Monday, December 10, 2012

Advent Conspiracy

In the past few years, one thing I have come to look forward to at Christmastime is Advent Conspiracy. For those of you who are not familiar with this, it is a movement to encourage people to take the money they would spend on Christmas gifts and instead donate it to people in need. I love Advent Conspiracy, not only because I completely agree with the idea, but also because their promotional videos are excellent. They are inspiring and convicting, and just a great reminder of the real meaning of Christmas. Check it out for yourself!

Here are some organizations I would suggest for Advent Conspiracy if you're interested:

To find your local rescue mission, click here: AGRM.

Monday, December 3, 2012

'Tis The Season (To Be Mourning)

I know, it’s not exactly the cheeriest of Christmas sayings, and that is because this is not a cheery post. This fall has not been a happy time for me, and now that we’re heading into the Christmas season, I’ve realized it’s going to be difficult to automatically flip some switch to make it all better.

For those of you who don’t know, last month my sister lost her first child, a precious baby boy, seven months in to her pregnancy.

Tragedy. That’s the only word I know that can describe it. I don’t think I’ve ever before experienced something that felt so cruel and unfair. I don’t think I’ve ever asked so many questions and been so utterly confused about why God would allow something to happen. My logical mind is blown, and all I can do is cry.

What’s even harder is that I live 12 hours away from my sister, so I can’t even be there in person to mourn with her. It’s like my husband and I are a little island far away from the rest of my family, and all we can do is wave from a distance while everyone else is together. One good thing about the holidays is that we already had plans to go visit, so we did (and will) get to spend a little time together.

But I ask you: how are we supposed to celebrate when there is so much sadness? How do I even go about my day when my heart is so heavy? I know my family is not the only one to ever experience this, but really, it’s hard to find comfort in the fact that it’s happened before.

So as we move into this holiday season, I guess I am just asking for prayer. For my sister especially, and then for my family as a whole. I pray that somewhere down the line, there is joy (“Joy to the world,” right?), and somehow we will find it again.


Monday, November 26, 2012

Christmas Throwback

To get you in the Christmas spirit, I am posting a video of one of my favorite Christmas songs sung by the ever-so-boybandish N*Sync. I'm actually pretty impressed by the quality of this live recording. 

Pull out your baggy jeans, here comes 1998!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

City View

Took some pictures of the city today. I'm really starting to feel at home here.

Thursday, November 1, 2012


Ah. There is so much going on right now in my life. I really want to blog about it, but I'm not sure how to word things appropriately. I'm afraid if I start, it will turn into one giant venting session, and I don't want to write something I will regret later.

Basically, work is really stressful and has been for the last couple months. I don't want to go into details, but I'm pretty much just waiting for it all to be over. It doesn't help that September through December is our busiest season, with fundraisers, Thanksgiving Basket distribution, Christmas events, and end of year giving. Everyone is overwhelmed so everyone is crabby. I really cannot wait for January (I know, I'm probably the only one).

On top of work stress, I had my midterm exam last night for my grad class. I completely overstudied for it, which I guess is a good thing. However, the test just could not have come at a worse week. I feel like I haven't had a carefree moment in weeks.

Luckily the exam is now over and I made it through the first week of Thanksgiving Basket signups. Only one more week of that and I will be able to relax at last (hopefully)! Then, I just need to start studying for the GRE, which I scheduled for December. Whew! It's so weird to be studying and taking tests again.

Anyway, I apologize for whining so much, I just felt the need to update my blog. Things really aren't all bad, and I am very thankful for my job and the ability to take this class. I'm hoping Thanksgiving will be a nice refreshing time to be around family and relax. It can't come soon enough!

Thanks for listening,

Here are some pictures from the registration this week.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Kate McGill, A Hidden British Gem

I want to introduce you to Kate McGill. She's the master of acoustic cover songs, and an adorable quirky British girl that everyone secretly wishes was their best friend. I first discovered her on YouTube while looking up Mumford & Sons' song "White Blank Page" (click here to watch that video), and I've been hooked on her ever since.

She released her debut album last year, and she's been touring the UK to promote it. Unfortunately, she has yet to come to the US on tour, but if/when she does, I am willing to drive 6+ hours to see her. She's hilarious ( - but remember, she's British, so don't be offended by her use of swears), and I bet she's really entertaining to see live.

Below is an official music video for a song off her first album (I believe she's currently working on her second) - called "Cursed." Listen, watch, and enjoy!

And here are some of her best covers (in my opinion):

Too Close by Alex Clare
The Only Exception by Paramore (collaboration)
Holocene by Bon Iver
Payphone by Maroon 5
I Can't Make You Love Me by Bon Iver/Bonnie Raitt

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Cambiar O No Cambiar

I am ready for a change.

I have been feeling it so strongly lately, and it doesn't make a lot of sense. The past few months have been full of change: Toby got a new job, we moved, and I started school again. Yet somehow I still feel the need for change. 

I'm pretty sure this feeling is actually caused by me returning to school...mostly because I really like it. I know two years ago I stated very adamantly that I would NEVER go to graduate school, which was preceded by at least a year of intense desire to go directly to a PhD program. Clearly, education is a passionate subject for me, and now I think I feel ready to be a full-time student (and part-time worker) again. I've been in contact with a couple professors in the department, and all I need to do now is pass the dinky little GRE test before I can apply (italics=sarcasm). Does anyone have some advice on how to study well for the GRE? Is there any way I can just blink my eyes 10 times and automatically pass with flying colors (by the way, where did that saying originate?)? Sigh.

There's something I've learned about myself since being an adult, that is, I really like to work by myself. I guess that was true in college too, but it wasn't such an issue because most of my work was supposed to be done independently. In my job, I work by myself for the most part, but then I have to wait for other people to make decisions. It's that silly thing called an organization. I know there are many great qualities about an organization that you don't have when working for yourself, but it can also be a pain. Toby correctly identified me as a "scientist," and I didn't really understand what he meant until recently. I don't particularly like laboratories, but if I could just sit in one all day wearing a lab coat and doing "science" (or evaluation in my case), I would be quite happy. I don't like waiting. I don't like inefficiencies. And it's irritating when everyone is on a different page. I'm always on MY same page. :) Don't get me wrong, I still really like my job and the organization. I just think someday I would really enjoy working for myself. 

I guess that's all for now. I'm off to do some homework and read an exciting article on Culturally Competent Evaluation. Good night!


Thursday, September 13, 2012


Another thing I love about YouTube is mashups. If you have even the smallest interest in Top 40 music, dance parties, or mindless entertainment, then you have to at least appreciate them a little. Most of the mashups I've heard on YouTube aren't anything special, but a few are definitely worth hearing.

I'd suggest just listening to the video, not watching it, because it's pretty spastic (and oftentimes raunchy). These are a few of my favorites.

*Mix of the top 25 songs of 2009*

*Mix of 15 songs*

(I probably just like this one because I'm such a big fan of Owl City...)

Just a little pick-me-up for your Thursday afternoon. Hope you enjoy!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Great Burst of Wisdom

Happy Labor Day weekend, blogesphere!

I write to you from my new (mostly moved-in) place in the city. In the last two weeks, I have learned a lot of new things, which of course I'm going to share with you here.

When you put your TV in the basement, your amount of time spent watching it decreases dramatically. I know we've been busy unpacking and setting up house, but I can't even believe how little TV I've watched recently. Let's be honest, in the previous two years, I made up for the previous 10 (you know, those years when I was Miss Involved in soccer, dance, theater, youth group, clubs, etc.) in TV watching. I can justify it all I want ("being a working adult is exhausting"), but it's the truth. My point is that now that our main TV room is in the basement, it has become much more of an ordeal. Any time I need to refill a drink, go to the bathroom, eat a snack, or actually get phone service, I have to walk back upstairs. Now you are probably thinking that I am incredibly lazy. Well, I won't fight it, you are right.

My other point is this: if you are trying to cut something out of your life, put it in the farthest away space possible. Like if you are trying to lose weight, keep all the junk food in your garage. Or if you are trying to spend less time online, keep your computer in the...gosh I don't know, attic? I guess there aren't many other inconvenient places in a house. However, the opposite of this is true as well. When your laundry room is three flights of stairs away, doing laundry becomes a huge chore. We DREADED doing laundry and so we only did it about once every three weeks (a little embarrassing to admit), and at that time we would have at least four loads to wash. But now, we have a washer and dryer in our basement, and I am proud to say I can now wash one load at a time every few days! Therefore, if you want to add something to your life, put it in the most convenient place possible. Boom. Thus ends my great burst of wisdom.

You're welcome.

Let's see, what else do I have to tell you? Oh! Commuting to work is THE WORST! If you have the ability to move closer to your workplace, do it. Do it right now. In our previous apartment, I had a 30-40 minute commute to work and a 50-70 minute commute home. Now, I have a 10 minute commute both ways. TEN minutes! That is an extra hour and a half each day that I didn't have before. Things you can do in an hour and a half: watch an entire movie, drive to the grocery store/shop/drive home, attend a short wedding reception, exercise/shower/eat all the calories you just burned, sit on Facebook, have your cake and eat it too - you get the idea. Have I convinced you yet? Basically, everyone should just move to the city so we can all be neighbors and hang out all the time. :)

Okay, that's it for now. Once we buy a little more furniture, I will take some pictures of our new place and post them for your enjoyment. I leave you with the new Mumford and Sons single. Adios.


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

New Digs

We are officially moved in to our new apartment! We've done a lot of packing, cleaning, moving, unpacking, and more cleaning, but we are finally here. There are still tons of boxes to unpack and furniture to organize (yippie!), but I feel really good about our progress. I'm pretty exhausted right now, so I'm just going to give you a sneak peak of our place. Here you go!

The front door

The back door

Back of the building

The "backyard"

Thursday, August 16, 2012

But I'm Better Now

I just discovered something wonderful, and I'm so excited about it that I need to write this down before I forget! "It" is the song Better Now by a band called The Vespers. I downloaded their album for free a few weeks ago on Noisetrade* but I am just now getting a chance to listen to it. When you hear this song, you will almost immediately think of Nickel Creek (another wonderful band), get warm fuzzies, and then smile, knowing there exists another band that is rocking this sound. If you're not familiar with either of the bands I just mentioned, I will describe them like this: folk, soulful [female] vocals, banjo, acoustic, worship. Honestly, what could be better?

Warning: if you actually watch the music video and listen to the lyrics, you might get a little teary-eyed (like I just did).

Oh but I'm better now
Why do you shake your head no
Oh and I met a man
Oh and he saved my soul

*To download their free album for yourself, click here:

Friday, August 10, 2012

Farm Fresh

One of my newest finds in the city is the beauty of the farmers market. I always heard about farmers markets from friends, but for some reason, I thought the main point was to walk around and see interesting and bizarre foods. However, I have recently learned that the point is, in fact, to buy produce fresh from the farm! If you've never had farm vegetables before, you definitely need to try it. I don't know if it's all in my head, but I can't help feeling like a better person for eating farmers market vegetables. There's something about buying green beans still connected to the branch (stem? leaf? What is that called exactly?) that makes me feel a slight Laura Ingalls Wilder vibe that I love. My hubby and I don't feel a strong urge to eat only organic/natural foods, but now that we know we can buy fresh veggies for cheap (which also taste delicious!), we are big fans. 

A couple weeks ago at the farmers market, we accidentally doubled up on green beans and cucumbers. Luckily, we were motivated to eat them all. :)

And this week, we invested in fresh basil and tomatoes. So my hubs made margherita pizza!

Well, that is all for now. I just wanted to give a shout out to farmers markets everywhere. Now that we are moving to the city (in one week!), I'm sure I will be exposed to many other new things that might show up on this blog. Hopefully, you will enjoy them too!

Have a great weekend!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

City and Colour

Lately I've become somewhat of an obsessive YouTuber. Not the kind of YouTuber that watches videos about British children biting their siblings, or kids going to the dentist, or worst of all: kittens. Rather, I've realized that I greatly enjoy watching music videos and discovering new artists online - and apparently YouTube is the new VH1.

My method is this: listen to Pandora at work, hear a new song that I like, look it up on YouTube, become a little obsessed, and find a new favorite artist! It's quite a fun hobby. :) 

A recent new find is the artist called City and Colour. The band consists of a guy from Canada (Dallas Green) who writes and performs the music. Here's his website: I don't know a whole lot more about his personal life, but I am totally digging his sound. I think he sounds like a folky, more whimsical Iron & Wine. And honestly, I tend to get a little bored with Iron & Wine, so this is a refreshing change. Check it out.

Come on, Canada, share the love!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

This ship will carry our bodies safe to shore

Happy Wednesday, friends. I'm so glad there are only two days left in this week. For starters, work has been CRAZY busy lately, and I am quite stressed out. I can literally feel the tension in my shoulders at all times. If I was the kind of person who got massages, this week would probably be the time to do it. Or maybe I should take a bath - you know, in that fancy sparkling bathtub provided by apartment complexes everywhere. Oh wait. :) Anyway, the stress is mostly due to the fact that I am currently learning some new skills at work so I can fill in for a co-worker who is going on vacation next week. My position is already split into two separate roles, and now I'm just throwing a third into the mix. Why not, eh? Sometimes my brain just really hurts.

On a more positive note, I'm really excited for this fall. I'll be taking my first graduate class starting in September - it's called Principles and Methods of Evaluation. You probably just dozed off reading that title, but I am super pumped. If you know me well, you know that I'm a true nerd at heart, and I especially love research and evaluation. So this is right up my alley! I'm hoping that this class will help me decide if I want to apply to be a full time grad student and pursue my MA in...get ready...Quantitative Methods in Education. Yeah! It's all part of my master plan to become awesome and start my own non-profit consulting business. Details to come. Of course, knowing God, He will most likely throw something totally wild my way to teach me to trust Him more, and I will end up pregnant with triplets at age 25. (Note: I am not pregnant.)

Well, that's all for tonight, folks. I know this wasn't the most interesting blog post, but I'm home alone, bored, and there's no Olympic gymnastics on tonight to entertain me. I will leave you with my current jam: Little Talks by Of Monsters and Men. The video is really weird, but the song is great. Enjoy.


Monday, July 30, 2012

Introducing: 2Cellos

If you haven't watched this before, you definitely need to watch it right now. According to Wikipedia, this video got over 3 million hits within the first 2 weeks it was posted. Insane.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

A Summer Kind of Day

I spent yesterday afternoon wandering around Lake of the Isles. My hubby was out and he told me to spend the day doing whatever I wanted without planning it ahead of time (which is difficult for me). So I figured out the ingredients needed for my perfect day off, and I have to say, it was quite enjoyable! :)

1. Coffee
2. My camera
3. A good book

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Welcome to The Zook Nook

Hello, and welcome to The Zook Nook! I'm still not sure if I'm going to tell people about this blog or just keep it to myself and any random creepers that stumble across it on the inter-web, so for now I will just pretend I have an audience out there. I created this blog so I would have a place to post my videos and pictures, with the occasional written post, and share anything I find interesting. I figure the great thing about a blog is that no one is being forced to read it (like a Facebook or Twitter feed), so I can openly state my thoughts and opinions without annoying the heck out of 400+ "friends" who I haven't talked to in years. Plus, I think "The Zook Nook" is so stinkin' cute of a name that I had to claim it somewhere...

To quote Jason Mraz, "for those who don't remember me, now let me introduce you to my style": I am not a highly emotional person, so I typically write more in facts and statements that with feeling. Don't get me wrong, I do have strong feelings about a lot of things, it's just that I'm not very good at expressing them. I've done a small amount of blogging in the past, and it seems that I default to writing about my situations more than how I feel about them. So if you're looking for someone who intimately expresses their deepest emotions for the whole blogosphere to read, this is probably not the place for you. I will mostly write short, direct posts about whatever I fancy, and then accompany that with photos I took and videos I edited. 

Here's a snippet of my interests (and what I will likely write about): homelessness and poverty, music, faith, photography, pop culture, and definitely NOT politics. Feel free to leave a comment or check my Twitter for more frequent communications from me.

Now go and have an excellent Saturday!