Mid-Michigan Explorations – Hearthstone Oven

Most of my blogs are related to campus life and events going on within the Alma College community. This year, though, I’m also going to take some time each month to explore areas around the campus and share what I learn and find with you.

I think it is important for all students, at any school, to take some time to explore the community and cities around their campuses. Around Alma there are several small towns and villages that have a lot of great things to offer.

The menu board at Hearthstone Oven

The menu board at Hearthstone Oven

This week I’m going to take you to one of my favorite off-campus eateries, located just 7 miles away in Ithaca: The Hearthstone Oven. I visited the Hearthstone Oven for the first time two years ago, on the recommendation of a long-time Alma resident. This was one of the greatest “local” tips I’ve received since I began college here at Alma.

Whether you are looking for a place to go to get off campus, get a good meal and get some studying done, or maybe you’re headed south or in Ithaca and looking for somewhere to get a quick lunch, Hearthstone is the place for you.

Driving to Hearthstone (or biking, if it’s a nice day!) takes just two streets… Head east on Superior Street until you hit State Road (the flashing red light down by the Citgo station) and turn right. You take that down a few miles and Hearthstone will be on your right.

All sorts of treats await at the Hearthstone Oven

All sorts of treats await at the Hearthstone Oven

Upon entering Hearthstone one of the first things you will notice is the bakery counter. There you can typically find cinnamon rolls, fruit rolls, cookies, bread, and many other delicious baked goods. I believe these are strategically placed at the door because they know it is hard for customers to leave without picking up a treat (or two!) to go, which you can see is true by the bags of treats people tend to leave with.

The menu may be small, but the tastes it provides are nothing short of fantastic. Some of my favorites are the spicy chicken bacon ranch sandwich, which comes served on one of their homemade specialties, a butterhorn. A butterhorn is similar to a croissant or roll but tastes buttery and kind of sweet… just go try one, it’s too hard to describe!

The Hearthstone Oven is open for breakfast and lunch only

The Hearthstone Oven is open for breakfast and lunch only

Another Hearthstone must-have is a side option they call graham cracker fluff.  It is a mixture of pudding and Cool Whip and graham cracker crumbles that come together and taste incredible.

A word of warning: you need to be conscious of the hours when going to Hearthstone, as it is only open for breakfast and lunch hours and also closed on Sundays. Monday-Friday it is open 6:30 a.m.-4 p.m. On Saturdays, 6:30 a.m.-2 p.m.

Get out, go explore! Let me know if you find any other local hotspots, or have a favorite that you’d like me to check out. It may just end up being featured this year.

This is what dreams are made of.

In my last blog, Nine Months Later…  I mentioned that over my time at home this summer I worked an internship with Quicken Loans. As promised, here is my follow up.

I never would have pictured myself working full-time for a corporate company at age 20… but this summer, that is exactly what I did and I enjoyed it a thousand times more than I could have ever imagined.

It all began back in February when I began looking for an internship to complete over the summer. I had heard good things about the internship program at Quicken Loans, so I spent some time reading up about the company and its culture before deciding it was definitely a place where I could see myself learning a lot and also loving my job. I hurried up and sent in my application, knowing there would be thousands of applicants, but hoping for some reason mine would stand out among the rest.

A few weeks after applying, I received my first interview. It went well and my application was passed on for another level of interviews. This actually happened several times before I found out I was selected for a position working with the Quicken Loans FOCUS team. I was unsure what the FOCUS team meant, and I asked several employees (recruiters, and the people interviewing me) and no one seemed to be quite sure exactly what their position (and specifically my position) would entail. However, it wasn’t long before I found out.

On June 10 (which happened to be my 20th birthday!) I woke up anxious, nervous, hopeful and excited. I put on my most professional outfit, spent an hour doing my hair and make up, and got a ride downtown because I thought my mind was not going to be focused on driving, which would be terrible since I was going to be driving in downtown Detroit morning commute traffic for the first time ever. I hopped out of the car with a smile on my face, ready to tackle whatever the day was to throw at me. The minute I walked into the Compuware building and met the recruiters in person for the first time, I knew this internship was going to change my life.

Quicken Loans has an unimaginable company culture. I had heard rumors that the company had popcorn machines in its kitchens/break rooms and that it had some game rooms as well, but in reality there were popcorn machines, slush machines, free snacks, free coffee, a pool table made out of a Ford Mustang and so much more.

However, fancy snacks and game tables are the furthest thing from what made my internship amazing (though they were great perks). What I experienced and learned through my internship was something I don’t feel I could have gotten at an internship anywhere else.

The team I was working for, FOCUSed on Imagitivity (aka, the Unicorns!), is the team that deals with designing all of the employee spaces for Quicken Loans. If you haven’t seen what a Quicken Loans office looks like, I’ve shared some photos I took this summer. Basically, if it is white or beige or looks like a cubicle, you won’t see it in a QL space. You’d have a better chance finding a wall of graffiti, a pink plastic throne or a 10-foot horse statue wearing rainbow socks.

As a team, we spent the summer taking all the amazing things we do for Quicken Loans and developed our team into a separate (sister) company called dPOP! dPOP! officially launched on Aug. 16, the day before I returned to Alma. My specific role in prepping dPOP! for launch included writing the mission statement, producing email templates and other creative writing pieces, updating our social media sites and content daily as well as rolling out some new social media tools, photographing our spaces to help build content for the website, and basically assisting with any other task that seemed to pop up over the summer.

As you can tell, this was no paper-pushing, “go get me a coffee”-type of internship. I was treated no different than any of the full-time team members and was given just as much responsibility with very important tasks. My team leaders put me on tasks they knew would challenge me but that I would enjoy and from which I would benefit tremendously.

While working at my internship I learned several things:

  1. In relation to friends and coworkers, it is so important to find what good you bring out in others and also the good they bring out in you. I was lucky to have been placed on a team of creative, intelligent, and all-around happy people. We had similar career aspirations and we all learned from one another.
  2. When you’re on the job, you learn a different set of skills than you would from a textbook. You are able to begin making connections to your college courses.
  3. Everyone, if relevant, should try to have an internship before graduation. It is a great way to give you confidence that you are going into the correct field (or maybe it will help you realize a field or track is not for you).

After reading about my internship, are you wondering how you can get an internship yourself?  At Alma you have a couple of options. The first, and main, thing you should do is take a trip over to the Center for Student Opportunity (CSO) and meet with one of the great people over there. They can help you find internship opportunities, prepare a résumé and even hold a practice interview for you.  The second option is keep an eye out for career events on campus. For example, Oct. 4 brings CareerEXPLO, an event where alumni and other professionals from a wide range of careers will be on campus to share their experiences with students.  The event is from 3-5 p.m. in the Stone Center for Recreation and if you’re planning on attending, be sure to (1) bring 15-20 copies of your résumé to present to potential employers and alumni and (2) dress to impress. Furthermore, students in the Class of 2017 and beyond can take advantage of “venture grants” of up to $2,500 to help support applied learning experiences, such as internships, Posey Global experiences, Spring Term courses, etc.

As the late Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple Computers, once said, “The only way to do great work is to love what you do.  If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know what it is when you find it.”

Nine months later…

It has been more than nine months since the last time I wrote an entry, and I am here to tell you that I am back in action and ready to blog again. In my last entry I discussed a journey I was preparing to take and I told you that I would be writing to keep you informed as to what was happening on that journey. A lot has happened since then.

Decisions

First and foremost, I did not spend my semester in Philadelphia. I spent five days there instead. In those five days, I saw many historical monuments, learned to navigate the city, met some amazing people, toured apartments, and learned that big city living wasn’t for me.

Months later, I still cannot tell you why exactly that was. Maybe it was that being away from home (no matter where I was) was difficult for me. Maybe it was that facets of big city living—like using public transportation—were not my thing. Maybe it was that all of my comforts of home (or of Alma!) were missing. Most likely it was a combination of all of those and several other things that quickly brought me to my decision to return home.

Cailee in Love Park, Philadelphia

Here I am in Love Park, Philadelphia

I can honestly say that once I had it set in my mind that I would be returning home, I really enjoyed my time in Philly. I made it into a vacation. I took photos, went on walks and tours, went to gift shops, ate from street carts, and visited several iconic Philadelphia landmarks (Love Park, City Hall, The Liberty Bell, The Edgar Allan Poe House, Independence Hall, China Town, Reading Terminal Market, The Italian Market, and the US Mint). I loved the city but in small doses. I could not picture myself living full-time in Philadelphia for almost five months.

My choice to come home may seem like the easy way out (and trust me… I thought so too) but that was so far from the truth. The process of making, admitting and dealing with my decision was so much harder than I could’ve ever imagined. I called several people to discuss my options. When I made up my mind to return home, I began letting people know. Telling other people who were in the program and having a fantastic time—and telling the people who were the facilitators of the program—was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I did receive a lot of support from them though, which made the end to my week there a little less stressful.

On that Friday morning I got up, went to The Philadelphia Center, filled out my withdrawal paperwork, called the airline company (and got a flight for just 3 hours later – crunch time!), packed my things at lightning speed, called for a taxi, said a tearful goodbye to Ashley (and had a cab driver ask if I was her twin??), spent two hours alone in the airport crying over all kinds of emotions I was feeling, and then flew on my very first flight alone.

Consequences

Once back on the ground in Detroit, the consequences began. I could not re-enroll in school because it was now two weeks into the semester. I decided to return for Spring Term and find a job to take up the time, but it turned out nobody wanted to hire someone for just three months. I spent a lot of time home alone, since all of my friends were away at school still and my sister was in school all day while my parents were at work.

HOWEVER, good things did come from this decision as well.

I got to spend a lot of time with my family while I was home. I signed up for an online social media class that helped me to make up some of my missing credits. And the most substantial thing that happened while I was home, that would’ve never happened if I was in Philly, was I got an internship with Quicken Loans, where I worked this summer. The interview process for my internship began in February and continued through late May, when I was offered a position in social media.

Also this summer, while working 40+ hours a week at the internship of my dreams, I experienced another big change. My family purchased a new home. We packed up our home in Dearborn that we had lived in for 20 years (it took all summer!) and five days before I moved back to Alma, we moved into our new house.

Saying that my life has been a little… overwhelming, I suppose… over the past nine months would be an understatement. I’ve lost a lot and gained a lot, learned a lot and changed a lot but through it all one thing that hasn’t changed is that I am still a Scot.

And I’m back at Alma ready to start my third year strong.

Home Sweet Alma

Cailee and other RAs

I'm on the far left, pictured with the rest of the South Complex residence life staff

I returned to campus two weeks before the majority of students because I had RA training! I was chosen to be a part of the South Complex RA Staff and I could not be happier about this. I’ve met some amazing people through training and know that, like anything else, this position won’t go without challenges, but they are challenges that I am ready to face.

In nine months I learned more about myself than I could have ever imagined. I opened many doors (and closed some too) and just kept moving. Whenever a difficult situation arose, I met it with my fists held high. Now I am ready for the challenges this semester is sure to bring, and I’m looking forward to all the great things it has in store as well. Have a great semester, everyone!

Good Tidings

Well, we made it! The semester is finally coming to an end. I say finally because this has been a rough one for me. It has been a semester of hard work, determination, planning and making big decisions. I joined Phi Sigma Sigma, worked through a history class that was extremely uninteresting to me and even pulled out a decent grade in a public speaking class!

I’ve officially attended the last full week of classes, finished last minute assignments (most of which were papers), and managed to find time to study for finals… with one extra bump in the road: packing my entire room to move out! As mentioned in a previous blog, I will be spending next semester in Philadelphia, so I’ve been trying to tie up ends for when I return to Alma next fall term.

I am one of the more fortunate Alma students, as I only had one final, and it was at the very first time slot for finals, 9 a.m. this morning. That means I’m packed up and ready to go back home, so this is my final blog for the term.

As much as I am looking forward to Philadelphia, I am going to be sad leaving the bubble. I’m going to miss everyone and everything very much. I am looking forward to some changes that will take place while I’m gone, though, especially the SAGA renovation! In the meantime, I hope to check in, blog and keep you all updated from Philadelphia.

I want to wish everyone good luck getting through finals. You can all do it! We’re Scots, and we don’t give up!

Also, I sincerely hope that everyone has a fantastic Christmas break and gets some time for rest and recuperation. After a whole semester of working so hard, we deserve a few weeks to sleep in, eat delicious treats and spend some time with family and friends. It’s three weeks with no deadlines, assignments, or late-night cram sessions, so take advantage of it. Before you know it, it will be January, and you will be back on campus!

Merry Christmas, and Happy End of the Term!

DIY Christmas, Alma Style!

Alma coasters!

Looking for a unique and personalized Christmas gift, or a great coffee table conversation piece? Making coasters is pretty simple, even for those of you who may be craft challenged. I gave this craft an Alma touch, and if you so desire, you can, too!

What you need:

  • 4-inch tiles (one per coaster.) They sell for roughly $.10 each at hardware stores.
  • Mod Podge. You can find this just about anywhere that sells craft glues.
  • Photos of your choice. I printed mine in color on standard computer paper.
  • A sheet of felt, foam or cork for the bottom of the coasters.
  • Polyurethane, also found near the craft glues section.
  • Glue gun
  • Sponge paintbrush
  • Ruler and scissors

Step 1: Choose and Print Your Photos
You need one photo that looks good when cropped and cut approximately 4″x 4″ for each coaster. You can use a regular 4×6″ photo or a printed photo from your computer. You don’t have to use photo paper for this craft, though, because Mod Podge will give it a nice, glossy finish.

Optional: Get creative! If you have a photo editing program, you can add borders or text. To do this, crop the photo just slightly smaller than the top of the tile. Double check your measurements, as different tiles could be slightly different in measurement. When you are happy with the way it looks, flatten the layers, and it is ready for print!

Download the images that I used. (Right-click your mouse or hover over the image until you get a menu that allows you to save the image. Each image is 1200×1200 ppi.)
Remick Heritage Center Dunning Memorial Chapel Bahlke Gate McIntyre Mall

Step 2: Cut Your Photos
Measure, then cut your photos into a perfect square. You can use the top of the tile as a template, or you can measure. It is up to you, but be precise! You don’t want the photo to be uneven on the tile.

Step 3: Apply Base Layer of Mod Podge and Attach Photo
Spread a thin and even layer of Mod Podge onto the top of your tile using your sponge paintbrush. Place your photo on the tile, being careful to center it. Once you have it placed, smooth the photo, pushing down all the edges and making sure that no air bubbles get trapped.

Step 4: Apply Top Coats of Mod Podge
Once your image is attached to the tile, coat the top of it in Mod Podge. The key here is smooth, even layers. Also be sure to cover the edges of the tile in Mod Podge, so the the corners won’t peel. Allow the Mod Podge to dry, and then add a second coat. Mod Podge dries pretty quickly, so you shouldn’t have to wait too long!

Step 5: Polyurethane
Do this step outside or in a well-ventilated area. You’ll thank me later! Like the Mod Podge, the key to polyurethane is to apply a couple of thin coats, allowing it to dry between coats.

Step 6: Attach the Bottom Cushion
Tiles can be rough, so I applied some cork to mine to stop them from potentially scratching on furniture. You also could use foam or felt. Simply cut a square from your material for each coaster, and apply your glue to it. Attach it to the coaster.

Step 7: Enjoy!
You’re finished! Sit back and enjoy your new coasters, or package them up for someone else to enjoy. Scots, this would be a great gift for your parents this Christmas!

Ta-da!

Note: This project also can be done with decorative napkins, invitations, ticket stubs, and pretty much anything else you would like on a coaster. The options are endless. If you make a set this Christmas, be sure to tweet #AlmaDIY, or post a picture on the Alma College Facebook page!

Aiming High

“From the outside looking in, you can never understand it. From the inside looking out, you can never explain it.”

Sororities are nothing like you see in movies and on reality TV shows, at least not here at Alma. At our house, it wouldn’t be unusual to see a bunch of sisters sitting around doing homework, crafting in the living room, or watching movies together. On occasion, you may even catch us hanging out in a blanket fort! Or dressing up as hipster Disney princesses.

This past week, Phi Sigma Sigma did reveals, and I learned that Kayla Roy ’14 is my Sapphire Sister! That means I am a member of the Lilac family, which goes back many years. Along with the rest of my sisters, this provides me with connections all over the country. I have “family” members in Georgia, Texas and even Canada!

And then there are the gifts… lots and lots of them. I could never thank you enough, Kayla! I received a whole drawer full of clothing, awesome crafts, and the most beautiful tie-blanket I have ever seen. It was overwhelming in the best way possible. My room is officially Phi Sig-afied!

After finding out our families and successfully making it through the New Member period, eight of us were initiated as full members of Phi Sigma Sigma. It was an amazing night, and I am so proud. LITP!

What’s next? This Saturday, we head to Saginaw Valley State University for All State Day. Phi Sigma Sigma sisters from Michigan chapters come together for a day of conferences, lessons, and bonding. I am very excited to meet even more girls with similar goals and values.

Even though I have only been a part of Phi Sig for a short while, I can already tell how many opportunities it is going to bring me. When I am in Philadelphia, I hope to hook up with Alma alumni and also some Phi Sigs in the area and see what kinds of connections that I can make.

On that note, I would like to encourage everyone to attend some pre-recruitment events between now and Christmas break. When we get back from break, it will only be a short while before Winter Recruitment 2013! (And freshmen, you can go through recruitment this time.) I hope that other girls will have the same great time that I did during recruitment and find a place to call “home.”

Big News, Big City!

As I was looking at my planner this morning, I realized that I only have four more weeks at Alma until next September. Why, you ask? I was accepted into The Philadelphia Center, an off-campus education program, for this winter term. Talk about the opportunity of a lifetime! From January through May, I will take two classes once a week relevant to my field while working 32 hours a week with a company of my choice.

Here’s how it works: When we arrive in Philly, we are put up in a hotel room for a few days. We go on walking tours of the city, learn about the different neighborhoods and then start looking for housing. We can choose from many different living arrangements: houses, apartments, and brownstones. We are responsible for figuring out rent, utilities and furniture rental, although TPC will assist if need be.

After we polish our resumés and cover letters, we look through a list of 80 companies and plan and conduct interviews. If a job offer comes back, then we begin working! While I plan to work 32 hours a week with one company, working 16 hours a week at two different companies also is an option. Either way, each student is guaranteed an internship within the first few weeks. I want to work in Marketing/PR/Social Media, but the program has internships in all sorts of majors and careers.

Work and classes aside, our weekends are free. I hope to take some day/weekend trips to New York City, D.C. and New Jersey. One specific place I hope to visit is Carlo’s Bakery, home of Cake Boss, in Hoboken! My best friend, Ashley, also was accepted into the program, so I am sure we will find lots of fun things to do on the weekends!

Overall, I think this will be a really great experience. I am, very nervous about it, but I know that it will be a fantastic opportunity to learn and grow as a professional, which is essential in the business world. Given our current economic climate, everyone needs something to make them stand out. Working in the professional world at only 19 years old sounds pretty good to me!

A Day in the Life

Alma students amaze me. Somehow we can take a 16-hour day and make it seem like 30 hours. We are always on the go. Mornings start early and nights blend into the following day around here, and we wouldn’t want it any other way.

Take a look at what I have planned for today:

7:30 am: Wake up. Press snooze.
7:45: Snooze again.
8:00: Snooze yet again. All chances of showering and looking nice before class go out the window at this point.
8:15: Turn off alarm, roll over and grab computer. Waste time on Facebook while straightening my hair.
8:45: Quickly get dressed. Throw my books into my bag, and check to make sure that I have all my homework. Make cup of coffee.
9:15: As I hurry out the door, my lovely hall mate, Ashley, comes in for a cup of hot cocoa. My Keurig coffee pot struggles and dumps water all over. Of course.
9:29: Run, and make it to class just before the professor.
9:30: Human Communication class.
10:30: History class. Receive bad exam score. Ouch.
11:30: Check in with Admissions and find out that I do not have a tour.
Noon: Lunch, SAGA Healthy Food Day!!!
12:30 pm: Open my email to find out that I was accepted by my internship program. (MORE ON THIS NEXT WEEK!) Print papers for English. Make another cup of coffee.
1:15: Work at Communication and Marketing.
2:30: Creative Writing class.
4:00: Practice speech for later.
5:00: Dinner.
6:30: Speech Communication class. Give speech.
8:00: Homework and studying while trying to find time to do something Halloween related! Another cup of coffee. :)
10:00: Alpha Phi Omega business meeting.
11:00: Unwind and catch up with hall mates. Spend some time knitting!
12:30: More homework and studying. Watch some TV.
1:30 am: Finally in bed for the night. Alarm set for 7 am. Work on Thursdays begins at 8 am.

Exhausting, huh? Don’t let it scare you. There are so many great things to do at Alma, so some of us join as much as we can handle in a day—and sometimes even a little bit more than that!

If being this involved is not for you, that’s fine, too! Life at Alma is what you make it. You can work four jobs, get involved in multiple organizations and be busier than you could ever have imagined, or you can take 18 credits, do your homework and be all set. The choice is yours to do with as you please! Just know you have a lot of choices here.

October in Alma

Midterms were this past week here at Alma College. We call it “Warp Week,” which means that Monday is treated like a Wednesday, and the rest of the week follows suit. For some students, it also meant lots of exams and papers; for others, not so much. For all students, though, it meant a four-day weekend!

Many students hung around campus while others headed home or went off on Alternative Breaks, which are service-based trips. I headed home for family time with a side of sleeping in, being lazy and not having to do homework. Only the family time happened. I had the busiest break ever. Between shopping, going places with my family, shopping some more and trying to find some time to squeeze in the bundles of homework, I barely had time to stop. I fell asleep during the one movie I tried to watch – Hocus Pocus!

Every morning I was up by 8, doing laundry or getting going with my day. I felt even busier than when I am at school! However, now that I am back on campus, I am very thankful to have had a break. It was nice to get off campus for a few days, see everyone at home and get some stuff done that really needed to be done.

Now, the countdown to Christmas break is on. Final paper assignments are being handed out, students are receiving midterm grades, and professors are switching up the syllabus to catch slack or make sure they are on track. Before we know it, the holidays will be here. We can do it, Scots!

Just a reminder: Wednesday the 24th is Food Day, and local farmers will host a mini-Farmer’s Market in McIntyre Mall. Also, Fall Festival in downtown Alma is on Thursday from 5-7 p.m. Be sure to check out these events! They are a perfect break from studying and classes.

Falling into Fall

I feel like just a few days ago, we were all moving back onto campus, reconnecting with friends and starting classes. Now, before we know it, we’re studying for midterms! Next week marks the middle of the semester and halfway to Christmas break. The days flew by just like the leaves have been flying off the trees.

Campus is beautiful this time of year: golds, reds and yellows everywhere. Squirrels are running around collecting food to store up for the winter – which they may be smart to do because it seems that winter is coming in with a vengeance this year. I can’t remember any other year where we had a freeze warning and temperatures in the 20s during the first week in October.

Alma College students were not prepared for this change. Many were walking around campus in shorts, t-shirts and even sandals as the temperatures started dropping into the 40s and 50s far earlier than expected. I, personally, had to meet my family halfway from home for them to bring me winter clothes. I guess it’s fair to say it is Michigan, and you never know what kind of weather you are going to get!

Along with this crazy weather comes some exciting events. Following midterms is fall break, a four-day weekend for us to go home and relax. On October 25, the city of Alma is hosting its Fall Festival. If you have time, you should definitely check it out! It is a good way to see what businesses are located downtown, meet lots of awesome people, and maybe win a prize! For every $5 you spend at a business downtown that night, you will receive one raffle ticket. Prizes include cash, a bike, and dinner for two at Francesco’s Italian Bistro in St. Louis.

We also have two more home football games for this season: October 20th vs. Albion College and November 3rd vs. Kalamazoo College, both at 1 pm. Bring a blanket and some hot cocoa while you cheer on the Scots!

Whatever it is that you decide to do for fun these next few weeks, be sure to enjoy them.  Don’t spend all day, every day locked up in your room doing homework. Before you know it, Christmas break will be here, and you’ll be bummed you missed out on so much!