Saturday, May 7, 2011

Chocolate!!!! :D

Chocoholics Anonymous

I just realized recently that in my very first blog post, I noted that I would probably be writing some posts that had something to do with chocolate, and that I have failed to follow through on this comment. This is a sad thing considering how much I love chocolate, so I decided to devote an entire post to it. I'll give just a few reasons why I am a self-professed chocoholic. :)

Just the thought of chocolate makes me smile but one thing about chocolate that makes it appealing to everyone is that it's scientifically proven to make us happy. Chocolate affects the release of neurotransmitters, which transmit signals between neurons in the brain. The particular types of neurotransmitters that chocolate affects are ones that make us happy, like endorphines and serotonin. These can lower our stress level, relieve depression, and makes us alert and excited. Some of the neurotransmitters triggered can get us feeling similar to being high and even in love! I always knew I was in love in chocolate for a reason. :p

Besides giving us the temporary feeling of happiness, chocolate can also have health benefits when consumed in a reasonable amount. Dark chocolate in particular is full of antioxidants which studies have shown can help reduce blood pressure and improve your heart's health. Some studies are even showing evidence that chocolate could help to prevent cancer. These benefits lie mainly in the cacao, so the higher the percentage of cacao in the chocolate, the better for you it is. This works out pretty well for me because I prefer the rich taste of dark chocolate to milk chocolate any day.

Semi sweet chocolate is dark chocolate with a high sugar content. This works very well for chocolate chips because it has the richness and nutrients of the high cacao percentage, but also the high sugar content to keep it extra sweet. I prefer using semi sweet chocolate chips over milk chocolate ones when baking for these reasons. Generally this is the popular way to go, mainly because of the difference in taste in my opinion. When it comes to baking desserts with chocolate involved, I think the richer, the better!

A Way To Satisfy Your Chocolate Craving

I think it would be just a bit rude of me to have all this talk about chocolate and not leave you with some sort of recipe. I've decided to keep it simple and classic by sharing my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe, by Alton Brown.  If you're like me and like your measurements in cups rather than ounces, you can use the same recipe with this minor variation. There will always be debates about the best chocolate chip cookie recipe but this one is my favorite because I love how they turn out chewy, slightly crispy on the outside but soft and gooey on the inside. I also love that the recipe is extremely precise and detailed. All of Alton Brown's recipes are this way.

This post might not make you a chocoholic like me, but perhaps I have been able to remind you of why chocolate is and should always be one of the best choices to relieve your sweet tooth. The next time you need to do this, I suggest trying the chocolate chip cookie recipe. I know just talking about all this is making me hungry! Now, where did I put the rest of that dark chocolate bunny?.... :)

Friday, April 29, 2011

Overcoming Depression

How To Beat Depression

In one of my recent posts, I mentioned that focusing on things that bring happiness and joy can sometimes help me keep from becoming too depressed. Well, now it's time to actually focus on why it's necessary to do this in the first place, and to see what other ways are effective in overcoming depression. This is something that I deem extremely valuable to learn about and even more important to know how to overcome it.

According to the Webster Merriam dictionary, depression is defined as " a psychoneurotic or psychotic disorder marked especially by sadness, inactivity, difficulty in thinking and concentration, a significant increase or decrease in appetite and time spent sleeping, feelings of dejection and hopelessness, and sometimes suicidal tendencies". I think the key words here is "disorder". True, chronic depression is not just a passing feeling of sadness that lasts for only a few moments. Depression is a serious problem that needs to be addressed in the right way. If you think you can just try to live with it and try to banish those feelings, you're not going to see much results. I believe that it's necessary to become familiar with the things that contribute to depression. By doing this, we can then address them and do something useful to alleviate the pain that depression brings.

One major cause of depression is other health problems. I'm sure pretty much everyone has fallen into the terrible cabin fever that comes with being cooped up in the house after being sick for a while. This happens to me after only a few days of having a temporary sickness, like the flu or strep throat. Well, with more serious health problems, that cabin fever can easily turn into depression. Chronic pain, Parkinson's disease, anemia and cancer are just a few of the life altering illnesses that have been known to cause depression. When people are diagnosed with these illnesses, a lot of times they are forced to stay bed ridden or don't have the ability to exert themselves by going out of the house very often. This leads to the cabin fever and boredom. Soon they start feeling like there's no hope and their lives just won't improve at all. These feelings all lead to depression.

There are specific ways to target these causes and find cures for them that will therefore help toward curing the depression. The health problems that can lead to depression are varied and sometimes can't be cured, but they can be treated in the best way possible if they are addressed. One thing that can drastically help is to get out into the sunshine as much as possible. Soaking up the vitamin D and breathing in the fresh air can not only help improve your physical condition; it also helps to put you in a better mood and fights that cabin fever. Even if your disease limits you from going out very much, you can at least try to step out to your backyard or into a courtyard if you're in the hospital. Seeing and appreciating God's beautiful creations can put you in a much better mood and allow you to be in the right mindset to resist some of the pain of depression.

Another major cause of depression is loneliness. This can actually coincide with the severe health problems sometimes when people don't get visitors as often as they'd like, but loneliness can really happen to anyone. We all have friends and family, but some of us have more or better ones than others do. I know that when I'm having a problem that's keeping me down, my family and close friends are always there to show support and help cheer me up. Not everyone is so fortunate. Sometimes people do have these strong relationships, but they don't get to keep in touch as often as they need to and therefore feel lonely a lot of the time. Statistics show that twice as many women are diagnosed with depression as men. This is due in large part to the fact that some mothers end up being alone with their children at home and begin to feel lonely, as with postpartum depression seen in mothers with newborn babies.

Of course, the obvious way to get rid of loneliness is to try to improve your social life. Get out more and try to maintain the relationships you already have while being open enough to make new ones. Joining a support group is a very good way to be reminded that you're not alone in your depression. It's also the perfect place to get to know people and make new friends because everyone in the group already has something in common. You can go from there and find other things you might have in common so that you will have a bit more to talk about than just depression all the time. :p Just know that you never have to be completely alone.

A Surefire Way To Overcome Depression

I know that there is One who will always be with us, whether we're depressed or not. This One is Jesus. Whenever you start to feel like your depression is unbearable, ask Him to relieve your burden by casting all your cares upon Him. He can handle it much better than you ever could and wants to do so. If you trust in Christ, He will never let you be completely overwhelmed by your depression. Even when things seem hopeless, God is always there to help us in the midst of all our problems. With God, all things are possible. With Him, it is definitely possible to overcome depression. :)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

What I Like About You: 5 Things That Make A Guy Attractive

Prince Who?

Ever since I was a little girl watching all the classic Disney movies, I have dreamt of falling in love and living happily ever after with my Prince Charming. The thought of spending the rest of my life with someone who loves me and often knows me better than I know myself puts a smile on my face. Of course, reality doesn't work as simply or easily as it did for Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. If or when I find the right guy for me, he probably won't be wearing a crown or riding in on a noble steed. Instead, I'll have to look for the traits and qualities that I know I want in a boyfriend or husband. Here are 5 of those traits that I admire the most.

1. One thing that I find necessary in a guy for me to even consider him as marriage material is a passionate love for God. I am a devout Christian and I need my husband to be one, too. The husband should be the spiritual leader of the family so it's really important for Christian guys to be strong in their faith, preferably just a bit stronger than their potential wives. If they are wholeheartedly following after God, the other traits that make them attractive will start to show in their lives as well. This is why I think this is the most important thing to look for in a guy.

2. In my opinion, humility makes a guy extremely attractive. If a guy is humble, that means he doesn't have a huge ego and doesn't always have a chip on his shoulder. Because he doesn't consider himself better than others, he treats people in a more considerate and servantlike way. He doesn't try to show off or brag about anything but instead just shows his talents in a quiet but effective way. This is a hard thing to find in anyone today, especially guys. However, it's not impossible to find, and guys can definitely work on becoming more humble as long as they're motivated to do so.

3. A good sense of humor goes a long way for a guy. If I find him funny and he associates well with my sense of humor, this is something that we can share for the rest of our lives. I try to be positive, looking at the glass as half full, but there are times when I'm not in a good enough mood to do so. These are the times when it would be really nice to have someone to cheer me up with a funny remark or a well timed joke. Even when I'm in a good mood, these things are appreciated. It would make life a bit more difficult if I had a husband who had a really bad or even no sense of humor, so being able to laugh with a guy is something that I really value a lot.

4. I find honesty an essential quality in a relationship. This applies to both people, but I'm a terrible liar so I know I'll be able to hold up my end of that responsibility. I need a guy to be honest and open with me so that I'll be able to trust him completely. If a guy gets caught lying fairly often, he'll become like the boy who cried wolf. No one will know when to take him seriously and any girl who tries to stay in a relationship with him will be continuously frustrated and hurt by his lies. I don't want to have to deal with the problems and pain that come with that, so truthfulness is something I look for in guys.

5. I want to marry a guy who is hard working and doesn't give up very easily. Perseverance is something I think I lack too often, so that makes me admire it even more when I see guys who have it. If a guy is earnest, he won't be too lazy. Instead, he'll work hard to get the job done and he won't be satisfied until it's finished. This is an extremely attractive trait because it lets me know that when he's determined to accomplish something and he puts his mind to it, he will accomplish it. That is something I like to see.

What To Do With These Qualities

Of course there are many other things I look for and admire in guys, but these are 5 of the main ones that I find absolutely necessary when looking for a guy that I could possibly fall in love with. For girls who read this, I suggest holding your standards high and trying to find guys with traits like these. For guys reading this, I'm sure there's always room for improvement even if you feel you possess each of these qualities, so hopefully this motivates you to become a little more attractive. :p

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Putting Ads On Your Website

How To Monetize Your Blog

Whether you have a blog or some other type of website, putting advertisements on it is an easy way to make some money off of it. When people go to your site to read whatever you have posted, they might see an ad about something they're interested in and decide to click on it. The more clicks they perform, the more money you get. It's just that simple. I'm going to show you a couple of different accounts you can sign up for and how to go through the process of doing so. First, we'll start with Amazon Associates.

1. To sign up to put ads on your website using Amazon Associates, first go to their homepage. Click on the blue box that says, "Join now for FREE!".

2. Fill out all of the necessary information about you and your website. The specific information regarding your site allows Amazon Associates to decide what type of ads to put on your site in order to keep them relevant to the people who read it. The more appealing they are to the readers, the more of a chance there is that they will actually end up purchasing something from one of those ads.

3. Make sure before you completely finish signing up to click on the link with the policy information and read it. This has some important information about what you can and cannot do once you have been accepted into Amazon Associate's system. This is especially helpful when knowing what you receive money for because according to those rules, you must put the correct types of special links on your site in order to get full compensation when people click on the ads.

4. Once you have clicked finish, you're officially signed up. :) You can fill out the payment information whenever you want. If you are under 18, I suggest asking one of your parents for permission to use him or her as the payee. If you're nice enough, he or she will actually give you the money that you earn from it. :p

Another way to put ads on your site is through Google Adsense. Their sign up process is just a little bit longer but not too much. It's still relatively simple to do.

1. First, go to the home page for Google Adsense. Click on the "sign up now" button.

2. Fill out all of the necessary information. As I mentioned, this is a little bit more in depth than Amazon Associates, but it still doesn't take very long to complete. Once again, if you're under 18 you will need to get a trusted adult to allow you to send bills to them and get them to give you the money.

3. Once you have finished signing up, you will be informed that your application is being reviewed. You will be notified in about 48 hours if you have been accepted.

Having Any Problems?

If you have any questions about Google Adsense, you can go to AdSense Help and probably get them answered. If you have questions about Amazon Associates, sign into your newly made account and look around on that site. There are a lot of details to learn about if you browse for a while. Hopefully one or both of these will allow you to make a bit of money off of your website! :)

Friday, April 8, 2011

Happiness and Joy

Why We Need to Know About Happiness and Joy

Some of my friends have been talking about being depressed lately. We all have plenty of issues in our lives to be discouraged and/or depressed about, but one thing that usually helps me pick myself out of the dumps is to concentrate on things that bring just the opposite effects: joy and happiness. Now, don't start thinking this post is going to be like the song "My Favorite Things" from The Sound of Music. I think I'll let everyone make a list like that for themselves. :p Instead, I've decided to look a little further into joy and happiness. What exactly are these feelings, and how do they differ from each other? Well, this is what I have found out.

To begin to understand the differences between joy and happiness, you first must know the definitions for each of them. Happiness is a state of contentment or pleasure based on good circumstances. Merriam-Webster defines it as "a state of well-being or contentment", or "a pleasurable or satisfying experience". It's a feeling that you get when you experience good fortune in your life, but it's only a temporary emotion. Happiness doesn't last for every second of your entire life. It is found only in some moments of pleasure in life and is based on outside circumstances.

Joy is an intense emotion associated with delight and pleasure. It's defined by Merriam-Webster as "a source or cause of delight". This is a feeling that starts from within us and spills over into our countenances and behaviors, a lot of the time causing happiness. Joy lasts much longer than the fleeting feeling of happiness, a lot of times remaining for the rest of your life. It's much deeper and is not dependent on outside circumstances.

The Difference Between Joy and Happiness

So, what's the difference between happiness and joy? The main ones are their differences in longevity and causes. Happiness can be experienced from time to time in your life if you are fortunate, but it never lasts for an extended period of time. After a little while, you react to something else that happens in your life and move on to a different emotion. Joy, on the other hand, is always present in your heart once it first appears there. You may not always pay attention to it, but it stays there and can be accessed whenever you choose to concentrate on it.

Happiness is caused by an outside circumstance or instance of fortune. It's an emotion that is started as a reaction to something happening in your life. Joy, in my opinion, is almost always caused by God putting it into your heart. Psalm 4:7 says, "You have filled my heart with greater joy than when their grain and new wine abound." God is the source of our joy and is able to fill our hearts with it. He has an unlimited amount of joy, so He can give us as much as we ask Him for. 1st Thessalonians tells us to "Be joyful always", God is definitely willing to help us do that if we are willing to seek after it.

Hellen Keller said, "Resolve to be happy and your joy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulties." She obviously had plenty of difficulties to overcome in her life, so I trust she knew what she was talking about. If we can truly understand joy and happiness and try to pursue them, we will be much more prepared to face all of the tough situations in our lives. Sometimes depression can't be helped by developing a better outlook on life, but discouragement and sadness almost always can. When God gives us joy, this will be a formidable weapon to fight against all of the dark, unhappy feelings we sometimes get too focused on. Knowing that there is a way out of that dark pit of a bad mood brings a sense of hope to me. Knowing that this way out lies in happiness and especially joy will hopefully bring that same sense of hope to you, too. :)

Friday, April 1, 2011

Millennium Soldier: Wearer of the Gold

A Christian Science Fiction Book Review

Obadiah 1:4-- "Though thou exalt thyself as the eagle, and though thou set thy nest among the stars, thence will I bring thee down, saith the LORD." This verse was used as the spark of inspiration for Voyle Glover to begin writing his first Christian sci-fi thriller: "Millennium Soldier: Wearer of the Gold".  The thought of God pulling people down from their home in the stars is only the tip of the iceberg as far as mind boggling concepts go in this book.

Cubal, a seasoned warrior trained in the ways and teachings of D'vru, lives during and directly after the Millennium, when the Messiah had ruled Earth for a thousand years. Because Jesus is the perfect King, during His reign all of humanity experienced a time of peace and prosperity that allowed them to make great advances in the scientific and technological fields. This means that space travel and many other amazing concepts were cultivated and mastered. The beginning of the book finds Cubal visiting the planet Na'ha and learning what he can from the people there.

However, this book is not just a chronicle about exploring new worlds and technologies. In my opinion, the most interesting aspect of it is how the story is tied in to the Bible and what the end times could possibly be like. Cubal is recruited by the Ancient Ones and Lucien (a.k.a. Lucifer or Satan) to fight for them in a war for control of Earth and the universe, but God is also working to recruit this talented warrior's services. Cubal asserts that he bows to no one, whether god or devil, but events are quickly happening that will force him to reevaluate this decision.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and recommend it to anyone who is interested in seeing a creative science fiction novel with a biblical spin on it. Of course, almost all of the futuristic aspects are speculation and pure fiction, but the basic backdrop of the battle of good against evil and God against Satan is definitely true. This will happen someday, with or without the details included in the book. :p The only main criticism I have is that with all of the action and plot twists, this book could have been much longer and focused more on some of the strange details. Although this is only the first book in a series, so I suppose that keeping people hanging on for more details is probably a good tactic to draw us in and make us desire to read Book Two. It definitley had this effect on me.

The portals transporting people to different planets almost instantaneously, the laser guns that bend toward their targets even if not aimed directly at them, the ability to read minds and the garments that cause invisibility are just a few of the futuristic details that I have alluded to and that are included in this book. These things seem almost impossible to achieve in our day and age, but definitely seem much more possible and maybe even probable when you consider how many technological and scientific advances can be made during a thousand years of peace.

Read The Book And See For Yourself

If I have piqued your interest in this story of a Millennium Warrior, check out this book for yourself and find out what I mean about all of the cool details in "Millennium Soldier Wearer of the Gold" by Voyle Glover. I believe that you will not be disappointed by the quality of this story. There is a very good chance that, like me, it will leave you pleasantly entertained and wanting to know more of Cubal, the wearer of the gold. It is a good thing that this desire can be satisfied by reading Book Two. :)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

30 Hour Famine

Making a Difference

There are many different things I could be doing with my weekend. I could hang out with friends, watch some movies, read a book or two, or just be lazy and waste time doing nothing but daydreaming. This is how I have spent some time in the past, but this weekend is different. This weekend, I will be making a difference in childrens' lives and helping to keep them nourished and happy. :)

How am I going to accomplish this? I and some other kids from my youth group will be fasting for 30 hours in order to support the children around the world who are starving. We have been raising donations to give to World Vision, the organization who came up with this idea in the first place. They will take the money we helped raise and will use it to deliver food to impoverished children in countries around the world, such as Haiti, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Myammar.

I'll be honest; I'm a little nervous to be fasting for 30 hours straight. We're allowed to bring water and juice if we want, but that will definitely not silence the inevitable growling of my stomach. However, when I think of how those poor children go every day with that hunger gnawing at them, I know that any miniscule discomfort I may experience is nothing compared to that. I will be fasting by choice, but many of them skip meals for days because they're unable to get any food.

Of course, the money is not the only thing we can do to contribute to helping these kids. We also will be helping through the power of prayer. Fasting and praying go hand in hand. By fasting, we are able to focus more on God and show Him how serious we are about requesting for this need to be met. He will undoubtedly hear our prayers and can make sure that our efforts will have the desired effect.

How You Can Help

Almost 8,000 children under 5 years old die each day from hunger-related causes. With the help of World Vision, we can drastically change this statistic. If you want to learn how you personally can help support this cause, you can learn more about World Vision's 30 Hour Famine. You can also pray about this issue and, if you want, you can pray that everyone participating in this event will be able to make a significant difference. I'm excited to find out just how much good we can do!