10 Surprising Things I Learned From Going to School

1. Short hair is the worst.

All of my friends had luscious long hair, and since I look like a bedridden cocker spaniel with long hair, I tried to be different. I failed miserably. For over a decade. Make it stop. 

2. Girls should be taught to pay attention to their short-haired friends during Hair Braiding Time.

It's a real thing. In second grade, our entire class would sit on the reading carpet while Mrs. Tucker read us a story, and all the girls would sit in a line and braid each other's hair. Guess who always got pushed to the back of the line? Guess who never had any of her friends play with her hair because it was too short?

Mothers, tell your daughters that friends with short hair need braids, too. Even if they fall out, it makes no difference.

3. Forcing your friends to wear shirts with their faces painted on them shouldn't be weird.

They wore them happily at my birthday party, but I seem to recall being the only who would wear mine to school. I still don't get it.

4. I have forgotten almost everything the people in my yearbook told me to never forget.

Not only do I have zero recollection of 90% of the listed memories, but I don't even remember half the people. And all of it was couched in "always remember!" and "never forget!" Sorry, guys. I failed you.

5. Little things matter.

I tried to not stand out in high school. I stuck to the shadows, stayed true to a small group of friends, and didn't ever make a wave. I thought people didn't see me, mostly because I didn't want them to. But reading through my high school yearbooks, so many people did. They remembered something I said to them that one day in history or that one afternoon at play practice, and apparently those little things I had forgotten meant something. 

Do small things with great love. People notice. 

6. It's okay to look like a girl.

IMG_6639.JPG

This was another way I tried to stay in the shadows. I dressed like an insecure college guy who couldn't pledge a frat. Oversized everything, overalls for days, and a shoe game that would bring most of you to tears. We all have our stories and insecurities, and a lot of them lead to this, to hiding behind Goodwill men's button-downs (for my senior picture!) and hoping no one would remember that I'm a girl. 

Excuse us for a moment, Three Dudes Who Read This Blog. Ladies? You're a girl. It's okay to look like one. No more hiding. Hiding keeps us from being who we really are, and life is a bummer without our true selves.

P.S. That hair was my attempt at The Rachel. 

7. Don't let a college freshman tell you what classes to take during orientation.

I barely passed my high school AP Calculus exam but got just high enough of a score to place into the next math in college. Which the eighteen year-old tour guide at freshmen orientation told me to do. 

HE WAS WRONG. I'm not good at math. I'm actually pretty bad at math. But because I didn't want to look stupid and fail, I took college level Calculus II. And died. My ghost is currently writing these words. 

Drop classes, dearest students. It's okay to not be good at everything, and dropping a class doesn't mean you failed it... especially because if you stay in it, you actually might.

(I never worked so hard for a B minus. Praise Him.)

8. Being married in college isn't what it's cracked up to be.

I wouldn't go back. I wouldn't do it differently. But for those of you dear ones who just can't wait another day to get married to your sweetheart and who cares about graduation and all that? 

Think about it a little more. I didn't get to live with other girls or have my own apartment. I never got to get a job and become an adult with the same fear and wonder my friends did. I didn't get to drink on my honeymoon because I was a BABY. I don't regret it. But I miss having memories I never got to make. 

9. Sometimes people see the good in you before you do.

I haven't read what was written in my yearbooks since the ink was barely dry 15 years ago. I pulled out the books to find pictures of myself for this post (apparently I was good at being invisible because it's pretty much my Picture Day photos and nothing else) and ended up reading the words of my friends, some I still keep in contact with. 

Those friends, the ones I still see occasionally and connect with, the ones who I think really saw me and knew me, said things about me that I am still trying to believe 15 years later. Zack told me I was a talented writer. Aaron said I understood people and saw them for who they really were. Kyle told me I was kind even if I didn't think that myself. Candice said I made her days better by making her laugh. In high school, I didn't think any of those things were true, but it didn't matter because my friends did. They saw me before I did, and for that I'm so grateful. 

10. I totally had a great summer.

Celebrity Yearbook: 22 Years of Natalie Portman

Sometimes I think I'm 2006 fierce when I'm actually 1995 awkward. And so it goes. Natalie Portman: from adorable to flawless in record time. I mean, she was 13 in the first picture. Sure, she had weird middle school hair, but high school Natalie?! Ridiculous. No one should be allowed to be that beautiful when everyone else is a walking pair of gawky overalls.

Who would you want to see photos of through the years? 

10 Kitchen Mistakes That Will Put You In Detention

1. You don't preheat your oven.

Food needs to start cooking at the right temperature, and if you put your food in the oven before it's hot enough, your food will suffer and so will you. Detention.

2. You don't salt your food.

You're actually a good cook. Do you want to know why your food never tastes as good as you think it should? Because you haven't salted it enough.

Food shouldn't be salty, but adding to salt to each layer of ingredients as you cook them makes your meal sing. Go from awkward guy on the beach playing guitar to Broadway just by adding salt. You've got it in you as long as you have salt.

3. You don't rinse spinach, egg, and oatmeal off your dishes soon enough and then turn into a raging psychopath.

Just do it. The bowl/pan you use to thaw spinach, beat raw eggs, and serve oatmeal must be tended to IMMEDIATELY or else you'll spend an hour scraping ceramic and gnashing your teeth when you should be watching The Hour or reruns of The OfficeRinse it, y'all, or it's detention for you.

4. You melt butter to soften it.

I WILL HUNT YOU DOWN. When you bake, butter should be treated with care and reverence. Butter is basically Beyonce. 

The temperature of butter is THE most important component of baking, and shortcuts are severely frowned upon. The reason your cookies don't look like the picture? You softened your butter in the microwave instead of leaving it on the counter for thirty minutes.

If you disrespect Beyonce, you deserve to get slapped.

5. You don't cook with chicken thighs.

Gone are the days of boneless skinless chicken breast and - please stop the madness - the chicken tenderloin. Eat the thighs, you guys. Today. They're cheaper, they taste better, they're impossible to overcook, and while they do have the tiniest bit more fat than chicken breasts, they also have extra iron and a few other minerals I can't remember. Stores sell boneless skinless versions, too, so do yourself a favor and EAT THE THIGHS.

6. You put bananas and tomatoes in the fridge.

Nope. Appalling. Detention for a week.

7. You don't make extra of freezable meals.

Some of your go-to dinners (a vital component to a meal plan that can save your life and make you pretty) are freezable - chili, soup, baked pasta dishes, etc. - and you're doing yourself an injustice by not making a double batch and freezing half for another day. It takes barely any extra time to cook double, but the time it saves on a Wednesday night when you just. don't. want. to cook. is invaluable.

8. You put knives in the dishwasher.

Butter knives? Sure. Paring knives? I'll forgive you. Big chef's knives? We're talking being suspended from school. Your knives cost a lot of dolla dolla bills, y'all, and you are destroying their very essence every time you exile them to the dishwasher with the kitchen commoners. Knives are royalty. Like butter and Beyonce. Wash them by hand.

9. You overcook pasta.

Pasta is meant to be cooked in heavily salted aggressively boiling water for 7-9 minutes tops. Then it's meant to be drained - NOT RINSED - and added to a previously prepared (or opened) sauce over heat to bring everything together. Cooking pasta for longer than necessary or worse leaving it in the pot of water while you get other things together breaks my heart. Pasta is the workhorse of our meal plans, you guys. Don't ignore it. It gets angry and tastes gross.

10. You buy salad dressing.

If you can't live without your Hidden Valley, you get a pass. I get it - some dressings are too iconic to mess with. But if you just buy Italian dressing or whatever is on sale because you need salad dressing in the house, it's detention for you. 

Here are my two favorite everyday dressings:

  • When you need something creamy, whisk together 1 tbsp. of mayo, 1/2 tbsp. of Dijon mustard, 1/2 tbsp. champagne or white wine vinegar, and a little salt and pepper.
  • When you need something tangy and oily, whisk together 1 tsp. Dijon mustard, 1 tsp. balsamic vinegar, a dash of soy sauce, salt and pepper, and 1 tbsp. of extra virgin olive oil.

Don't even measure. Just work with ratios if you want. And have you already forgotten the #2 kitchen mistake that will put you in detention? If your dressing isn't singing, it's probably because it needs more salt.

Now go and say you're sorry to your knives. 

School Bake Sale Goals: Chocolate Zucchini Bread

The Great Bake Sale Challenge:
Prepare a dessert that a) you can make, b) tastes good, c) isn't chocolate chip cookies or brownies because that's what everyone always brings, d) is different enough to be noticed but e) not so different people people get scared, f) looks and tastes like a real dessert but g) might be a little lighter since everyone is in fit-in-last-year's-swimsuit mode, and h) uses up the zucchini your neighbor keeps bringing you. 

(SO. MUCH. ZUCCHINI.)

This recipe is all those things. While it isn't rabbit food, it's the kind of dessert that you don't feel like a whale after. And adorably wrapped with tissue and ribbon? Your school bake sale booth will be rocking.

P.S. This requires no mixer! All by hand. Boom.

Chocolate Zucchini Bread

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 1/2 cups grated zucchini (about two medium zucchini)
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour (or 1 cup plus 2 T. of all-purpose flour or 1/2 all-purpose flour and 1/2 cup whole wheat flour)
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 4 tbsp butter (half a stick)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 cup milk (skim is fine)

HOW TO MAKE IT

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Prepare the zucchini. Grate the zucchini (peel, too) and measure it, packing fairly tightly. There's a lot of water in zucchini, so put the measured amount in little colander or even spread out on some paper towels while you gather the other ingredients. This gives the zucchini a little time to drain. When it's time to add it to the recipe, give the zucchini a squeeze or two to get out as much water as you can.
  3. Measure the dry ingredients. In a bowl or on a sheet of wax or parchment paper (my preferred method), sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Yes, SIFT. You do it because of flour turds, but cocoa powder turds are even worse. 
  4. Melt the chocolate and butter. Put the chocolate chips and butter in glass or metal bowl (larger than you think you need), and place that bowl on top of a saucepan filled with an inch or so of simmering water. This is called a double boiler, and the gentle heat from the steam will melt the chocolate and butter without burning them. It's a really lovely process actually, watching everything melt and get all glossy and sexy. Once it's almost completely melted, take it off the heat and stir it until it's smooth. Set aside.
  5. Add everything else. First, the sugar, eggs, and vanilla to the chocolate mixer, and whisk until it's combined. Then add the sifted flour mixture and whisk until the flour juuuuuust disappears. Now switch out your whisk for a spatula, and gently fold in the zucchini. Break it up a little as you add it so you don't have to fight The Gigantic Zucchini Clump. If you've read the history books, those battles never end well.
  6. Bake. You can bake this up in a number of vessels. My favorite is a mini loaf pan because they're the perfect gift size. You could use muffin tins or any size loaf pan you have. I've even baked this in a cake pan before to make a layer cake. (Cream cheese frosting, amen.) Regardless, here's the rule. Spray your vessel with cooking spray. If you use a cake pan or something with a lot of bottom surface area, use flour and parchment paper as well so it doesn't stick. Then fill the pan/muffin tin/whatever to about 2/3 full. Depending on what you use, you might have to use more than one pan. This recipe fits one regular sized loaf pan pretty well. Eight minis. Two muffin tins. You get the idea. Baking times will vary, but here's a good ballpark.
  • muffins - 15-20 minutes
  • large loaf pan - 60-75 minutes
  • mini loaf pans - 20-25 minutes
  • cake pan - 17-22 minutes

You'll know the bread/cake/muffins are done when the edges are starting to pull away from the pan, it's a beautiful crackly rich brown on top, and a toothpick/skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs clinging to it. Cool it in the pan, and then carefully remove. Wrap in wax paper and tie it up with string, and you'll have a decadent but not decadent-guilty chocolate treat that will look beautiful at your bake sale.

Also please invite me to said bake sale. Some women like shoe sales? I love bake sales.

Have you ever participated in a bake sale before? What did you make? What did you buy?

12 Hollywood Actors Who Are Way Smarter Than You

When you think about school, you think about all the smart kids who ruined the curve and made group projects insufferable because they actually cared. A few of those exist in Hollywood, so let's see who is way smarter than we are.

1. Natalie Portman

  • Skipped the premiere of the first Star Wars so she could study for her high school final exams. Nerd.
  • Graduated from Harvard in four years with a degree in psychology.
  • "I don't care if college ruins my career. I'd rather be smart than be a movie star."
  • Was a research assistant and co-authored two papers published in scientific journals.
  • Took graduate classes in Jerusalem just because she wanted to.
  • Has studied English, Hebrew, French, Japanese, German, and Arabic.

2. Lisa Kudrow

  • Has a Bachelor of Arts in Biology from Vassar.
  • Worked as a research assistant for eight years while pursuing acting.
  • Intended to follow in her father's footsteps and become a doctor, researching the connection between being left-handed and getting cluster headaches. 

3. Conan O'Brien

photo credit hollywood reporter

photo credit hollywood reporter

  • His dad is a professor of medicine at Harvard, and his mom is a partner in a prestigious law firm, i.e. he got the genes.
  • Managing editor of his high school newspaper.
  • Was a congressional page his sophomore year.
  • Won a national short story writing contest his senior year.
  • Totally valedictorian.
  • Graduated Magna Cum Laude from Harvard.

4. Mayim Bialik

photo credit parenting magazine

photo credit parenting magazine

  • Went to UCLA to stay close to her family even though she was accepted to both Harvard and Yale.
  • Undergrad degrees in neuroscience, Jewish studies, and Hebrew studies.
  • Doctorate in neuroscience.
  • Chose to pursue acting as an adult because it allowed her more time with her children than the life of a neurological research scientist did.

5. Ken Jeong

photo source screen crush

photo source screen crush

  • Grew up in my hometown! Doesn't make him smart, but it's cool.
  • Graduated high school at 16 and was a member of the school's High IQ team.
  • Graduated from Duke University at 21.
  • Got his M.D. from Carolina five years later.
  • A licensed physician in the state of California.

6. David Duchovny

  • Received an honorable mention for his poetry in a college writing competition.
  • Has a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature from Princeton.
  • Has a Master of Arts degree in English Literature from Yale.

7. Meryl Streep

  • Studied opera for four years at age 12.
  • Has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Dramatic Studies from Vassar.
  • Has a Master of Fine Arts degree from the Yale School of Drama.
  • When she was trying to get established as a professional actress, she became overwhelmed with the pace and considered law school instead.

8. Edward Norton

  • Has a Bachelor of Arts in History from Yale.
  • After graduation, he worked in Japan as a consultant for his grandfather's development company, and he's still currently a member of the board.
  • Serves on multiple boards of directors for various social activism and conservation groups.
  • Is a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador for Biodiversity.

9. Emma Watson

  • Even while working on Harry Potter, she got straight A's in school. Such a Hermione.
  • Has a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from Brown University.
  • Took the world by storm when she became a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador and started the HeforShe campaign.

10. James Woods

  • Scored a 1579 out of 1600 on his SAT - a perfect 800 verbal and 779 math.
  • Has an IQ of 180. Albert Einstein had an IQ of 160.
  • Studied political science at MIT before dropping out to pursue acting.

11. Rashida Jones

  • In high school, was in the National Honor Society and voted "Most Likely To Succeed."
  • Graduated from Harvard with a degree in religion and philosophy.
  • Considered leaving acting to pursue a Masters Degree in Public Policy but was then offered the role of Karen Filippelli on The Office.
  • Social and political activist, not just for appearances.

12. James Franco (though it pains me to say it)

  • Got in trouble in high school for drinking, vandalism, and stealing perfume from a department store to sell to his fellow students. He got his grades turned around in time to graduate high school and get into UCLA, but he dropped out after a year to pursue acting. 
  • Making up for lost time, he now has a Bachelor of Arts in English from UCLA, an MFA from Columbia University, and is pursuing his PhD in English at Yale.
  • He also teaches graduate film classes, is involved in many social activism organizations, and is also a hologram.

Any other brainy celebrities you know about?