodies. I think what’s interesting about this is that it has side slits on it. There is no way I paid $60 for this. I bought mine at my local Sam’s Club for less than $30.


American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace


Last month, the new season of American Crime Story premiered. I was hooked from episode one; the new cast is outstanding. Now halfway through the season, I can say during next award season this show will win BIG. I’m expecting that this show will be added to Netflix soon after it ends because that’s what they did last season with The People vs. OJ Simpson.


Celebrity Big Brother


Though I’m not quite a super fan, I’ve enjoyed the last couple seasons of Big Brother. This celebrity centered season is no exception. My roommate and I watch it religiously most nights of the week.





The first thing I bought for my upcoming trip was this wallet from Forever 21. I have a love-hate relationship with Forever 21, so I tend to only buy accessories from them. I wasn’t looking for a new wallet, but I was getting tired of the old card holder that I was using. This way I can have more than just my debit card and ID on me. This might seem silly, but my favorite thing about it is that it opens up. When I enter my building, I have to scan my student ID to unlock the door. Now I don’t even have to take it out.

February Playlist

Turkey Meatballs

Recently, I’ve been cooking on the weekends so that I have a few meals on hand during the week. I can only eat at the dining hall on campus so many times before I get sick of it. Meatballs are easy to rewarm and go with anything. They can be eaten by themselves, on rice, or with pasta. Last weekend, I made them with spaghetti squash. Yum!


  • 1 lb. lean Ground Turkey
  • 1/2 yellow Onion, grated
  • 2 teaspoons Garlic Powder
  • 1/4 cup Italian Breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons Parsley, minced
  • 1 teaspoon Chili Powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon Paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Pepper
  • 3 tbsp Honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon Vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Lemon Juice

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet or broiling pan with tin foil. Then lightly spray it with cooking spray.
2. In a large bowl, combine the turkey, onion, garlic powder, bread crumbs, parsley, chili powder, paprika, cayenne pepper, salt, and pepper. Mix until combined.
3. Measure out the meatballs using a 2 tablespoon spoon. Then form the meatballs in a ball in your hands. Evenly space them out on the baking sheet.
4. Let them bake for 20 minutes.
5. In a small bowl, combine and stir together the honey, vinegar, and lemon juice. Brush this onto the meatballs when they are done.
6. Put the pan back in the oven, and turn the oven onto a low broiler for four minutes.