Live Tweeting the State of the Union from the White House

I’ve lived in DC for only 12 days and already I’ve been inside the White House compound to be selected as part of an elite group of social media members to take part in The White House State of the Union Social.

I was selected as one of the 100 social media members to watch an enhanced screening of President Obama’s State of the Union Address live from the White House. Following the screening, we participated in a panel discussion with Administration policy advisors about the visions and policies presented during the speech. Really, is there a better “Welcome to DC” experience than hanging out with the executive branch in the White House compound?

Security was more disorganized than I expected but a lot less invasive, too. Thank goodness it was a beautiful winter night because they had us wait outside for 45 minutes. Security took our ID’s twice at separate gates while we waited for security clearance and to get our badge. Me, being the girl who makes friends and talks to everyone everywhere I go, met two girls while we waited outside. Turns out, one of the girls was likely in my recruitment group Freshman year at Indiana. It’s such a small world, isn’t it?

Once we got clearance, they directed us to the Eisenhower Executive Office. While we were waiting for President Obama to begin, I took a picture with the White House sign.

Sara and I just wanted a photo together with the White House sign but what we got was my favorite photo of the night. It was a complete coincidence and just good timing that this happened:

Oh you know, just the President looking down over us
Oh you know, just POTUS looking down on us

Once the State of the Union Address began, we all whipped out our devices and the tweeting and social media frenzy commenced. The Enhanced Broadcast was streamed live on the website but actually physically being in the room was an awesome experience. Despite the wifi being ridiculously slow, the energy in the room was exciting and electric and I felt like I was somebody to be. People reacted, laughed and clapped in unison. And together, we shared our experience with our followers. While on a bit of a delay for online viewers, the Enhanced Broadcast really made watching the SOTU so much more interesting. I don’t think I’ll ever watch on CNN again. (I hear they had split screens for the shooting?) They had infographics and factoids and all kinds of cool images. We were encouraged to take pictures and get our followers involved (obviously, that is why we were there.)

When discussing equality and equal pay, the Enhanced Broadcast showed the meme of the President and Mckayla Maroney doing the “Not Impressed” face together. Clearly they aren’t impressed by unequal opportunities and believe in equal rights for all. Between hosting the White House Social and the simple act of including the meme in the broadcast, it showed me that the administration is embracing change and social media and is accepting of the fact that things are evolving. It shows me progress. It shows me that our country isn’t rigid and stubborn and set in our pre-historic ways. It shows me that we will advance, not regress. It shows me that they are tuned into what is going on in the world outside of the political agenda.

Social media offers a way for everyday citizens to interact with the Administration and policy advisors, with The First Lady or POTUS, with celebrities and peers. It puts us all on even playing ground and gives the silent a voice. To be able to interact in this way is what makes social media so unique and impactful. This Administration is utilizing social media and giving citizens a way to be heard through things like State of the Union Social and an initiative called Citizens Respond. With Citizens Respond, you can go online to read the SOTU speech, dissect it line by line and discuss it with the President. This isn’t the first presidential address to the nation online as Clinton first did it back in June 2000. But it is just the beginning of social media playing a role in such monumental national and international events.

While delivering the SOTU, the President showed he is one of the greatest public speakers of our time. He showed that he is personable, playful and lighthearted. I like that even though the President was discussing very serious matters, he was able to make light of some situations by cracking a few witty jokes and smiling. His casualness through comments like, “Good job, Joe” or “Germans are job ready by HS graduation. Let’s do that.” or regarding climate change “send me that bill, Why would we be against that?” or even pushing fathers to be more than a sperm donor but to actually care to raise the child, really make me like him more. He showed his personality and as a citizen, I appreciate that about him.

Sotu13

The panel afterwards wasn’t so much of us participating as it was us asking questions and having the policy advisors answer them. There were too many questions (from in the room and online via Facebook, Google +, Twitter etc) and not enough time. I had a couple of questions prepared but never got the opportunity to ask them aloud.

It was such an amazing and unique experience to be a part of. So, for those that follow my personal Twitter account, I am sorry I’m not sorry for infiltrating your feeds with #SOTU #WHSocial tweets. I am so grateful that I was selected to be apart of this special group. I won’t share all of them here, but here are some of my favorite or most ReTweeted tweets from last night:

climate change

Chris Hardball tweetPOTUS is a funny man

minimum wageto be a dad - potusdeserve a voteScreen shot 2013-02-13 at 12.42.20 PMmarriage equality

Side notes or factoids that the Enhanced Broadcast shared or :

  • We saw 645k tweets last year and 1.1 million today during #SOTU Way to make history!
  • There were 24,000 tweets per minute during the #guncontrol portion of the #SOTU
  • I applaud the notion that President Obama wants to put our nation’s interests before the party agenda. This got the evenings first standing ovation.
  • I’m impressed that cyber security got a mention in the speech.

And I’m famous! But I sure hope that wasn’t my 15 minutes of fame. I was caught live on camera during the online Enhanced Broadcast #WHchat after the speech. It is proof I was paying attention and not picking my nose, incessantly tweeting or doing anything embarrassing. See me?! I guess my, “I’m paying attention” face makes me look very serious. I’ve got to work on that one…I'm famous at SOTU

I am honored that I got selected to be apart of this social media event. I can’t help but feel like my efforts as a community manager and social media member have been successful at making an impact on others. Being at this event made me so extremely proud that we reelected @barackobama. America, you like some weird stuff and I don’t always agree, but man, you got this one right! I am optimistic that the next four years will bring great progress and change. I think we are going to see tremendous outcry over controversial things, but I believe we are advancing and evolving as a nation, and  we are finally heading in the right direction.

 
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Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end

After talking about it since May of last year, it has finally happened.

Ok. So that is a lie. I’ve actually been telling people that I wanted to live somewhere other than Chicago ever since I returned from living abroad in ’06. I used to joke that I’d live in Austin or Boston because well, it rhymed and I am corny like that, and also because I heard they were fun cities to live in. I love Chicago, it is such a wonderful, beautiful and friendly city. It is my home. I grew up there. A part of me will always belong in Chicago. I don’t think I’ll ever fully leave; it is likely that I’ll be back someday. But I’ve always felt this strong draw to get out, to experience living elsewhere and to challenge myself to live outside of my comfort zone. I need a change. I love growing and experiencing new things and staying in one place my whole life limits that.

So last year when everything changed and I started to reevaluate my life, I recognized that I wasn’t truly being the most authentic version of myself. While I am extremely grateful for my friends in Chicago who have come into my life recently, I still felt something was missing. I realized I was a dreamer and a talker but not really doing anything about said dreams. As part of The Year of CarynI immediately began to take action towards putting my plans in motion for figuring out what I needed to do to make myself truly happy. 2012 was the start of doing things now and just because it is 2013, a new year, that doesn’t mean the momentum from 2012 has to stop.

After I visited DC for the second time last year, a friend said, “You should just move here” and with that it hit me that there is no better time than now to fulfill that dream. This is the perfect time in my life to pick up and move to a new city. I don’t have a boyfriend or a husband or any children, and I don’t even have a full-time job for that matter right now. If there was ever a time to have a new beginning, this was it.

People ask why DC? The truth is I have friends here so that made the decision easier, but it was honestly just a gut feeling. So far my gut hasn’t steered me wrong and has led me to great adventures and tremendous growth. When I visited over New Years, I almost signed with two other apartments, but for reasons here and there I had reservations. I nearly gave up but then on whim I skyped with these two girls and that was it. Again, in my gut I instantly knew they were the right choice. I quickly signed the lease and had 13 days to sell all my furniture, sublet my apartment and pack everything up. The last two weeks have been a complete whirlwind. People say moving is super stressful but because I know in my heart that this is where I’m supposed to be now, I was calm and not stressed.

Turns out my life fit into only 16 boxes. What wasn’t sold or donated (which was an embarrassingly large amount of clothing and chotchkes) was brought back to my parent’s place. I decided to ship everything instead of renting a truck and driving it out myself. They came and got my boxes and it felt like you move for free without the hassle of the heavy lifting or the stress of driving it out there yourself. Plus, it was all trackable and insured.

boxes

My apartment was perfect; I’ll miss living on my own in such an affordable spacious place. Closing the door to my apartment was harder than I expected. It was truly symbolic of that chapter in my life coming to an end. I had managed to collect gift certificates to various local places and enough booze to last me a lifetime so it gave me great pleasure to share it with friends instead of throwing it out (once opened, you can’t ship it). I am grateful that I got to say goodbye to so many friends over dinner while also spending two days with my parents before leaving town.

Fast forward to Friday, February 1st. Timing couldn’t have worked out any better, even if I tried. I was able to hug and say goodbye to my parents at the airport gate because their flight (they left for a cruise the same day) was to leave only 10 minutes after mine. I was reminded just how much more personal and emotional it is to say goodbye at the gate like we commonly used to do pre-9/11, rather than being rushed away by curbside security. Looking after them as they walked toward their gate was very emotional. I was excited about this new adventure but saying goodbye not knowing when I will see my parents, my puppy, and friends again was difficult. It was horribly bittersweet. When I studied abroad or went to Tanzania, there was always a known return date in the near future. I know that I am only a 90-minute flight, a call or even FaceTime away, but this time I have no idea when or if I’ll return to Chicago. I’ve never lived (permanently) away from Chicago and am used to going home when I want. It will be hard to not be able to go home for the weekend on a whim, at least without having to buy a plane ticket first. I am blessed to have such a close, loving and supportive relationship with my parents and that makes it harder than all other goodbyes.

Whenever I go away for a big trip like studying abroad in Italy, volunteering in Africa, or even going away to over night camp as a kid, my mom always wrote a letter for me to read on the plane and this was no exception. After our hugs and tears and goodbyes at the gate, they sat on their plane and I on mine, at the same airport, texting in a group chat. It was utterly adorable and made me smile through my tears. I was totally that crazy girl on the plane with tears streaming down her face for no apparent reason.

As I was walking off the plane, feeling oddly stuck between two worlds, my new apartment building called to tell me all 16 of my packages had arrived a day early. It seemed to snap things back to reality and things were already off to a good start. I immediately began unpacking and making this place my new home.

I know that I am just beginning my new adventure and that I chose and needed this change in my life. Everything in the past year has led up to this. Although my family is extremely important to me and I will miss them tremendously, I am excited to begin this new journey and to be closer to so many wonderful friends.

I am proud of myself for taking an active role in making my dreams a reality. I am proud that I didn’t procrastinate this move. I know this is only the beginning and that it isn’t going to be easy at first. There will be a lot of adjustments and change and it will come with a large amount of challenges, struggles and compromises. I will need to be patient and open to new experiences. The thing about change is that it forces you outside of your comfort zone and disguises itself as something painful and uncomfortable. But once you accept it, you forget you were ever worried in the first place. It becomes the norm. You just have to trust the change.

As I was saying my goodbyes, I couldn’t help but get the lyrics to Semisonic’s Closing Time stuck in my head, “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.This is my new beginning. Now it is time for me to embrace the change and challenges that may come and just enjoy this new adventure.

After talking about it for so many years, it has finally happened.

Source: gitamba.com via Caryn on Pinterest

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.*This post was supported by UMoveFree. All comments are my own.*

Eating Clean: Cauliflower Crust Pizza

When people are trying to eat healthy, one of the hardest things to give up is pizza. There is a reason it is American’s favorite food. The gooey hot cheese, the perfectly soft yet crunchy dough, sweet tangy sauce and yummy toppings are just too delicious to refuse. Oops, even that got me drooling a bit. But you don’t have to throw your plans of eating clean and healthy out the window for that one slice of greasy pizza. Luckily, there is a healthy alternative for pizza.

Enter: Cauliflower Pizza!

Unlike regular pizza that has dough made of flour and sugar, this crust is made out of cauliflower!

Like you, I was a little skeptical about using cauliflower to make a pizza crust. I mean I don’t want it ON my pizza, why would I want the foundation to be made from it? But trust me when I say that for a healthy alternative to pizza, it is pretty impressive and tasty.

Hold up, let’s be honest here. It is not the same as eating a flour pizza crust, so I won’t pretend it is. It still feels like you are eating pizza, you just can’t go into it expecting it to taste the exact same. But it doesn’t feel like you are eating cauliflower either. In fact, if you tried it before you knew it was cauliflower, I’m not sure you’d guess what it was. It still has that same cheesy and delicious taste just so much healthier! Do you like a crispy crunchy edge to your crust? Cauliflower pizza does that too.

Pizza is one of my favorite foods but I don’t like the guilt or how I feel physically after I eat it. Between a veggie crust and veggie toppings, I feel good eating this. Just like flour pizza, you can add a variety of toppings all to your heart’s desire: mushrooms, spinach, onions, black olives, squash, eggplant, cheese, zucchini, and tomatoes, really, the options are unlimited! You can top the pizza with whatever you like, just make sure the toppings are pre-cooked since you’ll only be broiling the pizza for a few minutes.***

So yes, pizza CAN actually be healthy and taste good too!

Overall, I am very pleased with the outcome and will most definitely be making it again. I hope you give it a try and enjoy it too!

RECIPE: (adapted from here and here)

Cauliflower Crust Pizza

Ingredients:

1 head of (riced) cauliflower
1/2 - 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese* (I used part skim)
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 - 2/3 tsp Italian seasoning
2/3 tsp crushed garlic
1/2 tsp garlic salt
Salt & pepper to taste
olive oil (optional) ** 
Pizza sauce
Choice of toppings***
*Depends on how cheesy you like it. I’d use more if I could.
**This made my pizza more oily than I would have liked. Next time I’ll skip it.
***Meats and veggies need to be pre-cooked before placing them on the pizza. After the crust is baked, the pizza is only under the broiler to melt the cheese, not long enough to properly and safely cook meats and veggies.

Directions:

Preheat oven to 450F.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. (I used aluminum and it ripped easily)
“Rice” the Cauliflower:

Take 1 large head of fresh cauliflower, remove stems and leaves, and chop the florets into chunks. Add to food processor and pulse until it looks like grain. Do not purée it by over-pulsing. I am pretty sure you can use a cheese grater if you don’t have a food processor. Put the grated cauliflower into a microwave safe bowl and cook for 8 minutes (time depends on microwave power, so you may need to reduce or add to this cooking time). There is enough natural moisture in the cauliflower so there is no need to add water. It will cook itself. One large head should produce approximately 3 cups of riced cauliflower. The remainder can be used to make additional pizza crusts immediately, or can be stored in the refrigerator for up to one week.

Place the cooked Cauliflower Rice on a tea towel and squeeze out all the water. as much of the water as possible. You want it as dry as possible so there won’t be extra moisture in the crust. Excess moisture will prevent the crust from crisping.
In a medium bowl combine the dry Cauli-Rice, egg, mozzarella, and spices and mix to combine well.
Cauliflower rice mix
Press the cauliflower mixture into an even thickness (about 1/4 – inch thick) on the prepared pan.
Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the crust is firm and golden brown.
Baked cauliflower crust
Remove the pan from the oven and turn on the broiler.
Top the cooked crust with sauce, cheese and toppings of your choice.  Place under the broiler until the cheese is bubbly and melted. Approx 5 minutes.
cauliflower pizza ready to eat

Look how yummy that looks! I only added cheese this time, but next time, bring on the toppings! ENJOY!!

In full disclosure, mine turned out a little mushier than it was supposed to. As you can see, this is what happens when you don’t get enough moisture out of the cauli-rice. I clearly needed to put it back in and cook it a little longer. When I used a spatula to scoop it up at first, it crumbled into a gooey glob of goodness! Because it has a lighter consistency, it is hard to eat with your hands; it is much easier to use a fork. If you ask me, I’ll take eating pizza with a fork any day if it means I can feel better about what I’m eating.

gooey goodness of cauliflower

{If you try this out, I’m interested to know your thoughts! If you adjusted the recipe at all,
what did you do and how did it work out?! Feel free to share comments below!}
I am not a dietician and don’t pretend to be. Please consult your Dr. for questions and nutritional advice. Recipes and comments are my take on Eating Clean recipes. I cannot guarantee that recipes are 100% Clean. They are loosely based on what I interpret or consider acceptable options for this lifestyle.

The Best #Blackout Tweets from Super Bowl 47

The Ravens may have beat the 49ers but reading the blackout tweets was way more entertaining than the game. You’d think the most unusual thing about the game would have been that the coaches of both teams are brothers, but weirder things have happened, folks. This Super Bowl will be remembered mostly because of The Blackout.

For 37 minutes, the stadium went dark. Someone likely (unfortunately) got fired and thousands of people stared at their TV’s waiting for the game to resume. I seriously couldn’t help but wonder what people were doing if they weren’t following along as people live tweeted the blackout. They missed out on quality entertainment. It was so much more amusing than listening to the commentators attempt to pass the mic around in order to fill the silence. They had an entire 1st half to discuss and a halftime show but they found nothing to talk about. Way to go, CBS. I’ll give it to America, some people are really witty and funny. Here are some of my favorite Tweets that I saw:

9 months black out

blackout

Superbowl Blackout

Superbowl Blackout

Superbowl Blackout

Superbowl Blackout

Superbowl Blackout

Superbowl Blackout

Some of mine:

Blackout super bowl

Blackout super bowl

Superbowl Blackout

And the winner of the night: Oreos.
I applaud Oreos for a job well done. The best part about their (very simple and on the spot) tweet is that while other companies had spent millions on commercials, THIS is one of the best, if not the best ad of the night and it was free! And it was not even on TV. Way to own social media Oreo. Well done.
{What were some of the best tweets you saw during the blackout?}

Adventures in Baking: Super Bowl Edition

It is really hard to duplicate what you see on Pinterest. Working with melted chocolate is very complicated because it hardens quickly. Even though I used a toothpick to get a fine line, it is still really hard to keep it clean and so pretty. When you attend a party as a guest in someone’s home, you should never show up empty-handed. I wanted to bring something fun and theme appropriate so I made deliciously fresh and fun Chocolate Covered Football Strawberries.

It was supposed to look like this:

Mine turned out like this.

chocolate covered football strawberries

You can hardly tell a difference, right? At least mine has goal posts.

{Have you been able to duplicate a pinterest photo successfully? Share your story.}