Make All Green with Envy for This Guacamole Recipe

By Elaina Taylor

Hiya folks! It’s time to embrace summer again and all it entails: barbecues, beach trips, hiking excursions, stargazing, vacations, roller coaster outings, poolside potlucks, road trips, and so much more. Break out the reggae music, high-waisted shorts, sunscreen, and some surfside guitar strummin’. But stop! You’re not ready to go just yet. You need the perfect snack to go with your summer lovin’ and I know just what you need: the fan favorite guacamole recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 1 avocado
  • 1 cup of salsa (your choice of the type)
  • 1 tablespoon of lime juice
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • ~1 teaspoon of Chipotle Tabasco Hot sauce (or regular Tabasco)
  • 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon of Nature Seasoning (if unable to procure, use salt and pepper)

Utensils:

  • Mixing bowl
  • Spoon
  • Potato masher
  • Garlic press
  • Large chef’s/ cook’s knife (or any knife suitable for mincing)

It pairs well with a great many types of Tortilla chips, and adds its own tang very nicely to various sandwiches. This mixture serves roughly five people; for a larger batch double the amount of each ingredient.

*Side note: for those who would prefer a version of this guacamole closer in flavor to Chipotle’s, refrain from adding the salsa to your mixture.

Instructions:

  • Peel the avocado and take out the seed from the center. Mash the avocado with the potato masher until there are no chunks left within the bowl.
  • Add the salsa and lime juice to the mashed avocado and stir the mixture.
  • Peel the outer layer of skin from the garlic clove until only the bulb is showing. (Hint: it helps to first lay the clove on a hard surface and apply pressure before attempting to peel the skin.) One by one, place the cloves into the garlic masher and squeeze the handles together over the bowl.
  • Add roughly a teaspoon of Chipotle Tobasco Hot Sauce, or regular Tabasco sauce. *Depending on your tolerance for spicy food, add more or less to taste. This may also vary depending on the intensity of the salsa you chose to add.
  • Chop the stalks of the cilantro off until you are left with just the leaves. Using the large chef’s knife, finely mince the leaves. Mix them into the mélange.
  • Add in the Nature Seasoning, if you have none use salt and pepper. Start with 1 teaspoon and if more is needed, add in to taste. Stir until all ingredients are blended together. Refrigerate until it is time to serve. Enjoy!

Paint By Numbers – Adorning your Walls with Pixel Art 

With the vacant white walls of your barren apartment looming above you, it might seem expensive to find posters, prints, or other solutions. Maybe you’ve got the cash, but can’t find any piece that represents you best. Aside from a Maya Angelou quote on creativity and a Doctor Who Starry Night TARDIS print in my room, it’s hard for me to find pieces that add a touch of personal flair beyond what can be bought in a Walmart or on a generic poster website.

As a huge gamer, so much of what I identify with exists behind a screen. Nailing a perfect jump in Mario and catching the newest Pokemon are feelings not much typical wall décor can replicate. How do you take something small and virtual and turn it into a piece of décor? With this tutorial, you can take your favorite sprites from gaming’s early eras and make some awesome unique additions to your space!

So, what do I mean by ‘sprites?’ In 2D gaming, a sprite is a single picture that represents an object in-game. It’s as simple as the blocks in tetris:

Tetris Blocks

Each of the blocks that falls into place in Tetris has its own sprite, made up of individual pixels. These pixels all have their own color values that give the appearance of shading. See the three white pixels in the corners of the Tetris pieces? Those give simple highlights to add a shine to the pieces. A set of sprites together in one image like this is called a sprite sheet. Take Yoshi and Baby Yoshi in this sprite sheet below:

Yoshi_on_checkered_paper_by_Lobsterprince (1)

See how the varying shades of green shadow on each pixel of Yoshi’s back, baby yoshi, and the egg? This creates depth in a small space. It’s a limitation of the technology these games were developed on. However, sprites also make for easy DIY as well!

For this project, I sampled two different video tutorials already found on Youtube:

Taking inspiration from these videos and my own idea on an 8-bit sign, I hunted around with two ideas in mind. The first was this sign I put together myself in a pixel paint program:

Not today satan final

It features a favorite phrase I use on the daily inspired by a quote from the eternally sassy Bianca Del Rio of RuPaul’s Drag Race. It might look fuzzy and low-res as 22×22 pixel image on a computer, but that’s the beauty of this project – taking something ephemerally small and turning it into art for your wall!

For the second, I wanted to paint my favorite Pokemon, Snorlax! His sleepy, chubby lethargy just screams inspirational.

snorlax

Before starting out, you should definitely know which sprites you want to paint, that way you can shop smart and only buy what you need. Here’s a list of materials:

  • Pieces of 12”x12” corkboard.
  • Acrylic paints.
  • Paintbrushes
  • A ruler
  • A black pen or sharpie
  • An exacto knife
  • A paint mixing tray
  • Mod Podge

For your project, I’d recommend ordering the corkboard from Amazon and buying as much as possible at Walmart. I purchased my corkboard from Michaels originally and the measurements of the corkboards were off, which affected my final projects. Measuring pixels in sprite art like this is an exercise in precision, especially if you’re doing a more complicated piece.

So, how do you find sprites to paint? If you have a game in mind already, the Sprite Database (Insert Link: http://spritedatabase.net/) is a great place to start searching for your sprites. Once you’ve found a sprite, follow these steps to find out its measurement. I’m using a Mac so I used Preview to get my measurements. If you’re running Windows, Microsoft Paint should be able to do the exact same thing.

  1. Open your sprite or sprite sheet in preview.
  2. If you found a sprite sheet with different sprites on it, zoom in and select the one you want using the selection tool. Make sure the selection is only around the pixels you want to paint. Then, crop it.
  3. Once you have your cropped sprite, go to Tools -> Show Inspector. This will pull up attributes about your sprite.
  4. Check the ‘Image Resolution’ section. It will give you the measurements if your sprite in pixels.

Once you know the dimensions of your pixel art, you can begin!

  1. Using your ruler and a pen or sharpie, draw out a grid onto your corkboard. Knowing the dimensions of your sprite will allow you to calculate your measurements. Snorlax’s original sprite was roughly 80×80, divided by 12 inches, makes .15 inch-sized squares.
  2. Once you have your grid, sketch out the outline of your sprite so you know the where to paint. You could also go ahead and cut out your sprite before you paint it, but I thought it’d be easier just to
  3. Before you begin painting, make sure you have your colors mixed. For Snorlax, I needed a black, dark blue, medium blue, lighter blue, tan, and darker tan. Preparing them in advanced will keep you organized as you paint.
  4. Painting should be quick and easy! Follow the details on your sprite to get every pixel painted in – it’s pretty much adult paint-by-numbers.
  5. Using your exacto knife, cut your finished piece out! Be very careful in this step – smaller pixels means more precise slices to get a clean a cut as possible.
  6. Seal it with Mod Podge for that shiny finish!

In his video tutorial, Leftwich also recommends gluing cardboard behind the back of your finished pieces for longevity, but my corkboard pieces felt thick enough to stand alone without it.

Once the Mod Podge dries, you’re done! You’re now the proud owner of your very own corkboard pixel art from the renaissance eras of gaming!

Because my corkboard wasn’t the exact size as advertised by Michaels, I ended up downsizing on Snorlax and painting just his head alongside my ‘Not Today Satan’ sign. For my first time painting in quite some time, I think they turned out great!

My finished sign:

not today satan!

Snorlax’s finished head:

Snorlax pixel art

And one more, together:

Finished pieces

Snorlax, serving pixelated realness!

No matter what your idea might be, follow these simple steps and you can replicate just about anything pixelated in acrylics and bring your favorite games into your space.

No Fighting, No Biting–How to Survive in a Big Family

No Fighting, No Biting—How to Survive in a Big Family.

To begin listing lessons learned from being part of any family would be like mapping the individual genes shared between its members—an impossibly difficult task undermining the very existence of such bonds. Not all families are created equal, nor is every day identically sunny and spent in joyous company. However, to share connections so fundamentally organic with other humans—first nine months of physical being spent in the same vessel—makes petty arguments and misunderstandings irrelevant.

My parents were brave enough souls to bring seven lives into this world: seven births, seven bodies to clothe, seven little lessons. I never gave much thought to the size of my life or the sound of laughter echoing through the rafters of our Victorian house I’d like to share with you just a few of the countless pieces of wisdom I’ve learned on how to survive as a child of an above-average sized family.

1. Be granted the opportunity to be born to two adults who love children.

This is the most vital component—an “either you got it or you don’t” kind of scenario—but important nonetheless. My mom is the kind of woman who genuinely loves the birthing process, its start-to-finish, balloon-for-a-belly, its swollen ankles. Mama Bear would have had more children if she could. She did her best, starting at age 21 and ending in her 40s. If it’s in any way possible, get the kind of parents who want lots of messy handprints on the fridge.

2. Remember birthdays. Or at least birth months.

My family has a “birthday season” spanning from March to June in which almost all of my siblings’ and both parents’ birthdays are celebrated. During this time we consume disgusting amounts of Ukrop’s cake and annihilate the Birthday section of Walmart’s card aisle. This is also when we unveil one of the most revered Miller family traditions.

Raid our kitchen cabinets and junk drawers and you will find not even a single birthday candle. Since there are so many people and birthdays to celebrate, we no longer bother buying the waxy, colorful cake toppers. Instead, we turn off all of the lights and grab a flashlight. A chorus of off-key voices sing “Happy Birthday” while someone shines the flashlight on the cake. At the end of the song, the birthday sibling makes their wish by blowing on the cake, and the light holder clicks off the beam. Typically, the flash light bearer will then turn the flashlight on again, claiming that we bought a “trick flash light” rather than “trick candles.”

We’re dorks.

3. Don’t get upset with emergency room visits and property damage on major holidays.

Or any time, for that matter. Really, just roll with absolutely anything that comes at you because you don’t have time to understand or question absurdity.

It was Easter morning a few years back during our stint of Vermont life. The Cadbury egg tummy ache had set in and there was neon Easter basket grass stuck to socks and hair. Two of my older brothers, who were about 15 and 18 at the time, are outside doing sporty boy things on our four acres of land up in The Green Mountains. All was well and good until Mama Bear summoned to go outside.* My brothers had been playing an invented game in which a pitcher throws a lacrosse ball with a lacrosse stick to a batter, who then hits the ball back to the pitcher, who catches it with the lacrosse stick.

My 15-year-old brother, who just moments earlier was pitching, is found crumbled in the wet grass. After taking a lacrosse ball to the eye he is rushed to the emergency room to get his swollen face sewn back shut. I stay home to look after my little brothers and erase the gross image of the inside of a human face by flying our new Easter kites and eating jelly beans.

*Anytime a mother is requested, please have a phone nearby to call the fire department or an ambulance.

4. Patience isn’t a virtue—it’s a survival strategy.

You just have to be patient with everything in life, no matter how painful or mundane the passage of time may be. Be patient with 13 hour long car rides; be patient with baseball tournaments when you can’t stand the smell of concession stand burgers and field dirt anymore. Be patient with cancer test results and the status of loved ones in the hospital. Be patient while waiting for the arrival of new family members and for fresh brownies to cool.

As the fifth child I watched my older siblings get their driver’s licenses and stay up later than my curfew allowed. I don’t know if I could have ever aged a day if it hadn’t been for some amount of reluctant patience. I’d probably still be five years old and dressed in my prized lion costume if it weren’t for a solid belief that one day I would grow enough to be an equal.

5. Develop a sense of humor that keeps you smiling as you watch the last train pull away from the station at 2am. Life likes to play jokes on innocent, unsuspecting people. Brothers like to play jokes on innocent, unsuspecting sisters. Either way, you can’t take life personally and you have to be able laugh. Laugh at your own misfortune; laugh at others when they slip on ice. Laugh when your keys get locked in your car or when you flunk a test you slaved hours in isolated preparation for.

It’s all kind of funny if you think about it. Life is like a little prankster, and the angrier you get the more it laughs at you. If you laugh at yourself, at least you’ll maintain

sanity. Or you’ll just look crazy laughing to yourself as a grease fire burns your house to the ground.

My brothers constantly pick on one another and myself; I’d be a filthy stinkin’ liar if I said I didn’t return the favor. If you get a verbal smack you have to be quick and give a better one right back. Laughter can make humiliation feel inclusive rather than degrading.

Big families can be complex units of humans, each trying to find themselves while bearing some semblance of unity. With so many lives and personalities intermingling, it can be difficult to avoid mishaps or keep in touch with everyone as much as you’d like. However, if you just keep smiling and accept all that comes your way, then you can handle finding out that your sister is moving to Germany, or that your brother may not survive to be a day old. When it rains at the beach or you have to move states away on your 11th birthday, you are strong enough to face the adventures ahead. Call those brothers and be grateful that even if you end up alone, at least you’ll always have someone else’s Christmas to mooch off of!

Floral Fun DIY

Making a place into a home is an endeavor that requires time and care. And as a 22 year old, I haven’t had extensive experience with this. But I will say that moving from a crowded four-person apartment to a one bedroom requires a special kind of organization, and offers a blank canvas in the form of 638 square feet. When I first saw the unit, I was enchanted with visions of the cozy apartment I could turn it into. The tenant living there at the time had a pretty loose interpretation of the word “homey,” namely because his main decorative feature was a light up and/or inflatable palm tree (I can’t remember which). So when I began to think about decorating this apartment with my partner, naturally the first thing I did was go to Pinterest for a little “pinsperation.” That’s where I found this tutorial that I later adapted for my apartment, a DIY project to create unique floral letters for hanging up on a wall. This DIY the first one I did for my new apartment and my favorite so far. You’ll need a glue gun, a letter to decorate, and a bunch of fake flowers (details below). So, here’s my adaption of the project in five short steps:

  1. Track down some initials you like. I got mine at Target for a couple dollars each around the time when they had a bunch of dorm stuff out. Another possibility is Michaels, who almost always has letters of different styles in stock.
  2. While at Michaels (how convenient), check out their fake flower selection. Pro tip: Michaels almost always has a coupon online, so take advantage of that, as their flowers can be pricey. For a low cost alternative, check out the Dollar Store’s flower selection. You’ll probably need a handful of flower stalks for one letter, and double that if you’re doing more than one. If flowers aren’t your thing, there are a lot of other options—buttons, book pages, etc.
  3. De-stem each flower. Usually the flowers pop right off, but if they’re stubborn, you can always snip them off with scissors. You want to get off as much stem as possible so the bottom of the flower is relatively flat.
  4. If you’re a planner, you’ll want to roughly lay out the organization of the flowers on your chosen initial. This is especially helpful so you can make sure you have enough flowers and that same-colored flowers are spaced appropriately.
  5. Fire up your glue gun! It’s assembly time. Based on your layout, simply start to glue each flower to the letter. There’s no real finesse to this part as long as you know where each flower is going. Hot glue dries within a minute so when you’re done, you can hang these right away.

This is probably the easiest DIY ever, right? If you’re like me, the hardest part is figuring out where to hang the final products. I decided to hang them over my bed (because how else would I know whose bed it was?) I hung mine on brick so I kind of wiggled nails into the mortar and left the rest up to fate. They haven’t fallen off yet so I feel pretty confident about my decision. For renters, you’ll want to use some paint safe Command strips, or something that won’t harm your walls.

This DIY was a little time consuming, but the result was really rewarding. I love getting to add personal handmade touches to my apartment because I’m a big believer in the idea that environment dictates attitude. And even the littlest additions, like some floral letters, can make a huge difference.

Floral Letter

My Life in a Nutshell

By Elaina Taylor

Nothing stumps me more than having to write about myself, and this blog post is no exception. And to describe my life outside of TAD is to exclude one of the best parts of my days. But, I shall try.

I am the last one of my fellow writers to cover this topic, so this means I have already read and edited everyone else’s scintillating summaries of their lives. And goodness does mine seem ridiculously boring in comparison! Granted, I am only a sophomore, so I still have time to get involved in clubs and orgs on campus. I’m thinking about the Latin Dance Club…but that’s a thought for another time.

Outside of classes, I live in one of three places: my dorm room, the library, or the TAD office. I always seem to be zooming around completing various tasks, running errands, studying for tests, writing papers, and on and on, late like usual. I’ve also just recently been initiated as a brother into the professional pre-law fraternity Phi Alpha Delta (PAD), and am on the professional development committee, so I predict my schedule will become even more hectic as a result. (I also fully expect my friends to get TAD and PAD mixed up now.)

Spare time finds me either hunched over a book, eyes bleary and sleep deprived, or watching my favorite shows on Netflix. That is of course, if my friends and I haven’t cooked up a plan for evening events, which most likely includes crazy antics of some sort. I will not elaborate on the crazy antics; question me further and I will plead the fifth. Every weekend seems to just roll in, carrying with it new, unexpected adventures. But with a heavy course and workload, I have had less and less time to read books, which is one of my favorite hobbies. I am a voracious reader, and still try to edge in a book or two here and there.

Sadly the lack of a car prevents me from reveling in another favorite pastime – hiking. I have a yearlong pass for the Shenandoah National Park, which I don’t get to use very often. It is a rare and wonderful occasion when I am able to hike, and always manages to calm my mind. Most of the time I will instead be at UREC climbing the rock wall, or taking a dance class like Hip Hop or World Beat (which I highly recommend by the way!) I’ve discovered dancing is one of the best things for the soul.

And what would be a description of a college kid’s free time without mentioning social media? I use twitter only sparingly now, a fact I am proud of, but every day without fail I check Facebook for the newest posts on my favorite page, Humans of New York. Photographer Brandon Stanton goes around taking pictures of random people and including little quotes from them that always manage to touch my heart. I enjoy his snapshots of humanity immensely and sometimes cry or laugh out loud in public from the posts I read on the page.

Sadly, there are never enough hours in the day to accomplish all I set out to do, but here in a nutshell is what I consistently manage to make time for. Now I just have to see about that Latin Dance Club…

Busted Foglights & Foster Dogs – Scott Oslin in Focus

What do I do outside of TAD?

This is one of those biographical take-stock-of-the-backroom type of assignments. I spend so much time managing the front end of ‘Scott Oslin Writes and Plays Video Games and Walks His Dog Sometimes’ LLC that I don’t think much about what happens when no one’s looking. I’m more of a motivated by the prompt kind of writer, less of a self-directed one; except when I’m on a bus. I have a lot of poems about people on busses. Continue reading Busted Foglights & Foster Dogs – Scott Oslin in Focus

The Life and Times of Natalie Miller

I am a young TADpole with very little experience of life inside of the office. My existence outside of the TAD-osphere, however, is busy and often ridiculous.

I write for The Breeze, so regularly attending meetings and conducting interviews always fill my schedule. This can be hectic, but I love the energy and excitement of a new assignment. The greatest part about writing articles is meeting passionate people and learning about new Harrisonburg-area happenings. Having backstage access to people’s lives and speaking with them about what drives their souls keeps every story new and fresh in my mind.

Writing inhabits a great part of my being—often it’s impossible to decipher the words from myself or be sure of who is creating whom. Sometimes I like to shock my brain and do other things with my life, too. I tutor a middle school-aged Puerto Rican girl twice a week. Gabriela and her family are beautiful humans. The De Jesus-Martinez family treats me like a Hermana and always offers me Oreos and hugs when I visit.

“Foreign” things fascinate me beyond what can probably be considered a healthy interest. Any and everything new and exciting renders me helpless to its novel beauty. I love learning new languages for fun, and have made my own German and Spanish vocabulary notebooks. Before college I studied French for five (unsuccessful) years and have taken four semesters of Italian at JMU. I just love words. I don’t even have to know what they mean; I just like admiring them and listening to their sounds.

Often I need non-wordy time, too. Adventure is the momentum that keeps my body moving forward. I like to take walks alone or go for quiet drives in the country. Some days I disappear for hours, getting lost on roads or in my head. I’m an incredibly introverted being and require personal space to remain sane. At night I love star gazing and emptying my head of everything but their glittering eyes.

Another one of my oddly favorite things to do is sit quietly in pretty places. My head is always so full of thinks and commitments that I need an escape every now and again. Getting in my car with a journal and some books to find a nice secluded area for listening to music and doodling is a small reward for behaving well in normal society.

Contrary to previously confessed habits, I’m not a complete loner. I love hanging out with my friends and getting into shenanigans. My friends are incredible humans because they’re always up for anything and have amazing, bizarre ideas. Sometimes we like to listen to music while making collages and chomping on messy popcorn balls. Sometimes we go out and come home with stop signs and new buddies. Regardless, every day is an awesome adventure and I’m always excited to wake up and see what kinds of trouble comes my way.

Basically, I’m a mess of a person, but I wouldn’t want to live any other way. I’m down for just about anything and like being in the company of  humans who share the same sentiment. I enjoy getting into crazy situations, or laying in a field with solitude for miles.  This old soul finds TAD to be a wonderful new environment to explore and develop into a true writer.

The Heart and Soul of James Madison University

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